“Beyond the Law” – Penelope Nin

Written by @ June 28th, 2012

To tell the truth, I don’t quite understand what is meant today when people speak of “illegalism”. I thought this word was no longer in use, that it could not […]

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To tell the truth, I don’t quite understand what is meant today when
people speak of “illegalism”. I thought this word was no longer in use,
that it could not slip out of the history books of the anarchist movement
any more, shut up forever with the equally ancient “propaganda of the
deed”. When I have heard it talked about again in recent times in such
shamelessly critical tones, I haven’t been able to hold back a sensation
of astonishment. I begin to find this mania for dusting off old arguments
in order to avoid dealing with new discussions intolerable, but there is
so much of this.

One thing, however, seems clear to me. The illegalism that is spoken
of (badly) today is not the concept that was debated with so much heartfelt
animation by the anarchist movement at the beginning of the 20th
century. At that time this term was used to indicate all those practices
prohibited by law that were useful for resolving the economic problems
of comrades: robbery, theft, smuggling, counterfeiting money and so on.
It seems to me that today some anarchists, lacking anything concrete
to discuss, are tending much too easily to claim that illegalism means
a refined glorification for its own sake of every behavior forbidden by
law, not only of those dictated by the requirements of survival. In short,
illegalism would become a kind of theoretical framework for erecting
illegality as a system, a life value.

Some people push it even further, to the point of censuring a no better
defined “illegalism at all costs”, yearning for comrades who would violate
the law even when they could do otherwise simply to savor the thrill of
the forbidden or perhaps in order to satisfy some ideological dogma. But
I ask, where have these comrades run across this illegalism at all costs,
who has spoken of it? Who would be such a fool as to challenge the
severity of the law when she could do otherwise? Obviously, nobody.

But there is probably another point on which it would be useful to
reflect. Can an anarchist avoid challenging the law? Certainly in many
circumstances this is possible. For example, at the moment I am writing
for a paper that is published legally; does this perhaps make me a legalist
anarchist? On the other hand, if I were to go this evening to put up
clandestine flyers, would this make me an illegalist anarchist? But then,
what would ever distinguish these two categories of anarchists?

The question of the relationship between an anarchist and the law cannot
be settled in such a hasty and misleading way. As I see it, the actions
of an anarchist cannot be conditioned by the law in either the positive
or the negative. I mean that it cannot be either the reverential respect
for the guiding standards of the time or the pleasure of transgression as
an end in itself that drives her, but rather his ideas and dreams united
to her individual inclinations. In other words, an anarchist can only be
an alegalist, an individual who proposes to do what most pleases him
beyond the law, without basing herself on what the penal code allows
or forbids.

Of course, the law exists and one cannot pretend not to see it. I
am quite aware that there is always a bludgeon ready to attend to our
desires along the way toward their realization, but this threat should
not influence our decision about the means to use to realize that which
is dearest to our hearts. If I consider it important to publish a paper
— a thing that is considered legal — I can easily attempt to follow the
provisions of the law about the press in order to avoid useless annoyance,
since this does not change the contents of what I intend to communicate
at all.

But, on the other hand, if I consider it important to carry an action
considered illegal — like the attack against the structures and people
of power — I will not change my mind simply because someone waves
the red flag of the risks I will face before my eyes. If I acted otherwise,
the penal code would be advising me about what my conduct should be,
greatly limiting my possibilities to act and thus to express myself.
But if it is an absurdity to describe an anarchist as “illegalist”, it would
be ridiculous to attribute the quality of “legalist” to her. How could an
anarchist, an individual who desires a world without authority, expect
to be able to realize his dream without ever breaking the law, which
is the most immediate expression of authority, that is to say, without
transgressing those norms that have been deliberately established and
written in order to defend the social order? Anyone who intends to
radically transform this world would necessarily have to place herself
sooner or later against the law that aims to conserve it.

Unless. . .Unless the desire to change that world that still smolders in
the hearts of these anarchists is in some way subordinated to the worries
about the risks they might face, about being persecuted by the police,
about being brought under investigation, about losing the appreciation
of friends and relations. Unless the absolute freedom that means so much
to anarchists is considered a great and beautiful thing, but mainly in the
realm of theory — manifesting itself in the inoffensive banter exchanged
fork the armchairs after a suffocating day of work — because from the
practical point of view the strength of domination offers no hope. Then
it is advisable to make utopia into something concrete, with its feet upon
the ground, uniting it with good sense, because revolution could never
be considered legal under any penal code.

Enough of dreaming the impossible; let’s try to obtain the tolerable.
Here it is, the invective against the myth of illegalism coming from
certain anarchists takes on a precise meaning, that of justifying their selfinterested
predisposition to conform to the dictates of the law, setting
aside every foolish, immoderate aspiration.
In the name of realism, of course.

(from the pamphlet “Articles from Cananero” published by The Anarchist Library)

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Ελληνικά / Greek

Η πόρτα ανοίγει και κλείνει, ξανανοίγει και ξανακλείνει. Τρεις μήνες φυλακή. Ένας χρόνος φυλακή. Θέλω να ξέρω αν οι άλλοι με σκέφτονται όσο τους σκέφτομαι εγώ. Οι μέρες περνάνε γρήγορα […]

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Αγγλικά / English

DOES WORK LIBERATE? Work penetrates and determines our whole existence. Time flows merciless at her rhythm as we commute through identical depressive surroundings at an ever increasing pace. Working time…productive time…free […]

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