Anarchism and other essays by Emma Goldman - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
as ever, the few are misunderstood, hounded, imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
The principle of brotherhood expounded by the agitator of Nazareth preserved the germ of life, of truth and justice,
so long as it was the beacon light of the few. The moment the majority seized upon it, that great principle became a
shibboleth and harbinger of blood and fire, spreading suffering and disaster. The attack on the omnipotence of
Rome was like a sunrise amid the darkness of the night, only so long as it was made by the colossal figures of a
Huss, a Calvin, or a Luther. Yet when the mass joined in the procession against the Catholic monster, it was no
less cruel, no less bloodthirsty than its enemy. Woe to the heretics, to the minority, who would not bow to its
dicta. After infinite zeal, endurance, and sacrifice, the human mind is at last free from the religious phantom; the
minority has gone on in pursuit of new conquests, and the majority is lagging behind, handicapped by truth grown
false with age.
Politically the human race would still be in the most absolute slavery, were it not for the John Balls, the Wat
Tylers, the Tells, the innumerable individual giants who fought inch by inch against the power of kings and
tyrants. But for individual pioneers the world would have never been shaken to its very roots by that tremendous
wave, the French Revolution. Great events are usually preceded by apparently small things. Thus the eloquence
and fire of Camille Desmoulins was like the trumpet before Jericho, razing to the ground that emblem of torture, of
abuse, of horror, the Bastille.
Always, at every period, the few were the banner bearers of a great idea, of liberating effort. Not so the mass, the
leaden weight of which does not let it move. The truth of this is borne out in Russia with greater force than
elsewhere. Thousands of lives have already been consumed by that bloody regime, yet the monster on the throne
is not appeased. How is such a thing possible when ideas, culture, literature, when the deepest and finest emotions
groan under the iron yoke? The majority, that compact, immobile, drowsy mass, the Russian peasant, after a
century of struggle, of sacrifice, of untold misery, still believes that the rope which strangles "the man with the
white hands" brings luck.
In the American struggle for liberty, the majority was no less of a stumbling block. Until this very day the ideas of
Jefferson, of Patrick Henry, of Thomas Paine, are denied and sold by their posterity. The mass wants none of
them. The greatness and courage worshipped in Lincoln have been forgotten in the men who created the
background for the panorama of that time. The true patron saints of the black men were represented in that handful
of fighters in Boston, Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Theodore Parker, whose
great courage and sturdiness culminated in that somber giant, John Brown. Their untiring zeal, their eloquence and
perseverance undermined the stronghold of the Southern lords. Lincoln and his minions followed only when
abolition had become a practical issue, recognized as such by all.
About fifty years ago, a meteor-like idea made its appearance on the social horizon of the world, an idea so far-
reaching, so revolutionary, so all-embracing as to spread terror in the hearts of tyrants everywhere. On the other
hand, that idea was a harbinger of joy, of cheer, of hope to the millions. The pioneers knew the difficulties in their
way, they knew the opposition, the persecution, the hardships that would meet them, but proud and unafraid they
started on their march onward, ever onward. Now that idea has become a popular slogan. Almost everyone is a
Socialist today: the rich man, as well as his poor victim; the upholders of law and authority, as well as their
unfortunate culprits; the freethinker, as well as the perpetuator of religious falsehoods; the fashionable lady, as
well as the shirtwaist girl. Why not? Now that the truth of fifty years ago has become a lie, now that it has been
clipped of all its youthful imagination, and been robbed of its vigor, its strength, its revolutionary ideal—why not?
Now that it is no longer a beautiful vision, but a "practical, workable scheme," resting on the will of the majority,
why not? With the same political cunning and shrewdness the mass is petted, pampered, cheated daily. Its praise is
being sung in many keys: the poor majority, the outraged, the abused, the giant majority, if only it would follow
Who has not heard this litany before? Who does not know this never-varying refrain of all politicians? That the
mass bleeds, that it is being robbed and exploited, I know as well as our vote-baiters. But I insist that not the
handful of parasites, but the mass itself is responsible for this horrible state of affairs. It clings to its masters, loves
the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify! the moment a protesting voice is raised against the sacredness of
capitalistic authority or any other decayed institution. Yet how long would authority and private property exist, if
not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen. The Socialist demagogues
know that as well as I, but they maintain the myth of the virtues of the majority, because their very scheme of life
means the perpetuation of power. And how could the latter be acquired without numbers? Yes, power, authority,
coercion, and dependence rest on the mass, but never freedom, never the free unfoldment of the individual, never
the birth of a free society.
Not because I do not feel with the oppressed, the disinherited of the earth; not because I do not know the shame,
the horror, the indignity of the lives the people lead, do I repudiate the majority as a creative force for good. Oh,
no, no! But because I know so well that as a compact mass it has never stood for justice or equality. It has
suppressed the human voice, subdued the human spirit, chained the human body. As a mass its aim has always
been to make life uniform, gray, and monotonous as the desert. As a mass it will always be the annihilator of
individuality, of free initiative, of originality. I therefore believe with Emerson that "the masses are crude, lame,
pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede
anything to them, but to drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out of them. Masses! The calamity
are the masses. I do not wish any mass at all, but honest men only, lovely, sweet, accomplished women only."
In other words, the living, vital truth of social and economic well-being will become a reality only through the zeal,
courage, the non-compromising determination of intelligent minorities, and not through the mass.
 The intellectuals.
THE PSYCHOLOGY 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 ATTENTATER, 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
Bjornstjerne Bjornson, 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
Francois Coppee, the French novelist, thus expresses himself regarding the psychology of the ATTENTATER:
"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 our system.
Last, but not least, the man who probably better than anyone else understands the psychology of the
ATTENTATER is M. Hamon, the author of the brilliant work, UNE PSYCHOLOGIE DU MILITAIRE
PROFESSIONEL, 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 zeal."
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 compare.
"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 BETE 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."
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
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 them.
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, bloodthirsty 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 ATTENTATER must have
been insane, or that he was incited to the act.
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,
Sweet land of liberty.
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.
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 social phenomenon.
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 Clay Frick.
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
"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 on pikes.
"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
"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 sufferings.
"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 we shall each 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 themselves forever."
Will anyone say that Vaillant was an ignorant, vicious man, or a lunatic? Was not his mind singularly clear,
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 sentence.
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 ATTENTATER
was engraved, significantly,
Santa Caserio was an Anarchist. He could have gotten away, saved himself; but he remained, he stood the
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 can not give 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 have sown."
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
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 regime 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
Senor 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.
Senor 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
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 city famous.
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 fools.
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