William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook, RIP

William Powell, author of the iconic counterculture how-to guide The Anarchist Cookbook, died last year of a heart attack. His death was just made public. As a teen, I learned many important things from The Anarchist Cookbook: mixing iodine crystals with ammonia is indeed explosive, smoking banana peels won't get you high (contrary to the book), and Rikers Island is to be avoided. Powell wrote the book when he was 19 and disavowed it later in life after becoming a Christian. The Anarchist Cookbook remained in print, much to his chagrin. “The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change,” he wrote on the book's Amazon page. “I no longer agree with this.” From the Los Angeles Times:

“The Anarchist Cookbook,” which has sold at least 2 million copies — printed, downloaded or otherwise — and remains in publication, was originally a 160-page book that offered a nuts-and-bolts overview of weaponry, sabotage, explosives, booby traps, lethal poisons and drug making. Illustrated with crude drawings, it informed readers how to make TNT and Molotov cocktails, convert shotguns to rocket launchers, destroy bridges, behead someone with piano wire and brew LSD.

The book came with a warning: “Not for children or morons.”

In a foreword, Powell advised that he hadn’t written the book for fringe militant groups of the era like the Weathermen or Minutemen, but for the “silent majority” in America, those he said needed to learn the tools for survival in an uncertain time. Powell himself was worried about being drafted and was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and President Nixon.

“This book is for anarchists — those who feel able to discipline themselves — on all subjects (from drugs to weapons to explosives) that are currently illegal or suppressed in this country,” he wrote.

The Anarchist Cookbook (Amazon)

Notable Replies

  1. The Anarchist Cookbook has some recipes that will kill you. The advice in Steal This Book is far more helpful and relevant. Steal This Book now has a modern wiki counterpart, well worth checking out.

  2. I understand that the current opinion from anarchists is "The Anarchist Cookbook has absolutely nothing to do with anarchism"

    It could be called The Fascist Cookbook and still be just as accurate a title.

  3. Half-assed recipies written by high 19 year old and friends.... Simplest and best explanation. Brb, making thermite.

  4. As someone who sympathizes with Anarchism aims of a world without gods or masters, I can agree.

    Anarchism as a political goal is not disorder, chaos or nihilism. It's having political, social and economic organization based around free participation.

    This can be difficult in practice for us sometimes-collaborative, sometimes-competitive primates; no one has cracked it yet.

  5. The three wise men were carrying a balm.

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