Mini-manual of the Urban Guerrilla

By Carlos Marighella

The chronic structural crisis characteristic of America today, and its resultant political instability, are what have brought about the upsurge of revolutionary activity in the country. The revolutionary war manifests itself in the form of urban guerrilla warfare, psychological warfare, or rural guerrilla warfare. Urban guerrilla warfare or psychological warfare in the city depends on the urban guerrilla.

The urban guerrilla is a man who fights the police state with arms, using unconventional methods. A political revolutionary and ardent patriot, he is a fighter for his country’s liberation, a friend of the people and of freedom. The area in which the urban guerrilla acts is in the large cities. There are also bandits, commonly known as outlaws, who work in the big cities. Many times assaults by outlaws are taken as actions by urban guerrillas.

The urban guerrilla, however, differs radically from the outlaw. The outlaw benefits personally from the action, and attacks indiscriminately without distinguishing between the exploited and the exploiters, which is why there are so many ordinary men and women among his victims. The urban guerrilla follows a political goal and only attacks the government, the police, and the crooked corporations.

Another element as prejudicial as the outlaw and also operating in the urban area is the right-wing counterrevolutionary who creates confusion, assaults banks, hurls bombs, kidnaps, assassinates, and commits the worst imaginable crimes against the urban guerrillas, revolutionary priests, students, and citizens who oppose fascism and seek liberty.

The urban guerrilla is an implacable enemy of the government and systematically inflicts damage on the authorities and on the men who dominate the country and exercise power. The principal task of the urban guerrilla is to distract, to wear out, to demoralize the local police, the DC dictatorship and its repressive forces, and also to attack and destroy the wealth and property of the Super Rich.

The urban guerrilla is not afraid of dismantling and destroying the present economic, political, and social system, for his aim is to help the rural guerrillas and to collaborate in the creation of a totally new and revolutionary social and political structure with the armed people in power.

The urban guerrilla is characterized by his bravely and decisive nature. He must be a good tactician and a good shot. The urban guerrilla must be a person of great astuteness to compensate for the fact that he is not sufficiently strong in arms, ammunition, and equipment.

The career militarists or the government police may have modern arms and transport, and can go about anywhere freely, using the force of their power. The urban guerrilla does not have such resources at his disposal and leads to a clandestine existence. Sometimes he is a convicted person or is out on parole, and is obliged to use false documents.

The urban guerrilla has to capture or divert arms away from the enemy to be able to fight. Because his arms are not uniform, since what he has are expropriated or have fallen into his hands in different ways, the urban guerrilla faces the problem of a variety of arms and a shortage of ammunition. Moreover, he has no place to practice shooting and marksmanship.

These difficulties have to be surmounted, forcing the urban guerrilla to be imaginative and creative, qualities without which it would be impossible for him to carry out his role as a revolutionary.

The urban guerrilla must possess initiative, mobility, and flexibility, as well as versatility and a command of any situation. Initiative especially is an indispensable quality. It is not always possible to foresee everything, and the urban guerrilla cannot let himself become confused, or wait for orders. His duty is to act, to find adequate solutions for each problem he faces, and not to retreat. It is better to err acting than to do nothing for fear of erring. Without initiative there is no urban guerrilla warfare.

Other important qualities in the urban guerrilla are the following: to be a good walker, to be able to stand up against fatigue, hunger, rain, heat. To know how to hid and to be vigilant. To conquer the art of dissembling. Never to fear danger. To behave the same by day as by night. Not to act impetuously. To have unlimited patience. To remain calm and cool in the worst conditions and situations. Never to leave a track or trail. Not to get discouraged.

In the face of the almost surmountable difficulties of urban warfare, sometimes comrades weaken, leave, give up the work.

The urban guerrilla is not a businessman in a commercial firm nor is he a character in a play. Urban guerrilla warfare, like rural guerrilla warfare, is a pledge the guerrilla makes to himself. When he cannot face the difficulties, or knows that he lacks the patience to wait, then it is better to relinquish his role before he betrays his pledge, for he clearly lacks the basic qualities necessary to be a guerrilla.

The urban guerrilla must have a great capacity for observation, must be well informed about everything, principally about the enemy’s movements, and must be very searching and knowledgeable about the area in which he lives, operates, or through which he moves.

It is necessary for every urban guerrilla to keep in mind always that he can only maintain his existence if he is disposed to kill the police and those dedicated to repression, and if he is determined–truly determined–to expropriate the wealth of the Super Rich.

Men of the government, agents of the dictatorship must pay with their lives for the crimes committed against the people.

The technical preparation of the urban guerrilla runs from the concern for his physical preparedness, to knowledge of and apprenticeships in professions and skills of all kinds, particularly manual skills.

