Urban guerrilla warfare
Urban guerrilla redirects here. For the Hawkwind
Hawkwind are an English rock band, one of the earliest space rock groups. Their lyrics favour urban and science fiction themes. They are also a noted precursor to punk rock and now are considered a link between the hippie and punk cultures....

 song, see Urban Guerrilla.

Urban guerrilla refers to someone who fights a government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 using unconventional warfare
Unconventional warfare
Unconventional warfare is the opposite of conventional warfare. Where conventional warfare is used to reduce an opponent's military capability, unconventional warfare is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing...

 in an urban
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

 environment. During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, many were on the left-wing of the political spectrum.

Theory and history of the urban guerrilla

The urban guerrilla phenomenon is essentially one of industrialised society
Industrialization is the process of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial one...

, resting both on the presence of large urban agglomeration
In the study of human settlements, an urban agglomeration is an extended city or town area comprising the built-up area of a central place and any suburbs linked by continuous urban area. In France, INSEE the French Statistical Institute, translate it as "Unité urbaine" which means continuous...

s where hideouts are easy to find and on a theory of alienation
Social alienation
The term social alienation has many discipline-specific uses; Roberts notes how even within the social sciences, it “is used to refer both to a personal psychological state and to a type of social relationship”...

 proper to the modern society of mass consumption.

Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

, a commader of the Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 (IRA) is often considered to be the father of modern urban guerrilla warfare. In April 1919 an elite assassination unit, known as The Squad or Twelve Apostles was created in Dublin. The unit was tasked with hunting down and executing British Intelligence operatives in the city, they can be considered one of the first true urban guerrilla units.

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
The foco theory of revolution by way of guerrilla warfare, also known as focalism , was inspired by Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, based upon his experiences surrounding the rebel army's victory in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and formalized as such by Régis Debray.Its central principle...

campaign headed by Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

 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
Ação Libertadora Nacional
The Ação Libertadora Nacional , the National Liberation Action, was a Brazilian communist guerrilla movement created in the end of 1967 to stand against the military dictatorship of 1964-1985. It was founded by Carlos Marighella after he got expelled from the Brazilian Communist Party....

, Carlos Marighela. Before his death during a bank robbery in 1969 he wrote the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla
Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla
Minimanual Of The Urban Guerrilla is a book written by Brazilian guerrilla fighter Carlos Marighella in June 1969. It consists of advices on how to disrupt and overthrow an authoritarian regime aiming a revolution...

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.


  • Montoneros
    Montoneros was an Argentine Peronist urban guerrilla group, active during the 1960s and 1970s. The name is an allusion to 19th century Argentinian history. After Juan Perón's return from 18 years of exile and the 1973 Ezeiza massacre, which marked the definitive split between left and right-wing...

  • The Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo
    People's Revolutionary Army (Argentina)
    The Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo was the military branch of the communist Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores in Argentina...

  • The Tacuara Nationalist Movement


  • Cellules Communistes Combattantes (CCC)
  • Front Revolutionaire d' Action Prolétarienne (FRAP)


  • The National Liberation Action
    Ação Libertadora Nacional
    The Ação Libertadora Nacional , the National Liberation Action, was a Brazilian communist guerrilla movement created in the end of 1967 to stand against the military dictatorship of 1964-1985. It was founded by Carlos Marighella after he got expelled from the Brazilian Communist Party....

  • The Popular Liberation Movement (Molipo)
  • The Revolutionary Movement 8th October
    Revolutionary Movement 8th October
    The Revolutionary Movement 8th October is a Brazilian political movement, formerly an urban guerrilla group...

  • The Armed Revolutionary Vanguard Palmares (VAR-Palmares)
  • The Popular Revolutionary Vanguard
    Carlos Lamarca
    Carlos Lamarca was a Brazilian Army Captain who deserted to become a communist guerilla member. He was a part of the revolutionary guerrilla group Popular Revolutionary Vanguard and became, along with Carlos Marighella, one of the major elements of communist subversion in Brazil...



