Carlos Marighella: the flame that does not go out

Carlos Zilio, FRAGMENTOS 1 ANO JAIL, 1971, felt-tip pen on paper, 47x32,5


“Legality”, in the sense of a civilized civil society, is a fiction

The 4th of November 1969 became part of history thanks to a police-military feat that culminated in the death of Carlos Marighella. It is therefore fifteen years since the death of the main leader of Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN), a political figure who had become known as a militant of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), its top leader and also its deputy in the Congress that drafted the 1946 Constitution. He was pursued like the most coveted game and condemned to civic death, to the elimination of collective memory.

Only in December 1979, when his remains were transferred to Salvador, his hometown, did Jorge Amado proclaim the end of the expiatory interdiction: “I withdraw from the curse and silence and here I inscribe his name as a Bahian: Carlos Marighella”. Last year, we removed another part of the interdiction, in a public ceremony of civic recovery and homage that “washed the soul” of socialists and communists in São Paulo.

A Man does not disappear with his death. On the contrary, he can grow after her, grow with her, and reveal her true statue from a distance. This is what happens with Marighella. He died consecrated by indomitable courage and revolutionary ardor. The executioners worked against themselves; by martyring him, they forged the pedestal of an eternal glory. Now, this man returns to historical actuality. He did not redeem the oppressed or bequeath a new party. But he went through the contradictions that bent a party that should have faced the dictatorship in a revolutionary way, whatever happened. He thus unmasked the reality of proletarian parties in Latin America.

In a two-sided historical situation (as I like to describe it), counter-revolution and revolution are so tied together that they are two sides of the same coin. On the surface, it seems that the class struggle operates in a one-way fashion – towards and in favor of the owners of capital and power. However, underground (in the “infrastructure of society” or in the “internal social milieu”) there are several fires, and the emergence of historical alternatives may depend on “a handful of brave men” or on parties organized and prepared for revolution. .

In several Latin American countries, including Brazil, the bourgeoisie – despite its economic, cultural and political dependence – is embedded in national power structures and controls them with an iron fist. Dictatorships, “traditional” or “modern”, mark sudden, sometimes short-lived, swings from latent civil war to open civil war. No party of the oppressed can claim to be revolutionary, along socialist or communist lines, if it is not prepared to tenaciously and ferociously face these oscillations. “Legality”, in the sense of a civilized civil society, is a fiction.

The great value of Carlos Marighella – like that of others who courageously and tenaciously faced those contradictions, with the “internal crisis of the party” – lies in the fact that he objectively understood and exposed without hesitation what experience taught him. In the diagnosis, he was sometimes trapped by mistaken terminology and conceptions that he intended to refine and overcome through a consistent revolutionary practice with Marxism-Leninism and the demands of the historical situation. Finally, he ended up victimized by the central vulnerability: the non-existence of the party that could open new paths in the revolutionary transformation of society.

A party of this type is not born overnight. It requires a long and difficult construction. Marighella fell for the ruses she had pointed out, trying to defeat the enemy where it was impossible to escape his “strategic military siege”. He did not go to the bottom of the analysis of the Cuban revolution, ignoring how much a revolutionary historical situation had simplified the paths of that revolution. The revolutionary “military path”, however, would prove to be fragile under the more differentiated and sometimes advanced dependent capitalism in South America, especially after the victory of the Rebel Army in Cuba.

Carlos Marighella's shortcomings and mistakes resulted from uncontrollable and insurmountable factors. He went as far as his duty required, with no means to make the necessary mission achievable. The proletarian revolution is not an “objective” of the revolutionary party. It is, at the same time, its raison d'être, its mainstay and its product, but in such a way that, when the revolutionary party arises, it is a coordinator, concentrator and dynamizer of the existing explosive social forces. As Karl Marx pointed out, “Humanity only proposes itself problems that it can solve, because, deepening the analysis, it will always be seen that the problem itself only presents itself when the material conditions to solve it exist or are present. in the process of existing”.

What qualifies and distinguishes the positions assumed by Carlos Marighella is the intention to break with an adaptive line, which removed the Communist Party from the proletarian pole of the class struggle, converting it into the permanent “tail” and left of the bourgeoisie. His Marxism-Leninism was much closer to the intention than to the consequent theoretical and practical elaboration. This did not prevent him from finding, through political priority and the accumulation of a vast negative concrete experience, an objective version of the sinuosities of adaptive and tolerant communism that academic Marxism only discovered too late or, then, never wanted to unmask.

At the very moment when we are once again driven to the mistakes of the past, it seems essential to return to its criticisms and the reasons for its ruptures (although it is unthinkable to reabsorb the set of theoretical and practical solutions that it inspired and disseminated). On three points, at least, it is indispensable to take it as a reference for a Marxist purification of our revolutionary parties.

The first point has to do with the direct links between theory and concrete facts and reality, through critical experience and critical action. This orientation is basic for the elaboration of a communism made in Latin America, built by us, although with Marxist and Leninist roots. He places the “theoretical”, Eurocentric intellectual in a secondary position, and rejects the “imported solutions”, which imposed the invariable models of some Soviet, Chinese, etc. monolithism.

The second point is the most decisive, as it calls into question which revolutionary party should emerge from the economic, social and political conditions of Latin American countries (and Brazil in particular). A civil society that repels civilization for all and a State that concentrates violence at the top to apply it in an ultra-oppressive and ultra-egoistic way involve a specific exasperated barbarism. Such a party will always have to be a kind of iceberg, however reliable and durable its “legality” may seem. This will allow you to interact dialectically on the two levels of the revolutionary transformation of society – the bourgeois, within the order, and the proletarian and peasant, against the order.

The third point refers to the alliance with the bourgeoisie, which should never have reached the density and permanence it did. A communist party docile to the bourgeoisie will never be proletarian or revolutionary and will have, as an inexorable fate, to pervert the political alliance. “The secret of victory is the people”. The gravitational axis of alliances is, therefore, in solidarity among the oppressed; in its anti-imperialist, nationalist and democratic struggles, as well as in its attempts to tame bourgeois supremacy, conquer power or implement socialism.

In short, Carlos Marighella was a dreamer with his feet on the ground and his head on straight. He still defies his persecutors and deserves that his companions on the road (and the former party) seriously take into account his attempt to theoretically and practically solve the enigma of the communist movement in Brazil.

*Florestan Fernandes (1920-1985) was an emeritus professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences at USP. Author, among other books, of The Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil (Countercurrent).

Originally published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul on November 12, 1984.


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