In 1964, after President Jango Goulart announced he was going to implement agrarian reform, the US Government helped install a Military Coup in Brazil. In 1967, Carlos Marighella, grandson of a slave and life long revolutionary who had been living underground for years, was kicked out of the communist party for complaining of its inertia.
In 1968, as student uprisings and strikes spread across the country and the government initiated a series of violent clampdowns which resulted in the legalization of torture, Marighella founded the Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN/National Liberation Action) revolutionary guerrilla group. That year, the ALN began robbing banks to purchase weapons, eventually kidnapping US Ambassador Charles Burke Elbrick and releasing him in exchange for 15 political prisoners, including student leader José Dirceu (who would go on to be President Lula’s chief strategist). In December, 1968, at the age of 56, Marighella wrote the following document, “A Call to the Brazilian People”, which was widely distributed in factories and universities across the country. In it, he contrasts the guerrillas, who he refers to as patriots, with the “gorillas” from the military government. A year later, he was ambushed and shot dead by CIA-supported secret police while he was walking down the street in São Paulo.
In 2016, President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former member of the VAR-Palmares guerrilla movement, was deposed in a US-supported soft coup followed by a massive sell off of Brazil’s natural resources to American and European multinationals, a Military occupation of Rio de Janeiro State, persecution of journalists and the arrival of US forces in the Amazon. In April 2018 a US Department of Justice-backed judge and prosecutor arrested, ex-President Lula in a kangaroo court proceeding for committing “undetermined acts”. Lula continues to lead all polls in this years presidential elections from behind bars, banned from communicating with the press.
In short, Marighella’s words from 1968 are more relevant than they have been in decades, because the “gorillas” have retaken control of the country.
A Call to the Brazilian People
From somewhere in Brazil I address the public, especially the workers, poor farmers, students, teachers, journalists, intellectuals, priests, bishops, young people and women.
The Military violently took power in 1964. They are the ones who opened the path to subversion. They can not complain or act surprised that patriots are working to dislodge them from the command posts they brazenly usurped.
After all, what type of order do these “gorillas” want? The public assassination of students? The death squads and their firing lines? The torture and beatings at the DOPS secret police headquarters and in the military barracks?
The government privatized the Nation, delivering it to the United States, the worst enemy of the Brazilian people. The North Americans are the owners of the greatest amount of land in Brazil, they have a big part of the Amazon and our mineral wealth, including atomic minerals, in their hands.
They have missile bases in strategic locations in our territory. The North American spies from the CIA are in our country as if it were their own home, instructing the police on how to conduct manhunts against Brazilian patriots, and providing support to the government to repress the people.
The Dictatorship put the partnership between the Brazilian Education Ministry and USAID in place to install the North American-style education system in our country and transform our universities into institutions of private capital, where only the rich will be able to study. Meanwhile, there is no space in the schools and the students are required to face military police bullets and give their blood for the right to study.
All that workers have is wage stagnation and unemployment. For the peasants, forced evictions, illegal land seizures and predatory leases. For the North-easterners, hunger, misery and illness.
There is no freedom in the country. Censorship is practiced to repress intellectual activity. Religious persecution grows day by day. Priests are imprisoned and exiled from the country and the Bishops are attacked and threatened.
Inflation spins out of control. There is too much money in the hands of the big capitalists, while every day the workers suffer from scarcity. We have never paid so much for rent and our basic needs with salaries that are so low and continually reduced.
Corruption prevails over the government. It is no wonder that the country’s most corrupt people are ministers and military officers. Members of the government live like princes, smuggling and robbing. But the public sector workers receive miserable salaries.
Faced with a scandalous avalanche of lies and terrible slander against me, I have no choice but to respond to the government’s bullets and its disgusting police forces which try to capture me dead or alive.
This time it won’t be like 1964, when I was unarmed when the police shot me and couldn’t fire back.
The far right groups rob, explode bombs, kill and kidnap. However nobody has heard of the Government trying to capture the thieves and terrorists from the Communist Hunting Command.
The dictatorship says that there is a subversive plan and a conspiracy of deposed politicians who are trying to overthrow the government. It is conducting a witch hunt, searching for the leaders of the subversion. But the leadership of this subversion is in the people and their dissatisfaction, because nobody can take this government anymore.
This movement, that has provoked so much dread in the “gorillas”, rises from the bottom up. It doesn’t come from the politicians who have been stripped of their political rights, but from the bowels of a dissatisfied people, who have found unity and organization in the power of the masses
We will not overthrow the dictatorship through elections, re-democratization or other or cure-alls of the spoiled bourgeois opposition.
We don’t believe in a peaceful solution. There is nothing artificial about the need for violence which was set in Brazil when the Dictatorship took power by force.
Violence against violence. It is the only way out and we will continue what we are doing: using violence against those who practice violence against the interests of the people and the nation.
