The text is from my copy of
Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays.
Second Revised Edition. New York & London: Mother Earth
Publishing Association, 1911. pp. 85-114. Fonte
OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
TO ANALYZE the psychology
of political violence is not only extremely difficult, but
also very dangerous. If such acts are treated with understanding,
one is immediately accused of eulogizing them. If, on the
other hand, human sympathy is expressed with the Attentäter,
one risks being considered a possible accomplice. Yet
it is only intelligence and sympathy that can bring us closer
to the source of human suffering, and teach us the ultimate
way out of it.
The primitive man, ignorant
of natural forces, dreaded their approach, hiding from the
perils they threatened. As man learned to understand Nature's
phenomena, he realized that though these may destroy life
and cause great loss, they also bring relief. To the earnest
student it must be apparent that the accumulated forces in
our social and economic life, culminating in a political act
of violence, are similar to the terrors of the atmosphere,
manifested in storm and lightning.
To thoroughly appreciate the
truth of this view, one must feel intensely the indignity
of our social wrongs; one's very being must throb with the
pain, the sorrow, the despair millions of people are daily
made to endure. Indeed, unless we have become a part of humanity,
we cannot even faintly understand the just indignation that
accumulates in a human soul, the burning, surging passion
that makes the storm inevitable.
The ignorant mass looks upon
the man who makes a violent protest against our social and
economic iniquities as upon a wild beast, a cruel, heartless
monster, whose joy it is to destroy life and bathe in blood;
or at best, as upon an irresponsible lunatic. Yet nothing
is further from the truth. As a matter of fact, those who
have studied the character and personality of these men, or
who have come in close contact with them, are agreed that
it is their super-sensitiveness to the wrong and injustice
surrounding them which compels them to pay the toll of our
social crimes. The most noted writers and poets, discussing
the psychology of political offenders, have paid them the
highest tribute. Could anyone assume that these men had advised
violence, or even approved of the acts? Certainly not. Theirs
was the attitude of the social student, of the man who knows
that beyond every violent act there is a vital cause.
Björnstjerne Björnson, in
the second part of Beyond Human Power, emphasizes the
fact that it is among the Anarchists that we must look for
the modern martyrs who pay for their faith with their blood,
and who welcome death with a smile, because they believe,
as truly as Christ did, that their martyrdom will redeem humanity.
Franįois Coppé, the French
novelist, thus expresses himself regarding the psychology
of the Attentäter:
"The reading of the details
of Vaillant's execution left me in a thoughtful mood. I imagined
him expanding his chest under the ropes, marching with firm
step, stiffening his will, concentrating all his energy, and,
with eyes fixed upon the knife, hurling finally at society
his cry of malediction. And, in spite of me, another spectacle
rose suddenly before my mind. I saw a group of men and women
pressing against each other in the middle of the oblong arena
of the circus, under the gaze of thousands of eyes, while
from all the steps of the immense amphitheatre went up the
terrible cry, Ad leones! and, below, the opening
cages of the wild beasts.
"I did not believe the execution
would take place. In the first place, no victim had been struck
with death, and it had long been the custom not to punish
an abortive crime with the last degree of severity. Then,
this crime, however terrible in intention, was disinterested,
born of an abstract idea. The man's past, his abandoned childhood,
his life of hardship, pleaded also in his favor. In the independent
press generous voices were raised in his behalf, very loud
and eloquent. 'A purely literary current of opinion' some
have said, with no little scorn. It is, on the contrary,
an honor to the men of art and thought to have expressed once
more their disgust at the scaffold."
Again Zola, in Germinal
and Paris, describes the tenderness and kindness, the
deep sympathy with human suffering, of these men who close
the chapter of their lives with a violent outbreak against
Last, but not least, the man
who probably better than anyone else understands the psychology
of the Attentäter is M. Hamon, the author of
the brilliant work Une Psychologie du Militaire Professionnel,
who has arrived at these suggestive conclusions:
"The positive method confirmed
by the rational method enables us to establish an ideal type
of Anarchist, whose mentality is the aggregate of common psychic
characteristics. Every Anarchist partakes sufficiently of
this ideal type to make it possible to differentiate him from
other men. The typical Anarchist, then, may be defined as
follows: A man perceptible by the spirit of revolt under one
or more of its forms,--opposition, investigation, criticism,
innovation,--endowed with a strong love of liberty, egoistic
or individualistic, and possessed of great curiosity, a keen
desire to know. These traits are supplemented by an ardent
love of others, a highly developed moral sensitiveness, a
profound sentiment of justice, and imbued with missionary
To the above characteristics,
says Alvin F. Sanborn, must be added these sterling qualities:
a rare love of animals, surpassing sweetness in all the ordinary
relations of life, exceptional sobriety of demeanor, frugality
and regularity, austerity, even, of living, and courage beyond
"There is a truism that the
man in the street seems always to forget, when he is abusing
the Anarchists, or whatever party happens to be his bęte
noire for the moment, as the cause of some outrage
just perpetrated. This indisputable fact is that homicidal
outrages have, from time immemorial, been the reply of goaded
and desperate classes, and goaded and desperate individuals,
to wrongs from their fellowmen, which they felt to be intolerable.
