Letter from Lhasa, number 209. (Marighella 1969): Minimanual. Enigma Marighella?
by Roberto Abraham Scaruffi
Marighella, C., Minimanual do Guerrilheiro Urbano, June 1969.
The booklet is an agile, although relatively complete, manual of urban terrorism. It is a normative work imagining supermen and superwomen triggering a total war, and even totally self-financed and self-armed by expropriations, against the existing State and social order and, in this way, finally producing a civil war and conquering political and social power.
Supposing the good faith and the personal integrity of the author, since we have not any reason, now, not to suppose it, there is an absolute misunderstanding of the Russian and of the Cuban coups d’État.
Yes, we prefer to call them coups d’État because “revolution” is a mystifying concept since it pretends to incorporate a value judgement. A concept already incorporating a value judgement, a pre-judgment, cannot be a scientific concept. So it cannot be useful for scientific analysis. Finally the differences between those are currently called “coups d’État” and those are currently called “revolutions” are really essentially pre-judgements, prejudices, on what concerns the conquest of political power.
From an analytic point of view, it is better to reserve the term “revolution” for the economic and the cultural sphere, when there are radical jumps and transformations, in whatever direction they may be. The so called conquest of political power is simply the change of the political head of the bureaucratic structure. Changes in representative institutions are not always, or not frequently, decisive from the point of view of some radical change. What happens later, if something happens, are always processes governed from the high even when there is an apparently vast popular participation. In the civil war followed the October 1917 coup d’État, vast masses aligned or were aligned on both sides. Certainly, there was no popular leadership on the Bolshevik side. On the Bolshevik side, people were treated as slaves just ought to obey and to die. Later there were revolutionary changes, specifically with what called “Stalinism”, when Stalin’s Russia adopted the Trotsky’s economic and social program and Soviet Union was transformed in a permanent war economy led from bureaucracies recruited within social climbing workers and peasants. In practice, the pre-existing social structure was destroyed. It was replaced from the State’s omnipotence, an ultra-czarism without Czar. State and louses, with the most opportunist and social climbing worker and peasant becoming State, State bureaucracies. In this case, the rapid proliferation of State bureaucracies was also a political revolution. All this was not implied in the October 1917 coup d’État when the party wanted to immediately stop the war declared itself new government. It is not impossible that, some “white” fraction had imposed itself as new government of all Russias, it could impose identical or similar revolutionary changes.
One may find decisive and deep revolutionary changes, even deeper than in Soviet Russia, in experiences people with ideological spectacles judge in a total different way. One might think of the revolutionary changes in the Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria of the Japanese occupation, and later in the South Korea and Taiwan of the U.S. occupation or decisive influence. Equally, one might think of the really deep revolutionary changes, for example, of the Japan of the Meiji Restoration.
Anyway, for a scientific approach in the utilization of labels, which are not only labels, one has to catch some radical transformation, of whatever kind, in the economic and/or cultural sphere, perhaps or probably also at some other level. Colours, likes or dislikes, etc. are not at all key elements. They are, on the contrary, clear evidence of agitprop approaches instead of analytic ones.
In Marighella, or in the Marighella of this terrorist course, and, specifically, in this work, there are also absolute misunderstandings on the human nature, on what State structures are and how they work.
However, the real enigma is Marighella. Orthodox pro-Soviet functionary for more than 30 years, he opted for terrorism when he was 54 years old so becoming a pro-Castroist functionary. Engaged in terrorist activities when he was 56 he was deliberately assassinated in an ambush of a Brazilian Secret Police when he was nearly 58. Cuba simply favoured these terrorist activities in Latin America either for eliminating personages as Che Guevara became Castro antagonists or for showing to the USA and their allies that it had some intimidation power? Assuming some rationality, even an odd rationality, in State bureaucracies, that is not really credible.
