Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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Helmut
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Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Helmut » Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:37 am

Servus,
I have noticed that whenever writers refer to Yugoslavia, the resistance is called "Partisans;" in France, the Resistance or "Maquis;" and in some other countries, "guerillas."

So what exactly is the difference? And while we're at it, what is the meaning of "maquis?"

Thanks in advance for your help.

regards,

Helmut

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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Apr 04, 2011 5:35 pm

Well, technically speaking - in English, a "partisan" is someone who supports one argument, creed or political belief. You can be "A" partisan, or "partisan" in your beliefs....and hence someone holding two opinions on a given topic or seeing and accepting both sides in an argument is "bipartisan". So you COULD legitimately call Tito's Communist guerillas in Yugoslavia Partisans in the classic sense :wink:

Maquis has a VERY specific meaning, as you can see - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maquis_(World_War_II) It's only one element of the overall French Resistance Movement with its many creeds, divisions, infighting and feuds :?

The main feature of the Maquis were that they were permanently constituted, rather than being embedded in the population and only "coming out to play" when needed. As such, they suffered VERY badly; that article doesn't make much mention of it, but a LOT of the early Maquisards were also French servicemen who took to the bush in places like the Jura to evade capture.

The Maquis bands lived a VERY precarious existence. They went almost permanently hungry, and suffered VERY badly from illness and injury with little or no access to medical care, uniforms fell to pieces, lack of winter clothing and shelter on the margins of existence etc., etc...
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Helmut » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:34 am

Thank you, phylo.

Very infomative.

It was just that you never hear of Tito's forces being called guerillas or French forces ever called partisans, although I guess ineffect, strictly speaking they are all partisans, guerillas, resistance.

Thanks for your help.

Regards,

Helmut

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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by nigelfe » Sat Apr 16, 2011 10:09 pm

IIRC the Soviet term for their's was partisan and that all German publications refer to partisan, no matter which of their occuppied countries they were in. That said there are to German words for partisan, anhanger and parteiganger (there's an umlaut over the second a in both), and there may be some different nuances between them.

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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Hans » Sun Apr 17, 2011 5:57 pm

Bottom line = Terrorists/Insurgents in todays parlance.
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Tom Houlihan » Mon Apr 18, 2011 6:13 am

Hans wrote:Bottom line = Terrorists/Insurgents in todays parlance.
That may well be true, but it depends upon where you stand. As they say, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter! Well, at least that's what it said in that college class I took! :[]
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Hans » Mon Apr 18, 2011 5:14 pm

All to true Tom. Most of the German documents I have refer to these ladies and gentlemen as "Terroristen". The allies called them heroes. The locals for the most part called them criminals of the worst type. Nothing much has changed.

Today the allies in their oil & drug wars call them terrorists, where only a little while ago they armed them and called them heroes. The other side calls them heroes, where only a short time ago they called them terrorists and the locals still for the most part consider them to be criminals of the worst type. Go figure.
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:01 am

Well...technically there IS a difference between a Terorist and an Insurgent...

A Terrorist hopes to bring his enemy to the negotiating table for whatever end by the expedient of making ALL the security arrangements required to maintain "normal" live in a particular nation too expensive to bear longterm. Their aim to to carry out the minimum level of violence and violent acts that requires a government to EITHER keep up spending the money day after day after month after year....or grant them whatever they're asking for. In other words....it's about making Joe Public feel "terror" when thinking about or going about their normal day-today...and THEY, as voters, demanding their government protect themj OR come to terms.

An Insurgency however...is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority (for example, an authority recognized as such by the United Nations) when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. An insurgency can be fought via counter-insurgency warfare, and may also be opposed by measures to protect the population, and by political and economic actions of various kinds aimed at undermining the insurgents' claims against the incumbent regime. But it relies at heart on offensive operations - whether violent or non-violent - not the mere THREAT of them :shock: It can as you see often be combatted in the same way...

But the difference is insurgents attempt to do the MOST they can do...whereas terrorists aim to do the minimum they need! :D
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Tom Houlihan » Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:31 am

phylo_roadking wrote:But the difference is insurgents attempt to do the MOST they can do...whereas terrorists aim to do the minimum they need!
So, then... A terr is basically a lazy insurgent!

I understand what you wrote, Phylo, but your explanation is more of the one that's developed over the past 40-50 years of rising terrorism. I was trying to think WWII when I wrote my comments. You're right, of course, but what is viewed as terrorism today isn't quite the same as 70 years ago, IMHO.
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:09 pm

I was trying to think WWII when I wrote my comments. You're right, of course, but what is viewed as terrorism today isn't quite the same as 70 years ago, IMHO.
Well, think of it THIS way - in WWII the particular use of reference terms was partly propaganda! :wink:

The Germans weren't going to admit there was an active, relatively well organised insurgency, are they??? :D :D :D To minimise the problem for public consumption....as if anyone was really listening to them!!!!...the Resistance in ALL its flavours - and wherever it occured - was ALWAYS portrayed as JUST "terrorists" I.E relatively UN-organised, no ability to mount a cohesive campaign or apply organised, cohesive pressure...

