Confessions of American Anarchism

Created: 25 August, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
5 min read

Remorse of a Troubled Youth

In 1971, at 19, William Powell wrote The Anarchist Cookbook. The book has been found at bombings, and school shootings, ever since.

It is hard to believe that the author of this infamous book left the country almost immediately afterward, to be a school teacher. He forgot about his book to the best of his ability.

“I haven’t read it since I wrote it,” he said, in a documentary film that came out in late 2016.

He denied that he ever knew that his book was the go-to manual for American terror. He thought it would just ‘die a quiet death’ and ‘go away’.

It didn’t. His book has been found in the homes of dozens of mass murderers.

As a teacher, Powell taught emotional intelligence to young people around the world. Looking back at his younger self he saw an angry, misguided youth.

“The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.” Powell said in an editor’s note on the book’s Amazon page.

“I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print,” the note says.

Antifa Echoes Powell’s Radical Rhetoric

Powell’s 19 yr. old revolutionary rhetoric matches the rhetoric of Antifa protesters in today’s US anarchist movement.

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In the documentary, Powell said that he was angry with the government for things that still motivate popular movements today: government censorship, police brutality, war, civil rights.

“We were going to move from irresponsible power in the hands of a few old white men, to a much fairer society, where people of color and women had equal opportunity. Were we didn’t make wars of choice halfway around the world that didn’t make sense.”

He read from his book, words from his teenage self:

“A freedom fighter can never surrender, for if he does he becomes part of the problem, there is not trial in times of trouble, just torture and death.”“The only laws an individual can truly respect and obey are those he instills in himself, and there is only one choice for a real man – revolution.”“The time is for mass uprising, armed with a single minded deadly intolerance.”“Allow the fear, loneliness and hatred to build up inside of you, allow your passions to fertilize the seeds of constructive revolution. Allow your love of freedom to overcome false values placed on human life. Freedom is based on respect and respect must be earned by the spilling of blood. “

Looking back, Powell called his comments “over the top, exaggerated, rhetoric,” and “rubbish”.  He said he was young, angry, and in the process of forming opinions about politics. The same can be said of youth today, caught up in the anarchist Antifa movement:


Two Sides

“This might seem like dogma espoused by the radical right – it is,” Powell said in his book. Extremists of any political persuasion have similar behaviors -- unwavering loyalty to one side, and unwavering hate for ‘the other’. Clear in groups and out groups, with one’s own being ‘good’ and the other’s ‘bad’.

“Myself, at 19, thought they were living in an apocalypse. Are you part of the problem or the solution – it’s a very simplistic view of the world,” Powell said in the documentary.

Extremists on the left have been building a track record of violence for years. Recently, a Bernie Sanders supporter attempted to murder Republicans at a congressional baseball practice. Cops have been ambushed in several US cities, including Dallas, and NY. Counter-protesters have beaten Trump supporters, journalists, and even targeted those on ‘their own side’:

#Antifa beats FEMALE #Trump supporter with a pole. FBI Must step in & arrest them all. Jail time needed!pic.twitter.com/P7XoYPSASd

— Kevin W. (@kwilli1046) August 24, 2017

Antifa stab fellow Antifa "comrade" after assuming he's a "Nazi" because he was white."I'm not sure why I'm here"pic.twitter.com/pfXgn0efFx

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— Democrats for Trump (@YoungDems4Trump) August 24, 2017

News reporters, and political leaders have been eerily quiet about the violence on the left. Even castigating Trump for saying, in his comments after Charlottesville, that he condemns violence on many sides.

“There are no two sides,” echoed through the media:


A very clear message has formed in the national narrative, forbidding the identification of any violent side except Nazism, and white nationalism.

Conservative commentator, Kristin Tate, raised a warning about silence concerning violence on the extreme ‘left’:

“How long until such calls for violence escalate into a storm we cannot stop? Very few on either side of the aisle want such actions — but only one side is tolerating them in hopes of achieving a political goal.”

What is the Goal?

What was Powell’s impetus for writing the Anarchist’s Cookbook? He said he had some genuine anger, but he “wanted to publish, wanted to be a writer.”

He said he was aware that there was the possibility that his book would harm others, and wishes that he had done more to stem the violence from his teenage rhetoric, enshrined forever in his anarchist’s book.

But, he didn’t do very much to address his rhetoric, and instead intentionally tried to push his culpability away, to deny that he had any negative effect on the world he professed to save.

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Powell passed away in 2016. His book is still a popular seller on Amazon.

What will Antifa really gain from violent attacks on society? Powell might be able to give some insight:

“I think there is something in the human condition that draws us to violence. Doesn’t mean that is the only outcome that is possible. I think there is something intoxicating about violence.

"It’s possible that for young people who are angry, and don’t have a sense of belonging -- it could represent an endeavor to be powerful, to lash out at a world that isn’t providing you any meaning.

"I suspect that there may be a parallel between the young people who hurt and kill their classmates and that kind of radicalization, that kind of distorted perception and process I went through when writing the book.

"And that may be useful parallel in terms of learning what might lead people to cruel or lethal acts.”

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