Congress Documents explains the following regarding the socialist people's war as the strategy of the revolution: "In terms of socio-economic structure, Turkey-North Kurdistan is capitalist. Accordingly, our revolution strategy is the socialist People’s War strategy." (p. 97) And this is how the content of this strategy is filled: "... [I]n the strategy of the socialist People's War, guerrilla warfare will also be considered as an important and major power, however it will be carried out in coordination with the mass uprising. This can be considered or understood as rural-urban dialectic." At a further point, the following is written: "Our revolution strategy is the Socialist People's War Strategy. The Socialist People's War Strategy (SPWS) is distinct from the People's War Strategy that is valid in semi-colonial / semi-feudal social systems." (p. 100)
Thus, the Congress Documents claim that the new democratic revolution phase is replaced by the socialist revolution phase; that therefore in the new phase the people's war strategy that is valid at the new democratic revolution phase is also replaced by the socialist revolution model and accordingly the people's way strategy is replaced by "the Socialist People's War Strategy, which is a particular revolution strategy and a new type of unity of guerrilla warfare and mass uprising forms." (p. 100)
At a further point, it is stated that the socialist people's war strategy "is also distinct from the mass uprising strategy, which is the strategy of classic socialist revolution." And according their strategy, they focus on large cities, where the masses of people are concentrated. These cities "are chosen as the main struggle areas, where within the process of revolutionary war, from small to large in military context, general people's uprising shall be developed. The revolutionary war shall be carried out through the means of Partisan People's Forces (PPF), which shall insure the development of the people's uprising and the establishment and the institutionalization of the revolutionary power organs." (p. 100)
Confusion about the nature of the revolution makes itself felt also on this matter. It seems that although they are trying to stand on the ground of "mass uprising," they are still not able to entirely break away from the requirements of the previous stage of the revolution, from people's war. Even though they are trying to make steps on the path of "mass uprising," their hands still hold on to people's war - even if in the meanwhile they are diluting, distorting, and caricaturizing the people's war in order to fit it to their theory. Thus, what they are advocating is neither mass uprising nor people's war.
The revolution experiences of the 20th century distinguish two revolution strategies. One of these is exemplified by Russia and the other is exemplified by China. In the first type, revolution was carried out from the cities to the countryside and in the second one from the countryside to the cities. However, an overwhelming majority of revolution practices in the 20th century relied on the countryside rather than the cities and in the countryside; they again relied on villages rather than cities. With the exception of Russia, throughout the last century, revolution strictly followed a route that surrounded cities from the countryside. And this strategy has proven itself passing through the test of time, becoming a worldwide practice and setting trend in the 20th century.
Mao concluded new theses and formulations, summing it all up as MLM, in the light of lessons that it drew from the revolution practices of China and other revolutions. These two revolution strategies were analyzed by Mao with a deep clarity, contributing to their universality. His article titled "Problems of War and Strategy” dated November 6, 1938, forms a foundation in presenting the theory that is fully competent in terms of revolution strategies.
In this important article, Mao states that the seizure of power by force of arms is the foremost task and the highest form of revolution, especially emphasizing the universal validity of this Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution. At one point in this article, Mao underlines that, "while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to the varying conditions.” (Mao, Selected Works II, p. 23) [https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_12.htm]
He goes on further in this article to analyze the paths of revolution by the distinction of capitalist and semi-colonial, semi-feudal: "Internally, capitalist countries practice bourgeois democracy (not feudalism) when they are not fascist or not at war; in their external relations, they are not oppressed by, but themselves oppress, other nations. Because of these characteristics, it is the task of the party of the proletariat in the capitalist countries to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism. In these countries, the question is one of a long legal struggle, of utilizing parliament as a platform, of economic and political strikes, of organizing trade unions and educating the workers. There the form of organization is legal and the form of struggle bloodless (non-military). On the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries; if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries. The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing. But this insurrection and war should not be launched until the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, until the majority of the proletariat is determined to rise in arms and fight, and until the rural masses are giving willing help to the proletariat. And when the time comes to launch such an insurrection and war, the first step will be to seize the cities, and then advance into the countryside' and not the other way about. All this has been done by Communist Parties in capitalist countries, and it has been proved correct by the October Revolution in Russia.
China is different however. The characteristic of China are that she is not independent and democratic but semi-colonial and semi-feudal, that internally she has no democracy but is under feudal oppression and that in her external relations she has no national independence but is oppressed by imperialism. It follows that we have no parliament to make use of and no legal right to organize the workers to strike. Basically, the task of the Communist Party here is not to go through a long period of legal struggle before launching insurrection and war, and not to seize the big cities first and then occupy the countryside, but the reverse.
