By Ernesto "Che" Guevara
Written in 1961
Guevara, "Socialism and Man in Cuba"
Letter to the editor of the Uruguayan weekly magazine Marcha,
Guevara, "Message to the Tricontinental
Congress": "Vietnam and the World Struggle to Freedom" ("Create
2, 3, many Vietnams"), published April 1965
Guevara, "Address to the United Nations"
11 December 1964
Table of Contents
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CHAPTER I: GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF GUERRILLA WARFARE
- ESSENCE OF GUERRILLA WARFARE
- GUERRILLA STRATEGY
- GUERRILLA TACTICS
- WARFARE ON FAVORABLE GROUND
- WARFARE ON UNFAVORABLE GROUND
- SUBURBAN WARFARE
CHAPTER II: THE GUERRILLA BAND
- THE GUERRILLA FIGHTER: SOCIAL REFORMER
- THE GUERRILLA FIGHTER AS COMBATANT
- ORGANIZATION OF A GUERRILLA BAND
- THE COMBAT
- BEGINNING, DEVELOPMENT, AND END OF A GUERRILLA WAR
CHAPTER III: ORGANIZATION OF THE GUERRILLA FRONT
- CIVIL ORGANIZATION
- THE ROLE OF THE WOMAN
- MEDICAL PROBLEMS
- WAR INDUSTRY
- TRAINING AND INDOCTRINATION
- THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE ARMY OF A REVOLUTIONARY
- ORGANIZATION IN SECRET OF THE FIRST GUERRILLA BAND
- DEFENSE OF POWER THAT HAS BEEN WON
- End of the book
CHAPTER I: GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF GUERRILLA WARFARE
1. ESSENCE OF GUERRILLA WARFARE
The armed victory of the Cuban people over the Batista dictatorship
was not only the triumph of heroism as reported by the newspapers of
the world; it also forced a change in the old dogmas concerning the
conduct of the popular masses of Latin America. It showed plainly the
capacity of the people to free themselves by means of guerrilla warfare
from a government that oppresses them.
We consider that the Cuban Revolution contributed three fundamental
lessons to the conduct of revolutionary movements in America. They
(1) Popular forces can win a war against the army.
(2) It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution
exist; the insurrection can create them.
(3) In underdeveloped America the countryside is the basic area for
Of these three propositions the first two contradict the defeatist
attitude of revolutionaries or pseudo- revolutionaries who remain inactive
and take refuge in the pretext that against a professional army nothing
can be done, who sit down to wait until in some mechanical way all
necessary objective and subjective conditions are given without working
to accelerate them. As these problems were formerly a subject of discussion
in Cuba, until facts settled the question, they are probably still
much discussed in America. Naturally, it is not to be thought that
all conditions for revolution are going to be created through the impulse
given to them by guerrilla activity. It must always be kept in mind
that there is a necessary minimum without which the establishment and
consolidation of the first center is not practicable. People must see
clearly the futility of maintaining the fight for social goals within
the framework of civil debate. When the forces of oppression come to
maintain themselves in power against established law; peace is considered
In these conditions popular discontent expresses itself in more active
forms. An attitude of resistance finally crystallizes in an outbreak
of fighting, provoked initially by the conduct of the authorities.
Where a government has come into power through some form of popular
vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional
legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities
of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.
The third proposition is a fundamental of strategy. It ought to be
noted by those who maintain dogmatically that the struggle of the masses
is centered in city movements, entirely forgetting the immense participation
of the country people in the life of all the underdeveloped parts of
America. Of course the struggles of the city masses of organized workers
should not be underrated; but their real possibilities of engaging
in armed struggle must be carefully analyzed where the guarantees which
customarily adorn our constitutions are suspended or ignored. In these
conditions the illegal workers' movements face enormous dangers. They
must function secretly without arms. The situation in the open country
is not so difficult. There, in places beyond the reach of the repressive
forces, the armed guerrillas can support the inhabitants. We will later
make a careful analysis of these three conclusions that stand out in
the Cuban revolutionary experience. We emphasize them now at the beginning
of this work as our fundamental contribution.
Guerrilla warfare, the basis of the struggle of a people to redeem
itself, has diverse characteristics, different facets, even though
the essential will for liberation remains the same. It is obvious -and
writers on the theme have said it many times-that war responds to a
certain series of scientific laws; whoever ignores them will go down
to defeat. Guerrilla warfare as a phase of war must be ruled by all
of these; but besides, because of its special aspects, a series of
corollary laws must also be recognized in order to carry it forward.
Though geographical and social conditions in each country determine
the mode and particular forms that guerrilla warfare will take, there
are general laws that hold for all fighting of this type.
Our task at the moment is to find the basic principles of this kind
of fighting and the rules to be followed by peoples seeking liberation;
to develop theory from facts; to generalize and give structure to our
experience for the profit of others.
Let us first consider the question: who are the combatants in guerrilla
warfare? On one side we have a group composed of the oppressor and
his agents, the professional army, well armed and disciplined, in many
cases receiving foreign help as well as the help of the bureaucracy
in the employ of the oppressor. On the other side are the people of
the nation or region involved. It is important to emphasize that guerrilla
warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people. The guerrilla
band is an armed nucleus, the fighting vanguard of the people. It draws
its great force from the mass of the people themselves. The guerrilla
band is not to be considered inferior to the army against which it
fights simply because it is inferior in firepower. Guerrilla warfare
is used by the side which is supported by a majority but which possesses
a much smaller number of arms for use in defense against oppression.
The guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people of the area.
This is an indispensable condition. This is clearly seen by considering
the case of bandit gangs that operate in a region. They have all the
characteristics of a guerrilla army, homogeneity, respect for the leader,
valor, knowledge of the ground, and, often, even good understanding
of the tactics to be employed. The only thing missing is support of
the people; and, inevitably, these gangs are captured and exterminated
by the public force.
Analyzing the mode of operation of the guerrilla band, seeing its form
of struggle and understanding its base in the masses, we can answer
the question: why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to
the inevitable conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer,
that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people
against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the
social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery.
He launches himself against the conditions of the reigning institutions
at a particular moment and dedicates himself with all the vigor that
circumstances permit to breaking the mold of these institutions.
When we analyze more fully the tactic of guerrilla warfare, we will
see that the guerrilla fighter needs to have a good knowledge of the
surrounding countryside, the paths of entry and escape, the possibilities
of speedy maneuver, good hiding places; naturally also, he must count
on the support of the people. All this indicates that the guerrilla
fighter will carry out his action in wild places of small population.
Since in these places the struggle of the people for reforms is aimed
primarily and almost exclusively at changing the social form of land
ownership, the guerrilla fighter is above all an agrarian revolutionary.
He interprets the desires of the great peasant mass to be owners of
land, owners of their means of production, of their animals, of all
that which they have long yearned to call their own, of that which
constitutes their life and will also serve as their cemetery.
It should be noted that in current interpretations there are two different
types of guerrilla warfare, one of which-a struggle complementing great
regular armies such as was the case of the Ukrainian fighters in the
Soviet Union-does not enter into this analysis. We are interested in
the other type, the case of an armed group engaged in struggle against
the constituted power, whether colonial or not, which establishes itself
as the only base and which builds itself up in rural areas. In all
such cases, whatever the ideological aims that may inspire the fight,
the economic aim is determined by the aspiration toward ownership of
The China of Mao begins as an outbreak of worker groups in the South,
which is defeated and almost annihilated. It succeeds in establishing
itself and begins its advance only when, after the long march from
Yenan, it takes up its base in rural territories and makes agrarian
reform its fundamental goal. The struggle of Ho Chi Minh is based in
the rice-growing peasants, who are oppressed by the French colonial
yoke; with this force it is going forward to the defeat of the colonialists.
In both cases there is a framework of patriotic war against the Japanese
invader, but the economic basis of a fight for the land has not disappeared.
In the case of Algeria, the grand idea of Arab nationalism has its
economic counterpart in the fact that a million French settlers utilize
nearly all of the arable land of Algeria. In some countries, such as
Puerto Rico, where the special conditions of the island have not permitted
a guerrilla outbreak, the nationalist spirit, deeply wounded by the
discrimination that is daily practiced, has as its basis the aspiration
of the peasants (even though many of them are already a proletariat)
to recover the land that the Yankee invader seized from them. This
same central idea, though in different forms, inspired the small farmers,
peasants, and slaves of the eastern estates of Cuba to close ranks
and defend together the right to possess land during the thirty-year
war of liberation.
Taking account of the possibilities of development of guerrilla warfare,
which is transformed with the increase in the operating potential of
the guerrilla band into a war of positions, this type of warfare, despite
its special character, is to be considered as an embryo, a prelude,
of the other. The possibilities of growth of the guerrilla band and
of changes in the mode of fight until conventional warfare is reached,
are as great as the possibilities of defeating the enemy in each of
the different battles, combats, or skirmishes that take place. Therefore,
the fundamental principle is that no battle, combat, or skirmish is
to be fought unless it will be won. There is a malevolent definition
that says: _The guerrilla fighter is the Jesuit of warfare._ By this
is indicated a quality of secretiveness, of treachery, of surprise
that is obviously an essential element of guerrilla warfare. It is
a special kind of Jesuitism, naturally prompted by circumstances, which
necessitates acting at certain moments in ways different from the romantic
and sporting conceptions with which we are taught to believe war is
War is always a struggle in which each contender tries to annihilate
the other. Besides using force, they will have recourse to all possible
tricks and stratagems in order to achieve the goal. Military strategy
and tactics are a representation by analysis of the objectives of the
groups and of the means of achieving these objectives. These means
contemplate taking advantage of all the weak points of the enemy. The
fighting action of each individual platoon in a large army in a war
of positions will present the same characteristics as those of the
guerrilla band. It uses secretiveness, treachery, and surprise; and
when these are not present, it is because vigilance on the other side
prevents surprise. But since the guerrilla band is a division unto
itself, and since there are large zones of territory not controlled
by the enemy, it is always possible to carry out guerrilla attacks
in such a way as to assure surprise; and it is the duty of the guerrilla
fighter to do so. _Hit and run_ some call this scornfully, and this
is accurate. Hit and run, wait, lie in ambush, again hit and run, and
thus repeatedly, without giving any rest to the enemy. There is in
all this, it would appear, a negative quality, an attitude of retreat,
of avoiding frontal fights. However, this is consequent upon the general
strategy of guerrilla warfare, which is the same in its ultimate end
as is any warfare: to win, to annihilate the enemy.
Thus it is clear that guerrilla warfare is a phase that does not afford
in itself opportunities to arrive at complete victory. It is one of
the initial phases of warfare and will develop continuously until the
guerrilla army in its steady growth acquires the characteristics of
a regular army. At that moment it will be ready to deal final blows
to the enemy and to achieve victory. Triumph will always be the product
of a regular army, even though its origins are in a guerrilla army.
Just as the general of a division in a modern war does not have to
die in front of his soldiers, the guerrilla fighter, who is general
of himself, need not die in every battle. He is ready to give his life,
but the positive quality of this guerrilla warfare is precisely that
each one of the guerrilla fighters is ready to die, not to defend an
ideal, but rather to convert it into reality. This is the basis, the
essence of guerrilla fighting. Miraculously, a small band of men, the
armed vanguard of the great popular force that supports them, goes
beyond the immediate tactical objective, goes on decisively to achieve
an ideal, to establish a new society, to break the old molds of the
outdated, and to achieve, finally, the social justice for which they
Considered thus, all these disparaged qualities acquire a true nobility,
the nobility of the end at which they aim; and it becomes clear that
we are not speaking of distorted means of reaching an end. This fighting
attitude, this attitude of not being dismayed at any time, this inflexibility
when confronting the great problems in the final objective is also
the nobility of the guerrilla fighter.
2. GUERRILLA STRATEGY
In guerrilla terminology, strategy is understood as the analysis of
the objectives to be achieved in the light of the total military situation
and the overall ways of reaching these objectives.
To have a correct strategic appreciation from the point of view of
the guerrilla band, it is necessary to analyze fundamentally what will
be the enemy's mode of action. If the final objective is always the
complete destruction of the opposite force, the enemy is confronted
in the case of a civil war of this kind with the standard task: he
will have to achieve the total destruction of each one of the components
of the guerrilla band. The guerrilla fighter, on the other hand, must
analyze the resources which the enemy has for trying to achieve that
outcome: the means in men, in mobility, in popular support, in armaments,
in capacity of leadership on which he can count. We must make our own
strategy adequate on the basis of these studies, keeping in mind always
the final objective of defeating the enemy army.
There are fundamental aspects to be studied: the armament, for example,
and the manner of using this armament. The value of a tank, of an airplane
in a fight of this type must be weighed. The arms of the enemy, his
ammunition, his habits must be considered; because the principal source
of provision for the guerrilla force is precisely in enemy armaments.
If there is a possibility of choice, we should prefer the same type
as that used by the enemy, since the greatest problem of the guerrilla
band is the lack of ammunition, which the opponent must provide.
After the objectives have been fixed and analyzed, it is necessary
to study the order of the steps leading to the achievement of the final
objective. This should be planned in advance, even though it will be
modified and adjusted as the fighting develops and unforeseen circumstances
At the outset, the essential task of the guerrilla fighter is to keep
himself from being destroyed. Little by little it will be easier for
the members of the guerrilla band or bands to adapt themselves to their
form of life and to make flight and escape from the forces that are
on the offensive an easy task, because it is performed daily. When
this condition is reached, the guerrilla, having taken up inaccessible
positions out of reach of the enemy, or having assembled forces that
deter the enemy from attacking, ought to proceed to the gradual weakening
of the enemy. This will be carried out at first at those points nearest
to the points of active warfare against the guerrilla band and later
will be taken deeper into enemy territory, attacking his communications,
later attacking or harassing his bases of operations and his central
bases, tormenting him on all sides to the full extent of the capabilities
of the guerrilla forces.
The blows should be continuous. The enemy soldier in a zone of operations
ought not to be allowed to sleep; his outposts ought to be attacked
and liquidated systematically. At every moment the impression ought
to be created that he is surrounded by a complete circle. In wooded
and broken areas this effort should be maintained both day and night;
in open zones that are easily penetrated by enemy patrols, at night
only. In order to do all this the absolute cooperation of the people
and a perfect knowledge of the ground is necessary. These two necessities
affect every minute of the life of the guerrilla fighter. Therefore,
along with centers for study of present and future zones of operations,
intensive popular work must be undertaken to explain the motives of
the revolution, its ends, and to spread the incontrovertible truth
that victory of the enemy against the people is finally impossible.
Whoever does not feel this undoubted truth cannot be a guerrilla fighter.
This popular work should at first be aimed at securing secrecy; that
is, each peasant, each member of the society in which action is taking
place, will be asked not to mention what he sees and hears; later,
help will be sought from inhabitants whose loyalty to the revolution
offers greater guarantees; still later, use will be made of these persons
in missions of contact, for transporting goods or arms, as guides in
the zones familiar to them; still later, it is possible to arrive at
organized mass action in the centers of work, of which the final result
will be the general strike.
The strike is a most important factor in civil war, but in order to
reach it a series of complementary conditions are necessary which do
not always exist and which very rarely come to exist spontaneously.
It is necessary to create these essential conditions, basically by
explaining the purposes of the revolution and by demonstrating the
forces of the people and their possibilities.
It is also possible to have recourse to certain very homogeneous
groups, which must have shown their efficacy previously in less dangerous
tasks, in order to make use of another of the terrible arms of the
guerrilla band, sabotage. It is possible to paralyze entire armies,
to suspend the industrial life of a zone, leaving the inhabitants of
a city without factories, without light, without water, without communications
of any kind, without being able to risk travel by highway except at
certain hours. If all this is achieved, the morale of the enemy falls,
the morale of his combatant units weakens, and the fruit ripens for
plucking at a precise moment.
All this presupposes an increase in the territory included within the
guerrilla action, but an excessive in- crease of this territory is
to be avoided. It is essential always to preserve a strong base of
operations and to continue strengthening it during the course of the
war. Within this territory, measures of indoctrination of the inhabitants
of the zone should be utilized; measures of quarantine should be taken
against the irreconcilable enemies of the revolution; all the purely
defensive measures, such as trenches, mines, and communications, should
When the guerrilla band has reached a respectable power in arms and
in number of combatants, it ought to proceed to the formation of new
columns. This is an act similar to that of the beehive when at a given
moment it releases a new queen, who goes to another region with a part
of the swarm. The mother hive with the most notable guerrilla chief
will stay in the less dangerous places, while the new columns will
penetrate other enemy territories following the cycle already described.
A moment will arrive in which the territory occupied by the columns
is too small for them; and in the advance toward regions solidly defended
by the enemy, it will be necessary to confront powerful forces. At
that instant the columns join, they offer a compact, fighting front,
and a war of positions is reached, a war carried on by regular armies.
However, the former guerrilla army cannot cut itself off from its base,
and it should create new guerrilla bands behind the enemy acting in
the same way as the original bands operated earlier, proceeding thus
to penetrate enemy territory until it is dominated.
It is thus that guerrillas reach the stage of attack, of the encirclement
of fortified bases, of the defeat of reinforcements, of mass action,
ever more ardent, in the whole national territory, arriving finally
at the objective of the war: victory.
3. GUERRILLA TACTICS
[Che smoking his pipe in the mountains of Bolivia] In military language,
tactics are the practical methods of achieving the grand strategic
In one sense they complement strategy and in an-other they are more
specific rules within it. As means, tactics are much more variable,
much more flexible than the final objectives, and they should be adjusted
continually during the struggle. There are tactical objectives that
remain constant throughout a war and others that vary. The first thing
to be considered is the adjusting of guerrilla action to the action
of the enemy.
The fundamental characteristic of a guerrilla band is mobility. This
permits it in a few minutes to move far from a specific theater and
in a few hours far even from the region, if that becomes necessary;
permits it constantly to change front and avoid any type of encirclement.
As the circumstances of the war require, the guerrilla band can dedicate
itself exclusively to fleeing from an encirclement which is the enemy's
only way of forcing the band into a decisive fight that could be unfavorable;
it can also change the battle into a counter-encirclement (small bands
of men are presumably surrounded by the enemy when suddenly the enemy
is surrounded by stronger contingents; or men located in a safe place
serve as a lure, leading to the encirclement and annihilation of the
entire troops and supply of an attacking force). Characteristic of
this war of mobility is the so-called minuet, named from the analogy
with the dance: the guerrilla bands encircle an enemy position, an
advancing column, for example; they encircle it completely from the
four points of the compass, with five or six men in each place, far
enough away to avoid being encircled themselves; the fight is started
at any one of the points, and the army moves toward it; the guerrilla
band then retreats, always maintaining visual contact, and initiates
its attack from another point. The army will repeat its action and
the guerrilla band the same. Thus, successively, it is possible to
keep an enemy column immobilized, forcing it to expend large quantities
of ammunition and weakening the morale of its troops without incurring
This same tactic can be applied at nighttime, closing in more and showing
greater aggressiveness, because in these conditions counter-encirclement
is much more difficult. Movement by night is another important characteristic
of the guerrilla band, enabling it to advance into position for an
attack and, where the danger of betrayal exists, to mobilize in new
territory. The numerical inferiority of the guerrilla makes it necessary
that attacks always be carried out by surprise; this great advantage
is what permits the guerrilla fighter to inflict losses on the enemy
without suffering losses. In a fight between a hundred men on one side
and ten on the other, losses are not equal where there is one casualty
on each side. The enemy loss is always reparable; it amounts to only
one percent of his effectiveness. The loss of the guerrilla band requires
more time to be repaired because it involves a soldier of high specialization
and is ten percent of the operating forces.
A dead soldier of the guerrillas ought never to be left with his arms
and his ammunition. The duty of every guerrilla soldier whenever a
companion falls is to recover immediately these extremely precious
elements of the fight. In fact, the care which must be taken of ammunition
and the method of using it are further characteristics of guerrilla
warfare. In any combat between a regular force and a guerrilla band
it is always possible to know one from the other by their different
manner of fire: a great amount of firing on the part of the regular
army, sporadic and accurate shots on the part of the guerrillas.
Once one of our heroes, now dead, had to employ his machine guns for
nearly five minutes, burst after burst, in order to slow up the advance
of enemy soldiers. This fact caused considerable confusion in our forces,
because they assumed from the rhythm of fire that key position must
have been taken by the enemy, since this was one of the rare occasions
where departure from the rule of saving fire had been called for because
of the importance of the point being defended.
Another fundamental characteristic of the guerrilla soldier is his
flexibility, his ability to adapt himself to all circumstances, and
to convert to his service all of the accidents of the action. Against
the rigidity of classical methods of fighting, the guerrilla fighter
invents his own tactics at every minute of the fight and constantly
surprises the enemy.
In the first place, there are only elastic positions, specific places
that the enemy cannot pass, and places of diverting him. Frequently
the enemy, after easily overcoming difficulties in a gradual advance,
is surprised to find himself suddenly and solidly detained without
possibilities of moving forward. This is due to the fact that the guerrilla-defended
positions, when they have been selected on the basis of a careful study
of the ground, are invulnerable. It is not the number of attacking
soldiers that counts, but the number of defending soldiers. Once that
number has been placed there, it can nearly always hold off a battalion
with success. It is a major task of the chiefs to choose well the moment
and the place for defending a position without retreat.
The form of attack of a guerrilla army is also different; starting
with surprise and fury, irresistible, it suddenly converts itself into
The surviving enemy, resting, believes that the attacker has departed;
he begins to relax, to return to the routine life of the camp or of
the fortress, when suddenly a new attack bursts forth in another place,
with the same characteristics, while the main body of the guerrilla
band lies in wait to intercept reinforcements. At other times an outpost
defending the camp will be suddenly attacked by the guerrilla, dominated,
and captured. The fundamental thing is surprise and rapidity of attack.
Acts of sabotage are very important. It is necessary to distinguish
clearly between sabotage, a revolutionary and highly effective method
of warfare, and terrorism, a measure that is generally ineffective
and in-discriminate in its results, since it often makes victims of
innocent people and destroys a large number of lives that would be
valuable to the revolution. Terrorism should be considered a valuable
tactic when it is used to put to death some noted leader of the oppressing
forces well known for his cruelty, his efficiency in repression, or
other quality that makes his elimination useful. But the killing of
persons of small importance is never advisable, since it brings on
an increase of reprisals, including deaths.
There is one point very much in controversy in Opinions about terrorism.
Many consider that its use, by provoking police oppression, hinders
all more or less legal or semiclandestine contact with the masses and
makes impossible unification for actions that will be necessary at
a critical moment. This is correct; but it also happens that in a civil
war the repression by the governmental power in certain towns is already
so great that, in fact, every type of legal action is suppressed already,
and any action of the masses that is not supported by arms is impossible.
It is therefore necessary to be circumspect in adopting methods of
this type and to consider the consequences that they may bring for
the revolution. At any rate, well-managed sabotage is always a very
effective arm, though it should not be employed to put means of production
out of action, leaving a sector of the population paralyzed (and thus
without work) unless this paralysis affects the normal life of the
society. It is ridiculous to carry out sabotage against a soft-drink
factory, but it is absolutely correct and advisable to carry out sabotage
against a power plant. In the first case, a certain number of workers
are put out of a job but nothing is done to modify the rhythm of industrial
life; in the second case, there will again be displaced workers, but
this is entirely justified by the paralysis of the life of the region.
We will return to the technique of sabotage later.
One of the favorite arms of the enemy army, supposed to be decisive
in modern times, is aviation. Nevertheless, this has no use whatsoever
during the period that guerrilla warfare is in its first stages, with
small concentrations of men in rugged places. The utility of aviation
lies in the systematic destruction of visible and organized defenses;
and for this there must be large concentrations of men who construct
these defenses, something that does not exist in this type of warfare.
Planes are also potent against marches by columns through level places
or places without cover; however, this latter danger is easily avoided
by carrying out the marches at night.
One of the weakest points of the enemy is transportation by road and
railroad. It is virtually impossible to maintain a vigil yard by yard
over a transport line, a road, or a railroad. At any point a considerable
amount of explosive charge can be planted that will make the road impassable;
or by exploding it at the moment that a vehicle passes, a consider-able
loss in lives and materiel to the enemy is caused at the same time
that the road is cut.
The sources of explosives are varied. They can be brought from other
zones; or use can be made of bombs seized from the dictatorship, though
these do not always work; or they can be manufactured in secret laboratories
within the guerrilla zone. The technique of setting them off is quite
varied; their manufacture also depends upon the conditions of the guerrilla
In our laboratory we made powder which we used as a cap, and we invented
various devices for exploding the mines at the desired moment. The
ones that gave the best results were electric. The first mine that
we exploded was a bomb dropped from an aircraft of the dictatorship.
We adapted it by inserting various caps and adding a gun with the trigger
pulled by a cord. At the moment that an enemy truck passed, the weapon
was fired to set off the explosion.
These techniques can be developed to a high degree. We have information
that in Algeria, for example, tele-explosive mines, that is, mines
exploded by radio at great distances from the point where they are
located, are being used today against the French colonial power.
The technique of lying in ambush along roads in order to explode mines
and annihilate survivors is one of the most remunerative in point of
ammunition and arms. The surprised enemy does not use his ammunition
and has no time to flee; so with a small expenditure of ammunition
large results are achieved. As blows are dealt the enemy, he also changes
his tactics, and in place of isolated trucks, veritable motorized columns
move. However, by choosing the ground well, the same result can be
produced by breaking the column and concentrating forces on one vehicle.
In these cases the essential elements of guerrilla tactics must always
be kept in mind. These are: perfect knowledge of the ground; surveillance
and foresight as to the lines of escape; vigilance over all the secondary
roads that can bring support to the point of attack; intimacy with
people in the zone so as to have sure help from them in respect to
supplies, transport, and temporary or permanent hiding places if it
becomes necessary to leave wounded companions behind; numerical superiority
at a chosen point of action; total mobility; and the possibility of
counting on reserves.
If all these tactical requisites are fulfilled, surprise attack along
the lines of communication of the enemy yields notable dividends.
A fundamental part of guerrilla tactics is the treatment accorded the
people of the zone. Even the treatment accorded the enemy is important;
the norm to be followed should be an absolute inflexibility at the
time of attack, an absolute inflexibility toward all the despicable
elements that resort to informing and assassination, and clemency as
absolute as possible to-ward the enemy soldiers who go into the fight
performing or believing that they perform a military duty. It is a
good policy, so long as there are no considerable bases of operations
and invulnerable places, to take no prisoners. Survivors ought to be
set free. The wounded should be cared for with all possible resources
at the time of the action. Conduct toward the civil population ought
to be regulated by a large respect for all the rules and traditions
of the people of the zone, in order to demonstrate effectively, with
deeds, the moral superiority of the guerrilla fighter over the oppressing
soldier. Except in special situations, there ought to be no execution
of justice without giving the criminal an opportunity to clear himself.
4. WARFARE ON FAVORABLE GROUND
[Che Guevara addressing the United Nations in New York City] As we
have already said, guerrilla fighting will not always take place in
country most favorable to the employment of its tactics; but when it
does, that is, when the guerrilla band is located in zones difficult
to reach, either because of dense forests, steep mountains, impassable
deserts or marshes, the general tactics, based on the fundamental postulates
of guerrilla warfare, must always be the same. An important point to
consider is the moment for making contact with the enemy. If the zone
is so thick, so difficult that an organized army can never reach it,
the guerrilla band should advance to the regions where the army can
arrive and where there will be a possibility of combat.
As soon as the survival of the guerrilla band has been assured, it
should fight; it must constantly go out from its refuge to fight. Its
mobility does not have to be as great as in those cases where the ground
is unfavorable; it must adjust itself to the capabilities of the enemy,
but it is not necessary to be able to move as quickly as in places
where the enemy can concentrate a large number of men in a few minutes.
Neither is the nocturnal character of this warfare so important; it
will be possible in many cases to carry out daytime operations, especially
mobilizations by day, though subjected to enemy observation by land
and air. It is also possible to persist in a military action for a
much longer time, above all in the mountains; it is possible to undertake
battles of long duration with very few men, and it is very probable
that the arrival of enemy reinforcements at the scene of the fight
can be prevented.
A close watch over the points of access is, however, an axiom never
to be forgotten by the guerrilla fighter. His aggressiveness (on account
of the difficulties that the enemy faces in bringing up reinforcements)
can he greater, he can approach the enemy more closely, fight much
more directly, more frontally and for a longer time, though these rules
may be qualified by various circumstances, such, for example, as the
amount of ammunition.
Fighting on favorable ground and particularly in the mountains presents
many advantages but also the inconvenience that it is difficult to
capture in a single operation a considerable quantity of arms and ammunition,
owing to the precautions that the enemy takes in these regions. (The
guerrilla soldier must never forget the fact that it is the enemy that
must serve as his source of supply of ammunition and arms.) But much
more rapidly than in unfavorable ground the guerrilla band will here
be able to "dig in," that is, to form a base capable of engaging in
a war of positions, where small industries may be in-stalled as they
are needed, as well as hospitals, centers for education and training,
storage facilities, organs of propaganda, etc., adequately protected
from aviation or from long-range artillery.
The guerrilla band in these conditions can number many more personnel;
there will be noncombatants and perhaps even a system of training in
the use of the arms that eventually are to fall into the power of the
The number of men that a guerrilla band can have is a matter of extremely
flexible calculation adapted to the territory, to the means available
of acquiring supplies, to the mass flights of oppressed people from
other zones, to the arms available, to the necessities of organization.
But, in any case, it is much more practicable to establish a base and
expand with the support of new combatant elements. The radius of action
of a guerrilla band of this type can be as wide as conditions or the
operations of other bands in adjacent territory permit. The range will
be limited by the time that it takes to arrive at a zone of security
from the zone of operation; assuming that marches must be made at night,
it will not be possible to operate more than five or six hours away
from a point of maximum security. Small guerrilla bands that work constantly
at weakening a territory can go farther away from the zone of security.
The arms preferable for this type of warfare are long-range weapons
requiring small expenditure of bullets, supported by a group of automatic
or semi-automatic arms. Of the rifles and machine guns that exist in
the markets of the United States, one of the best is the M-1 rifle,
called the Garand. However, only people with some experience should
use this, since it has the disadvantage of expending too much ammunition.
Medium-heavy arms, such as tripod machine guns, can be used on favorable
ground, affording a greater margin of security for the weapon and its
personnel, but they ought always to be a means of repelling an enemy
and not for attack.
An ideal composition for a guerrilla band of 25 men would be: 10 to
15 single-shot rifles and about 10 automatic arms between Garands and
hand machine guns, including light and easily portable automatic arms,
such as the Browning or the more modern Belgian FAL and M-14 automatic
rifles. Among the hand machine-guns the best are those of nine millimeters,
which permit a larger transport of ammunition. The simpler its construction
the better, because this increases the case of switching parts. All
this must be adjusted to the armament that the enemy uses, Since the
ammunition that he employs is what we are going to use when his arms
fall into our hands. It is practically impossible for heavy arms to
be used. Aircraft cannot see anything and cease to operate; tanks and
cannons cannot do much owing to the difficulties of advancing in these
A very important consideration is supply. In general, the zones of
difficult access for this very reason present special problems, since
there are few peasants, and therefore animal and food supplies are
scarce. It is necessary to maintain stable lines of communication in
order to be able always to count on a minimum of food, stockpiled,
in the event of any disagreeable development. In this kind of zone
of operations the possibilities of sabotage on a large scale are generally
not present; with the inaccessibility goes a lack of constructions,
telephone lines, aqueducts, etc., that could be damaged by direct action.
For supply purposes it is important to have animals, among which the
mule is the best in rough country. Adequate pasturage permitting good
nutrition is essential. The mule can pass through extremely hilly country
impossible for other animals. In the most difficult situations it is
necessary to resort to transport by men. Each individual can carry
twenty-five kilograms for many hours daily and for many days.
The lines of communication with the exterior should include a series
of intermediate points manned by people of complete reliability, where
products can be stored and where contacts can go to hide themselves
at critical times. Internal lines of communication can also be created.
Their extension will be determined by the stage of development reached
by the guerrilla band. In some zones of operations in the recent Cuban
war, telephone lines of many kilometers of length were established,
roads were built, and a messenger service maintained sufficient to
cover all zones in a minimum of time.
There are also other possible means of communication, not used in the
Cuban war but perfectly applicable, such as smoke signals, signals
with sunshine reflected by mirrors, and carrier pigeons.
The vital necessities of the guerrillas are to maintain their arms
in good condition, to capture ammunition, and, above everything else,
to have adequate shoes. The first manufacturing efforts should therefore
be directed toward these objectives. Shoe factories can initially be
cobbler installations that replace halfsoles on old shoes, expanding
afterwards into a series of organized factories with a good average
daily production of shoes. The manufacture of powder is fairly simple;
and much can be accomplished by having a small laboratory and bringing
in the necessary materials from outside. Mined areas constitute a grave
danger for the enemy; large areas can be mined for simultaneous explosion,
destroying up to hundreds of men.
5. WARFARE ON UNFAVORABLE GROUND
In order to carry on warfare in country that is not very hilly, lacks
forests, and has many roads, all the fundamental requisites of guerrilla
warfare must be observed; only the forms will be altered. The quantity,
not the quality, of guerrilla warfare will change. For example, following
the same order as before, the mobility of this type of guerrilla should
be extraordinary; strikes should be made preferably at night; they
should be extremely rapid but the guerrilla should move to places different
from the starting point, the farthest possible from the scene of action,
assuming that there is no place secure from the repressive forces that
the guerrilla can use as its garrison.
A man can walk between 30 and 50 kilometers during the night hours;
it is possible also to march during the first hours of daylight, unless
the zones of operation are closely watched or there is danger that
people in the vicinity, seeing the passing troops, will notify the
pursuing army of the location of the guerrilla band and its route.
It is always preferable in these cases to operate at night with the
greatest possible silence both before and after the action; the first
hours of night are best. Here too there are exceptions to the general
rule, since at times the dawn hours will be preferable. It is never
wise to habituate the enemy to a certain form of warfare; it is necessary
to vary constantly the places, the hours, and the forms of operation.
We have already said that the action cannot endure for long, but must
be rapid; it must be of a high degree of effectiveness, last a few
minutes, and be followed by an immediate withdrawal. The arms employed
here will not be the same as in the case of actions on favorable ground;
a large quantity of automatic weapons is to be preferred. In night
attacks marksmanship is not the determining factor, but rather concentration
of fire; the more automatic arms firing at short distance, the more
possibilities there are of annihilating the enemy.
Also, the use of mines in roads and the destruction of bridges are
tactics of great importance. Attacks by the guerrilla will be less
aggressive so far as the persistence and continuation are concerned,
but they can be very violent, and they can utilize different arms,
such as mines and the shotgun. Against open vehicles heavily loaded
with men, which is the usual method of transporting troops, and even
against closed vehicles that do not have special defenses- against
buses, for example-the shotgun is a tremendous weapon. A shotgun loaded
with large shot is the most effective. This is not a secret of guerrilla
fighters; it is used also in big wars. The Americans used shotgun platoons
armed with high-quality weapons and bayonets for assaulting machine-gun
There is an important problem to explain, that of ammunition; this
will almost always be taken from the enemy. It is therefore necessary
to strike blows where there will be the absolute assurance of restoring
the ammunition expended, unless there are large reserves in secure
places. In other words, an annihilating attack against a group of men
is not to be under-taken at the risk of expending all ammunition without
being able to replace it. Always in guerrilla tactics it is necessary
to keep in mind the grave problem of procuring the war materiel necessary
for continuing the fight. For this reason guerrilla arms ought to be
the same as those used by the enemy, except for weapons such as revolvers
and shotguns, for which the ammunition can be obtained in the zone
itself or in the cities.
The number of men that a guerrilla band of this type should include
does not exceed ten to fifteen. In forming a single combat unit it
is of great importance always to consider the limitations on numbers:
ten, twelve, fifteen men can hide anywhere and at the same time can
help each other in putting up a powerful resistance to the enemy. Four
or five would perhaps be too small a number, but when the number exceeds
ten the possibility that the enemy will discover them in their camp
or on the march is much greater.
Remember that the velocity of the guerrilla band on the march is equal
to the velocity of its slowest man. It is more difficult to find uniformity
of marching speed with twenty, thirty, or forty men than with ten.
And the guerrilla fighter on the plain must be fundamentally a runner.
Here the practice of hitting and running acquires its maximum use.
The guerrilla bands on the plain suffer the enormous inconvenience
of being subject to a rapid encirclement and of not having sure places
where they can set up a firm resistance; therefore they must live in
conditions of absolute secrecy for a long time, since it would be dangerous
to trust any neighbor whose fidelity is not perfectly established.
The reprisals of the enemy are so violent, usually so brutal, inflicted
not only on the head of the family but frequently on the women and
children as well, that pressure on individuals lacking firmness may
result at any moment in their giving way and revealing information
as to where the guerrilla band is located and how it is operating.
This would immediately produce an encirclement with consequences always
disagreeable, although not necessarily fatal. When conditions, the
quantity of arms, and the state of insurrection of the people call
for an increase in the number of men, the guerrilla band should be
divided. If it is necessary, all can rejoin at a given moment to deal
a blow, but in such a way that immediately afterwards they can disperse
toward separate zones, a gain divided into small groups of ten, twelve,
or fifteen men.
It is entirely feasible to organize whole armies under a single command
and to assure respect and obedience to this command without the necessity
of being in a single group. Therefore the election of the guerrilla
chiefs and the certainty that they coordinate ideologically and personally
with the overall chief of the zone are very important.
The bazooka is a heavy weapon that can be used by the guerrilla band
because of its easy portability and operation. Today the rifle-fired
anti-tank grenade can replace it. Naturally, it will be a weapon taken
from the enemy. The bazooka is ideal for firing on armored vehicles,
and even on unarmored vehicles that are loaded with troops, and for
taking small military bases of few men in a short time; but it is important
to point out that not more than three shells per man can be carried,
and this only with considerable exertion.
As for the utilization of heavy arms taken from the enemy, nothing
is to be scorned. But there are weapons such as the tripod machine
gun, the heavy fifty-millimeter machine gun3 etc., that, when captured,
can be utilized with a willingness to lose them again. In other words,
in the unfavorable conditions that we are now analyzing, a battle to
defend a heavy machine gun or other weapon of this type cannot be allowed;
they are simply to be used until the tactical moment when they must
be abandoned. In our Cuban war of liberation, to abandon a weapon constituted
a grave offense, and there was never any case where the necessity arose.
Nevertheless, we mention this case in order to explain clearly the
only situation in which abandonment would not constitute an occasion
for reproaches. On unfavorable ground, the guerrilla weapon is the
personal weapon of rapid fire.
Easy access to the zone usually means that it will be habitable and
that there will be a peasant population in these places. This facilitates
supply enormously. Having trustworthy people and making contact with
establishments that provide supplies to the population, it is possible
to maintain a guerrilla band perfectly well without having to devote
time or money to long and dangerous lines of communication. Also it
is well to reiterate that the smaller the number of men the easier
it will be to procure food for them. Essential supplies such as bedding,
waterproof material, mosquito netting, shoes, medicines, and food will
be found directly in the zone, since they are things of daily use by
Communications will be much easier in the sense of being able to count
on a larger number of men and more roads; but they will be more difficult
as a problem of security for messages between distant points, since
it will be necessary to rely on a series of contacts that have to be
trusted. There will be the danger of an eventual capture of one of
the messengers, who are constantly crossing enemy zones. If the messages
are of small importance, they should be oral; if of great importance,
code writing should be used. Experience shows that transmission by
word of mouth greatly distorts any communication.
For these same reasons manufacture will have much less importance,
at the same time that it would be much more difficult to carry it out.
It will not be possible to have factories making shoes or arms. Practically
speaking, manufacture will have to be limited to small shops, carefully
hidden, where shotgun shells can be recharged and mines, simple grenades,
and other minimum necessities of the moment manufactured. On the other
hand, it is possible to make use of all the friendly shops of the zone
for such work as is necessary.
This brings us to two consequences that flow logically from what has
been said. One of them is that the favorable conditions for establishing
a permanent camp in guerrilla warfare are inverse to the degree of
productive development of a place. All favorable conditions, all facilities
of life normally induce men to settle; but for the guerrilla band the
opposite is the case. The more facilities there are for social life,
the more nomadic, the more uncertain the life of the guerrilla fighter.
These really are the results of one and the same principle. The title
of this section is "War on Unfavorable Ground," because everything
that is favorable to human life, communications, urban and semi-urban
concentrations of large numbers of people, land easily worked by machine,
all these place the guerrilla fighter in a disadvantageous situation.
The second conclusion is that if guerrilla fighting must include me
extremely important faction of work on the masses, this work is even
more important in the unfavorable zones, where a single enemy attack
can produce a catastrophe. Indoctrination should be continuous, and
so should be the struggle for unity of the workers, of the peasants,
and of other social classes that live in the zone, in order to achieve
toward the guerrilla fighters a maximum homogeneity of attitude. This
task with the masses, this constant work at the huge problem of relations
of the guerrilla band with the inhabitants of the zone, must also govern
the attitude to be taken toward the case of an individual recalcitrant
enemy soldier: he should be eliminated without hesitation when he is
dangerous. In this respect the guerrilla band must be drastic. Enemies
cannot be permitted to exist within the zone of operations in places
that offer no security.
6. SUBURBAN WARFARE
If during the war the guerrilla bands close in on cities and penetrate
the surrounding country in such a way as to be able to establish themselves
in conditions of some security, it will be necessary to give these
suburban bands a special education, or rather, a special organization.
It is fundamental to recognize that a suburban guerrilla band can never
spring up of its own accord. It will be born only after certain conditions
necessary for its survival have been created. Therefore, the suburban
guerrilla will always be under the direct orders of chiefs located
in another zone. The function of this guerrilla band will not be to
carry out independent actions but to coordinate its activities with
overall strategic plans in such a way as to support the action of larger
groups situated in another area, contributing specifically to the success
of a fixed tactical objective, without the operational freedom of guerrilla
bands of the other types. For example, a suburban band will not be
able to choose among the operations of destroying telephone lines,
moving to make attacks in another locality, and surprising a patrol
of soldiers on a distant road; it will do exactly what it is told.
If its function is to cut down telephone poles or electric wires, to
destroy sewers, railroads, or water mains, it will limit itself to
carrying out these tasks efficiently.
It ought not to number more than four or five men. The limitation on
numbers is important, because the suburban guerrilla must be considered
as situated in exceptionally unfavorable ground, where the vigilance
of the enemy will be much greater and the possibilities of reprisals
as well as of betrayal are increased enormously. Another aggravating
circumstance is that the suburban guerrilla band cannot depart far
from the places where it is going to operate. To speed of action and
withdrawal there must be added a limitation on the distance of withdrawal
from the scene of action and the need to remain totally hidden during
the daytime. This is a nocturnal guerrilla band in the extreme, without
possibilities of changing its manner of operating until the insurrection
is so far advanced that it can take part as an active combatant in
the siege of the city.
The essential qualities of the guerrilla fighter in this situation
are discipline (perhaps in the highest degree of all) and discretion.
He cannot count on more than two or three friendly houses that will
provide food; it is almost certain that an encirclement in these conditions
will be equivalent to death. Weapons, furthermore, will not be of the
same kind as those of the other groups. They will be for personal defense,
of the type that do not hinder a rapid flight or betray a secure hiding
place. As their armament the band ought to have not more than one carbine
or one sawed-off shotgun, or perhaps two, with pistols for the other
They will concentrate their action on prescribed sabotage and never
carry out armed attacks, except by surprising one or two members or
agents of the enemy troops.
For sabotage they need a full set of instruments. The guerrilla fighter
must have good saws, large quantities of dynamite, picks and shovels,
apparatus for lifting rails, and, in general, adequate mechanical equipment
for the work to be carried out. This should be hidden in places that
are secure but easily accessible to the hands that will need to use
If there is more than one guerrilla band, they will all be under a
single chief who will give orders as to the necessary tasks through
contacts of proven trustworthiness who live openly as ordinary citizens.
In certain cases the guerrilla fighter will be able to maintain his
peacetime work, but this is very difficult. Practically speaking, the
suburban guerrilla band is a group of men who are already outside the
law, in a condition of war, situated as unfavorably as we have described.
The importance of a suburban struggle has usually been underestimated;
it is really very great. A good operation of this type extended over
a wide area paralyzes almost completely the commercial and industrial
life of the sector and places the entire population in a situation
of unrest, of anguish, almost of impatience for the development of
violent events that will relieve the period of suspense. If from the
first moment of the war, thought is taken for the future possibility
of this type of fight and an organization of specialists started, a
much more rapid action will be assured, and with it a saving of lives
and of the priceless time of the nation.
