various thoughts on illegalism

Traditional Anarchist revolutionary movements have included bandits, assassins, schemers, shoplifters, squatters, freighthoppers and others willing to do what they can get away with now, without waiting for some pie-in-the-sky “revolutionary situation” or permission from anyone. Below are some quotes and articles about Illegalism.

“…why put the the fault on others as if they were robbing us, while we ourselves do bear the fault in leaving others unrobbed? The poor are to blame for there being rich men…a mighty, reckless, shameless, conscienceless, proud CRIME, does it not rumble in distant thunder…”
Max Stirner (from The Ego and Its Own)

“Ask them for jobs. If they don’t give you jobs, ask them for bread. If they don’t give you bread TAKE BREAD!”
Emma Goldman

steal back your life

Economy — the domination of survival over life — is essential for the maintenance of all other forms of domination. Without the threat of scarcity, it would be difficult to coerce people into obedience to the daily routine of work and pay. We were born into an economized world. The social institution of property has made scarcity a daily threat. Property, whether private or communal, separates the individual from the world, creating a situation in which, rather than simply taking what one wants or needs, one is supposed to ask permission, a permission generally only granted in the form of economic exchange. In this way, different levels of poverty are guaranteed to everyone, even the rich, because under the rule of social property what one is not permitted to have far exceeds what one is permitted to have. The domination of survival over life is maintained.

Those of us who desire to create our lives as our own recognize that this domination, so essential to the maintenance of society, is an enemy we must attack and destroy. With this understanding, theft and squatting can take on significance as part of an insurgent life project. Welfare scamming, eating at charity feeds, dumpster diving and begging may allow one to survive without a regular job, but they do not in any way attack the economy; they are within the economy. Theft and squatting are also often merely survival tactics. Squatters who demand the “right to a home” or try to legalize their squats, thieves who work their “jobs” like any other worker, only in order to accumulate more worthless commodities — these people have no interest in destroying the economy…they merely want a fair share of its goods.

But those who squat and steal as part of an insurgent life, do so in defiance of the logic of economic property. Refusing to accept the scarcity imposed by this logic or to bow to the demands of a world they did not create, such insurgents take what they desire without asking anyone’s permission whenever the possibility arises. In this defiance of society’s economic rule, one takes back the abundance of the world as one’s own — and this is an act of insurrection. In order to maintain social control, the lives of individuals have to be stolen away. In their place, we received economic survival, the tedious existence of work and pay. We cannot buy our lives back, nor can we beg them back. Our lives will only be our own when we steal them back — and that means taking what we want without asking permission.

— from Wilful Disobedience #2, published by
Venomous Butterfly

Better Living Through Theft

Those who critique the modern state are told by our beneficent rulers and others, liberal and conservative alike, that we need that state to enforce laws and preserve justice. Conservatives are very clear about which is more important: “Justice often impedes law and order” spoke ex-FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. I think we can immediately throw out this perspective, since without justice, there will never be law and order for any length of time. The liberal is a bit more sophisticated, and claims that laws are essential to justice. We then ask, “Why do we need laws?” The response is, “We need laws to protect us.” The question then is “Protect us from what?” Our liberal friends tell us “Why, from people like murderers, rapists and thieves.” This argument seems very foolish when the state with its laws: murders through the death penalty, war and siege of poor neighborhoods; allows and participates in murder of civil rights workers, but protects the Klan; advocates rape by its armed forces; and steals through appropriation of the fruits of our labor and by providing the muscle necessary to protect the capitalist system.

Our liberal friend was right that the laws protect, but he does not understand who they protect. Why is taking food from a wealthy grocery store chain a crime, but forcing people to work in order to eat is not? Why is spray-paint art is illegal but not advertising? Why is throwing sand in the gears at the factory a felony, but when workers are killed by the machines where they work, the boss walks free? The answer is that laws are organized to defend the needs of capitalism and capitalists.

Primarily a system of control, capitalism demands that we subordinate every other aspect of our lives to work. Since the very inception of the system (only about 500 years ago), lawmakers have passed legislation to force us to work. Good examples of this are: criminal theft laws to make us work rather than stealing from that rich parasite up the street, and university cheating rules to force each of us to perform the same task rather than coming together to solve the problem once.

Clearly, these laws are an attempt by the capitalist class to preserve itself. The liberal argues that we must obey the laws because we are part of the society that made them. Actually, he is full of shit. The laws of the state do not apply to any members of the working class, whether they are aged workers, unwaged students, unpaid housewives, or unemployed. Eighty years ago, women sufferagates destroyed huge amounts of shopkeeper’s property in London. As Emmeline Parkhurst put it, if women can not make the laws, then women are under no obligation to obey them. Today, working class women and men may have the vote, but law and policy is still controlled by the capitalist class. As such, we are under no ethical obligation to respect the law. This applies to all levels of regulation, from criminal laws to rules decreed by the University. In recognition of this, laws against looting, cheating, shoplifting, vandalism, plagiarism, sabotage and other such acts should not only be ignored, but intentionally broken.

These laws were passed to force us to work. If we work less by stealing food, clothes, etc. instead of working to buy them, then we have more of our time for activities we enjoy. If we help each other out on tests so we can each study less, there is more room for living our lives the way we want to.

— by Josua Devries
this article originally appeared in ATLATL #4

Some Famous Bandits

Phoolan Devi: India’s Bandit Queen

Born into a lower-caste family in India, Phoolan Devi was a rebellious girl who didn’t like the way her poor family was treated, especially by the other members of their family who had business ties to higher caste families in the area. Her family was forced off of their land by a cousin with the compliance of the higher caste officials in the area and the police. When Phoolan refused to recognize the legitimacy of the her family’s eviction, she was taken to a nearby town and gang-raped by higher caste men and members of her father’s family – over a period of two days! After escaping and under threat of death, she hid out with outlaws – dacoits – in the surrounding area and eventually became the leader of her own band of highly successful bandits. One night, a group of dacoits entered the village where Phoolan Devi had been raped years earlier, gathered up all the men of the vilage and shot them. 22 of them died. There is no evidence connecting anyone with this massacre and no charges were ever brought against anyone for it. Nevertheless, with her family held hostage by the police and the army on constant patrol in the area, Phoolan was coerced into surrendering to the police. Her surrender took place with over 3,000 well-wishers on hand to see that she was not murdered by the police upon surrendering her weapons. She was held for 11 years without ever facing trail or even being charged with a crime! Upon her release from prison, she helped found a Socialist party in India, which was part of the ruling coalition there. The largest party is made up of Hindu Fundamentalists of the caste who have harrassed Phoolan all her life, and includes several high-ranking officials who have personally persecuted Phoolan and her family. After being embarrassed by her strong will and election into Parliament, the Hindis have decided to finally press charges against Phoolan. She responded by threatening self-immolation rather than stand trail. Phoolan Devi is the greatest example of courage, determination, and a willingness to fight for one’s belief on the face of the Earth today.

post-script – while a member of parliament, phoolan devi was assassinated at her home office.

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow robbed banks and shot it out with the police in several states around Texas, their homebase. It was during the Great Depression, and they often hid out in shantytowns where families trying to make their way to California had been marooned by broken-down automobiles. Bonnie had always had a soft spot in her heart for the poor, and they would help out families the best they could, giving them money or fixing up their vehicles. The police exploited this kind-heartedness by placing a broken-down car in the middle of a road outside of Dallas. When the famous robbers stopped to offer aid, they were machine-gunned by a dozen or so cops and posse members.

see more on illegalism –


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