Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara is the book of standards and tactics for guerrilla warfare for the 1960s. Guevara needs no introduction. He is either loved or hated with very few people not taking sides.
Although dated in terms of weapons and the lay of the land after fifty years, the book still holds value. Technology has certainly changed. The Chiapas rebels made history by using the internet to promote their cause. Live Twitter feeds now give worldwide coverage to rebellions and protests. Much has changed since Guevara’s days of messengers and carrier pigeons. What makes this book interesting is what makes the guerrilla. When I joined the Marines in the early 1980s, I remember reading through the pre-boot camp material while on the delayed entry program. It explained what it is to be a Marine. How I would be trained to be a cut above the military servicemen around the world. We trained and acted on a higher standard. There was a build up to being a Marine. The idea was to psych you up for the challenge.
Guevara seems to follow the same path. Guerrilla fighters were morally superior to the oppressors. They were to treat the local population with respect and prove to the population that they were the good guys. When engaging the enemy, prisoners were not to be taken. There were to be lectured on the error of their ways and released. Injured enemies were to be given medical treatment. Again, the move was made to appear to be the bigger person, but it was also a very practical move. Guerrillas were in no position to create and run prisoner camps. Guerrilla warfare’s intent was to wear down the opponents to a tipping point to where the population would feel motivated to join en mass. A captured and released soldier might be less willing to put his life on the line for a second time.
This book still contains practical information. Engage the enemy only when you know you will win. Always make sure that when you engage the enemy, that you will capture enough ammunition to replace what was expended. Keep civilian casualties at a minimum; these are your allies and when acts of sabotage are needed, carry them out where they hurt the enemy and not the local population. Do not blow up a soft drink factory; it serves no military purpose concentrate on what feeds you enemy: Power plants, ammunition factories, and places that produce war material.
Guerrilla Warfare is an idealist type of book. It instructs on what makes a guerrilla a hero and leaves out what happens when things go wrong. It is written to make fighting an oppressor morally right and a noble cause. Guevara insists that outside government forces and influence should be kept out of the struggle. Why change from one master for another? In keeping with that theme, he does not mention communism or socialism. Interesting too, Yankee and Soviets are only mentioned twice. America, when used, refers to the hemisphere and not the US. A dated read in technology, but the marketing it still rings true. Selling an idea is not much different from selling a product. Perhaps Che was a bit more of a capitalist than he thought.