To Rob a Thief


We begin with the recognition that every human being has the right to a lifetime of food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, safety, respect, free speech, and the practice of any chosen faith or no faith.  In short, every person must be free from every form of systemic oppression.

Having recognized the right of every human being to both collective and individual freedom, next we argue that all property is stolen property.  The proposition that all property is stolen deals mainly with the wealth of the capitalist ruling class (the bourgeoisie) for they have stolen the most.  Yet when we argue that all property– both private and public– is stolen, we mean any claim of exclusive ownership by one or by the few, rather than by the many and by all.  Everything belongs to everyone.

It is a well-known maxim that we are born into this world with nothing and leave it the same way: “You can’t take it with you.”  All we have while we are alive is life itself.  Without life, we have nothing.  With life, we have all that we are given, or earn, or take, or steal.  Yet who is to say what is humanely mine, ours, yours or theirs?  The ownership of all goods begins with theft.  Someone with their fists, or a club, or a knife, or a gun once claimed that a certain material necessity of life belonged only to them.  Thus the inequitable distribution of all goods began, and with this inequity was the beginning of want and poverty– and war.

Nothing can be defined as ours unless a thieving government or some other source of power, such as a corporation, “legitimizes” our claim to ownership: yet their ability to legitimize and define ownership has been gained through inhumane, and therefore illegitimate, force.  Because a few have more, the many have less.  Then the few create for themselves the power to define the moral and legal basis of stolen goods.  If the many protest, the few will use the same force by which they gained this stolen property in the first place to inflict additional violence on the people.  Unjust material advantage is the source of all war.

As stated by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: “Property is robbery!”

If we go back to the basic human right to freedom, stated at the beginning, and keep going back to this recognition that all people have the right to live freely, then again and again we must also recognize that everything in the world belongs to everyone in it.  We cannot respect human rights while at the same time respecting the sanctity of property.  Property is theft.  When we love humanity, we have no regard for claims to property and the unjust laws which supposedly legitimize these claims.  The only thing preventing us from liberating this inhumanely gained property for the use of all people is the threat of violence: the prison and the gun.

We must abolish all prisons.

The only people who might possibly belong in prisons are the people who ordered these prisons to be built.  Yet even they must be rehabilitated.  Every criminal is also the victim of either social inequity or individual illness.  No child is born to be a murderer; most often they become a murderer, or rapist, or thief on account of the capitalist system, which was borne out of the murder, rape and theft of Africa and the rest of the world.  The man who orders the construction of a prison is imprisoned by the capitalist mentality of control, oppression and violence.  But even he can be rehabilitated.

We must abolish all guns and all war.

As Mao Tse-tung famously said: “We are advocates of the abolition of war; we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.”

We must abolish all property.

This proposition may sound foolishly hypocritical if i were to cry out “Thief!  Thief!”  when someone broke into “my” apartment and took “my” coveted collection of John Coltrane albums.  Suddenly “my” own possessions would be sacred– to me at any rate– and the proposition that we should liberate all property would be shown as inconsistent and false.  After all, i may object to someone liberating “my” John Coltrane albums for themselves.

Yet even with “my” Coltrane collection, the proposition is still true: all property is theft.  If you steal these things from me for your own use– perhaps to sell, or even to enjoy on your own– then this is a capitalist theft.  You are a thief.  You have committed an unjust act of oppression.  However, if you steal these things from me for the use of all humanity, then you are a revolutionary whose act is a just expression of freedom.

By stealing any item for the use of humanity, you have restored the material balance of the world.  After all, the manufacturer of these items no doubt stole the resources and labor for their production, and the vendor (Amazon?) no doubt stole from me by making a handsome profit off the sale of these items.  All “my possessions” represent a long line of theft.  If they were to be stolen, and then given back to the world, their true and humane use would be restored.

In order to catch the thief, we must move to rob the thief.

When we steal anything for the use of everyone, this is revolutionary theft.

Reactionary theft is when we steal anything for our own exclusive use, or the use of the few.  This is the source of inequity and therefore all social ills.  Property is the source of all poverty.  Every human being has the right to everything which will sustain a healthy life.  The oppressed masses of the world lack the materials to live as they deserve, for they have been robbed over and over until they are left with next to nothing, while the wealthy few possess nearly all.

We must respect and love the people, and disrespect and hate property– not hate the physical things which are defined as “property” but the definition itself.  We must reject and destroy the concept of “property.”  The world will rejoice in its enjoyment of all things, if we will only liberate these things from the capitalist thieves and their murderous war machine.

We must encourage the mindset of revolutionary theft and urge everyone to spit on the concept of property.  When we shop at Safeway, and we look at all the food on the shelves, we should be thinking about anyone who is hungry and how we could grab these items for redistribution among the people with empty stomachs.  When we see a nice car we should think of the person with no car and how we might steal the car so that they will be able to use it too.  In our workplaces where we go to “earn a living,” we must look around at all the things in the offices or factories or fields and recognize that all these things have been stolen– from us.  Living doesn’t need to be earned– only lived.

The people should keep these things in mind– keep an eye on what we would like to steal, and for whom.  Ultimately, these things belong to everyone.  The car can be left in the parking lot or by the side of the road for the next person who needs to drive someplace.  But this car belongs to nobody, because everything is for everyone.  In Safeway, we might think of the people in areas of the world we were previously unaware of, and how the food might be sent to them.  We might look at an office building, or a factory or a field of crops, and see that its best use is no use at all, and that it ought to be burned to the ground for trees and flowers to grow there instead.

We won’t steal these things at the moment, unless we’re so hungry that we can’t go another day without something to eat.  A starving person has the right to steal any food to fill their stomach, and the police officer, judge and jailer are the people we should stop.  Yet most of us, for now, will simply look around at all the things that belong to us, thinking and planning for the day when we can take them without being shot or incarcerated.

When capitalism collapses, as it must, there will be chaos.  Out of this chaos reactionary forces will attempt to grab all the material goods which led to capitalist rule in the first place.  They must be stopped.  And the masses of people must be in the mindset that all the planet belongs to us– and to the animals, and (if you like) to the gods and goddesses and spirits of the sky, water, plants, and soil.  Everything in the universe exists for the enjoyment and use of every living thing.  When capitalism collapses, out of chaos a new harmony will be born, and all things, animate and inanimate, will exist only to exist as they truly are, which is the meaning of freedom.

To exist only to exist, fully and truly, is freedom.

To Rob a Thief