In the 19th and early 20th century, anarchism was in many ways making strides into mainstream culture and thought. It was not through theory that this occurred, but rather through immediate expressions of one’s autonomy. This revolutionary method was known as direct action. Direct action emphasizes the right or duty of each individual to insist on the existence of their freedom through their actions, to openly sabotage the systems of oppression around them, to shine a light on tyranny and destroy it for all to see.
Unfortunately, this idea eventually waned or all but ceased for a couple of reasons. One is the taming of labor, the tying of its interests with the State’s and with big business. The other reason, diminishing rewards. Anarchists and revolting workers were regularly shot by police or locked in prison for years. Insisting on your freedom is great, sure, but not when it comes at the price of a decrease in your ability to act. Individual liberation is, unfortunately, hard work. And if all we face is a seemingly endless struggle, why bother?
We are here to propose a solution to this lack of incentive. In Summer 2013, a market opened up on the darknet dedicated to betting on the assassination of a public figures. In particular, these public figures need to be of the political class. A couple of months ago, this idea sparked a bit of controversy when a Forbes article featured it. And while the website is new and revolutionary, the idea has been around for quite some time. The goal? To incentivize political leaders in a new and profound way to obey what the public wants, and to diminish the amount of culpability of any particular better should an assassination takes place. The use of a crypto-currency, in order to obscure the identity of the better(s), has also been enabled with the popularization of Bitcoin, and now even further with Cody Wilson’s Dark Wallet. The original idea comes compliments of Jim Bell, one of the founders of crypto-anarchism and the author of Assassination Politics. He was subsequently hunted down by the federal government and has been in and out of prison for over a decade.
What does this market and the idea of assassination politics have to do with direct action? Incentivizing individual acts of sabotage, vandalism or expropriation. Unlike before, individuals have an added incentive outside of achieving the revolution: They have an easy method of obtaining a reward for their act of revolutionary activism. This increases the likelihood that, if someone were to organize a mass walk-out at work, co-workers would have added interest in disobeying the company’s wishes. Scabs are so often motivated by making money, rather than simply supporting the boss. So let us say to the scab, “join us instead, we’ll give you a hefty amount of bitcoin to do so.”
Of course, this does not have to only be “on the job” sabotage. We can also incentivize acts of sabotage and disobedience against the police. “5 BTCs to the man or woman who slashes all the cop car tires on Main street this Wednesday!” This adds a new and perhaps necessary motivation to commit acts which might not be already rewarding. Why not quit your day job and glue the sheriff’s office door closed? Hell, we could even bet on the boys in blue themselves to take a little bit of our money, if the price is right. We will be glad to give it, officer.
These ideas, while imbued with a crypto-anarchist attitude, are certainly not new to anarchist thought. During the height of the Abolitionist movement, Lysander Spooner encouraged individual acts of sabotage and violence against slaveholders by not only slaves and those committed to the abolitionist cause, but by those who were currently working as “freemen” for slave drivers. Spooner saw that these men cared little for their task and were much more concerned with financial reward. “So be it,” says Spooner. We want those ruthless bastards fighting for us.
“You stand ready to do all that vile and inhuman work, which must be done by somebody, but which the more decent Slaveholders themselves will not do. Yet we have heard one good report even of you. It is, that you have no such prejudices against color, nor against liberty, as that you would not as willingly earn money by helping a Slave to Canada, as by catching a fugitive and returning him to his master. If you are thus indifferent as to whom you serve, we advise you henceforth to serve the Slave, instead of their masters. Turn about, and help the robbed to rob their robbers. The former can afford to pay you better than the latter. Help them to get possession of the property which is rightfully their due, and they can afford to give you liberal commissions. Help them flog individual Slaveholders, and they can afford to pay you ten times as much as you ever received for flogging Slave. Help them to kidnap the Slaveholders, and they can afford to pay you more than you now get for catching fugitive Slaves. Be true to the Slaves, and we hope they will pay you well for your services. Be false to them, and we hope they will kill you.”
This is liberation for fun and profit. It does not require a moralistic banner be taken up by all against slavery, wage labor or other institutions originating with the State. The time for empty platitudes about the decency of human freedom is over. Slave drivers and the generally disinterested, your world is crumbling. The tool belt of the revolutionary is expanding. You do not have to end up penniless or in a prison cell in order to reclaim the life which is rightfully yours. We implore you to join this cryptographic rebellion.
These online communities would function similarly to what Spooner called “vigilance committees,” where those injustices, which go unpunished by political means, are taken on directly by decentralized local forces instead. Spooner also recognized the dangers of such actions and, as stated above, such plans were hardly enforceable without great personal risk. That is no longer necessarily the case and it is time for a 21st century implementation on this 19th century revolutionary idea.
Of course, there are worries with this, as a previous C4SS op-ed on assassination markets has made clear. These sorts of markets are not restricted to revolutionary activity. People can use them for their own desires. There are worries that this could motivate unwarranted acts of aggression and violence against those who are not as deserving as cops, politicians or bosses. But, as is often the case with ideas like this, Pandora is out of the box. Nothing is stopping your next door neighbor from starting up an anonymous market dedicated to the lynching of any disfavored class. There is also nothing stopping that same person from simply shooting or lynching such individuals himself. So, with theoretical ideas like these, it is important to keep in mind that the necessity of education and motivating the right kind of culture is paramount.
With new tools of defense, almost always come new tools to oppress. Guns were a grand idea until we decided to give one institution with a monopolization on violence most of the weapons. So we must discourage any truly oppressive acts on these markets. We must make a society of those who despise political and economic authority, who are more than happy to set aside their day jobs and make money by tearing down the system one act of individual direct action at a time. The time to strike is now. There has never been a time more ripe than today. The libertarian community is at the forefront of this technology, pushing it forward, making evasion of law enforcement easier all the time, making it more profitable to engage in illegal and undesired activity. This is our opportunity.
Translations for this article:
- Portuguese, Um mercado de sabotagens.