Changes in the insurgent movements in the context of Maoist insurgency

Changes in the insurgent movements in the context of Maoist insurgency

Contents
1. Introduction
2. Global developments and changes in 1970-1990s
3. The effect of the developments and changes on the strategic environment of insurgent movements in weak states
4. The importance of Maoist’s revolutionary strategies in the contemporary insurgent movements
5. Conclusion
6. Bibliography

Introduction
The contemporary world is changing as rapidly as probably never before and the changes affect different spheres of political, social and economic life. Naturally the changes that have occurred within last three decades also significantly change insurgent movements that were particularly widely spread in the mid of the 20th century and actually continue to exist now. In fact insurgent movements are a part of political and socio-economic life of different societies and different political regimes that exist and existed before in the world and it is hardly possible to presuppose that one day mankind will achieve the world harmony deprived such a notion as insurgency that on the one hand undermines socio-economic and political stability within a country or a region or in some cases in the whole world and, on the other hand, is an objective reality and an essential constituent element of a life of any country and the world, upbringing an alternative and revolutionary ways of development.
At this respect it is particularly noteworthy that the contemporary insurgent movements and the movements that have been active since 1970s often exploited Communist ideas and revolutionary strategies, taking into consideration the experience of successful insurgent movements of the past, among which the insurgent movement in China headed by Mao Tse-tung, seem to be outdated or at least need to be modified in order to be applicable in the modern world. Nonetheless, insurgent movements remain quite strong and they influence significantly both internal and external policy of many states and they are still particularly dangerous for developing countries where socio-economic situation is very unstable and a lot of people live in poverty that creates a popular basis and source of a military force for new insurgent movements. This is why it is very important to realise what are the sources of such movements and what are the ways of prevention of the revolutions, which often lead to humanitarian catastrophes, caused by insurgent movements. This can be done only on the basis of a deep knowledge of the nature of insurgent movements and the strategies that they currently use and, at this respect, it should be pointed out that the main strategies used by them have been started to change in the second half of the 20th century, particularly since 1970s.
Global development and changes in 1970-1990s
The 20th century is characterised by dramatic changes in different countries that affected the world history and its second half, namely the period of 1970s-1990s was not less historically significant than the beginning of the century, the Communist revolution in Russia and two World Wars. All these historical events were often accompanied or even provoked by revolutions resulting from activity of insurgent movements, aiming at a change of the traditional political regimes and socio-economic relations.
It should be also said that the period of 1970-1990s is characterised by a great shift in the socio-economic life of the whole world, and particularly important and obviously the most significant event of this epoch is the end of the Cold War, or to put it more precisely, the end of the global confrontation of two superpowers, the US and the USSR, which influenced dramatically the insurgent movements throughout the world and marked the development of the world where there is only one superpower that occupies a hegemonic position in the world.
However, before discussing in details some of the most dramatic changes and developments that have affected the strategic environment of insurgent movements in different countries of the world, particularly weak ones, it is necessary to say a few words about insurgency and reveal its entity in order to better understand the changes and developments mentioned above.
Traditionally insurgency may be defined as “an organized movement aiming at overthrow of a constituent government through use of subversion and armed conflict” (Kaplan 1999:210). It is a protracted politico-military struggle design to weaken state control and legitimacy while increasing insurgent control. It is particularly important to point out that political power is the central issue in an insurgency. It should be pointed out that each insurgency is unique in a way, it has its own particular strategic objectives, operational environment, available resources, operational methods and tactics but they are particular only due to a local specificity while in general their may be singled out some revolutionary strategies that are common in principle for different insurgent movements and which may be amply used regardless the region or the country where this or that movement operates. In fact each insurgency seek to overthrow the existing social order and reallocate the power within the country.
The main goal of an insurgency is to mobilize human and material resources in order to form an alternative to the state and such alternative is defined as counter-state. Actually it may have much of infrastructure possessed by the state itself, but this must normally be hidden, since it is illegal. As the insurgent movements gain confidence and power this clandestine infrastructure may become more open, as observed historically in communist regions during the Chinese revolution, in South Vietnam after the North Vietnamese 1972 Easter Offensive, and in Columbia in 1998. Remarkably, the more powerful and confident the insurgent movements are, the more open they become.
