Psychology in Guerrilla Warfare



1. Generalities
Frequently a misunderstanding exists on "armed propaganda," that this tactic is a compulsion of the people with arms. In reality, it does not include compulsion, but the guerrilla should know well the principles and methods of this tactic. The objective of this section is to give the guerrilla student an understanding of the armed propaganda that should be used, and that will be able to be applied in guerrilla warfare.

2. Close Identification with the People
Armed propaganda includes all acts carried out by an armed force, whose results improve the attitude of the people toward this force, and it does not include forced indoctrination. This is carried out by a close identification with the people on any occasion. For example:

  • Putting aside weapons and working side by side with the peasants in the countryside: building, fishing, repairing roofs, transporting water, etc.
  • When working with the people, the guerrillas can use slogans such as "many hands doing small things, but doing them together."
  • Participating in the tasks of the people, they can establish a strong tie between them and the guerrillas and at the same time a popular support for our movement is generated.

During the patrols and other operations around or in the midst of villages, each guerrilla should be respectful and courteous with the people. In addition he should move with care and always be well prepared to fight, if necessary. But he should not always see all the people as enemies, with suspicions or hostility. Even in war, it is possible to smile, laugh or greet people. Truly, the cause of our revolutionary base, the reason why we are struggling, is our people. We must be respectful to them on all occasions that present themselves.

In places and situations wherever possible, e.g. when they are resting during the march, the guerrillas can explain the operation of weapons to the youths and young men. They can show them an unloaded rifle so that they will learn to load it and unload it; their use, and aiming at imaginary targets they are potential recruits for our forces.

The guerrillas should always be prepared with simple slogans in order to explain to the people, whether in an intentional form or by chance, the reason for the weapons.

"The weapons will be for winning freedom; the are for you."

"With weapons we can impose demands such as hospitals, schools, better roads, and social services for the people, for you."

"Our weapons are, in truth, the weapons of the people, yours."

"With weapons we can change the Sandino-Communist regime and return to the people a true democracy so that we will all have economic opportunities."

All of this should be designed to create an identification of the people with the weapons and the guerrillas who carry them. Finally, we should make the people feel that we are thinking of them and that the weapons are the people's, in order to help them and protect them from a Communist, totalitarian, imperialist regime, indifferent to the needs of the population.

3. Implicit and Explicit Terror
A guerrilla armed force always involves implicit terror because the population, without saying it aloud, feels terror that the weapons may be used against them. However, if the terror does not become explicit, positive results can be expected.

In a revolution, the individual lives under a constant threat of physical damage. If the government police cannot put an end to the guerrilla activities, the population will lose confidence in the government, which has the inherent mission of guaranteeing the safety of citizens. However, the guerrillas should be careful not to become an
explicit terror, because this would result in a loss of popular support.

In the words of a leader of the Huk guerrilla movement of the Philippine Islands: "The population is always impressed by weapons, not by the terror that they cause, but rather by a sensation of strength/force. We must appear before the people, giving them the message of the struggle." This is, then, in a few words, the essence of armed propaganda.

An armed guerrilla force can occupy an entire town or small city that is neutral or relatively passive in the conflict. In order to conduct the armed propaganda in an effective manner, the following should be carried out simultaneously:

  • Destroy the military or police installations and remove the survivors to a "public place."
  • Cut all the outside lines of communications: cables, radio, messengers.
  • Set up ambushes in order to delay the reinforcements in all the possible entry routes.
  • Kidnap all officials or agents of the Sandinista government and replace them in "public Places" with military or civilian persons of trust to our movement; in addition, carry out the following:
  • Establish a public tribunal that depends on the guerrillas, and cover the town or city in order to gather the population for this event.
  • Shame, ridicule and humiliate the "personal symbols" of the government of repression in the presence of the people and foster popular participation through guerrillas within the multitude, shouting slogans and jeers.
  • Reduce the influence of individuals in tune with the regime, pointing out their weaknesses and taking them out of the town, without damaging them publicly.
  • Mix the guerrillas within the population and show very good conduct by all members of the column, practicing the following:

Any article taken will be paid for with cash.

The hospitality offered by the people will be accepted and this opportunity will be exploited in order to carry out face-to-face persuasion about the struggle.

Courtesy visits should be made to the prominent persons and those with prestige in the place, such as doctors, priests, teachers, etc.

The guerrillas should instruct the population that with the end of the operative, and when the Sandinista repressive forces interrogate them, they may reveal EVERYTHING about the military operation carried out. For example, the type of weapons they use, ho many men arrived, from what direction they came and in what direction they left, in short, EVERYTHING.

In addition, indicate to the population that at meetings or in private discussion they can give the names of the Sandinista informants, who will be removed together with the other officials of the government of repression.

