Stalin: Strategy is the determination of the direction of the main blow of the proletariat at a given stage of the revolution, the elaboration of a corresponding plan for the disposition of the revolutionary forces (main and secondary reserves), the fight to carry out this plan throughout the given stage of the revolution.
Strategy is not something constant, fixed once and for all. It alters in accordance with the turns in history, or with historic changes. With each separate turn in history a separate strategic plan is drawn up corresponding to that turn, and effective during the whole period from that turn to the next. Strategy defines the direction of the main blow to be delivered by the revolutionary forces and the corresponding disposition of the vast masses on the social front. Naturally, a strategic plan suitable for one period of history, which has its own specific features, cannot be suitable for another period of history, which has entirely different specific features.
For a long while during the period of capitalist development, when the capitalist class was still a progressive class, Marx and Engels remarked that the immediate task faced by the revolutionary socialists was to organize the broad masses of workers to fight for reforms. These are reforms that will be fought under the framework of a developing capitalist society—side by side with the advance of propaganda work and education among the masses on the ultimate objective of socialism.
There is no talk of strategy during the time of Marx and Engels, save for the period of the outbreak of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Europe in 1848-49.
In Communist Manifesto, they anticipated the eruption of bourgeois revolutions in Europe, particularly in Germany—revolutions which, they said, would occur in countries with more advanced capitalist system as compared to the bourgeois revolution in England during the 17th century and in France during the 18th century.
Historic turn: the 1848-49 revolution that eventually failed
In the aftermath of the successive defeat of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in 1848-49, Marx and Engels reviewed their former assessment of the revolutionary epoch: “History has proved us... wrong. It has made it clear that the state of economic development on the Continent [of Europe] at the time was not... ripe for the elimination of capitalist production.”
Period of extended preparation of the working class. The revolutionary socialists led the day-to-day struggle of the workers for economic and political rights, alongside conducting socialist propaganda among the working class masses. The formation of mass-based working class parties. Codified in the programs of the parties; the most famous of which was the Erfurt Program of the German Social-Democratic Party formed in 1891.
The key struggle for revolutionaries is not a direct assault on state power, but the struggle for ideological dominance, for ‘hegemony’.
“ In Russia the State was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West ... when the State trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed. The State was only an outer ditch, behind which there stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks.”
War of position -- a long drawn out struggle in which the two armies are deadlocked in battle, each hardly able to move forward, like the trench warfare of 1914-18.
War of manoeuvre -- involves rapid movement by the rival armies, with thrusts forwards and backwards as each tries to outflank the other and its cities (frontal assault on the state, i.e., 1917 revolution in Russia).
Combination of uprising (people’s power action) and electoral intervention (winning political seats).
Gains in the barangay elections
Prospect: Unresolved economic mess, unfolding political crisis
Disunity of the Left – former divide between the “democratic left” and the “non-democratic left” remains; but a new division among the left in terms of social democracy (reforms through alliance with the ruling elite) and revolutionary democratic project.