Both in the corporate capitalist world and the Third World, guerrilla movements have made a very poor showing in the area of ideas. That the state is repressive and that it can be fought is only a very small part of revolutionary ideas but this constitutes almost the whole content of what guerrillas attempt to communicate to the people. It is based on the assumption that there is little to think about to make a revolution. All that is required is to convince the people that they can defeat the state. Nothing could be further from the truth. If people do not want to see repeated again and again the old pattern of the revolution placing in power a new group of oppressors, then they will have to realise that the responsibility for a new society rests with them. They will have to think about how to structure this new society so that it remains democratic.
Since it depends on them they will have to think about their attitudes and this includes their attitudes in their personal life.
It is often argued that such demands are ridiculous in the context of immediate basic needs in the Third World. In fact, self-organisation on cooperative lines is becoming a feature of Third World struggles. The economistic arguments about Third World struggles would seem to be linked with the idea that Western-style leaps into industrialisation are the solution, when in fact decentralisation is the key and this certainly makes the type of personal change we are thinking of easier.
A few leaflets scattered about the site of an action is as much as some groups offer in the way of ideas. The communiques of the German Red Army Fraction (Baader-Meinhoff) never rose above the political level of slogans like "Expropriate Springer, Fight class justice, Fight all exploiters and enemies of the people, Victory to the Viet-Cong" etc. Their pamphlet "The Concept of the Urban Guerrilla" is a transference of the same strategy as quoted above to Western capitalism. The same goes for the American Weathermen (later Weather Underground), the British Angry Brigade, Japanese Red Army, Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) etc. Usually these groups have shown a sycophantic third worldism which saw activity within imperialist nations as supportive of the "real revolution" in the third world. The Weather Underground Organisation (WUO) elevated this into their whole ideology and strategy. They denied the task of spreading revolutionary ideas to the majority of people in their own country. Instead the US was to be made immobile while the victorious Third World revolutionaries brought revolution from outside. The WUO were later to become orthodox marxist-Leninists.
Baumann, author of the book mentioned before, was in the June 2nd Movement. He reveals the same kind of thinking, though, unlike the marxist-leninist Red Army Fraction (RAF), they called themselves "anarchists".
"The analysis of imperialism tells us that the struggle no longer starts primarily in the metropolis, it's no longer a matter of the working class, but that what's needed is a vanguard in the metropolis that declares its solidarity with the liberation movements of the Third World. Since it lives in the head of the monster, it can do the greatest damage there. Even if the masses in the European metropolis don't put themselves on the side of revolution - the working class among us is already privileged and takes part in the exploitation of the Third World. The only possibility for those who build the vanguard here, who take part in the struggle here, is to destroy the infrastructure of imperialism, destroy the apparatus." (p.36)
It would be hard to find a "strategy" that was less anarchistic, less libertarian. The third-band Lenin on the labour aristocracy, the vanguardism, the profoundly elitist millenarian vision of total destruction etc., 'all absolutely exclude anything but a dictatorial outcome.
Baumann described how after Vietnam their line was "people should get involved in Palestine" (p. 50) - and the various German and Japanese terrorists have certainly appeared in Palestinian actions. But this only reveals all the more clearly their total removal from the real struggle in their homeland. And it does not display any substantial concept of internationalism, as they were acting totally above the heads and completely out of the control of the people they were supposedly representing. They were content to work with groups which themselves were merely acting as "terrorist pressure groups" attempting to gain concessions from various ruling classes. For example, the creation of Black September was a result of the defeat of the Palestinians at the hands of the Jordanian forces in 1970 and of the failure of the various organisations to successfully mobilise the people -- instead, they turned to international publicity. Now that the PLO has successfully organised itself as a state amongst the Palestinians, terrorism is used as an instrument of state policy. It is the avenue through which the PLO can threaten to explode the situation in the Middle East.