Such acts are the violent recoil from violence, whether aggressive
or repressive; they are the last desperate struggle of outraged
and exasperated human nature for breathing space and life.
And their cause lies not in any special conviction, but in
the depths of that human nature itself. The whole course of
history, political and social, is strewn with evidence of
this fact. To go no further, take the three most notorious
examples of political parties goaded into violence during
the last fifty years: the Mazzinians in Italy, the Fenians
in Ireland, and the Terrorists in Russia. Were these people
Anarchists? No. Did they all three even hold the same political
opinions? No. The Mazzinians were Republicans, the Fenians
political separatists, the Russians Social Democrats or Constitutionalists.
But all were driven by desperate circumstances into this terrible
form of revolt. And when we turn from parties to individuals
who have acted in like manner, we stand appalled by the number
of human beings goaded and driven by sheer desperation into
conduct obviously violently opposed to their social instincts.
"Now that Anarchism has become
a living force in society, such deeds have been sometimes
committed by Anarchists, as well as by others. For no new
faith, even the most essentially peaceable and humane the
mind of man has yet accepted, but at its first coming has
brought upon earth not peace, but a sword; not because of
anything violent or anti-social in the doctrine itself; simply
because of the ferment any new and creative idea excites in
men's minds, whether they accept or reject it. And a conception
of Anarchism, which, on one hand, threatens every vested interest,
and, on the other, holds out a vision of a free and noble
life to be won by a struggle against existing wrongs, is certain
to rouse the fiercest opposition, and bring the whole repressive
force of ancient evil into violent contact with the tumultuous
outburst of a new hope.
"Under miserable conditions
of life, any vision of the possibility of better things makes
the present misery more intolerable, and spurs those who suffer
to the most energetic struggles to improve their lot, and
if these struggles only immediately result in sharper misery,
the outcome is sheer desperation. In our present society,
for instance, an exploited wage worker, who catches a glimpse
of what work and life might and ought to be, finds the toilsome
routine and the squalor of his existence almost intolerable;
and even when he has the resolution and courage to continue
steadily working his best, and waiting until new ideas have
so permeated society as to pave the way for better times,
the mere fact that he has such ideas and tries to spread them,
brings him into difficulties with his employers. How many
thousands of Socialists, and above all Anarchists, have lost
work and even the chance of work, solely on the ground of
their opinions. It is only the specially gifted craftsman,
who, if he be a zealous propagandist, can hope to retain permanent
employment. And what happens to a man with his brain working
actively with a ferment of new ideas, with a vision before
his eyes of a new hope dawning for toiling and agonizing men,
with the knowledge that his suffering and that of his fellows
in misery is not caused by the cruelty of fate, but by the
injustice of other human beings,--what happens to such a man
when he sees those dear to him starving, when he himself is
starved? Some natures in such a plight, and those by no means
the least social or the least sensitive, will become violent,
and will even feel that their violence is social and not anti-social,
that in striking when and how they can, they are striking,
not for themselves, but for human nature, outraged and despoiled
in their persons and in those of their fellow sufferers. And
are we, who ourselves are not in this horrible predicament,
to stand by and coldly condemn these piteous victims of the
Furies and Fates? Are we to decry as miscreants these human
beings who act with heroic self-devotion, sacrificing their
lives in protest, where less social and less energetic natures
would lie down and grovel in abject submission to injustice
and wrong? Are we to join the ignorant and brutal outcry which
stigmatizes such men as monsters of wickedness, gratuitously
running amuck in a harmonious and innocently peaceful society?
No! We hate murder with a hatred that may seem absurdly exaggerated
to apologists for Matabele massacres, to callous acquiescers
in hangings and bombardments, but we decline in such cases
of homicide, or attempted homicide, as those of which we are
treating, to be guilty of the cruel injustice of flinging
the whole responsibility of the deed upon the immediate perpetrator.
