Within a few minutes after the shooting of President McKinley at Buffalo, and before anything was known of the identity of the assailant, news of the affair was in every American town and village to which the telegraph reaches. Probably in every town those to whom this first report came exclaimed: "An Anarchist!" and many thousands added bitter denunciation of all anarchists.
When later news arrived it was established definitely by the confession of the would-be slayer that he was an anarchist and fired the shots in a desire to further the cause of those who believe as he does.
What, then, is anarchism, and who are the anarchists that the destruction of the head of a republican government can further their cause? What do they aim at, and what have they accomplished to stand in their account against the long list of murders, of attempted assassinations, and of destruction of property with which they are charged? The questions are asked on every hand, but the answers are hard to find.
When, at the World's Fair in Chicago in October, 1893, an international congress of anarchists was held and representative anarchists were here from every civilized country, an attempt was made to answer some of the questions. A proposition was made that, for the information of the people and the furtherance of anarchism, a document should be drawn up setting forth just what the belief is and what its followers are doing. The proposition almost brought the congress to an end, for it was found that there were as many different ideas of anarchism as there were delegates present, and no definition could be made satisfactory to more than one or two.
Yet in behalf of this doctrine, which is in itself the anarchy of belief, there have been sacrificed in the last quarter of a century more than a hundred human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property by the most violent means. And, as far as can be judged by an outsider, and as is admitted by the leading thinkers of the cult, anarchism is not one whit the gainer by it.
According to Zenker, himself an anarchistic theorist, "anarchism means in its ideal sense, the perfect, unfettered self-government of the individual, and consequently the absence of any kind of external government."
That such a state is possible not one of the anarchistic philosophers has contended, and each has been eager to hold up his neighbor's plan, if not also his own, as a Utopia. Its realization, said Proudhon, pioneer of the cult, would be an entirely new world, a new Eden, a land of the perfect idealization of freedom and of equality. Yet Proudhon wrote many books and made many addresses in behalf of his doctrine. Like every other anarchist, he found his theory ending in a contradiction-as soon as there was anarchy a new state would be built up.
For anarchy is of two classes, individualistic and communistic. The first is the philosophy of the thinker, which has advanced as the object of its being the attainment of "Liberty, not the daughter but the mother of order." That other anarchy is that which through the influence of terrorism shall crumble empires and republics alike, while from their dust shall rise a free people who shall be in no need of restraints at the hands of their fellow-men. Disciples of this philosophy would build communistic centers upon the ruins of government which violence should have brought about.
Beginning with Proudhon, anarchy had no relationship to the secret society of the assassin. Proudhon simply had criticized a society which "seeks, in formula after formula, institution after institution, that equilibrium which always escapes it, and at every attempt always causes its luxury and its poverty to grow in equal proportion." He had no retributive bomb or dagger for the heads of state under which such inequalities existed. He said, only: "Since equilibrium has never yet been reached, it only remains for us to hope something from a complete solution which synthetically unites theories, which gives back to labor its effectiveness and to each of its organs its power. Hitherto pauperism has been so inextricably connected with labor and want with idleness that all our accusations against Providence only prove our weakness."
Pierre Joseph Proudhon was born in Besancon, France, in 1809. He was a poor man and became a printer, but in 1837 won a scholarship at the academy in his native town, secured an education, and became a philosopher. He followed the teachings of Hegel, the German philosopher, and going beyond them founded the modern cult of anarchist individualism. He became famous from a question and an answer. "What is property?" he demanded, and himself replied: "Property is theft."
Later he came to regret the saying and endeavored to assert his belief in property. "Individual possession is the fundamental condition of social life," he said. He maintained that profit was unjust and that every trade should be an equal exchange.
Proudhon was seeking some means by which the pauper workmen of Europe could be brought to an equality with the aristocracy. In it he came near socialism, but kept the boundary fixed, maintaining that the individual should have his property, should produce as much as he could, have the benefit of his product, and be rich or poor according to it.