It was about public opinion manipulation. Just a pity about all those loyal French people listening to the BBC every night! :up:
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by mconrad » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:49 am

Suprisingly, or perhaps not, the Russian experience with terminology is not without interest. Firstly, they took the western European term "partisan" and used it as far back as 1812 to describe cavalry units conducting deep penetration raids and harrassments of the retreating French, which operations continued into 1813 and 1814 in Germany all the way to Paris. The participation of the local population only occured in 1812 in Russia proper, and was limited because the locals didn't move far from their native villages and weren't mounted. The same word "Partisan" was used by Soviet Russia for all the guerilla activities of World War II.

As for "terror," doesn't the current usage go directly back to the second half of the 19th century in Russia, when such movements as the People's Will conducted avowedly "terrorist" campaigns as a political insurgency within the country? It is interesting that those 19th-century terror campaigns were not like 20th-21st-century suicide bombers, hijackers, or hostage takers. In 19th-century Russia the targets were active government officials, the higher placed the better. (Alexander II, anyone?) The terrorists, whether they intended to or not - I don't know - enjoyed much public support that would probably have evaporated if they tried things like bombing city marketplaces.

Such surgical targeting was the norm for 1880-1910 Russian terrorism, but I'll play my own devil's advocate by admitting that there were excecptions: the bombing of the Winter Palace and I think some train wrecks. The nature of those terrorist acts - aimed at the tsar himself - ensured a lot of collateral casualites.

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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by Helmut » Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:22 pm

Lot's of good info here.

Thanks

Helmut

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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by PaulJ » Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:13 am

This is a problem fraught issue. 9/11 prompted a determined but it now appears ultimately unsuccessful widespread international effort to define terrorism. For an excellent summary, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_(definitions_of)

Having said that, I would argue that current usage (note, not WWII) in practice (amongst Western militaries at any rate) differentiates more-or-less as follows (source: my professional experience, particularly in Afghanistan, summarized off the top of my head):

Terrorism: attack on civilians meant to terrorise them in order to further a political agenda. Illegal under the terms of both criminal law and the law of armed conflict. Think bombs set off in public places by "cells" of persons hiding amongst the populace (ie not openly bearing arms).

Insurgency: covert attack on the organs of government authority in attempt to overthrow said government. Almost certainly illegal under the local criminal law, but not *NECESSARILY* illegal under the law of armed conflict. Think ambushes of government troops out in the countryside by armed bands.

Note that insurgents can (in principle at least) conduct themselves in accordance with the law of armed conflict (if they openly bear arms, and discriminate in their attacks, targeting only government armed forces), whereas terrorists are illegal under every legal regime (hence the intense argument as to what makes one a terrorist). In practice, however, insurgencies often make use of "terrorist" tactics, as well as what one might call "guerrilla" tactics. For example, the Taliban in Afghanistan tend to have bands of armed men out in the hills, who fight the government and ISAF troops, more-or-less in the style of the classic "mujahedin"; as well as "terrorist" type cells of covert actors in towns, bombing, assassinating, and dropping what we called "night letters" amongst the local populace. The two groups are clearly not water-tight compartments, but (I would argue) they are reasonably distinct.

As a coda, I would argue that the term "guerillas" is generally used to refer to insurgents, often sponsored by an outside state as part of a wider armed conflict. "Partisan" is interesting in that it has essentially fallen completely out of use. Historically, it was used as a Slavic/East European term for communist sponsored or sympathetic insurgents or guerillas behind German lines. One might suspect that it is because of that communist association that the term has fallen out of use, following the fall of communism itself. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partisan_(military)

In summary:

"terrorist" = civilian on civilian attack that is not legal under the law of armed conflict or civilian criminal law; and
"insurgent"/"guerilla"/"partisan" = irregular groups, but ones who are engaged in what international law would recognize as an armed conflict, and could conduct their efforts in accordance with the law of armed conflict (if they have a recognizable organizational structure, openly bear arms, and discriminate in their attacks only against legitimate targets, i.e. armed forces)
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Re: Partisans, Guerillas, and Resistance

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:24 pm

As a coda, I would argue that the term "guerillas" is generally used to refer to insurgents, often sponsored by an outside state as part of a wider armed conflict. "Partisan" is interesting in that it has essentially fallen completely out of use. Historically, it was used as a Slavic/East European term for communist sponsored or sympathetic insurgents or guerillas behind German lines. One might suspect that it is because of that communist association that the term has fallen out of use, following the fall of communism itself. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partisan_(military)
Paul - I think it's a bit more basic than that ;) Think of it this way - look at the Russian/Soviet example again...

There, in WWII, Russians not formally formated as members/units of the Red Army fought behind the lines I.E. they supported ONE SIDE in the conflict - the classic meaning of "Partisan"...

But since WWII - how many actions of that nature have there actually been? Fullscale wars with recognised guerilla warfare going on behind one's enemy's lines by francs-tireurs in support of one side?

In modern guerilla actions or insurgencies.....the guerillas/insurgents ARE one whole "side" of the fight! :wink: The nearest "partisan" campaign for many years was actually the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong fought their insurgency (partly) in support of the NVA...tho' often for themselves. In effect they wavered between being partisans and insurgents! :idea:
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