James Joll, The Anarchists, Second Edition, 1979.


Chapter V
Terrorism and propaganda by the deed

Let us arise, let us arise against the oppressors of humanity; all kings, emperors, presidents of republics, priests of all religions are the true enemies of the people; let us destroy along with them all juridical, political, civil and religious institutions.
Manifesto of anarchists in the Romagna, 1878

Je ne frapperai pas un innocent en frappant le premier bourgeois venu.
Leon-Jules Leauthier, 1894


The Paris Commune left its mark on European politics for thirty years. For the revolutionaries it was yet another revolution that had failed, but which had at least revived hopes that a complete social revolution might be made some day, and that, when it came, it would be thorough and bloody. For the moderates, it was a lesson in the danger of the mob, and reinforced their fear of violence and their desire for peaceful and constitutional reform. For the conservatives, it was an event which revived all their fears and inherited memories of the Jacobin Terror and convinced them that a nineteenth-century revolution, complete with the incendiarism of the 'petroleuses'' who were supposed to have set fire to Paris, would be far worse than that of 1792. Moreover, the fact that a few Communard leaders had been members of the International, together with the eagerness with which all sections of that body proclaimed their solidarity with the imprisoned and exiled Communards, convinced the governments and police of Europe that the International had to be taken seriously, so that, at the moment of its dissolution, it inspired more fear than it had in its lifetime. The vigilance of the authorities all over Europe, and the [100] internal divisions in the International, also made revolutionaries think again about their methods. Above all, the experience of the Commune seemed to show how difficult it was for an old-style urban insurrection, complete with barricades and citizen volunteers, to succeed in a modern city when faced with modern weapons. In the industrial states of northern Europe, the workers were led, over the next twenty-five years, to look increasingly to well-organized political parties or disciplined trade unions for an improvement in their conditions. In more backward countries, however, such as Italy and Spain, where endemic agrarian distress was reinforced by the impact of the new industrial processes on an old artisan class, the belief in direct action, in insurrection and acts of terrorism, never wholly died.

In Italy the strains resulting from the struggle for unification and from the eviction of the Austrians produced considerable economic distress in the early 1870s. The government had been obliged to introduce unpopular taxes -- especially the tax on milling flour, the macinato. In the south the disruption of the feudal economy and the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy seemed to many Calabrians or Sicilians simply to have introduced a new set of exploiters alongside the landlords of the old regime. Throughout the nineteenth century there had been local acts of social protest in Italy, when peasants and landless labourers seized on anything which seemed to offer a way out of their desperate situation. In the 1870s these protests varied from the apocalyptic religious sectarianism of the Lazzaretti in Tuscany1 to more ordinary acts of spontaneous peasant revolt and brigandage. The general atmosphere of unrest, increased by bad harvests in 1873 and by the European financial crisis of the mid-1870s, which was eventually felt in one way or another by the Italian peasant and artisan, encouraged those followers of Bakunin who still hoped for a general insurrection. Indeed, just as the International was inclined to claim to have inspired the Commune, so the Italian anarchists tended to take the credit for any act of violent social protest in Italy, and hoped to use the unsettled situation, as Bakunin himself had preached, to further their cause. This sometimes led to disappointment; it seems, for example, that in 1873 Malatesta went to Sicily in the hope of recruiting the brigands to the anarchist cause, only to be told that 'the brigands were too [101] religious and honest to take part in a rising in which the example of the Commune might be followed, where they shot the archbishop'.2

