Eric Hobsbawm (1971, 1973, 2000; these are the most recent editions of work published as early as 1959) coined the term "social bandit," and he also used "primitive rebels" to refer to the leaders of nonrevolutionary movements that sought to reform the injustices of a system that they were not attempting to overthrow. In Hobsbawm's analysis, social bandits transcend the label of "criminals"; they are robbers and outlaws elevated to the status of avengers and champions of social justice. Some, such as Robin Hood, Rob Roy, Jesse James, and Francisco "Pancho" Villa, are famous throughout the world, the stuff of story and myth.
St. Augustine made a cogent observation that relates to the relative status of the bandit-rebel-revolutionary as a function of his/her success that has been remembered through the centuries. Perhaps sensitive to the role and the treatment of Jesus of Nazareth—who may be considered the most revolutionary thinker of Western culture—by the power structure of his time, St. Augustine observed that, "Take away justice, then, and what are governments but great bandit bands? And after all, what are bands of bandits but small states?"
It can be seen that some individuals, viewed by the power structure that they fought against (and in some cases, initially even by themselves) as criminals, outlaws, bandits, and so on, eventually became the representatives of the dominant power in the land in which they fought. This is the case, for example, of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata for a brief historical moment, and of Mao Zedong for the long term. Others such as Joaquín Murrieta, Gregorio Cortez, and Tiburcio Vásquez never transcended the label of outlaws, although in their own minds they were social avengers and redeemers and sometimes social redistributors.
Thus there is a strong relationship between social banditry and revolution. Sometimes one nation's bandit is another nation's revolutionary hero. Pancho Villa is a good example.