The Art of Insurrection



The Art of Insurrection, By Karl Marx

Now, insurrection is an art quite as much as war or any another, and subject to certain rules of proceeding, which, when neglected, will produce the ruin of the party neglecting them… Firstly, never play with insurrection unless you are fully prepared to face the consequences of your play. Insurrection is a calculus with very indefinite magnitudes, the value of which may change every day; the forces opposed to you have all the advantage of organization, discipline, and habitual authority; unless you bring strong odds against them you are defeated and ruined. Secondly, the insurrectionary career once entered upon, [must] act with the greatest determination, and on the offensive. The defensive is the death of every armed rising… Surprise your antagonists while their forces are scattering, prepare new successes, however small, but daily; keep up the moral ascendancy which the first successful rising has given to you; rally those vacillating elements to your side which always follow the strongest impulse…


Marxism and Insurrection, By V.I. Lenin

To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely on that turning-point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point.


Street Fighting, By James Connolly

In the military sense of the term what after all is a street? A street is a defile in the city. A defile is a narrow pass though which troops can only move by narrowing their front, and therefore making themselves a good target for the enemy… A street is a defile the sides of which are constituted by the houses in the street… A city is a huge maze of passes or glens formed by streets and lanes. Every difficulty that exists for the operation of regular troops in mountains is multiplied a hundredfold in a city.


On the Purely Military Viewpoint, By Mao Tse-Tung

The purely military viewpoint is unusually widespread. It manifests itself as follows:

1. To regard military work and political work as opposed to each other; to fail to recognize military work as only one of the means for accomplishing political tasks.

2. To regard the task of the Red Army as similar to that of the White Army—merely fighting. To ignore the fact that the Chinese Red Army is an armed force for carrying out the political tasks of the revolution… When the Red Army fights, it fights not merely for the sake of fighting but to agitate the masses, to organize them, to arm them, and to help them to establish revolutionary political power; apart from such objectives, fighting loses its meaning and the Red Army the reasons for its existence.

3. Organizationally, therefore, to subordinate the organs of the Red Army’s political work to those of its military work.

4. At the same time, in agitational work, to overlook the importance of the agitation teams.

5. To be conceited when a battle is won and to be dejected when it is lost.

6. Group egoism, i.e., to approach everything in the interests of the Army without understanding that to arm the local masses is one of the Red Army’s important tasks. This is an enlarged form of cliquism… Over confidence in military strength and lack of confidence in the strength of the masses of the people.

7. Limited by the immediate environment, a small number of comrades think that no other revolutionary forces exist. Hence the extremely deep-rooted idea of conserving its strength by avoiding action. This is a remnant of opportunism.

8. To disregard the subjective and objective conditions, to be seized with revolutionary impetuosity, to hate to take pains over any minor, detailed work among the masses, but to wish only do big things and to be chock-full of illusions. This is a remnant of adventurism.


Guerrilla Warfare in Spain, 1939-1951, By Enrique Lister

A guerrilla movement cannot exist unless it is supported by the people and forms part of the people’s fight against a common enemy. It can grow into a mass movement provided the people take part in it, using the forms suggested by the actual situation.

A revolutionary situation cannot be created at will. No “center” or “centers” in themselves create a revolutionary situation. Guerrilla warfare may serve as a catalyst in creating a revolutionary situation. But it can do so only in definite favorable conditions, if it is part of other forms of struggle involving the mass of the people.


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