Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Harry E. Vanden, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Amen, Ph.D.


Mao, Castro, Guevara, insurgency, revolutionary theory, nationalism


Guerilla Warfare is a weapon of the weak; it is decisive only where the actor in power fails to commit adequate resources to the conflict. The Chinese and Cuban revolutions are examples of guerilla warfare success, albeit under different conditions and employment techniques; while Mao Tse-tung utilized decentralized guerilla warfare to indoctrinate and mobilize the masses of peasants for revolutionary struggle against a stronger enemy; Fidel Castro employed a more centralized approach to create the conditions necessary for popular support of the revolution. However, in both cases guerilla warfare was simply part of a pragmatic grand strategy to build nationalism across all classes of society. It is well known that revolutionary movements do not succeed where only one class of society is mobilized. As a result, both Mao and Castro designed dual strategies: an internal component focused on the peasant base; and an external component focused on a nationalistic appeal to all classes of society. In a revolutionary setting, the strong force of nationalism can cut across all segments of the population and strongly enable popular support for the insurgents.

Both revolutionary leaders skillfully managed the contradictions associated with their respective dual strategies - a difficult task indeed since the dual strategy is one of deception. This thesis will prove that through such a plan of action, Mao and Castro integrated efforts such as leadership and ideology, with the key ingredient of guerilla warfare, to create the conditions for the control of resources necessary to achieve ultimate victory.

Following revolutionary success, the experience of guerilla warfare and the dual strategy - particularly in Cuba - shaped the respective foreign policies within the context of a worldwide struggle against imperialism. Cuba has continued to refine the dual strategy in order to obtain international support and maintain the Castro regime in power. China eventually adopted a dual strategy of a different variety: the separation of economics from communist ideology. Although implementation of the dual strategy continues to the present day, it was the revolutionary process that not only validated the concept, but provided the credibility required to continue its execution.