All this shows the difference between China and the capitalist countries. In China war is the main form of struggle and the army is the main form of organization. Other forms such as mass organization and mass struggle are also extremely important and indeed indispensable and in no circumstances to be overlooked, but their purpose is to serve the war. Before the outbreak of a war all organization and struggle are in preparation for the war, as in the period from the May 4th Movement of 1919 to the May 30th Movement of 1925. After war breaks out, all organization and struggle are coordinated with the war either directly or indirectly." (Ibid, p. 222-23) [https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_12.htm]
The long passage above was necessary to indicate how Mao carefully distinguishes two different struggle and organization models according to two different socio-economic structures, one being the capitalist countries and the other one semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries such as China.
If the concerned country is a capitalist country and if the country does not happen to go through some special circumstances such as war or fascism, the principle of seizing the political power through the means of force would not be applied until the very last stage of the revolutionary process. Strategy of communist parties of such countries is, in preparation of the final uprising, to wage a long period of legal struggle, to gather strength, to educate the workers, to employ the parliament as an arena of class struggle, to turn unions into ranks of resistance against the reactionary forces of capitalism, and thus to prepare the class for the insurgency, to organize, to do widespread mass work. In such countries, the last blow, mass uprising, would be carried out only after having utilized all grounds that were available under the bourgeois democracy. And even then, it would be utilized only when the subjective forces and objective forces are in concordance with each other, favouring the revolutionary moment.
This means that, in these countries until the ultimate limit, until the moment of uprising, the main form of struggle is not military, it is bloodless and the form of organization is legal. And military line of the revolution here is "to surround the countryside from the cities.
At its First Congress, the MKP was saying the following about the theory that is being negated now by its Third Congress: "In summary, the revolution strategy of People's War cannot be simplified down to only a military line or to ‘besiege the cities from the countryside.’ It is the general strategy and political line of the New Democratic Revolution." (Ideology: Marxism Leninism Maoism, p. 37.)
The same congress said also the following: "...People's War is neither only a struggle by itself, an organization and form of getting organized nor a form of war that can be simply described as a military war. It is the synthesis of all of these. (Ibid., p. 94)
And much worse, again at the same Congress Documents [of the First Congress], it was also them claiming to have reached a higher level of consciousness with the latest developments about People's War. (Ibid., p. 93)
Above all, the MKP's socialist people's war strategy dilutes the people's war. One cannot get away simply by stating that the kind of socialist people's war that they advocate is different than the strategy that is promoted for semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries. People's war strategy is unique; it is specific to semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries. It is a concrete enough reality that the content of which cannot be changed by simply putting the word "socialist" before it.
In semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries, people's war is the formidable way of overthrowing bourgeois-feudal fascism and seizing the political power from the counter-revolutionary classes, which are the social basis for imperialism. However, it should be underlined that in these countries not every direct "from below" initiative of the masses or their "revolutionary force" amounts to a people's war.
In order for a revolutionary armed struggle to be considered a "people's war", it must carry the following characteristics:
Firstly, it is required that this revolutionary armed struggle rests on "the strategy of protracted war." In semi-colonial, semi-feudal country where the enemy is strong and the forces of the revolution are weaker but this strength-weakness equilibrium can be reversed with correct policies. Moreover, despite the fact that the enemy is initially stronger, it does inevitably have some vulnerability just as the forces of the revolution are initially weaker but they do possess certain superior aspects. In other words, neither the weakness nor the strength of any side is absolute. They are all relative, temporary, and conditional. Throughout the protracted revolutionary war strategy and with a correct political line, strong aspects of the enemy shall gradually erode away while its weaknesses shall increase and the weaknesses and disadvantages of the forces of revolution shall be remedied while their few superior aspects shall be made more, eventually determining the course of the struggle.
Naturally, the protracted character of the war is determined by the situations of both sides in regards to each other and by the reciprocal relations of factors that affecting both sides. Offensives and mobilizations that give quick results are a necessary condition of the protracted war strategy.
Secondly, one of the essential components of the protracted war strategy is the establishment of red political base areas. Red base areas constitute the embryo state of the future Democratic People's Power. At the initial phases of the struggle, the enemy is at first stronger and relentless. Against the stronger and well-equipped enemy, revolutionary forces are weaker and badly equipped. However, the enemy is reactionary and wages an unjust war, whereas the forces of the revolution wage a just and progressive war. This equation of the opposites, the unity of the opposites, throughout a protracted war strategy can be reversed. With a correct line and policy, weak revolutionary forces can step by step, from the small to the big, be developed and the red base areas, established in the depths of countryside, would emerge as a constant character and indispensable basis of this process.