Not until the movement started by Proudhon had reached Russia did the "propaganda of action" come into it. In Russia the government, controlling the military, was able to check instantly any movement which might appear in any of the few big cities. In the country no movement could have effect.
"Terrorism arose," says Stepniak, "because of the necessity of taking the great governmental organization in the flank before it could discover that an attack was planned. Nurtured in hatred, it grew up in an electric atmosphere filled by the enthusiasm that is awakened by a noble deed." The "great subterranean stream" of nihilism thus had its rise. From nihilism and its necessary sudden outbreaks anarchism borrowed terrorism, the propaganda of action.
Prince Peter Kropotkin of Russia was the founder of the violent school of anarchists. Banished from Russia, he set about organizing in various countries bands of propagandists. Instead of the individualism of Proudhon he proclaimed anarchist communism, which is now the doctrine of force and is the branch of the cult most followed in Italy, France, Spain and among the Poles.
That form of anarchy to-day is giving great concern to the police and military power of the world. It has its hotbed in continental Europe. Vienna, beyond all the other capitals on the continent, is said to harbor its doctrinaires. Switzerland has contended with its "propaganda of action," which Kropotkin stood for in 1879. Italy, France, Spain, Russia, and nearly every other continental country has felt its force. London itself has been a nest of anarchistic vipers in times past. From all this territory, too, the gradual closing in of the police power has forced both leaders and tools of anarchy to seek asylums in America. The problem of anarchy as now presented to the United States government has to deal almost wholly with this foreign born element.
Its principles, as voiced by the manifesto of the Geneva conference in 1882, stand in great measure for the propaganda of action of to-day: "Our ruler is our enemy. We anarchists are men without any rulers, fighting against all those who have usurped any power or who wish to usurp it.
"Our enemy is the owner of the land who keeps it for himself and makes the peasant work for his advantage.
"Our enemy is the manufacturer who fills his factory with wage slaves; our enemy is the state, whether monarchical, oligarchical, or democratic, with its officials and staff officers, magistrates, and police spies.
"Our enemy is every thought of authority, whether men call it God or devil, in whose name the priests have so long ruled honest people.
"Our enemy is the law which always oppresses the weak by the strong to the justification and apotheosis of crime.
"But if the landowners, the manufacturers, the heads of the state, the priests, and the law are our enemies, we are also theirs, and we boldly oppose them. We intend to reconquer the land and the factory from the landowner and the manufacturer; we mean to annihilate the state under whatever name it may be concealed; and we mean to get our freedom back again in spite of priest or law.
"According to our strength we will work for the humiliation of all legal institutions, and are in accord with every one who defies the law by a revolutionary act. We despise all legal means because they are the negation of our rights; we do not want so-called universal suffrage since we cannot get away from our own personal sovereignty and cannot make ourselves accomplices in the crimes committed by our so-called representatives.
"Between us anarchists and all political parties, whether conservatives or moderates, whether they fight for freedom or recognize it by their admissions, a deep gulf is fixed. We wish to remain our own masters, and he among us who strives to become a chief or leader is a traitor to our cause. Of course we know that individual freedom cannot exist without a union with other free associates. We all live by the support of one another; that is the social life which has created us; that it is the work of all which gives to each the consciousness of his rights and the power to defend them. Every social product is the work of the whole community, to which all have a claim in equal manner.
"For we are all communists. It is ours to conquer and defend common property and to overthrow governments by whatever name they may be called."
Johann Most followed Kropotkin, and in pamphlets and papers urged death to rulers and leaders of the people. He published explicit directions for making bombs, placing them in public places; a dictionary of poisons and the means of getting them into the food of Ministers and other government officials. "Extirpate the miserable brood," he said, "extirpate the wretches."
All these leaders and many other theorists, German philosophers, Englishmen and Americans as well, have published books showing why they believe anarchy to be the ideal condition of the human race. None of them believes it possible. It is only the less brilliant followers who attempt to carry out their teachings and thus bring bloodshed. How this is done the psychologists, the students of criminology explain.