In this atmosphere it is not surprising that the doctrines of Bakunin were more popular than those of Marx, and that, in the 1870s adherence to the International meant in Italy embracing the anarchist cause. The leaders of the movement in Italy were Carlo Cafiero, Andrea Costa and Errico Malatesta. Cafiero was a wealthy young Neapolitan who had inherited considerable estates in Apulia. He was originally Marx's and Engels' most trusted agent in Italy, but soon became an adherent of Bakunin, both because he believed in the correctness of Bakunin's analysis of the Italian situation, and because, like so many others, he succumbed to Bakunin's personal fascination. (Cafiero, indeed, spent much of his fortune in supporting Bakunin and his household, ruining himself and quarrelling with Bakunin through becoming involved in plans for developing an estate on Lake Maggiore.) Costa was one of the students who, disillusioned with Mazzini's republicanism, turned eagerly to the doctrines of the International. While at the University of Bologna, where he was a favourite student of the poet Giosue Carducci, he became involved in the anarchist movement, and the news of the Commune in Paris convinced him of the possibility of revolution at home in Italy. Cafiero's career as an anarchist agitator ended sadly in the 1880s, when the conspiratorial zeal of his youth turned to psychopathic persecution mania and his romantic egalitarianism to a pathetic fear that he was consuming more than his fair share of the sunshine.3 Andrea Costa and Errico Malatesta later became leaders of the two rival branches of the Italian revolutionary movement, for Costa early in the 1880s became convinced of the impossibility of an immediate insurrection and realized the necessity of constructing an effective constitutional political party, while Malatesta remained until his death in 1932, through all the vicissitudes of prison and exile and the fascist regime, the most consistent of the Italian anarchists, a kind of Mazzini of the anarchist movement.

In the early 1870s these anarchist leaders hoped that a general rising in Italy might be possible and that Bakunin's ideas could be put into practice. Mazzini had lost most of his influence [102] because of his criticisms of the Commune; Marx's belief in a strong centralized industrial state as a preliminary condition for a proletarian revolution did not seem to apply to Italy. So, in an atmosphere and tradition of social revolt, the way was open for Bakunin's doctrines. As Costa later recalled:

The rapidity with which the new spirit was propagated in Italy was marvellous. . . . We threw ourselves into the movement, compelled much more by the desire to break with a past that oppressed us and did not correspond to our aspirations than by conscious reflection on what we wanted. We felt that the future was there: time would determine by which ideas we would be inspired.4
It was in this mood of vague enthusiasm and total optimism that the Bologna rising of 1874 was planned, in which, as we have seen, the ageing and ailing Bakunin made a last rather pathetic revolutionary appearance.

Costa himself, the chief organizer of the movement in Bologna, was arrested before the revolt started, and elsewhere in Italy the insurrection petered out as completely as it did in Bologna. The leaders who were arrested were treated with surprising leniency. Their trials gave them the opportunity for spectacular rhetorical appeals and denunciations, while their defence lawyers (among them a rising young anarchist intellectual, Dr Saverio Merlino) seem to have been as clever as the prosecution was inept: the government was unpopular in the country and the jurors not unsympathetic to the plight of the poor so vividly described by young men of the fire and charm of Costa and Malatesta.5 Malatesta, who had been in Apulia during the risings, was acquitted; Costa, too, after Carducci had given evidence on his behalf, was found not guilty; Cafiero was safe in Switzerland,

Even if their hopes of a general insurrection had been disappointed, the events of 1874 had gained considerable publicity for the anarchists, whose strength was estimated by the government as being around 30,000. At the same time, the experience made them think that they had been too public and not sufficiently conspiratorial in their methods. However, they realized that there was no immediate possibility of widespread revolution, and as a result they developed what was to become a key idea in anarchist [103] tactics over the next twenty years. This was the idea of 'propaganda by the deed'. It was only violent action that would impress on the world both the desperate nature of the social situation and the ruthless determination of those who wanted to change it. Thus -- and this, of course, had been Bakunin's idea -- a small body of determined men could point the way to revolution and encourage revolt. A small armed band could, as one of Malatesta's associates put it,

move about in the countryside as long as possible, preaching war, inciting to social brigandage, occupying the small communes and then leaving them after having performed there those revolutionary acts that were possible and advancing to those localities where our presence would be manifested most usefully.6

