Today, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two notorious tyrants. On the Ides of March in 2010 CE, we mark the 2,053rd anniversary — give or take the relevant calendar adjustments — of the striking down of Gaius Julius Caesar — the military dictator who rose to power by butchering his way through Gaul, by boasting of enslaving millions of war captives, by setting fire to Alexandria, and, through years of conquest, perfidy and proscription, battering and breaking through every restraint that Roman politics and civil society had placed in the way of unilateral military and executive power — until he finally had himself proclaimed dictator perpetuus, the King of Rome in everything but name. On March 15th, 44 BCE, a group of republican conspirators, naming themselves the Liberators — rose up and ended his reign of terror by stabbing Caesar to death on the floor of the Senate. By the coincidence of fate, only two days before, on March 13th, is also the anniversary (129th this year, give or take the relevant calendar adjustments) of the assassination of Czar Alexander II Nikolaevitch, the self-styled Caesar and Autocrat of All the Russias. A group of anarchist conspirators, acting in self-defense against the ongoing repression and violence of the autocratic state, put an end to the Czar’s reign by throwing grenades underneath his carriage on March 13th, 1881 CE, in an act of propaganda by the deed. In honor of the coinciding events, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one, together with fellow republics and federations of the free world, is happy to proclaim the 15th of March Tyrannicide Day (observed), a commemoration of the death of two tyrants at the hands of people rising up in the conviction of their own equal freedom to defend themselves from violence and oppression, even the violence and oppression exercised by men in the name of the State and its fraudulent claims to authority. It’s a two-for-one historical holiday, kind of like President’s Day, except cooler: instead of another dull theo-nationalist hymn on the miraculous births of two of the canonized saints of the United States federal government, Tyrannicide Day gives us one day in which we can commemorate the deaths of two tyrants at the hands of their equals — men and women who defied the tyrants’ arbitrary claims to an unchecked authority that they had neither the wisdom, the virtue, nor the right to exercise. Men and women who saw themselves as exercising their equal right of self-defense, by striking down the would-be tyrants just like they would be entitled to strike down any other two-bit thug who tried to kill them, enslave them, or shake them down.
It is worth remembering in these days that the State has always tried to pass off attacks against its own commanding and military forces (Czars, Kings, soldiers in the field, etc.) as acts of
terrorism. That is, in fact, what almost every so-called act of
terrorism attributed to 19th century anarchists happened to be: direct attacks on the commanders of the State’s repressive forces. The linguistic bait-and-switch is a way of trying to get moral sympathy on the cheap, in which the combat deaths of trained fighters and commanders are fraudulently passed off, by a professionalized armed faction sanctimoniously playing the victim, as if they were just so many innocent bystanders killed out of the blue. Tyrannicide Day is a day to expose this for the cynical lie that it is.
There are in fact lots of good reasons to rule out tyrannicide as a political tactic — after all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the abattoir that followed as Augustus Caesar, to begin the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s important to recognize that these are strategic failures, not moral ones; what should be celebrated on the Ides of March is not the tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed
sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street.
Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had these moral insights at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.
How did you celebrate Tyrannicide Day? (Personally, I got back into town from San Francisco, got down to sorting my books from the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, and gave my wife a Tyrannicide Day gift that I picked up for her while I was out — a copy of the The Tragic Procession: Alexander Berkman and Russian Prisoner Aid, just barely cooled from the presses from the Kate Sharpley Library.) And you? Done anything online or off for this festive season? Give a shout-out in the comments.
Thus always to tyrants. And many happy returns!
Beware the State. Celebrate the Ides of March!
- texts for nothing 2010-03-15
- Barbarianchick 2010-03-14
- Strike the Root 2010-03-07
- Firestorm Cafe & Books in Asheville
- GT 2007-11-23: The present anarchy of our commerce features a Tyrannicide Day commemorative t-shirt from the Rad Geek People’s Clothing Collective storefront
- GT 2008-03-15: Tyrannicide Day 2008: The fifth annual celebration, with an oration, a mention of the coincide with the International Day to End Police Brutality, and a commemorative translation and singing of the most famous of the outlaw corridos, the ballad of Gregorio Cortez.
- GT 2007-03-15: Tyrannicide Day 2007: The fourth annual celebration, with an oration and a commemorative reading from Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, a dramatic retelling of the legendary Swiss tyrannicide which, if genuinely historical, was perhaps the most strategically successful tyrannicide in history.
- GT 2006-03-15: Tyrannicide Day ceremonies for 2006: the third annual celebration, with some thoughts on equality and a commemorative reading from The Tragedy [sic] of Julius Caesar.
- GT 2005-03-15: Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)!: the second annual celebration, and some thoughts on tyrannicide and
- GT 2004-03-15: Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)!: the first annual celebration. It’s like President’s Day, only cooler.
- Professor Wilkes: Tyrannicide Not Terrorism