On the whole, struggles revolving around groups oppressed as a culture or nationality are those in which terror against the public and terrorism as a sole strategy is most often found. As a refuge for conservative, authoritarian or vanguardist ideas nationalism masks them as "progressivism". Terrorism does not conflict with such ideas. If the aim is to place a new group h power whose only requirement from the people is that they are of the same culture or nationality, any method which works will be consistent. The more one wishes to change existing relationships by an aware, self-active populace initiating and controlling a movement, then the more counter-productive and contradictory terrorism becomes because of the elitism and manipulation inherent in it.
Nationalist ideas, as ruling classes know well, allow the presentation of a dehumanised concept of the enemy from another nationality (or religion), which justifies immoral actions against them and excludes the idea of real unity. In South America the groups typically rely on denunciations of tyrants and US imperialism. It would be hard to overestimate the role of US imperialism in the area but when the enemy is phrased simply in these terms and the goal is national liberation, real liberatory ideas are excluded.
As has already been suggested, the guerrilla creed is that successful military operation is the propaganda. Born of reaction to the stultifying South American communist parties which opposed all action which could possibly get out of their control, guerrilla-ism is a philosophy of action, an irrational faith in action and the purity of violence which propounds few ideas and produces programmatic statements mostly dedicated to the need for more action of the same kind.
Worse, guerrilla-ism reproduces the old trap of a passive people who are being fought for, struggling vicariously through the guerrilla group suffering for them. While the sympathetic masses watch this drama played out, time passes and with it their own chance to develop their own response to the social crisis. By the time the drama has become tragedy and the guerrillas lie dead about the stage, the audience of masses finds itself surrounded by barbed wire, and, while it might now feel impelled to take the stage itself, it finds a line of tanks blocking it and weakly files out to remain passive again. Those individuals who continue to object and call on the audience to storm the stage are dragged out, struggling, to the concentration camps. Guerrilla-ism is in the tradition of vanguardist strategies for revolution. While in general it merely leads to repression, should the strategy succeed it can only produce an authoritarian left regime. This is because the people have not moved into the building of a democratic movement themselves. The Chinese and Cuban successes (and the Indo-Chinese and African struggles of the time) were the great models inspiring assorted rural and urban guerrillas and terrorists. But in looking to these examples the imitators made little realistic adjustment to the general conditions in their own countries.
They especially did not make an analysis of the link between the type of governments established by these struggles and the methods used. Of course, for most of these groups the authoritarian governments established in China and Cuba were entirely admirable. But for libertarians and anarchists this is not so.
Those armed groups in Spain and elsewhere who called themselves anarchist or libertarian drew much of their specific justifications from the Spanish revolution and war and the urban warfare that continued there even past the end of the Second World War. For our argument the civil war in Spain is exemplary because the slogan of "win the war first" was used against politics, to halt the revolution and then to force it back under Stalinist dominated but willing republican governments. in fact the enthusiasm and determination of the people who first threw back Franco's 1936 coup was based on the fact that at the same time they were seizing the factories and farmlands and placing them under collective control and coordinating them through cooperative means.
The defeat in war necessarily followed the defeat of the revolution - Furthermore the popular army was reorganised into an ordinary military and the original egalitarianism was stamped out under typical militaristic discipline and hierarchy. The post-war libertarian guerrillas were aware of this, but they did not analyse the experience sufficiently. They did not see the absolute primacy of politics over armed struggle. They did not see the vanguardist nature of armed groups seizing the initiative. They did not see the need for whatever armed activity is necessary to be organised from an existing democratic movement and to remain under that movement's control.
One libertarian movement in Spain, the Iberian Liberation Movement (MIL), founded itself on the theory of guerrilla-ism (though it was involved in political activity). It carried out a number of bank robberies and during arrests a policeman was killed. As a result an MIL member was garrotted in 1974. The reason the MIL is mentioned here is because they dissolved their organisation after general defeat by the police but also because of the realisation that their strategy was wrong. "It is now useless to talk of politico-military organisations and such organisations are nothing but political rackets." (Congress of Dissolution) They decided instead to work to deepen the anarchist communist perspectives of the social movement. Surely a lesson for all.