Unconventional Warfare in Communist Strategy

Guevara in 1960 walking through the streets of Havana with his wife Aleida March (right).

Unconventional warfare has become all too conventional, even if it is not yet adequately understood. It is paradoxical that the coming of mighty engines of war that literally extend war "out of this world" and threaten violence measured in megadeaths should, in fact, lend strength to the resurgence of a kind of hostilities marked by poisoned bamboo spears, bazooka ambushes and civil war. In a recent article in these pages, the nature and dimensions of the problem have been thoughtfully analyzed.1 In the present discussion, I should like to focus attention on a series of 12 propositions derived from study of Communist theory and practice regarding the seizure of power by unconventional warfare.

Our starting point should be the fundamental role that internal war and unconventional warfare play in general Communist world strategy. On that foundation, we can examine Communist views on the expediency of waging unconventional warfare under various conditions, and on operational strategies likely to be used in cases where it is deemed feasible and desirable. Finally, it will be useful to take a closer look at guerrilla warfare in particular as a technique, in past and future Communist practice, for waging internal war. Thus we shall move from looking at unconventional war in Communist doctrine to looking at Communist doctrine on unconventional warfare.


Very simply, "internal," "unconventional," "irregular"-"class"-war is of the essence of Marxist-Leninist theory, hence at least theoretically at the base of Communist strategy. We became so accustomed to Stalin's reliance on the Red Army and the Soviet intelligence services as the most conspicuous elements of force in international politics that it takes a moment to place in focus the older-and newer-more fundamental Communist reliance on man?uvring and manipulating power on an indigenous political fulcrum. This is my first proposition.

Unconventional warfare-our very use of this expression jars one by its contrast to the Marxist-Leninist conception of the conventional nature of internal warfare-may assume various forms, depending on the concrete situation, its opportunities

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