SITUATING "THE BLURRED TRAIL OF THE CANGACEIROS IN
THE SOCIAL PAMPAS"
A Little Introductory Explanation.........
Throughout the 1980s and the early years of the 1990s we were friendly with some of the people who made up the French group Os Cangaceiros, which had evolved out of Les Fossoyeurs du Vieux Monde (The Gravediggers of the Old World). The original Cangaceiros were Robin Hood style bandits - robbing the rich to give to the poor - in 19th century Brazil. The newly-minted Frog group (as we collectively called them in a bout of put-on chauvinism) had come to Britain excited by the bout of urban rioting throughout the early 1980s and its increasing overlap with bitter strikes especially that of the miners between 1984-5 to which the Froggies added their own ingredients. Befriending some of the most wild, headstrong and remarkable individuals in the Yorkshire mining community they tried to create more enduring international link-ups in the hope that increasing immiseration throughout the 1980s would be a cloud with a silver lining perhaps one with a rainbow - a rainbow coalition - an inter-ethnic coming togetherness expressed through open revolt in Britain as the decade gave way to the nineties. Alas it was not to be as reaction went from bad to worse to the nigh on impossible.
It has been said that 'the Kangaroos' as they inevitably came to be called by us in Britain - again resorting to that put on 'Carry On' film style chauvinism - fetishised violence for violence sake supporting uncritically every aspect of home grown hooliganism which none of us could do just like that and no more so than the tragedy at the Heysel's stadium in Brussels in 1985 during the UEFA cup competition when many people died in a stampede provoked by three way clashes between police and English (Liverpool) and Italian (Juventus) football supporters. It could be said - and was even suggested by some people at the time - there was more to it than that with lefty Liverpool supporters in their local red footie gear versus Italian fascists but this was stretching things rather too far.
On the other hand, the Kangaroos spread the example of autonomy emanating from the Spanish dockers' organisation - the coordinadora - before it too degenerated, helping distribute BM Blob's pamphlet: 'International Dockers struggle in the Eighties' throughout the Yorkshire coalfield and their generally welcoming, friendly disposition certainly created bonds of enduring friendship (see 'Jenny Tells her Tale', a commentary by a miner's wife on the RAP web). Moreover, the Kangaroos did produce some interesting texts and certainly the best in the French language on the miners' strike with a very convincing I was their feel to them, though none more so perhaps than 'N'Drea' a fascinating, often profound, deeply moving autobiographical account of a companera who died of cancer at a tragically early age. It remains one of the best critiques yet of the modern hospital in relation to terminal disease and it was produced by Pelagian Press, the book-publishing arm of the Here & Now collective in Leeds care of an excellent translation by Don Smith. Put out more or less as a facsimile in a limited edition unfortunately the book is no longer available though it would be a good idea if the Pelagian edition were transmitted over the World Wide Web.
As for the Cangacieros at the same time and on their home turf in France, they became involved in forms of direct action relating especially to prisoners' struggles initiating a series of inventive contributions. The following text refers to one such intervention among others as well as sensitively and intelligently dealing with the problems inherent in a somewhat socially marooned groupuscule that had gone on the offensive bringing the wrath of the establishment down on its clandestine head. Especially pertinent are the how's, whys and wherefores, among other unforeseen difficulties, relating to the media publicity machine; how it can use you and, most importantly, how you can subvert its modus operandi thus forcing media personnel to play your game and not theirs. Some of this is subtle stuff and you can feel the telling voice of sheer experience at work here and for sure, it's all a valuable example for those out there heading down similar paths or have been there themselves.