The guilt of these homicides lies upon every man and woman
who, intentionally or by cold indifference, helps to keep
up social conditions that drive human beings to despair. The
man who flings his whole life into the attempt, at the cost
of his own life, to protest against the wrongs of his fellow
men, is a saint compared to the active and passive upholders
of cruelty and injustice, even if his protest destroy other
lives besides his own. Let him who is without sin in society
cast the first stone at such an one."3
That every act of political
violence should nowadays be attributed to Anarchists is not
at all surprising. Yet it is a fact known to almost everyone
familiar with the Anarchist movement that a great number of
acts, for which Anarchists had to suffer, either originated
with the capitalist press or were instigated, if not directly
perpetrated, by the police.
For a number of years acts
of violence had been committed in Spain, for which the Anarchists
were held responsible, hounded like wild beasts, and thrown
into prison. Later it was disclosed that the perpetrators
of these acts were not Anarchists, but members of the police
department. The scandal became so widespread that the conservative
Spanish papers demanded the apprehension and punishment of
the gang-leader, Juan Rull, who was subsequently condemned
to death and executed. The sensational evidence, brought to
light during the trial, forced Police Inspector Momento to
exonerate completely the Anarchists from any connection with
the acts committed during a long period. This resulted in
the dismissal of a number of police officials, among them
Inspector Tressols, who, in revenge, disclosed the fact that
behind the gang of police bomb throwers were others of far
higher position, who provided them with funds and protected
This is one of the many striking
examples of how Anarchist conspiracies are manufactured.
That the American police can
perjure themselves with the same ease, that they are just
as merciless, just as brutal and cunning as their European
colleagues, has been proven on more than one occasion. We
need only recall the tragedy of the eleventh of November,
1887, known as the Haymarket Riot.
No one who is at all familiar
with the case can possibly doubt that the Anarchists, judicially
murdered in Chicago, died as victims of a lying, blood-thirsty
press and of a cruel police conspiracy. Has not Judge Gary
himself said: "Not because you have caused the Haymarket bomb,
but because you are Anarchists, you are on trial."
The impartial and thorough
analysis by Governor Altgeld of that blotch on the American
escutcheon verified the brutal frankness of Judge Gary. It
was this that induced Altgeld to pardon the three Anarchists,
thereby earning the lasting esteem of every liberty-loving
man and woman in the world.
When we approach the tragedy
of September sixth, 1901, we are confronted by one of the
most striking examples of how little social theories are responsible
for an act of political violence. "Leon Czolgosz, an Anarchist,
incited to commit the act by Emma Goldman." To be sure, has
she not incited violence even before her birth, and will she
not continue to do so beyond death? Everything is possible
with the Anarchists.
Today, even, nine years after
the tragedy, after it was proven a hundred times that Emma
Goldman had nothing to do with the event, that no evidence
whatsoever exists to indicate that Czolgosz ever called himself
an Anarchist, we are confronted with the same lie, fabricated
by the police and perpetuated by the press. No living soul
ever heard Czolgosz make that statement, nor is there a single
written word to prove that the boy ever breathed the accusation.
Nothing but ignorance and insane hysteria, which have never
yet been able to solve the simplest problem of cause and effect.
The President of a free Republic
killed! What else can be the cause, except that the Attentäter
must have been insane, or that he was incited to
A free Republic! How a myth
will maintain itself, how it will continue to deceive, to
dupe, and blind even the comparatively intelligent to its
monstrous absurdities. A free Republic! And yet within a little
over thirty years a small band of parasites have successfully
robbed the American people, and trampled upon the fundamental
principles, laid down by the fathers of this country, guaranteeing
to every man, woman, and child "life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness." For thirty years they have been increasing
their wealth and power at the expense of the vast mass of
workers, thereby enlarging the army of the unemployed, the
hungry, homeless, and friendless portion of humanity, who
are tramping the country from east to west, from north to
south, in a vain search for work. For many years the home
has been left to the care of the little ones, while the parents
are exhausting their life and strength for a mere pittance.
For thirty years the sturdy sons of America have been sacrificed
on the battlefield of industrial war, and the daughters outraged
in corrupt factory surroundings. For long and weary years
this process of undermining the nation's health, vigor, and
pride, without much protest from the disinherited and oppressed,
has been going on. Maddened by success and victory, the money
powers of this "free land of ours" became more and more audacious
in their heartless, cruel efforts to compete with the rotten
and decayed European tyrannies for supremacy of power.
In vain did a lying press
repudiate Leon Czolgosz as a foreigner. The boy was a product
of our own free American soil, that lulled him to sleep with,
My country, 'tis of thee,
Who can tell how many times this American child had gloried
in the celebration of the Fourth of July, or of Decoration Day,
when he faithfully honored the Nation's dead? Who knows but
that he, too, was willing to "fight for his country and die
for her liberty," until it dawned upon him that those he belonged
to have no country, because they have been robbed of all that
they have produced; until he realized that the liberty and independence
of his youthful dreams were but a farce. Poor Leon Czolgosz,
your crime consisted of too sensitive a social consciousness.