Base areas are a "must" for the sustenance of the protracted war as the enemy's terms of war are brutal and ruthless. It would not be possible to defeat the enemy forces in urban areas, where they are the most established, most powerful, and shielded with a tightly knit safety net. Therefore, the conditions of semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries prescribe that the forces of the revolution first establish revolutionary base areas in the depths of the countryside, which is the underbelly of the enemy and where the balance of power is in favour of the revolutionary forces.
These are the rear fronts where the guerrillas and other revolutionary forces get a chance to breath, recuperate their strength, and continue with the training. For the revolutionary forces, base areas are the military, economic, political, and cultural establishments and growth spheres. In Mao's words, base areas "are the strategic bases on which the guerrilla forces rely in performing their strategic tasks and achieving the object of preserving and expanding themselves and destroying and driving out the enemy." (Selected Works II, p. 88) [http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_08.htm]
Thirdly, people's war leans on the foundation of surrounding the cities from the countryside. This is a component of the first two aspects. Therefore, this, too, is a direct consequence of the country's semi-colonial, semi-feudal status. Balance of power between the revolutionary forces and the counter-revolution forces is in such a configuration that in the countryside it is in favour of revolutionary forces whereas in the cities it is in favour of the enemy forces. Protracted war strategy rests on the social base of peasants and the guerrilla constitutes the backbone of the armed revolutionary struggle. Consequently, our revolution is a peasant war in essence and sees the countryside as the areas in which to train, develop, recuperate, mobilize, gather and distribute its forces. As Mao had underlined, "Basically, the task of the Communist Party here is not to go through a long period of legal struggle before launching insurrection and war, and not to seize the big cities first and then occupy the countryside, but the reverse." (Ibid, p. 222) [https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_12.htm] The Strategy of surrounding the cities from the countryside is directly linked to the Democratic People's Power. Since the revolution's basic content is the agrarian revolution, it is essentially a revolution of the peasantry, and its skeleton is composed of the army, which is again based in the countryside, it is then natural and necessary that such a revolution follows a development line that grows from the countryside towards the cities.
Fourthly, the protracted war strategy sees the Communist Party and the leadership of the proletariat as an essential condition of the revolutionary war. The proletariat and the Communist Party is the sole basis of achieving a successful revolution. If the proletariat, through its party, does not lead the processes of the preparation for the revolution, carrying out the revolution, and after the revolution, then for this revolutionary struggle achieving success is just an illusion. That is why Mao had stressed that "Revolution is the sole to victory in the revolution." [http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/download/mao01.pdf]
It was again him stating the following, "In this era, any revolutionary war will definitely end in defeat if it lacks, or runs counter to, the leadership of the proletariat and the Communist Party." (Ibid, p. 246) [https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_12.htm]
Elsewhere, he also wrote: "Given a big country, guerrilla warfare is possible; hence there was guerrilla warfare in the past too. But guerrilla warfare can be persevered in only when led by the Communist Party. That is why guerrilla warfare generally failed in the past and why it can be victorious only in modern times and only in big countries in which Communist Parties have emerged, as in the Soviet Union during its civil war and in China at present." (Ibid, p.233) [https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_12.htm] This feature is also the fundamental condition for continuing to fight along a revolutionary line. Moreover, this is the key that distinguishes the revolutionary armed struggle from any other armed struggle, the people's guerrilla war from any other guerrilla war. A guerrilla warfare can be successfully sustained and can open the path to the victory only under the leadership of the Communist Party. Otherwise, it will get buried in the depths of history without even capturing a relative success. There are various guerrilla warfare based revolutionary struggles that have reached to current days but alas without any sustainable victory and revolution. The lack of a Communist Party is the main reason for this failure. Similarly, this is the main reason also for some revolutions that took place via this strategy and yet ended up shrinking and degenerating or becoming a satellite of imperialism. The leadership of the proletariat through the Communist Party is an indispensable condition and a continuous character in order to grow roots in guerrilla warfare, to march towards the victory, and to sustain it.
No armed struggle can be called a people's war unless it fulfils every one of these requirements. A people's war in its real sense is the war of the entire people, in which the main forces with the local forces, armed forces with the unarmed masses, the regular army with the people's defence detachments and the people's militia forces are fused into each other.
People's war is a military strategy and integral collective of tactics, which employs fluid battle lines as opposed to fixed fronts and methods of guerrilla attacks on and destructions of outer lines of enemy forces via broad and mobile fronts as opposed to the positional warfare that is based on deep trenches, high fortifications, and consecutively lined up defensive positions.
Moreover, people's war bases its protracted war strategy on the mastering of the art of directing war and maximal employment of the active role of people through the mobile guerrilla warfare. Within this protracted warfare, superiorities of the enemy and the weaknesses of the revolutionary forces are seen as relative. As the people's war grows from the small to the large, from the simple to the complex, and from being weak to becoming strong, it reaches the top of the ladder step by step.