Os Cangaceiros isn't really known about in the English-speaking world though there are suggestions that books are being written which, to some degree, concern their activities. All this though is shrouded in something like speculation, even mystery and as if to bring the point home, Wikipedia's account of the group on the Internet has been deleted. The text published here was written in English and was a one-off that was perhaps somewhat frowned on by other ex-members - though that always tends to be the likely outcome - re our own efforts and controversial critique of King Mob in the late 1960s! Regarding this publication some English expressions have been cleaned up here and there, though in the first instance the English was pretty good and if we have created offence by publishing 'The Blurred Trail of the Cangaceiros in the Social Pampas' on the RAP web we do apologise'We would however also beg the xxxxer's not to ask us to press the delete button because getting things out that head in the direction of an always difficult, more truthful account of subversion can only be to the good no matter what minor, or not so minor, bias there can and always will be in divergent accounts written by different individuals.
THE BLURRED TRAIL OF THE CANGACEIROS
IN THE SOCIAL PAMPAS
Between 1985 and 1990, the group "Os Cangaceiros" attained some reputation through a couple of resounding actions in France; and now that the Cangaceiros belong to the past, it is probably those actions which are worth remembering, or rather the lessons and criticisms which can be drawn from them. However, the following comments do not seek to arouse admiration, nor scorn: I just think that they could be of some use to others willing to engage in some kind of similar practical dissent.(1)
The various acts of sabotage that we carried out were an assertion that when it comes to expressing discontent or solidarity a few determined people can indulge in something more efficient than the habitual leaflet/pamphlet writing. In 1985, the idea was to relay the demands of rioting prisoners by disrupting railway traffic on a wide scale. Blocking highways and railway lines is a long-established tradition in French workers' struggles. By using the same means, we wanted to stress that a prisoners' revolt is as legitimate a social struggle as any other: just as workers go on strike for a pay rise, prisoners riot for reduced sentences - and in both cases of course there's more at stake than the actual demands. Needless to say, the state and the media didn't acknowledge this, and ranted on about terrorists supporting criminals (or vice versa). Still, this display of solidarity was well received within the prison walls, and also among many people outside. And while reporting our actions, the press had to mention the prisoners' demands, thus allowing them to become more widely known. It also has to be said that, in spite of the delirious accusations of terrorism; the four people who were charged with these actions eventually got quite mild sentences, thanks to a local defence campaign, which took the opposite course, regarding the 'terrorist' issue.
Though we didn't wish to endlessly reproduce this particular kind of action and spend all our time on railway ballast, we resorted to it once more in February 1986. This time we were acting in in support of Abdelkarim Khalki, who had shown his noble sense of friendship and humanity by attempting to liberate his mates, Courtois and Thiollet, while they were appearing on trial. The court, jury and journalists were taken hostage for 36 hours and though the attempt failed they'd managed to "judge their judges", the judicial system and society, live on prime time TV. Now Khalki was on hunger strike, demanding that the minister of interior respect the promise he'd made to let him go, in exchange for the surrender of Thiollet and Courtois. So one morning, thousands of Parisians were able to find a good excuse for arriving to work late, as we paralysed virtually the whole Metro network for over an hour just by throwing heavy things on the rails and cutting through the main electrical cables. Posters stuck up in and around the stations informed everybody about Khalki's situation and demands; again this action compelled the press to mention Khalki's hunger strike, which had been blacked-out until then. Of course, the government never kept its promise, and Khalki would receive a heavy sentence. As our poster said, "What can be expected from the state, but blows and lies?"
The series of actions we carried out in 1989-90 were based on a different perspective. This time it was not a direct response to a revolt, which had just occurred (2), but a decision to oppose, somehow, the planned construction of new prisons. This meant we could decide for ourselves the timing and means we thought most appropriate. We were motivated by the obvious reasons for which anyone might feel pissed off at the prospect of 13,000 new cages being built, but we also had personal grounds for resentment: in the prececeding year, we'd been subjected to permanent harassment by the police, who had tried to vanquish the Cangaceiros with as little publicity as possible, forcing us to be constantly on the run. It was no exaggeration to assert that those prisons were also being built for us; seeing "the best defence is to attack" we thought that if we were nicked, better it was for something worth it. However, this feeling of anguished emergency also played a harmful role in the whole thing, as the playful element, necessary to any kind of subversive activity, tended to give way to a neurotic obsession with wanting a successful outcome.
