The Stan Iverson Archives
"Why I Took Part in a Burglary, Why I Committed Murder"
The Trial Statement of Raymond Callemin (also known as Raymond-la-Science, member of the turn-of-the century Paris illegalist culture and the celebrated 'Bonnot Gang')
Every being comes into the world with a right to live a real life. This is indisputable, for it is nature's law. Also I ask myself why, on this earth, there are people who expect to have all the rights. They give the pretext that they have money, but if one asks them where they got their money from, what do they answer? As for myself, I answer as follows: "I give no one the right to impose his own wishes, regardless of the pretext given. I don't see why I wouldn't have the right to eat those grapes or those apples just because they are the property of Mr. X. . . .What did he do that I have not that let's him alone gain an advantage? I answer nothing and consequently I have the right to make use of things according to my need and if he wants to prevent me forcibly I will revolt and against his strength I will oppose my own because, finding myself attacked, I will defend myself by any means at my disposal.'
"That's why, to those who will say that they have money and, thus, I must obey them, I will say;' When you are able to demonstrate that part of the whole represents the whole, that this is another earth than that on which you have been born, as I have, and that this is another sun the one which lights the way and makes plants grow and fruit ripen, when you have proven that, I will give you the right to keep me from living, because, well, where DOES money come from: from the earth, and silver is one part of the earth transformed into a metal that came to be called silver and one part of the world monopolized this silver and, in using this metal, violently forced the rest of the world to obey it. For this end, they invented all kinds of torture systems such as prisons, etc.
Why does this minority which 'has' seem stronger than the majority which 'has not'? Because this majority is ignorant and lacking in energy; it allows all sorts of caprices on the part of those who 'have' by simply slouching its shoulders at each new caprice that comes up. These people are too faint-hearted to revolt themselves and, even better, if amongst them there are some who leave the flock, the others hold them back, either directly or indirectly, to without knowing it, but nevertheless in just as dangerous a manner. They claim honesty, but underneath that facade hides a hypocrisy and a cowardice which cannot be disavowed.
That someone could bring an honest man before me!
It is due to all of these things that I have revolted, it's because I didn't want to live the life of the present society, because I didn't want to wait until death to be alive that I defended myself against my oppressors by all means at my disposition.
From my earliest days, I knew the authority of the father and mother and before I was even old enough to understand what it all meant, I rebelled against that authority, just as I did against the authority of the educational system.
I was thirteen at the time. I started working; when I began to experience and understand what was going on around me. I also became familiar with life and social abuse; I saw people I found to be bad and corrupt, and told myself: "I must find a way to get out of this shit of bosses, workers, bourgeoisie, judges, officers, and others; all of these people disgust me, some become they allow themselves to go through the motions of life without really doing a thing." Not wanting to be exploited or, on the other hand, to be an exploiter of others, I stole from the shelves of stores, without getting too far head, the first time I was arrested I was seventeen; I was sentenced to three months in prison; and then I understood justice as it really was; my chum who was charged with the same crime (because we were working together) was given only two months, and that only a suspended sentence (of observation and good conduct). Why that was, I have always wondered. But I can say that I give no one the right to judge me, be he a judge from the educational system or one from the tribunal, because no one can possibly understand or know the reasons for my actions; no one can put himself in my place in one word no one can be me.
When I got out of prison, I returned to my parents, who reproached me severely. But to have undergone what I did in the name of "Justice", that is, prison, made me all the more rebellious. I started working again, although not the same job. (See, after having worked in an office for some time, I threw myself into work with a butcher, then into work in a deli, something which I did well, but, now wherever I went, people asked me for some sort of certification. I didn't have any, no one wanted to hire me, and that made me even more rebellious. That's when I began to play games in order to find work, I fixed up false certificates and finally found work for sixteen to eighteen hours a day for 70 to 80 francs a week, seven days a week, and when I asked for a day's vacation Monsieur the Boss got angry.
At the end of these months of work there, I was distraught and exhausted and yet I had to keep going for fear of dying of hunger, seeing that what I earned was just enough to pay for my most basic needs, but to look at what was going on the other side of the street, I felt that my boss was reaping all the benefits of MY work and what was he doing to deserve THAT? Nothing, other than reminding me that I had arrived ten minutes late or criticizing my work and threatening me with losing my job if my work didn't improve.