When this was written in April 1881, Malatesta and his friends had already had one disastrous experience of these tactics, and it was, in fact, never repeated. In the latter part of 1876, Malatesta and Cafiero had decided to plan an operation for the spring of 1877, in the province of Benevento, north-east of Naples. They were joined in this enterprise by a Russian revolutionary, Sergei Kravchinski, who a year after was to kill the chief of the Russian secret police with a dagger in the streets of St Petersburg and was later well known in London revolutionary circles under the name of Stepniak. Stepniak had joined the rising against the Turks in Bosnia the previous year and used his experiences in order to write a manual of guerrilla warfare, and he now happened to be in Naples. Accordingly, Malatesta, Stepniak and a Russian lady rented a house in the village of San Lupo on the pretext that the Russian lady needed the mountain air for her health. There they unloaded several cases of ammunition disguised as her luggage. Unfortunately, by this time one of Malatesta's associates had betrayed the plans to the police and San Lupo was under observation as the members of the anarchist band began to gather there. Several of them, including Stepniak, were arrested on the way; in the village itself shots were exchanged between anarchists and police, and one policeman died of his wounds. Malatesta, Cafiero and some twenty-five others then decided to take to the mountains and try to raise a revolt in the outlying villages. Instead, that [104] is to say, of building up a base of operations and from there trying to evangelize the surrounding countryside, they set off in a haphazard manner at a time (it was early April) when the weather in the mountains was still cold and wet.

However, at first they were remarkably successful. At the village of Lentino the column arrived on a Sunday morning, declared King Victor Emanuel deposed and carried out the anarchist ritual of burning the archives which contained the record of property holdings, debts and taxes. The revolution in Lentino was greeted with some enthusiasm by the peasants, and even the village priest joined the insurgents. Then the column marched off to the next village, leaving the local innkeeper with a scrap of paper which read: 'In the name of the Social Revolution, the Mayor of Lentino is ordered to pay twenty-eight lire to Ferdinando Orso for food furnished to the band that entered Lentino on April 8, 1877.'7 At Gallo, the next stop, much the same occurred, but by this time the villagers showed less enthusiasm, as government troops were now on their way to round up the insurgents. For two days Malatesta and his followers tramped through the mountains looking in vain for food and shelter. Then finally, hungry and cold, they were surrounded and taken off to prison.

Once again, however, the treatment of the rebels was surprisingly lenient, although they were kept in prison for sixteen months awaiting trial. They were accused of causing the death of a policeman; and, although the crime technically lay outside the scope of the amnesty granted in February 1878 on the accession of the new king of Italy, Umberto I, they were able to profit from the general atmosphere of clemency and from the jury's sympathy. In August 1878 they were acquitted.

The effects of the failure of the rising in Benevento were considerable. Although Malatesta and some of his followers persisted in thinking that they could achieve something by propaganda by deeds and by continuing to set an example of insurrection to the peasants of southern Italy, others, and notably Andrea Costa, began to think that such gestures were futile, and that any progress in dealing with the social question in Italy must, after all, come through better organization and even through political action. 'By means of a conspiracy,' Costa had already written even before the Benevento affair, [105]

a change in the form of government can be obtained; a principle can be dispossessed or punctured and another put in its place, but it cannot achieve social revolution. ... To do this is a matter of widely diffusing the new principles in the masses, or rather, to awaken them in them, since they already have them instinctively, and to organize the workers of the whole world, so that the revolution occurs by itself from the bottom to the top and not vice versa, either by means of laws and decrees or by force. And this necessarily involves publicity, since it is impossible to reconcile the idea of such a vast propaganda within the necessarily restricted circle of a conspiracy.8
This belief in mass propaganda and wide publicity to show the oppressed classes where their interest lay was quite different from the action by small conspiratorial bands setting the example of direct revolt which Malatesta and Cafiero envisaged; and in the next few years Costa moved still further towards accepting the idea of mass organization and political action. By 1882 he was prepared to run for parliament and to claim that, as a deputy, he was carrying on the struggle as effectively as he had done in prison.9 He soon became one of the most respected leaders of the Italian socialist party.