Furthermore, for the success of any insurgent movement successful mobilization is crucial since it provides active and passive support for the insurgency’s programs, operations and goals. At the national level, the mobilization grows out of dissatisfaction by some elite members with some political, economic or social conditions. At the regional level, members of an elite have become marginalized and have established links with followers by brining them into the counter-state. Loyalty to the insurgent movements is normally won through deeds but may occur through appeal to abstract principles. For instance, it may be appeal to end hunger or eliminate poverty, or appeals to eliminate a foreign presence or establish a government based on a political or religious ideology different from currently existing one. As a rule, these promises “are associated with tangible solutions and deeds” (Kaplan 1999:389). Finally, revealing the entity of the insurgent movements, it should be pointed out that they normally consist of four basic elements: leadership, combatants, cadres and mass base (Kaplan 1999).
On discussing briefly the insurgency, it is now possible to project the definition given above to the insurgent movement that have existed since 1970s and analyse them in the context of the changes that have occurred in the world in this period of time.
On analysing the insurgent movements of 1970-1990s, first of all it should be said that at the beginning of the period discussed the influence of Communist ideology and consequently strategies used by the movements was particularly strong. However, the general trend indicates at the gradual weakening of the position of Communist states as the main supporters of the insurgent movements that was caused by objective factors. Nonetheless, the communist ideology remains quite popular even nowadays among many insurgent movements throughout the world.
At the same time that such an influence of the communist ideology on the insurgent movement was often caused by the Cold War led by the US and the USSR, two superpowers in the world. As a result of their opposition communist and democratic ideologies came into clashes that led to growing contradictions between official states and the increasing power of the insurgent movements. Moreover, in such a situation of the global confrontation of the USSR to the US the role of international support was particularly important for insurgency. Actually, many insurgent movements were based on this confrontation and often local conflicts within a definite state were the conflict of two global systems, communist and capitalist, and the struggle between the constitutional state and the insurgent movements within these countries were amply supported from abroad. In such a situation both the constitutional state and the insurgent movements received a lot of material, technical and financial support from struggling superpowers.
In such a situation the insurgent movements were mainly focused on the ideological aspect of their struggle and the revolutionary change of the official political regime from democratic into communist or vice versa was the main goal of the movements and was associated with the improvement of socio-economic situation within a country due to a ‘better’, or ‘more correct’ ideology and international support from abroad.
However, the opposition of communist and capitalist ideologies gradually became weaker as the two superpowers, involved in this struggle, became more and more exhausted by their global opposition and militarism and the Cold War closed to its end. Basically it was 1980s when a significant shift in the global opposition of two superpowers has occurred, influencing significantly the political and socio-economic environment in which the insurgent movements operated. In such a situation ideological constituent element, i.e. the opposition of communism and capitalism, was not so emphasised as it used to be.
Eventually such a gradual evolution of international situation resulted in the end of the Cold War, which could not fail to affect the insurgent movements, which since that time on, i.e. since 1991, when the USSR was ruined, were deprived of international support from the superpower promoting communist ideology throughout the world and providing international aid to the insurgent movements supporting communist ideas.
In fact the world has changed dramatically. There remained only one superpower that naturally tend to control the situation worldwide and which supported the states with similar ideology and socio-economic relations. Moreover, such a hegemony of the superpower, i.e. the US, led to the process which is currently defined as the globalisation. This process leads in fact to the creating of a situation when the insurgent movement face not only ideological opposition but basically economic one. In other words, since 1990s, the great shift have occurred and the capitalist-communist opposition has been eventually replaced by the opposition of rich and poor. And again the US played an important role in the growth of the insurgent movements since this country has become a catalyst provoking anti-American insurgency in many countries of the world. To a significant extent, such growth of insurgent movements based on anti-American ideology was provoked not only by the American hegemony but the process of globalisation in which developed countries gain new markets and enforce their political and economic position while developing countries became poorer and more dependent on richer countries.
The effect of the developments and changes on the strategic environment of insurgent movement in weak states
Obviously, the global changes that have occurred since 1970s produced a significant impact on the insurgent movements throughout the world. On analysing the gradual changes that took place in the world, it should be said that 1970s were marked by the influence of the international opposition of the USSR and the US, which contributed to the development of many insurgent movements and, moreover, at this period of time it was hardly possible to find any insurgent movement that wouldn’t have been influenced by the opposition of two superpowers. For instance, probably the most notorious example is the Vietnam War, during which the US and USSR were involved into the struggle in which the latter amply supported the insurgent movements which strived for communist ideals, while the former attempted to preserve the official state from a complete ruin in the civil war.
Furthermore, the opposite situation was observed in Afghanistan, when the USSR used military intervention as a means of preserving pro-soviet state supporting communist ideology while the US contributed to the development of the insurgent movement opposing to communist expansion. In fact this war, being started in 1979, had lasted until late 1980s and actually was the last open military conflict in which the two superpower were involved and at the same time the end of this war marked the end of the epoch of communist-capitalist opposition and indicated at the close end of the Cold War and thus at the shift in the insurgent movements.