  • Scottish National Liberation Army
    Scottish National Liberation Army
    The Scottish National Liberation Army , sometimes dubbed the 'Tartan Terrorists', is a militant group, which aims to bring about Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. The SNLA has been proscribed by the British government...

  • The MAC
    Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru
    Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru , abbreviated as MAC, was a paramilitary Welsh nationalist organisation, which was responsible for a number of bombing incidents between 1963 and 1969....

  • An Gof
    An Gof
    An Gof is a militant Cornish nationalist group. The organisation takes its name from the trade of Michael Joseph , An Gof , being Cornish for 'The Smith', a leader of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497....

  • Free Wales Army
    Free Wales Army
    The Free Wales Army was a paramilitary Welsh nationalist organisation, formed in Lampeter, Mid Wales, by William Julian Cayo-Evans in 1963. Its objective was to establish an independent Welsh republic.-History:...

  • Cornish National Liberation Army
    Cornish National Liberation Army
    The Cornish National Liberation Army, abbreviated to CNLA, was a terrorist Cornish nationalist organisation that has threatened to carry out acts of vandalism and arson against commercial targets that it considers to be English....


  • The FLQ (Quebec
    Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

  • Direct Action (organization)
  • Wimmin's Fire Brigade


  • The Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front
    Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front
    The Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front , also known as El Frente Patriótico, or simply El Frente, is a left-wing urban guerrilla movement in Chile, named for a figure in Chile's independence movement, Manuel Rodríguez. The group was founded on September 14, 1983 as an armed resistance against the...

  • The Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria
    Revolutionary Left Movement (Chile)
    Revolutionary Left Movement is a Chilean political party and former left-wing guerrilla organization founded on October 12, 1965...



  • Revolutionary Organization 17 November
    Revolutionary Organization 17 November
    Revolutionary Organization 17 November , was a Marxist urban guerrilla organization formed in 1975 and believed to have been disbanded in 2002 after the arrest and trial of a...

  • Revolutionary Struggle
    Revolutionary Struggle
    Revolutionary Struggle is a Greek rebel group known for its attacks on Greek government buildings and the American embassy in Athens...

  • Revolutionary Nuclei
    Revolutionary Nuclei
    Revolutionary Nuclei , also known as Revolutionary Cells, is a far-left terrorist group in Greece. RN first appeared with a bomb attack on a Hellenic Coast Guard facility in Piraeus on 11 May 1997...

  • Sect of Revolutionaries
    Sect of Revolutionaries
    The Sect of Revolutionaries is a Greek paramilitary group. They first became known in February 2009 with a threat to kill Greek police officers at the Police-station in Korydallos...


  • The Provisional Irish Republican Army
    Provisional Irish Republican Army
    The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

     (formed 1969)
  • The Official Irish Republican Army (formed 1969)
  • The Irish National Liberation Army
    Irish National Liberation Army
    The Irish National Liberation Army or INLA is an Irish republican socialist paramilitary group that was formed on 8 December 1974. Its goal is to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a socialist united Ireland....

     (formed 1974)
  • The Irish People's Liberation Organisation
    Irish People's Liberation Organisation
    The Irish People's Liberation Organisation was a small Irish republican paramilitary organization which was formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the Irish National Liberation Army whose factions coalesced in the aftermath of the supergrass trials...

     (formed 1986)
  • The Continuity Irish Republican Army
    Continuity Irish Republican Army
    The Continuity Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the Continuity IRA and styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann, is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation that aims to bring about a united Ireland. It emerged from a split in the Provisional IRA in 1986 but did not become active until...

     (active since 1994)
  • The Real Irish Republican Army
    Real Irish Republican Army
    The Real Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the Real IRA , and styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann , is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation which aims to bring about a united Ireland...