"Anarchism is a pathological phenomenon," says Caesar Lombroso, the Italian criminologist. "Unhealthy and criminal persons adopt anarchism. In every city, in nearly every factory, there are men with active minds but little education. These men stand, day after day, before a machine handling a tool, doing some mechanical action. Their minds must work. They have little to work upon. They are starved for proper food and air and for the mental food which is necessary to a proper understanding of society and of the duties of men. Into the hands of these fall the writings of the anarchists with subtly-worded arguments. Conditions which are apparent everywhere are shown forth, the evils of the city and of industrial conditions are set forth plainly, so that the reader gets an idea that the writer is truthful and impartial. Then the writer sets forth how anarchism can remedy these things. Later on comes the suggestion of violence. Then 'strike down the rulers.'
"The workman may not be moved in the least by the first perusal. He may even be amused. But later, little by little, as he stands at his work, they come back to him, and he broods over them again and again until they become part of his mind and his belief, and sooner or later he becomes a violent anarchist. For such men Johann Most and his followers form little groups which can hold secret meetings, and through them deeds of violence are plotted and accomplished."
In connection with the philosophy of anarchy, it may be interesting to examine the causes which various leaders in the movement have given for espousing the doctrine. August Spies, one of the men executed in Chicago for complicity in the Haymarket conspiracy, replied, when asked what made him an anarchist:
"I became an anarchist on that very day that a policeman seized me by the collar and flung me from a sidewalk into the gutter."
"Probably," wrote this questioner, "the whole history of anarchy could be traced to these petty causes. The sore develops violent action in the uncouth; the finer and thriftier spirits are moved to ventilate their wrongs in print."
There is a suggestion in the point which has been voiced by anarchists everywhere. When Emma Goldman was arrested she complained bitterly that it was the police department of Chicago rather than her teachings which was making anarchists.
The story has been told of Zo d'Axa that at a time when he was hesitating between becoming an anarchist or a religious missionary he was traveling in Italy. One day he was accused-as he contended, wrongfully-of insulting the Empress of Germany, and the legal efforts to call him to account made an anarchist of him. He was a man of fortune and he devoted that fortune to the cause, establishing En Dehors, a journal of revolt, against everything that could limit individualism.
Thus, in these later types the relations of cause and effect have been established. As to the earlier ones, only speculation may fasten the probable truth to them. As to Proudhon, the sting that often comes to one lacking in caste might easily have been his inspiration. He was sent to prison in 1848 for political offenses, just at the moment when his People's Bank had been started upon its brief period of existence, as one of the great ameliorating institutions of French society.
Out of prison again at the end of a long confinement, Proudhon begged permission to issue his paper, Justice, but Napoleon refused the plea. A book, lacking much of the fire of his youth, caused Proudhon to be sentenced to prison a second time, for a period of three years. He escaped by flight, however, and went to Belgium. In the general amnesty granted in 1859 he was excepted, and when, as a special favor, the Emperor, in 1861, granted him permission to return home, Proudhon refused, not returning to Paris until 1863. But troubles and persecutions had told upon him, and on June I9, 1865, he died in the arms of his wife, who had been a helpmeet, and for whom he had always shown loyalty and love.
Caspar Schmidt, better known by the pseudonym of Max Stirner, was a German pupil of Proudhon and was born at Baireuth on October 25, 1806. He became a teacher in a high school, and afterwards in a girls' school in Berlin. In 1844 appeared the book, "The Individual and His Property," acknowledged by Max Stirner. It was meteoric, causing a momentary sensation and then sinking into oblivion until the rejuvenating of anarchism ten years later brought it again to notice. Stirner departs radically from Proudhon. On June 26, 1856, he died, as some one has observed, "Poor in external circumstances, rich in want and bitterness."