The final report we published about this campaign can give a deceiving impression of ease and facility. In fact, for more than a year, we kept banging our heads against the many walls of well guarded government offices, private businesses, building sites and secret data locations, with the impression that our sabotage was a mere pinprick against such a monstrous machine. And confronted by this, our first reaction was to overstate our goals, which can lead to a dangerous (i.e. uncontrolled) escalation. Moreover, long-term planning relating to hit-squad activity tends to produce its own 'military' logic, which alienates you from more distant and self-critical reflections with means becoming ends. As non-hierarchical as the group may be, everyone still feels that they somewhat lost the initiative; so that it took us time to realize that we had a much simpler more efficient card to play by circulating the secret plans and documents we'd gotten hold of. This was not just a change of tactics; I would like to stress more general considerations regarding this matter.
The first concerns our relation to the media. The kind of acts of sabotage we carried out in 1985-86 were highly dependent on media coverage. No matter how much you despise the media you also need their publicity - for what's a solidarity action worth, if it doesn't come to the attention of the ones it's aimed at? And thus you surrender to their power: the power to slander you, blow you up out of all proportion in order to provoke repression, or simply not to report you, leaving you unnoticed. In 1989-90, the press had visibly been given the order to blank our activities: even the local papers, which never fail to report on the occasional run-over dog, didn't write a single line on the security firm we'd virtually burnt to ashes, or the prison architect we'd punched up on a Paris street.
With the distribution of the "13, 000 Belles" dossier, we turned the problem upside down. Before the media knew anything, tens of thousands of people had already become aware of what was happening - for instance, we'd sent the dossier to all the cafes in the towns where new prisons had been built, and our spies there told us that it fed and nourished discussions in the bars all day long. According to a local paper, a horrified pensioner rushed to her local town hall, asking them if it was true that prisoners could force their way out through walls that had been sabotaged. Handing them the mail she'd received, they copied it ('Xeroxes were busy that day', a journalist wrote), which were then transmitted to higher authorities and so forth. The journalists were then forced to rush round to get a copy of the dossier: thus, during the day, the news made its way from the local papers to the agencies of the national press, untill a government official had to call a press conference to "reassure the public" about the potential dangers of these revealing documents. And just because this time, we hadn't needed the press as a necessary go-between to reach the general public, their reports were more consistent and accurate than usual - even funny sometimes. Le Figaro drew up a full page article called "Jailbreaks - directions for use" in which they reproduced our entire letter and another paper commented: "These Cangaceiros are as romantic as their predecessors (i.e. the Brazilian social bandits) though better organized" (!) A TV news announcer concluded: "One could think of it as a bad joke, because weren't these people already known to the police?"..There is a moral to this story: the best use of the media, instead of them using you, is to try and bypass them(4). First, make them unnecessary so that they might react as a mere amplifier of what happened, without us depending on their assistance.
But behind the media problematic lies a more substantial question. The more we'd been striving to cause consistent damage to the prison programme, the more the uneasy feeling was growing among us that we were fighting a "one to one" match against the state - a challenge which, as such, we were obviously bound to lose. We were The Last of the Mohicans in a desperate assault against the palefaces. In the end, it was of little importance whether the media reported on this fight or not, and whether it would raise sympathy or scorn among the public; in any case, the 'public' could do nothing but remain a public of spectators, watching it from afar. We'd never considered ourselves a sacrificial avant-garde, still we were finding ourselves pushed into a corner where our 'good intentions' were of little use. The option of distributing the prison plans was something of a break through, in that it appealed, not to spectators but to potential accomplices who could themselves relay our initiative and carry it further.
