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Urban guerrilla warfare: Wikis

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Urban guerrilla redirects here. For the Hawkwind song, see Urban Guerrilla.

Urban guerrilla refers to someone who fights a government using unconventional warfare in an urban environment. During the Cold War, many were on the left-wing of the political spectrum. However, nothing in armed struggle makes it inherently left or right-wing.

Contents

Theory and history of the urban guerrilla

The urban guerrilla phenomenon is essentially one of industrialised society, resting both on the presence of large urban agglomerations where hideouts are easy to find and on a theory of alienation proper to the modern society of mass consumption.

Historically guerrilla warfare was a rural phenomenon, it was not until the 1960s that the limitations of this form were clearly demonstrated. The technique was almost entirely ineffective when used outside of the later colonial environment, as was shown by the Cuban sponsored efforts in Latin America during the 1960s culminating in the hopeless foco campaign headed by Che Guevara in Bolivia that culminated in his death. The need for the target government to be simultaneously incompetent, iniquitous, and politically isolated was rarely met.

The failure of rural insurgency forced the discontented to find new avenues for action, essentially random terrorism aimed at creating maximum publicity, provoking the targeted regimes into excessive repression and so inciting the general population to join a wider revolutionary struggle. This movement found its mentor in the leader of the ephemeral Ação Libertadora Nacional, Carlos Marighela. Before his death during a bank robbery in 1969 he wrote the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla which, between the polemics, gave clear advice on strategy and was quickly adopted by others around the world.

In action no urban guerrilla movement has managed to move beyond the first portion of its operations - creating conditions where the government takes extreme repressive measures to limit the activities of the insurgents. The formation of a number of brutal military regimes in Latin America is directly linked to the efforts of guerrillas. However the next stage has never been achieved, a popular uprising to overthrow the government. Instead, the guerrillas are killed, captured, forced into exile, brought into government, or sufficiently marginalized to render them ineffective in achieving their stated goals.

Historical examples

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Argentina

Belgium

Brazil

Britain

Canada

Chile

Colombia

France

Germany

Greece

Iraq

Ireland

Italy

  • The Red Brigades (BR)
  • Barbagia Rossa
  • Sardinian Fighting Movement

Lebanon

Palestinian territory

Philippines

  • Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB)
  • Red Scorpion Group
  • Light A Fire Movement (LAFM)
  • Sandigan army

Spain

Uruguay

USA

However, not all urban political violence can be labeled as urban guerrilla. The Black Panther Party might not qualify, due to its public nature, although its policy of "self-defense" was interchangeable with a policy of armed struggle in "militarily occupied" African American communities. Similarly the Italian Autonomia movement, and the German Autonomen engaged in urban political violence, but not as urban guerrillas due to their policies of public, mass and non-deadly violence.

In the 1970s BBC comedy "Citizen Smith" Wolfie Smith, the leader of the fictional "Tooting Popular Front" described himself as an Urban Guerrilla.

See also

External links

Suggested readings:

Greene, T.N. (ed) The Guerrilla—and How to Fight Him: Selections From the Marine Corps Gazette. Frederick A. Praeger, 1964.

Molnar et al., Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare. Special Operations Research Office, American University, 1963.

Oppenheimer, Martin. The Urban Guerrilla. Quadrangle, 1969.


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