CHAPTER II: THE GUERRILLA BAND
1. THE GUERRILLA FIGHTER: SOCIAL REFORMER
[Che Guevara with Chile's president Salvador Allende] We have already
described the guerrilla fighter as one who shares the longing of the
people for liberation and who, once peaceful means are exhausted, initiates
the fight and converts himself into an armed vanguard of the fighting
people. From the very beginning of the struggle he has the intention
of destroying an unjust order and therefore an intention, more or less
hidden, to replace the old with something new.
We have also already said that in the conditions that prevail, at least
in America and in almost all countries with deficient economic development,
it is the countryside that offers ideal conditions for the fight. Therefore
the foundation of the social structure that the guerrilla fighter will
build begins with changes in the ownership of agrarian property.
The banner of the fight throughout this period will be agrarian reform.
At first this goal may or may not be completely delineated in its extent
and limits; it may simply refer to the age-old hunger of the peasant
for the land on which he works or wishes to work.
The conditions in which the agrarian reform will be realized depend
upon the conditions which existed before the struggle began, and on
the social depth of the struggle. But the guerrilla fighter, as a person
conscious of a role in the vanguard of the people, must have a moral
conduct that shows him to be a true priest of the reform to which he
aspires. To the stoicism imposed by the difficult conditions of warfare
should be added an austerity born of rigid self-control that will prevent
a single excess, a single slip, whatever the circumstances. The guerrilla
soldier should be an ascetic.
As for social relations, these will vary with the development of the
war. At the beginning it will not be possible to attempt any changes
in the social order.
Merchandise that cannot be paid for in cash will be paid for with bonds;
and these should be redeemed at the first opportunity.
The peasant must always be helped technically, economically, morally,
and culturally. The guerrilla fighter will be a sort of guiding angel
who has fallen into the zone, helping the poor always and bothering
the rich as little as possible in the first phases of the war. But
this war will continue on its course; contradictions will continuously
become sharper; the moment will arrive when many of those who regarded
the revolution with a certain sympathy at the outset will place themselves
in a position diametrically opposed; and they will take the first step
into battle against the popular forces. At that moment the guerrilla
fighter should act to make himself into the standard bearer of the
cause of the people, punishing every betrayal with justice. Private
property should acquire in the war zones its social function. For example,
excess land and livestock not essential for the maintenance of a wealthy
family should pass into the hands of the people and be distributed
equitably and justly.
The right of the owners to receive payment for possessions used for
the social good ought always to be respected; but this payment will
be made in bonds ("bonds of hope," as they were called by our teacher,
General Bayo,3 referring to the common interest that is thereby established
between debtor and creditor). The land and property of notorious and
active enemies of the revolution should pass immediately into the hands
of the revolutionary forces, Furthermore, taking advantage of the heat
of the war-those moments in which human fraternity reaches its highest
intensity-all kinds of cooperative work, as much as the mentality of
the inhabitants will permit, ought to be stimulated.
The guerrilla fighter as a social reformer should not only provide
an example in his own life but he ought also constantly to give orientation
in ideological problems, explaining what he knows and what he wishes
to do at the right time. He will also make use of what he learns as
the months or years of the war strengthen his revolutionary convictions,
making him more radical as the potency of arms is demonstrated, as
the outlook of the inhabitants becomes a part of his spirit and of
his own life, and as he understands the justice and the vital necessity
of a series of changes, of which the theoretical importance appeared
to him be-fore, but devoid of practical urgency.
This development occurs very often, because the initiators of guerrilla
warfare or rather the directors of guerrilla warfare, are not men who
have bent their backs day after day over the furrow. They are men who
understand the necessity for changes in the social treatment accorded
peasants, without having suffered in the usual case this bitter treatment
in their own persons. It happens then (I am drawing on the Cuban experience
and enlarging it) that a genuine interaction is produced between these
leaders, who with their acts teach the people the fundamental importance
of the armed fight, and the people themselves who rise in rebellion
and teach the leaders these practical necessities of which we speak.
Thus, as a product of this interaction between the guerrilla fighter
and his people, a progressive radicalization appears which further
accentuates the revolutionary characteristics of the movement and gives
it a national scope.
2 THE GUERRILLA FIGHTER AS COMBATANT
The life and activities of the guerrilla fighter, sketched thus in
their general lines, call for a series of physical, mental, and moral
qualities needed for adapting oneself to prevailing conditions and
for fulfilling completely any mission assigned.
To the question as to what the guerrilla soldier should be like, the
first answer is that he should preferably be an inhabitant of the zone.
If this is the case, he will have friends who will help him; if he
belongs to the zone itself, he will know it (and this knowledge of
the ground is one of the most important factors in guerrilla warfare);
and since he will be habituated to local peculiarities he will be able
to do better work, not to mention that he will add to all this the
enthusiasm that arises from defending his own people and fighting to
change a social regime that hurts his own world.
The guerrilla combatant is a night combatant; to say this is to say
at the same time that he must have all the special qualities that such
fighting requires. He must be cunning and able to march to the place
of attack across plains or mountains without anybody noticing him,
and then to fall upon the enemy, taking advantage of the factor of
surprise which deserves to be emphasized again as important in this
type of fight. After causing panic by this surprise, he should launch
himself into the fight implacably without permitting a single weakness
in his companions and taking advantage of every sign of weakness on
the part of the enemy. Striking like a tornado, destroying all, giving
no quarter unless the tactical circumstances call for it, judging those
who must be judged, sowing panic among the enemy combatants, he nevertheless
treats defenseless prisoners benevolently and shows respect for the
A wounded enemy should be treated with care and respect unless his
former life has made him liable to a death penalty, in which case he
will be treated in accordance with his deserts. What can never be done
is to keep prisoners, unless a secure base of operations, invulnerable
to the enemy, has been established. Otherwise, the prisoner will become
a dangerous menace to the security of the inhabitants of the region
or to the guerrilla band itself because of the information that he
can give upon rejoining the enemy army. If he has not been a notorious
criminal, he should be set free after receiving a lecture.
The guerrilla combatant ought to risk his life whenever necessary and
be ready to die without the least sign of doubt; but, at the same time,
he ought to be cautious and never expose himself unnecessarily. All
possible precautions ought to be taken to avoid a defeat or an annihilation.
For this reason it is extremely important in every fight to maintain
vigilance over all the points from which enemy reinforcements may arrive
and to take precautions against an encirclement, the consequences of
which are usually not physically disastrous but which damages morale
by causing a loss of faith in the prospects of the struggle.
However, he ought to be audacious, and, after carefully analyzing the
dangers and possibilities in an action, always ready to take an optimistic
attitude toward circumstances and to see reasons for a favorable decision
even in moments when the analysis of the adverse and favorable conditions
does not show an appreciable positive balance.
To be able to survive in the midst of these conditions of life and
enemy action, the guerrilla fighter must have a degree of adaptability
that will permit him to identify himself with the environment in which
he lives, to become a part of it, and to take advantage of it as his
ally to the maximum possible extent. He also needs a faculty of rapid
comprehension and an instantaneous inventiveness that will permit him
to change his tactics according to the dominant course of the action.
These faculties of adaptability and inventiveness in popular armies
are what ruin the statistics of the warlords and cause them to waver.
The guerrilla fighter must never for any reason leave a wounded companion
at the mercy of the enemy troops, because this would be leaving him
to an almost certain death. At whatever cost he must be removed from
the zone of combat to a secure place. The greatest exertions and the
greatest risks must be taken in this task. The guerrilla soldier must
be an extraordinary companion.
At the same time he ought to be closemouthed. Everything that is said
and done before him should be kept strictly in his own mind. He ought
never to permit himself a single useless word, even with his own comrades
in arms, since the enemy will always try to introduce spies into the
ranks of the guerrilla band in order to discover its plans, location,
and means of life.
Besides the moral qualities that we have mentioned, the guerrilla fighter
should possess a series of very important physical qualities. He must
be indefatigable. He must be able to produce another effort at the
moment when weariness seems intolerable. Profound conviction, expressed
in every line of his face, forces him to take another step, and this
not the last one, since it will be followed by another and another
and another until he arrives at the place designated by his chiefs.
He ought to be able to endure extremities, to with-stand not only the
privations of food, water, clothing, and shelter to which he is subjected
frequently, but also the sickness and wounds that often must be cured
by nature without much help from the surgeon. This is all the more
necessary because usually the enemy will assassinate the individual
who leaves the guerrilla zone to recover from sickness or wounds.
To meet these conditions he needs an iron constitution that will enable
him to resist all these adversities without falling ill and to make
of his hunted animal's life one more factor of strength. With the help
of his natural adaptability, he becomes a part of the land it-self
where he fights.
All these considerations bring us to ask: what is the ideal age for
the guerrilla fighter? These limits are al-ways very difficult to state
precisely, because individual and social peculiarities change the figure.
A peasant, for example, will be much more resistant than a man from
the city. A city dweller who is accustomed to physical exercise and
a healthy life will be much more efficient than a man who has lived
all his life be-hind a desk. But generally the maximum age of combatants
in the completely nomadic stage of the guerrilla struggle ought not
to exceed forty years, although there will be exceptional cases, above
all among the peasants. One of the heroes of our struggle, Commandant
Crescencio Perez, entered the Sierra at 65 years of age and was immediately
one of the most useful men in the troop.
We might also ask if the members of the guerrilla band should be drawn
from a certain social class. It has already been said that this social
composition ought to be adjusted to that of the zone chosen for the
center of operations, which is to say that the combatant nucleus of
the guerrilla army ought to be made up of peasants. The peasant is
evidently the best soldier; but the other strata of the population
are not by any means to be excluded or deprived of the opportunity
to fight for a just cause. Individual exceptions are also very important
in this respect.
We have not yet fixed the lower limit of age. We believe that minors
less than sixteen years of age ought not to be accepted for the fight,
except in very special circumstances. In general these young boys,
only children, do not have sufficient development to bear tip under
the work, the weather, and the suffering to which they will be subjected.
The best age for a guerrilla fighter varies between 25 and 35 years,
a stage in which the life of most per- sons has assumed definite shape.
Whoever sets out at that age, abandoning his home, his children, and
his entire world must have thought well of his responsibility and reached
a firm decision not to retreat a step. There are extraordinary cases
of children who as combatants have reached the highest ranks of our
rebel army, but this is not the usual case. For every one of them who
displayed great fighting qualities, there were tens who ought to have
been returned to their homes and who frequently constituted a dangerous
burden for the guerrilla band.
The guerrilla fighter, as we have said, is a soldier who carries his
house on his back like the snail; therefore, he must arrange his knapsack
in such a way that the smallest quantity of utensils will render the
greatest possible service. He will carry only the indispensable, but
he will take care of it at all times as something fundamental and not
to be lost except in extremely adverse situations.
His armament will also be only that which he can carry on his own.
Reprovisioning is very difficult, above all with bullets. To keep them
dry, always to keep them clean, to count them one by one so that none
is lost; these are the watchwords. And the gun ought always to be kept
clean, well greased, and with the barrel shining. It is advisable for
the chief of each group to impose some penalty or punishment on those
who do not maintain their armaments in these conditions.
People with such notable devotion and firmness must have an ideal that
sustains them in the adverse conditions that we have described. This
ideal is simple, without great pretensions, and in general does not
go very far; but it is so firm, so clear that one will give his life
for it without the least hesitation. With almost all peasants this
ideal is the right to have and work a piece of land of their own and
to enjoy just social treatment. Among workers it is to have work, to
receive an adequate wage as well as just social treatment. Among students
and professional people more abstract ideas such as liberty are found
to be motives for the fight.
This brings us to the question: what is the life of the guerrilla fighter
like? His normal life is the long hike. Let us take as an example a
mountain guerrilla fighter located in wooded regions under constant
harassment by the enemy. In these conditions the guerrilla band moves
during daylight hours, without eating, in order to change its position;
when night arrives, camp is set up in a clearing near a water supply
according to a routine, each group assembling in order to eat in common;
at dusk the fires are lighted with whatever is at hand.
The guerrilla fighter eats when he can and everything he can. Sometimes
fabulous feasts disappear in the gullet of the combatant; at other
times he fasts for two or three days without suffering any diminution
in his capacity for work.
His house will be the open sky; between it and his hammock he places
a sheet of waterproof nylon and beneath the cloth and hammock he places
his knapsack, gun, and ammunition, which are the treasures of the guerrilla
fighter. At times it is not wise for shoes to be removed, because of
the possibility of a surprise attack by the enemy. Shoes are another
of his precious treasures. Whoever has a pair of them has the security
of a happy existence within the limits of the prevailing circumstances.
Thus, the guerrilla fighter will live for days without approaching
any inhabited place, avoiding all contact that has not been previously
arranged, staying in the wildest zones, knowing hunger, at times thirst,
cold, heat; sweating during the continuous marches, letting the sweat
dry on his body and adding to it new sweat without any possibility
of regular cleanliness (although this also depends somewhat upon the
individual disposition, as does everything else).
During the recent war, upon entering the village of El Uvero following
a march of sixteen kilometers and a fight of two hours and forty-five
minutes in a hot sun (all added to several days passed in very adverse
conditions along the sea with intense heat from a boiling sun) our
bodies gave off a peculiar and offensive odor that repelled anyone
who came near. Our noses were completely habituated to this type of
life; the hammocks of guerrilla fighters are known for their characteristic,
In such conditions breaking camp ought to be done rapidly, leaving
no traces behind; vigilance must be extreme. For every ten men sleeping
there ought to be one or two on watch, with the sentinels being changed
continually and a sharp vigil being maintained over all entrances to
Campaign life teaches several tricks for preparing meals, some to help
speed their preparation; others to add seasoning with little things
found in the forest; still others for inventing new dishes that give
a more varied character to the guerrilla menu, which is com-posed mainly
of roots, grains, salt, a little oil or lard, and, very sporadically,
pieces of the meat of some animal that has been slain. This refers
to the life of a group operating in tropical sectors.
Within the framework of the combatant life, the most interesting event,
the one that carries all to a convulsion of joy and puts new vigor
in everybody's steps, is the battle. The battle, climax of the guerrilla
life, is sought at an opportune moment either when an enemy encampment
sufficiently weak to be annihilated has been located and investigated;
or when an enemy column is advancing directly toward the territory
occupied by the liberating force. The two cases are different.
Against an encampment the action will be a thin encirclement and fundamentally
will become a hunt for the members of the columns that come to break
the encirclement. An entrenched enemy is never the favorite prey of
the guerrilla fighter; he prefers his enemy to be on the move, nervous,
not knowing the ground, fearful of everything and without natural protections
for defense. Whoever is behind a parapet with powerful arms for repelling
an offensive will never be in the plight, however bad his situation,
of a long column that is attacked suddenly in two or three places and
cut. If the attackers are not able to encircle the column and destroy
it totally, they will retire prior to any counteraction.
If there is no possibility of defeating those entrenched in a camp
by means of hunger or thirst or by a direct assault, the guerrilla
ought to retire after the encirclement has yielded its fruits of destruction
in the relieving columns. In cases where the guerrilla column is too
weak and the invading column too strong, the action should be concentrated
upon the vanguard. There should be a special preference for this tactic,
whatever the hoped-for result, since after the leading ranks have been
struck several times, thus diffusing among the soldiers the news that
death is constantly occurring to those in the van, the reluctance to
occupy those places will provoke nothing less than mutiny. Therefore,
attacks ought to be made on that point even if they are also made at
other points of the column.
The facility with which the guerrilla fighter can perform his function
and adapt himself to the environment will depend upon his equipment.
Even though joined with others in small groups, he has individual characteristics.
He should have in his knapsack, besides his regular shelter, everything
necessary to survival in case he finds himself alone for some time.
In giving the list of equipment we will refer essentially to that which
should be carried by an individual located in rough country at the
beginning of a war, with frequent rainfall, some cold weather, and
harassment by the enemy; in other words, we place ourselves in the
situation that existed at the beginning of the Cuban war of liberation.
The equipment of the guerrilla fighter is divided into the essential
and the accessory. Among the first is a hammock. This provides adequate
rest; it is easy to find two trees from which it can be strung (see
Picture 2-1); and, in cases where one sleeps on the ground, it can
serve as a mattress. Whenever it is raining or the ground is wet, a
frequent occurrence in tropical mountain zones, the hammock is indispensable
for sleeping. A piece of waterproof nylon cloth is its complement.
The nylon should be large enough to cover the hammock when tied from
its four corners, and with a line strung through the center to the
same trees from which the hammock hangs. This last line serves to make
the nylon into a kind of tent by raising a center ridge and causing
it to shed water.
A blanket is indispensable, because it is cold in the mountains at
night. It is also necessary to carry a garment such as a jacket or
coat which will enable one to bear the extreme changes of temperature.
Clothing should consist of rough work trousers and shirt which may
or may not be of a uniform cloth. Shoes should be of the best possible
construction and also, since without good shoes marches are very difficult
they should be one of the first articles laid up in reserve.
Since the guerrilla fighter carries his house in his knapsack, the
latter is very important. The more primitive types may be made from
any kind of sack carried by two ropes; but those of canvas found in
the market or made by a harness maker are preferable. The guerrilla
fighter ought always to carry some personal food besides that which
the troop carries or consumes in its camps. Indispensable articles
are lard or oil, which is necessary for fat consumption; canned goods,
which should not be consumed except in circumstances where food for
cooking cannot be found or when there are too many cans and their weight
impedes the march; preserved fish, which has great nutritional value;
condensed milk, which is also nourishing, particularly on account of
the large quantity of sugar that it contains; some sweet for its good
taste. Powdered milk can also be carried. Sugar is another essential
part of the supplies, as is salt, without which life becomes sheer
martyrdom, and something that serves to season the meals, such as onion,
garlic, etc., according to the characteristics of the country. This
completes the category of the essentials.
The guerrilla fighter should carry a plate, knife, and fork, camping
style, which will serve all the various necessary functions. The plate
can be camping or military type or a pan that is usable for cooking
anything from a piece of meat to a potato, or for brewing tea or coffee.
To care for the rifle, special greases are necessary; and these must
be carefully administered-sewing machine oil is very good if there
is no special oil avail-able. Also needed are cloths that will serve
for cleaning the arms frequently and a rod for cleaning the gun inside,
something that ought to be done often. The ammunition belt can be of
commercial type or homemade, according to the circumstances, but it
ought to be so made that not a single bullet will be lost. Ammunition
is the basis of the fight without which everything else would be in
vain; it must be cared for like gold.
A canteen or a bottle for water is essential, since it will frequently
be necessary to drink in a situation where water is not available.
Among medicines, those of general use should be carried: for example,
penicillin or some other type of antibiotic, preferably the types taken
orally, carefully closed; medicines for lowering fever, such as aspirin;
and others adapted to treating the endemic diseases of the area. These
may be tablets against malaria, sulfas for diarrhea, medicines against
parasites of all types; in other words, fit the medicine to the characteristics
of the region. It is advisable in places where there are poisonous
animals to carry appropriate injections. Surgical instruments will
complete the medical equipment. Small personal items for taking care
of less important injuries should also be included.
A customary and extremely important comfort in the life of the guerrilla
fighter is a smoke, whether cigars, cigarettes, or pipe tobacco; a
smoke in moments of rest is a great friend to the solitary soldier.
Pipes are useful, because they permit using to the extreme all tobacco
that remains in the butts of cigars and cigarettes at time of scarcity.
Matches are extremely important not only for lighting a smoke, but
also for starting fires; this is one of the great problems in the forest
in rainy periods. It is preferable to carry both matches and a lighter,
so that if the lighter runs out of fuel, matches remain as a substitute.
Soap should be carried, not only for personal cleanliness, but for
washing eating utensils, because intestinal infections or irritations
are frequent and can be caused by spoiled food left on dirty cooking
ware. With this set of equipment, the guerrilla fighter can be assured
that he will be able to live in the forest under adverse conditions,
no matter how bad, for as long as is necessary to dominate the situation.
There are accessories that at times are useful and others that constitute
a bother but are very useful. The compass is one of these; at the outset
this will be used a great deal in gaining orientation, but little by
little knowledge of the country will make it unnecessary. In mountainous
regions a compass is not of much use, since the route it indicates
will usually be cut off by impassable obstacles. Another useful article
is an extra nylon cloth for covering all equipment when it rains. Remember
that rain in tropical countries is continuous during certain months
and that water is the enemy of all the things that the guerrilla fighter
must carry: food, ammunition, medicine, paper, and clothing.
A change of clothing can be carried, but this is usually a mark of
inexperience. The usual custom is to carry no more than an extra pair
of pants, eliminating extra underwear and other articles, such as towels.
The life of the guerrilla fighter teaches him to con-serve his energy
in carrying his knapsack from one place to another, and he will, little
by little, get rid of everything that does not have essential value.
In addition to a piece of soap, useful for washing utensils as well
as for personal cleanliness, a toothbrush and paste should be carried.
It is worthwhile also to carry a book, which will be exchanged with
other members of the band. These books can be good biographies of past
heroes, histories, or economic geographies, preferably of the country,
and works of general character that will serve to raise the cultural
level of the soldiers and discourage the tendency toward gambling or
other undesirable forms of passing the time. There are periods of boredom
in the life of the guerrilla fighter.
Whenever there is extra space in the knapsack1 it ought to be used
for food, except in those zones where the food supply is easy and sure.
Sweets or food of lesser importance complementing the basic items can
be carried. Crackers can be one of these, although they occupy a large
space and break up into crumbs. In thick forests a machete is useful;
in very wet places a small bottle of gasoline or light, resinous wood,
such as pine, for kindling will make firebuilding easier when the wood
A small notebook and pen or pencil for taking notes and for letters
to the outside or communication with other guerrilla bands ought always
to be a part of the guerrilla fighter's equipment. Pieces of string
or rope should be kept available; these have many uses. Also needles,
thread, and buttons for clothing. The guerrilla fighter who carries
this equipment will have a solid house on his back, rather heavy but
furnished to assure a comfortable life during the hardships of the
3. ORGANIZATION OF A GUERRILLA BAND
No rigid scheme can be offered for the organization of a guerrilla
band; there will be innumerable differences according to the environment
in which it is to operate. For convenience of exposition we will suppose
that our experience has a universal application, but it should be kept
in mind that it is only one way, that there will possibly be new forms
that may work better with the particular characteristics of another
given armed group.