On 9 February 1878 a young man threw a bomb into a parade which was being held at Florence in memory of King Victor Emanuel II, who had just died. No one was killed, and the Italian anarchists disclaimed all connection with the attack. Nine months later a twenty-nine-year-old cook, Giovanni Passanante, who had acquired a knife inscribed with the words 'Long live the international republic!' attacked the new king, Umberto I, as he drove through Naples. The king was only scratched, but the Prime Minister, who was with him, was slightly wounded. Once again, no connection was established between the would-be assassin and the anarchists in the International. However, when a group of monarchist sympathizers in Florence organized a parade to celebrate the king's escape a bomb was thrown which killed four people and injured ten. Two days later another bomb was thrown into a crowd of people at Pisa who were celebrating the queen's birthday.

These episodes meant the end of the comparative leniency with [106] which the anarchist attempts at insurrection had been treated in 1874 and 1877. From now on anarchist leaders were kept under strict supervision and were liable to arrest, detention and expulsion. Towards the end of 1878, Malatesta left the country to start the first of his long periods of exile. The International had been formally dissolved in 1876, and the anarchist members of it were forced to abandon any pretence that they still constituted an international organization. The last meeting of Bakunin's most loyal supporters in the old International, the Federation Jurassienne, was held in 1880. One of the Italian anarchists sadly summed up the position in July 1879: 'The International... no longer exists, either as a Marxist association or as a Bakuninist sect. There are revolutionary and anarchist socialists in every part of the world, but there is no longer any contact, public or secret, between them.'10


The attempt to murder King Umberto occurred within a few months of two attempts on the life of the German emperor and also one to murder the king of Spain. The phrase 'propaganda by the deed' was taking on a more sinister meaning. The two would-be assassins of the Kaiser, Hoedel and Nobiling, do not seem to have been members of any organized socialist or anarchist group, but it was obvious that the police were bound to say that they were inspired by the socialist International, just as the Spanish police claimed that Juan Oliva Moncasi, who tried to kill Alfonso XII, was a disciple of Fanelli. And, just as Passanante's attempt on King Umberto was followed by persecution of the Italian revolutionary leaders, so in Germany, after the attack on the Kaiser, Bismarck passed antisocialist legislation, while in Spain all trade-union and working-class political activity was made almost impossible. It is not surprising that the authorities in these countries genuinely believed, as Bismarck certainly did, in the existence of an international conspiracy to further social revolution. From the time of the Commune socialists and anarchists had claimed responsibility even for actions with which they had nothing to do, and hurried to express their sympathy with the would-be regicides. One of the anarchist [107] papers in the Jura, for instance, saluted the author of one of the attempts on the Kaiser with the words:

Humanity will preserve the memory of the tinsmith Hoedel, who was prepared to sacrifice his life to make a superb act of defiance against society, and, as his blood spurted beneath the executioner's axe, was able to inscribe his name on the long list of martyrs who have shown the people the way to a better future, towards the abolition of all economic and political slavery.11

The belief in widespread international plots inevitably enhanced the reputation of those revolutionaries who were admired or feared for their uncompromising fervour and who appeared to be inspiring rebellion everywhere. Bakunin, the most important of these potent legendary figures, had died in 1876, but among the next generation there were others who occupied a similar position in the eyes of the police and of their own followers. Malatesta, in his long years of exile, was to acquire a reputation of this kind and was still able in 1920, after some fifty years as a revolutionary, to bring the police of Italy out in pursuit of him. At the end of the nineteenth century, however, the man with the strongest claim to occupy the position left vacant on Bakunin's death was another Russian, Prince Peter Alexeivitch Kropotkin.

Kropotkin was born in 1842 and was the son of a family of the highest Russian nobility.12 He showed literary and intellectual interests as a boy, and in his Memoirs of a Revolutionist he gives a touching picture of an evening when his brother stole out of his cadet school to see him and they sat up till midnight 'talking about nebulae and Laplace's hypothesis, the structure of matter, the struggles of the papacy under Boniface VIII with the imperial power, and so on'. However, he was given a conventional education and became a member of the elite Corps of Pages on the personal recommendation of the Emperor Nicholas I. He soon revolted against the discipline and conventionality of court life and, to the disgust of his family, joined an unfashionable regiment in Siberia. Here, with time to read and reflect, he began to think about social and philosophical problems. He read Proudhon; he became interested in questions of prison reform. At the same time he used the opportunity of his stay in a remote area of Central [108] Asia to turn himself into a serious, scientific geographer and explorer. His wide reading, his scientific activity and his experience, as a member of the landowning class, of agrarian problems in the years after the emancipation of the serfs, as well as his anger at the treatment of Polish prisoners after the Polish revolt of 1863, all reinforced the independence of his character and drove him in the direction of political radicalism.