And it worked quite well. Though some prisoners definitely had knowledge of the dossier and were enthusiastic about it, we don't know whether it actually helped inmates to find a way out - but every time there's been some disturbance in one of those prisons since then, the press has never failed to remind us of those missing documents on the loose somewhere. Nevertheless it is certain that the playful side involved in pilfering forbidden documents and sneakily passing them on to someone else did contribute to a wide distribution. Even people who usually do not like us appreciated for once this snook we'd cocked at the state. However, this eventual success also was a denial of our former perspective, however glad we were to have carried it out, because in the end the whole thing left us utterly exhausted.
To return to the alienating side of long-term clandestine activity: the police strategy towards us remarkably fitted this description. As I said, at one time they had counted on a big clampdown, probably amounting to a spectacular show trial complete with fabricated evidence; it also seems, that they also tried to infiltrate us, in order to have us plant bombs (5). But their main concern throughout the years has been to isolate us by means of a constant harassment of our potential allies. Yet again in February 1991, the "13,000 Belles" scandal was followed by a media-profiled raids in several cities, with 25 people being questioned, their flats searched, and Mordicus magazine that reproduced parts of our dossier threatened with legal action. Since they'd got rid of Action Directe in 1987, the French state was looking for a new official enemy within, and we were definitely on top of the list for such a role. It is elementary police psychology that the more an individual or a group is cut off from the rest of society, the more they are likely to react with an increased level of violence, which in turn will isolate them further. The media blackout of our actions against the new prisons undoubtedly worked toward this end. And admittedly we laid ourselves open to this. We thought we'd done away with the critique of terrorism, because we'd never missed an occasion of expressing our contempt for Action Directe, the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades and the likes, and because we refused to resort to guns and bombs - "our means or action are the ones used by any proletarian: sabotage and vandalism". Yet this missed the essential point: In a context of social regression, a group of people standing out and asserting their violent revolt can easily be highlighted, then isolated and dragged onto the enemy terrain - to the police within your head; unconsciously, you end up moulding your own behaviour and thoughts to theirs, and this is their first victory.
This contradiction was also present in the lesser public part of our activity - I mean organized theft ''la reprise' (retaking) as the illegalist anarchists of the late 19th century called it. 'Never work': we never took this as just a poetic slogan, but as an immediate programme. Of course, theft also is, in many respects, some kind of labour, but a kind of labour for which the division, organization and results all belong to you. Living in permanent struggle makes you sharpen some valuable skills, and in the end - if you've been successful! - you have the pleasure of having opposed the fate which had been designed for you. Besides, as Woody Allen puts it in Take the Money and Run, the working hours are cool, you meet interesting people and the pay's all right...
Now of course, our goal was neither to blow our dosh on sports cars, palaces and champagne (though there's nothing wrong with luxury goods!), nor to accumulate capital for some business investment. Even when we'd collectively managed to get hold of a nice stash, the question remained of a collective use of it, which could fit our social ambitions. Also, because we wanted to part ways with that abstract radical speak since you never know where it's come from, we wished to speak from our own concrete situation in the world as delinquents. In this respect we could feel how distant we were from the old anarcho-illegalists in Spain and elsewhere, who belonged to effective communities, and whose thefts were commonly considered as part and parcel of the ongoing social struggle. Durruti would feel himself insulted when the press called him a villain; he was a worker among other workers, who recognized him as such (7). Needless to say, things are totally different now that virtually all struggling communities and social traditions have been destroyed. Of course, the money we grabbed enabled a greater degree of solidarity and generosity - without which for instance our friend Andrea's experience wouldn't have been possible. Still, who were we, in that respect, but an isolated group among isolated individuals? We had many talks about making a Dadaist use of money, about socialization and confronting the necessity of money, which indeed led nowhere. Not that the idea was wrong - I am still convinced that any attempt to oppose social disintegration has to grasp the financial question one way or another - but its application requires a larger basis than a dozen irregulars on the run.
