Put Your AK’s and Blasting Caps Away!: Thoughts on Urban Guerrilla Warfare Today

In the interest of full disclosure, I have always had this strange romance for the urban guerrilla groups of the 1970’s. Rather it be the Weather Underground (The Weathermen), the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army), The Black Liberation Army (BLA), or, in Europe, the RAF (Red Army Faction), in Germany, or the Red Brigades, in Italy, they have always appealed to me with their stories of fighting fire with fire against those in power. And having just gotten through the six-part CNN documentary, “The Radical Story of Patty Hearst” (must watch!), I thought this would be a good time to elaborate on the STL stances on violent revolution in explicit terms.

All the above groups took a violent stand against the state in order to spark a far-left revolution among the masses. The Weather Underground only committed bombings of symbolic buildings (e.g., the Pentagon), but the rest engaged in deadly bombings, shootings, assassinations, kidnappings, robberies, and prison breaks. They believed these actions would ignite “the people”, who were just kindling for them to light, and a radical leftist revolution would occur. But they were wrong.

They were in the wrong because they misjudged the stance and temperament of the average American/European. The SLA, the RAF, the BLA, etc., thought that if they just kicked things off, they would be met with great support by the people who were starving for revolution. They would conduct some deed(s) that would awaken them from the proletariat’s sense of “false consciousness” (see previous post) and begin the revolution. This resulted in these groups, barring the BLA, which was a violent splinter group of the Black Panthers, who were mostly made up of rich white college kids completely out of touch with the people. They had misjudged the mood of the population and failed in affecting the monumental, long term political change they desired

The young college kids on college campuses today need to learn this lesson before anything gets out of hand. Violence is not the answer right now. Take it from me, a college-educated piece of white trash living amongst the people today: It’s not where we’re at. And though it may feel good as an affect exercise by expressing your rage, this is not where the stand.

In short, that’s what I want you, any hotheaded radicals like myself out there, to learn from this post. Urban guerrilla tactics are not what we need right now. It would only be futile and could turn the people against our cause if we conduct our actions that way.

Che Guevara wrote that a guerrilla force must have at least 60% of the population in support of their cause to conduct a successful revolution. These 1970’s groups had only that much support among their fellow students at Berkeley.

Gramsci, Cultural Hegemony, and Why it’s So Vital for Our Liberation

Antonio Gramsci is one of the most influential Marxist thinkers of the twentieth-century (born Jan. 23, 1891, Ales, Sardinia, Italy—died April 27, 1937, Rome). Both an intellectual and a politician, he founded the Italian Communist Party. But after his party was outlawed by Benito Mussolini’s fascists, Gramsci was arrested and imprisoned (1926). At his trial the fascist prosecutor argued, “We must stop his brain from working for 20 years.” In prison, despite rigorous censorship, Gramsci carried out an extraordinary and wide-ranging historical and theoretical study of Italian society and possible strategies for change. Extracts of Gramsci’s prison writings were published for the first time in the mid-20th century; the complete Quaderni del carcere (Prison Notebooks) appeared in 1975.

Gramsci’s greatest contributionto the far-left theoretical tradition is his writings on hegemony, or, as laterdeemed, cultural hegemony. Though he did not label his concept under any onename at the time, his closest characterization of the idea was,

“…(T)he ‘spontaneous’consent given by the great masses of the population to the general directionimposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoysbecause of its position and function in the world of production.”

What that does all thatmean? With a further analysis of Gramsci’s work included, it means that thedominant group in society has been so instrumentally constructing a worldview intheir favor that it has become the ruling worldview, or culture, of our society.Those in charge have created a point-of-view that everyone perceives as the onlyway to see the world. And they have so accomplished this feat they have us believethat it is the natural order, not that it is just man-made. Therefore, we endup oppressing ourselves.

You could easily relate to a dominant hegemonic system like the “divine rights of kings” in which the people once believed that the aristocrats were in their position for God decided so. But that was the previous hegemonic culture. After the French Revolution and its spread of liberal ideals, the hegemonic culture became capitalism. That’s why Gramsci was so concerned with the concept: capitalism has engrained itself so deeply into our perception of reality, as created by the powerful, that the masses cannot think outside of it. People just believe that this is just how the world works and there are no options otherwise. Since the “divine right of kings” worldview is now replaced by a capitalist cultural hegemony, we perceive that period as incorrect. But it seemed just as valid during those times as capitalism does now.

The importance ofthe analysis of hegemony by Marxist theorists is that even though capitalism asinstilled into our every worldview, thereare alternatives, namely, radical leftism.  If we could just expose the people to adifferent, fairer, and the better ideology of socialism, communism, etc., wecan realize that another world is possible, and the hegemony of capitalism canbe discarded just as the divine rights of king was once discarded as false consciousness.

It will be very difficultfor the masses to ever think outside of the capitalist-created ideology withoutmuch hard work by activists and leaders. But let’s show the people thatcapitalism is not the world.