Psychology in Guerrilla Warfare



1. Generalities
The objective of this section is to familiarize the guerrilla with the techniques of psychological operations, which maximizes the social- psychological effect of a guerrilla movement, converting the guerrilla into a propagandist, in addition to being a combatant. The nature of the environment in guerrilla warfare does not permit sophisticated facilities for psychological operations, so that use should be made of the effective face-to-face persuasion of each guerrilla.

2. Political Awareness
The individual political awareness of the guerrilla, the reason for his struggle, will be as important as his ability in combat. This political awareness and motivation will be achieved:

  • By improving the combat potential of the guerrilla by improving his motivation for fighting.
  • By the guerrilla recognizing himself as a vital tie between the democratic guerrillas and the people, whose support is essential for the subsistence of both.
  • By fostering the support of the population for the national insurgence through the support for the guerrillas of the locale, which provides a psychological basis in the population for politics after the victory has been achieved.
  • By developing trust in the guerrillas and in the population, for the reconstruction of a local and national government.
  • By promoting the value of participation by the guerrillas and the people in the civic affairs of the insurrection and in the national programs.
  • By developing in each guerrilla the ability of persuasion face- to-face, at the local level, to win the support of the population, which is essential for success in guerrilla warfare.

3. Group Dynamics
This political awareness-building and motivation are attained by the use of group dynamics at the level of small units. The group discussion method and self-criticism are a general guerrilla training and operations technique. Group discussions raise the spirit and increase the unity of thought in small guerrilla groups and exercise social pressure on the weakest members to better carry out their mission in training and future combat actions. These group discussions will give special emphasis to:

  • Creating a favorable opinion of our movement. Through local and national history, make it clear that the Sandinista regime is "foreignizing," "repressive" and "imperialistic," and that even though there are some Nicaraguans within the government, point out that they are "puppets" of the power of the Soviets and Cubans, i.e. of foreign power.
  • Always a local focus. Matters of an international nature will be explained only in support of local events in the guerrilla warfare.
  • The unification of the nation is our goal. This means that the defeat of the Sandinista armed forces is our priority. Our insurrectional movement is a pluralistic political platform from which we are determined to win freedom, equality, a better economy with work facilities, a higher standard of living, a true democracy for all Nicaraguans without exception.
  • Providing to each guerrilla clear understanding about the struggle for national sovereignty against Soviet-Cuban imperialism. Discussion guides will lead the guerrillas so that they will see the injustices of the Sandinista system.
  • Showing each guerrilla the need for good behavior to win the support of the population. Discussion guides should convince the guerrillas that the attitude and opinion of the population play a decisive role, because victory is impossible without popular support.
  • Self-criticism will be in constructive terms that will contribute to the mission of the movement, and which will provide the guerrillas with the conviction that they have a constant and positive individual responsibility in the mission of the group.

The method of instruction will be:

a) division of the guerrilla force into squads for group discussions, including command and support elements, whenever the tactical situation permits it. The makeup of the small units should be maintained when these groups are designated.

b) Assignment of a political cadre in the guerrilla force to each group to guide the discussion. The squad leader should help the cadre to foster study and the expression of thoughts. If there are not enough political cadres for each squad or post, leaders should guide the discussions, and the available cadres visit alternate groups.

c) It is appropriate for the cadre (or the leader) to guide the discussion of a group to cover a number of points and to reach a correct conclusion. The guerrillas should feel that it was their free and own decision. The cadre should serve as a private teacher. The cadre or leader will not act as a lecturer, but will help the members of the group to study and express their own opinions.

d) The political cadre will at the end of every discussion make a summary of the principal points, leading them to the correct conclusions. Any serious difference with the objectives of the movement should be noted by the cadre and reported to the comandante of the force. If necessary, a combined group meeting will be held and the team of political cadres will explain and rectify the misunderstanding.

e) Democratic conduct by the political cadres: living, eating and working with the guerrillas, and if possible, fighting at their side, sharing their living conditions. All of this will foster understanding and the spirit of cooperation that will help in the discussion and exchange of ideas.

f) Carry out group discussions in towns, and areas of operations whenever possible with the civilian population, and not limit them to camps or bases. This is done to emphasize the revolutionary nature of the struggle and to demonstrate that the guerrillas identified with the objectives of the people move about within the population. The guerrilla projects himself toward the people, as the political cadre does toward the guerrilla, and they should live, eat and work together to realize a unity of revolutionary thought.

The principles for guerrilla and political-cadre group discussions are:

  • Organize discussion groups at the post or squad level. A cadre cannot be sure of the comprehension and acceptance of the concepts and conclusions by guerrillas in large groups. In a group of the size of a squad of 10 men, the judgement and control of the situation is greater. In this way, all students will participate in an exchange among them; the political leader, the group leader, and also the political cadre. Special attention will be given to the individual ability to discuss the objectives of the insurrectional struggle. Whenever a guerrilla expresses his opinion, he will be interested in listening to the opinions of others, leading as a result to the unity of thought.
  • Combine the different points of view and reach an opinion or common conclusion. This is the most difficult task of a political guerrilla cadre. After the group discussions of the democratic objectives of the movement, the chief of the team of political cadres of the guerrilla force should combine the conclusions of individual groups in a general summary. At a meeting with all the discussion groups, the cadre shall provide the principal points, and the guerrillas will have the opportunity to clarify or modify their points of view. To carry this out, the conclusions will be summarized in the form of slogans, wherever possible.
  • Face with honesty the national and local problems of our struggle. THe political cadres should always be prepared to discuss solutions to the problems observed by the guerrillas. During the discussions, the guerrillas should be guided by the following three principles:

    • Freedom of thought.
    • Freedom of expression.
    • Concentration of thoughts on the objectives of the democratic struggle.

