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10 Badass Revolutionaries Who Took Their Own Lives

When corruption, oppression and evil become too much to bear, you hear the cry of revolution. Those who lead the fight for a new system of government are brave and bold, by their nature those for whom action is better than waiting for things to change. Sometimes they have been successful, but often they have failed, and many of them have used their final moments as one last act of rebellion — choosing to die by their own hands.

10. Eduardo Chibás

Eduardo Chibás (1907–1951) was an influential Cuban senator and avowed anti-communist. During his career he sought to expose corruption at the highest levels, through his Ortodoxos party, and envisioned a revolutionary politics achieved via constitutional means. On his last radio show he lambasted fellow politicians, naming those he suspected of organizing a coup. This outspoken badass also valued keeping promises, such that when a fellow politician failed to appear on his radio show to give evidence, as agreed, Chibás felt so profoundly upset by his inability to keep his word to his listeners that he grabbed a gun and blew his brains out.

9. Jacques Roux

Jacques Roux (1752–1794) had the perfect excuse to stay out of the French Revolution — after all, he was a Roman Catholic priest and could busy himself tending to men's souls rather than their calls for freedom. Yet this radical badass decided that being a man of the cloth wasn’t enough when he saw the French Revolution occurring around him. Abandoning the priesthood, Roux became a member of the Paris Commune. He quickly rose to become a leader preaching the ideals of popular democracy in the French capital, and instigated food riots in early 1793. In September of the same year he was arrested, and the Revolutionary Tribunal condemned him to death, but in January 1794 he stole victory from their grasp by taking his own life.

8. Adolph Joffe

Adolph Joffe (1883–1927) began fighting in the Russian Revolution in 1905, but in 1906 was compelled to move Vienna, where he became a close friend of Leon Trotsky. In 1912 he was arrested in Odessa and spent five years exiled in the horrifically cold wilds of Siberia, something only a true badass could survive. He was freed in 1917 by the February Revolution, but rather than retiring with his family money took the more courageous move of spending the rest of his life involved in politics and supporting Trotsky. A real man is loyal to his friends, so in 1927, when he was gravely ill and Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party by Stalin, Joffe took his own life in protest.

7. Moishe Tokar

Moishe Tokar was another fighter in the 1905 Russian Revolution, living in Warsaw as a member of a Jewish anarchist collective. His daring during the revolution and firm belief in direct, physical action gained him widespread acclaim — as did his time on the run as a fugitive, his endurance of torture in the feared Citadel prison, and his escape from said jail in 1907. Most people would have rested on their laurels, but not this badass. Tokar could only last two years in the peace of London and Paris, returning to Russia in 1909. After reading about the treatment of political prisoners under the command of General Sergei Gershelman, Tokar decided to assassinate the general. Unsuccessful, he was captured and sentenced to death; but, badass to the end, rather than wait for his execution, he used paraffin from a lamp to burn himself to death whilst in his cell.

6. Jan Palach

Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1968 after the Czech government instituted liberal reforms. Along with several others, student Jan Palach (1948–1969) decided to protest against the invasion by taking his own life. In January 1969, Palach went through with the pact by setting himself on fire in one of Prague's main city squares. His intention was to spur Czechoslovakians into action, halting what he saw as a "demoralization" of his fellow countrymen. His badass move paid off: in death, his funeral became a protest, and others emulated his sacrifice over the ensuing months.

5. Mohamed Bouazizi

Mohamed Bouazizi (1984–2011) was a street vendor in Tunisia who had finally had enough of harassment from police officials and the confiscation of his goods. With no response to his complaints from the authorities, he made the badass move of setting himself aflame outside the governor's office in December 2010, catalyzing the Tunisian Revolution in the process. He died in early January 2011, and his death intensified the public feelings of rage, ultimately leading to the end of the 23-year-long reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Bouazizi’s impact didn’t stop with Tunisia, either: the waves of protests spread to other Arab countries as did emulations of his act of self-immolation.

4. Berty Albrecht

Men aren’t the only badasses possessed of revolutionary spirit. Berty Albrecht (1893–1943) wasn’t going to let the man keep her down. Not content with talking to friends about her rebellious views, she started a journal in which she campaigned for the rights to contraception and abortion. When Nazism was on the rise in Germany, she set up a refugee center for Germans in France and then began a campaign of resistance with Henri Frenay. Not only did she produce informational pamphlets and guides pertaining to the Resistance; she became a director of the Combat network. Albrecht managed to convince the French authorities that she was harmless, but the Germans eventually got their hands on her, and she committed suicide in Fresnes Prison.

3. Ulrike Meinhof

Ulrike Meinhof (1934–1976) lived for the cause. A strident feminist, and devoted through her writings and actions to the leftist struggle, she rose to become a high-profile intellectual in post-World War II Germany's radical political scene. In addition to being known for her jaw-droppingly good looks, her badass antics included participation in the breakout of friend and co-Red Army Faction founder Andreas Baader, and various bank robberies and bombings. When imprisoned, she wound up a prison towel and hanged herself in her cell, bringing a vivid meaning to her often repeated quote: “Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more.”

2. Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani

Meir Feinstein (1927–1947) and Moshe Barazani (1928–1947) were involved in sabotage operations in Palestine when it was under the control of the British authorities. Fighting for a free state of Israel at a time when the horrors of the Holocaust were fresh in the minds of everyone, Feinstein lost an arm while attempting to plant an improvised explosive device in a railway station. In fact, Feinstein was so badass that, faced by the prospect of death, he persistently refused a lawyer or even to recognize that the court had any authority. He and Barazani ended up smuggling improvised grenades, hidden inside oranges, into their cell, and blowing themselves up so as to deny the British the chance to hang them.

1. Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima (1925–1970) was the pen name of Japanese artist, poet, author and actor Kimitake Hiraoka. This accomplished man, nominated three times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, rose to the ranks of "supreme badass" when he attempted to launch a coup d'état. Arriving at the headquarters of Japan's Self-Defense Forces with his associates, the group barricaded themselves into a room, holding the camp’s commandant hostage. Mishima went out onto the balcony and delivered a speech to the soldiers to inspire them to rebel and fight the cause of restoring the emperor's powers. Instead, they simply laughed at him. Frustrated and defeated, he retreated back into the room to perform seppuku — ritual Japanese suicide by disembowelment with a sword.

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