The size of the component units of the guerrilla force is one of the
most difficult problems to deal with: there will be different numbers
of men and different compositions of the troop, as we have already
explained. Let us suppose a force situated in favorable ground, mountainous
with conditions not so bad as to necessitate perpetual flight, but
not so good as to afford a base of operations. The combat units of
an armed force thus situated ought to number not more than one hundred
and fifty men, and even this number is rather high; ideal would be
a unit of about one hundred men. This constitutes a column, and in
the Cuban organization is commanded by a commandant. It should be remembered
that in our war the grades of corporal and sergeant were omitted because
they were considered reminiscent of the tyranny.
On this premise, the commandant commands this whole force of one hundred
to one hundred fifty men; and there will be as many captains as there
are groups of thirty to forty men. The captain has the function of
directing and unifying his platoon, making it fight almost always as
a unit and looking after the distribution of men and the general organization.
In guerrilla warfare, the squad is the functional unit. Each squad,
made up of approximately eight to twelve men, is commanded by a lieutenant,
who performs for his group functions analogous to those of the captain,
to whom he must always be in constant subordination.
The operational tendency of the guerrilla band to function in small
groups makes the squad the true unit. Eight to ten men are the maximum
that can act as a unit in a fight in these conditions: therefore, the
squad, which will frequently be separated from the captain even though
they fight on the same front, will operate under the orders of its
lieutenant; there are exceptions, of course. A squad should not be
broken up nor kept dispersed at times when there is no fighting. Each
squad and platoon should know who the immediate successor is in case
the chief falls, and these persons should be sufficiently trained to
be able to take over their new responsibilities immediately.
One of the fundamental problems of the troop is food supply; in this
everyone from the last man to the chief must be treated alike. This
acquires a high importance, not only because of the chronic shortage
of supplies, but also because meals are the only events that take place
daily. The troops, who have a keen sense of justice, measure the rations
with a sharp eye; the least favoritism for anyone ought never to be
permitted. If in certain circumstances the meal is served to the whole
column, a regular order should be established and observed strictly,
and at the same time the quantity and quality of food given to each
one ought to be carefully checked. In the distribution of clothing
the problem is different, these being articles of individual use. Here
two considerations prevail: first, the demand for necessities of those
who need them, which will almost always be greater than the supply;
and, second, the length of service and merits of each one of the applicants.
The length of service and merits, something very difficult to fix exactly,
should be noted in special booklets by one assigned this responsibility
under the direct supervision of the chief of the column. The same should
be said about other articles that become available and are of individual
rather than collective utility. Tobacco and cigarettes ought to be
distributed according to the general rule of equal treatment for everybody.
This task of distribution should be a specifically assigned responsibility.
It is preferable that the persons designated be attached directly to
the command. The command performs, therefore, administrative tasks
of liaison which are very important as well as all the other special
tasks that are necessary. Officers of the greatest intelligence ought
to be in. it. Soldiers attached to the command ought to be alert and
of maximum dedication, since their burdens will usually be greater
than those borne by the rest of the troop. Nevertheless, they can have
no special treatment at mealtime.
Each guerrilla fighter carries his complete equipment; there is also
a series of implements of use to the group that should be equitably
distributed within the column. For this, too, rules can be established,
de- pending upon the number of unarmed persons in the troop. One system
is to distribute all extra materiel, such as medicines, medical or
dental or surgical instruments, extra food, clothing, general supplies,
and heavy weapons equally among all platoons, which will then be responsible
for their custody. Each captain will distribute these supplies among
the squads, and each chief of squad will distribute them among his
men. Another solution, which can be used when a part of the troop is
not armed, is to create special squads or platoons assigned to transport;
this works out well, since it leaves the soldier who already has the
weight and responsibility of his rifle free of extra cargo. In this
way danger of losing materiel is reduced, since it is concentrated;
and at the same time there is an incentive for the porter to carry
more and to carry better and to demonstrate more enthusiasm, since
in this way he will win his right to a weapon in the future. These
platoons will march in the rear positions and will have the same duties
and the same treatment as the rest of the troop.
The tasks to be carried out by a column will vary according to its
activities. If it is encamped, there will be special teams for keeping
watch. These should be experienced, specially trained, and they should
receive some special reward for this duty. This can consist of increased
independence, or, if there is an excess of sweets or tobacco after
proportional distribution to each column, something extra for the members
of those units that carry out special tasks. For example, if there
are one hundred men and one hundred and fifteen packages of cigarettes,
the fifteen extra packs of cigarettes can be distributed among the
members of the units referred to. The vanguard and the rearguard units,
separated from the rest, will have special duties of vigilance; but,
besides, each platoon ought to have such a watch of its own. The farther
from the encampment the watch is maintained, the greater is the security
of the group, especially when it is in open country.
The places chosen should be high, dominating a wide area by day and
difficult to approach by night. If the plan is to stay several days,
it is worthwhile to construct defenses that will permit a sustained
fire in case of an attack. These defenses can be obliterated when the
guerrilla band moves, or they can be left if circumstances no longer
make it necessary to hide the path of the column.
In places where permanent encampments are established, the defenses
ought to be improved constantly. Remember that in a mountainous zone
on ground carefully chosen, the only heavy arm that is effective is
the mortar. Using roofs reinforced with materials from the region,
such as wood, rocks, etc., it is possible to make good refuges which
are difficult for the enemy forces to approach and which will afford
protection from mortar shells for the guerrilla forces.
It is very important to maintain discipline in the camp, and this should
have an educational function. The guerrilla fighters should be required
to go to bed and get up at fixed hours. Games that have no social function
and that hurt the morale of the troops and the consumption of alcoholic
drinks should both be prohibited. All these tasks are performed by
a commission of internal order elected from those combat-ants of greatest
revolutionary merit. Another mission of these persons is to prevent
the lighting of fires in places visible from a distance or that raise
columns of smoke before nightfall; also to see. that the camp is kept
clean and that it is left in such a condition when the column leaves
as to show no signs of passage, if this is necessary.
Great care must be taken with fires which leave traces for a long time.
They must be covered with earth; papers, cans, and scraps of food should
also be burned. During the march complete silence must prevail in the
column. Orders are passed by gestures or by whispers that go from mouth
to mouth until they reach the last man. If the guerrilla band is marching
through unknown places, breaking a road, or being led by a guide, the
vanguard will be approximately one hundred or two hundred meters or
even more in front, according to the characteristics of the ground.
In places where confusion may arise as to the route, a man will be
left at each turning to await those who follow, and this will be repeated
until the last man in the rearguard has passed. The rearguard will
also be somewhat separated from the rest of the column, keeping a watch
on the roads in the rear and trying to erase tracks of the troops as
much as possible. If there is a road coming from the side that offers
danger, it is necessary always to have a group keeping a watch on it
until the last man has passed. It is more practical that each platoon
utilize its own men for this special duty, with each having the obligation
to pass the guard to members of the following platoon and then to rejoin
his own unit; this process will be continued until the whole troop
The march should be uniform and in an established order, always the
same. Thus it will always be known that Platoon #1 is the vanguard,
followed by Platoon #2 and then Platoon #3, which may be the command;
then #4, followed by the rearguard or Platoon #5 or other platoons
that make up the column, always in the same order. In night marches
silence should be even stricter and the distance between each combatant
shorter, so that no one will get lost and make it necessary to shout
and turn on lights. Light is the enemy of the guerrilla fighter at
If all this marching has attack as its objective, then upon arriving
at a given point, the point to which all will return after the objective
has been accomplished, extra weight will be set down, such things as
knapsacks and cooking utensils, for example, and each platoon will
proceed with nothing more than its arms and fighting equipment. The
point of attack should have been already studied by trustworthy people
who have reconnoitered the ground and have observed the location of
the enemy guards. The leaders, knowing the orientation of the base,
the number of men that defend it, etc., will make the final plan for
the attack and send combatants to their places, always keeping in mind
that a good part of the troops should be assigned to intercept reinforcements.
In cases where the attack upon the base is to be merely a diversion
in order to provoke the sending of reinforcements along roads that
can be easily ambushed, a man should communicate the result rapidly
to the command as soon as the attack has been carried out, in order
to break the encirclement, if necessary to prevent being attacked from
the rear. In any case there must always be a watch on the roads that
lead to the place of combat while the encirclement or direct attack
is being carried out.
By night a direct attack is always preferable. It is possible to capture
an encampment if there is enough drive and necessary presence of mind
and if the risks are not excessive.
An encirclement requires waiting and taking cover, closing in steadily
on the enemy, trying to harass him in every way, and, above all, trying
to force him by fire to come out. When the circle has been closed to
short range, the "Molotov cocktail" is a weapon of extraordinary effectiveness.
Before arriving at a range for the "cocktail," shotguns with a special
charge can be employed (See picture 2-2). These arms, christened in
our war with the name of "M-16," consist of a 16-calibre sawed-off
shotgun with a pair of legs added in such a way that with the butt
of the gun they form a tripod. The weapon will thus be mounted at an
angle of about 45 degrees; this can be varied by moving the legs back
and forth. It is loaded with an open shell from which all the shot
has been removed. A cylindrical stick extending from the muzzle of
the gun is used as the projectile. A bottle of gasoline resting on
a rubber base is placed on the end of the stick. This apparatus will
fire the burning bottles a hundred meters or more with a fairly high
degree of accuracy. This is an ideal weapon for enrichments when the
enemy has many wooden or inflammable material constructions; also for
firing against tanks in hilly country.
Once the encirclement ends with a victory, or, having completed its
objectives, is withdrawn, all platoons retire in order to the place
where the knapsacks have been left, and normal life is resumed.
The nomadic life of the guerrilla fighter in this stage produces not
only a deep sense of fraternity among the men but at times also dangerous
rivalries between groups or platoons. If these are not channeled to
produce beneficial emulation, there is a risk that the unity of the
column will be damaged. The education of the guerrilla fighter is important
from the very beginning of the struggle. This should explain to them
the social purpose of the fight and their duties, clarify their understanding,
and give them lessons in morale that serve to forge their characters.
Each experience should be a new source of strength for victory and
not simply one more episode in the fight for survival.
One of the great educational techniques is example. Therefore the chiefs
must constantly offer the example of a pure and devoted life. Promotion
of the soldier should be based on valor, capacity, and a spirit of
sacrifice; whoever does not have these qualities in a high degree ought
not to have responsible assignments, since he will cause unfortunate
accidents at any moment.
The conduct of the guerrilla fighter will be subject to judgment whenever
he approaches a house to ask for something. The inhabitants will draw
favorable or unfavorable conclusions about the guerrilla band according
to the manner in which any service or food or other necessity is solicited
and the methods used to get what is wanted. The explanation by the
chief should be detailed about these problems, emphasizing their importance;
he should also teach by example. If a town is entered, all drinking
of alcohol should be prohibited and the troops should be exhorted before-
hand to give the best possible example of discipline.
The entrances and exits to the town should be constantly watched.
The organization, combat capacity, heroism, and spirit of the guerrilla
band will undergo a test of fire during an encirclement by the enemy,
which is the most dangerous situation of the war. In the jargon of
our guerrilla fighters in the recent war, the phrase "encirclement
face" was given to the face of fear worn by someone who was frightened.
The hierarchy of the deposed regime pompously spoke of its campaigns
of "encirclement and annihilation." However, for a guerrilla band that
knows the country and that is united ideologically and emotionally
with its chief, this is not a particularly serious problem. It need
only take cover, try to slow up the advance of the enemy, impede his
action with heavy equipment, and await nightfall, the natural ally
of the guerrilla fighter. Then with the greatest possible stealth,
after exploring and choosing the best road, the band will depart, utilizing
the most adequate means of escape and maintaining absolute silence.
It is extremely difficult in these conditions at night to prevent a
group of men from escaping the encirclement.
4. THE COMBAT
Combat is the most important drama in the guerrilla life. It occupies
only a short time; nevertheless, these brilliant moments acquire an
extraordinary importance, since each small encounter is a battle of
a fundamental kind for the combatants.
We have already pointed out that an attack should be carried out in
such a way as to give a guarantee of victory. In addition to general
observations concerning the tactical function of attack in guerrilla
warfare, the different characteristics that each action can pre-sent
ought to be noted. We will refer initially, for purposes of description,
to the type of fight carried out on favorable ground, because this
is the original model of guerrilla warfare; and it is in this connection
that certain principles must be examined before dealing with other
problems through a study of practical experience. Warfare on the plain
is always the result of an advance by the guerrilla bands consequent
on their being strengthened and on changes in conditions; this implies
an increase of experience on the part of the guerrilla and with it
the possibility of using that experience to advantage.
In the first stage of guerrilla warfare, enemy columns will penetrate
insurgent territory deeply; depending on the strength of these columns
two different types of guerrilla attacks will be made. One of these,
first in chronological order, is for a fixed number of months to cause
systematic losses in the enemy's offensive capacity. This tactic is
carried out on the vanguards. Unfavorable ground impedes flank defenses
by the advancing columns; therefore, there must always be one point
of the vanguard that, as it penetrates and exposes the lives of its
components, serves to give security to the rest of the column. When
men and reserves are insufficient and the enemy is strong, the guerrilla
should always aim for the destruction of this vanguard point. The system
is simple; only a certain coordination is necessary. At the moment
when the vanguard appears at the selected place-the steepest possible-a
deadly fire is let loose on them, after a convenient number of men
have been allowed to penetrate. A small group must hold the rest of
the column for some moments while arms, munitions, and equipment are
being collected. The guerrilla soldier ought always to have in mind
that his source of supply of arms is the enemy and that, except in
special circumstances, he ought not to engage in a battle that will
not lead to the capture of such equipment.
When the strength of the guerrilla band permits, a complete encirclement
of the column will be carried out; or at least this impression will
be given. In this case the guerrilla front line must be strong enough
and well enough covered to resist the frontal assaults of the enemy,
considering, naturally, both offensive power and combat morale. At
the moment in which the enemy is detained in some chosen place, the
rearguard guerrilla forces make an attack on the enemy's rear. Such
a chosen place will have characteristics making a flank maneuver difficult;
snipers, outnumbered, perhaps, by eight or ten times, will have the
whole enemy column within the circle of fire. Whenever there are sufficient
forces in these cases, all roads should be protected with ambushes
in order to detain reinforcements. The encirclement will be closed
gradually, above all at night. The guerrilla fighter knows the places
where he fights, the invading column does not; the guerrilla fighter
grows at night, and the enemy feels his fear growing in the darkness.
In this way, without too much difficulty, a column can be totally destroyed;
or at least such losses can be inflicted upon it as to prevent its
returning to battle and to force it to take a long time for regrouping.
When the force of the guerrilla band is small and it is desired above
all to detain and slow down the advance of the invading column, groups
of snipers fluctuating between two and ten should be distributed all
around the column at each of the four cardinal points. In this situation
combat can be begun, for example, on the right flank; when the enemy
centers his action on that flank and fires on it, shooting will begin
at that moment from the left flank; at another moment from the rearguard
or from the vanguard; and so forth.
With a very small expenditure of ammunition it is possible to hold
the enemy in check indefinitely.
The technique of attacking an enemy convoy or position must be adapted
to the conditions of the place chosen for the combat. In general, the
first at-tack on an encircled place should be made during night hours
against an advance post, with surprise assured. A surprise attack carried
out by skillful commandos can easily liquidate a position, thanks to
the advantage of surprise. For a regular encirclement the paths of
escape can be controlled with a few men and the roads of access defended
with ambushes; these should be distributed in such a way that if one
is unsuccessful, it falls back or simply withdraws, while a second
remains, and so on successively. In cases where the surprise factor
is not present, victory in an attempt to take an encampment will depend
on the capacity of the encircling force to detain the at-tempts of
the rescue columns. In these cases there will usually be support on
the enemy's side by artillery, mortars, airplanes, and tanks. In favorable
ground the tank is an arm of small danger; it must travel by roads
that are narrow and is an easy victim of mines. The offensive capacity
of these vehicles when in formation is here generally absent or reduced,
since they must proceed in Indian file or at most two abreast. The
best and surest weapon against the tank is the mine; but in a close
fight, which may easily take place in steep places, the "Molotov cocktail"
is an arm of extraordinary value. We will not talk yet of the bazooka,
which for the guerrilla force is a decisive weapon but difficult to
acquire, at least in the first stages. Against the mortar there is
the recourse of a trench with a roof. The mortar is an arm of formidable
potency when used against an encircled place; but on the other hand,
against mobile attackers it loses its effectiveness unless it is used
in large batteries. Artillery does not have great importance in this
type of fight, since it has to be placed in locations of convenient
access and it does not see the targets, which are constantly shifting.
Aviation constitutes the principal arm of the oppressor forces, but
its power of attack also is much reduced by the fact that its only
targets are small trenches, generally hidden. Planes will be able to
drop high explosive or napalm bombs, both of which constitute inconveniences
rather than true dangers. Besides, as the guerrilla draws as close
as possible to the defensive lines of the enemy, it becomes very difficult
for planes to attack these points of the vanguard effectively.
When encampments with wood or inflammable constructions are attacked,
a Molotov cocktail is a very important arm at a short distance. At
longer distances bottles with inflammable material with the fuse lighted
can be launched from a sixteen-caliber shotgun, as described earlier.
Of all the possible types of mines, the most effective, although requiring
the most technical capacity, is the remotely exploded mine; but contact,
fuse, and above all electric mines with their lengths of cord are also
extremely useful and constitute on mountainous roads defenses for the
popular forces that are virtually invulnerable.
A good defense against armored cars along roads is to dig sloping ditches
in such a way that the tank enters them easily and afterwards cannot
get out, as Picture 2-3 shows. These can easily be hidden from the
enemy, especially at nighttime or when he has no infantry in advance
of the tanks because of resistance by the guerrilla forces.
Another common form of advance by the enemy in zones that are not too
steep is in trucks that are more or less open. The columns are headed
by armored vehicles and the infantry follows behind in trucks Depending
upon the force of the guerrilla band it may be possible to encircle
the entire column, following the general rules; or it can be split
by attacking some of the trucks and simultaneously exploding mines.
It is necessary to act rapidly in this case, seizing the arms of the
fallen enemy and retiring.
For an attack on open trucks, an arm of great importance which should
be used with all its potential is the shotgun. A sixteen-caliber shotgun
with large shot can sweep ten meters, nearly the whole area of the
truck, killing some of the occupants, wounding others, and provoking
an enormous confusion. Grenades, if they are available, are also excellent
weapons for these cases.
For all these attacks surprise is fundamental because, at least at
the moment of firing the first shot, it is one of the basic requirements
of guerrilla warfare. Surprise is not possible if the peasants of the
zone know of the presence of the insurgent army. For this reason all
movements of attack should be made at night. Only men of proven discretion
and loyalty can know of these movements and establish the contacts.
The march should be made with knapsacks full of food, in order to be
able to live two, three, or four days in the places of ambush.
The discretion of the peasants should never be trusted too much, first
because there is a natural tendency to talk and to comment on events
with other members of the family or with friends; and also because
of the inevitable cruelty with which the enemy soldiers treat the population
after a defeat. Terror can be sown, and this terror leads to someone's
talking too much, revealing important information, in the effort to
save his life.
In general, the place chosen for an ambush should be located at least
one day's march from the habitual camp of the guerrilla band, since
the enemy will al-most always know its location more or less accurately.
We said before that the form of fire in a battle indicates the location
of the opposing forces; on one side violent and rapid firing by the
soldier of the line, who has the customary abundance of ammunition;
on the other side the methodical, sporadic fire of the guerrilla fighter
who knows the value of every bullet and who endeavors to expend it
with a high degree of economy, never firing one shot more than necessary.
It is not reasonable to allow an enemy to escape or to fail to use
an ambush to the full in order to save ammunition, but the amount that
is to be expended in determined circumstances should be calculated
in advance and the action carried out according to these calculations.
Ammunition is the great problem of the guerrilla fighter. Arms can
always be obtained. Furthermore, those which are obtained are not expended
in guerrilla warfare, while ammunition is expended; also, generally,
it is arms with their ammunition that are captured and never or rarely
ammunition only. Each weapon that is taken will have its loads, but
it cannot contribute to the others because there are no extras. The
tactical principle of saving fire is fundamental in this type of warfare.
A guerrilla chief who takes pride in his role will never be careless
about withdrawal. This should be timely, rapid, and carried out so
as to save all the wounded and the equipment of the guerrilla, its
knapsacks, ammunition, etc. The rebels ought never to be surprised
while withdrawing, nor can they permit themselves the negligence of
becoming surrounded. Therefore, guards must be posted along the chosen
road at all places where the enemy army will eventually bring its troops
forward in an attempt to close a circle; and there must be a system
of communication that will permit rapid reports when a force tries
to surround the rebels.
In the combat there must always be some unarmed men. They will recover
the guns of companions who are wounded or dead, guns seized in battle
or belonging to prisoners; they will take charge of the prisoners,
of removing the wounded, and of transmission of messages. Besides,
there ought to be a good corps of messengers with iron legs and a proven
sense of responsibility who will give the necessary reports in the
least possible time.
The number of men needed besides the armed combatants varies; but a
general rule is two or three for each ten, including those who will
be present at the scene of the battle and those who will carry out
necessary tasks in the rearguard, keeping watch on the route of withdrawal
and performing the messenger services mentioned above.
When a defensive type of war is being fought, that is to say, when
the guerrilla band is endeavoring to prohibit the passage of an invasion
column beyond a certain point, the action becomes a war of positions;
but always at the outset it should have the factor of surprise. In
this case, since trenches as well as other defensive systems that will
be easily observable by the peasants are going to be used, it is necessary
that these latter remain in the friendly zone. In this type of warfare
the government generally establishes a blockade of the region, and
the peasants who have not fled must go to buy their basic foods at
establishments located outside the zones of guerrilla action. Should
these persons leave the region at critical moments, such as those we
are now describing, this would constitute a serious danger on account
of the information that they could eventually supply to the enemy army.
The policy of complete isolation must serve as the strategic principle
of the guerrilla army in these cases.
The defenses and the whole defensive apparatus should be arranged in
such a manner that the enemy vanguard will always fall into an ambush.
It is very important as a psychological factor that the man in the
vanguard will die without escape in every battle, because this produces
within the enemy army a growing consciousness of this danger, until
the moment arrives when nobody wants to be in the vanguard; and it
is obvious that a column with no vanguard cannot move, since somebody
has to assume that responsibility. Also encirclements can be carried
out if these are expedient; or diversionary maneuvers such as flank
attacks; or the enemy can simply be detained frontally. In every case,
places which are susceptible of being utilized by the enemy for flank
attacks should be fortified.
