Wars of national liberation or national liberation revolutions are conflicts fought by nations to gain independence. The term is used in conjunction with wars against foreign powers (or at least those perceived as foreign) to establish separate sovereign states for the rebelling nationality. From a different point of view, these wars are called insurgencies, rebellions, or wars of independence. Guerrilla warfare or asymmetric warfare is often utilized by groups labeled as national liberation movements, often with support from other states.
The term "wars of national liberation" is most commonly used for those fought during the decolonization movement. Since these were primarily in the third world against Western powers and their economic influence and a major aspect of the Cold War, the phrase itself has often been viewed as biased or pejorative. Some of these wars were either vocally or materially supported by the Soviet Union, which stated itself to be an anti-imperialist power, supporting the replacement of western-backed governments with local communist or other non pro-western parties. However, this did not always guarantee Soviet influence in those countries. In addition to and increasingly in competition to the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China presented themselves as models of independent nationalist development outside of Western influence, particularly as such posturing and other longterm hostility meant they were regarded as a threat to Western power and regarded themselves as such, using their resources to politically, economically and militarily assist movements such as in Vietnam. In January 1961 Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev pledged support for "wars of national liberation" throughout the world.
The Communist concept of "imperialism" that was used to underline Soviet and Chinese involvement in these struggles and its relations to colonies had been theorized in Vladimir Lenin's 1916 book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism while Ho Chi Minh, who founded the Viet-Minh in 1930 and declared the independence of Vietnam on September 2, 1945, following the 1945 August Revolution, was a founding member of the French Communist Party (PCF) in 1921.
International law generally holds that a people with a legal right to self-determination are entitled to wage wars of national liberation. While Western states tend to view these wars as civil wars, Third World and communist states tend to view them as international wars. This difference in classification leads to varying perceptions of which laws of war apply in such situations. However, there is general agreement among all states today in principle that the use of force to frustrate a people's legal right to self-determination is unlawful.