The urban guerrilla can have strong physical resistance only if he trains systematically. He cannot be a good fighter if he has not learned the art of fighting. For that reason the urban guerrilla must learn and practice various kinds of fighting, of attack and personal defense.

Other useful forms of physical preparation are hiking, camping, and practice in survival in the woods, mountain climbing, rowing, swimming, skin diving, training as a frogman, fishing, harpooning, and the hunting of birds, small and big game.

It is very important to learn how to drive, pilot a plane, handle a motor boat and a sail boat, understand mechanics, radio, telephone, electricity, and have some knowledge of electronic techniques.

It is also important to have a knowledge of topographical information, to be able to locate one’s position by instruments or other available resources, to calculate distances, make maps and plans, draw to scale, make timings, work with an angle protractor, a compass, etc.

A knowledge of chemistry and of color combination, of stamp making, the domination of the technique of calligraphy and the copying of letters and other skills are part of the technical preparation of the urban guerrilla, who is obliged to falsify documents in order to live within a society that he seeks to destroy.

In the area of auxiliary medicine he has the special role of being a doctor or understanding medicine, nursing, pharmacology, drugs, elemental surgery, and emergency first aid.

The basic question in the technical preparation of the urban guerrilla is nevertheless to know how to handle arms such as the machine gun, revolver, automatic, FAL, various types of shotguns, carbines, mortars, bazookas, etc.

A knowledge of various types of ammunition and explosives is another aspect to consider. Among the explosives, dynamite must be well understood. The use of incendiary bombs, of smoke bombs, and other types are indispensable prior knowledge.

To know how to make and repair arms, prepare Molotov cocktails, grenades, mines, homemade destructive devices, how to blow up bridges, tear up and put out of service rails and sleepers, these are requisites in he technical preparation of the urban guerrilla that can never be considered unimportant.

The urban guerrilla’s arms are light arms, easily exchanged usually captured from the enemy, purchased, or made on the spot.

Light arms have the advantage of fast handling and easy transport. In general, light arms are characterized as short barreled. This includes many automatic arms.

Automatic and semiautomatic arms considerably increase the fighting power of the urban guerrilla.

Hand grenades and conventional smoke bombs can be considered light arms, with defensive power for cover and withdrawal.

Shotguns can be useful if used at close range and point blank. They are useful even for a poor shot, especially at night when precision isn’t much help. A pressure airgun can be useful for training in marksmanship. Bazookas and mortars can also be used in action but the conditions for using them have to be prepared and the people who use them must be trained.

The urban guerrilla should not try to base his actions on the use of heavy arms, which have major drawbacks in a type of fighting that demands lightweight weapons to insure mobility and speed.

Homemade weapons are often as efficient as the best arms produced in conventional factories, and even a cut-off shotgun is a good arm for the urban guerrilla.

The urban guerrilla’s role as gunsmith has a fundamental importance. As gunsmith he takes care of the arms, knows how to repair them, and in many cases can set up a small shop for improvising and producing efficient small arms.

Work in metallurgy and on the mechanical lathe are basic skills the urban guerrilla should incorporate into his industrial planning, which is the construction of homemade weapons.

This construction and courses in explosives and sabotage must be organized. The primary materials for practice in these courses must be obtained ahead of time to prevent and incomplete apprenticeship–that is to say, so as to leave no room for experimentation.

Molotov cocktails, gasoline, homemade contrivances such as catapults and mortars for firing explosives, grenades made of tubes and cans, smoke bombs, mines, conventional explosives such as dynamite and potassium chloride, plastic explosives, gelatine capsules, ammunition of every kind are indispensable to the success of the urban guerrilla’s mission.

The method of obtaining the necessary materials and munitions will be to by them or take them by force in expropriation actions especially planned and carried out.

The urban guerrilla will be careful not to keep explosives and materials that can cause accidents around for very long, but will try always to use them immediately on their destined targets.

The urban guerrilla reason for existence, the basic condition in which he acts and survives, is to shoot. The urban guerrilla must know how to shoot well because it is required by his type of combat.

In conventional warfare, combat is generally at a distance with long range arms. In unconventional warfare, in which urban guerrilla warfare is included, the combat is at close range, often very close.

To prevent his own extinction, the urban guerrilla has to shoot first and he cannot err in his shot. He cannot waste his ammunition because he does not have large amounts, so he must save it. Nor can he replace his ammunition quickly, since he is part of a small group in which each guerrilla has to take care of himself. The urban guerrilla can lose no time and must be able to shoot at once.

One fundamental fact which we want to emphasize fully and whose particular importance cannot be overestimated is that the urban guerrilla must not fire continuously, using up his ammunition. It may be that the enemy is not responding to fire precisely because he is waiting until the guerrilla’s ammunition is used up. At such a moment, without having time to replace his ammunition, the urban guerrilla faces a rain of enemy fire and can be taken prisoner or killed.