Anyway, as I don't like doing the same thing all the time (I don't think of myself as a machine), I would have liked to teach myself, to know lots of things, to develop my intelligence, as well as my body, in one word, to become a being incapable of moving out in all directions as he pleases, needing as little as possible from others around him. But to get to that point, I needed time, I needed books. How could I get those things while remaining so tied to my work? It was impossible for me to pull these things together as I had to eat and in order to do that I had to work and for whom? For a boss. I thought all this over and said for myself: I am going to change jobs once again, maybe things will go better for me now, but I really hadn't expected to encounter a social system such as the one I find myself fighting constantly these days; I was pretty interested in mechanical work, but when I inquired about working, mechanics responded: We'd like to take you on but we can't pay you because you wouldn't work fast enough since you don't know anything about what it takes to be a mechanic. . . they would (one day) pay me, but only once I know the rudiments of the trade, which meant in fifteen to eighteen months (or more) and then they could pay me six to eight francs a day for ten to twelve hours of work per day. The state really began to disgust me at this point. In the end I found work digging embankments but nothing changed: I had to work a lot in order to fall short of satisfying even my most basic needs. I came to the same conclusions in looking at situations all around me; I saw nothing but poverty for those who worked at my side and, worse, all these miserable people instead of trying to get out of the rut they were in, dug in their heels and drank themselves into oblivion, thereby casting their faculties of reason to the wind.
I saw all that, I saw the exploiter getting satisfied by the whole thing, and worse, I saw him pay for rounds of drinks for men who had already drunk too much; and for good reason, for while they got smashed, the workers couldn't think and that's what was necessary to keep them under the authority of the exploiting bosses.
When, accidentally, there was a gesture of revolt by the imbeciles (I make no distinction by trade here), the boss threatened to fire them and the imbeciles calmed down immediately.
I went on strike once too but I quickly understood the meaning and the ramifications of this token gesture. All of those 'men', incapable of acting individually, appointed a leader whose responsibility it was to discuss the discontent amongst our members with the boss.
Some times, this stupid leader sold out to the boss by asking for a small bribe, whereas when the other brutes had no money, he suggested they return to work if they needed to pay for things. These were the results, the rewards we got from the strikes, and when we did finally get a raise, the capitalists reacted by increasing the cost of our food, so much so that nothing really changed, we had lost a lot of time and energy, that's all. Also, in the unions, I only made one short appearance, as I was quickly aware that all of these gentlemen were noting more than profiteers and careerists who screamed for rebellion everywhere, but why? I understood that they wanted to destroy the present state so that they could put themselves in power, to change the whole apparatus in name only. Like the capitalists, they utilized the same technique: promises. One's sincerity, in the end, is only one more lousy working class trait to be exploited. When I left this, I came upon a group which was somewhat different: the revolutionaries. I then became an anarchist,. I was eighteen, I didn't want to return to work and I started my campaign of individual reprisals once more, with the same unfortunate luck as before. After three or four months, I was arrested. I was sentenced to two months imprisonment . When I got out I tried to find work. I worked on a general strike, during which we had a lot of trouble with the police. I was arrested and sentenced to six days in jail.
All of this sharpened my character and, naturally, the more I learned, the more I understood about life. I spent time with anarchists, I understood their theories and became a fervent supporter of their point of view, not because the theories seemed god but because I found them to be the most just of those that were current at the time.
In the anarchist milieu I encountered individuals who were trying as much as possible to get rid of their prejudices, those same prejudices which made this world so stupid and so savage, people with whom I enjoyed talking because they showed me things I could see and touch rather than utopias. More than that, these people were sober, clear thinkers. When with them I didn't need to turn my head the other way as I did with most of the brutes, their mouths didn't reek of alcohol or tobacco. They seemed reasonable and I found them to have lots of energy and wills of iron.
My opinions solidified, I became a part of the group, I wanted no part of the world in which I worked for others, I wanted to work for myself, but in order to do that, I didn't have much choice, but I had acquired some experience in some areas, and, full of energy myself, I resolved to defend myself to the death, against the stupid yelping of the present society.