The fact is we never really came to terms with our subjective aspirations: beside our will to contribute somehow to a new wave of social dissent - i.e. a long-term goal with a careful concern for the appropriate mediations - there also was this raw impulse for immediate revenge itching away at us. The last thing I want is to say anything against taking revenge in acts of spectacular bravado which doesn't bother about consequences - that's a show of humanity, which doesn't need any further explanation, and never fails to provoke massive underground recognition (9). And as far as anti-prison actions were concerned, the sight of those architects carefully designing cages for human beings, petty entrepreneurs rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of the profits they would draw from them, and state lackeys coldly supervising it all, did many a time tempt us into less symbolic responses. But it would seem that, against all odds, we still weren't desperate enough for this.(10)
For sure, everyday life in 1980s France (and Europe) left little place for optimism. But we took this situation with an utter fatalism, which in turn encouraged an exacerbated voluntarism as far as our own fight was concerned. Thus, it is significant that, though we never thought of ourselves as being anti-prison activists, all our actions were nevertheless focused on prisons, as if any perspective by that point was as obdurate as a prison wall. And I don't think we've been the only ones who merely complained about the ebb of the revolutionary tide of the 1960s and 70s, without too much questioning whether the 'radical' conceptions and practices we were still carrying were not also to blame for this situation.
Especially because I'm writing now to English-speaking readers, I know that these comments will be easily taken by some people as a confirmation of their old individualist stance, which a priori dismisses any kind of collective attempt as a "breeding ground of hierarchical power", the "alienation of the individual by the group" and so forth. I still think that this kind of criticism is irrelevant. True enough, as soon as people join forces for some long-term purpose, there are risks that power conflicts erupt, that specialized roles coagulate, or that emotional feelings are kept hidden behind a veil of 'objectivity' - and Os Cangaceiros was not exempt from this at all. But this is no reason to sit back and wait till 'the revolution' magically solves those problems: they exist anyway, and are as such part of the experiment enabled by a collective activity, from which you can learn valuable lessons. The real question rather, is how to reach and maintain a sufficient level of fluidity between the group and its social environment; failing this, the group tends to follow a separate logic, and to become its own end - a sort of autism, which in turn exacerbates 'inter-personal' conflicts.
Throughout all those years we had been obsessed with the idea of creating a big scandal, something in the Dada-Surrealist-Situationist tradition; a to-the-point spectacular deed expressing the latent negativity undermining society. In some ways the "13000 Belles" outcome was one. However, we also experienced the limits of this notion. The primary failure of most of the radical post-1968 agitation has been its inability to create lasting breaches in the coherence of society, the patient construction of social bonds through various mediations and initiatives. The 'radical' attitude confined itself too often to a mere denunciation of society in all its particular and finite activities, rather than trying to act in an innovative way within a definite terrain. Instead there's been the habitual external comments on struggles taking place, too often with a "we already know the end of the film" posture, or, in a less passive way, hit-and-run actions which were unable to have any lasting dynamic impulse. This might have been relevant at a time when a revolutionary situation would seem at hand - no time to lose, May '68 or nothing at all - now it's no longer the case. And because the Cangaceiros strived towards the limits of such a conception, living it as a total challenge, we felt with a particular sharpness that it had just led us into a radical cul-de- sac: solitary navigators on a sea of troubles.
No bitterness here though. This has been an adventure, in an epoch when adventures are rather scarce. Fortunately, unlike the fate of most illegal groups, it didn't end in a tragic rout - and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But because it was just an adventure, it had no particular reason to last beyond the will of its protagonists. Eventually, the only thing the Cangaceiros could agree on was that such an association was no longer desirable, and each one went his own way, trying to put into practice whatever he'd taken from this history. So I will leave the question open, whether this experience was just a belated occurrence of post-68 radicalism, or if it carried seeds for something new to come.
Leopold ROC. May 1995.
1. This text reflects my personal view on the subject and though part of it comes from a collective reflection, some former protagonists probably wouldn't agree with my outlook. - L.R.