The urban guerrilla’s life depends on shooting, on his ability to handle his arms well and to avoid being hit. When we speak of shooting, we speak of marksmanship as well. Shooting must be learned until it becomes a reflex action on the part of the urban guerrilla.

In order to function, the urban guerrillas must be organized in small groups. A group of no more than four or five is called the firing group.

A minimum of two firing groups, separated and sealed off from other firing groups, directed and coordinated by one or two persons, this is what makes a firing team.

No firing group can remain inactive waiting for orders from above. Its obligation is to act. Any single urban guerrilla who wants to establish a firing group and begin action can do so and thus become a part of the organization.

This method of action eliminates the need for knowing who is carrying out which actions, since there is free initiative and the only important point is to increase substantially the volume of urban guerrilla activity in order to wear out the government and to force it onto the defensive.

The firing group is the instrument of organized action. Within it, guerrilla operations and tactics are planned, launched, and carried through to success.

Urban guerrillas, are not an army but small armed groups, intentionally fragmented. They have no vehicles nor fixed bases. Their supply lines are precarious and insufficient, and have no established base except in the rudimentary sense of an arms factory within a house.

Money, arms, ammunition and explosives, and automobiles as well, must be expropriated. And the urban guerrilla must rob banks and armories and seize explosives and ammunition wherever he finds them.

None of these operations is undertaken for just one purpose. Even when the assault is for money, the arms that the guards bear must also be taken.

The next step is to reinforce and extend logistics, resorting to ambushes and traps in which the enemy will be surprised and his arms, ammunition, vehicles, and other resources can be captured.

Once he has the arms, ammunition, and explosives, one of the most serious logistics problems the urban guerrilla faces at any time and in any situation is a hiding place in which to leave the material and appropriate means for transporting it and assembling it where it is needed. This has to be accomplished even when the enemy on the look out and has the roads blocked.

As is well known, defensive action means death for us. Since we are inferior to the enemy in fire power and have neither his resources nor his power force, we cannot defend ourselves against an offensive or a concentrated attack. It is a technique of attack and retreat by which we preserve our forces.

The dynamics of urban guerrilla warfare lie in the urban guerrilla’s violent clash with the military and police forces of the dictatorship. In this clash, the police have superiority. The urban guerrilla has inferior forces. The paradox is that the urban guerrilla, although weaker, is nevertheless the attacker.

The military and police forces, for their part, respond to the attack, by mobilizing and concentrating infinitely superior forces in the persecution and destruction of the urban guerrilla. He can only avoid defeat if he counts on the initial advantages he has and knows how to exploit them to the end to compensate for his weakness and lack of matériel.

The initial advantages are:
1) he must take the enemy by surprise;
2) he must know the terrain of the encounter better than the enemy;
3) he must have greater mobility and speed than the police and other repressive forces;
4) his information service must be better than the enemy’s

To compensate for the general weakness and shortage of arms compared to the enemy, the urban guerrilla uses surprise. The enemy has no way to fight surprise and becomes confused or is destroyed.

The technique of surprise is based on four essential requisites:

a) we know the situation of the enemy we are going to attack, usually by means of precise information and meticulous observation, while the enemy does not know he is going to be attacked and knows nothing about the attacker;
b) we know the force of the enemy that is going to be attacked and the enemy knows nothing about our force;
c) attacking by surprise, we save and conserve our forces, while the enemy is unable to do the same and is left at the mercy of events;
d) we determine the hour and the place of the attack, fix its duration, and establish its objective. The enemy remains ignorant of all this.

The urban guerrilla’s best ally is the terrain and because this is so must know it like the palm of his hand.

To have the terrain as an ally means to know how to use with intelligence its unevenness, its high and low points, its turns, its irregularities, its regular and secret passages, abandoned areas, its thickets, etc., taking maximum advantage of all this for the success of armed actions, escapes, retreats, cover, and hiding places.

Because he knows the terrain the guerrilla can go through it on foot, on bicycle, in automobile, jeep, or truck and never be trapped. Acting in small groups with only a few people, the guerrillas can reunite at an hour and place determined beforehand, following up the attack with new guerrilla operations, or even evading the police circle and disorienting the enemy with their unprecedented audacity.

To insure mobility and speed that the police cannot match, the urban guerrilla needs the following prerequisites:

a) mechanization
b) knowledge of the terrain;
c) a rupture or suspension of enemy communications and transport;
d) light arms.

By carefully carrying through operations that last only a few moments, and leaving the site in mechanized vehicles the urban guerrilla beats a rapid retreat, escaping pursuit.

If we want to have a safe margin of security and be certain to leave no tracks for the future, we can adopt the following methods:

a) purposely intercept the police with other vehicles or by apparently casual inconveniences and damages; but in this case the vehicles in question should not be legal nor should they have real license numbers;
b) obstruct the road with fallen trees, rocks, ditches, false traffic, signs, dead ends or detours, and other ingenious methods;
c) place homemade mines in the way of the police, use gasoline, or throw Molotov cocktails to set their vehicles on fire;
d) set off a burst of machine gun fire or arms such as the FAL aimed at the motor and the tires of the cars engaged in pursuit.

With the arrogance typical of the police and the military fascists authorities, the enemy will come to fight us with heavy guns and equipment with elaborate maneuvers by men armed to the teeth. The urban guerrilla must respond to this with light weapons easily transported, so he can always escape with maximum speed, without ever accepting open fighting. The urban guerrilla has no mission other than to attack and retreat.

It is not so difficult for an urban guerrilla on foot to make a target of a policeman on horseback. Moreover, ropes across the streets, marbles, cork stoppers are very efficient methods of making them both fall. The great advantage of the mounted police is that he presents the urban guerrilla with two excellent targets: the horse and its rider.

The enemy can be thrown off by false information, which is worse for him because it is a tremendous waste.

By whatever means, the sources of information at the disposal of the urban guerrilla are potentially better than those of the police. The enemy is observed by the people, but he does not know who among the people transmits information to the urban guerrilla. The military and the police are hated for the injustices they commit against the people, and this facilitates obtaining information prejudicial to the activities of government agents.

The information, which is only a small area of popular support, represents an extraordinary potential in the hands of the urban guerrilla. The creation of an intelligence service with an organized structure is a basic need for us. The urban guerrilla has to have essential information about the plans and movements of the enemy, where they are, and how they move, the resources of the banking network, the means of communication, and the secret moves the enemy makes.

The trustworthy information passed along to the urban guerrilla represents a well-aimed blow at the dictatorship. It has no way to defend itself in the face of an important leak that jeopardizes it interests and facilitates our destructive attack.

The enemy also wants to know what steps we are taking so he can destroy us or prevent us from acting. In this sense of the danger of betrayal is present and the enemy encourages betrayal or infiltrates spies into the organization. The urban guerrilla’s technique against this enemy tactic is to denounce publicly the traitors, spies, informers, and provocateurs.

Since our struggle takes place among the masses and depends on their sympathy–while the government has a bad reputation because of its brutality, corruption, and incompetence–the informers, spies, traitors, and the police come to be the enemies of the people without supporters, denounced to the urban guerrilla, and, in many cases, properly punished.

For his part the urban guerrilla must not evade the duty–once he knows who the spy or informer is–of wiping him out physically. This is the correct method, approved by the people, and it minimizes considerably the incidence of infiltration or enemy spying.

For the complete success of the battle against spies and informers, it is essential to organize a counterespionage or counterintelligence service. Nevertheless, as far as information is concerned, it cannot all be reduced to a question of knowing the enemy’s moves and avoiding the infiltration of spies. Information must be broad, it must embrace everything, including the most significant matters.

There is a technique of obtaining information, and the urban guerrilla must master it. Following this technique, information is obtained naturally, as a part of the life of the people.

Eyes and ears open, senses alert, his memory engraved with everything necessary, now or in the future, to the uninterrupted activity of the fighter.

It is not enough for the urban guerrilla to have in his favor surprise, speed, knowledge of the terrain, and information. He must also demonstrate his command of any situation and a capacity for decision without which all other advantages will prove useless.

It is impossible to carry out any action, however well planned, if the urban guerrilla turns out to be indecisive, uncertain, irresolute.

Even an action successively begun can end in defeat if the command of the situation and the capacity for decision falter in the middle of the actual execution of the plan. When this command of the situation and a capacity for decision are absent, the void is filled with vacillation and terror. The enemy takes advantage of this failure and is able to liquidate us.

The secret for the success of any operation, simple or complicated, easy or difficult, is to rely on determined men. Strictly speaking, there are no easy operations. All must be carried out with the same care exercised in the case of the most difficult, beginning with the choice of the human element, which means relying on leadership and capacity for decision in every test.

One can see ahead of time whether an action will be successful or not by the way its participants act during the preparatory period. Those who are behind, who fail to make designated contacts, are easily confused, forget things, fail to complete+ the basic elements of the work, possibly are indecisive men and can be a danger. It is better not to include them.

Assault is the armed attack which we make to expropriate funds, liberate prisoners, capture explosives, machine guns, and other types arms and ammunition.

Assaults can take place in broad daylight or at night.

Daytime assaults are made when the objective cannot be achieved at any other hour, as for example, the transport of money by the banks, which is not done at night.

Night assault is usually the most advantageous to the urban guerrilla. The ideal is for all assaults to take place at night when conditions for a surprise attack are most favorable and the darkness facilitates flight and hides the identity of the participants. The urban guerrilla must prepare himself, nevertheless, to act under all conditions, daytime as well as nighttime.

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