In 1872 Kropotkin paid his first decisive visit to the west, and met James Guillaume and the watchmakers of the Jura. (He did not call on Bakunin, who was, it seems, reluctant to see him because of his friendship with another Russian radical, Peter Lavrov, of whose comparatively mild reformist views Bakunin disapproved.) Kropotkin was at once attracted by the Swiss anarchist workers and was only dissuaded from remaining in the Jura as a worker by Guillaume's arguments that he would be more useful to the anarchist cause elsewhere. When he returned to Russia, smuggling a number of subversive books and pamphlets into the country, he formally resigned from the government service and plunged into revolutionary activity. This soon led to his arrest, for his friends in St Petersburg belonged to the circle round N. V. Tchaikovsky, the leader of the populist movement there, and they spent much of their efforts in publishing and circulating forbidden literature and in direct educational experiments among the workers and peasants. Kropotkin himself was now advocating the formation of armed peasant bands, and was already rejecting any piecemeal reforms such as many of his associates were prepared to accept. 'Any temporary improvement in the life of a small group of people in our present society only helps to keep the conservative spirit intact,' he wrote in 1873.13

The activities of the Tchaikovsky circle had already aroused the suspicion of the authorities by the end of 1873, and a number of its members were arrested for their propaganda and educational work among the workers. Kropotkin himself was arrested a few weeks later and in March 1874 imprisoned in the fortress of SS. Peter and Paul. After two years his health was failing and he was removed to the prison attached to the military hospital in St Petersburg. Here friends to whom he had been able to smuggle letters managed to organize one of the most famous and dramatic escapes of the nineteenth century. A violin playing in the window [109] of a house down the street gave the signal; a carriage was waiting; Kropotkin ran past the guard at the gate and was soon on his way abroad.14 In August 1876 he landed in England, which was eventually to be his home until 1917, when he returned to Russia, where he died in 1921.

Kropotkin's life in England after 1886, when he finally settled there permanently, was quiet, respectable and scholary and did little to justify the alarm in which his ideas were held. However, for the next forty years he was the adviser and philosopher of the whole anarchist movement. From being a conspirator and agitator he became a philosopher and prophet. Nevertheless, when he first arrived in the west, he played a part in encouraging violence. Thus a leading article in Le Revoke, the paper which he founded in Switzerland in 1879, sets the tone of anarchist action in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century: 'Permanent revolt by word of mouth, in writing, by the dagger, the rifle, dynamite. . . . Everything is good for us which falls outside legality.'15

Moreover, the murder of the Tsar Alexander II on 1 March 1881 by a group called the People's Will (Narodnaya Volya) gave an enormous impetus to the idea of revolution by assassination, and raised hopes that the self-immolating gesture of the young terrorists would have an instantaneous moral effect. Kropotkin wrote after the execution of Sophie Perovskaya, one of the five who were hanged for their part in the murder:

By the attitude of the crowd she understood that she had dealt a mortal blow to the autocracy. And she read in the sad looks which were directed sympathetically towards her, that by her death she was dealing an even more terrible blow from which the autocracy will never recover.16