2: Even though of course we considered it as part of the ongoing prison struggles, the situation had changed since 1985, thanks to a number of individuals and groups both inside and outside the walls. Beyond sporadic outbursts, a movement was then beginning to organize itself, involving nationwide prison strikes, committees of struggling prisoners and public support when inmates appeared in court for rebellion. Brilliant critical texts were also published in prisoners' underground magazines. This movement seems to have died out at the moment.
3: For instance, according to one of them, the most militant Yorkshire miners also had this experience during the 1984-85 strike: they were so absorbed in the daily organising of flying pickets and hit squads that they didn't have any time left to discuss the general perspective at stake. In an army, only the generals are allowed to discuss strategy. However, the miners' wives meeting in the food kitchen did have the time and disposition for more profound reflections.
4: Good examples are those hackers who send the secret data they've dug up to the Internet network and from then on to millions of potential users, making a blackout impossible.
5: This is according to allegations published in Le Figaro in November 1990, which we have some grounds to believe are true. As early as 1983, a certain X. Raufer wrote a book 'on social violence' where he high-lighted us as a group of embittered semi-intellectuals eager to fan the flames wherever a fire was burning!. At the time when the police operations started against us, Raufer was a personal adviser on security matters to Pasqua, the minister of the interior who once promised he'd 'use subversion against the subversive'.
6: Editor's note in Rolling Thunder. Action Directe was the French equivalent of Germany's Red Army Faction or Italy's Red Brigades, an armed struggle group that carried out robberies, bombings, and assassinations.
7: Things were different for 'tragic bandits' - such as the Bonnot gang who defied society on a hopeless 'live fast die young' stance; which was plainly lucid considering the First World War butchery that was to begin shortly thereafter.
8. Editors note in Rolling Thunder. Andrea was a comrade of the Cangaceiros, whose struggle with terminal cancer is described in the deeply moving N'Drea: One Woman's Fight to Die Her Own Way.
9: The best example of this in France still is Jacques Mesrine.
10: In October 1994, while reporting on two young anarchists who allegedly shot dead a couple of coppers and a taxi driver in Paris, a French magazine mentioned Os Cangaceiros as another example of 'looming anarchist nihilism'...
Below, we now (2009) include further comment published in a youth oriented North American anarchist magazine called "Rolling Thunder" (Autumn 2009) - having, it seems, quite a presence in the Bay area. The following text relates to a book on Os Cangaceiros published in the States a few years previously. RAP was initially contacted regarding a few details and some of Rolling Thunder's subsequent and sometimes more fluent 're-translation' has been utilised in the above text. Their address is: Rolling Thunder, PO Box 494, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 or www.crimethinc.com
Os Cangaceiros: A Crime Called Freedom. Eberhardt press 2006
This is the first book in the US to deal with the French group Os Cangaceiros, a semi-clandestine circle of anticapitalists active around Europe from the early 1980s to the beginnings of the 90s. Though they published a journal, carried on targeted direct action, and sought to support the most radical currents in labor struggles, they famously identified as criminals rather than political activists, extolling all manner of 'anti-social' activity ansd attempting to live out the old challenge: Never work.
English-language information about the group has been limited and somewhat mythologised: the Cangareiros appeared during the revolt of May 1968, as if that storied tempest conjured social deviance incarnate; they traveled the world from Cold War Poland to South African townships, wildcat strikes and riots erupting everywhere they set foot; rather than squatting direct buildings, they forced yuppies out of posh condominiums - practicing "squatting as expropriation" - and regarded the inevitable arrival of the police as part of the party; they distributed their magazines in the manner of the French Resistance, leaving stacks of them in the subway; like the fairies of old who appeared in the witching hour to curdle milk, they mixed sugar in the concrete at the construction sites of future prisons so the walls would crumble easily. Some of this is probably exagerrated; though doubtless the truth is at least as fabulous; one role of mythology is to convey the wonder of reality where simple facts cannot.
