From the Barrel of a Gun

Guerrilla warfare is always very much a roll of the dice. Depending on whether Lady Fortuna is smiling upon you or not is reflected upon your performance on the field of battle. Upon examination of many case studies throughout military history, several themes begin to emerge.



The author examines the history of guerrilla, revolutionary, and counter-insurgency warfare from the ancient Romans to the 1990s. From the War of Scottish Independence, to the Thirty Years War, to the Hundred Years War, to the French and Indian War, to the American Revolutionary War for Independence, to the French Revolution, to the War for Southern Independence, to the Franco-Prussian War, to the Murid War, to World War I, to World War II, to the Chinese Revolution, and to Vietnam and beyond, there is literally no shortage of guerrilla wars or even guerrilla engagements within larger wars. Obviously, this demonstrates that guerrilla warfare stretches throughout all of human history.

Ellis does not think that guerrilla warfare is a reliable method for either expunging invaders or seizing political power. While it excels at harassing and embarrassing the armed thugs of the mainstream regime, direct military engagements were rare determinants of success on the part of the guerrillas since they were always aided by other variables, such as the aid of regular troops. Other times it was not military assistance, but more of a foreign or diplomatic flavor. Roving guerrilla bands were less successful than those who had a reliably secure base area that they could always retreat to when they needed to rest and regroup. Most importantly, the guerrillas absolutely required popular support from the people; without that, it would be best to avoid the contest of arms against a superior force altogether. To further reinforce grassroots approval, the guerrillas needed to instill both a sense of class unity and nationalism, tying those qualities to their cause so as to maintain autonomous, bottom-up infrastructure as much as possible.

Segregated independent areas lack a central focal point for imperial forces to damage, yet simultaneously lack the very same ability to mobilize their own guerrilla forces in concentrated attacks on the enemy. What is needed to overcome this natural limitation is a strong politico-military organization, that is, a long-term stable mindset that enables efforts to continue and not be halted by either a local victory or defeat, but instead promote a steady plod against the enemy. This organization also reinforces other essential variables, such as class unity within the base area and emergent nationalism outside the contested areas of battle.

The most successful guerrilla wars were ones where guerrilla activity was used a method of overcoming inertia at the beginning of hostilities as a way of buying time until regular military forces were established. This is unavoidably necessary not only because the whole point of warfare is to kill people and break things, but also because it serves as the backbone upon which to seize and/or establish the power of the State. Premature regularization of one’s forces is worse than not transitioning from guerrilla warfare at all, for you are placing all your eggs in one basket before the institutional stability is there, which makes it all the more easy for the enemy to annihilate your forces. Also, it is foolish to permanently abandon guerrilla forces even after regularization has been achieved, since there is always a place for guerrillas to fight alongside the regulars. In the unfortunate event that the regular forces are resoundingly decimated, the irregular (guerrilla) forces then function as a sort of reserve corps with which to carry on the torch of the cause, at least until such time that a regular army can be rebuilt.

It cannot be overemphasized that guerrilla warfare is a hierarchically horizontal effort by the general population at large to throw off the yoke of oppression. Foolish indeed would be on the part of the guerrilla leadership to regulate socio-economic and political considerations as secondary to the military ones, especially given that the military capabilities of the guerrillas themselves are a direct result of these essential aspects of the overall effort. As Ellis puts it:

“Power may grow out of the barrel of a gun, but one must first persuade people to take up that gun, care for it, hump it around for years in the most desolate regions, and then to stand firm and pull the trigger. To do that needs much more than mere military expertise.”

It must be kept in mind that this is mostly a book of military history, so virtually all of this work is simply one detailed case study after another. For all intents and purposes, Chapter 10, which is titled, “From Guerrilla War to People’s War: An Overview” is by far the most important chapter of Ellis’ book since it truly is the most dedicated portion that is more based on military science (to be fair, the observable patterns and principles of military science are extracted from the many case histories provided by military history). As a history book, much like Albion’s Seed or Paul Revere’s Ride, the point is not to teach you how to specifically do something (such as how to survive and preferably avoid prison, as detailed in You Are Going to Prison), but to tell you what happened before; ideally, your intention upon learning historical facts are to avoid the mistakes and emulate the successes so as to shorten your own personal learning curve.

Speaking of winning hearts and minds as an unavoidably necessary prerequisite to armed conflict, it is clear to me that this is why the infowar is considered by many dissidents as so vitally necessary; either it will mystically solve everything peaceably (thus avoiding the inevitable property damage and loss of life that would occur once combat operations commence against the Establishment) or it will help establish the social capital (i.e. trust) that the guerrillas will require from the mass population in order to function even halfway decently. The original purpose of the alternative media was to elicit sympathy from the populace by laying the grounds for armed insurrection should conditions deteriorate to that point; of course, the Patriot Rockstars within the Carnival of Distractions have now made it a point that anyone who “advocates for violence” (which is a purposefully vague and demonizing phrase) is somehow controlled opposition without any sort of definitive proof to back up those claims (such as providing the identity of their handler or the handler’s agency and particularly any evidence of payment or the specific terms of a plea agreement). Such rhetoric only serves to assist the Establishment by discrediting ahead of time those who are willing to do more than simply whine and bitch about government tyranny.

Political dissidents would do well to read John Ellis’ From the Barrel of a Gun: A History of Guerrilla, Revolutionary, and Counter-Insurgency Warfare, from the Romans to the Present. For a history book, it does a spell-bounding job of demonstrating how men, who were finely tuned to the harsh realities of the world, dealt with tyrants, lest they resigned themselves to slavery. It would behoove all of us to learn and apply the principles illustrated in the attempt to secure our own Liberties.

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