Marighella’s Strategy for Destroying the Brazilian Government

This short paper examines the Marxist revolutionary Carlos Marighella’s Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla, and the author’s strategy for destroying the Brazilian government. 

Marighella’s Strategy for Destroying the Brazilian Government

By Tom White

Carlos Marighella was a Brazilian Marxist revolutionary who in his most famous contribution to guerrilla literature wrote the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla, a sort of ‘how to’ manual on disrupting and overthrowing the Brazilian government. Marighella’s minimanual was aimed at the military dictatorship which ruled Brazil during the 1960’s, but unlike his many terrorist contemporaries whose guerrilla strategies took place in the countryside, Marighela’s strategies were tailored toward the cities. Marighella relied upon terrorist tactics that were intended to inflict maximum damage on the Brazilian government. Marighella’s strategy involved the calculated use of both physical and psychological tactics for the express purpose of creating an atmosphere of insecurity and destabilization within the Brazilian government.

Marighella’s strategy for destroying the Brazilian government involved the combined use of both physical and psychological warfare within a city environment in order to create an atmosphere of insecurity. The physical part of Marighella’s strategy relied upon a cadre of well trained and determined guerrilla forces who engaged in relentless surprise raids. After executing their raids these guerilla forces would then melt back into the urban environment from which they came, after having first weakened “the local militia and the security systems of the dictatorship.”[1]  Marighella believed that this terrorist strategy of surprise raids would force the enemy into a defensive posture because of the ever present fear that guerrilla forces could strike anywhere at any time. Once this defensive strategy was established, Marghella believed militarily the enemy would be less effective since they would no longer be pursuing the guerillas, and instead “be forced to pull back its repressive forces in order to mount guard over all the banks, industries, armories, military barracks, prisons, public offices, radio, and television stations…etc.”[2] Marighella’s strategy was aimed at keeping the government forces bottled up, while consequently allowing more freedom of movement for guerilla forces so that they could inflict greater physical damage.

Marighella’s terrorist strategy did not end with just the physical tactics, but also relied upon a sophisticated psychological campaign that when combined with the continued bank robberies, ambushes, desertions, sabotages, and executions, would result in a type of psychological warfare. To accomplish this task Marghella advocated a psychological strategy which exploited further the insecurity sown by his guerilla’s actions, by the deliberate use of misinformation, such as “planting rumors, false plans, and providing false clues”[3] which would result in the further misallocation of enemy troops. Marghella’s psychological campaign also relied upon the effective use of a clandestine media, which once in place should be used to not only expose the corruption of the enemy, putting them further on the defensive, but also would have the added benefit of acting as propaganda tool.

The combined efforts of  physical and psychological terrorist strategies advocated by Marghella were designed to not only “demoralize the government”[4], create weakness, and  a sense of insecurity, but ultimately lead to the total destabilization of the Brazilian dictatorship.  




Marighella, Carlos. “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla.” Marighella Internet Archive, Last modified June 1969.



[1] Carlos Marighella, “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla.” Marighella Internet Archive, Last modified June 1969., 15


[2] Marighella, Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla 15

[3] Ibid, 24

[4] Ibid, 25

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