People's war

People's war

People's War (Chinese language: 人民战争), also called protracted people's war, is a military-political strategy invented by Mao Zedong. The basic concept behind People's War is to maintain the support of the population and draw the enemy deep into the interior where the population will bleed them dry through a mix of 'Mobile Warfare' and Guerrilla warfare. The term is used by Maoists for their strategy of long-term armed revolutionary struggle. After the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979, Deng Xiaoping abandoned People's War for "People's War under Modern Conditions," which moved away from reliance on troops over technology. With the adoption of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (which is almost universally considered to be Keynesian, not Maoist), economic reforms fueled military and technological investment. Troop size was also reduced and professionalization encouraged.

The strategy of people's war was used heavily by the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. Similar ideas were advocated and used by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution.


In its original formulation by Mao Zedong, people's war exploits the few advantages that a small revolutionary movement has—broad-based popular support can be one of them—against a state's power with a large and well-equipped army. People's war strategically avoids decisive battles, since a tiny force of a few dozen soldiers would easily be routed in an all-out confrontation with the state. Instead, it favours the strategy of protracted warfare, with carefully chosen battles that can realistically be won. A revolutionary force conducting people's war starts in a remote area with mountainous or otherwise difficult terrain in which its enemy is weak. It attempts to establish a local stronghold known as a revolutionary base area. As it grows in power, it establishes other revolutionary base areas and spreads its influence through the surrounding countryside, where it may become the governing power and gain popular support through such programmes as land reform. Eventually it may have enough strength to encircle and capture small cities, then larger ones, until finally it seizes power in the entire country.

Within the Chinese Red Army, the concept of People's War was the basis of strategy against the Japanese and also against a hypothetical Russian invasion of China. The concept of people's war became less important with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the increasing possibility of conflict with the United States over Taiwan. In the 1980s and 1990s the concept of people's war was changed to include more high-technology weaponry.

The United States intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003 also influenced views of people's war within the PLA. Although the United States was able to achieve quick victories in both cases, in Afghanistan, the United States relied heavily on local people for ground support and in Iraq the United States received unexpected difficulties with Fedayeen Saddam using guerrilla tactics. Both situations influenced PLA thinking in that it seemed to demonstrate that technology alone was not sufficient to win wars and that support from local people was not an obsolete concept in modern warfare.

Outside of China, people's war has been basis of wars started in Peru on May 17, 1980, and in the Nepalese Civil War begun on February 13, 1996. A group of Peruvian Maoists known as the Shining Path at times controlled significant parts of the country during the internal conflict in Peru, but they were dealt a blow by the arrest of their leader Abimael Guzmán in 1992. While they claim to consider this event only a "bend in the road", most independent sources have claimed them to be in decline since that time. By all accounts, at the height of the conflict in Peru, both the Shining Path and the Peruvian government used terror tactics against the civilian population, especially in the countryside. Government tactics included sponsorship of death squads; Shining Path tactics included violent attacks on trade unionists and others they saw as rivals for the leadership of those opposing the government. This has made it very difficult to get any objective measure of support among the peasantry for either the government or the Maoist insurgents, since such tactics on both sides are liable to intimidate people, but unlikely to win hearts and minds.

In Nepal, the Maoists succeeded in controlling most of the country and recently announced the formation of 100,000 troops into 3 divisions in what they call the "beginning of the strategic offensive". The Nepalese rebels have recently resorted to conscription, a practice that Mao himself opposed. With the democracy movement and the restoration of democracy, as well as the signing of a peace agreement with the government, it seems as if the Maoist insurgency has met with a measure of success, in that it managed to eventually lead (or at least contribute) to the restoration of democracy.

In India, it is said that Maoists control several rural districts in the eastern and southern regions, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. In the Philippines the Communist Party of the Philippines is waging people's war through its New People's Army while Maoist groups have also resorted to armed struggle on a smaller scale in Turkey.

During the 1980s in Ireland, IRA leader Jim Lynagh devised a Maoist military strategy adapted to Irish conditions aimed at escalating the war against British forces. The plan envisaged the destruction of police and army bases in parts of Northern Ireland in order to create liberated areas under IRA control. In 1984 he started cooperating with Pádraig McKearney who shared his views. The strategy began materializing with the destruction of two Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in Ballygawley in December 1985 (resulting in the death of two RUC officers), and in The Birches in August 1986. Lynagh and his IRA unit were killed in another attack at Loughgall Police station in an SAS ambush.

ee also

* Soviet partisans
* Viet Cong and PAVN strategy and tactics
* "On Protracted War"


*VK Shashikumar. [ Red Terror: India under siege from within] , CNN-IBN, March 16, 2006.

Further study

* [ Red Flag Flying on the Roof of the World] : Li Onesto interviews Prachanda, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), from "Revolutionary Worker" #1043, February 20, 2000, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
* [ Assesment of C.P.I.Maoist-India]
* [ Fable and Reality ­ the 'Shining Path']
* [ people’s war in urban area]

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