We are now assuming that more men and arms are available than in the
combats described hitherto. It is evident that the blockade of all
possible roads con-verging into a zone, which may be very numerous,
requires a large personnel. The various kinds of traps and attacks
against armored vehicles will be in- creased here, in order to give
the greatest security p05-sible to the systems of fixed trenches which
can be located by the enemy. In general in this type of fight the order
is to defend the positions unto death if necessary; and it is essential
to assure the maximum possibilities of survival to every defender.
The more a trench is hidden from distant view, the better; above all,
it is important to give it a cover so that mortar fire will be ineffective.
Mortars of 60.1 or 85 millimeters, the usual campaign caliber's, cannot
penetrate a good roof made with simple materials from the region. This
may be made from a base of wood, earth, and rocks covered with some
camouflage material. An exit for escape in an extremity must always
be constructed, so that the defender may get away with less danger.
The sketch [above, See Picture 2-4 ed.] shows the form in which these
defenses were constructed in the Sierra Maestra. They were sufficient
to protect us from mortar fire.
This outline clearly indicates that fixed lines of fire do not exist.
The lines of fire are something more or less theoretical; they are
established at certain critical moments, but they are extremely elastic
and permeable on both sides.
What does exist is a wide no man's land. But the characteristics of
no man's land in guerrilla warfare are that it is inhabited by a civil
population, and that this civil population collaborates in a certain
measure with either of the two sides, even though in an overwhelming
majority with the insurrectionary band. These people cannot be removed
en masse from the zone on account of their numbers and because this
would create problems of supply for either one of the con-tenders who
tried to provide food for so many people. This no man's land is penetrated
by periodic incursions (generally during the daytime) by the repressive
forces and at night by the guerrilla forces. The guerrilla forces find
there a maintenance base of great importance for their troops; this
should be cared for in a political way, always establishing the best
possible relations with the peasants and merchants.
In this type of warfare the tasks of those who do not carry arms, of
those who are not direct combat- ants, are extremely important. We
have already indicated some of the characteristics of liaison in places
of combat; but liaison is an institution throughout the whole guerrilla
organization. Liaison out to the most distant command or out to the
most distant group of guerrilla fighters ought to be linked in such
a way that messages will travel from one place to an-other via the
most rapid system available in the region. This holds for regions of
easy defense, that is to say, in favorable ground, as well as in unfavorable
ground. A guerrilla band operating in unfavorable ground will not be
able to use modern systems of communication, such as telegraph, roads,
etc., except some radios located in military garrisons capable of being
defended. If these fall into the hands of the enemy force, it is necessary
to change codes and frequencies, a task that is rather troublesome.
In all these matters we are speaking from memory of things that occurred
in our war of liberation. The daily and accurate report on all activities
of the enemy is complemented with liaison. The system of espionage
should be carefully studied, well worked out, and personnel chosen
with maximum care. The harm that a counter-spy can do is enormous,
but even without such an extreme case, the harm that can result from
exaggerated information which misjudges the danger is very great. It
is not probable that danger will be underrated. The tendency of people
in the country is to overrate and exaggerate it. The same magic mentality
that makes phantasms and various supernatural beings appear also creates
monstrous armies where there is hardly a platoon or an enemy patrol.
The spy ought to seem as neutral as possible, not known by the enemy
to have any connection with the forces of liberation. This is not as
difficult a task as it appears; many such persons are found in the
course of the war: businessmen, professional men, and even clergymen
can lend their help in this type of task and give timely information.
One of the most important characteristics of guerrilla warfare is the
notable difference between the in- formation that reaches the rebel
forces and the information possessed by the enemy. While the latter
must operate in regions that are absolutely hostile, finding sullen
silence on the part of the peasants, the rebels have in nearly every
house a friend or even a relative; and news is passed about constantly
through the liaison system until it reaches the central command of
the guerrilla force or of the guerrilla group that is in the zone.
When an enemy penetration occurs in territory that has become openly
pro-guerrilla, where all the peasants respond to the cause of the people,
a serious problem is created. The majority of peasants try to escape
with the popular army, abandoning their children and their work; others
even carry the whole family; some wait upon events. The most serious
problem that an enemy penetration into guerrilla territory can provoke
is that of a group of families finding themselves in a tight, at times
desperate situation. Maximum help should be given to them, but they
must be warned of the troubles that can follow upon a flight into inhospitable
zones so far from their habitual places of livelihood, exposed to the
hardships that usually befall in such cases.
It is not possible to describe any pattern of repression on the part
of the enemies of the people. Al- though the general methods of repression
are always the same, the enemies of the people act in a more or less
intensely criminal fashion according to the specific social, historic,
and economic circumstances of each place. There are places where the
flight of a man into the guerrilla zone, leaving his family and his
house, does not provoke any great reaction. There are others where
this is enough to provoke the burning or seizure of his belongings,
and still others where the flight will bring death to all members of
his family. Adequate distribution and organization of the peasants
who are going to be affected by an enemy advance must of course be
arranged according to the habits that prevail in the war zone or country
Obviously preparations must be made to expel the enemy from such territory
by moving against his sup-plies, completely cutting his lines of communication,
destroying by means of small guerrilla bands his at-tempts to supply
himself, and in general forcing him to devote large quantities of men
to his supply problem.
In all these combat situations a very important factor is the correct
utilization of reserves wherever battle begins. The guerrilla army,
because of its characteristics, can rarely count on reserves, since
it always strikes in such a way that the efforts of every individual
are regulated and employed at something. Nevertheless, despite these
characteristics it should have at someplace, men ready to respond to
an unforeseen development, to detain a counteroffensive, or to take
care of a situation at any moment. Within the organization of the guerrilla
band, assuming that the conditions and possibilities of the moment
permit, a utility platoon can be held in readiness, a platoon that
should always go to the places of greatest danger. It can be christened
the "suicide platoon" or something similar; this title in reality indicates
its functions. This "suicide platoon" should be in every place where
a battle is decided: in the surprise at-tacks upon the vanguard, in
the defense of the most vulnerable and dangerous places, in a word,
wherever the enemy threatens to break the stability of the line of
fire. It ought to be made up strictly of volunteers. Entrance into
this platoon should be regarded almost as a prize for merit. In time
it becomes the favorite group of any guerrilla column, and the guerrilla
fighter who wears its insignia enjoys the admiration and respect of
all his companions.
5. BEGINNING, DEVELOPMENT, AND END OF A GUERRILLA WAR
We have now abundantly defined the nature of guerrilla warfare. Let
us next describe the ideal development of such a war from its beginning
as a rising by a single nucleus on favorable ground.
In other words, we are going to theorize once more on the basis of
the Cuban experience. At the outset there is a more or less homogeneous
group, with some arms, that devotes itself almost exclusively to hiding
in the wildest and most inaccessible places, making little contact
with the peasants. It strikes a fortunate blow and its fame grows.
A few peasants, dispossessed of their land or engaged in a struggle
to conserve it and young idealists of other classes join the nucleus;
it acquires greater audacity and starts to operate in inhabited places,
making more contact with the people of the zone; it repeats attacks,
always fleeing after making them; suddenly it engages in combat with
some column or other and destroys its vanguard. Men continue to join
it; it has increased in number, but its organization remains exactly
the same; its caution diminishes, and it ventures into more populous
Later it sets up temporary camps for several days; it abandons these
upon receiving news of the approach of the enemy army, or upon suffering
bombardments, or simply upon becoming suspicious that such risks have
arisen. The numbers in the guerrilla band increase as work among the
masses operates to make of each peasant an enthusiast for the war of
liberation. Finally, an inaccessible place is chosen, a settled life
is initiated, and the first small industries begin to be established:
a shoe factory, a cigar and cigarette factory, a clothing factory,
an arms factory, a bakery, hospitals, possibly a radio transmitter,
a printing press, etc.
The guerrilla band now has an organization, a new structure. It is
the head of a large movement with all the characteristics of a small
government. A court is established for the administration of justice,
possibly laws are promulgated. and the work of indoctrination of the
peasant masses continues, extended also to workers if there are any
near, to draw them to the cause. An enemy action is launched and defeated;
the number of rifles increases; with these the number of men fighting
with the guerrilla band increases. A moment arrives when its radius
of action will not have increased in the same proportion as its personnel;
at that moment a force of appropriate size is separated, a column or
a platoon, perhaps, and this goes to another place of combat.
The work of this second group will begin with somewhat different characteristics
because of the experience that it brings and because of the influence
of the troops of liberation on the war zone. The original nucleus also
continues to grow; it has now received substantial support in food,
sometimes in guns, from various places; men continue to arrive; the
administration of government, with the promulgation of laws, continues;
schools are established, permitting the indoctrination and training
of recruits. The leaders learn steadily as the war develops, and their
capacity of command grows under the added responsibilities of the qualitative
and quantitative increases in their forces.
If there are distant territories, a group departs for them at a certain
moment, in order to confirm the advances that have been made and to
continue the cycle.
But there will also exist an enemy territory, unfavorable for guerrilla
warfare. There small groups begin to penetrate, assaulting the roads,
destroying bridges, planting mines, sowing disquiet. With the ups and
downs characteristic of warfare the movement continues to grow; by
this time the extensive work among the masses makes easy movement of
the forces possible in unfavorable territory and so opens the final
stage, which is suburban guerrilla warfare.
Sabotage increases considerably in the whole zone. Life is paralyzed;
the zone is conquered. The guerrillas then go into other zones, where
they fight with the enemy army along defined fronts; by now heavy arms
have been captured, perhaps even some ,tanks; the fight is more equal.
The enemy falls when the process of partial victories becomes transformed
into final victories, that is to say, when the enemy is brought to
accept battle in conditions imposed by the guerrilla band; there he
is annihilated and his surrender compelled.
This is a sketch that describes what occurred in the different stages
of the Cuban war of liberation; but it has a content approximating
the universal. Nevertheless, it will not always be possible to count
on the degree of intimacy with the people, the conditions, and the
leadership that existed in our war. It is unnecessary to say that Fidel
Castro possesses the high qualities of a fighter and statesman: our
path, our struggle, and our triumph we owed to his vision. We cannot
say that without him the victory of the people would not have been
achieved; but that victory would certainly have cost must more and
would have been less complete.
CHAPTER III: ORGANIZATION OF THE GUERRILLA FRONT
A good supply system is of basic importance to the guerrilla hand.
A group of men in contact with the soil must live from the products
of this soil and at the same time must see that the livelihood continues
of those who provide the supplies, the peasants; since in the hard
guerrilla struggle it is not possible, above all at the beginning,
for the group to dedicate its own energies to producing supplies, not
to mention that these supplies would be easily discovered and destroyed
by enemy forces in a territory likely to be completely penetrated by
the action of repressive columns. Supply in the first stages is always
As the guerrilla struggle develops, it will be necessary to arrange
supply from outside the limits or territory of the combat. At the beginning
the band lives solely on what the peasants have; it may be possible
to reach a store occasionally to buy something, but never possible
to have lines of supply since there is no territory in which to establish
them. The line of supply and the store of food are conditioned by the
development of the guerrilla struggle.
The first task is to gain the absolute confidence of the inhabitants
of the zone; and this confidence is won by a positive attitude toward
their problems, by help and a constant program of orientation, by the
defense of their interests and the punishment of all who attempt to
take advantage of the chaotic moment in which they live in order to
use pressure, dispossess the peasants, seize their harvests, etc. The
line should be soft and hard at the same time: soft and with a spontaneous
cooperation for all those who honestly sympathize with the revolutionary
movement; hard upon those who are attacking it outright, fomenting
dissentions, or simply communicating important information to the enemy
Little by little the territory will be cleared, and there will then
be a greater ease of action. The fundamental principle that ought to
prevail is that of paying always for all merchandise taken from a friend.
This merchandise can consist of crops or of articles from commercial
establishments. Many times they will be donated, but at other times
the economic conditions of the peasantry prevent such donations. There
are cases in which the necessities of warfare force the band to take
needed food from stores without paying for it, simply because there
is no money. In such cases the merchant ought always to be given a
bond, a promissory note, something that certifies to the debt, "the
bonds of hope" already described. ft is better to use this method only
with people who are outside the limits of the liberated territory,
and in such cases to pay as soon as possible all or at least a part
of the debt. When conditions have improved sufficiently to maintain
a territory permanently free from the dominion of the opposing army,
it is possible to set up collective plantings, where the peasants work
the land for the benefit of the guerrilla army. In this way an adequate
food supply of a permanent character is guaranteed.
If the number of volunteers for the guerrilla army is much greater
than the number of arms, and political circumstances prevent these
men from entering zones dominated by the enemy, the rebel army can
put them to work directly on the land, harvesting crops; this guarantees
supply and adds something to their record of service looking toward
future promotion to the status of combatants. However, it is more advisable
that the peasants themselves sow their own crops; this results in work
performed more effectively, with more enthusiasm and skill. When conditions
have ripened even more, it is possible, depending on the crops involved,
to arrange purchases of entire harvests in such a way that they can
remain in the field or in warehouses for the use of the army.
When agencies also charged with the duty of supplying the peasant population
have been established, all food supplies will be concentrated in these
agencies in order to facilitate a system of barter among the peasants,
with the guerrilla army serving as intermediary.
If conditions continue to improve, taxes can be established; these
should be as light as possible, above all for the small producer. It
is important to pay attention to every detail of relations between
the peasant class and the guerrilla army, which is an emanation of
Taxes may be collected in money in some cases, or in the form of a
part of the harvest, which will serve to increase the food supplies.
Meat is one of the articles of primary necessity. Its production and
conservation must be assured. Farms should be established under peasants
having no apparent connection with the army, if the zone is not secure;
they will de-vote themselves to the production of chickens, eggs, goats,
and pigs, starting with stock that has been bought or confiscated from
the large landowners. In the zones of big estates there are usually
large quantities of cattle. These can be killed and salted and the
meat maintained in condition for consumption for a long period of time.
This will also produce hides. A leather industry, more or less primitive,
can be developed to provide leather for shoes, one of the fundamental
accessories in the struggle. In general, necessary foods are the following
(depending on the zone): meat, salt, vegetables, starches, or grains.
The basic food is always produced by the peasants; it may be "malanga,"
as in the mountainous regions of Oriente Province in Cuba; it may be
corn, as in the mountainous regions of Mexico, Central America, and
Peru; potatoes, also in Peru; in other zones, such as Argentina, cattle;
wheat in others; but always it is necessary to assure a supply of the
fundamental food for the troop as well as some kinds of fat which permit
better food preparation; these may be animal or vegetable fats.
Salt is one of the essential supplies. When the force is near the sea
and in contact with it, small dryers should be established immediately;
these will assure some production in order always to have a reserve
stock and the ability to supply the troops. Remember that in wild places
such as these, where only some of the foods are produced, it is easy
for the enemy to establish an encirclement that can greatly hurt the
flow of supplies to the zone. It is well to provide against such eventualities
through peasant organization and civil organizations in general. The
inhabitants of the zone should have on hand a minimum food supply that
will permit them at least to survive, even though poorly, during the
hardest phases of the struggle. An attempt should be made to collect
rapidly a good provision of foods that do not decompose -such grains,
for example, as corn, wheat, rice, etc., which will last quite a long
time; also flour, salt, sugar, and canned goods of all types; further,
the necessary seeds should be sown.
A moment will arrive when all the food problems of the troops in the
zone are solved, but large quantities of other products will be needed:
leather for shoes, if it has not been possible to create an industry
for supplying the zone; cloth and all the accessory items necessary
for clothing; paper, a press or mimeograph machine for newspapers,
ink, and various other implements. In other words, the need for articles
from the outside world will increase in the measure that the guerrilla
bands become organized and the organization becomes more complex. In
order for this need to be met adequately it is necessary that the organized
lines of supply function perfectly. These organizations are composed
basically of friendly peasants. They should have two poles, one in
the guerrilla zone and one in a city. Departing and radiating from
the guerrilla zones, lines of supply will penetrate the whole territory,
permitting the passage of materials. Little by little the peasants
accustom themselves to the danger (in small groups they can work marvels)
and come to place the material that is needed in the indicated spot
without running extreme risks. These movements can be carried out at
night with mules or other similar transport animals or with trucks,
depending on the zone. Thus, a very good supply may be achieved. This
type of line of supply is for areas near places of operation.
It is also necessary to organize a line of supply from distant areas.
These organizations should produce the money needed for making purchases
and also the implements that cannot be produced in small towns or provincial
cities. The organization will be nourished with direct donations from
sectors sympathetic to the struggle, exchanged for secret "bonds,"
which should be delivered. A strict control over the personnel charged
with the management of this operation should always be maintained.
Serious consequences should follow any neglect of the indispensable
moral requisites involved in this responsibility. Purchases can be
made with cash and also with "bonds of hope" when the guerrilla army,
having departed from its base of operations, menaces a new zone. In
these cases there is no way to avoid taking the merchandise from any
merchant; he must rely on the good faith and capabilities of the guerrilla
armies to make good on his account.
For all lines of supply that pass through the country, it is necessary
to have a series of houses, terminals, or way-stations, where supplies
may be hidden during the day while waiting to be moved by night. Only
those directly in charge of the food supplies should know these houses.
The least possible number of inhabitants should know about this transport
operation, and these should be persons in whom the organization has
the greatest confidence.
The mule is one of the most useful animals for these tasks. With an
incredible resistance to fatigue and a capacity to walk in the hilliest
zones, the mule can carry more than 100 kilograms on its back for many
days. The simplicity of its food needs also makes it an ideal means
of transport. The mule train should be well supplied with shoes; the
muleteers should understand their animals and take the best possible
care of them. In this way it is possible to have regular four-footed
armies with an unbelievable utility. But frequently, despite the strength
of the animal and its capacity to bear up through the hardest days,
difficulty of passage will make it necessary to leave the cargo in
fixed sites. In order to avoid this necessity, there should be a team
charged with making trails for this class of animals. If all these
conditions are met, if an adequate organization is created, and if
the rebel army maintains excellent relations as needed with the peasants,
an effective and lasting supply for the whole troop is guaranteed.
2. CIVIL ORGANIZATION
The civil organization of the insurrectional movement is very important
on both fronts, the external and the internal. Naturally, these two
have characteristics that are as different as their functions, though
they both perform tasks that fall under the same name. The collections
that can be carried out on the external front, for example, are not
the same as those which can take place on the internal front; neither
are the propaganda and the supply. Let us describe first the tasks
on the internal front. Here we are dealing with a place dominated,
relatively speaking, by the forces of liberation.
Also, it is to be supposed that the zone is adapted to guerrilla warfare,
because when these conditions do not exist, when the guerrilla fighting
is taking place in poorly adapted terrain, the guerrilla organization
increases in extension but not in depth; it embraces new places, but
it cannot arrive at an internal organization, since the whole zone
is penetrated by the enemy. On the internal front we can have a series
of organizations which perform specific functions for more efficiency
in administration. In general, propaganda belongs directly to the army,
but it also can be separated from the army if kept under its control.
(This point is so important that we will treat it separately.) Collections
are a function of the civil organization, as are the general tasks
of organizing the peasants and workers, if these are present. One council
should govern both of these classes.
Raising supplies, as we explained in a previous chapter, can be carried
out in various ways: through direct or indirect taxes, through direct
or indirect donations, and through confiscations; all this goes to
make up the large chapter on supplies for the guerrilla army.
Keep in mind that the zone ought by no means to be impoverished by
the direct action of the rebel army, even though the latter will be
responsible indirectly for the impoverishment that results from enemy
encirclement, a fact that the adversary's propaganda will repeatedly
point out. Precisely for this reason conflicts ought not to be created
by direct causes. There ought not be, for example, any regulations
that prevent the farmers of a zone in liberated territory from selling
their products outside that territory, save in extreme and transitory
circumstances and with a full explanation of these interruptions to
the peasantry. Every act of the guerrilla army ought always to be accompanied
by the propaganda necessary to explain the reasons for it. These reasons
will generally be well understood by a peasantry that has sons, fathers,
brothers, or relations within this army, which is, therefore, something
of their own.
In view of the importance of relations with the peasants, it is necessary
to create organizations that make regulations for them, organizations
that exist not only within the liberated area, but also have connections
in the adjacent areas. Precisely through these connections it is possible
to penetrate a zone for a future enlargement of the guerrilla front.
The peasants will sow the seed with oral and written propaganda, with
accounts of life in the other zone, of the laws that have already been
issued for the protection of the small peasant, of the spirit of sacrifice
of the rebel army; in a word, they are creating the necessary atmosphere
for helping the rebel troops.
The peasant organizations should also have connections of some type
that will permit the channeling and sale of crops by the rebel army
agencies in enemy territory through intermediaries more or less benevolent,
more or less friendly to the peasant class. Joined with a devotion
to the cause which brings the merchant to defy dangers in such cases,
there also exists the devotion to money that leads him to take advantage
of the opportunity to gain profits.
We have already spoken, in connection with supply problems, of the
importance of the department of road construction. When the guerrilla
band has achieved a certain level of development, it no longer wanders
about through diverse regions without an encampment; it has centers
that are more or less fixed. Routes should be established varying from
small paths permitting the passage of a mule to good roads for trucks.
In all this, the capacity of the organization of the rebel army must
be kept in mind, as well as the offensive capacity of the enemy, who
may destroy these constructions and even make use of roads built by
his opponent to reach the encampments more easily. The fundamental
rule should be that roads are for assisting supply in places where
any other solution would be impossible; they should not be constructed
except in circumstances where there is a virtual certainty that the
position can be maintained against an attack by the adversary. Another
exception would be roads built without great risk to facilitate communication
between points that are not of vital importance.
Furthermore, other means of communication may be established. One of
these that is extremely important is the telephone. This can be strung
in the forest with the convenience that arises from using trees for
posts. There is the advantage that they are not visible to the enemy
from above. The telephone also presupposes a zone that the enemy cannot
The council-or central department of justice, revolutionary laws, and
administration-is one of the vital features of a guerrilla army fully
constituted and with territory of its own. The council should be under
the charge of an individual who knows the laws of the country; if he
understands the necessities of the zone from a juridical point of view,
this is better yet; he can proceed to prepare a series of decrees and
regulations that help the peasant to normalize and institutionalize
his life within the rebel zone.
For example, during our experience in the Cuban war we issued a penal
code, a civil code, rules for supplying the peasantry and rules of
the agrarian reform. Subsequently, the laws fixing qualifications of
candidates in the elections that were to be held later throughout the
country were established; also the Agrarian Reform Law of the Sierra
Maestra. The council is likewise in charge of accounting operations
for the guerrilla column or columns; it is responsible for handling
money problems and at times intervenes directly in supply.
