People's war is an advanced stage of guerrilla struggle in which all or the vast majority of a people engage in armed movement against an oppressive force.
People's war is the highest expression of revolutionary potential for an anti-colonial movement and is its climatic and logical conclusion. To put it plainly, people's war is the revolution in the traditional sense of the word. In such a situation the people spontaneously engage in innumerable acts of dissent against an empire, freely take revolutionary initiative, form autonomous communities of resistance, and defend those communities with the use of armed force. At this phase of struggle, insurgency takes on a self-sustaining nature and is so diffuse among the people that it is impossible to be crush by the state.
Throughout history people's war has been waged to eliminate oppressive and/or colonial regimes, eject colonizers, and bring about the freedom and self-autonomy of the people. Countless historical examples exist in the Haitian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, the Algerian Revolution, and the Vietnamese insurrection during the Vietnam War.
A key feature that distinguishes People's war from a general revolt is its prolonged and protracted nature. Because people's war is a war of indefinite duration, it depends on the establishment of autonomous zones to anchor it, sustain it, and allow space for the people to act in creative and dynamic ways. Without the establishment of autonomous zones, the people cannot thrive and will be unable to withstand the severe repression of the state.
It goes without saying that people's war requires popular support. Because of the nature of struggle and its dependency on the spontaneity of the people, it is simply impossible to wage without popular support. In fact, this popular support must be so advanced and developed that a large portion of the people have taken up arms. The arming of the people is another key feature of people's war and through the establishment of localized civilian defense units and autonomous zones, the people can arm themselves in the proper ways.
It is often said that people's war is total war. However, where total war is often defined as one-sided warfare leveled at defenseless civilians, people's war is essentially an armed masses struggling against a state and its military forces. Because of this distinction a people's war takes on a revolutionary character. The armed masses readily and freely move between guerrilla action and community self-defense, form their own formations and infrastructure, conduct sabotage, and in every way move towards the complete elimination of empire as a whole.
Step One: Are Conditions Right For People's War?
Conditions become right for people's war during the advance stages of guerrilla movement. This is characterized by the presence of an already entrenched collection of active guerrilla units. Ideally, these units have made some progress in the struggle against the oppressor, have some supply lines set in place, and have a sphere of influence. The political situation should be at an escalated level, with mass amounts of people already radicalized and assisting in guerrilla efforts or participating in general revolt. If this is not at least partially true, you must abandon efforts at people's war until these conditions are present.
Step Two: Political Education
The people should already have a good understanding of oppression and their struggle against it. They should already be politicized to a certain degree. The purpose then of political education in this sense is to impart the knowledge of revolutionary strategy, methods, and approach. You should visit local communities with guerrilla fighters and begin to have candid conversations with the people about the methods that are going to achieve liberation. You will want them to fully understand guerrilla military theory, organization, spontaneity and various approaches to insurgency.
When the people understand the strategy behind struggle they are better able to see the direction they are going. This not only gives them clarity and a sense of faith in the movement, but places these methods squarely in the hands of the people for their own use. It increases the revolutionary potential of the people by enabling them to act on these methods from an informed position. The objective is to prepare the people with all the tools necessary to take a proactive role.
It is a good practice to distribute pamphlets and zines on the strategy of revolutionary struggle. It is even better if you can produce a handbook or manual that can be used by the people and distribute that in large quantities. You should also organize teach-ins in the local communities that go into revolutionary strategy in-depth.
Step Three: Arming The People
You must begin arming the people in a strategic and responsible manner. This is easily done through the formation of localized self-defense groups. It is necessary for guerrilla fighters to assist in the training these groups on how to use arms, gun safety, offensive maneuvers, political education and strategy. It is best practice to arm a people by beginning first with the women and non-men. It is universally true that when the women and non-men of a community are armed, that community as a whole is safer and more revolutionary. The toxic masculinity associated with gun culture is counter-revolutionary and will be the undoing of the struggle.
Step Four: Establishing Autonomous Zones
Autonomous zones are the conduits in which a people's war will develop and be successful. It provides the necessary space that the people need to further develop themselves, train themselves, secure their own resources, and become self-sufficient. With the aid of the guerrillas you must work on establishing as many zones as possible. Because of your previous work educating and arming the people, they should be in the best position to sustain and defend the zones.
Food and resources must be a chief consideration and must be thought of in the long-term. Looting and other such means are only temporary sources and in the final analysis, sustainable farming (both rural and urban) will be necessary. The zones will also have to rely heavily on supply lines. These lines are generally established with the help of the guerrillas. It is very important to establish food stores before hand so as to buy time for the growth of agriculture. There will need to be medical care present in the zones as well as water, and adequate sanitation.
It is in these zones where the people begin experimenting with the project of localized governance. The more autonomy a people have the more ability they have to act. You should encourage anarchist approaches to self-governance and continue having conversations with the people about the value of anti-authoritarian principles. Ideas about property, gender, race, and capital are all passionately challenged in the autonomous zone. Continued political education takes place. The formations for what will come after the revolution are incubated in the autonomous zones.
Step Five: Declaring People's War
When the necessary pieces are in place, the people are sufficiently armed and autonomous zones are established, you may put out a joint political statement declaring the illegitimacy of the state, your intentions for liberation, and the initiation of the people's war. The reason for doing this is less to issue an ultimatum to the oppressor, and more to serve as an inspiration for the people. It is essentially a call to arms for all people under oppression everywhere, even in the areas where the guerrilla movement has yet to take hold. In a greater sense it calls on the people to act and gives them the green light to do so.
The declaration has the effect of demoralizing the oppressor and on an international level, attracts global attention. Comrades from overseas who are moved by the appeal will offer solidarity in a variety of ways, sometimes amounting to the donation of arms and resources. These relations with foreign comrades who are similarly oppressed should be cherished and in a larger sense open up new avenues for coordinated agitations on an international scale. However, you must never allow the movement to be co-opted by a foreign imperialist power.
The health and well-being of the people are of the up most importance especially after the people's war has begun. You and the guerrillas must see to it that the people are supported in a struggle in which they now hold the initiative. You must get them the resources they need in order to enhance their ability to act. The results of this will be the end for the oppressor.