The result desired is a guerrilla who in a persuasive manner can justify all of his acts whenever he is in contact with any member of the town/people, and especially with himself and with his guerrilla companions by facing the vicissitudes of guerrilla warfare.

This means that every guerrilla will come to have effective face-to- face persuasion as a combatant-propagandist in his contact with the people, to the point of giving 5-10 logical reasons why, e.g. a peasant should give him a piece of cloth, or a needle and thread to mend his clothes. When behaves in this manner, no type of propaganda of the enemy will be able to make a "terrorist" of him in the eyes of the people.

In addition, hunger, cold, fatigue and insecurity in the existence of the guerrilla acquire meaning in the cause of the struggle due to the constant psychological orientation.

4. Camp Procedures
Encamping the guerrilla units gives greater motivation, in addition to reducing distractions, and increases the spirit of cooperation of small units, relating the physical environment to the psychological one. The squad chief shall establish the regular camping procedure. Once thy have divested themselves of their packs, the chief will choose the appropriate ground for camping. He should select land that predominates over the zone with two or three escape routes. He will choose among his men and give them responsibilities such as:

  • Clean the camp area.
  • Provide adequate drainage in case of rain. Also build some trenches or holes for marksmen in case of emergency. In addition, he will build a stove, which will be done by making some small trenches and placing three rocks in place; in case the stove is built on a pedestal, it will be filled with clay and rocks.
  • Build a windbreaking wall, which will be covered on the sides and on the top with branches and leaves of the same vegetation of the zones. This will serve for camouflaging and protecting it from aerial visibility or from enemy patrols around.
  • Construct a latrine and a hole where waste and garbage will be buried, which should be covered over at the time of abandoning the camp.
  • Once the camp has been set up, it is recommended that a watchman be positioned in the places of access at a prudent distance, where the shout of alarm can be heard. In the same moment the password will be established, which should be changed every 24 hours. The commander should establish ahead of time an alternate meeting point, in case of having to abandon the camp in a hurried manner, and they will be able to meet in the other already established point, and they should warn the patrol that if at a particular time they cannot meet at the established point, the should have a third meeting point.

These procedures contribute to the motivation of the guerrilla and improve the spirit of cooperation in the unit. The danger, sense of insecurity, anxiety and daily concern in the life of a guerrilla require tangible evidence of belonging in an order for him to keep up his spirit and morale. In addition to the good physical conditions in which the guerrilla should find himself, good psychological conditions are necessary, for which group discussions and becoming a self=critic are recommended, which will greatly benefit the spirit and morale of the same. Having broken camp with the effort and cooperation of everyone strengthens the spirit of the group. The guerrilla will be inclined then towards the unity of thought in democratic objectives.

5. Interaction with the People
In order to ensure popular support, essential for the good development of guerrilla warfare, the leaders should induce a positive interaction between the civilians and the guerrillas, through the principle of "live, eat, and work with the people," and maintain control of their activities. In group discussions, the leaders and political cadres should give emphasis to positively identifying themselves with the people. It is not recommendable to speak of military tactical plans in discussions with civilians. The Communist foe should be pointed out as the number one enemy of the people, and as a secondary threat against our guerrilla forces.

Whenever there is a chance, groups of members should be chosen who have a high political awareness and high disciplinary conduct in the work to be carried out, in order to be sent to the populous areas in order to direct the armed propaganda, where they should persuade the people through dialogue in face-to-face confrontations, where these principles should be followed:

  • Respect for human rights and others' property.
  • Helping the people in community work.
  • Protecting the people from Communist aggressions.
  • Teaching the people environmental hygiene, to read, etc., in order to win their trust, which will lead to a better democratic ideological preparation.

This attitude will foster the sympathy of the peasants for our movement, and they will immediately become one of us, through logistical support, coverage and intelligence information on the enemy or participation in combat. The guerrillas should be persuasive through the word and not dictatorial with weapons. If they behave in this way, the people will feel respected, will be more inclined to accept our message and will consolidate into popular support.

In any place in which tactical guerrilla operations are carried out in populous areas, the squad should undertake psychological actions parallel to these, and should proceed, accompany and consolidate the common objective and explain to all the people about our struggle, explaining that our presence is to give peace, liberty and democracy to all Nicaraguans without exception, and explaining that out struggle is not against the nationals but rather against Russian imperialism. This will serve to ensure greater Psychological achievements which will increase the operations of the future.

6. Conclusions
The nature of the environment in guerrilla warfare does not permit sophisticated facilities for psychological operations, and the face-to-face persuasion of the guerrilla combatant-propagandists with the people is an effective and available tool which we should use as much as possible during the process of the struggle.

Self-Hemployed Social Stream