Jean Jacques Elisee Reclus is one of the later French apostles of anarchism, a deep student of such prominence that the sentence of transportation in 1871 caused such an outcry from scientific men that banishment was substituted therefor. He has written of anarchism:
"The idea is beautiful, is great, but these miscreants sully our teachings. He who calls himself an anarchist should be one of a good and gentle sort. It is a mistake to believe that the anarchistic idea can be promoted by acts of barbarity."
Of the influence of this man and his type it has been said by a critic.
"They are poets, painters, novelists, or critics. Most of them are men of fortune and family. Their art has brought them fame. They are idealists, and dreamers, and philanthropists. They turn from a dark and troubled present to a future all rose. In a tragic night they await the sunrise of fraternal love.
"And yet, by their sincerity and their eloquence, they are the most dangerous men of to-day. They have made anarchy a splendid ideal, instead of the brutal and meaningless discontent that it was. They have gilded plain ruffians like Ravachol and Caserio with the halo of martyrdom. For them anarchy is a literary toy. But what of the feather-brained wretches who believe in all these fine phrases and carry out the doctrine of social warfare to its logical and bloody conclusion? Whose is the responsibility? Who is the greater criminal? Luccheni or the silken poet who set him on?"
And behind these more or less gentle and philosophic pathfinders in anarchism have come the "doers of the word"-the redhanded assassins of history.
Not long ago Count Malesta [Malatesta?], leader of the Italian anarchists, in his suave, gentle, aristocratic attitudes, deplored the use of bombs, pistol, and knife. Yet who will question that Herr Most has drawn inspiration from this teacher, and this schooling was behind that rabid creature's utterance, following the assassination of Carnot, when Most said:
"Whosoever wants to undertake an assassination should at first learn to use the weapon with which he desires to accomplish his purpose before he brings that weapon definitely into play. Attempts by means of the revolver are utterly played out, because out of twenty-five attempts only one is successful, as experience has thoroughly shown. Only expert dead shots may thoroughly rely on their ability to kill. No more child's play! Serious labor! Long live the torch and bomb!"
This is the pupil of the school. Of its tutors, even Kropotkin has been described as a "gentle, courtly, aristocratic patriarch of revolt." He was wealthy, famous, and furiously aristocratic when, in 1872, studying the Swiss glaciers, he stumbled upon the Geneva convention of internationalists and became an anarchist. He returned to the Russian court. His work on the glaciers of Finland became a classic. His lectures on geology and geography were attracting crowds, even while a red revolutionist, Borodin, was stirring police and military with his utterances to workingmen. One night the police trapped Borodin-and Kropotkin. For three years he was confined in prison until he escaped, making his way to London and to the world, which still listens to his voice.
Louise Michel, even, is described as an eager, enthusiastic old woman of much gentleness of manner. She is credited with an unselfishness and selfabnegation that would fit the character of a sister of charity. Virile and keen of intellect, her presence is said to attract, rather than repel, and yet her cry is for freedom, based on force against the machinery of law.
Johann Most has been recognized as the link between the German and English anarchism and the representative of the "propaganda of action." He is the avowed patron of the bomb, and in the present case of Czolgosz some of the instructions which he has vouchsafed to readers of his journal, Freedom, may have a bearing, as for instance, the rule that "never more than one anarchist should take charge of the attempt, so that in case of discovery the anarchist party may suffer as little harm as possible."
France has been especially active in this scrutiny of the followers of the red flag. The government's spy system is almost perfect. Scarcely a meeting may be held on French soil that a government shadow is not somewhere in the background.
In Russia both the police and military arms keep watch upon suspects. London for years has been a hotbed of anarchistic talk and scheming, and even there the system of secret espionage is maintained. Regent's Park on a Sunday afternoon may be full of inflammatory speechmaking, but it is regarded as a harmless venting of spleen in most cases; the actual movements of dangerous anarchists are closely observed.
The United States government at Washington has a list of names and photographs of all the known anarchists of the world.