All these recommendations are flexible; they are based upon an experience
in a certain place and are conditioned by its geography and history;
they will be modified in different geographical, historical, and social
situations. In addition to the council, it is necessary to keep the
general health of the zone in mind. This can be done by means of central
military hospitals that should give the most complete assistance possible
to the whole peasantry. Whether adequate medical treatment can be given
will depend upon the stage reached by the revolution. Civil hospitals
and civil health administration are united directly with the guerrilla
army, and their functions are performed by officers and men of the
army, who have the dual function of caring for the people and orienting
them toward better health. The big health problems among people in
these conditions are rooted in their total ignorance of elementary
principles of hygiene. This aggravates their already precarious situation.
The collection of taxes, as I have already said, is also a function
of the general council. Warehouses are very important. As soon as a
place is taken that is to serve as a base for the guerrilla band, warehouses
should be established in the most orderly fashion possible. These will
serve to assure a minimum care of merchandise and, most important,
will provide the control needed for equalizing distribution and keeping
it equitable at later times.
Functions are different on the external front both in quantity and
in quality. For example, propaganda should be of a national, orienting
type, explaining the victories obtained by the guerrilla band, calling
workers and peasants to effective mass fights, and giving news, if
there is any, of victories obtained on this front itself. Solicitation
of funds is completely secret; it ought to be carried out with the
greatest care possible, isolating small collectors in the chain completely
from the treasurer of the organization.
This organization should be distributed in zones that complement each
other in order to form a totality, zones that may be provinces, states,
cities, and villages, depending on the magnitude of the movement. In
each of them there must be a finance commission that takes charge of
the disposal of funds collected. It is possible to collect money by
selling bonds or through direct donations. When the development of
the struggle is more advanced, taxes may be collected; when industries
come to recognize the great force that the insurrectional army possesses,
they will consent to pay. Supply procurement should be fitted to the
necessities of the guerrilla bands; it will be organized in the form
of a chain of merchandise in such a way that the more common articles
are procured in nearby places, and the things that are really scarce
or impossible to procure locally, in larger centers. The effort always
is to keep the chain as limited as possible, known to the smallest
number of men; it can thus perform its mission for a longer time.
Sabotage should be directed by the civil organization in the external
sector in coordination with the central command. In special circumstances,
after careful analysis, assaults on persons will be used. In general
we consider that this is not desirable except for the purpose of eliminating
some figure who is notorious for his villainies against the people
and the virulence of his repression. Our experience in the Cuban struggle
shows that it would have been possible to save the lives of numerous
fine comrades who were sacrificed in the performance of missions of
small value. Several times these ended with enemy bullets of reprisal
on combatants whose loss could not be compared with the results obtained.
Assaults and terrorism in indiscriminate form should not be employed.
More preferable is effort directed at large concentrations of people
in whom the revolutionary idea can be planted and nurtured, so that
at a critical moment they can be mobilized and with the help of the
armed forces contribute to a favorable balance on the side of the revolution.
For this it is necessary also to make use of popular organizations
of workers, professional people, and peasants, who work at sowing the
seed of the revolution among their respective masses, explaining, providing
revolutionary publications for reading, teaching the truth. One of
the characteristics of revolutionary propaganda must be truth. Little
by little, in this way, the masses will be won over. Those among them
who do the best work may be chosen for incorporation into the rebel
army or assignment to other tasks of great responsibility.
This is the outline of civil organization within and outside guerrilla
territory at a time of popular struggle. There are possibilities of
perfecting all these features to a high degree. I repeat once more,
it is our Cuban experience which speaks through me; new experiences
can vary and improve these concepts. We offer an outline, not a bible.
3. THE ROLE OF THE WOMAN
The part that the woman can play in the development of a revolutionary
process is of extraordinary importance. It is well to emphasize this,
since in all our countries, with their colonial mentality, there is
a certain underestimation of the woman which becomes a real discrimination
The woman is capable of performing the most difficult tasks, of fighting
beside the men; and despite current belief, she does not create conflicts
of a sexual type in the troops.
In the rigorous combatant life the woman is a companion who brings
the qualities appropriate to her sex, but she can work the same as
a man and she can fight; she is weaker, but no less resistant than
he. She can perform every class of combat task that a man can at a
given moment, and on certain occasions in the Cuban struggle she performed
a relief role.
Naturally the combatant women are a minority. When the internal front
is being consolidated and it is desirable to remove as many combatants
as possible who do not possess indispensable physical characteristics,
the women can be assigned a considerable number of specific occupations,
of which one of the most important, perhaps the most important, is
communication between different combatant forces, above all between
those that are in enemy territory. The transport of objects, messages,
or money, of small size and great importance, should be confided to
women in whom the guerrilla army has absolute confidence; women can
transport them using a thousand tricks; it is a fact that however brutal
the repression, however thorough the searching, the woman receives
a less harsh treatment than the man and can carry her message or other
object of an important or confidential character to its destination.
As a simple messenger, either by word of mouth or of writing, the woman
can always perform her task with more freedom than the man, attracting
less attention and at the same time inspiring less fear of danger in
the enemy soldier. He who commits brutalities acts frequently under
the impulse of fear or apprehension that he himself will be attacked,
since this is one form of action in guerrilla warfare.
Contacts between separated forces, mess ages to the exterior of the
lines, even to the exterior of the country; also objects of considerable
size, such as bullets, are transported by women in special belts worn
beneath their skirts. But also in this stage a woman can perform her
habitual tasks of peacetime; it is very pleasing to a soldier subjected
to the extremely hard conditions of this life to be able to look forward
to a seasoned meal which tastes like something. (One of the great tortures
of the war was eating a cold, sticky, tasteless mess.) The woman as
cook can greatly improve the diet and, furthermore, it is easier to
keep her in these domestic tasks; one of the problems in guerrilla
bands is that all works of a civilian character are scorned by those
who perform them; they are constantly trying to get out of these tasks
in order to enter into forces that are actively in combat.
A task of great importance for women is to teach beginning reading,
including revolutionary theory, primarily to the peasants of the zone,
but also to the revolutionary soldiers. The organization of schools,
which is a part of the civil organization, should be done principally
through women, who arouse more enthusiasm among children and enjoy
more affection from the school community. Likewise, when the fronts
have been consolidated and a rear exists, the functions of the social
worker also fall to women who investigate the various economic and
social evils of the zone with a view to changing them as far as possible.
The woman plays an important part in medical matters as nurse, and
even as doctor, with a gentleness infinitely superior to that of her
rude companion in arms, a gentleness that is so much appreciated at
moments when a man is helpless, without comforts, perhaps suffering
severe pain and exposed to the many dangers of all classes that are
a part of this type of war.
Once the stage of creating small war industries has begun, the woman
can also contribute here, especially in the manufacture of uniforms,
a traditional employment of women in Latin American countries. With
a simple sewing machine and a few patterns she can perform marvels.
Women can take part in all lines of civil organization. They can replace
men perfectly well and ought to do so, even where persons are needed
for carrying weapons, though this is a rare accident in guerrilla life.
It is important to give adequate indoctrination to men and women, in
order to avoid all kinds of misbehavior that can operate to hurt the
morale of the troops; but persons who are otherwise free and who love
each other should be permitted to marry in the Sierra and live as man
and wife after complying with the simple requirements of the guerrilla
4. MEDICAL PROBLEMS
One of the grave problems that confronts the guerrilla fighter is exposure
to the accidents of his life, especially to wounds and sicknesses,
which are very frequent in guerrilla warfare. The doctor performs a
function of extraordinary importance in the guerrilla band, not only
in saving lives, in which many times his scientific intervention does
not count because of the limited resources available to him; but also
in the task of reinforcing the patient morally and making him feel
that there is a person near him who is dedicated with all his force
to minimizing his pains. He gives the wounded or sick the security
of knowing that a person will remain at his side until he is cured
or has passed danger.
The organization of hospitals depends largely upon the stage of development
of the guerrilla band. Three fundamental types of hospital organization
corresponding to various stages can be mentioned.
In this development we have a first, nomadic phase. In it the doctor,
if there is one, travels constantly with his companions, is just another
man; he will probably have to perform all the other functions of the
guerrilla fighter, including that of fighting, and will suffer at times
the depressing and desperate task of treating cases in which the means
of saving life are not available. This is the stage in which the doctor
has the most influence over the troops, the greatest importance for
their morale. During this period in the development of the guerrilla
band the doctor achieves to the full his character of a true priest
who seems to carry in his scantily equipped knapsack needed consolation
for the men. The value of a simple aspirin to one who is suffering
is beyond calculation when it is given by the friendly hand of one
who sympathetically makes the suffering his own. Therefore the doctor
in the first stage should be a man who is totally identified with the
ideals of the revolution, because his words will affect the troops
much more deeply than those spoken by any other member.
In the normal course of events in guerrilla warfare another stage is
reached that could be called "semi- nomadic." In it there are encampments,
more or less frequented by the guerrilla troops; friendly houses of
complete confidence where it is possible to store objects and even
leave the wounded; and a growing tendency for the troop to become settled.
At this stage the task of the doctor is less trying; he may have emergency
surgical equipment in his knapsack and another more complete outfit
for less urgent operations in a friendly house. It is possible to leave
the sick and wounded in the care of peasants who will give their help
with great devotion. He can also count on a larger number of medicines
kept in convenient places; these should be completely catalogued as
well as possible, considering the circumstances in which he lives.
In this same semi-nomadic state, if the band operates in places that
are absolutely inaccessible, hospitals can be established to which
the sick and wounded will go for recovery.
In the third stage, when there are zones invulnerable to the enemy,
a true hospital organization is constructed. In its most developed
form, it can consist of three centers of different types. In the combat
category there ought to be a doctor, the combatant the most loved by
the troop, the man of battle, whose knowledge does not have to be too
deep. I say this because his task is principally one of giving relief
and of preparing the sick or wounded, while the real medical work is
performed in hospitals more securely situated. A surgeon of quality
ought not to be sacrificed in the line of fire.
When a man falls in the front line, stretcher-bearers, if these are
available given the organization of the guerrilla band, will carry
him to the first post; if they are not available, his companions themselves
will perform this duty. Transport of the wounded in rough zones is
one of the most delicate of all tasks and one of the most painful experiences
in a soldier's life. Perhaps the transport of a wounded man is harder
on all concerned, because of his sufferings and of the spirit of sacrifice
in the troop, than the fact itself of being wounded, however grave
it may be. The transport can be carried out in different ways according
to the characteristics of the ground. In rough and wooded places, which
are typical in guerrilla warfare, it is necessary to walk single file.
Here the best system is to use a long pole, with the patient carried
in a hammock that hangs from it.
The men take turns carrying the weight, one before and one behind.
They should yield place to two other companions frequently, since the
shoulders suffer severely and the individual gradually wears himself
out carrying this delicate and heavy burden.
When the wounded soldier has passed through this first hospital, he
then goes with the information as to what has been done for him to
a second center, where there are surgeons and specialists depending
upon the possibilities of the troop. Here the more serious operations
needed for saving life or relieving individuals from danger are performed.
Afterwards, at a third level, hospitals with the greatest comforts
possible are established for direct investigation in the zones affected
of the causes and effects of illnesses that afflict the inhabitants
of the area. These hospitals of the third group, which correspond to
a sedentary life, are not only centers of convalescence and of operations
of less urgency, but also establishments serving the civil population,
where the hygienists perform their orienting function. Dispensaries
that will permit an adequate individual surveillance should also be
established. The hospitals of this third group can have, if the supply
capability of the civil organization permits, a series of facilities
that provide diagnosis even with laboratory and x-ray facilities.
Other useful individuals are the assistants to the doctor. They are
generally youths with something of a vocation and some knowledge, with
fairly strong physiques; they do not bear arms, sometimes because their
vocation is medicine, but usually because there are insufficient arms
for all who want them. These assistants will be in charge of carrying
most of the medicines, an extra stretcher or hammock, if circumstances
make this possible. They must take charge of the wounded in any battle
that is fought.
The necessary medicines should be obtained through contacts with health
organizations that exist in territory of the enemy. Sometimes they
can be obtained from such organizations as the International Red Cross,
but this possibility should not be counted upon, especially in the
first moments of the struggle. It is necessary to organize an apparatus
that will permit rapid transport of needed medicines in case of danger
and that will gradually supply all the hospitals with the supplies
needed for their work, military as well as civil. Also, contacts should
be made in the surrounding areas with doctors who will be capable of
helping the wounded whose cases are beyond the capacities or the facilities
of the guerrilla band.
Doctors needed for this type of warfare are of different characteristics.
The combatant doctor, the companion of men, is the type for the first
stage; his functions develop as the action of the guerrilla band becomes
more complicated and a series of connected organisms are constructed.
General surgeons are the best acquisition for an army of this type.
If an anesthetist is available, so much the better; though almost all
operations are performed, not with gas anesthesia, but using "largactil"
and sodium pentothal, which are much easier to administer and easier
to procure and conserve. Besides general surgeons, bone specialists
are very useful, because fractures occur frequently from accidents
in the zone; bullets producing this type of wound in limbs also frequently
cause them. The clinic serves the peasant mass mainly, since in general,
sicknesses in the guerrilla armies are so easy of diagnosis as to be
within the reach of anybody. The most difficult task is the cure of
those produced by nutritional deficiencies.
In a more advanced stage there may even be laboratory technicians,
if there are good hospitals, in order to have a complete outfit. Calls
should be made to all sectors of the profession whose services are
needed; it is quite likely that many will respond to this call and
come to lend their help. Professionals of all classes are needed; surgeons
are very useful, dentists as well. Dentists should be advised to come
with a simple campaign apparatus and a campaign-type drill; working
with this they can do practically everything necessary.
Sabotage is one of the invaluable arms of a people that fights in guerrilla
form. Its organization falls under the civil or clandestine branch,
since sabotage should be carried out, of course, only outside the territories
dominated by the revolutionary army; but this organization should be
directly commanded and oriented by the general staff of the guerrillas,
which will be responsible for deciding the industries, communications,
or other objectives that are to be attacked.
Sabotage has nothing to do with terrorism; terrorism and personal assaults
are entirely different tactics. We sincerely believe that terrorism
is of negative value, that it by no means produces the desired effects,
that it can turn a people against a revolutionary movement, and that
it can bring a loss of lives to its agents out of proportion to what
it produces. On the other hand, attempts to take the lives of particular
persons are to be made, though only in very special circumstances;
this tactic should be used where it will eliminate a leader of the
oppression. What ought never to be done is to employ specially trained,
heroic, self-sacrificing human beings in eliminating a little assassin
whose death can provoke the destruction in reprisal of all the revolutionaries
employed and even more.
Sabotage should be of two types: sabotage on a national scale against
determined objectives, and local sabotage against lines of combat.
Sabotage on a national scale should be aimed principally at destroying
communications. Each type of communication can be destroyed in a different
way; all of them are vulnerable. For example, telegraph and telephone
poles are easily destroyed by sawing them almost all the way through,
so that at night they appear to be in normal condition; a sudden kick
causes one pole to fall and this drags along with it all those that
are weak, producing a blackout of considerable extent.
Bridges can be attacked with dynamite; if there is no dynamite, those
made of steel can be made to fall very easily with an oxyacetylene
blowtorch. A steel truss bridge should be cut in its main beam and
in the upper beam from which the bridge hangs. When these two beams
have been cut at one end with the torch, they are then cut at the opposite
end. The bridge will fall completely on one side and will be twisted
and destroyed. This is the most effective way to knock out a steel
bridge without dynamite. Railroads should also be destroyed, as should
roads and culverts; at times trains should be blown up, if the power
of the guerrilla band makes this possible.
Utilizing the necessary equipment will also destroy the vital industries
of each region at certain moments. In these cases it is necessary to
have an overall view of the problem and to be sure that a center of
work is not destroyed unless the moment is decisive, since this brings
with it as a consequence massive unemployment of workers and hunger.
The enterprises belonging to the potentates of the regime should be
eliminated (and attempts made to convince the workers of the need for
doing so), unless this will bring very grave social consequences.
We reiterate the importance of sabotage against communications. The
great strength of the enemy army against the rebels in the flatter
zones is rapid communication; we must, then, constantly undermine that
strength by knocking out railroad bridges, culverts, electric lights,
telephones; also aqueducts and in general everything that is necessary
for a normal and modern life.
Around the combat lines sabotage should be performed in the same way
but with much more audacity, with much more dedication and frequency.
Here it is possible to count on the invaluable aid of the flying patrols
of the guerrilla army, which can descend into these zones and help
the members of the civil organization perform a given task. Again,
sabotage ought to be aimed principally at communications, but with
much more persistence. All factories, all centers of production that
are capable of giving the enemy something needed to maintain his offensive
against the popular forces, ought also to be liquidated.
Emphasis should be placed on seizing merchandise, cutting supplies
as much as possible, if necessary frightening the large landowners
who want to sell their farm products, burning vehicles that travel
along the roads, and using them to blockade the roads. It is expedient
in every action of sabotage that frequent contact be made with the
enemy army at points not far away, always following the system of hit
and run. It is not necessary to put up a serious resistance, but simply
to show the adversary that in the area where the sabotage has been
carried out there are guerrilla forces disposed to fight. This forces
him to take a large number of troops, to go with care, or not to go
Thus, little by little, all the cities in the zone surrounding guerrilla
operations will be paralyzed.
6. WAR INDUSTRY
Industries of war within the sector of the guerrilla army must be the
product of a rather long evolution; they also depend upon control of
territory in a geographic situation favorable for the guerrilla. At
a time when there are liberated zones and when the enemy establishes
strict blockades over all supplies, different departments will be organized
as necessary, in the manner already described. There are two fundamental
industries, of which one is the manufacture of shoes and leather goods.
It is not possible for a troop to walk without shoes in wooded zones,
hilly, with many rocks and thorns. It is very difficult to march without
shoes in such conditions; only the natives, and not all of them, can
do it. The rest must have shoes. The industry is divided into two parts,
one for putting on half-soles and repairing damaged shoes; the other
will be devoted to the manufacture of rough shoes. There should be
a small but complete apparatus for making shoes; since this is a simple
industry practiced by many people in such regions it is very easy to
procure. Connected with the shoe repair works there ought always to
be a shop making all classes of canvas and leather goods for use by
the troop, such as cartridge belts and knapsacks. Although these articles
are not vital, they contribute to comfort and give a feeling of autonomy,
of adequate supply, and of self-reliance to the troop.
An armory is the other fundamental industry for the small internal
organization of the guerrilla band. This also has different functions:
that of simple repair of damaged weapons, of rifles, and other available
arms; the function of manufacturing certain types of combat arms that
the inventiveness of the people will create; and the preparation of
mines with various mechanisms. When conditions permit, equipment for
the manufacture of powder may be added. If it is possible to manufacture
the explosive as well as the percussion mechanisms in free territory,
brilliant achievements can be scored in this category, which is a very
important one, because communications by road can be completely paralyzed
by the adequate employment of mines.
Another group of industries that has its importance will make iron
and tin products. In the iron works will be centered all labor connected
with the equipping of the mules, such as making their shoes. In the
tin works the fabrication of plates and especially of canteens is important.
A foundry can be joined with the tin works. By melting soft metals
it is possible to make grenades, which with a special type of charge
will contribute in an important way to the armament of the troop. There
ought to be a technical team for general repair and construction work
of varied types, the "service battery," as it is called in regular
armies. With the guerrillas it would operate as such, taking care of
all necessities, but without any vestige of the bureaucratic spirit.
Someone must be in charge of communications. He will have as his responsibility
not only propaganda communications, such as radio directed toward the
outside, but also telephones and roads of all types. We will use the
civil organization as necessary in order to perform his duties effectively.
Remember that we are in a period of war subject to attack by the military
and that often many lives depend upon timely communication.
For accommodating the troop it is well to have cigarette and cigar
factories. The leaf can be bought in selected places and carried to
free territory where the articles for consumption by the soldiers can
be manufactured. An industry for preparing leather from hides is also
of great importance. All these are simple enterprises that can operate
quite well anywhere and are easy to establish in the guerrilla situation.
The industry for making leather requires some small construction with
cement; also it uses large amounts of salt; but it will be an enormous
advantage to the shoe industry to have its own supply of raw material.
Salt should be made in revolutionary territory and accumulated in large
quantities. It is made by evaporating water of a high saline concentration.
The sea is the best source, though there may be others. It is not necessary
to purify it of other ingredients for purposes of consumption, though
these give it a flavor that is disagreeable at first.
Meat should be conserved in the form of jerked beef, which is easy
to prepare. This can save many lives among the troop in extreme situations.
It can be conserved with salt in large barrels for a fairly long time,
and it can then be eaten in any circumstances.
The revolutionary idea should be diffused by means of appropriate media
to the greatest depth possible. This requires complete equipment and
an organization. This organization should be of two types which complement
each other in covering the whole national area: for propaganda originating
outside free territory, that is, from the national civil organization;
and propaganda originating within, that is, from the base of the guerrilla
army. In order to coordinate these two propagandas, the functions of
which are strictly related, there should be a single director for the
Propaganda of the national type from civil organizations outside free
territory should be distributed in newspapers, bulletins, and proclamations.
The most important newspapers will be devoted to general matters in
the country and will inform the public exactly of the state of the
guerrilla forces, observing always the fundamental principle that truth
in the long run is the best policy. Besides these publications of general
interest there must be others more specialized for different sectors
of the population. A publication for the countryside should bring to
the peasant class a message from their companions in all the free zones
who have already felt the beneficial effects of the revolution; this
strengthens the aspirations of the peasantry. A workers' newspaper
will have similar characteristics, with the sole difference that it
cannot always offer a message from the combatant part of that class,
since it is likely that workers' organizations will not operate within
the framework of guerrilla warfare until the last stages.
The great watchwords of the revolutionary movement, the watchword of
a general strike at an opportune moment, of help to the rebel forces,
of unity, etc., should be explained. Other periodicals can be published;
for example, one explaining the tasks of those elements in the whole
island which are not combatants but which nevertheless carry out diverse
acts of sabotage, of attempts, etc. Within the organization there can
be periodicals aimed at the enemy's soldiers; these will explain facts
of which they are otherwise kept ignorant. News bulletins and proclamations
about the movement are very useful.
The most effective propaganda is that which is prepared within the
guerrilla zone. Priority will be given to the diffusion of ideas among
natives of the zone, offering explanations of the theoretical significance
of the insurrection, already known to them as a fact. In this zone
there will also be peasant periodicals, the general organ of all the
guerrilla forces, and bulletins and proclamations. There will also
be the radio.