When a meeting is held, conclude it with a speech by one of the leaders of guerrilla political cadres (the most dynamic), which includes explicit references to:

The fact that the "enemies of the people" -- the officials or Sandinista agents -- must not be mistreated in spite of their criminal acts, although the guerrilla force may have suffered casualties, and that this is done due to the generosity of the Christian guerrillas.

Give a declaration of gratitude for the "hospitality" of the population, as well as let them know that the risks that they will run when the Sandinistas return are greatly appreciated.

The fact that the Sandinista regime, although it exploits the people with taxes, control of money, grains and all aspects of public life through associations, which they are forced to become part of, will not be able to resist the attacks of our guerrilla forces.

Make the promise to the people that you will return to ensure that the "leeches" of the Sandinista regime of repression will not be able to hinder our guerrillas from integrating with the population.

A statement repeated to the population to the effect that they can reveal everything about this visit of our commandos, because we are not afraid of anything or anyone, neither the Soviets nor the Cubans. Emphasize that we are Nicaraguans, that we are fighting for the freedom of Nicaragua and to establish a very Nicaraguan government.

4. Guerrilla Weapons Are The Strength of the People over an IllegalGovernment
The armed propaganda in populated areas does not give the impression that weapons are the power of the guerrillas over the people, but rather that the weapons are the strength of the people against a regime of repression. Whenever it is necessary to use armed force in an occupation or visit to a town or village, guerrillas should emphasize making sure that they:

  • Explain to the population that in the first place this is being done to protect them, the people, and not themselves.
  • Admit frankly and publicly that this is an "act of the democratic guerrilla movement," with appropriate explanations.
  • That this action, although it is not desirable, is necessary because the final objective of the insurrection is a free and democratic society, where acts of force are not necessary.
  • The force of weapons is a necessity caused by the oppressive system, and will cease to exist when the "forces of justice" of our movement assume control.

If, for example, it should be necessary for one of the advanced posts to have to fire on a citizen who was trying to leave the town or city in
which the guerrillas are carrying out armed propaganda or political proselytism, the following is recommended:

  • Explain that if that citizen had managed to escape, he would have alertednthe enemy that is near the town or city, and they could carry out acts of reprisal such as rapes, pillage, destruction, captures, etc., it this way terrorizing the inhabitants of the place for having given attention and hospitalities to the guerrillas of the town.
  • If a guerrilla fires at an individual, make the town see that he was an enemy of the people, and that they shot him because the guerrilla recognized as their first duty the protection of citizens.
  • The command tried to detain the informant without firing because he, like all Christian guerrillas, espouses nonviolence. Firing at the Sandinista informant, although it is against his own will, was necessary to prevent the repression of the Sandinista government against innocent people.
  • Make the population see that it was the repressive system of the regime that was the cause of this situation, what really killed the informer, and that the weapon fired was one recovered in combat against the Sandinista regime.
  • Make the population see that if the Sandinista regime had ended the repression, the corruption backed by foreign powers, etc., the freedom commandos would not have had to brandish arms against brother Nicaraguans, which goes against our Christian sentiments. If the informant hadn't tried to escape he would be enjoying life together with the rest of the population, because not have tried to inform the enemy. This death would have been avoided if justice and freedom existed in Nicaragua, which is exactly the objective of the democratic guerrilla.

5. Selective Use of Violence for Propagandistic Effects
It is possible to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets, such as court judges, mesta judges, police and State Security officials, CDS chiefs, etc. For psychological purposes it is necessary to gather together the population affected, so that they will be present, take part in the act, and formulate accusations against the oppressor. The target or person should be chosen on the basis of:

  • The spontaneous hostility that the majority of the population feels toward the target.
  • Use rejection or potential hatred by the majority of the population affected toward the target, stirring up the population and making them see all the negative and hostile actions of the individual against the people.
  • If the majority of the people give their support or backing to the target or subject, do not try to change these sentiments through provocation.
  • Relative difficulty of controlling the person who will replace the target. The person who will replace the target should be chosen carefully, based on:
    • Degree of violence necessary to carry out the change.
    • Degree of violence acceptable to the population affected.
    • Degree of predictable reprisal by the enemy on the population affected or other individuals in the area of the target. The mission to replace the individual should be followed by:
      • Extensive explanation within the population affected of the reason why it was necessary for the good of the people.
      • Explain that Sandinista retaliation is unjust, indiscriminate, and above all, a justification for the execution of this mission.
      • Carefully test the reaction of the people toward the mission, as well as control this reaction, making sure that the populations reaction is beneficial towards the Freedom Commandos.

6. Conclusions
Armed propaganda includes all acts executed and the impact achieved by an armed force, which as a result produces positive attitudes in the population toward this force, and it does not include forced indoctrination. However, armed propaganda is the most effective available instrument of a guerrilla force.

Self-Hemployed Social Stream