Briefly speaking, the two wars provoked by different insurgent movements and supported by two superpowers were quite similar and to a certain extent may be treated as a classical examples of insurgent movements of the Cold War epoch, where ideology played a crucial role, though, in the case of Afghanistan, there was a one sided ideological influence since communist ideas came into clashes with the opposition from the part of religious Afghan orthodox supported by the US.
However, the final decade of the Cold War, i.e. 1980s were marked not only by the war in Afghansitan but also the development of new type of the insurgent movements, which, aiming at the change of socio-economic and political situation within the country and the change of the constitutional government, did not use military force in their struggle but basically used peaceful methods forcing the official governments to refuse from power. The most vivid examples of such movements may be observed in Eastern Europe, namely Poland, former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, where the communist regimes were ruined by democratic movements within the countries, like Solidarity in Poland, for instance. In such a way such a crucial changes which can be defined, as revolutions have occurred peacefully without civil wars as it occurred before in Vietnam or in the meantime in Afghanistan.
In such a way on comparing the insurgent movements and the strategies used by them, it may be said that comparing Vietnam and Afghanistan, on the one hand, and the three Eastern European countries, on the other hand, it is possible to conclude that they used different strategies to achieve the same goal, the change of the government, the political regime and socio-economic conditions, the latter basically used peaceful protests, while the latter used military forces to solve the conflict.
Unfortunately, the example of European countries seems to be a rare exception that is rarely followed by other countries. However, the important role in such a situation has played the change in the world, notably the end of the Cold War and the hegemony of the US. As a result the US, being the only superpower, became an object of criticism and one of the main constituent elements of the insurgent movements ideologies which based their position on the ground of struggle against deprivation, international oppression, and the local governments which were proclaimed to be supported by the US and consequently protecting foreign interests and not national ones, as many of the insurgent movements emphasised and keep emphasising.
In such a situation 1990s were characterised by the spread of the insurgent movements which based their ideology on the ground that the US and the world globalisation, which became possible only after the complete ruin of the USSR and world socialist system, are oppressive and deprive the population of developing countries. Not surprisingly that the insurgent movements prospered in the poorest countries of the world and ironically many of them were ‘heirs’ of the movements created in the epoch of the Cold War. For instance, Afghanistan did not become a stable country after the defeat of the USSR and the situation within the country remained unstable and what is more important internal contradictions had started to go beyond national borders. In fact it was another side of the process of globalisation, i.e. globalisation was characterised not only by internalisation of national economies but the insurgent movements as well. In such a situation a new threat from the part of the insurgent movement became the global threat for practically all countries of the world, the threat of terrorism. The insurgent movements using terrorism as a means of struggle aims at not only at the national governments but at the other countries as well and the US is one of the first targets of such insurgent movements. Ironically, some of them are the ‘creatures’ of the US like Usama bin Laden’s Al-Quaeda, operating worldwide.
Nonetheless, there are still rudiments of the ‘traditional’ insurgent movements, which, on the basis of communist ideology, continues active military struggle within national borders as it was in Columbia where in 1998 the conflict between communist insurgency and constitutional governments became particularly obvious.
Anyway, the changes in the world that have occurred during 1990s resulted in the internalisation of the insurgent movements and anti-American and anti-globalisation character, which, being nominally international, is often extrapolated on the national level.
The importance of the Maoist’s revolutionary strategies in the contemporary insurgent movements
The Maoist’s revolutionary strategies were very important in many insurgent movements, especially in the middle of the 20th century. However, currently their role is less important than it used to be and the changes described above significantly contributed to such a situation. In order to better understand what the role of Mao’s views on insurgency has on contemporary insurgent movements it is necessary to analyse its basic assumptions and than compare them to the current situation and the insurgent movements of 1970-1990s.
First of all, it should be said that Maoist revolutionary strategies and his views on the insurgent movements were very important because they turned to be quite effective in China since due to them the Chinese Communist Party “defeated its enemy, ignited fears about a possible global triumph of communism, radically altered the balance of power in Asia, and placed American, South Korean, and other UN troops in their first direct shooting war with a major communist power” (Whitson 1988:305). The Chinese Communists quickly positioned themselves as the patrons of other insurgent movements. It is not surprising, therefore, that Mao’s theory of revolution, including the ideas of the mobilization of mass, people’s war, the people war, and others, became a blueprint for other insurgents.
Basically, Maoist theory for revolution includes three distinct phases that, of course, “mirror the history of the Chinese Civil War” (Whitson 1988:455). This strategy has the supreme virtue of making the incredible appear credible: the revolutionaries start as a weak, vulnerable and desperate group and, by the end of the conflict, they have become an unstoppable political and military force.