No city in America has had more experience in dealing with dangerous anarchists than Chicago. As early as 1850 there were disciples of anarchy among the foreign element there, but no attention was paid to them until as late as 1873, when they formed a political party and were more or less noisy for several years. In 1877, during the great railroad strike, they had their first clash with the police and several were killed, and many wounded. Thanksgiving Day, 1884, under the leadership of Albert R. Parsons, August Spies, Sam Fielden, and others they hoisted the black flag and marched through the fashionable residence district of the city, uttering groans and using threatening language. Subsequently they threatened to blow up the new Board of Trade building, and marched past the edifice one night, but were headed off by the police. Parsons, when asked afterward why they had not blown up the Board of Trade building, replied that they had not looked for police interference and were not prepared. "The next time," he said, "we will be prepared to meet them with bombs and dynamite." Fielden reiterated the same sentiments and expressed the opinion that in the course of a year they might be ready for the police.
During all these years the anarchist leaders had openly preached violence, and had taught their followers how to make dynamite bombs. They went so far as to give in detail their plans for fighting the police and militia, and caused more or less consternation among the timid residents of the city.
The local authorities made no effort to stop any of these proceedings. Mayor Harrison believed that repressive measures would be useless and considered that to allow the anarchists to talk would gratify their vanity and preclude the possibility of riot. That such a belief was fallacious, subsequent events proved.
In 1886 came the agitation for the establishment of the eight-hour day, and the anarchist leaders were prominent therein. The first collision between the anarchists and the police came at the McCormick reaper works. There was a sharp fight and the police dispersed the rioters. It was said t hat many workingmen were killed in that fight, but the story was exaggerated, no one being killed. The anarchists held secret meetings at once and devised a plan to revenge themselves on the police, and to burn and sack the city. As a first step, and for the purpose of demoralizing the police force, a public meeting was called to be held in the Haymarket Square on the night of May 4. The meeting was really held on Desplaines street, between Randolph and Lake streets. Parsons, Spies and Fielden spoke from a wagon in front of Crane's foundry, until the police came up to disperse the meeting, on account of the violent character of the utterances. Inspector Bonfield and Captain Ward were in charge of the police, and no sooner had Captain Ward called upon the crowd to disperse than a bomb was hurled into the midst of the unsuspecting policemen. It burst with a loud report, knocking down nearly every one of the one hundred and twenty-five men in the detail and badly wounding many.
Inspector Bonfield at once rallied his men, and charged the mob with a resistless rush that carried everything before them. After the square had been cleared the officers began to attend to their wounded comrades. Only one, M. J. Degan, had been instantly killed, although seven died afterward from their injuries. Sixty-eight others were injured, some so badly that they were maimed for life, and incapacitated for work.
Of all the men who were subsequently arrested for this crime, only eight were placed on trial. These were August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert R. Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, and Louis Lingg, who were found guilty and sentenced to death, and Oscar Neebe, who was sentenced to fifteen years in the penitentiary. Lingg committed suicide by blowing his head to pieces with a bomb while confined in the jail awaiting execution. The sentences of Schwab and Fielden were commuted to imprisonment for life by Governor Oglesby. The other four were hanged in the county jail on November 11, 1887. They were buried at Waldheim cemetery the following Sunday, November 13, and this occasion was made memorable by the honors shown the dead by the anarchist societies of Chicago. It was the last great outpouring of anarchy that the city has seen. Schwab, Fielden, and Neebe were afterward pardoned by Governor Altgeld, and released from the penitentiary.
Looking back upon the work of anarchy in the last fifty years or more its results should be discouraging to any but the most hair-brained of the type. Its violence has not altered or unsettled the course of a single government against which it has been directed. If individuals here and there have been murdered the crimes have reacted upon the tools of butchery, most frequently sending the assassin to a dishonored grave, leaving the name of his kinsman a reproach for all time. The seed of ideal anarchy still is being sown, however, and its crop of crimes and criminals may be expected to be harvested in the future, as in the past, unless, by some concerted, radical efforts of civilization its bloody sophistries are to be wiped from the world.