The Monkey Wrench Gang

As tyranny deepens, people become more desperate. The hesitation to not violate mala prohibita suddenly butts heads with the proverbial line in the sand. Actions that they would never have contemplated before suddenly seem not only realistically possible, but unavoidably necessary.



Monkey-wrenching is the activist colloquial term for sabotage. As a unique application of guerrilla warfare, traditional monkey-wrenching entails only property destruction. Through disabling and disassembling the machines that are used in the pursuit of imperialism, the efforts of the Establishment can be disrupted at a ground level, even if only temporarily. By doing this often enough, enemy forces are hampered by delays and the high financial costs of repairing and replacing equipment, thus weakening their resolve to continue their encroachment (or so the theory goes).

The ensemble cast of the four main characters showcase different archetypes and their reactions to the stresses and successes of monkey-wrenching. Seldom Seen Smith is the prototypical survivalist who is an outcast Mormon who feeds his three wives by taking clients out for wilderness expeditions. Dr. Sarvis is the cosmopolitan libertarian, who despite his age and affluence, deeply desires to see the Establishment get what he thinks it deserves. Bonnie Abzug is the flimsy feminist who constantly complains and thus is the least helpful of the crew. George Hayduke is a former Green Beret Vietnam veteran who was a demolitions specialist; he was the most committed of the gang and therefore my favorite character in the whole novel.

The dynamics between these characters are the key driving force behind this story. Abzug and Dr. Sarvis knew each other beforehand since their after work hobby was defacing, torching, and other wise culture jamming billboards. Smith and Hayduke seemed to me the most natural of buddies; this makes sense when you consider their archetypes. Dr. Sarvis was more of an elder to Hayduke whereas he was something more akin to an older brother to Smith. Hayduke and Abzug were, much to my shagrin and vocal protest, inopportune temporary lovers. Smith didn’t really relate much to Abzug all that much, and the feeling was mutual.

At times, though, it felt that Dr. Sarvis and Abzug were hangers on to the real monkey-wrenching work done by Hayduke and Smith. Granted, while Dr. Sarvis solely financed entire operations, following that he felt that his work was done; he was often performing lookout duty with Abzug. I really wished that the author had decided to portray Abzug as a strong pioneer type woman, more reserved and hesitant, yet willing to help the men on operations by doing more than just being a lookout, but what readers got instead was the worst feminist stereotype possible; that is, a moralistically fake whiny control freak. Smith and Hayduke typically had to conduct the meat of the operations themselves, Hayduke particularly doing the most dangerous aspects of it.

One theme I appreciated was the positive display of the use of privacy. Low-profile techniques were suggested to other members of the gang so as to reduce the probability of their getting caught by the “authorities.” It should also be kept in mind that there were no computers used at any point, thus digital privacy is a moot point for this novel.

While I understand that a much higher level of INFOSEC is needed when you are on active operations, I can no doubt predict that some well-meaning Patriotard will probably make the inane talking point that this novel is some sort of Establishment psy op designed to make non monkey-wrenching Patriots look like crooks because they paid in cash since they value their privacy on a daily basis. Such obfuscation of the matter is something I’ve come across in the alternative media way too much (especially on the subject of privacy), and I felt I should address it here since the de facto effect of such argumentation is to scare people who were willing to take action of any kind to instead hole up in a bunker and never see the light of day. Apparently, such useful idiots don’t really understand the history of World War II partisans in various countries.

An important corollary to privacy and INFOSEC is how they organized, specifically as a leaderless resistance (LR) cell. Each member worked with the other three in a voluntary manner. It was very important to them to never “vote” on decisions, since they all consented to each action, each one chose to bear the responsibility of it. As I mentioned in my overview of the LR concept, normally all decisions are arrived at via consensus (that is, unanimous consent). Of course, like most LR cell types, the fictional monkey-wrench gang suffered from a notorious lack of discipline. The only kind of LR cell that seems to have gotten over the discipline problem are security teams.

The ending seemed to suggest that Edward Abbey wanted to leave the door open to a sequel. Seeing that Abbey kicked the bucket back in ’89, unless someone else wanted and were able to take up the mantle of this desert anarchist, I think this is the only sojourn any of us will ever see of the monkey-wrench gang. If there ever were a sequel, seeing that Abzug gets married and becomes pregnant with Dr. Sarvis’ child, a new author could redeem her character into more of the pioneer type that I alluded to earlier.

I wholeheartedly recommend to any political dissident worth their salt to read The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey. Except for the vociferous obscenities (or not, if you’re into that kind of thing), this novel is a must read because there is so much to learn from it. On one hand, I’m quite surprised that almost no alternative media outlet recommends this novel on their suggested reading lists, but on the other, I understand how most of them want to steer everyone towards certain paths that lead absolutely nowhere.

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One Response to The Monkey Wrench Gang

  1. Boyd White says:

    Good Book and Good Review. Had not thought of the angle you suggest for Azbug…but that makes all the sense in the world…why give such a preeminent place in the book to a Femi-Nazi when a tip-o-the-hat to some deserving hard working pioneer woman is in order.

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