All problems should be discussed by radio-for example, the way to defend
oneself from air attacks and location of the enemy forces, citing familiar
names among them. Propaganda for the whole nation will use newspapers
of the same type as those prepared outside free territory, but it can
produce fresher and more exact news, reporting facts and battles that
are extremely interesting to the reader. Information on international
affairs will be confined almost exclusively to commentary on facts
that are directly related to the struggle of liberation.
The propaganda that will be the most effective in spite of everything,
that which will spread most freely over the whole national area to
reach the reason and the sentiments of the people, is words over the
radio. The radio is a factor of extraordinary importance. At moments
when war fever is more or less palpitating in every one in a region
or a country, the inspiring, burning word increases this fever and
communicates it to every one of the future combatants. It explains,
teaches, fires, and fixes the future positions of both friends and
enemies. However, the radio should be ruled by the fundamental principle
of popular propaganda, which is truth; it is preferable to tell the
truth, small in its dimensions, than a large lie artfully embellished.
On the radio news should be given, especially of battles, of encounters
of all types, and assassinations committed by the repression; also,
doctrinal orientations and practical lessons to the civil population;
and, from time to time, speeches by the chiefs of the revolution. We
consider it useful that the principal newspaper of the movement bear
a name that recalls something great and unifying, perhaps a national
hero or something similar. Also, it should explain in articles of depth
where the armed movement is going. It ought to create a consciousness
of the great national problems, besides offering sections of more lively
interest for the reader.
"Know yourself and your adversary and you will be able to fight a hundred
battles without a single disaster." This Chinese aphorism is as valuable
for guerrilla warfare as a biblical psalm. Nothing gives more help
to combatant forces than correct information. This arrives spontaneously
from the local inhabitants, who will come to tell its friendly army,
its allies, what is happening in various places; but in addition it
should be completely systematized. As we saw, there should be a postal
organization with necessary contacts both within and outside guerrilla
zones for carrying messages and merchandise. An intelligence service
also should be in direct contact with enemy fronts. Men and women,
especially women, should infiltrate; they should be in permanent contact
with soldiers and gradually discover what there is to be discovered.
The system must be coordinated in such a way that crossing the enemy
lines into the guerrilla camp can be carried out without mishap.
If this is well done with competent agents the insurgent camp will
be able to sleep more quietly.
This intelligence will be concerned principally, as I have already
said, with the front line of fire or the forward enemy encampments
that are in contact with no man's land; but it ought also to develop
in the same measure as the guerrilla band develops, increasing its
depth of operation and its potential to foresee larger troop movements
in the enemy rear. Though all inhabitants are intelligence agents for
the guerrilla band in the places where it is dominant or makes incursions,
it is wise to have persons especially assigned to this duty. The peasants,
not accustomed to precise battle language, have a strong tendency to
exaggerate, so their reports must be checked. As the spontaneous forms
of popular collaboration are molded and organized, it is possible to
use the intelligence apparatus not only as an extremely important auxiliary
but also as a weapon of attack by using its personnel, for example,
as "sowers of fear." Pretending to be on the side of the enemy soldiers,
they sow fear and instability by spreading discouraging information.
By knowing exactly the places where the enemy troop is going to attack,
it is easy to avoid him or, when the time is ripe, to attack him at
places where it is least expected. Mobility, the basic tactic, can
be developed to the maximum.
9. TRAINING AND INDOCTRINATION
The fundamental training of the soldier of liberation is the life itself
with the guerrilla band, and no one can be a chief who has not learned
his difficult office in daily, armed exercises. Life with some companions
will teach something about the handling of arms, about principles of
orientation, about the manner of treating the civil population, about
fighting, etc.; but the precious time of the guerrilla band is not
to be consumed in methodical teaching. This begins only when there
is a large liberated area and a large number of persons are needed
for carrying out a combat function. Schools for recruits will then
be established. These schools then perform a very important function.
They are to form new soldiers from persons who have not passed through
that excellent sieve of formidable privations, guerrilla combatant
life. Other privations must be suffered at the outset to convert them
into the truly chosen. After having passed through very difficult tests,
they will arrive at incorporating themselves into the kingdom of an
army that lives from day to day and leaves no traces of its path anywhere.
They ought to perform physical exercises, mainly of two types: an agile
gymnastic with training for war of a commando type, which demands agility
in attack and withdrawal; and hikes that are hard and exhausting that
will serve to toughen the recruit for this kind of existence. Above
all, they should live in the open air. They should suffer all the inclemencies
of the weather in close contact with nature, as the guerrilla band
The school for recruits must have workers who will take care of its
supply needs. For this there should be cattle sheds, grain sheds, gardens,
dairy, everything necessary, so that the school will not constitute
a charge on the general budget of the guerrilla army. The students
can serve in rotation in the work of sup- ply, either as punishment
for bad conduct or simply as volunteers. This will depend upon characteristics
proper to the zone where the school is being held. We believe that
a good principle is to assign volunteers and to cover the remaining
work quotas with those who have the poorest conduct and show the poorest
disposition for learning warfare.
The school should have its small medical organization with a doctor
or nurse, according to the p05- sibilities; this will provide the recruits
with the best possible attention.
Shooting is the basic apprenticeship (See Picture 3-1). The guerrilla
fighter should be carefully trained in this respect, so that he will
try to expend the least possible amount of ammunition. He begins by
practicing what is called dry shooting. It consists of seating the
rifle firmly on any kind of wooden apparatus as shown in the picture.
Without moving or firing the rifle the recruits direct the movement
of a target until they think they have a hole at the center exactly
in the line of sight. A mark is made on a backboard that remains stationary.
If the mark for three tries gives a single point, this is excellent.
When circumstances permit, practice with 22-calibre rifles will begin;
this is very useful. If there is an excess of ammunition or a great
need for preparing soldiers, opportunity will be given to fire with
One of the most important courses in the school for recruits, one which
we hold to be basic and which can be given in any place in the world,
is in meeting attack from the air Our school had been positively identified
from the air and received attacks once or twice daily. The form in
which the students resisted the impact of these continuous bombardments
on their regular places of instruction virtually showed which of the
young men had possibilities for becoming useful soldiers in battle.
The important thing, that which must never be neglected in a school
for recruits, is indoctrination; this is important because the men
arrive without a clear conception as to why they come, with nothing
more than very diffuse concepts about liberty, freedom of the press,
etc., without any clear foundation whatever. Therefore, the indoctrination
should be carried out with maximum dedication and for the maximum amount
of time possible. These courses should offer elementary notions about
the history of the country, explained with a clear sense of the economic
facts that motivate each of the historic acts; accounts of the national
heroes and their manner of reacting when confronted with certain injustices;
and afterwards an analysis of the national situation or of the situation
in the zone. A short primer should be well studied by all members of
the rebel army, so that it can serve as a skeleton of that which will
There should also be a school for training teachers, where agreement
can be reached on the choice of texts to be used, taking as a basis
the contribution that each book can make to the educational process.
Reading should be encouraged at all times, with an effort to promote
books that are worthwhile and that enlarge the recruit's facility to
encounter the world of letters and great national problems. Further
reading will follow as a vocation; the surrounding circumstances will
awaken new desires for understanding in the soldiers. This result will
be produced when, little by little, the recruits observe in their routine
tasks the enormous advantages of men who have passed through the school
over the remainder of the troop, their capacity for analyzing problems,
their superior discipline, which is another of the fundamental things
that the school should teach.
This discipline should be internal, not mechanical but justified by
reasons and designed to produce formidable benefits in moments of combat.
10. THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE ARMY OF A REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT
As we have seen, a revolutionary army of a guerrilla type, whatever
its zone of operations, should also have a non-combatant organization
for the performance of a series of extremely important auxiliary missions.
We shall see later that this whole organization converges to lend the
army maximum help, since obviously the armed fight is the crucial factor
in the triumph.
The military organization is headed by a commander-in-chief, in the
case of the Cuban experience by a commandant, who names the commanders
of the different regions or zones; these latter have authority to govern
their respective territories of action, to name column commanders,
that is to say, the chiefs of each column, and the other lower officers.
Under the commander-in-chief there will be the zone commanders; under
them several columns of varying size, each with a column commander;
under the column commanders there will be captains and lieutenants,
which, in our guerrilla organization, were the lowest grade. In other
words, the first rank above the soldiers was the lieutenant.
This is not a model but a description of one reality, of how the organization
worked in one country where it proved possible to achieve triumph over
an army that was fairly well organized and armed. Even less here than
in other respects is our experience a pattern. It simply shows how
as events develop it is possible to organize an armed force. The ranks
certainly have no importance, but it is important that no rank should
be conferred that does not correspond to the effective battle force
commanded. Ranks should not be given to persons who have not passed
through the sieve of sacrifice and struggle, for that would conflict
with morality and justice.
The description given above refers to a well-developed army, already
capable of waging a serious combat. In the first stage of the guerrilla
band, the chief can take the rank he likes, but he will still command
only a small group of men.
One of the most important features of military organization is disciplinary
punishment. Discipline must be one of the bases of action of the guerrilla
forces (this must be repeated again and again). As we have already
said, it should spring from a carefully reasoned internal conviction;
this produces an individual with inner discipline. When this discipline
is violated, it is necessary always to punish the offender, whatever
his rank, and to punish him drastically in a way that hurts.
This is important, because pain is not felt by a guerrilla soldier
in the same way as by a soldier of the regular army. The punishment
of putting a soldier in jail for ten days constitutes for the guerrilla
fighter a magnificent period of rest; ten days with nothing to do but
eat, no marching, no work, no standing the customary guards, sleeping
at will, resting, reading, etc. From this it can be deduced that deprivation
of liberty ought not to be the only punishment available in the guerrilla
When the combat morale of the individual is very high and self-respect
strong, deprivation of his right to be armed can constitute a true
punishment for the individual and provoke a positive reaction. In such
cases, this is an expedient punishment. The following painful incident
is an example. During the battle for one of the cities of Las Villas
province in the final days of the war, we found an individual asleep
in a chair while others were attacking positions in the middle of the
town. When questioned, the man responded that he was sleeping because
he had been deprived of his weapon for firing accidentally. He was
told that this was not the way to react to punishment and that he should
regain his weapon, not in this way, but in the first line of combat.
A few days passed, and as the final assault on the city of Santa Clara
began, we visited the first-aid hospital. A dying man there extended
his hand, recalling the episode I have narrated, affirmed that he had
been capable of recovering his weapon and had earned the right to carry
it. Shortly afterwards, he died.
This was the grade of revolutionary morale that our troop achieved
through the continual exercise of armed struggle. It is not possible
to achieve it at the outset, when there are still many who are frightened,
and subjective currents serve to put a brake on the influence of the
Revolution; but finally it is reached through work and through the
force of continual example.
Long night watches and forced marches can also serve as punishments;
but the marches are not really practical, since they consume the individual
to no purpose other than that of punishment, and they require guards
who also wear themselves out. The guards suffer the further inconvenience
of having to keep a watch on the persons being punished, who are soldiers
of scant revolutionary mentality.
In the forces directly under my command I imposed the punishment of
arrest with privation of sweets and cigarettes for light offenses and
a total deprivation of food for worse offenses. The result was magnificent,
even though the punishment was terrible; it is advisable only in very
1. ORGANIZATION IN SECRET OF THE FIRST GUERRILLA BAND
Guerrilla warfare obeys laws, some derived from the general laws of
war and others owing to its own special character. If there is a real
intention to begin the struggle from some foreign cou9try or from distant
and remote regions within the same country, it is obvious that it must
begin in small conspiratorial movements of secret members acting without
mass support or knowledge. If the guerrilla movement is born spontaneously
out of the reaction of a group of individuals to some form of coercion,
it is possible that the later organization of this guerrilla nucleus
to prevent its annihilation will be sufficient for a beginning. But
generally guerrilla warfare starts from a well-considered act of will:
some chief with prestige starts an uprising for the salvation of his
people, beginning his work in difficult conditions in a foreign country.
Almost all the popular movements undertaken against dictators in recent
times have suffered from the same fundamental fault of inadequate preparation.
The rules of conspiracy, which demand extreme secrecy and caution,
have not generally been observed. The governmental power of the country
frequently knows in advance about the intentions of the group or groups,
either through its secret service or from imprudent revelations or
in some cases from outright declarations, as occurred, for example,
in our case, in which the invasion was announced and summed up in the
phrase of Fidel Castro. "In the year '56 we will be free or we will
Absolute secrecy, a total absence of information in the enemy's hands,
should be the primary base of the movement. Secondly and also very
important is selection of the human material. At times this selection
can be carried out easily, but at others it will be extremely difficult,
since it is necessary to rely on those elements that are available,
longtime exiles or persons who present themselves when the call goes
out simply because they understand that it is their duty to enroll
in the battle to liberate their country, etc. There may not be the
necessary facilities for making a complete investigation of these individuals.
Nevertheless, even though elements of the enemy regime introduce themselves,
it is unpardonable that they should later be able to pass information,
because in the period just prior to an action all those who are going
to participate should be concentrated in secret places known only to
one or two persons; they should be under the strict vigilance of their
chiefs and without the slightest contact with the outside world. Whenever
there are concentrations, whether as a preparation for departure or
in order to carry out preliminary training or simply to hide from the
police, it is necessary always to keep all new personnel about whom
there is no clear knowledge available away from the key places.
In underground conditions no one, absolutely no one, should know anything
more than the strictly indispensable; and there ought not to be talk
in front of anyone. When certain types of concentration have been carried
out, it is necessary even to control letters that leave and arrive
in order to have a total knowledge of the contacts that the individuals
maintain; no one should be permitted to live alone, nor to go out alone;
personal contacts of the future member of the liberating army, contacts
of any type, should be prevented by every means. However positive the
role of women in the struggle, it must be emphasized that they can
also play a destructive part. The weakness for women that young men
have when living apart from their habitual medium of life in special,
even psychic conditions, is well known. As dictators are well aware
of this weakness, they try to use it for infiltrating their spies.
At times the relationship of these women with their superiors is clear
and even notorious; at other times, it is extremely difficult to discover
even the slightest evidence of contact; therefore, it is necessary
also to prohibit relations with women.
The revolutionary in a clandestine situation preparing for war should
be a complete ascetic; this also serves to test one of the qualities
that later will be the basis of his authority, discipline. If an individual
repeatedly disobeys orders of his superiors and makes contacts with
women, contracts friendships that arc not permitted, etc., he should
be separated immediately, not merely because of the potential dangers
in the contacts, but simply because of the violation of revolutionary
Unconditional help should not be expected from a government, whether
friendly or simply negligent, that allows its territory to be used
as a base of operations; one should regard the situation as if he were
in a completely hostile camp. The few exceptions that of course can
occur are really confirmations of the general rule.
We shall not speak here of the number of persons that should be readied.
This depends upon so many and such varied conditions that it is practically
impossible to specify. But the minimum number with which it is possible
to initiate a guerrilla war can be mentioned. In my opinion, considering
the normal desertions and weaknesses in spite of the rigorous process
of selection, there should be a nucleus of 30 to 50 men; this figure
is sufficient to initiate an armed fight in any country of the Americas
with their conditions of favorable territory for operations, hunger
for land, repeated attacks upon justice, etc.
Weapons, as has already been said, should be of the same type as those
used by the enemy. Considering always that every government is in principle
hostile to a guerrilla action being undertaken from its territory,
the bands that prepare themselves should not be greater than approximately
50 to 100 men per unit. In other words, though there is no objection
to 500 men initiating a war, all 500 should not be concentrated in
one place. They are so numerous as to attract attention and in case
of any betrayal of confidence or of any raid, the whole group falls;
on the other hand, it is more difficult to raid various places simultaneously.
The central headquarters for meetings can be more or less known, and
the exiled persons will go there to hold meetings of all types; but
the leaders ought not to be present except very sporadically, and there
should be no compromising documents. The leaders should use as many
different houses as possible, those least likely to be under surveillance.
Arms deposits should be distributed in several places, if possible;
these should be an absolute secret, known to only one or two people.
Weapons should be delivered into the hands of those who are going to
use them only when the war is about to be initiated. Thus a punitive
action against persons who are training, while leading to their imprisonment,
will not produce a loss of arms that are very difficult to procure.
Popular forces are not in any condition to suffer such a loss.
Another important factor to which due attention must be given is preparation
of the forces for the extremely hard fight that is going to follow.
These forces should have a strict discipline, a high morale, and a
clear comprehension of the task to be performed, without conceit, without
illusions, without false hopes of an easy triumph. The struggle will
be bitter and long, reverses will be suffered; they can be at the brink
of annihilation; only high morale, discipline, faith in final victory,
and exceptional leadership can save them. This was our Cuban experience;
at one time twelve men were able to form the nucleus of the future
army, because all these conditions were met and because the one who
led us was named Fidel Castro.
Besides ideological and moral preparations, careful physical training
is necessary. The guerrillas will, of course, select a mountainous
or very wild zone for their operations. At any rate, in whatever situation
they find themselves, the basic tactic of the guerrilla army is the
march, and neither slow men nor tired men can be tolerated. Adequate
training therefore includes exhausting hikes day and night, day after
day, increasing gradually, always continued to the brink of exhaustion,
with emulation used to increase speed. Resistance and speed will be
fundamental qualities of the first guerrilla nucleus. Also a series
of theoretical principles can be taught, for example, direction finding,
reading, and forms of sabotage. If possible, there should be training
with military rifles, frequent firing, above all at distant targets,
and much instruction about the way to economize bullets.
To the guerrilla fighter, economy and utilization of ammunition down
to the last bullet should be al- most like religious tenets. If all
these admonitions are followed, the guerrilla forces may well reach
2. DEFENSE OF POWER THAT HAS BEEN WON
Naturally victory cannot be considered as finally won until the army
that sustained the former regime has been systematically and totally
smashed. Further, all the institutions that sheltered the former regime
should be wiped out. But since this is a manual for guerrilla bands
we will confine ourselves to analyzing the problem of national defense
in case of war or aggression against the new power.
The first development we meet is that world public opinion, "the respectable
press," the "truthful" news agencies of the United States and of the
other countries belonging to the monopolies will begin an attack on
the liberated country, an attack as aggressive and systematic as the
laws of popular reform. For this reason not even a skeleton of personnel
from the for-former army can be retained. Militarism, mechanical obedience,
traditional concepts of military duty, discipline and morale cannot
be eradicated with one blow. Nor can the victors, who are good fighters,
decent and kindhearted, but at the same time generally lacking education,
be allowed to remain in contact with the vanquished, who are proud
of their specialized military knowledge in some combat arm- in mathematics,
fortifications, logistics, etc.-and who hate the uncultured guerrilla
fighters with all their might.
There are, of course, individual cases of military men who break with
the past and enter into the new organization with a spirit of complete
cooperation. These persons are doubly useful, because they unite with
their love of the people's cause the knowledge necessary for carrying
forward the creation of the new popular army A second step will be
consequent upon the first: as the old army is smashed and dismembered
as an institution and its former posts occupied by the new army, it
will be necessary to reorganize the new force. Its former guerrilla
character, operating under independent chiefs without planning, can
be changed; but it is very important to emphasize that operational
concepts of the guerrilla band should still serve as the guide to structure.
These concepts will determine the organic formation and the equipment
of the popular army. Care should be taken to avoid the error that we
fell into during the first months of trying to put the new popular
army into the old bottles of military discipline and ancient organization.
This error can cause serious maladjustments and can lead to a complete
lack of organization.
Preparation should begin immediately for the new defensive war that
will have to be fought by the people's army, accustomed to independence
of command within the common struggle and dynamism in the management
of each armed group. This army will have two immediate problems. One
will be the in- corporation of thousands of last-hour revolutionaries,
good and bad, whom it is necessary to train for the rigors of guerrilla
life and to give revolutionary indoctrination in accelerated and intensive
courses. Revolutionary indoctrination that gives the necessary ideological
unity to the army of the people is the basis of national security both
in the long and short runs. The other problem is the difficulty of
adaptation to the new organizational structure.
A corps to take charge of sowing the new truths of the Revolution among
all the units of the army should immediately be created. It should
explain to the soldiers, peasants, and workers, who have come out of
the mass of the people, the justice and the truth of each revolutionary
act, the aspirations of the Revolution, why there is a fight, why so
many companions have died without seeing the victory. United to this
intensive indoctrination, accelerated courses of primary instruction
that will begin to overcome illiteracy should also be given, in order
to improve the rebel army gradually until it has become an instrument
of high technical qualifications, solid ideological structure, and
magnificent combat power.
Time will create these three qualities. The military apparatus can
continue to be perfected as time goes on; the former combatants can
be given special courses to prepare them to serve as professional military
men who will then give annual courses of instruction to the people
joining voluntarily or by conscription. This will depend on national
characteristics and rules cannot be stated.
From this point forward we are expressing the opinion of the command
of the Rebel Army with respect to the policy to be followed in the
concrete Cuban situation, given the menace of foreign invasion, the
conditions of the modern world at the end of 1959 or the beginning
of 1960, with the enemy in sight, analyzed, evaluated, and awaited
without fear. In other words, we are no longer theorizing for the instruction
of others about what has already been done; rather we theorize about
what has been done by others in order to apply it ourselves in our
own national defense.
As our problem is to theorize about the Cuban case, and locate and
test our hypothesis on the map of American realities, we present as
an epilogue the following analysis of the Cuban situation, its present
and its future.
ANALYSIS OF THE CUBAN SITUATION, ITS PRESENT AND ITS FUTURE
A year has now passed since the flight of the dictator, the culmination
of a long armed civil struggle by the Cuban people. The achievements
of the government in the social, economic, and political fields are
enormous; nevertheless, it is necessary to analyze them, to evaluate
each act and to show precisely the dimensions of our Cuban Revolution.
This national Revolution, fundamentally agrarian, having the enthusiastic
support of workers, of people from the middle class and today even
of owners of industry, has acquired a continental and world-wide importance,
enhanced by its peculiar characteristics and by the inflexible will
of the people.