Cuba, since its dimensions and under U.S. attack never really had any imperialist dream. Also for the early Soviet Union, the Comintern was functional to its early survival. Only later it served its imperialism. Since the history and dimensions of Russia, these two aspects were confused, since the beginning even if the fist, initial, imperative of Soviet Russia was its survival. However, this imperative was rapidly solved, in a few years. Cuba, which cannot even have any imperialist illusion, rapidly liquidated its terrorist activities abroad. Even if it had not, there were no hopes and Cuba had not the means for supporting whatever organised subversion.
On the contrary, there are other elements one prefers not to consider. The different para-Castroist movements were functional to stabilizing internal interests [by supposedly stabilizing self-destabilizations] of Latin American oligarchies and of their U.S. bosses. The different para-Castroist terrorisms were not triggered when Cuba was really in danger. Actually, Cuba was rapidly inserted inside the Soviet underdevelopmentalist area. Cuba was under the Soviet umbrella and it was fully accepted from the USA even if they went on with the usual shows of the cold war and now of the enemy at their borders, 150 km. from their coasts.
Not only it was not imaginable any Cuban imperialism. With its very limited resources, Cuba in part promoted, in part supported, some terrorism in the various Latin American countries when the CIA [the US government] and its local comprador oligarchies needed it. [Not] Strangely, no Latin American country, or all the Latin America object of para-Castroist destabilizations, or the same USA with them, used these para-Castroist terrorisms for declaring war to Cuba. On the contrary, Cuba, despite these para-Castroist terrorisms, developed tight friendships with the most horrible Latin American regimes. In addition, Soviet Union, despite became guarantor of the Cuban survival, remained, at least officially (also substantially), absolutely opposed to whatever para- or pseudo-Castroist terrorism. It was as the USSR, while followed different paths in its international relations, at least in Latin America, let its Cuba to participate to terrorisms functional to SIS-CIA/UK-USA interests. For example, what was the real game of the 1975-1990 Cuban intervention in Angola? At the height of Cuba’s engagement, there were 60,000 Cuban troops in Angola. Cuba had a population of the order of 11 million people and was extremely poor. It had no real interest in Angola. Had and have the Angola conflicts other meaning than freezing internal natural resources until the main imperialist powers wanted and want to keep them frozen? Just U.S. oil and other companies had interest in exploiting Angolan resources, they became immediately friends of the Angolan “communists” they fought until the day before.
In Latin America, in practice, Cuba exploited a few generous people that, together with a certain quantity of adventurers and idiots, it launched to their suicide for serving the usual programs of SIS-CIA [and their local comprador oligarchies] self-shitting and supposedly stabilizing [stabilizing relatively to an underdevelopmentalist order] self-destabilization. There was not only Cuba which was involved in these odd SIS-CIA [and their local comprador oligarchies] games. In Argentina, for example, the SIS-CIA [and their local comprador oligarchies] got the help of the Italian Government [the Military Secret Police of the Andreottis] which used also the Gelli’s P2 and, through the ENI and the PCI, the Fourth International of Mandel-Maitan. It was not the first destabilization for which the Mandel-Maitan’s Fourth International was hired from the same interests. See the case of the French Algeria. It is only an example. The quoted militants and organization were and are not worse than other leftist, rightist and other political or social or cultural organizations, parties, movements etc. For the Sendero Luminoso destabilization in Peru, other “political” networks were built and used. Governments and their Secret Police Bureaux work in this way. Whenever and wherever possible, they use interfaces. They continuously avoid to appear directly. Does one prefer to believe in the tale of Cuba promoter of the Latin American revolution?
Brazil has the dimensions, the population and the natural resources for becoming a world power, despite its Latin birthmark. What better than, in addition to other underdevelopmentalist conditioning, to self-screw it in a long clash terrorism-counterterrorism with connected social terrorism?
A Marighella organizing a terrorist group in Brazil is not really politically credible. It is not credible he really thought he could conquer political power or to get some advantage for the advancement of those he claimed were his convictions, by the “armed struggle”.