In 1881 a number of leading revolutionaries, including Kropotkin and Malatesta, met in London and asserted their faith in the policy that illegality alone would lead to revolution, while many of them, in spite of Kropotkin's own scepticism -- he was too good a professional scientist to have much faith in amateurs -- called for the study of the technical sciences such as chemistry, to make bombs which could be used for 'offensive and defensive purposes'. Those anarchists who had not, like Costa, gone over to [110] the idea of legal political action were now committed to the tactics of 'propaganda by the deed' in its most extreme form. It is from anarchist actions over the next twenty years that the traditional picture of the anarchist is derived -- a slinking figure with his hat pulled over his eyes and a smoking bomb in his pocket. It is a picture to which many writers contributed, so that anarchists make an unlikely appearance even in the pages of Henry James (in The Princess Casamassima) as well as in the classic description of the relations between anarchists and police in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.17

During this period the anarchist movement existed on two levels. The leaders -- such as Kropotkin, Malatesta, Elie and Elisee Reclus -- produced articles and philosophical works, held congresses and discussed methods of social organization or the problems of ownership in a future society. At the same time, all over Europe and America small groups were set up, without offices or secretaries or club rooms, often consisting of only two or three people, determined to demonstrate their contempt for society by an act of ultimate defiance. Thus it is often hard to distinguish the devoted anarchist militant, moved by a deep passion for justice, from the psychopath whose shadowy voices prompt him to take his private revenge on society by means of actions of which the anarchists had given him the example. Inevitably, prominent anarchists were suspected of inspiring outrages of which they knew nothing; and both Kropotkin and Malatesta suffered in this way. Often police agents provocateurs deliberately formed 'anarchist' groups to trap unwary anarchists; the French police even ran an anarchist newspaper for a time and sent a representative to the London meeting in 1881. The Italian government kept two agents in Paris in the early 1900s, known as Dante and Virgil, who 'possessed a far from superficial revolutionary culture' and who reported to their shocked and fascinated superiors lurid details of anarchist orgies devoted to the practice of free love, and anarchist plots improbably centred on the villa at Neuilly of the ex-queen of Naples, Maria Sofia.18 It is often impossible to tell whether some anarchist groups, like the famous Mano Negra in Andalusia, ever existed at all outside the imagination of the police, while some of the terrorist acts of the 1880s and 1890s have been attributed to policemen wanting to make arrests rather than to anarchist militants. [111]

Terrorism is infectious; and it is striking how frequently attacks on prominent people took place in the years between 1880 and 1914. Some of these attacks were, of course, not anarchist at all, even if the technique was borrowed from the anarchists, but served different political purposes -- the assassination of the Tsar Alexander II in 1881 or of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914 are examples. Yet the murder of President Sadi Carnot of France and of President William McKinley of the United States, the assassinations of the empress of Austria, the king of Italy and the Prime Minister of Spain, as well as the numerous unsuccessful attempts on other sovereigns, princes and statesmen - all these were in one way or another the result of the anarchist belief in the immediate, apocalyptic value of an act of self-immolation which would also remove the symbol of the existing social order. The attempt to murder a king or a minister at least had a direct practical significance; with the removal of a person of this kind, it could be argued, the state might start to wither away. Even so, such acts were often misplaced. When, for example, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria was stabbed by a young Italian as she walked up the gangway on to a steamer on the Lake of Geneva, the assassin paid no attention to the fact that his victim had lived apart from her husband for years and that her one aim was somehow to escape from her royal destiny into private life. Sometimes, too, the courage of the monarch equalled that of the assassin and increased his own popularity, as when King Umberto I remarked that episodes of this kind were 'professional risks', and commuted the death penalty on his assailant and arranged a pension for his mother.

Very often anarchist acts of violence were acts of symbolic revenge against the state for the execution of a comrade. Thus, for example, in Spain in 1892 a young anarchist, Pallas, threw a bomb at General Martinez Campos, in revenge for the execution of four anarchists who had taken part in a rising at Jerez the previous year. And, in turn, Pallas's friend Santiago Salvador took revenge on society with an act of frightening impersonality, when he threw a bomb into a theatre in Madrid, killing twenty men and women. Again, shortly afterwards a bomb was dropped from a window on a Corpus Christi procession, wounding only humble people and thus giving rise to suspicions that it had been dropped [112] by the police themselves, who at once used the excuse to imprison, execute and torture many anarchists and even liberals. An Italian anarchist, Angiolillo, who was in London when he heard the news, was so upset that he at once went to Spain and murdered Canovas del Castillo, the Prime Minister.