It will not be possible to present a synthesis, however brief, of all
the laws passed, all of them undoubtedly of popular benefit. It will
be enough to select a few for special emphasis and to show at the same
time the logical chain that carries us forward, step by step, in a
progressive and necessary order of concern for the problems of the
The first alarm for the parasitic classes of the country is sounded
in the rent law, the reduction of electric rates, and government intervention
in the telephone company followed by a reduction in rates, all decreed
in rapid succession. Those who had thought Fidel Castro and the men
who made this Revolution to be nothing more than politicians of the
old style, manageable simpletons with beards their only distinction,
now began to suspect that something deeper was emerging from the bosom
of the Cuban people and that their privileges were in danger. The word
"Communism" began to envelop the figures of the leaders and of the
triumphant guerrilla fighters; consequently the word anti-Communism,
as the position dialectically opposed, began to serve as a nucleus
for all those who resented the loss of their unjust privileges.
The law on vacant lots and the law on installment sales aggravated
this sensation of malaise among the usurious capitalists. But these
were minor skirmishes with the reactionaries; everything was still
all right and possible. "This crazy fellow," Fidel Castro, could be
counseled and guided to good paths, to good "democratic" paths, by
a Dubois or a Porter. It was necessary to place hope in the future.
The Agrarian Reform law was a tremendous jolt. Most of those who had
been hurt now saw clearly. One of the first was Gaston Baquero, the
voice of reaction; he had accurately interpreted what was going to
happen and had retired to quieter scenes under the Spanish dictatorship.
There were still some who thought that "the law is the law," that other
governments had already promulgated such laws, theoretically designed
to help the people. Carrying out these laws was another thing. That
brash and complex child that had the initials INRA for its familiar
name was treated at the beginning with peevish and touching paternalism
within the ivory towers of learning, pervaded with social doctrines
and respectable theories of public finance, to which the uncultivated
and absurd mentalities of the guerrilla fighters could not arrive.
But INRA advanced like a tractor or a war tank, because it is tractor
and tank at the same time, breaking down the walls of the great estates
as it passed and creating new social relations in the ownership of
land. This Cuban Agrarian Reform appeared with various characteristics
important for America. It was anti-feudal in the sense that it eliminated
the Cuban-style latifundia, annulled all contracts that called for
payment of rent of land in crops, and liquidated the servile relations
that existed principally in coffee and tobacco production, two important
branches of our agriculture. But it also was an Agrarian Reform in
a capitalist medium to destroy the pressure of monopoly on human beings,
isolated or joined together, to help them work their land honorably
and to produce without fear of the creditor or the master. It had the
characteristic from the first moment of assuring to peasants and agricultural
workers, those who give themselves to the soil, needed technical help
from competent personnel; machinery; financial help provided through
credits from INRA or para-state banks; and big help from the "Association
of People's Stores" that has developed on a large scale in Oriente
and is in process of development in other provinces. The state stores,
replacing the old usurers, provide just financing and pay a just price
for the harvest.
Compared with the other three great agrarian reforms in America (Mexico,
Guatemala, and Bolivia) the most important distinctive characteristic
is the decision to carry Cuban reform all the way, without concessions
or exceptions of any kind. This total Agrarian Reform respects no rights
that are not rights of the people nor singles out any class or nationality
for discriminatory treatment: the force of the law falls equally on
the United Fruit Company and on the King Ranch, as on the big Cuban
Under these conditions land is being cleared, mainly for the production
of crops which are very important to the country, rice, oil-producing
grains and cotton; these are being intensively developed. But the nation
is not satisfied and is going to recover all its stolen resources.
Its rich sub-soil, which has been a field of monopolist voracity and
struggle, is virtually recovered by the petroleum law. This law, like
the Agrarian Reform and all the others promulgated by the Revolution,
responds to Cuba's irresistible necessities, to urgent demands of a
people that wishes to be free, that wishes to be master of its economy,
that wishes to prosper and to reach ever higher goals of social development.
But for this very reason it is an example for the continent and feared
by the oil monopolies. It is not that Cuba directly hurts the petroleum
monopoly substantially. There is no reason to believe the country to
be rich in reserves of the prized fuel, even though there are reasonable
hopes of obtaining a supply that will satisfy its internal needs. On
the other hand, by its law Cuba gives a palpable example to the brother
peoples of America, many of them foraged by these monopolies or pushed
into intercine wars in order to satisfy the necessities or appetites
of competing trusts. At the same time Cuba shows the possibility of
acting in America and the exact hour when action ought to be considered.
The great monopolies also cast their worried look upon Cuba; not only
has someone in the little island of the Caribbean dared to liquidate
the interests of the omnipotent United Fruit Company, legacy of Mr.
Foster Dulles to his heirs; but also the empires of Mr. Rockefeller
and the Deutsch group have suffered under the lash of intervention
by the popular Cuban Revolution.
This law, like the mining law, is the response of the people to those
who try to check them with threats of force, with aerial incursions,
with punishments of whatever type. Some say that the mining law is
as important as the Agrarian Reform. We do not consider that it has
this importance for the economy of the country in general, but it introduces
another new feature: a 25 percent tax on the amount of product exported,
to be paid by companies that sell our minerals abroad (leaving now
something more than a hole in our territory). This not only contributes
to our Cuban welfare; it also increases the relative strength of the
Canadian monopolies in their struggle with the present exploiters of
our nickel. Thus the Cuban Revolution liquidates the latifundia, limits
the profits of the foreign monopolies, limits the profits of the foreign
intermediaries that dedicate themselves with parasitic capital to the
commerce of importation, launches upon the world a new policy in America,
dares to break the monopolist status of the giants of mining, and leaves
one of them in difficulty, to say the least. This signifies a powerful
new message to the neighbors of the great stronghold of monopoly, and
causes repercussions throughout America. The Cuban Revolution breaks
all the barriers of the news syndicates and diffuses its truth like
a shower of dust among the American masses anxious for a better life.
Cuba is the symbol of nationality renewed and Fidel Castro the symbol
By a simple law of gravity the little island of one hundred fourteen
thousand square kilometers and six and one-half million inhabitants
assumes the leadership in the anti-colonial struggle in America, in
which serious handicaps in other countries permit Cuba to take the
heroic, glorious and dangerous advanced post. The economically less
weak nations of colonial America, the ones in which national capitalism
develops haltingly in a continuous, relentless, and at times violent
struggle against the foreign monopolies, now cede their place gradually
to this small, new champion of liberty, since their governments do
not have sufficient force to carry the fight forward. This is not a
simple task, nor is it free from danger and difficulties. The backing
of a whole people and an enormous charge of idealism and spirit of
sacrifice are needed in the nearly solitary conditions in which we
are carrying it out in America. Small countries have tried to maintain
this post before Guatemala, the Guatemala of Quetzal, that dies when
it is imprisoned in a cage, the Guatemala of the Indian Tecum Umam,
fell before the direct aggression of the colonialists. Bolivia, the
country of Morillo, the proto-martyr of American independence, yielded
to the terrible hardships of the struggle after setting three examples
that served as the foundation of the Cuban Revolution: the suppression
of the army, agrarian reform, and nationalization of mines-maximum
source of riches and at the same time maximum source of tragedy.
Cuba knows about these previous examples, knows the failures and the
difficulties, but it knows also that we are at the dawning of a new
era in the world. The pillars of colonialism have been swept aside
by the power of the national and popular struggle in Asia and Africa.
Solidarity among peoples does not now come from religion, customs,
tastes, racial affinity or its lack. It arises from a similarity in
economic and social conditions and from a similarity in desire for
progress and recuperation. Asia and Africa joined hands in Bandung;
Asia and Africa come to join hands with colonial and indigenous America
through Cuba, in Havana.
On the other hand, the great colonial powers have lost ground before
the struggle of the peoples. Belgium and Holland are two caricatures
of empires; Germany and Italy lost their colonies. France is bitterly
fighting a war that is lost. England, diplomatic and skillful, liquidates
political power while maintaining the economic connections.
American capitalism replaced some of the old colonial capitalisms in
the countries that began their in- dependent life. But it knows that
this is transitory and that there is no real security for its financial
speculations in these new territories. The octopus cannot there apply
its suckers firmly. The claw of the imperial eagle is trimmed. Colonialism
is dead or is dying a natural death in all these places.
America is something else. It has been some time since the English
lion with its voracious appetite departed from our America and the
young and charming Yankee capitalists installed the "democratic" version
of the English clubs, imposing their sovereign domination over every
one of the twenty republics.
These is the colonial realm of North American monopoly, its reason
for being and last hope, the "backyard of its own house." If all the
Latin American peoples should raise the flag of dignity, as Cuba has
done, monopoly would tremble; it would have to accommodate to a new
political-economic situation and to substantial prunings of profits.
Monopoly does not like profits to be pruned, and the Cuban example,
this "bad example" of national and international dignity, is gaining
strength in the countries of America. Each time that an impudent people
cries out for liberation, Cuba is accused; and it is true in a sense
that Cuba is guilty, because Cuba has shown the way, the way of the
armed popular fight against armies supposed to be invincible, the way
of struggle in wild places to wear down and destroy the enemy far from
his bases, in a word, the way of dignity.
This Cuban example is bad, a very bad example, and monopoly cannot
sleep quietly while this bad example remains at its feet, defying danger,
advancing toward the future. It must be destroyed, voices declare.
It is necessary to intervene in this bastion of "Communism," cry the
servants of monopoly disguised as representatives in Congress. "The
Cuban situation is very disturbing," say the artful defenders of the
trusts; we all know that their meaning is: "It must be destroyed."
Very well. What are the different possibilities of aggressive action
to destroy the bad example? One could be called the purely economic.
These begins with a restriction on credit by North American banks and
suppliers to all businessmen, national banks, and even the National
Bank of Cuba. Credit is thus restricted in North America, and through
the medium of associates an attempt is made to have the same policy
adopted in all the countries of Western Europe; but this alone is not
The denial of credits strikes a first strong blow at the economy, but
recovery is rapid and the commercial balance evens out, since the victimized
country is accustomed to living as best it can. It is necessary to
apply more pressure. The sugar quota is brought into the picture: yes,
no, no, yes. Hurriedly the calculating machines of the agents of monopoly
total up all sorts of accounts and arrive at the final conclusion:
it is very dangerous to reduce the Cuban quota and impossible to cancel
it. Why very dangerous? Because besides being bad politics, it would
awaken the appetite of ten or fifteen other supplier countries, causing
them tremendous discomfort, because they would all consider they had
a right to something more. It is impossible to cancel the quota, because
Cuba is the largest, most efficient, and cheapest provider of sugar
to the United States, and because sixty percent of the interests that
profit directly from the production and commerce in sugar are United
States interests. Besides, the commercial balance is favorable to the
United States; whoever does not sell cannot buy; and it would set a
bad example to break a treaty. Further, the supposed North American
gift of paying nearly three cents above the market price is only the
result of North American incapacity to produce sugar cheaply. The high
wages and the low productivity of the soil prevent the Great Power
from producing sugar at Cuban prices; and by paying this higher price
for a product, they are able to impose burdensome treaties on all beneficiaries,
not only Cuba. Impossible to liquidate the Cuban quota.
We do not consider likely the possibility that monopolists are employing
a variant of the economic approach in bombarding and burning sugar
cane fields, hoping to cause a scarcity of the product. Rather this
appears to be a measure calculated to weaken confidence in the power
of the revolutionary government. (The corpse of the North American
mercenary stains more than a Cuban house with blood; it also stains
a policy. And what is to be said of the gigantic explosion of arms
destined for the Rebel Army?)
Another vulnerable place where the Cuban economy can be squeezed is
the supply of raw materials, such as cotton. However, it is well known
that there is an over-production of cotton in the world, and any difficulty
of this type would be transitory. Fuel? This is worth some attention;
it is possible to paralyze a country by depriving it of fuel, and Cuba
produces very little petroleum. It has some heavy fuel that can be
used to operate its steam-driven machinery and some alcohol that can
be used in vehicles; also, there are large amounts of petroleum in
the world. Egypt can sell it, the Soviet Union can sell it, perhaps
Iraq will be able to sell it shortly. It is not possible to develop
a purely economic strategy
As another possibility of aggression, if to this economic variant were
added an intervention by some puppet power, the Dominican Republic,
for example, it would be somewhat more of a nuisance; but the United
Nations would doubtless intervene, with nothing concrete having been
Incidentally, the new course taken by the Organization of American
States creates a dangerous precedent of intervention. Behind the shield
of the Trujillo pretext, monopoly solaces itself by constructing a
means of aggression. It is sad that the Venezuelan democracy has put
us in the difficult position of having to oppose an intervention against
Trujillo. What a good turn it has done the pirates of the continent!
Among the new possibilities of aggression is physical elimination by
means of an assault on the "old fellow," Fidel Castro, who has become
by now the focus of the monopolies' wrath. Naturally, measures must
be arranged so that the other two dangerous "international agents,"
Raul Castro and the author, are also eliminated. This solution is appealing;
if simultaneous assaults on all three or at least on the directing
head succeeded, it would be a boon to the reaction. (But do not forget
the people, Messrs. Monopolists and agents, the omnipotent people who
in their fury at such a crime would crush and erase all those who had
anything to do directly or indirectly with an assault on any of the
chiefs of the Revolution; it would be impossible to restrain them.)
Another aspect of the Guatemalan variant is to put pressure on the
suppliers of arms, in order to force Cuba to buy in Communist countries
and then use this as an occasion to let loose another shower of insults.
This could give results. "It may be," someone in our government has
said, "that they will attack us as Communists, but they are not going
to eliminate us as imbeciles."
Thus it begins to appear as if a direct aggression on the part of the
monopolies will be necessary; various possible forms are being shuffled
and studied in the IBM machines with all processes calculated. It occurs
to us at the moment that the Spanish variant could be used. The Spanish
variant would be one in which some initial pretext is seized upon for
an attack by exiles with the help of volunteers, volunteers who would
be mercenaries of course, or simply the troops of a foreign power,
well supported by navy and air, well enough supported, shall we say,
to be successful. It could also begin as a direct aggression by some
state such as the Dominican Republic, which would send some of its
men, our brothers, and many mercenaries to die on these beaches in
order to provoke war; this would prompt the pure-intentioned monopolists
to say that they do not wish to intervene in this "disastrous" struggle
between brothers; they will merely limit and confine and freeze the
war within its present limits by maintaining vigilance over the skies
and seas of this part of America with cruisers, battleships, destroyers,
aircraft carriers, submarines, minesweepers, torpedo boats, and airplanes.
And it could happen that while these zealous guardians of continental
peace were not allowing a single boat to pass with things for Cuba,
some, many, or all of the boats headed for the unhappy country of Trujillo
would escape the iron vigilance. Also they might intervene through
some "reputable" inter-American organ, to put an end to the "foolish
war" that "Communism" had unleashed in our island; or, if this mechanism
of the "reputable" American organ did not serve, they might intervene
directly, as in Korea, using the name of the international organ in
order to restore peace and protect the interests of all nations.
Perhaps the first step in the aggression will not be against us, but
against the constitutional government of Venezuela, in order to liquidate
our last point of support on the continent. If this happens, it is
possible that the center of the struggle against colonialism will move
from Cuba to the great country of Bolivar. The people of Venezuela
will rise to defend their liberties with all the enthusiasm of those
who know that they are fighting a decisive battle, that behind defeat
lies the darkest tyranny and behind victory the certain future of America.
A stream of popular struggles can disturb the peace of the monopolist
cemeteries formed out of our subjugated sister republics.
Many reasons argue against the chance of enemy victory, but there are
two fundamental ones. The first is external: this is the year 1960,
the year that will finally hear the voices of the millions of beings
who do not have the luck to be governed by the possessors of the means
of death and payment. Further, and this is an even more powerful reason,
an army of six million Cubans will grasp weapons as a single man in
order to defend its territory and its Revolution. Cuba will be a battlefield
where the army will be nothing other than part of the people in arms.
After destruction in a frontal war, hundreds of guerrilla bands under
a dynamic command and a single center of orientation, will fight the
battle all over the country. In cities the workers will die in their
factories or centers of work, and in the country the peasants will
deal out death to the invader from behind every palm tree and from
every furrow of the new mechanically plowed field that the Revolution
has given them.
And around the world international solidarity will create a barrier
of hundreds of millions of people protesting against aggression. Monopoly
will see how its pillars are undermined and how the spider web curtain
of its newspaper lies is swept away by a puff. But let us suppose that
they dare to defy the popular indignation of the world; what will happen
The first thing to be noted, given our position as an easily vulnerable
island without heavy arms, with a very weak air force and navy, is
the necessity of applying the guerrilla concept to the fight for national
defense. Our ground units will fight with the fervor, decision, and
enthusiasm of which the sons of the Cuban Revolution are capable in
these glorious years of our history. But if the worst occurs, we are
prepared to continue fighting even after the destruction of our army
organization in a frontal combat. In other words, confronting large
concentrations of enemy forces that succeed in destroying ours, we
would change immediately into a guerrilla army with a good sense of
mobility, with unlimited authority in our column commanders, though
with a central command located somewhere in the country giving the
necessary direction and fixing the general overall strategy.
The mountains would be the last line of defense of the organized armed
vanguard of the people, which is the Rebel Army; but in every house
of the people, on every road, in every forest, in every piece of national
territory the struggle would be fought by the great army of the rearguard,
the entire people trained and armed in the manner now to be described.
Since our infantry units will not have heavy arms, they will concentrate
on anti-tank and anti-air defense. Mines in very large numbers, bazookas
or anti-tank grenades, anti-aircraft cannon of great mobility and mortar
batteries will be the only arms of any great power. The veteran infantry
soldier, though equipped with automatic weapons, will know the value
of ammunition. He will guard it with loving care. Special installations
for reloading shells will accompany each unit of the army, maintaining
reserves of ammunition even though precariously.
The air force will probably be badly hurt in the first moments of an
invasion of this type. We are basing our calculations upon an invasion
by a first-class foreign power or by a mercenary army of some other
power, helped either openly or surreptitiously by this great power
of first magnitude. The national air force, as I said, will be destroyed,
or almost destroyed: only reconnaissance or liaison planes will remain,
especially helicopters for minor functions.
The navy will also be organized for this mobile strategy; small launches
will give the smallest target to the enemy and maintain maximum mobility.
The great desperation of the enemy army in this case as before will
be to find something to receive his blows. Instead he will find a gelatinous
mass, in movement, impenetrable, that retreats and never presents a
solid front, though it inflicts wounds from every side.
It is not easy to overcome an army of the people that is prepared to
continue being an army in spite of its defeat in a frontal battle.
Two great masses of the people are united around it: the peasants and
the workers. The peasants have already given evidence of their efficiency
in detaining the small band that was marauding in Pinar del Rio. These
peasants will be trained principally in their own regions; but the
platoon commanders and the superior officers will be trained, as is
now already being done, in our military bases. From there they will
be distributed throughout the thirty zones of agrarian development
that form the new geographical division of the country. This will constitute
thirty more centers of peasant struggle, charged with defending to
the maximum their lands, their social conquests, their new houses,
their canals, their dams, their flowering harvests, their independence,
in a word, their right to live.
At the beginning they will oppose also a firm resistance to any enemy
advance, but if this proves too strong for them, they will disperse,
each peasant becoming a peaceful cultivator of his soil during the
day and a fearsome guerrilla fighter at night, scourge of the enemy
forces. Something similar will take place among the workers; the best
among them will be trained also to serve thereafter as chiefs of their
companions, teaching them principles of defense. Each social class,
however, will have different tasks. The peasant will fight a battle
typical of the guerrilla fighter; he should learn to be a good shot,
to take advantage of all the difficulties of the ground and to disappear
without ever showing his face. The workers, on the other hand, have
the advantage of being within a modern city, which is a large and efficient
fortress; at the same time their lack of mobility is a drawback. The
worker will learn first to block the streets with barricades of any
available vehicle, furniture, or utensil; to use every block as a fortress
with communications formed by holes made in interior walls; to use
that terrible arm of defense, the "Molotov cocktail"; and to coordinate
his fire from the innumerable loop-holes provided by the houses of
a modern city.
From the worker masses assisted by the national police and those armed
forces charged with the defense of the city, a powerful block of the
army will be formed; but it must expect to suffer great losses. The
struggle in the cities in these conditions cannot achieve the facility
and flexibility of the struggle in the countryside: many will fall,
including many leaders, in this popular struggle. The enemy will use
tanks that will be destroyed rapidly as soon as the people learn their
weaknesses and not to fear them; but before that the tanks will leave
their balance of victims.
There will also be other organizations related to those of workers
and peasants: first, the student militias, which will contain the flower
of the student youth, directed and coordinated by the Rebel Army; organizations
of youth in general, who will participate in the same way; and organizations
of women, who will provide an enormous encouragement by their presence
and who will do such auxiliary tasks for their companions in the struggle
as cooking, taking care of the wounded, giving final comfort to those
who are dying, doing laundry, in a word, showing their companions-in-arms
that they will never be absent in the difficult moments of the Revolution.
All this is achieved by wide-scale organization of the masses supplemented
with patient and careful education, an education that begins and is
confirmed in knowledge acquired from their own experience; it should
concentrate on reasoned and true explanations of the facts of the Revolution.
The revolutionary laws should be discussed, explained, studied in every
meeting, in every assembly, wherever the leaders of the Revolution
are present for any purpose. Also, the speeches of the leaders, and
in our case particularly of the undisputed leader, should constantly
be read, commented upon, and discussed. People should come together
in the country to listen by radio, and where there are more advanced
facilities, to watch by television these magnificent popular lessons
that our Prime Minister gives.
The participation of the people in politics, that is to say, in the
expression of their own desires made into laws, decrees, and resolutions,
should be constant. Vigilance against any manifestations opposed to
the Revolution should also be constant; and vigilance over morale within
the revolutionary masses should be stricter, if this is possible, than
vigilance against the non-revolutionary or the disaffected. It can
never be permitted, lest the Revolution take the dangerous path of
opportunism, that a revolutionary of any category should be excused
for grave offenses against decorum or morality simply because he is
a revolutionary. The record of his former services may provide extenuating
circumstances and they can always be considered in deciding upon the
punishment, but the act itself must always be punished.
Respect for work, above all for collective work and work for collective
ends, ought to be cultivated. Volunteer brigades to construct roads,
bridges, docks or dams, and school cities should receive a strong impulse;
these serve to forge a unity among persons showing their love for the
Revolution with works.
An army that is linked in such ways with the people, that feels this
intimacy with the peasants and the workers from which it emerged, that
knows besides all the special techniques of its warfare and is psychologically
prepared for the worst contingencies, is invincible; and it will be
even more invincible as it makes the just phrase of our immortal Camilo
a part of the flesh of the army and the citizenry: "The army is the
people in uniform." Therefore, for all these reasons, despite the necessity
that monopoly suppress the "bad example" of Cuba, our future is brighter
END OF GUERRILLA WARFARE