The October 1917 Russian coup d’État was a heavy operation of the German military secret service after that Germany and Austria, by their social-democratic parties had financed, for decades, Russian subversion. Germany financed revolutionary groups but also corrupted bureaucratic and military milieux. That made possible the October 1917 pacifist coup d’État. Finally, Trotsky [the same overpaid for year and years from the Austrian social-democracy] led the coup overcoming the doubts of Lenin. Early Soviet Russia had heavy German support in the following civil war and foreign intervention. Progressive military defeats would not have been sufficient to liquidate Czarism if decisive sectors of the ruling class and of the State bureaucracy had not abandoned it and were so working for some alternative.
Idem in Cuba. Decisive sectors of the army, of the State bureaucracy and of the ruling classes wanted something different from Batista and the U.S. Mafiosi. Finally, Castro was not fought and favoured. He was later capable to keep power even against sectors had previously favoured him and his followers.
Frontal assault against State there was not in Russia and there was not in Cuba. The final assault was only against military and police apparatuses finally inert or self-disbanding. Civil wars there were eventually after that the State leadership had changed. The theory of the guerrilla foco or of some urban and/or rural terrorism evolving in civil war has no ground in reality. When a State can be conquered from somebody or something else, it is because something happened at level of State bureaucracies and of ruling classes, which are now supporting some newcomer. Decisive is, eventually, what happens after the successful coup d’État.
Marighella was involved in some political tourism in 1953 and 1954 in China. Certainly, the Maoists did not tell him, that they were always favoured from the Anglo-Americans which wished to liquidate the so-called Nationalists and so keeping China underdeveloped as long as possible. Maoists did not create their armies and their State, independent from the official one, thank to the peasants’ donations. There were heavy and decisive Russian, British and U.S. intervention with money and weapons.
Marighella, in his booklet, represents both a spontaneous proliferation of small groups of fighters and an organisation, he had in his mind, with heavy bureaucracies, a counter-State in practice. He represents so many needs, duties, imperatives, skills, that only hundreds and hundreds professionals could have provided them.
He finally assembled only some tens of fighters who could be easily defeated because, on the contrary, State apparatuses have, although frequently inefficient and badly organized, all the skills they need and unlimited founding, overall when there are crisis.
An illusion of the Marighellas is the motivated leftist superman against the lazy bureaucrats. The so-called revolutionaries are not really so motivated and the lazy bureaucrats are not always so demotivated. A State has anyway the decisive advantage of relevant resources overall for facing crises. Finally, whatever State/government, even the most inefficient, has, apart from very specific circumstances (combined with some decisive internal and/external support to “revolutionaries”), better people, and in larger quantity, than those who claim high ideals for fighting it.
It is very probable, nearly certain, that the Brazilian military needed some terrorist subversion, so it favoured the creation of terrorist groups for later fighting and liquidating them. In Cuba, Marighella may have not been instructed about that and he had not realized by himself this immanent reality or did he know that and he had some other purpose?
The best terrorism, the best guerrilla, is when one avoids it. Armed organizations are manipulated even more easily than unarmed ones.
Is it credible that in Cuba someone thought that the people they trained to terrorism, and were sent back to become terrorist leaders and militants, could conquer political power? It is not really credible. As it is not credible that Che Guevara, with his State security agents masked as guerrilla fighters, were sent to Bolivia for any other purpose than having Che Guevara assassinated “from the CIA”.
Marighella may have been assassinated, organizing an ambush essentially for one of these purposes:  for sending the signal that the terrorist game was under control and must be rapidly or relatively rapidly stopped,  for promoting somebody more controllable than him,  for avoiding he could tell something ought not to be told  a combination of these elements and/or something we may not now suppose.
In Cuba, he had received training to terrorism. He had written a clear and complete or relatively complete mini-manual. However, he undoubtedly conserved the forma mentis of an experienced [already para-Soviet] politician. His Minimanual was about an imaginary organization could be actually built only by heavy external [external to the same organization, not by self-financing] assistance and connections, what in Brazil they have not.
Marighella, C., Minimanual do Guerrilheiro Urbano, June 1969.