Unlike your idealless and brainless American brothers, your
ideals soared above the belly and the bank account. No wonder
you impressed the one human being among all the infuriated mob
at your trial--a newspaper woman--as a visionary, totally oblivious
to your surroundings. Your large, dreamy eyes must have beheld
a new and glorious dawn.
Sweet land of liberty.
Now, to a recent instance
of police-manufactured Anarchist plots. In that bloodstained
city Chicago, the life of Chief of Police Shippy was attempted
by a young man named Averbuch. Immediately the cry was sent
to the four corners of the world that Averbuch was an Anarchist,
and that Anarchists were responsible for the act. Everyone
who was at all known to entertain Anarchist ideas was closely
watched, a number of people arrested, the library of an Anarchist
group confiscated, and all meetings made impossible. It goes
without saying that, as on various previous occasions, I must
needs be held responsible for the act. Evidently the American
police credit me with occult powers. I did not know Averbuch;
in fact, had never before heard his name, and the only way
I could have possibly "conspired" with him was in my astral
body. But, then, the police are not concerned with logic or
justice. What they seek is a target, to mask their absolute
ignorance of the cause, of the psychology of a political act.
Was Averbuch an Anarchist? There is no positive proof of it.
He had been but three months in the country, did not know
the language, and, as far as I could ascertain, was quite
unknown to the Anarchists of Chicago.
What led to his act? Averbuch,
like most young Russian immigrants, undoubtedly believed in
the mythical liberty of America. He received his first baptism
by the policeman's club during the brutal dispersement of
the unemployed parade. He further experienced American equality
and opportunity in the vain efforts to find an economic master.
In short, a three months' sojourn in the glorious land brought
him face to face with the fact that the disinherited are in
the same position the world over. In his native land he probably
learned that necessity knows no law--there was no difference
between a Russian and an American policeman.
The question to the intelligent
social student is not whether the acts of Czolgosz or Averbuch
were practical, any more than whether the thunderstorm is
practical. The thing that will inevitably impress itself on
the thinking and feeling man and woman is that the sight of
brutal clubbing of innocent victims in a so-called free Republic,
and the degrading, soul-destroying economic struggle, furnish
the spark that kindles the dynamic force in the overwrought,
outraged souls of men like Czolgosz or Averbuch. No amount
of persecution, of hounding, of repression, can stay this
But, it is often asked, have
not acknowledged Anarchists committed acts of violence? Certainly
they have, always however ready to shoulder the responsibility.
My contention is that they were impelled, not by the teachings
of Anarchism, but by the tremendous pressure of conditions,
making life unbearable to their sensitive natures. Obviously,
Anarchism, or any other social theory, making man a conscious
social unit, will act as a leaven for rebellion. This is not
a mere assertion, but a fact verified by all experience. A
close examination of the circumstances bearing upon this question
will further clarify my position.
Let us consider some of the
most important Anarchist acts within the last two decades.
Strange as it may seem, one of the most significant deeds
of political violence occurred here in America, in connection
with the Homestead strike of 1892.
During that memorable time
the Carnegie Steel Company organized a conspiracy to crush
the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. Henry
Clay Frick, then Chairman of the Company, was intrusted with
that democratic task. He lost no time in carrying out the
policy of breaking the Union, the policy which he had so successfully
practiced during his reign of terror in the coke regions.
Secretly, and while peace negotiations were being purposely
prolonged, Frick supervised the military preparations, the
fortification of the Homestead Steel Works, the erection of
a high board fence, capped with barbed wire and provided with
loopholes for sharpshooters. And then, in the dead of night,
he attempted to smuggle his army of hired Pinkerton thugs
into Homestead, which act precipitated the terrible carnage
of the steel workers. Not content with the death of eleven
victims, killed in the Pinkerton skirmish, Henry Clay Frick,
good Christian and free American, straightway began the hounding
down of the helpless wives and orphans, by ordering them out
of the wretched Company houses.
The whole country was aroused
over these inhuman outrages. Hundreds of voices were raised
in protest, calling on Frick to desist, not to go too far.
Yes, hundreds of people protested,--as one objects to annoying
flies. Only one there was who actively responded to the outrage
at Homestead,--Alexander Berkman. Yes, he was an Anarchist.
He gloried in that fact, because it was the only force that
made the discord between his spiritual longing and the world
without at all bearable. Yet not Anarchism, as such, but the
brutal slaughter of the eleven steel workers was the urge
for Alexander Berkman's act, his attempt on the life of Henry
The record of European acts
of political violence affords numerous and striking instances
of the influence of environment upon sensitive human beings.
