By William Powell
Forty-four years ago this month, in December 1969, I quit my job as a manager of a bookstore in New York City’s Greenwich Village and began to write the Anarchist Cookbook. My motivation at the time was simple; I was being actively pursued by the US military, who seemed single-mindedly determined to send me to fight, and possibly die, in Vietnam.
I wanted to publish something that would express my anger. It seems that I succeeded in ways that far exceeded what I imagined possible at the time. The Cookbook is still in print 40 years after publication, and I am told it has sold in excess of 2m copies.
I have never held the copyright, and so the decision to continue publishing it has been in the hands of the publisher.
I now find myself arguing for it to be quickly and quietly taken out of print. What has changed?
Unfortunately, the source of my anger in the late 60’s and early 70’s – unnecessary government-sanctioned violence – is still very much a feature of our world. The debacle of the US invasion of Iraq is yet another classic example. It still makes me very angry. So my change of heart has had less to do with external events than it does with an internal change.
Over the years, I have come to understand that the basic premise behind the Cookbook is profoundly flawed. The anger that motivated the writing of the Cookbook blinded me to the illogical notion that violence can be used to prevent violence. I had fallen for the same irrational pattern of thought that led to US military involvement in both Vietnam and Iraq. The irony is not lost on me.