Stealing is bad. Or so we’re told. Theft, unfortunately, is relative. Losing your hard-earned cash to consumer spending is no different than being robbed. After all, it’s not about buying what you need, but what you want. There’s a big difference, particularly in terms of what motivated you to splurge in the first place.
When trying to make sense of what justifies expropriating wealth, from a leftwing point of view, that’s one way to do it. Inequality is not something to which we give our consent. It just happens, whether it’s due to a lack of jobs, or the social hierarchies inscribed in race and culture. You don’t ask to be marginalised.
The idea of taking what you need, because you deserve it, or because it serves the greater good is nonetheless an anathema to most leftwing politics. At best, progressives approve when it’s a part of more formal revolutionary behaviour, on a much larger scale, like a civil war. Not through isolated acts of redistribution.
The following flyer translation seeks to shed light on debates about the issue on the anarchist left. Photographed in Berlin, the flyer’s design and presentation, using a cartoon, works a decidedly ambiguous line that embraces the idea of the outlaw, without necessarily crossing that line and encouraging expropriation directly.
Social event on
The History of Anarchism and Bank Expropriation
14 April, 8 PM, Grünbergerstrasse 73, 10245 Berlin, Zielona Gora
“This moron, who doesn’t want to hand over his bag! Fine, you asked for it!”
“Hurry up. A crowd is gathering!“
“Soon this crowd will understand where its interests lie…“
He was having a lively conversation at a coffee shop called La Tranquilidad when a beggar suddenly interrupted him by putting out his hand. His companions were shocked to see Durruti pulling a gun from his jacket. He put it into the beggar’s hand and said “Take it! Go to a bank and ask for money!”
Since the birth of the anarchist movement, there’s always been disputes about practice, about how to embed this theory and what it should look like. In this context, anarchists still struggle to finance their movement. How can one solve the problem of paid labour? How did the groups and organisations asking those questions get enough support to publish propaganda (books, newspapers, etc.) and free prisoners? We will learn about the history of expropriations – the first ones taking place in the 19th century – and the discussions behind them. One should never forget that expropriations have always been an important aspect of the anarchist movement.
All revenues of the evening will be dedicated to the anarchist prisoners in Aachen prosecuted for bank robbery.
Solidarity Group for Prisoners
Translated from the Germany by JZE. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.