The “gorillas” think that the death of Che Guevara in Bolivia means the end of the guerrilla war. To the contrary, we are inspired by the detached example of the heroic guerrilla and will continue our patriotic fight in Brazil, working together with the people in the certainty that history is in our favor.
There is a vast resistance movement against the dictatorship. And, within it, guerrilla operations and tactics have arisen. I accept the honorable title of “Public enemy number 1”, given to me by the Gorilla government. I take responsibility for the expansion of guerrilla operations and tactics.
Who will trigger the next attacks, where and how and when will they be unleashed? This is a guerrilla secret that the enemy vainly tries to discover.
The revolutionary initiative is in our hands. We have already taken action.
We will wait no longer.
The gorillas will be stuck in a dark labyrinth until they are forced to transform the political situation into a military situation.
By using guerrilla tactics to trigger the people’s revolution, we aim to coordinate a just and necessary total war between the Brazilian people and its enemies. The Brazilian revolutionary war is not a conspiracy – it will be a long war.
Its history is already written with the blood of the students on the streets and in the prisons where patriots are tortured and annihilated. It is written in the actions of the persecuted priests, in the strikes of the workers, in the repression of the peasants, in the violent struggles in the countryside and in the great urban centers.
The destiny of the guerillas is in the hands of the revolutionary groups and in the acceptance, support, sympathy and direct or indirect participation of the people. For this, the revolutionary groups should unite in action from the bottom up.
Revolutionaries of all kinds and every party affiliation, wherever they may be, must continue the struggle and create support centers for the guerrillas. Since it is the duty of every revolutionary to make revolution, we do not ask permission from anyone to practice revolutionary acts. All we have is a commitment to the revolution.
Recent experiences of the people’s struggle show that Brazil has entered a phase of guerrilla tactics and armed actions of all kinds, surprise attacks and ambushes, weapons seizures, protests and sabotage. Mass protests, student demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and kidnapping of police and “gorillas” to exchange them for political prisoners.
Our main tactic now should be to scatter the revolutionary forces to intensify the struggle. Later, we will concentrate the revolutionary forces to organize plans and maneuvers.
There are three great options in terms of paths to be chosen by revolutionaries in the city and the countryside: to fight on the guerrilla front, to work mobilizing the people or to work in the support network.
In each of these fronts, it is important to work in a clandestine manner. We have to organize secret groups, be vigilant against police infiltration and kill snitches, spies and scouts so that no information leaks to the enemy.
Regardless of the situation we need more guns and ammunition. We need to increase our revolutionary firepower and act with precision, decisiveness and speed, even in small acts like distributing pamphlets and painting graffiti.
The following are some of people’s measures that we will impose after the victory of the revolution:
* Abolish privilege and censorship;
* Establish freedom of expression and religious freedom;
* Free all political prisoners and all people who have been condemned by the dictatorship;
* Eliminate the police, the National Information Service, the Naval Information center and all police repression institutions;
* Hold public trials and execute all CIA agents found in the country and all police officers guilty of torture, beatings and firing squad assassinations;
* Expel the Americans from the country and confiscate their property, including their companies, banks and land;
* Confiscate all national private companies that collaborated with the North Americans and oppose the revolution;
* Implement a state monopoly over finance, foreign trade, mineral wealth, communications and fundamental services;
* Confiscate land from the big ranchers and plantation owners, ending their land monopoly, guaranteeing land deeds to the farmers who till the earth, extinguishing all forms of exploitation of peasants and punish all crimes committed against them;
* Confiscate all illicit fortunes from the big capitalists and exploiters of the people;
* Eliminate corruption;
* Guarantee full employment for all workers, men and women, ending unemployment and underemployment and applying the principal of “for each second of your capacity to each second of your labor”;
* Eliminate the current tenant’s laws. Eliminate all rental contracts and reduce rents to protect the interests of the tenants. Create material conditions for people to acquire their own homes;
* Reformulate the education system, cancel the partnership between USAID and the Brazilian Education Ministry and every other vestige of North American interventionism, to enable Brazilian education to meet by the needs of the liberation of our people and their independent development;
* Expand scientific research; and
* Remove Brazil from the condition of satellite state to US foreign policy, so that we can be independent and support other underdeveloped nations in the fight against colonialism;
All of these measures will be guaranteed by the armed alliance of workers, peasants and students – the revolutionary national liberation army – which is rising out of the embryo of the guerrillas.
We are at the threshold of a new era in Brazil, which will bring about the radical transformation of our society and the valorization of Brazilian women and men.
We will fight to take power and replace the State bureaucratic and military apparatus with the armed people. The goal of our strategy is a People’s Revolutionary Government.
Down with the Military Dictatorship!
Viva Che Guevara!
December, 1968, Brazil
Note: the introduction to and translation of this article was originally done by Brian Mier, published in issue 132 of Lumpen Magazine, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of 1968.