Call to the Brazilian people

Image: Joan Miró.


Commentary on Marighella's book

“We cannot deny the possibility of a coup within a coup. However, what we cannot do is wait for this to happen.” (Carlos Marighella, Criticism of the theses of the Central Committee, 1967).

“To the revolutionary the world has always been ripe.” (Max Horkheimer, the authoritarian state, 1942).

Without wanting to abuse acoustic metaphors, it is possible that in the historical sounding board of the Brazilian present it is possible to hear echoes of Carlos Marighella's call. It is true that a title like Call to the Brazilian people, in its contemporary configuration, has a highly suggestive character. It is important to note the literary genre in which it is inserted: a summons, or rather, a political invitation, as it is about “inviting the masses now to popular insurrection” (p. 191), a point of proximity between the letter and the action even greater than that of a manifesto.

There is a very specific address in it, although today we read such text more like a message in a bottle thrown into the sea. In the context of recent urban insurgencies (quite different from the context of Latin American guerrillas 50/60 years ago), we can think that the idea of ​​​​the person responsible for the publication (Vladimir Safatle) may have a proximity to what in France became known as “lesappelistes"since the circulation of the text"Appel” [called] in the demonstrations in 2004 and 2005, and which became notorious from the calls of the Invisible Committee (which is no longer so invisible), whose role in the scenario of the French street riots of the last 15 years has been no small one.

But the recently published collection of texts by Marighella emanates relevance mainly due to the dates of the writings, what such dates represent, and the content of the diagnosis of the period present there. All texts were published between 1964 and 1968 (with the exception of one, from 1969). That is to say, this is a moment in Brazilian history that was a true limbo, a situation that required a decision (hence also the intensity of Marighella's interpellation).

He wrote in 1965: “Brazilians are faced with an alternative. Or resist the situation created with the blow of 1.o of April or conform to it. Conformity is death. At the very least, live on your knees. Suffer endless humiliation” (p. 114). Central to Marighella's analyzes is the discrepancy between the seriousness of the situation established after the “abrilada” or “gorillada” (as he refers to the 1964 coup) and the absence of a resistance that is up to the task of preventing the advance of the “Brazilian military fascism”. This is even, as one reads in some of the important documents present in the volume, the subject that mobilizes the break with the PCB, which, in Marighella's reading, was satisfied with a feigned opposition.

There is a whole experience of history sedimented in these political writings. When reading a text from 1965, 66, 67, it is necessary to keep in mind that nobody knew, in fact, the nature and dimension of what was happening, much less the duration that the dictatorship that was being implemented would have. I once heard from a veteran that, right after the coup, the most “pessimistic and gloomy” said: “this will last about three years…”; others thought it would be a matter of months.

While Marighella insisted (before the AI-5) that “the possibility of new coups is real” (p. 203), the left (including the PCB) was satisfied, since the day after the April Revolution, with the perspective of a “redemocratization ” inevitable and a return to constitutional normalcy that would happen sooner or later, which would be conducted by the constitutional and peaceful way. It didn't cross anyone's mind that that was what it was and that the dictatorship would last 20 years while it ended, once and for all, the potential for radical transformation that was germinating in Brazilian society. And yet it was as if Marighella had sensed and imagined the worst.

That is to say, on the one hand he was the “man who did not know fear” (as Antonio Candido says), notable for his determination as an unconditional lover of freedom (as he himself states several times in his texts) and for his physical courage. On the other hand, his courage also meant his ability to fear and anticipate what was to come – and what actually came.

Therefore, Marighella's attitude is not that of an “audacious, but inconsequential”, as portrayed by the left and right. On the contrary: his decision for direct combat was based on a profound sense of responsibility, so that “courage” is not synonymous here with “clueless” or voluntarist narcissism – although the idea of ​​heroism is not something completely absent, given its resource. recurring to the “example of the Heroic Guerrilla Che Guevara” (p. 269) – the exemplary personalities in Marighella's historical imaginary range from Tiradentes to the abolitionists.

“Clueless” were therefore not those who took the risk of the fight, but those who, illusory and for “precaution”, hoped “that from the contradictions between the coup leaders or the conflicts generated by them [would] come about better results” (p. 143). In 1965, Marighella criticized the sector that saw “the dictatorship divided by contradictions and preferred to focus fire on the 'hard line', to avoid a greater evil”. This sector “follows the method of supporting the statements of the head of the Executive Power supposedly favorable to respect for the democratic order. Such a conception hopes that constitutional normality will come from this. And that – with the holding of elections – the dictatorship is defeated and expelled” (p. 144).

