Total Resistance – When Your Government Goes to Hell
Imagine you wake up one morning, turn on the coffee pot and look out your living room window. In the distance, you can see buildings ablaze, you can hear explosions, and the faint but perceptible odor of smoke has just grazed your nostrils. You grab your smartphone and see your social media accounts are inundated with notifications about chaos across American cities. You click on a link from your local news broadcaster and see a video of masked assailants, wearing all black, “peacefully” protesting and screaming phrases like “No justice, no peace,” and “Abolish the police!” Suddenly, a headline scrolls across the top of your screen: “BREAKING NEWS – Local police force disbanded due to racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, islamophobia, and all other forms of bigotry.” Within a few minutes, the streets are running rampant with more assailants, screaming things like, “F*** fascism!” and “All cops are bad!” Eventually, looting begins, and the “protesters are attacking non-participants;” within days, these “anti-fascists” take control of all forms of local government and the supply routes into the city. They prevent truck drivers from delivering food and medicines to local distributors. Other city governments throughout the United States also agreed to disband their police departments. Finally, the mobs formed a new government: The People’s Progressive Government. They decide it’s time to disarm the local population and send agents to gather weapons for the “collective good.”
What do you do?
Just Because You Don’t Think it Could Happen, Doesn’t Mean It Won’t Happen
As Americans, we know that a scenario like the one described above could never actually happen – right? But what about a natural disaster? Or an invasion by a foreign military? Or a coup within the ranks of our military? Or a collapse of the US economy due to skyrocketing inflation? The list could go on for quite a while, but eventually, we would encounter a situation requiring citizens to figure out a way to protect themselves, their families, and their way of life. Recently, I picked up a copy of Total Resistance by H. Von Dach. Originally published in 1957 (and in German), this book was basically written as a “how-to” guide for the planning, and execution, of a successful guerrilla warfare campaign against the threat of a Soviet invasion of Switzerland during the Cold War. Since then, numerous translations of the book have been written for countries throughout the world; in fact, even American Special Forces have taught some of the lessons featured within its pages. The tactical portion of the work was edited by Soldier of Fortune Magazine founder and former Green Beret Robert K. Brown (RKB). Considering Green Berets train unconventional units to conduct unconventional warfare, it makes perfect sense this book would be a tool in their training strategy. Von Dach realized it would take the efforts of the military and civilians alike to fight a Soviet occupation. With this in mind, he wrote the tactics in a way that was easy to understand and employed by citizens with only primary weapons at their disposal.
The first part of the book breaks down the organization, purpose, and strategy of successful guerrilla warfare. Von Dach covers everything, from setting up small-scale units and tactics to battalions of guerrillas ready to wreak havoc on enemy troops, communications, and supply lines. In order to be as effective and efficient as possible, the units must target the power networks, industrial plants, repair shops and depots, enemy headquarters locations, and the couriers moving sensitive messages throughout the territory. He gives in-depth instructions for slowly, and subtly (so as not to be discovered immediately) destroying different types of equipment, from small vehicles to trains to jet airplanes. An example of this type of sabotage is Von Dach giving instructions to “Throw a handful of sand, abrasive powder, or metal shavings into each gearbox” to wear out the bearings on railroad freight cars. The first part of the book also includes detailed guidance on the construction of homemade hand grenades, charges, and the proper emplacement of landmines.
The book’s second part covers the organization and operation of the civilian resistance movement. This group of resistors is composed of people not necessarily able to go out into the mountains for weeks at a time or capable of fighting their way into and out of enemy installations during operations. Nevertheless, these civilians all “maintain belief in final victory,” and carry out important tasks like concealing weapons and ammunition, collecting intelligence, aiding in the evasion and escape of downed pilots, falsifying ration cards and counterfeit money, and helping in the organization of fighting units. Von Dach states, “Without the support of the civilian population, guerrilla warfare will fail in the long run.” While a lot of the work civilians do is behind the scenes, Von Dach acknowledges the importance civilians play during a guerrilla operation.
One of the qualities I enjoyed most while reading the book was the use of diagrams. Von Dach uses detailed (and precisely labeled) diagrams throughout his work; these diagrams really bring to life what he is explaining on the page. For example, my favorite diagram shows the best way to kill an enemy soldier using an ax. In addition, the frequency with which he uses the diagrams makes the material easy to understand and interesting to consume.
My biggest complaint about the book is not with the content, but the printing process used to produce the book. The font is very small and sometimes misaligned; furthermore, the typeface on the diagrams is even smaller, requiring a very close examination of the explanations of the content of each drawing. This was printed (in English) in 1965 and appeared to not have had a face-lift since. I also would have loved to see Von Dach’s take on waterborne operations and sabotaging vessels; unfortunately, Switzerland is a land-locked country, so Von Dach probably figured the Soviets would not be able to get a large tactical advantage by using boats on the lakes and rivers throughout the country.
Some “experts” have argued that the tactics and technology mentioned in the book are outdated and no longer useful on modern battlefields; however, some Ukrainian military personnel and civilians are using them today to fight the current Russian occupation. Keeping in mind that this work was written for civilians with limited access to weapons, it serves as an excellent guide for the average, untrained, everyday person to use basic tactics to carry out guerrilla operations against an occupying army. Should the unthinkable happen, and American civilians be forced into taking up weapons to secure their lives and livelihoods, this book may come in handy to bring the fight to the occupiers. “Do not engage an enemy more powerful than you. And if it is unavoidable and you do have to engage, then make sure you engage it on your terms, not on your enemy’s terms.” –Sun Tzu.
Imagine you’ve been staying in your house, living off of rations, and unable to drive your car because the gas stations are empty. Your landline telephone rings; cellphone tower signals have been requisitioned for official government business at this point, “Hello,” you answer. Your friend, who lives in a neighboring state, replies, “The People’s Progressive Government agents just kicked down my door. They took all my guns and ammunition. They shot my dog. I don’t know what to do. What can I do?”
What do you do?
Editor’s Note: Heath Hansen is a frequent contributor to SOFREP. He’s posted several pieces for us in the past during some of his deployments with the 82nd Airborne Division to both Iraq and Afghanistan. After a parachuting injury, he left the military and completed his Business – Financial Services degree at San Diego State University.