People's war is the counterpart of the regular warfare. Positional warfare is based on fixed fronts, deep trenches, and high fortifications. However, people's war (more accurately put, prolonged, scattered people's guerrilla warfare) is based on fluent base areas and mobile battle lines. People's war is the irregular warfare of the orderly army and guerrilla forces.
As it is well known, the revolutionary war that was waged in China was essentially guerrilla warfare. Upon carefully reviewing Mao's Military Writings, one shall notice that instead of the term "people's war", terms such as "protracted warfare", " protracted warfare strategy", “protracted and scattered people's guerrilla warfare", "flexible and extensive guerrilla warfare", "mobile warfare", "guerrilla warfare" and so on are more often used. Instead of people's war as a military term, Mao emphasizes the term of protracted war strategy and places the prolonged, scattered people's guerrilla warfare within this strategy.
The MKP, however, in its Third Congress, has introduced both the mass uprising and the guerrilla warfare within its strategy of socialist people's war and named this configuration as the rural-urban dialectic. It does not help, however, that they attempt to load a great meaning to it through the formulation called the Partisan People's Forces. The strategy of people's war is not based on mass insurgency. In this regard, efforts to merge the guerrilla warfare and the mass uprising inevitably would end up being a "coordinated warfare". Ultimately, this is the double revolution strategy. If this is chosen as the strategy of revolution, philosophically it cannot be called "monism" but "dualism". It is an attempt to punch both sides with one fist; to carry two heads in one body; to carry two watermelons under one arm. Moreover, employment of statements such as "general armament of the people from the small to the big" throughout the revolutionary war process with the densely populated cities taken as the main struggle areas stands contrary to the thesis laid out in Marxist classics, especially contrary to the relevant thesis of Marx and Lenin.
What does it mean a military line of from the small to the big in Istanbul, for example? The Documents state, "An armed struggle from the very beginning and knitting this stitch by stitch in the cities and the countryside with the perspective of a revolutionary army have been revealed as a historical necessity." (p. 101)
This perspective can be understandable in terms of the countryside. However, in terms of the cities, it forces the limits of imagination. In that sense it is an extreme left sectarian approach that entirely ignores the conditions of the city and disregards the mass uprising strategy and the previous experiences.
This is "the theoretical synthesis" they have reached, as the MKP puts it. The Documents state "Of course, this synthesis, namely the unity of the mass uprising and the guerrilla warfare is different from both the classic form of mass uprisings and the classic form of guerrilla warfare and it is a new style corresponding to its own conditions and peculiarities." (P.102) Such a discourse of the extreme left does not coincide with the reality of the city where the counter-revolution is the most powerful and neither can such a strategy be called people's war.
In this regard, the MKP's imaginary concept of people's war, the content that it introduces to this concept and especially the new meaning that it sticks on people's war by putting the word socialist at the beginning, only caricaturises people’s war. There is neither a drop of Maoism nor an inkling of logic in the theory that the MKP introduces under the name of socialist people's war strategy.
A few decades ago, Kaypakkaya had clearly explained the question: "The strategy of 'encircling the cities from the rural areas' is not only dependent on the existence of feudalism and peasants constituting a majority of the population. It is at the same time linked to being a semi-colony or colony of imperialism. In a country under the actual occupation of imperialism, the national revolution (regardless of the existence of feudalism or the peasant population in that country) will develop essentially from the countryside to the cities, as the occupying imperialist forces will initially seize the country’s large cities, main roads and communications etc..., but will not be able to control the broad rural areas. Semi-colonial countries are countries under the semi-occupation of imperialism. In such countries, although imperialism maintains its domination primarily by means of native reactionary classes, it offers support to them through its bases, facilities, troops, fleets, weapons aid... For this reason the strategy of ‘encircling the cities from the countryside’ in semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries is not just due to the existence of feudalism and to the fact that peasants constitute the majority of the population, but also to the semi-occupation of imperialism. What is peculiar to semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries is that the national revolution against imperialism and the democratic revolution, the essence of which is the agrarian revolution against feudalism, are merged into each other. The degree of existence of feudalism and the proportion of the population consisting of peasants (these things are interconnected) will influence the programme of the democratic revolution but will not change the strategy of “encirclement of the cities”." (Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, All Writings, Umut Publishing p. 443, 445)
In the following pages, Kaypakkaya continues as follows: "In summary: the thing that determines the strategy of 'encircling the cities from the countryside' is that the relationship of forces between the revolution and the counter-revolution is, more in favour of the revolution in the villages, relative to the cities. The weakest link in the chain of counter revolution is in the rural areas. Consequently, the revolution front is stronger in these areas." (Ibid, p. 445)
And he concludes: "Even in the event of a gradual dissolution of feudalism and the shrinking of the peasant population linked to it, this strategy will still be valid."