Self-Liberation 101, Lesson 7.1: The Way of the Urban Guerrilla
Among guerrilla warriors, the urban guerrilla stands apart. He is a real-life superhero who dares to beard the State in its own den, in the very places where the State is strongest. Like his fictional counterparts, the urban guerrilla maintains a secret identity. He is, on the surface, apolitical, ordinary, unremarkable. You will not find him at meetings of college radicals. He does not shout slogans at demonstrations. He does not join radical parties, whether legal or otherwise. You will not hear radical rhetoric when he speaks. If he is a student, he appears totally devoted to his studies. If he works, he seems to be devoted to his family and job. If he owns a business, it is that business and not politics that seems to preoccupy him.
In the eyes of the security services of the State, there is nothing to differentiate the urban guerrilla from thousands of ordinary citizens. The all-seeing eye of the State passes him by, focusing instead on others, on those who stand out from the crowd. The propagandist of a traditional political movement is arrested at demonstrations. The radical supporter of the classical guerrilla movement up in the hills is subject to assassination, arbitrary arrest, surprise house search, prolonged imprisonment on trumped-up charges. But the urban guerrilla passes through the police cordon unnoticed. He is invisible because he seems ordinary.
At times of his own choosing, the urban guerrilla assumes his true identity. He strikes without warning. His actions terrify the ruling elite and confound its henchmen. He appears and disappears like a ghost, leaving behind photogenic carnage replete with the symbols of his cause, a psychogenic storm of photographers’ flashbulbs and media headlines that far outweighs the physical impact of the damage he inflicts.
Like fictional superheroes, the urban guerrilla is often condemned and hated by the very people he is fighting for. The leaders of “mainstream” community organizations denounce him. Their addled followers hound him. He is portrayed by the media as a terrorist, a lunatic and a fanatic. He is often betrayed by those nearest to him, by his own family, friends, loved ones. He knows no rest and finds no succor anywhere he treads. Yet he persists in his efforts, for he fights not for acclamation, nor recognition, nor fame nor fortune, but for a Cause, a Cause so precious to him that he is willing, at any moment, to lay down his life for it without question or hesitation or a moment’s second thought. It is this dedication, this selfless devotion to the welfare of others at the expense of his own, that gives the urban guerrilla the ultimate nobility of a fairy-tale knight in shining armor.
But the real world is not a comic book, nor a novel, nor a fairy-tale. There are no superpowers to protect the real-world superhero. There is no knight errant so skilled and so brave that he cannot be overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers, nor struck down by a lucky blow from a regime hobgoblin. No secret identity can remain inviolate forever. The urban guerrilla is human. He will always make a mistake. And the very first mistake he makes is all but certain to be his last.
Carlos Marighella developed his doctrine specifically to enable the urban guerrilla to make his blows as telling as possible. The focus of the doctrine is on the continuation of the struggle as a whole, regardless of the fate of specific individuals and specific cells. His genius was in realizing that he who steps upon the path of the urban guerrilla is already dead. His life cannot be saved. In the majority of cases, he will die within a year or less. But the Cause he fights for can be made immortal.
Only a lucky few will live to see the Cause triumph, to remember the many comrades who fell heroically in the unequal battle against the now dead Regime, to become prime ministers and college professors and name towns after their fallen comrades. Indeed, dear reader, this has already happened once in the recent history of Eretz Yisrael. How many streets, how many towns are named after Avraham Stern and his comrades? How many old men still belong to the shrinking fraternity of those who proudly wear the Lehi ribbon? But I digress.
The classical doctrine of guerrilla warfare as developed by Mao Tse Tung is the “corporate” model of insurgency. There is a defined hierarchy. There is a Leader. There is a Headquarters. Orders flow down and reports flow up. It is all very organized, very efficient, very traditional. And completely useless in the urban environment. In the urban environment, the classical movement is quickly infiltrated, its communications are cut, its leaders imprisoned or killed. Without leadership at the top, the classical movement, like a body without a head, thrashes about aimlessly for a while, bleeds out and dies.
In contrast, Marighella doctrine is the “franchise” model of insurgency. There are no Supreme Leaders. There are no Orders From Above. There are no Reports From Subordinates. Each cell organizes itself, funds itself, equips itself, develops its own targets, plans its own actions. Each cell fights its own fight, spills its own blood, waves the common banner of The Cause. Each cell stands or falls on its own, independent of any other cells. The cells are connected solely by ideology. They are as varied in their means and methods as the nation itself. Some have expertise with poisons or explosives. Some are expert in the use of firearms. Some have easy access to military or police vehicles, uniforms or equipment. Some contain talented propagandists. Each cell strikes at the Regime with the weapons it has at hand. Each cell strives above all else to create an environment conducive to the formation of other cells like itself.
When the movement begins to mature, each cell contributes to the training and planning of others through the Resistance Coordinating Committees. Some cells use the RCCs to become trusted specialists, masters of IED manufacture or indirect fire operations or finance or sniping or propaganda, communicating and cooperating with others through the anonymous masks of the RCCs and an ever-shifting network of dead drops. The cells’ only common denominators, besides their absolute dedication to The Cause that inspires them, are their anonymity, the absolute loyalty of their members to one another and their obsessive concern with secrecy.