Attacks were not only directed at the heads of states and their executives or used as symbolic acts of vengeance. Other outrages were committed against institutions which seemed to symbolize the false values of bourgeois society. When, for example, in 1882 there was a bomb thrown in the early hours of the morning in a notoriously louche music hall in Lyons, there were some people, including the police, who regarded this as the direct fulfilment of an article in an anarchist paper some months earlier which said: 'You can see there, especially after midnight, the fine flower of the bourgeoisie and of commerce. . . . The first act of the social revolution must be to destroy this den.'19 A young anarchist called Cyvogt was later arrested and condemned to imprisonment, though it was by no means certain that he was guilty, and he was long regarded as an innocent martyr in the anarchist cause. At the same time a number of well-known anarchists were rounded up and imprisoned, including Kropotkin. He was in France at the time and the government believed that he had inspired strikes which had led to a riot in the mining district of Montceau; as a result he served three years in prison.

Two other incidents in France were typical of anarchist attacks on the institutions of bourgeois government and society. In 1886 Charles Gallo threw a bottle of vitriol from one of the galleries of the Paris stock exchange into the midst of the brokers and their clerks; he followed this up with three random revolver shots which did not hit anybody. At his trial -- where he insisted on addressing the judge as Citizen President -- he shouted 'Long live revolution! Long live anarchism! Death to the bourgeois judiciary! Long live dynamite! Bunch of idiots!'20 Gallo was, in fact, very characteristic of one type of young terrorist, on the borderline of insanity, half delinquent, half fanatic. He was an illegitimate child, abandoned by his mother. He was not unintelligent and had managed to get some sort of education. At the age of twenty he was imprisoned for forging money and in prison apparently discovered anarchist ideas, which he determined to put into [113] practice on his release. Certainly at his trial, after his attack on the Bourse, when he was sentenced to twenty years' hard labour, he remained impenitent and regretted that he had not succeeded in killing anyone. He gave the jury an hour and a half lecture on anarchist theory and said specifically that he had intended to carry out 'an act of propaganda by the deed for anarchist doctrine'.21

The most famous of these attacks on the institutions of the bourgeois state was that on the Chamber of Deputies in Paris in 1893. Auguste Vaillant -- again a man who had been abandoned by his parents as a child -- had worked at a number of jobs and had become a member of various small revolutionary groups. He spent a couple of years in the Argentine as restlessly and unsatisfactorily as in France. On his return to France he seems, however, to have made an effort to support himself, his daughter and the girl with whom he was now living; but, according to his own account, it was the difficulty of doing this that finally spurred him to revolutionary action. He raised enough money from an anarchist burglar to rent a room in which to make a bomb, and determined to kill himself in a last gesture that would, he said, be 'the cry of a whole class which demands its rights and will soon join acts to words'.22 He prepared a powerful bomb which was designed to scattered a large number of projectiles, and at four o'clock on the afternoon of 9 December 1893 hurled it from one of the balconies of the Chamber of Deputies. There was a loud explosion. As the smoke cleared and revealed a scene of blood and broken glass, the President of the session, M. Dupuy, made himself famous by announcing loudly: 'La seance continue.' Although no one had been killed, Vaillant was condemned to death and, in spite of a moving appeal by his daughter, he was executed, exclaiming at the last minute: 'Vive l'anarchie! My death will be avenged.'