The court speech of Vaillant,
who, in 1894, exploded a bomb in the Paris Chamber of Deputies,
strikes the true keynote of the psychology of such acts:
"Gentlemen, in a few minutes
you are to deal your blow, but in receiving your verdict I
shall have at least the satisfaction of having wounded the
existing society, that cursed society in which one may see
a single man spending, uselessly, enough to feed thousands
of families; an infamous society which permits a few individuals
to monopolize all the social wealth, while there are hundreds
of thousands of unfortunates who have not even the bread that
is not refused to dogs, and while entire families are committing
suicide for want of the necessities of life.
"Ah, gentlemen, if the governing
classes could go down among the unfortunates! But no, they
prefer to remain deaf to their appeals. It seems that a fatality
impels them, like the royalty of the eighteenth century, toward
the precipice which will engulf them, for woe be to those
who remain deaf to the cries of the starving, woe to those
who, believing themselves of superior essence, assume the
right to exploit those beneath them! There comes a time when
the people no longer reason; they rise like a hurricane, and
pass away like a torrent. Then we see bleeding heads impaled
"Among the exploited, gentlemen,
there are two classes of individuals. Those of one class,
not realizing what they are and what they might be, take life
as it comes, believe that they are born to be slaves, and
content themselves with the little that is given them in exchange
for their labor. But there are others, on the contrary, who
think, who study, and who, looking about them, discover social
iniquities. Is it their fault if they see clearly and suffer
at seeing others suffer? Then they throw themselves into the
struggle, and make themselves the bearers of the popular claims.
"Gentlemen, I am one of these
last. Wherever I have gone, I have seen unfortunates bent
beneath the yoke of capital. Everywhere I have seen the same
wounds causing tears of blood to flow, even in the remoter
parts of the inhabited districts of South America, where I
had the right to believe that he who was weary of the pains
of civilization might rest in the shade of the palm trees
and there study nature. Well, there even, more than elsewhere,
I have seen capital come, like a vampire, to suck the last
drop of blood of the unfortunate pariahs.
"Then I came back to France,
where it was reserved for me to see my family suffer atrociously.
This was the last drop in the cup of my sorrow. Tired of leading
this life of suffering and cowardice, I carried this bomb
to those who are primarily responsible for social misery.
"I am reproached with the
wounds of those who were hit by my projectiles. Permit me
to point out in passing that, if the bourgeois had not massacred
or caused massacres during the Revolution, it is probable
that they would still be under the yoke of the nobility. On
the other hand, figure up the dead and wounded on Tonquin,
Madagascar, Dahomey, adding thereto the thousands, yes, millions
of unfortunates who die in the factories, the mines, and wherever
the grinding power of capital is felt. Add also those who
die of hunger, and all this with the assent of our Deputies.
Beside all this, of how little weight are the reproaches now
brought against me!
"It is true that one does
not efface the other; but, after all, are we not acting on
the defensive when we respond to the blows which we receive
from above? I know very well that I shall be told that I ought
to have confined myself to speech for the vindication of the
people's claims. But what can you expect! It takes a loud
voice to make the deaf hear. Too long have they answered our
voices by imprisonment, the rope, rifle volleys. Make no mistake;
the explosion of my bomb is not only the cry of the rebel
Vaillant, but the cry of an entire class which vindicates
its rights, and which will soon add acts to words. For, be
sure of it, in vain will they pass laws. The ideas of the
thinkers will not halt; just as, in the last century, all
the governmental forces could not prevent the Diderots and
the Voltaires from spreading emancipating ideas among the
people, so all the existing governmental forces will not prevent
the Reclus, the Darwins, the Spencers, the Ibsens, the Mirbeaus,
from spreading the ideas of justice and liberty which will
annihilate the prejudices that hold the mass in ignorance.
And these ideas, welcomed by the unfortunate, will flower
in acts of revolt as they have done in me, until the day when
the disappearance of authority shall permit all men to organize
freely according to their choice, when everyone shall be able
to enjoy the product of his labor, and when those moral maladies
called prejudices shall vanish, permitting human beings to
live in harmony, having no other desire than to study the
sciences and love their fellows.
"I conclude, gentlemen, by
saying that a society in which one sees such social inequalities
as we see all about us, in which we see every day suicides
caused by poverty, prostitution flaring at every street corner,--a
society whose principal monuments are barracks and prisons,--such
a society must be transformed as soon as possible, on pain
of being eliminated, and that speedily, from the human race.
Hail to him who labors, by no matter what means, for this
transformation! It is this idea that has guided me in my duel
with authority, but as in this duel I have only wounded my
adversary, it is now its turn to strike me.
"Now, gentlemen, to me it
matters little what penalty you may inflict, for, looking
at this assembly with the eyes of reason, I can not help smiling
to see you, atoms lost in matter, and reasoning only because
you possess a prolongation of the spinal marrow, assume the
right to judge one of your fellows.
"Ah! gentlemen, how little
a thing is your assembly and your verdict in the history of
humanity; and human history, in its turn, is likewise a very
little thing in the whirlwind which bears it through immensity,
and which is destined to disappear, or at least to be transformed,
in order to begin again the same history and the same facts,
a veritably perpetual play of cosmic forces renewing and transferring
Will anyone say that Vaillant
was an ignorant, vicious man, or a lunatic? Was not his mind
singularly clear and analytic? No wonder that the best intellectual
forces of France spoke in his behalf, and signed the petition
to President Carnot, asking him to commute Vaillant's death
Carnot would listen to no
entreaty; he insisted on more than a pound of flesh, he wanted
Vaillant's life, and then--the inevitable happened: President
Carnot was killed. On the handle of the stiletto used by the
Attentäter was engraved, significantly,
Santa Caserio was an Anarchist.
He could have gotten away, saved himself; but he remained,
he stood the consequences.
His reasons for the act are
set forth in so simple, dignified, and childlike manner that
one is reminded of the touching tribute paid Caserio by his
teacher of the little village school, Ada Negri, the Italian
poet, who spoke of him as a sweet, tender plant, of too fine
and sensitive texture to stand the cruel strain of the world.
"Gentlemen of the Jury! I
do not propose to make a defense, but only an explanation
of my deed.
"Since my early youth I began
to learn that present society is badly organized, so badly
that every day many wretched men commit suicide, leaving women
and children in the most terrible distress. Workers, by thousands,
seek for work and can not find it. Poor families beg for food
and shiver with cold; they suffer the greatest misery; the
little ones ask their miserable mothers for food, and the
mothers cannot give it to them, because they have nothing.
The few things which the home contained have already been
sold or pawned. All they can do is beg alms; often they are
arrested as vagabonds.
"I went away from my native
place because I was frequently moved to tears at seeing little
girls of eight or ten years obliged to work fifteen hours
a day for the paltry pay of twenty centimes. Young women of
eighteen or twenty also work fifteen hours daily, for a mockery
of remuneration. And that happens not only to my fellow countrymen,
but to all the workers, who sweat the whole day long for a
crust of bread, while their labor produces wealth in abundance.
The workers are obliged to live under the most wretched conditions,
and their food consists of a little bread, a few spoonfuls
of rice, and water; so by the time they are thirty or forty
years old, they are exhausted, and go to die in the hospitals.
Besides, in consequence of bad food and overwork, these unhappy
creatures are, by hundreds, devoured by pellagra--a disease
that, in my country, attacks, as the physicians say, those
who are badly fed and lead a life of toil and privation.
"I have observed that there
are a great many people who are hungry, and many children
who suffer, whilst bread and clothes abound in the towns.
I saw many and large shops full of clothing and woolen stuffs,
and I also saw warehouses full of wheat and Indian corn, suitable
for those who are in want. And, on the other hand, I saw thousands
of people who do not work, who produce nothing and live on
the labor of others; who spend every day thousands of francs
for their amusement; who debauch the daughters of the workers;
who own dwellings of forty or fifty rooms; twenty or thirty
horses, many servants; in a word, all the pleasures of life.
"I believed in God; but when
I saw so great an inequality between men, I acknowledged that
it was not God who created man, but man who created God. And
I discovered that those who want their property to be respected,
have an interest in preaching the existence of paradise and
hell, and in keeping the people in ignorance.
"Not long ago, Vaillant threw
a bomb in the Chamber of Deputies, to protest against the
present system of society. He killed no one, only wounded
some persons; yet bourgeois justice sentenced him to death.
And not satisfied with the condemnation of the guilty man,
they began to pursue the Anarchists, and arrest not only those
who had known Vaillant, but even those who had merely been
present at any Anarchist lecture.
"The government did not think
of their wives and children. It did not consider that the
men kept in prison were not the only ones who suffered, and
that their little ones cried for bread. Bourgeois justice
did not trouble itself about these innocent ones, who do not
yet know what society is. It is no fault of theirs that their
fathers are in prison; they only want to eat.
"The government went on searching
private houses, opening private letters, forbidding lectures
and meetings, and practicing the most infamous oppressions
against us. Even now, hundreds of Anarchists are arrested
for having written an article in a newspaper, or for having
expressed an opinion in public.
"Gentlemen of the Jury, you
are representatives of bourgeois society. If you want my head,
take it; but do not believe that in so doing you will stop
the Anarchist propaganda. Take care, for men reap what they
During a religious procession
in 1896, at Barcelona, a bomb was thrown. Immediately three
hundred men and women were arrested. Some were Anarchists,
but the majority were trade-unionists and Socialists. They
were thrown into that terrible bastille Montjuich, and subjected
to most horrible tortures. After a number had been killed,
or had gone insane, their cases were taken up by the liberal
press of Europe, resulting in the release of a few survivors.
The man primarily responsible
for this revival of the Inquisition was Canovas del Castillo,
Prime Minister of Spain. It was he who ordered the torturing
of the victims, their flesh burned, their bones crushed, their
tongues cut out. Practiced in the art of brutality during
his r gime in Cuba, Canovas remained absolutely deaf to the
appeals and protests of the awakened civilized conscience.
In 1897 Canovas del Castillo
was shot to death by a young Italian, Angiolillo. The latter
was an editor in his native land, and his bold utterances
soon attracted the attention of the authorities. Persecution
began, and Angiolillo fled from Italy to Spain, thence to
France and Belgium, finally settling in England. While there
he found employment as a compositor, and immediately became
the friend of all his colleagues. One of the latter thus described
Angiolillo: "His appearance suggested the journalist rather
than the disciple of Guttenberg. His delicate hands, moreover,
betrayed the fact that he had not grown up at the 'case.'
With his handsome frank face, his soft dark hair, his alert
expression, he looked the very type of the vivacious Southerner.
Angiolillo spoke Italian, Spanish, and French, but no English;
the little French I knew was not sufficient to carry on a
prolonged conversation. However, Angiolillo soon began to
acquire the English idiom; he learned rapidly, playfully,
and it was not long until he became very popular with his
fellow compositors. His distinguished and yet modest manner,
and his consideration towards his colleagues, won him the
hearts of all the boys."
Angiolillo soon became familiar
with the detailed accounts in the press. He read of the great
wave of human sympathy with the helpless victims at Montjuich.
On Trafalgar Square he saw with his own eyes the results of
those atrocities, when the few Spaniards, who escaped Castillo's
clutches, came to seek asylum in England. There, at the great
meeting, these men opened their shirts and showed the horrible
scars of burned flesh. Angiolillo saw, and the effect surpassed
a thousand theories; the impetus was beyond words, beyond
arguments, beyond himself even.
Seņor Antonio Canovas del
Castillo, Prime Minister of Spain, sojourned at Santa Agueda.
As usual in such cases, all strangers were kept away from
his exalted presence. One exception was made, however, in
the case of a distinguished looking, elegantly dressed Italian--the
representative, it was understood, of an important journal.
The distinguished gentleman was--Angiolillo.
Seņor Canovas, about to leave
his house, stepped on the veranda. Suddenly Angiolillo confronted
him. A shot rang out, and Canovas was a corpse.
The wife of the Prime Minister
rushed upon the scene. "Murderer! Murderer!" she cried, pointing
at Angiolillo. The latter bowed. "Pardon, Madame," he said,
"I respect you as a lady, but I regret that you were the wife
of that man."
Calmly Angiolillo faced death.
Death in its most terrible form--for the man whose soul was
as a child's.
He was garroted. His body
lay, sun-kissed, till the day hid in twilight. And the people
came, and pointing the finger of terror and fear, they said:
"There--the criminal--the cruel murderer."
How stupid, how cruel is ignorance!
It misunderstands always, condemns always.
A remarkable parallel to the
case of Angiolillo is to be found in the act of Gaetano Bresci,
whose Attentat upon King Umberto made an American
Bresci came to this country,
this land of opportunity, where one has but to try to meet
with golden success. Yes, he too would try to succeed. He
would work hard and faithfully. Work had no terrors for him,
if it would only help him to independence, manhood, self-respect.
Thus full of hope and enthusiasm
he settled in Paterson, New Jersey, and there found a lucrative
job at six dollars per week in one of the weaving mills of
the town. Six whole dollars per week was, no doubt, a fortune
for Italy, but not enough to breathe on in the new country.
He loved his little home. He was a good husband and devoted
father to his bambina Bianca, whom he adored.
He worked and worked for a number of years. He actually managed
to save one hundred dollars out of his six dollars per week.
Bresci had an ideal. Foolish,
I know, for a workingman to have an ideal,--the Anarchist
paper published in Paterson, La Questione Sociale.
Every week, though tired from
work, he would help to set up the paper. Until later hours
he would assist, and when the little pioneer had exhausted
all resources and his comrades were in despair, Bresci brought
cheer and hope, one hundred dollars, the entire savings of
years. That would keep the paper afloat.
In his native land people
were starving. The crops had been poor, and the peasants saw
themselves face to face with famine. They appealed to their
good King Umberto; he would help. And he did. The wives of
the peasants who had gone to the palace of the King, held
up in mute silence their emaciated infants. Surely that would
move him. And then the soldiers fired and killed those poor
Bresci, at work in the weaving
mill at Paterson, read of the horrible massacre. His mental
eye beheld the defenceless women and innocent infants of his
native land, slaughtered right before the good King. His soul
recoiled in horror. At night he heard the groans of the wounded.
Some may have been his comrades, his own flesh. Why, why these
The little meeting of the
Italian Anarchist group in Paterson ended almost in a fight.
Bresci had demanded his hundred dollars. His comrades begged,
implored him to give them a respite. The paper would go down
if they were to return him his loan. But Bresci insisted on
How cruel and stupid is ignorance.
Bresci got the money, but lost the good will, the confidence
of his comrades. They would have nothing more to do with one
whose greed was greater than his ideals.
On the twenty-ninth of July,
1900, King Umberto was shot at Monzo. The young Italian weaver
of Paterson, Gaetano Bresci, had taken the life of the good
Paterson was placed under
police surveillance, everyone known as an Anarchist hounded
and persecuted, and the act of Bresci ascribed to the teachings
of Anarchism. As if the teachings of Anarchism in its extremest
form could equal the force of those slain women and infants,
who had pilgrimed to the King for aid. As if any spoken word,
ever so eloquent, could burn into a human soul with such white
heat as the lifeblood trickling drop by drop from those dying
forms. The ordinary man is rarely moved either by word or
deed; and those whose social kinship is the greatest living
force need no appeal to respond--even as does steel to the
magnet--to the wrongs and horrors of society.
If a social theory is a strong
factor inducing acts of political violence, how are we to
account for the recent violent outbreaks in India, where Anarchism
has hardly been born. More than any other old philosophy,
Hindu teachings have exalted passive resistance, the drifting
of life, the Nirvana, as the highest spiritual ideal. Yet
the social unrest in India is daily growing, and has only
recently resulted in an act of political violence, the killing
of Sir Curzon Wyllie by the Hindu Madar Sol Dhingra.
If such a phenomenon can occur
in a country socially and individually permeated for centuries
with the spirit of passivity, can one question the tremendous,
revolutionizing effect on human character exerted by great
social iniquities? Can one doubt the logic, the justice of
"Repression, tyranny, and
indiscriminate punishment of innocent men have been the watchwords
of the government of the alien domination in India ever since
we began the commercial boycott of English goods. The tiger
qualities of the British are much in evidence now in India.
They think that by the strength of the sword they will keep
down India! It is this arrogance that has brought about the
bomb, and the more they tyrannize over a helpless and unarmed
people, the more terrorism will grow. We may deprecate terrorism
as outlandish and foreign to our culture, but it is inevitable
as long as this tyranny continues, for it is not the terrorists
that are to be blamed, but the tyrants who are responsible
for it. It is the only resource for a helpless and unarmed
people when brought to the verge of despair. It is never criminal
on their part. The crime lies with the tyrant." 4
Even conservative scientists
are beginning to realize that heredity is not the sole factor
moulding human character. Climate, food, occupation; nay,
color, light, and sound must be considered in the study of
If that be true, how much
more correct is the contention that great social abuses will
and must influence different minds and temperaments in a different
way. And how utterly fallacious the stereotyped notion that
the teachings of Anarchism, or certain exponents of these
teachings, are responsible for the acts of political violence.
Anarchism, more than any other
social theory, values human life above things. All Anarchists
agree with Tolstoy in this fundamental truth: if the production
of any commodity necessitates the sacrifice of human life,
society should do without that commodity, but it can not do
without that life. That, however, nowise indicates that Anarchism
teaches submission. How can it, when it knows that all suffering,
all misery, all ills, result from the evil of submission?
Has not some American ancestor
said, many years ago, that resistance to tyranny is obedience
to God? And he was not an Anarchist even. It would say that
resistance to tyranny is man's highest ideal. So long as tyranny
exists, in whatever form, man's deepest aspiration must resist
it as inevitably as man must breathe.
Compared with the wholesale
violence of capital and government, political acts of violence
are but a drop in the ocean. That so few resist is the strongest
proof how terrible must be the conflict between their souls
and unbearable social iniquities.
High strung, like a violin
string, they weep and moan for life, so relentless, so cruel,
so terribly inhuman. In a desperate moment the string breaks.
Untuned ears hear nothing but discord. But those who feel
the agonized cry understand its harmony; they hear in it the
fulfillment of the most compelling moment of human nature.
Such is the psychology of
1A revolutionist committing an act
of political violence.
2Paris and the Social Revolution.
3From a pamphlet issued by the Freedom
Group of London.
4The Free Hindustan.