The introduction, by Kersplebedeb:
The following essay, by the Belgian revolutionary communist T. Derbent, is an unusual and valuable contribution to understanding, renewing, and rebuilding the revolutionary option.
The term “revolutionary” is used here to refer to something precise, namely action and reflection intended to bring about a revolution, a hegemonic change in the way society is organized, “bottom lining” the goals of liberation and building a new way of life for all.
Military policy is a prerequisite for revolutionaries—in the sense that, without it, there can be no successful revolution. Those who neglect it, who think away from it as we so often do, may have nice ideas, but they are neglecting a question that will be necessary to address if they are ever to put those nice ideas into practice in a durable manner. Indeed, would-be revolutionaries who have no military policy are not revolutionaries at all, but only more people with political opinions. While Derbent does not belabor this point, it underlies everything addressed here.
This essay is based on a talk given in Brussels at an event organized by the Bloc Marxiste-Léniniste in April 2006, and subsequently published in two parts in the Bloc ML’s magazine Clarté (#5 May 2006 and #6 December 2006). It was subsequently translated into German, Greek, and Italian, being debated and discussed by comrades throughout Europe, mainly within the Marxist-Leninist tradition.
The present translation constitutes the first time this text is being made available to an English-reading audience—and specifically, to a North American one. The history of armed struggle in the united states and canada is necessarily different from that elsewhere; obviously, this is not Italy, or Algeria, or Nepal. The armed experience here has always been defined by the realities and contradictions of settler-colonialism, the tension between the ongoing anticolonial resistance and the fact that any movement here must find its way on terrain claimed by the colonizer’s society.
Furthermore, as in any overview of such a dense area of knowledge and activity, this is not an exhaustive study. More to the point, it is a study with a specific goal: to introduce us to the concepts of military doctrine, and to explain how these have been used and misused by revolutionary forces. Although the author mentions objective factors, there is no discussion of historical materialism or broader historical patterns or dynamics; for example, the relationship between global changes in the means of production and distribution, and the inevitable calling up of completely new forms of struggle from military doctrine to individual tactics. Likewise, the author presupposes revolutionary organization, but doesn’t have the space to go into what revolutionary class organization means in military practice (and vice-versa, dialectically).
Yet it would be a cop-out to hold this specificity against the text, or to dismiss Derbent’s educational endeavor as a “European view” of little practical interest to those of us on Turtle Island. That is because this is not a “how-to-do-it,” but rather a “how-to-study-it,” paper. Surveying military experiences in various times and places—with particular attention paid to that period of the twentieth century marked by the presence of “real existing socialism” and ubiquitous anticolonial revolutions—in order to distill those elements, questions, and dilemmas that reoccur time and again; i.e., those that are universal. Laying out the background and consequences of already developed revolutionary policy considerations, in order to help us apply the lessons learned to our own context.
As such, this paper does not provide answers, it simply clarifies what some of the questions will be for those who choose to develop a revolutionary practice.
Derbent proceeds from the larger to the smaller, from the more general to the more specific. In this order, he defines and discusses revolutionary military policy (an overall military orientation & activity), military doctrine (a war plan), military development (organization of practical activity), the science of war (recognizing universal laws that always apply), the art of war (experience & mastery of the practice of warfare), strategy (a specific plan to achieve military goals in the existing overall situation), operational art (which connects strategy and tactics), and tactics (the means by which operations are carried out). The author examines how these different concepts are related to one another, how they have been articulated in different circumstances, and to what effect.
This is far from a rah-rah, inspirational pep talk relying on heroic examples of rebel armed struggle. Instead, it is of necessity fairly abstract and formal—otherwise it would be 440 instead of just 40 pages long. In particular, its terminology conforms to professional military usage. A graduate of the u.s. army’s command & staff college at Fort Leavenworth would be at ease reading this paper, whose terminology and frame of mind would be familiar to them. While, on the other hand, a revolutionary who has never read Clausewitz along with Lenin and Mao’s military writings (“Lessons of the 1905 Uprising,” “Strategic Problems in the Anti-Japanese Guerrilla War,” etc. ) might find it difficult going.
All the more reason why it should be read, studied, discussed, and built upon by comrades here.
The complete text of this pamphlet is also available online on the urbanguerilla.org website.