     (active since 1997)
  • Óglaigh na hÉireann (splinter group)
    Óglaigh na hÉireann (CIRA splinter group)
    Óglaigh na hÉireann was the title taken by a small dissident republican paramilitary group that formed in 2006 as a splinter group from the Continuity IRA. According to Martyn Frampton this faction has ceased operations since 2009...


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


  • ETA
    ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

  • Terra Lliure
    Terra Lliure
    Terra Lliure , sometimes referred to as TLL, was an armed Catalan nationalist and left-wing separatist organisation. Formed in 1978, with the goal of establishing an independent Marxist state in the so-called Catalan Countries, the group carried out dozens of attacks that left many people injured...

  • Resistência Galega
    Resistência Galega
    Resistência Galega , sometimes referred to as REGA, is the term used by a series of left-wing and Galician separatist organizations and individuals to claim attacks in the northern region of Spain. The term was first used in 2005 when a manifest named Manifesto da Resistência Galega appeared on the...

  • Arxiu
  • Exèrcit Popular Català
  • Escamots Autònoms d´Alliberament
  • Hermanos Quero
  • Front d'Alliberament de Catalunya
  • Organització de la Lluita Armada
  • Exército Guerrilheiro do Povo Galego Ceive
  • Liga Armada Galega
  • Fuerzas Armadas Guanches
    Fuerzas Armadas Guanches
    The Fuerzas Armadas Guanches was the armed wing of the Movimiento por la Autodeterminación e Independencia del Archipiélago Canario...

  • Andecha Obrera
    Andecha Obrera
    Andecha Obrera was a terrorist organization of Asturian nationalistic ideology, at the moment inactivate, that during the decade of the 80's used explosive devices in to support labor struggles, as in the cases of the offices of the INEM, or related to the naval conflict.-Documented actions:*In...


  • The Black Liberation Army
    Black Liberation Army
    The Black Liberation Army was an underground, black nationalist-Marxist militant organization that operated in the United States from 1970 to 1981...

  • The May 19th Communist Movement
    May 19th Communist Movement
    The May 19 Coalition , was a US-based, self-described revolutionary organization formed by members of the Weather Underground Organization...

  • The Symbionese Liberation Army
    Symbionese Liberation Army
    The Symbionese Liberation Army was an American self-styled left-wing urban militant group active between 1973 and 1975 that considered itself a revolutionary vanguard army...

  • The Weathermen

However, not all urban political violence can be labeled as urban guerrilla. The Black Panther Party
Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party wasan African-American revolutionary leftist organization. It was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982....

 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
Citizen Smith
Citizen Smith is a British television sitcom. The show was written by John Sullivan, who later wrote Only Fools and Horses. The pilot was transmitted on 12 April 1977 in the Comedy Special series of one-off plays, and the series proper ran from 3 November 1977 to 31 December 1980.Citizen Smith...

" Wolfie Smith, the leader of the fictional "Tooting Popular Front" described himself as an Urban Guerrilla.

See also

  • Guerrilla warfare
    Guerrilla warfare
    Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

     and unconventional warfare
    Unconventional warfare
    Unconventional warfare is the opposite of conventional warfare. Where conventional warfare is used to reduce an opponent's military capability, unconventional warfare is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing...

  • Insurgency
    An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

     and Counterinsurgency
  • Terrorism
    Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

    , Counter-terrorism
    Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

     and anti-terrorist legislation
  • Propaganda of the deed
    Propaganda of the deed
    Propaganda of the deed is a concept that refers to specific political actions meant to be exemplary to others...

  • Strategy of tension
    Strategy of tension
    The strategy of tension is a theory that describes how to divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, and false flag terrorist actions....

  • State of exception
    State of exception
    State of Exception may mean:* State of exception* State of Exception , a book written by Giorgio Agamben...

  • False flag
    False flag
    False flag operations are covert operations designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is flying the flag of a country other than one's own...


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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