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 articles about Illegalism.
Spain was a country on the brink of outright revolution for several generations. Anarchist uprisings brought about the fall of a few governments. Sensing that they would soon lose control, the established powers – the Catholic Church, the businessmen, aristocracy, and politicians began to hire armed thugs to assassinate “troublemakers,” often Anarchists, unionists and other socialists. The anarchists were not intimidated, though, and fought back with their own gunmen.
These pistoleros were given much support amongst the Anarchists. They carried out spectacular crimes, including the daytime assassination of an archbishop – who was known to have paid for a number of murders of anarchists – and blasting the car of a much-hated public official with enough explosives that his car was thrown over the steeple of a church.
The greatest period of gunmen was between 1934-36, where attacks and retaliatory attacks were a daily affair in cities across Spain, but particularly in Barcelona and Madrid.
Before he became a famous revolutionary militiaman, Buenaventura Durrutti had been an exile, first in France (where he was imprisoned and deported for armed robberies), and later on the run from Spanish authorities in the Caribbean and South America. Calling themselves the Wanderers Durrutti and his travelling companions went from one menial job to another, leaving a trail of assassinated bosses, landowners, priests, and other tyrants in their wake.
Once established in Argentina, they – along with many exiled Italian and Spanish anarchists – robbed banks and carried out selected attenants against the ruling class and their lackeys. Finally arriving back in Spain, Durrutti was involved in more of the same, and became a celebrated pistolero.
Due to his cunning and experience with explosives, firearms and street-fighting, Durrutti quickly became a militia leader, respected by friends and foes alike. The Durrutti Column, the anarchist militia which had elected him as their field commander, was the only anarchist or republican militia which proved itself time and again able to defeat the Fascist armies, and once saved Madrid from certain defeat.
“We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For you must not forget, we can also build. It is we who built the palaces and cities here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.”
– buenaventura durruti, shortly before his death
After the defeat of the Revolution in Spain, many armed militants scrapped for their very existence, not only in Spain, but also in Italy and France. One of the outstanding examples of the anarchist revolutionary-turned-bandit was el Sabate, a legendary figure so feared throughout Spain that many people were able to pull off robberies merely by suggesting that they were el Sabate.
An almost tireless fighter, Sabate helped other former revolutionaries flee from Franco’s Spain, and often sent them on their way with a small bankroll taken from some wealthy businessman. Quick to use his gun when threatened, el Sabate shot his way out of many desperate situations. Not content to just rob the wealthy, he sometimes would rid some community of an overly zealous policeman or member of la Guardia. And, in remembrance of his fallen comrades who were betrayed and murdered by lowlife Communists scum, he would kneecap or kill Communists whenever he confronted them. The life of el Sabate sets an example for Revolutionary Anarchists everywhere!
note el sabate left to one of his victims:
“We are not robbers, we are libertarian resistance fighters. What we have just taken will help in a small way to feed the orphaned & starving children of those anti-fascists who you & your kind have shot. We are people who have never & will never beg for what is ours. So long as we have the strength to do so we shall fight for for the freedom of the Spanish working class. As for you, Garriga, although you are a murderer & a thief, we have spared you, because we as libertarians appreciate the value of human life, something which you never have, nor are likely to, understand.”
see also –
– from recollection books anarchist encylopedia: