A PICTURE OF CIVILIZATION AT THE CLOSE OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
JOHN HENRY MACKAY
THE PROPAGANDA OF COMMUNISM.
TRUPP was on the way to his Club.
It was the evening of the day on which the London newspapers had published the detailed accounts of the murder in Chicago, and since Trupp had read them, he had wandered --- as if impelled by feelings for which he had no name, and as if bounded and pursued by invisible enemies whom he did not know --- through the infinite sea of houses, without aim, without purpose, in all directions, without knowing what he did.
He saw neither the streets through which he passed, nor the streams of humanity through which he forced his way. . . . Where he had been, he knew not. Once the Thames had lain before him, and, leaning against the railing of a bridge, he had stood a whole hour, gazing fixedly and abstractedly down upon the black tide of the river; several times he had crossed the main arteries of traffic, and then each time instinctively sought quieter and more secluded streets, where nothing would interfere with the whirling thoughts of his over-excited brain. . . .
He had not eaten anything the whole day except a piece of bread which he had bought almost unconsciously while passing a bakery, and not drunk anything. . . .
He could not even have told what he had been thinking. In rapid succession thought had followed thought in his brain, forming an immense chain whose countless links all bore one and the same mark: Chicago!
As often as he had looked up, and his eyes met the indifferent faces of men, an unconquerable rage had risen within him to jump at their throats in order to shake them out of their calm with brutal force. But when with bent head he had sauntered along, nothing had told of the storm that stirred up his whole being to its innermost depths and drove waves of impotent rage to the surface. . . .
Only when the shadows of night fell did he awake: as out of a dull stupor, as out of an opium sleep, only that his dreams had not been sweet and enticing, but torturing and bitter, like the iron grasp of a fist. . . .
Then only had he looked about, for he had no idea where he was. He was in Edgware Road, in the north of Hyde Park --- still far enough from the Club, half an hour and longer, but he might have found himself in the farthermost suburbs of Highgate or Brixton, hours away from Tottenham, and unable to reach the Club that evening.
Still half stupefied by the blow of this terrible day, but not yet feeling anything of the death-like fatigue which must have taken hold of his body after the day's mad walk, he started on his way with aching feet, his entire body covered with perspiration and trembling with cold in the chilly evening air.
He knew now exactly what route to take, and he was careful to choose the nearest.
Two feelings had in these last two days incessantly battled within him.
One was that of deepest dejection. . . . The murder of Chicago had been carried out without any attempt on the part of the comrades to prevent it. Or if not to prevent it, at least to interrupt it. He had indeed never looked forward to such an event with absolute confidence, for he knew but too well how rarely the performance agrees with the promise; but nevertheless, this unclouded victory of authority was a terrible blow to him.
The other was a feeling of satisfaction when he thought of the inexhaustible fountain of the propaganda that would flow from these martyr deaths. Chicago had become the Golgotha of workingmen. Eternally, as here the cross, would there the gallows rise. . . .
But with the instinct which a twenty years' participation in the Socialistic movement had given him, he suspected also that the question of Anarchism had now been placed in a different light, where it would henceforth stand out clearly for all thoughtful men: in the light of day. Much that had hitherto remained doubtful --- covered by the veil of a mysterious and for most people inaccessible reserve --- had now to be settled. A temporary lull in the propaganda was quite inevitable. The lost time would again be made up --- doubtless. But above the doorway of the coming years was graven for him and his comrades: discouragement, lethargy, disaffection!
All that, but also many other things, filled him with a leaden despondency. Foremost, the position of Auban. He no longer understood his friend. His motives, his aims, had become incomprehensible to him.
That he still agreed with him in regard to the means, as he believed, held them together.
But how was there to be any agreement between them henceforth, after Auban had taken up the defence of what he, the Communist, regarded as the ultimate cause of all misery and imperfection: private property?
No doubt could rise in regard to Auban's perfect honesty. It would have been ridiculous. Auban wanted liberty. He wanted also the liberty of labor. He loved the workingmen. He had given a thousand proofs of it. Their interests were his.
Such love never dies. Trupp knew that.
But for all that, he did not understand him. He would never understand him. Never would he be able to see in private property anything but the stronghold of the enemy. And on its battlements stood Auban, his friend, the comrade of so many years; he could not grasp the thought! . . .
Then there were the personal wranglings and misunderstandings in his own camp, in the group to which he belonged. There was no end to them. They had always existed as long as he could remember, and they had never lost any of the repugnance for him with which they had paralyzed his best powers since he came to London. His comrades were too indolent, too inactive, too undecided for him. In these latter years he had immeasurably increased the demands he made on himself and on others. Now everything disappointed him; none of his expectations were henceforth satisfied.
Nothing came up to them. He himself no longer had any other thought than that of his cause. That idea claimed all his thought and action. It pursued him during the toilsome labor of his days with the persistent tenacity with which usually nothing but love dominates the nature of man; it kept him awake till late in the night, and frightened away all fatigue over the manifold labors of the propaganda that had been placed on his shoulders; it pressed the pen into his hand so little used to writing when the columns of the paper were to be filled, and withheld from his thirsting mouth the glass in order to place the money for it upon the great altar which was laden with the sacrifices of labor. . . .
It was this devotion to the cause which had made of him a character remarkable of its kind; it had increased his capacities tenfold, cast his energies in the mould of constancy and firmness, and given aim and direction to his life. It dominated him, and he was its slave, although a slave who never feels his fetters because he believes he is free. He had put the bridle of that devotion on his body and brought himself to obedience as a horse obeys its rider; it must know neither fatigue nor hunger if he did not wish it.
Not because he himself wished to remain free, but because he wished not to be disturbed in the service of his cause, had he remained unmarried, or, rather, never united himself for any extended period with a woman. He was an excellent man in almost every respect. He had none of the faults of narrowness; the grandeur of the cause stifled them. Of an uncommon, although a one-sided and little disciplined intelligence, of firm health, without nerves and with muscles of steel, with an iron will and a dash of simple greatness, --- thus he stood: at the head of the people, as it were, as their best and most worthy representative, erect with the pride of the proletarian who, in the consciousness of his power, in the consciousness of being "all in all," claims the world from a class already declining, claims it with the vehemence of a child, the wrath of a revolutionist, the confidence of a general who knows his troops and feels sure that they are invincible, and who claims it without suspecting what he demands.
History requires such men in order to --- use them. It is they with whom it fights its external battles, by placing them at the head of the masses whose strength is decisive.
Liberty sees in them only obstacles. For its battles are fought only by the individuals who represent nothing but themselves.
Trupp was an excellent man. But he was often blind with both eyes. He was a fanatic. He was, moreover, the fanatic of a fantasy. For a fantasy is Communism which must invoke force in order to become dismal reality. . . .
Trupp walked on, and his wakeful thoughts cut still deeper, and he felt them more painfully than the narcotic stupor in which he had passed the day. He was nearing the Club.
The revolutionaries of Socialism are scattered over the entire world. They have already set foot on the most distant continents, and are knocking with their fists against the farthermost doors.
They think they are the early morning walkers of the new day which is dawning for mankind.
Everywhere they join hands: here they call themselves a party, and aim to get into political power by means of universal suffrage and strictly disciplined organization under the direction of elected leaders, in order at some future time to solve the social question from above by force; and there they call themselves a group, and preach the forcible overthrow of all external relations as the only deliverance out of that intolerable misery which always appears to have reached its highest point, and yet always grows greater, like the cloud which comes nearer and nearer, which yesterday we hardly noticed, which to-day already lowers above us with its threatening shadows, and which will discharge itself tomorrow --- surely tomorrow: only we do not yet know the hour, the spot, and the measure of its force.
Everywhere they scatter their publications, their pamphlets. Everywhere they start their newspapers. . . . Most of these enterprises indeed pass away again as quickly as they arose; they die of exhaustion, they are suppressed, but still their number is so large that it can no longer be ascertained. They are seed grains, fallen on sterile soil and among weeds: only a few strike root, grow, bear fruit for a few summers. . . . But the hand that sowed them does not grow empty; courage, perseverance, and hope fill it again and again. . . .
The revolutionaries of Socialism are scattered over all the great cities of the world.
But in none is their swarm so mixed as in London. Nowhere does it draw so closely together; nowhere does it go so far apart. Nowhere are its own dissensions more bitter, and nowhere does it fight the common enemy with greater bitterness. Nowhere does it speak in so many languages, and nowhere does it give expression to a greater variety of opinions in a greater variety of accents.
It embodies all types; and it shows them all in their most perfect and interesting as well as in their most demoralized and commonplace forms.
For the novice it is a chaos. But it soon becomes a splendid field of learning, where he quickly feels himself at home.
The life of the refugees in London has a great history.
When English Socialism, whose slow growth has not yet reached maturity, still lay in its swaddling clothes, the refugees of the fourth decade came to London, and at the instigation of men like Marx and others founded the first society of refugees of German workingmen in London, the "Communistic Workingmen's Society," which became the parent society of such variously constituted children that they no longer recognize each other as brothers and sisters.
The Russians came, with Herzen at their head, who rung his "Kolokol" there; and Bakounine came from his Siberian exile. Freiligrath came with magnificent songs on his trembling lips; and Kinkel came for a short time from the prison of Spandau; and Ruge with the scattered remains of his "Jahrbücher." . . . Mazzini lived there, the great patriot, the republican conspirator. There finally the Frenchmen: Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, and the comrades of their fate. . . .
All found rest and peace there, the peaceless rest of exile and the scanty bread of the banished. . . .
Then the great names cease. There is a pause.
When with the advent of the eighth decade the creed of free Communism, which assumes the name of Anarchism, comes to London in the person of one of its first and most active champions who founds "Freiheit" there as its first organ, the "Communistic Workingmen's Educational Society" has already separated into three sections, which soon meet only in bitter hostility: here the Social Democrats, the "blue," there the Anarchists, the "red." A few years later the publication of the new paper is transferred to New York; but London, where, since the passage of the law against Socialists in Germany in 1878, the movement has drifted into an entirely new channel, has again become the headquarters of all German refugees, although in a different way from that of thirty years ago. . . .
Their physiognomies, their aspirations, their purposes, their aims, have totally changed. Everything is in a state of fermentation. All stand against each other; all who come --- tired by hardships endured, embittered by terrible persecutions, driven into all forms of activity --- are drawn into it: for in that bay of exile the waves ran more wildly than on the high seas.
It seems at times as if the refugees had forgotten their distant enemy, so bitterly they fight among themselves. Individual groups secede from the sections of the parent society, and refuse to retain even the old name. A few individuals, filled with restlessness and ambition, try to avail themselves of the dissension for the purpose of gathering up the severed threads and keeping them --- in their own hands. The controversies for and against them are carried on for weeks and for months to the degree of exhaustion, when they cease and leave no other traces than estrangement, a pile of papers full of insinuations and suspicions, and a useless pamphlet.
In 1887, the year of the Chicago murder, the four German workingmen's clubs of London were bound together only by the thin and already damaged bond of affiliation. Only a few of the members still associated with one another. As societies they came together only when the object was to join the English Socialists in some grand demonstration, to make a brilliant affair of some meeting, or to celebrate the days of March.
Trupp found his Club that evening well attended. Usually its rooms were filled only on the Sunday afternoons and evenings when not alone the members, but also their wives and children and the invited guests, came to attend the regular musical and theatrical entertainments. Those entertainments, open to everybody at an admission fee of sixpence, had the double purpose of furnishing new sources of revenue for the propaganda, the papers and pamphlets, and the countless occasions necessitating pecuniary assistance, and of offering a diversion from the cares of the past and the thoughts of the coming week in dance and light conversation, which often gave no hint of the excited struggles at the discussions and closed meetings.
Trupp hardly could force his way through the narrow passage from the door to the steps leading to the basement hall below. The bar-room on the left of the steps was crowded. Most of the people were standing before the counter, alone or in groups, glasses in hand, while only a small number had secured places beside the few tables. But there was still a corner for Trupp on one of the benches. They crowded more closely together, and he quickly took the first glass held out to him, emptying it at one draught.
The spirit of the gathering varied with the people. While a number of groups were moved by the noisy discussion of some question, others were almost dumb. An oppressive silence reigned at the table where Trupp had found a place. A young man was sitting at its other end. He was reading from a newspaper, but his voice was not clear, and he shed tears when he came to the details of the execution. He was surrounded on all sides. A look of threatening determination lay on all faces. But only suppressed words escaped the lips pressed together, and only their looks gave evidence of what most of them were thinking.
Suddenly Trupp saw Auban in a group of comrades standing at the counter where the host and his wife were untiringly seeking to gratify the wishes of the guests. They had not seen each other for eight days, since their excursion through the East End.
Why had Auban come that evening? It had been more an accident than deliberate intention which led him in the neighborhood of Tottenham Court Road and gave him the thought of visiting the Club for half an hour. The day had passed more quickly in work than he had dared to hope. The storms of the morning were followed by the calm of victory. Whoever saw him now found him cool and composed as ever.
Immediately upon his entrance he had been greeted by acquaintances. They had shown him the new rooms of the house; the upper rooms, where there was a billiard table and where the small conferences in closed circle were held, and the large meeting hall in the basement, which was very roomy and made an agreeable impression with its bright, clean walls.
In former years the Club had had at its disposal only the gloomy and dirty back room of a public house, of which they grew tired, especially in consequence of the quarrels that filled it for weeks and for months. And in the spirit of sacrifice they had now rented this house, where they felt comfortable.
In the bar-room, which was too small for the crowds always gathering there first, Auban had entered into a conversation. They had heard about the last discussion held at his place, and had many objections to offer to his theories.
What? He wanted to leave private property intact and to abolish the State? But the very function of the State is the protection of private property. And one man asked in English: ---
"As long as there is private property it will need protection. Consequently, the State can fall only when the former falls. What have you to reply to that?"
"It is possible that private property will require protection. I shall buy that protection, and I shall combine with others for the protection of our property, whenever it will be necessary. But I claim that ninety-nine per cent of all so-called 'crimes of property' are committed by those who, driven to despair by the prevailing conditions, either cannot sell their labor or sell it only far below the limit of its price, --- assuming that cost forms the true limit of price. I assert, therefore, that they must become a rarity from the hour when each shall be able to secure the full product of his labor, i.e. from the hour when State meddling shall cease.
"I assert, further, that self-protection will be more effective than the protection which the State forces on us without asking us if we want it. For example: ---
"I could not kill a man, whether in war, in a duel, or in any other 'legal' manner. But I should not hesitate a moment to send a bullet through the head of the burglar who should enter my house with the intention of robbing and murdering me. And I believe that he would think twice before entering on the burglary if he were certain of such a reception, instead of knowing, as at present, that stupid laws make it difficult for me to protect my life and my property, and that at the worst he will receive but such and such punishment.
"I have chosen this example also for the benefit of those who still are unable to see the difference between a defensive and an aggressive action, and consequently between a voluntary association for mutual solidarity in definite cases which can be dissolved at any time, for instance, life insurance, etc., and a State which grants the individual neither the choice of entering nor of leaving it, except on the condition that he emigrates from the land of his birth."
Auban ceased. But those who had listened to him made each of his sentences a text for lively discussions.
They tried to draw him into them. But Auban was not disposed to-day to talk much, and he declined. He descended the steps leading into the meeting hall. It was now filled, and there were many impatient calls for the exercises to begin.
Auban remained standing near the steps, at the entrance to the hall, whose benches stretching along the walls were now filled to the last seat. As the centre remained free, the assembly formed an oval circle in which each individual was recognizable by all. So most of them remained sitting in their places when they spoke.
On that evening few women were present. The men were mostly young, in the twenties and thirties.
The meeting did not differ in any respect from similar gatherings of workingmen, except, perhaps, in the proportionally large number of bold and energetic heads which bore the stamp of exceptional intelligence and great force of will. However, as is always the case, so here it was only the few who stood out so prominently as to be at once recognizable as the hewers of new paths, the axe-bearing pioneers and heralds of a new and better age.
They talked about Chicago. Many spoke. As soon as one had finished another began, and many a hand still rose in the air in sign that the list of speakers was not yet closed.
Most of them spoke briefly but violently. Plans were already being suggested as to the manner in which the propaganda of the death of the martyrs was to be inaugurated.
All agreed that something extraordinary must be done. . . .
Then the debate turned on the question of founding a school for the children of the members who did not want them to be poisoned by the belief in the Church and the State prevailing in the public schools.
Those loud voices suddenly disturbed Auban. They did not harmonize with his mood. About Chicago this evening --- in a meeting of such size: he felt it was not right; and the school question --- he could not be of any help in it any way; his task was a different one.
He withdrew, therefore, into the quieter background of the hall, where a few comrades were sitting beside their glasses and their newspapers. One was reading, while another was carrying on a conversation in a low tone with a third, and a fourth had fallen asleep, overcome by the exertion of the day's labor. A young, blonde man with a friendly expression was holding a child on his knees. The mother had died not long after his birth, and the father, who could not leave him at home alone, was obliged to take him with him to the Club, where he grew up: nursed and petted by rough hands, but watched over by good and faithful eyes, fostered by that tender spirit of love that dwells only in hearts which cannot alone love, but also hate. . . . The young man had bestowed special care on the child, and he hung often for hours on his neck with his thin, small arms, while the father took part in a discussion; and nothing was more beautiful than the care and goodness with which he and the others tried to replace the mother for him.
Auban smiled when he saw that picture again. He came nearer and played with the child, who did not show a trace of fatigue. But then he was again overcome by his own heavy and serious thoughts. For he had seen a face at the same table which he knew but too well. It was a comrade who had become insane under the pressure of constant persecutions. At first over-sensitive, then seized by melancholy, his insanity had broken out here in London, where he had sought his last refuge, here, where he was in perfect security. He passed most of his time at the Club, where he usually sat in a corner, not disturbing anybody, and where he was treated with gentle sympathy by all who saw him. No one could help him any more; but they wished to save him, at least, from the insane asylum.
Intentionally Auban did not speak to him. It would only have troubled him. For the unfortunate man was most contented if left sitting alone in his corner, where, with murmuring lips, he could for hours stare before him, and with his nimble fingers draw incomprehensible figures on the table. . . . He always recalled to Auban another comrade who had been overtaken by insanity in another way. It had been one of his young Parisian friends. Fiery, enthusiastic, devoted, he lived only for the cause. He could have given his life for it. He was thirsting to demonstrate his love, and he found no other way than that of a "deed." He had been influenced by passionate speeches and inspiring promises. But his nature which shrank from violence and bloodshed, revolted. And in the long struggle between what seemed to him as his holiest duty and that nature which made its fulfilment an impossibility, his mind gave way. . . .
While Auban was under the spell of that memory, he heard Trupp's loud, clear voice, as it penetrated the hall from end to end.
"We must declare ourselves in solidarity, not only with the opinions of the murdered men of Chicago, but also with the deed of the bomb-thrower of the fourth of May, that glorious deed of a hero!" --- and noticed the enthusiasm which those words elicited on all sides.
His flesh began to creep. He felt like rising and holding up his hands entreatingly against the fools who were ready to jump into the abyss that had opened before them. But his reason also showed him at once the perfect uselessness of his intention: instead of tempering the passions, his words would have fanned them to a higher flame on that evening.
He supported his head with his hands.
If possible, he wished to have a decisive word with Trupp that very evening.
He felt that there was nothing further for him to do here. He believed only in self-help. They would have to proceed along their lines and make their experiences, from which neither he nor any one else could save them.
And he again asked himself the question which had often come to him of late years: "Have you any right whatever to help? to influence? to counsel? Was there any other way than that of experience? And did not all experience require time to be made? Was it right to forestall it?"
Auban had, therefore, but rarely taken part in any discussions since he came to London. But he always remembered with pleasure an evening when he had discussed the question of the gratuity of mutual credit with four or five others in the narrow bar-room above him. Each had taken part, not with long explanations, but with brief, concise questions; each had had an opportunity to formulate and express his ideas as he wished, so that, when they separated, all demanded the continuation of such meetings, so animated were they and enthusiastic over the profitable manner of exchanging opinions. When they met again, this time not in the exceptionally small circle, but in the usual large number, everything had been led back into the old rut: one speaker rose, spoke for two hours, --- in accordance with the principle of personal liberty each had the right to speak as long as he wished, and none the right to interrupt him, --- digressed, took up entirely foreign subjects, tired some and bored others, so that Auban had given up the matter and gone away discouraged. It was the last attempt of the kind he had made.
He had not only sympathy, but also admiration for those men who occupied themselves after their day's hard labor with the most serious problems in the most devoted manner, while they saw others diverting themselves in a stupid game at cards or in shallow talk. He respected them from the bottom of his heart. But only the more deeply did he deplore the intangible vagueness of their aspirations, which would not achieve a single aim, would grow more and more desperate, and after a thousand sacrifices end like all similar ones before them, --- in blood and defeat.
For in reality they were not struggling for the improvement of their own lot. They struggled for ideals which were unattainable because utterly visionary. Moreover, they had only contempt and scorn for all "practical" aspirations of their class to help itself, which, in comparison with their "great aims" of the emancipation of mankind, etc., seemed paltry and prosaic.
Their mental confusion seemed almost incurable to Auban since he had recognized it. He had often made experiments to see how far it extended, and met with results that first amazed and finally discouraged him.
Thus he had once put the first and simplest of all questions to each of a number of his acquaintances: ---
"To whom does the product of your labor belong?" he asked in turn, first a number of inveterate Social Democrats of strictest faith; several Communists, both those who championed compulsory Communism and those who saw in the autonomy of the individual the final aim, and regarded themselves as Anarchists; finally, a number of English Socialists. If they had all been logical thinkers, they would have been obliged to reply on the basis of their philosophy of Socialism: "My labor belongs to the others: the State, society, mankind. . . . I have no right to it." . . . But a Social Democrat replied without hesitation: his labor belonged to him; and an Autonomist: his labor belonged to society; and Auban was surprised to learn that those who were most bitterly fighting among themselves agreed on this one question, of which all others are corollaries; and that those who occupied one and the same ground gave directly opposite answers. . . .
Indeed, nothing had yet been cleared up. Most of them were bound together not by clear thoughts, but by dull feelings which had not yet shaken off the torpor of sleep. Revolutions are fought with those feelings, but no truths are fathomed by them. The cool, refreshing bath of experience must first have washed the sleep from the eyes of the awaking masses, before they would be able to proceed to the labor of the new day. . . .
It was necessary to be patient and not to lose courage! . . . Auban thought again of Trupp, and wanted to see him. He could not find him in the hall, and so went up stairs again.
When he entered the bar-room again, he found Trupp engaged in conversation with a man whose bearing and dress at once showed that he was no workingman, but wished to appear one. He stopped, therefore, and at the same time caught a look of his friend, which he instantly understood. The stranger, who had been drinking from the glass before him, could not have noticed anything of the rapid, silent exchange of ideas.
Most of the people had gone down into the hall. Only at the table a few comrades were still sitting, reading and playing cards. Auban joined them and sat down with his back towards Trupp. Then he took up one of the papers lying about, and appeared to be reading it attentively.
Of the conversation carried on behind him he could understand only a few words, especially as it was in German. Both speakers intentionally lowered their voices. But he had not been sitting there five minutes, when he felt Trupp's hand on his shoulder.
"Will you go with us? Let us have another glass of beer." He turned instantly, and noticed in rising how little the stranger could suppress his embarrassment at this invitation.
All three left the Club together. The stranger concealed his embarrassment in passing through the door by politely allowing Auban to take the lead. When they were on the street, Trupp said in a loud voice to Auban: "A banished comrade from Berlin! A fine place, isn't it?"
Auban bit his lips. On such occasions his friend was an expert.
"What are you?" he asked the Berlinian, in German.
"I am a shoemaker, but I cannot find any work here."
"Oh, you are a shoemaker! But how do you wash your hands to get them so white?" Auban continued.
Now the stranger grew seriously alarmed. His timid look passed alternately from one to the other. He was walking between the two. He wanted to stop, but Trupp and Auban walked on unconcerned, so that he could only ask: "You do not believe me?"
Trupp burst into a loud laugh, which sounded as natural as that of a child, "Nonsense, the comrade is joking. Who would not believe you?"
And he suddenly grew very talkative, so that the others could not get in a word. But all that he said turned on the unmasking of decoys, police agents, and similar shady characters. He made fun of the ignorance both of the authorities and their tools. He spoke also of the voluntary spies who had sneaked into the clubs and meetings, and thrust their noses into everything until they were thrown out, when they finally filled the newspapers with lying reports of things they had hardly seen and did not understand.
Trupp's intention was no longer to be mistaken, especially since he did not concern himself about Auban, who, apparently absorbed in his own thoughts, sauntered along, but step for step kept closely by the side of the stranger, who could not escape from him, and whom each of his words put in perceptibly greater alarm and fear.
They had reached a narrow and dark street, which was illumined only by a single lantern and entirely deserted. Here several houses stood considerably back, leaving a large open space before the street again grew narrow.
Trupp had reached his destination, and suddenly interrupted himself.
The decoy saw that all was lost.
"Where are we going?" he uttered, with an effort, and stopped. "I do not want to go farther --- "
Already Trupp's strong hands had seized him and pushed him powerfully against the wall.
"You scoundrel!" he broke forth. "Now I have you!"
And twice his free hand struck the face of the wretch; once from the right and once from the left, and both times Auban heard the clashing blow of that iron hand.
The stranger was stunned. He raised his arms only in defence, to protect his face.
But Trupp commanded: "Arms down!" and involuntarily, like a child that is punished by his teacher, he dropped his arms.
Again --- and again --- Trupp's hand struck out, and with every blow his wrath also found relief in words: "You knave --- you contemptible knave --- you wanted to betray us, you spy? Just wait, you will not come again!"
And again his hand descended.
"Help me; he is strangling me!" came gaspingly from the lips of the man, who was seized by the terror of death.
But Auban, unsympathetic, half turned away, his arms crossed on his breast, did not stir.
And Trupp shook his victim like a doll of straw. "Yes, one ought to strangle dogs like you," he again broke forth. "It would be the best thing one could do! All of you, decoys that you are, scoundrels!" --- and while he lifted the fellow from his cowering position, he dragged him with the hand which he seemed to have inextricably buried in his breast, closer into the unsteady, flickering light of the lantern and showed Auban the pale, cowardly face, distorted by the fear of death, and disfigured under the blows of that murderous iron fist: "See, Auban; so they look, those wretches, who pursue the lowest of all callings!" He opened his fist, which lay like a vice on the breast of his victim, who --- exhausted and dizzy --- staggered, fell down, picked himself up again, muttered some incomprehensible words, and disappeared in the darkness.
The two friends gave the fellow no further attention. While they were rapidly walking towards Oxford Street, Trupp related the details of this new case. The friends now spoke French.
One day the fellow had come to one of the members with a letter of recommendation from a comrade in Berlin. The member took the bearer into the Club, and inquiry in Berlin confirmed the recommendation. But then it became known that the real receiver of it was not identical with the bearer; that the latter had been given it by the former, and had introduced himself under an assumed name. Thereupon, one of the comrades, without arousing his suspicions, went to room with him, and managed to get hold of his entire correspondence, which showed him to be a decoy in the direct pay of the German police, who for a monthly salary had undertaken to give his employers all desired information regarding the proceedings in the London Anarchistic clubs. They wanted to avoid a scandal in the Club, in order not to give the English police the coveted opportunity for entering it. He had undertaken the chastisement of which Auban had just been a witness.
Exposures of this kind were neither new nor especially rare. Generally, the fellows devoting themselves to that most sordid and contemptible of all callings escaped with a sound thrashing; often they scented what was coming, and anticipated a discovery by timely flight. In consequence of ceaseless denunciation, vilification, and persecution the suspicion among the revolutionists had grown very great. Important plans were no longer discussed in larger circles, and mostly remained the secret of a few intimates, or were locked up in the breast of a single individual. But greater still than against unknown workingmen was the suspicion against intellectual workers, in consequence of the sad experiences that had been made with newspaper writers and littérateurs. Nothing was more justifiable than caution in regard to these people; out of every ten there were surely nine who, under the pretence of wishing to "study" the teachings of Anarchism, only tried to penetrate the secrets of the propaganda in order to spread before their ignorant and injudicious readers the most harrowing tales concerning those "bands of murderers and criminals." That many an intellectual proletaire, who was suffering just as much, if not more, than the hand-worker from the pressure of the prevailing conditions, and who was consequently filled by the same great hatred against them, was frightened away by that suspicion, --- when he came to place his talents in the service of the "most progressive of all parties," --- was a fact which, as Trupp said, was "not to be changed." The greater were the hopes which Auban began to place in them: bound by no considerations, and in the possession of an education weighing heavily upon them, they would surely be the first and for the present perhaps also the only ones who are not alone willing, but also capable of drawing the conclusions of Individualism.
Trupp had reached a point in the conversation which always excited him very much.
"The Social Democrats assert," he said, with his bitter laugh, "all Anarchists are decoys; or, if it happens to suit them better, that there are no Anarchists at all. Ah," he continued, indignant, "there is nothing too mean that was not done against us by that party, above all, by its worthy leaders, who lead the workingmen by the nose in a perfectly outrageous manner. First they mocked and ridiculed us; then they vilified and denounced us; they harmed us wherever they could. From the beginning till now they saw in us their bitterest enemies, all because we attempted to open the eyes of the workingman to the uselessness of his sacrifices, of the suffrage humbug, of political wire-pulling. You have no idea, Auban, how corrupt the party is in Germany: the loyal Prussian subjects are not less self-reliant and more servile in relation to their lord and master than the German workingmen, who belong to the party, in relation to their leaders! . . . How will it end?"
"Well," Auban observed, calmly, "there is an immense difference between the workingmen as a class and the Social Democrats as a party. It is hardly conceivable that the former will ever be completely absorbed by the latter. Therefore, we need not stand in too great fear of the future. I even believe that the most important steps in the emancipation of labor will not be initiated by the Socialistic parties, but by the workingmen themselves, who will here and there gradually come to understand their true interests. They will simply push the party aside.
"But still less will they have anything to do with you. You must make that clear to yourselves. For in the first place, they can understand you at best with the heart, but not with the intellect, and for the real improvement of their condition they need nothing more than their intellect, which alone can show them the right road: I mean Egoism. And in the second place, by your perfectly absurd blending of all sorts of views, but still more by the policy you pursue, you have challenged the prejudices of ignorance, and apparently justified them, to such a degree that it requires an exceptionally independent will and a very rare love of knowledge to study your ways. Or a warm heart --- which you all have!"
"As if you did not have it?" Trupp laughed, bitterly.
"Yes; warm enough, I hope, to love the cause of liberty forever. But no longer warm enough to harm it by folly."
"What do you call folly? Our policy?"
say that?" said Trupp, almost threateningly.
"Well, then it is about time that we came to a thorough understanding of the matter."
"Certainly. But first let us be alone. Not here on the street."
They walked on rapidly. Trupp was silent. When the light of a lantern fell on them, Auban saw how his whole frame trembled as if shaken by chill, while he was sucking the blood flowing from a wound in his hand, which must have grazed the wall while he was punishing the decoy.
"You are shivering?" he asked, thinking the excitement was the cause of it.
But Trupp exclaimed sullenly that it was nothing: he had only been running about the whole day, and forgotten to eat in consequence. Auban shook his head.
"You are incorrigible, Otto! To eat nothing the whole day, what folly!"
He took him by the arm and drew him away. They entered a small, modest restaurant on Oxford Street. There they knew a little-frequented back room. As they sat on the brown leather sofa in the quiet corner, and Trupp ate hastily and silently, while Auban watched him chewing his meat with his strong teeth, he reminded him that in that very room they had sat opposite each other after years of separation, and he said, smiling: ---
"Is not everything as it was then?" . . .
But Trupp cast a bitter look of reproach on him, and pushed aside his plate and glass. His temporary weakness had disappeared, and he was again entirely the iron man, whose physical strength was inexhaustible.
"Now let us talk. Or are you tired?"
"I am not tired," said Auban.
Trupp reflected a moment. He feared the coming conversation, for he suspected that it would be decisive. He wished with all his heart by means of it to win back his friend to the cause of the revolution, to the conflict of the hour, in which he and his comrades were engaged, for he knew how invaluable his services were. He did not wish intentionally to bring about a rupture by a rude attack, but neither could he suppress the reproaches that had been gathering within him.
"Since you have been in London," he began, "and out of prison, you are another man. I hardly know you any more. You have no longer taken part in anything: in any meeting, or scheme, or enterprise. You have no longer written anything; not a line. You have lost almost all touch with us. What excuse have you?"
"What excuse have I?" asked Auban, a little sharply. "What for? And to whom do I owe it?"
"To the cause!" replied Trupp, vehemently.
"My cause is my liberty."
"Once liberty was your cause."
"That was my mistake. Once I believed that I must begin with the others; I have now learned that it is necessary to begin with one's self and always to start from one's self."
Trupp was silent. Then Auban began: ---
"Two weeks ago we talked about our opinions at my house, and I trust I showed you where I stand, although I may not hope to have made it clear to you where you stand. I desired to place the one side of the question in a glaring light. The other side is still in the dark between us: that of policy. In shedding a light on it, too, this evening, I assume you are convinced that it is not moral or kindred scruples that move me to say to you: I consider the policy which you pursue, the so-called 'propaganda of deed,' not alone as useless, but also as harmful. You will never win a lasting victory by it."
Trupp's eyes were firmly fixed on the speaker. They flashed with excitement, and his bleeding hand, wrapped in a cloth, fell clinched on the table.
"It is well that we talk!" he exclaimed. "You demand, then, that we should idly fold our hands and calmly allow ourselves to be killed?"
He sprang up.
"You defend our enemies!" he ejaculated.
"On the contrary, I have discovered a weapon against which they are powerless," said Auban, calmly, and placed his hand on the arm of his excited friend, forcing him back to his place.
"I hate force in every form!" he continued; and now he seemed to be the one who wished to convince and win the other over to his idea. "The important thing is to make force impossible. That is not done by opposing force by force: the devil will not be driven out by Beelzebub. . . . Already you have changed your opinions on some points. Once you championed the secret societies and the large associations which were to unite the proletaires of all lands and all tongues; then you became aware how easy it was for the government to smuggle one of its dirty tools into the former, who at once seizes all your clews, and how in every instance the latter have broken up, yielded to time and to their own fate; and since then you have more and more fallen back on the individual and preach as the only expedient method the forming of small groups, which know next to nothing about each other, and the individual deed as the only correct thing; since then you even condemn confidence among the most intimate friends in certain cases. Once your paper was published in 'Nowhere' by the 'Free Common Press'; now it is published like every other paper with the name and address of the printer on the last page. . . . And thus everything, the entire movement, has been more and more placed in the light of publicity."
He paused a moment.
Then he said impressively: ---
"Your entire policy is a false one. Let us never forget that we are engaged in war.
"But what is the alpha and omega of all warfare? Every lieutenant can tell you.
"To deal the heaviest possible blows against the enemy at the least possible cost to yourself.
"Modern warfare recognizes more and more the value of the defensive; it condemns more and more the useless attack.
"Let us learn from it, as we ought to learn from everything that can in any way profit us.
"But my objections are of a far more serious kind. I accuse you even of ignoring the very first condition of all warfare: of neglecting to inform yourselves concerning your own and the enemy's forces.
"It must be said: you overrate yourselves and underrate the enemy!"
"And what," asked Trupp, scornfully, "are we to do, if I may ask?"
"What you are to do, I do not know. You must know yourselves. But I assert: passive resistance against aggressive force is the only means to break it."
Trupp laughed, and a lively conversation arose between the two men. Each defended his policy, illustrating its effectiveness by examples.
It was late when they closed: Auban persuaded of the impossibility of convincing his friend, and the latter embittered and irritated by his "apostasy."
They left the public house, and quickly reached the place where Tottenham Court Road meets with Oxford Street and the streets from the south. Entering one of the narrower and less crowded thoroughfares they walked up and down, and said their final and decisive words.
"You work into the hands of the government by your propaganda. You fulfil their dearest wishes. Nothing comes more opportunely to them than your policy, which enables them to employ means of oppression for which they would else lack all excuse. Proof: the agents provocateurs who instigate such deeds in their service. There is a ghastly humor in the thought that you are --- the voluntary accomplices of authority, you who want liberty!" . . .
He ceased, while from afar the tumult of Oxford Street came into that dark and quiet side street which was frequented only by a few timid forms which had separated themselves from the stream of humanity of the main thoroughfare, like sparkling embers from an ash-heap.
Trupp stood still. By the suppressed tone of his voice, Auban knew how hard it was for him to say what he had to say.
"You are no longer a revolutionist! You have renounced the grand cause of humanity. Formerly you understood us, and we understood you. Now we no longer understand you, because you no longer understand us. You have become a bourgeois. Or rather: you have always been a bourgeois. Return whence you came. We shall reach our aim without you."
Auban laughed. He laughed so loudly that the passers-by stopped and looked round. And that loud, full, clear laugh, which showed how little those words hurt him, formed an outlet for what had oppressed his breast these last days.
not understand you, Otto!" he said, while his laughter yielded to the earnestness of his words. "You do not believe yourself what you say. I not understand you, I who for years felt with your feelings and thought with your thoughts! If you were to set fire to the cities in a hundred points at once, if you were to desolate the countries as far as your power extended, if you were to blow up the earth or to drown it in blood, --- I should understand you! If you were to take revenge on your enemies by exterminating them one and all, --- I could understand it! And if it were necessary in order to at last achieve liberty --- I should join your ranks and fight unto my latest breath! I understand you, but I no longer believe in the violent progress of things. And because I no longer believe in it, I condemn force as the weapon of the foolish and the blind." . . .
And as he recalled what Trupp had just said, he again had to laugh, and he closed: ---
"Indeed, after all you have told me to-day it is only necessary to add that I condemn the policy of force in order --- to spare the enemy!"
But again his laughter was silenced as his look met that of Trupp, who said, in a hard and almost hostile voice: ---
"He that is not with us is against us!"
The two men stood opposite each other, so closely that their breasts seemed to touch. Their eyes met in iron determination.
"Very well," said Auban, and his voice was as calm as ever, "continue to throw bombs, and continue to suffer hanging for it, if you will never grow wise. I am the last to deny the suicide the right of destroying himself. But you preach
your policy as a duty towards mankind, while yon do not exemplify it in your lives. It is that against which I protest. You assume a tremendous responsibility: the responsibility for the life of others." . . .
"For the happiness of mankind sacrifices must be made," said Trupp, frowning.
"Then make a sacrifice of yourselves!" cried Auban. "Then be men, not talkers! If you really believe in the emancipation of mankind by means of force, and if no experiences can cure you of that mad faith, then act instead of sitting in your clubs and intoxicating yourselves with your phrases! Then shake the world with your bombs, turn upon it the face of horror, so that it shall fear you instead of only hating you as now!" . . .
Trupp grew pale. Never had the sorest of all spots between them been touched so mercilessly.
"What I shall do, and I can speak only for myself, you do not know. But you will some day see," he muttered. Auban's words had not applied to him. His was a nature which knew neither cowardice nor indecision, and which was strong enough to accomplish what it promised. But he felt with bitterness how true the accusation was in general which he had just heard.
And he deliberately brought the conversation to a close by saying: ---
"What are we to each other any longer? My life is my cause. You became my friend because you were my comrade. My comrades are my friends. I know of no other friendship. You have renounced the cause --- we have nothing in common any longer. You will not betray it, but you will no longer be of any service to it, such as you now are. It is better we part."
Auban's excitement had again subsided.
"You must act as you consider best, Otto. If you want me, you will find me by following the course of liberty. But where are you going?"
"I go with my brothers, who suffer as I do!"
They took each other's hand with the same firm grasp as ever.
Then they separated: each going his own long, solitary way, absorbed in thoughts which were as different as the course they took. They knew that a long time would pass before they would meet again; and they suspected that on the present evening they had spoken together alone for the last time.
Till now they had been friends; henceforth they would be opponents, although opponents in the struggle for an ideal which both called by the same name: liberty.