Marighella's analyzes are not just conjuncture analyses, linked to the most immediate meaning of strategy and political struggle, but they have a theoretical background. On the one hand he adhered to the Marxism-Leninism of the party, but on the other hand he was, also in Antonio Candido's terms, an "open Marxist" (even before the open marxism by John Holloway).

This position was the result of the basic intuition that any orthodoxy in a country like Brazil would necessarily go wrong. Thus, Marighella recommended “the flexible handling of Marxism-Leninism, which repels any dose, however minimal, of dogmatism”. After all, “the Brazilian reality requires careful attention and tireless study” (p. 119). One can read in his texts a strong influence of the anti-imperialism of dependency theory, but not in its developmental version, but in its revolutionary version, perhaps closer to the formulations of Ruy Mauro Marini.

The maintenance of large estates and violence in the countryside, for example, do not appear as non-modernized archaic remains, but as a “delay” posed by modernization itself (which was already in Trotsky's theory of uneven and combined development). In such a way that, at the limit, we can say that the famous idea of ​​“conservative modernization”, apparently a paradox, ends up being in fact a pleonasm, since all capitalist modernization implies an eternal return of the same. Therefore, central to Marighella’s reading (and this marked a distinction of his position in relation to large sectors of the Brazilian left) is that he recognized that there is no lack to be filled by capitalist development: “Brazil is no longer a country that suffers more from the lack of capitalism than from capitalism” (p. 188). In other words, economic growth “does not free us from the condition of being underdeveloped” (idem).

Thus, Marighella's anti-imperialism differs from the nationalist anti-imperialism that sees a function of the local bourgeoisie and seeks to ally itself with it. “A part of Brazilian capitalism only sees a way out by becoming enslaved to the United States” (p. 188), which means that such a dependency relationship is inseparable from the capitalist dynamic itself – it is worth remembering that such a thesis was affirmed (and confirmed) even by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, something that, in addition to his boutade about “forget what I wrote”, was cynically put into practice by recognizing that the only “way out for Brazil” was to become a minor partner of western capitalism.

In any case, the option for armed struggle and Marighella's revolutionary position, contrary to the leadership of the PCB (it is no secret that Moscow has boycotted insurrections around the world), is directly linked to a critique of progressivism (also known as “stepism” in Marxist jargon) and the idea that the national bourgeoisie would still have a modernizing function, that the “bourgeois revolution” in Brazil would be a necessary step in the “Brazilian revolution”. His emphasis on alliance with the countryside and the displaced is proof of this: “Aiming to camouflage this opportunist position, sometimes they call the bourgeoisie progressive, sometimes they call it national bourgeoisie, but the Brazilian experience has persistently demonstrated that such camouflage does not lead to anything. Or rather, it leads to underestimating the peasant and his role in the revolution, while the CC hopes to achieve victory in the city through peaceful political struggle” (p. 303).

This is even linked to Marighella's position against Varguismo, something relevant to remember especially at a time when sectors of the Brazilian left flirt retrospectively with the industrial patriotism of the Vargas Era. Marighella saw in the Estado Novo a “kind of fascism peculiar to Brazil at the time of the rise of Nazism” (p. 122) – it is worth remembering that Marighella himself was arrested several times under the Vargas dictatorship, spending a total of nine years in prison. The 1964 coup itself was seen by him as “a kind of reissue of the Estado Novo – with the Institutional Act, written by the same fascist who drafted the 1937 Constitution” (p. 156). Therefore, Marighella's anti-imperialism had nothing to do with authoritarian developmentalist rage nor with the fetish for industrial and military “sovereignty”, which is nothing more than a ruling class project.

Despite being a defender of the military discipline of the guerrillas, Marighella was anti-war. This is because he also saw the meaning of “westernization” and the transformation of Brazil into a US satellite less in simple economic interest, but in preparation for war (p. 188) in a situation in which the Cold War had transformed the planet in a huge minefield. And yet, in the midst of the world's terrible situation, the utopian wind coming from the Caribbean inspired him as a source of hope: the Cuban Revolution and Guevara's victorious guerrillas. Resistance to the dictatorship proposed by Marighella should not mean, therefore, any return to the “rationed democracy” prior to the collapse of populism, but should be a fight taken to the end. Because, as Lenin would have said (quoted by Marighella), “the great problems of peoples' lives can only be solved by force” (p. 225).

*Felipe Catalani is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at USP.


Carlos Marighella. A Call to the Brazilian People and Other Writings. (Organization: Vladimir Pinheiro Safatle). São Paulo, Ubu, 2019, 320 pages.



See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • A myopic logicRED MAN WALKING _ 12/06/2024 By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL: The government does not have the political will to make education a priority, while it courts the military or highway police, who do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism that they continue to support
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives