The Anarchist Cookbook, first published in 1971, is a book that contains instructions for the manufacture of explosives, rudimentary telecommunications phreaking devices, and other items. It was written by William Powell to protest United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
- 1 Post-release history
- 2 Relationship to anarchism
- 3 Legality and the alleged relationship to terrorism
- 4 Publication ceases
- 5 References
Since writing the book, Powell has converted to Anglican Christianity and has attempted to have the book removed from circulation. When the book was published by Lyle Stuart, the copyright was taken out in the publisher’s name, not his, and the current publisher had no desire to remove the book from print. Powell has since created many websites devoted to the book, explaining his desire to see it removed from circulation as he no longer advocates what he had written. He wrote on one of those websites:
The book, in many respects, was a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in.
At the time of its publication, one Federal Bureau of Investigation memo described The Anarchist Cookbook as “one of the crudest, low-brow, paranoiac writing efforts ever attempted.”
In 2009 the magazine Vice published a brief history of the book as well as excerpted recipes. The magazine’s associate network, VBS.tv, also broadcast a documentary on the subject.
In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released the bulk of its investigative file on The Anarchist Cookbook.
Relationship to Anarchism
Advocates of anarchism dispute the association of the book with anarchist political philosophy. The anarchist collective CrimethInc., which published the book Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook in response, denounces the earlier book, saying it was “not composed or released by anarchists, not derived from anarchist practice, not intended to promote freedom and autonomy or challenge repressive power – and was barely a cookbook, as most of the recipes in it are notoriously unreliable.”
Legality and the Alleged Relationship to Terrorism
In 2007, a seventeen-year-old British youth was arrested in Britain and faced charges under Terrorism Law in the UK for possession of this book, among other things. He was cleared of all charges in October 2008, after alleging that he was a prankster who just wanted to research fireworks and smoke bombs. He claimed that he would not have been prosecuted in this way if he had not been of Muslim background.
More recently, in County Durham, UK in 2010, Ian Davison and his son were imprisoned under anti-terrorism laws for the manufacturing of ricin, and their possession of the Anarchist Cookbook, along with its availability, was noted by the authorities.
The copyright of the book no longer belongs to its author, but to its publisher Lyle Stuart. Stuart kept publishing the book until the company was bought in 1991 by Steven Schragis, who decided to drop it. Out of the 2,000 books published by the company, it was the only one that Schragis decided to stop publishing. Schragis said that publishers have a responsibility to the public, and that the book had no positive social purpose that could justify keeping it in print.