I left Paris when I was nineteen and a half, because I saw that everything in the city was becoming regimented. I understood what the words republic, liberty, equality, fraternity, flag, country and so on meant. I mulled these words over, what part I was to take in all of this and I also spoke with my friends about the supposed valor of that social vocabulary that surrounded me; I understood the horrible hypocrisy represented by the language of the state. It's all nothing more than a religion, like God's religion that gets slopped out to the world's religious folk. They say to them. 'respect your country, die for your country, but what is the nation for me, it's all the earth without borders. "Country" is where I live, whether it is in Germany, Russia, or France, for me "country" or "nation" knows no bounds, it is everywhere that I am contented. I don't distinguish between peoples, I seek only mutual understanding, but around me I see only religious types and Christians or deceitful hypocrites. If the workers would think a bit, they would see and understand that between capitalists there are no boundaries, these rapacious wrongdoers organize themselves to oppress others better. It is only now that I am here and it is now that I must live and I shall do just that by any means that science puts at my disposition. I may not live to be terribly old, I will probably be overtaken by the open struggle between me and the society which has better means of winning than I will ever have, but I will defend myself as best I can, to deceitfulness and tricking I will respond in kind, likewise to force, until I am beaten, that is to say, dead.
Around May of 1910, I tried going to the provinces, hoping to leave the country and thereby escape military service, but in July I was put into prison for assault and battery. I go tout at the end of August, one month before my class of military trainees was to leave. As soon as I left prison, I got a job with a ditch-digging concern to earn some money; I took the train for the Belgian border, paying for part of the trip, but not all of it - I had to have money to eat on the train. Once in Valenciennes, I got off the train, looked for the exit doors of the station, and was spied on by a policeman, who asked me a few questions, then let me go. I didn't have any money, so I took a job for a week. I committed two robberies and left the country for Belgium. I got to Charleroi about the sixth of October, found a job for a few days, got to know a group of anarchists and in the early part of November I was arrested and then released eight days later (they couldn't prove the charges against me).
I worked a bit, met some people with similar opinions, people who were frank, motivated, with whom I did some robberies. I was twenty and a half years old.
February 1911. I had to get out of Brussels as they were looking to accuse me of doing those robberies at Charleroi; I returned to Paris, where I worked on the newspaper ANARCHY, something I worked hard for. I worked hard, just about every day of the week, and as usual, I was a bit thin, so I did a couple of robberies without much real success. I started printing counterfeit bills, but that wasn't too successful and it was just as risky as doing a big job that would bring in more money. I stopped the counterfeiting.
In July, lots of my friends were arrested. I was upset and determined to avenge my position in this criminal society. I left the newspaper and moved to Vincennes with some friends.
While working on the newspaper, we decided to rent a number of rooms so as to better insure our security. We didn't have much money so we robbed some places to get what we needed.
For a time I had been looking for a friend to drive me places, but I couldn't find anyone. I had learned to drive, but not being very skillful at it, I was hesitant to try stealing a car and risk causing our group more trouble than we could handle. It was during this time that I met Bonnot.
It was about December 10, 1911, at night, that we stole a car in Boulogne and proceeded to hide it in a friend's garage. I told him simply that we would be back for it in eight hours or so. I gave him a false name and false address and we left.
We discussed what we had to do. We had two big jobs to do. We were four strong. We drove around Paris for the rest of the night until; 8:30 the next morning. I stayed at the wheel and grew confident in my own abilities to handle the curves in the road, even at high speed. That was good, we really needed tw0 drivers in case one was wounded in the pursuit.
At 8;30 I let Bonnot take over.
We hadn't mutually decided how we were to pull off what we wanted to do - rob a cash collector. We had already observed the collector and timed his arrival at the rue Ordineur but still, it was nine in the morning, right out in the middle of the street, and in a quarter which was rather heavily populated.
At 9:00 exactly we spotted him stepping off the street car as usual, accompanied by someone else assigned to protect him. We don't have a second to lose; the car approaches him, I get out, hand on my revolver. My companion, on the other side of the sidewalk, is a few steps behind me.
Three feet away from the cashier, I take out my revolver, coldly, and shoot him twice; he falls, his accompanying guard runs off; I pick up one sack, my companion takes another.
We get back on the car, some passerby trying to keep us from getting in. We pull out our revolvers, shoot and everyone flees. We take the route to Le Havre, taking lots of detours to keep from getting caught or having to put up a fight (we aren't poorly armed). I have no less than six revolvers on my person. We had about four hundred rounds and had decided to fight to the death if we had to.
We were hungry. I let Bonnot drive. Later, we started running out of gas and decided to leave the car behind, having arrived at the sea and the sandy earth pulling our tires down into it. We throw the license plates away. we got to the trains station to get tickets to Paris and arrive without incident, although the national security agency is close at our feet. I expect they thought the revolution had begun! To think that it was only a slightly serious prank. They are going to see quite a few more before they fall. . .