In the first phase the revolutionaries are “building what Lenin called the ‘organisational weapon’ the political, military, logistics, intelligence and command infrastructure” (Schram 1996:347). According to Mao, the insurgents should organise where the state is weakest. In China, as in many other countries where the strategy has been attempted, such weak place of the state was rural areas. At this respect it is necessary to emphasise that this point is quite weak being applied to the late 1980-1990s because the end of the 20th century was characterised by a high degree of urbanisation even in developing countries.
Anyway, the first phase should be viewed as a preparation for the insurgency while the real action occurs in phase two when Maoist theory recommends “a strategy of avoiding direct confrontation with government forces” (Schram 1996:382). Instead, the insurgents should strike where the enemy is weak, notably remote police or army outposts, towns and villages beyond the government’s reach to occupy, rail and telephone lines, anything else that is military or politically significant, but incapable of being defended adequately. In such a way, the insurgent movements need to maintain the initiative at all times by turning weakness into strength.
However, the main point of the second phase is not military. Military action is “one prong of the attack on the regime; so, too, are efforts to organize an effective counter-government in liberated areas, maintain a flood of propaganda, subvert the government through infiltration, and take all other measures that erode the regime’s political foundations” (Schram 1996:422). Defeating the enemy army is not the point, destroying the confidence of the population in the government, and the confidence of the government in itself, is the ultimate goal. Military and political actions, therefore, is simply a tool to win allies in the population, or to convince an even larger audience that history is on the side of insurgents.
In such a situation, during the third phase, the insurgent movements carry out a final assault against the government, which should be destroyed and the regime completely changed.
Obviously, Maoist theory, effective it seems to be, cannot always be fully applied in the end of the 20th century and its role gradually became less and less important. Consequently, what is really important for the insurgent movements according to Maoist theory is to gain confidence of the population and attract possibly larger masses on the side of the revolutionaries, making the war against regime the People’s War.
On projecting Maoist theory and strategies on the insurgent movements of 1970-1990s, it is obvious that they turn to be less and less effective and eventually they have not been used as often as before. For instance, the traces of Maoist influence are obvious in the Vietnam War, when American and South Vietnamese units defeated North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces on the battlefield time after time, but a communist regime now rules Saigon. In such a way, the military success prove irrelevant because the war was lost politically.
Furthermore, the 1980s may be characterised as a transition period, when Maoist theory was still important. For instance, peaceful revolutions in Eastern described above were successful basically due to the effectiveness of the struggle for people’s ‘minds’, confidence of population in righteousness of ideas developed by insurgent movements in the context of total lost of confidence in the official governments. On the other hand, these movements did not use army force or attacks as suggested Maoist theory the confrontation was purely political and socio-economic but not military.
However, 1990 revealed new trends in the insurgent movements, which made the Maoist theory less effective. In fact in the situation when there is only one superpower and the world undergoes the process of globalisation the insurgent movements, which basically operate in developing countries, realised the ineffectiveness of both military or peaceful revolutions if they are not supported by the US, which actually could cope with any rebelling state since this country did not face any opposition from any other country in the whole world. In such a way the military conflict, even if it has a character of the People’s War, is doomed to defeat if the US take a decision to intervene.
As a result, the insurgent movements basically use the strategy of terror attacks aiming not only at the official governments but also at Americans and their allies. There are a lot of examples, revealing this trend. For instance, PLO and other Palestinian organisations are probably the most experience in such kind of insurgency for they struggle clandestinely against Israel supported by the US and their main strategy is terror attacks which aim at the weakening of the opponents and agreeing with the demands of the insurgents. The same may be said about Al-Quaeda and activity of other insurgent movements that are active even nowadays, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, when been unable to win the military conflict and lacking resources to gain population confidence not only within a definite country but in the world because in the epoch of globalisation international public opinion is also important as well as domestic one, they had to use terrorism as the main means of struggle while the Poepl’s War, the mobilization of the mass and Maoist strategies seem to be less effective and doomed to failure.
Conclusion
Thus, in conclusion it is possible to say that the last three decades have changed the world dramatically and so have they changed the insurgent movements. In the past the insurgent movements throughout the world were basically stimulated by the opposition of the US and the USSR and the role of Communist ideology and they were significantly influenced by the strategies used by successful insurgent communist movements, while by the end of the century, the globalisation and unlimited opportunities the US as the only superpower have changed the insurgent movements making them more internationally oriented, and characterised by anti-American and anti-globalisation struggle.

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