The Marighella cell is composed of a small number of people who share unbreakable bonds. They may be brothers and sisters, lovers, college friends, army buddies or an inner circle of religious devotees who attend the same prayer group. They seek to blend in, to call no attention to themselves. They rarely, if at all, seek to explicitly recruit beyond their tiny circle of initiates. Every new recruit is a potential informant. Every new recruit is a potential weak link who, through incompetence or inexperience or fear or a desire for fame, might deliberately or inadvertently betray them all. If they do recruit, they do so by slow stages, maintaining anonymity as long as possible, forcing every potential recruit through months or even years of tests, of ever more dangerous and trustworthy tasks, culminating ultimately in an act of no return, one that no informant, no agent of the Regime and no uncommitted thrill-seeker would ever undertake.
Marighella cells possess high initiative and audacity. Because they are self-sufficient, they are difficult to track. Because they are independent, their actions are difficult to predict. Because they are composed entirely of seemingly ordinary individuals who call no attention to themselves, they are extremely difficult to detect. Because they are insular and obsessive about operational security, they are virtually impossible to infiltrate. Thus these cells present a tremendous challenge for enemy security forces.
Each cell independently promulgates the common symbols of The Cause that inspires them all. Each cell strives on its own to make the common Voice of the Revolution sing as loudly as possible through its actions. There are only five basic guiding principles behind their activities:
1. Stay alive to strike again
2. Spread the symbols of The Cause
3. Generate an environment conducive to the creation of other cells
4. Make the Regime pay
5. Set the People against the Regime
On occasion, a few cells might come together on an ad-hoc basis. Sometimes, despite the risks associated with such activity, a Marighella cell begins to recruit and organize in earnest, producing some variation on the classical pyramid of underground fighters organized, more or less, into three man cells. But such an organization remains independent of a myriad others, some smaller and some larger than itself, all attacking the Regime independently, all individually striving toward the same goal, all exchanging information and spreading propaganda anonymously via the RCCs.
Because there are no leaders above the cell level, there is no “head” for the regime to cut off, no “body” to die. Because communications between cells, if such exist at all, are generally limited to notes on tactics, techniques and procedures exchanged via anonymous, secure means, there is no command and control infrastructure for the State to disrupt. Because each cell is generally unconnected to the others, the destruction of any one of them has no effect whatsoever on the movement as a whole. The Regime can kill the “leaders” of the movement ad nauseaum. It can destroy individual cells ad infinitum. As long as the Cause is popular among the masses, as long as there are a few young men and women willing to die for The Cause, new cells form continuously. As long as there are RCCs anonymously spreading guerrilla know-how, newly formed cells will discover it and use it to improve themselves.
As the State tightens the screws of repression, it only increases the anger of the disaffected. Soon enough, the State begins to appear to the People as some kind of monster hidden behind blast barricades, walls and barbed wire, communicating solely by means of threats barked from megaphones, coupled with warning shots and volleys of tear gas. As the anger of the People builds, whole neighborhoods are turned into no-go terrain where the security forces of the State dare not venture. Since they directly target the agents and institutions of the State but do not attack the public as a whole in the manner of real terrorists and criminals, the urban guerrillas, at first reviled, eventually begin to appear instead as heroes.
Since the cells all fight for the same Cause, since they all promulgate the same symbols, their combined actions have the EFFECT of a coordinated assault. Each action, in itself, is insignificant and random. Taken together, they terrorize and paralyze the Regime. Ultimately, faced with endless violent opposition apparently immune to all forms of persuasion and repression, the Regime seeks to undermine the Cause by removing the “underlying grievances” that fuel it. Therefore, it seeks to empower “reasonable moderates”, with whom it can productively negotiate. The “moderates” generally come from a movement external to the insurgency proper, a political party or grouping that cites broadly the same “grievances” as the guerrillas and seeks to achieve broadly similar goals, but does so by less violent means. The reasoning of the regime is that, if the “underlying grievances” are adequately addressed, the process whereby new cells continuously form will be arrested. The “terrorist” activity of the active Resistance cells will then, according to the reasoning of Regime strategists, slowly peter out as they are destroyed by the security forces of the State, self-disband and join the “peace process”, go dormant due to a surfeit of police attention, or simply adopt a wait and see attitude and cease attacks. By “engaging” and “empowering” the “moderates”, the State seeks to use them to actively “stop” the guerrillas, reasoning that the “moderates” are unconstrained by the various factors that prevent the security forces of the State from defeating them.
Of course, in order to produce such a reaction, the urban guerrillas themselves must remain utterly radical and implacable. It is not their function to negotiate or compromise. It is their function to serve as the terrifying “lunatic fringe” in contrast with whom the “moderates” appear moderate. If the urban guerrillas attempt to negotiate or compromise, not only do they risk splintering the movement as a whole, but they also remove the incentive for their enemies to continue empowering the “moderates”. Thus, anything other than radical confrontation with the Regime is unacceptable as a position for the urban guerrilla.
As the “peace process” progresses, the State builds an entire internal industry of peace processors and apologists. Its own elite, by attempting to assimilate the inassimilable symbols of the Resistance, begins to believe that it is the State that is in the wrong and the radicals who are, in however misguided a form, ultimately in the right. Once this has occurred, the guerrilla movement will probably achieve that which it is fighting for. The peace processors will see to it, as long as guerrilla activity continues to spur them on. Thus, even though the movement as a whole is completely unable to deliver the high impacts necessary to actually overthrow the Regime, it ultimately emerges victorious. The State defeats itself. The War of Symbols becomes the sole means of victory for the guerrillas.
This, in brief, is how Marighella doctrine works. The devil, of course, is in the details. In order to understand the details, we must examine each constituent vital part of a Marighella doctrine insurgency separately. These parts are The Cell, the Resistance Coordinating Committee and The External Movement. We will consider these in detail in upcoming sections of Lesson 7.