Unfortunately like children impatient to be disabused of the fancies of youth, we can't help rushing past the mythology to get at the facts. The one person we've managed to track down who knew the Cangaceiros personally - an old British fellow who insists on referring to them as the kangaroos - reports that though they were influenced by the most radical currents rom the 1968 uprising, most were too young to remember it. The majority were from middle class backgrounds, though they kept company with genuine workers and, true to their rhetoric, funded many of their projects through criminal escapades.
Os Cangaceiros appeared fro the ashes of the Gravediggers of the Old World, who published four issues of an eponymous magazine between 1977 and 1983. The first of three issues of Os Cangaceiros debuted in 1985. Members of the group had gone to Britain to participate in the wave of rioting that had peaked in 1981; some spent years living there, in hopes that a revolutionary situation would develop. They befriended a number of British workers and radicals, including participants in the Yorkshire miners' strike, which inspired texts like "Brick Keeps Britain Beautiful" in Os Cangaceiros #2.
This collection is not entirely free from the aforementioned tendency towards spotty scholarship: translator Wolfi Landstreicher, who rendered the contents of an Italian collection into English rather than working from the original French, repeats the line that "the group came together in Nice in 1968," and there is virtually nothing on the Cangaceiris' activities in England. The texts are all from the Cangaceiros' later phase, when they retirned from their British idyll to pursue a vendetta against the French prison system.
This campaign gained public attention in 1985 when they sabotaged train lines in solidarity with a wave of prison uprisings. Afrer repeating this tactic in 1986, they went back to the drawing board, returning a couple of years later to take the offensive against a government program intended to build enough new facilities to accomodate an additional 13,000 prisoners. In a series of actions reminiscent of the SHAC campaign in Rolling Thunder #6, they broke into offices to steal and destroy documents, set fire to the vehicles of sub-contractors, and even attacked a prison architect in the street. This culminated in a mass mailing in which they circulated floor plans and other documents detailing the prisons under construction, a major embarrassment for the government and a potential boon to flighty captives.
In the end, most of the Cangaceiros fell out with each other, as radicals are wont to do even when they deny being 'political' and scattered across the globe from Ulan Bator to Tanzania. Intense pressure from the police, who conducted raids throughout subversive circles in search of them, could not have helped. They left behind a couple of publishers started up on stolen money, and a ghost - a specter, if you will - that continues to haunt Europe.
North Americans will find that this little collection of their writing makes an exciting introduction to their deeds and ideas. It only remains for others to fill it out with additional material, so a more complete picture of the Cangaceiros can emerge: not of an invincible clandestine cell that put the efforts of other prison aboloitionists to shame, but rather of ordinary people who experimented with a number of approaches to waging war in times of social peace, with mixed success.
In order to provide more insight into the activities of Os Cangaceiros, and to present these in the light in which at least one participant saw them with the benefit of hindsight, we are reprinting here a reflection composed by one member a few years after the group's final actions. In the course of his years with the Cangaceiros, the author served time for sabotaging French high speed trains; he remains on the run today, wanted by the French government in connection with later Cangaceiros activity. His comments on how to outmaneuver media blackouts and the risks of clandestine organising are no less timely a decade and a half later.
 The original Cangaceiros were late 19th Century Brazilian bandits known for robbing wealthy landowners.
 One, who was a child at the time, helped initiate an occupation of her grade school.
 As Leopold Roc discusses in the above text, the stroke of genius in this action was that, rather than counting on the Cangaceiros group alone to make the most effective use of the information via clandestine attacks, it equipped the public a large to broaden the terrain of conflict past the scope of a police investigation. In limiting their focus to what they can do themselves, militants often unconsciously lose their trust in the rest of the population, which not only causes them miss strategic opportunities but also to lose sight of the very possibility of a genuinely anarchist struggle.
Some of this can be downloaded as a zine pamphlet at: http://zinelibrary.info/blurred-trail-os-cangaceiros-social-pampas-0