The prophecy appeared to be a true one: on 24 June 1894, Sadi Carnot, the President of the Republic, who had refused to exercise his prerogative of mercy in favour of Vaillant, was stabbed to death while on a visit to Lyons. The assassin was a twenty-one-year-old Italian, Santo Jeronimo Caserio, who had been expelled from Italy because of his anarchist ideas, which he proceeded to carry to a logical conclusion when the opportunity arose. He [114] seems to have been inspired by a desire to carry out a spectacular act of propaganda by the deed rather than by the direct intention of avenging Vaillant. The murder of President Sadi Carnot was the climax of a series of terrorist actions by the French anarchists, which finally obliged the police to take serious measures against everyone suspected of anarchist views. Houses were searched, papers and periodicals were suspended, and known anarchist agitators were liable to be visited by the police several times a day. Moreover, the police attempted to accuse the anarchist theorists and journalists of common crimes of theft and assault. In one of the most famous trials of the decade, in August 1894, thirty people were accused of forming a criminal association. They included prominent anarchist journalists such as Sebastien Faure and Jean Grave, the editor of Le Revolte, which had succeeded Kropotkin's La Revolte as the main organ of serious anarchist discussion, along with ordinary burglars. Some of the accused, for example Emile Pouget, the editor of the tough, slangy anarchist paper Le Pere Peinard, and Paul Reclus, the nephew of Elisee, fled abroad; the rest were acquitted, since it was quite impossible to make the charge of conspiracy stick. The trial included the appearance of Stephane Mallarme in the witness box to give evidence for one of the accused, the writer and critic Felix Feneon. In fact, the Proces des Trente serves to illustrate the peculiar mixture of politics and bohemian revolt, ordinary crime and idealistic action, which is characteristic of Parisian anarchism in the 1880s and 1890s.

It was indeed the true anarchist crimes, often apparently pointless, which contributed most to the formation of the conventional picture of the anarchist, bomb in pocket and dagger in hand. Some criminals claimed that they were anarchists who were simply redressing the wrongs of society. When, for example, Clement Duval was arrested in 1886 for burglary, he attacked the policeman and is said to have defended his action with the words: 'The policeman arrested me in the name of the law; I hit him in the name of liberty.' At his trial (which made the reputation of his young defending counsel, Labori, who was later to be Dreyfus's lawyer) he persisted in maintaining that his crimes were committed simply in order to obtain a redistribution of wealth: 'When society refuses you the right to existence, you must take it.' [115] Finally, he was led out of the court, crying, 'Long live anarchy! Long live the social revolution! Ah, if ever I am freed, I will blow you all up!'23 In fact, he did not carry out his threat; although sentenced to death, he was pardoned by President Grevy and in 1901 escaped from prison, ending his life in New York, where he died in 1935, admired by the Italian anarchist colony there.

Two other individual criminals in the Paris of the 1890s became legendary and controversial figures in the anarchist movement. On 11 July 1892 Francois-Claudius Ravachol was exected after being convicted of a strange series of brutal murders for petty theft and pointless large-scale bomb outrages. Ravachol is a difficult figure to assess and remains as puzzling to us as he was to his contemporaries.24 It was only after his execution that anarchists accepted him, and even then with some reserve, as one of themselves. The nature of his crimes, and an initial suspicion that he was a common crook turned police informer, meant that it was only after his death that he acquired a reputation as an anarchist martyr in whose honour ballads were written and who gave his name to a verb -- ravacholiser: to blow up.

Ravachol was born in 1859 near Saint-Etienne; the name was his mother's, as he had been abandoned by his father as a child. He was good to his younger sister and brother, and indeed seems always to have been polite, amiable and apparently respectable, although, it is said, vain to the extent of putting a touch of rouge on his cheeks to relieve their sallowness. He worked at various jobs in the Saint-Etienne area and became an anarchist, having lost his belief in God after reading a novel by Eugene Sue. It was at this time that he committed a number of mean and violent crimes - the murder of an aged rag merchant, the murder of a very old hermit, whose savings he stole, the pillaging of the grave of a dead countess, the murder of two old maids who kept an ironmongery shop. Subsequently, Ravachol only admitted violating the tomb and murdering the hermit, and alleged that he had only done these acts in order to raise money for the anarchist cause. He was arrested, but succeeded in escaping and went to Paris under an assumed name. Here he began seriously planning some truly anarchist acts of 'propaganda by the deed'. He took lodgings in Saint-Denis, recruited a devoted young assistant, 'Simon called Biscuit', and began to acquire the tools and materials for making [116] bombs. (Articles on chemistry in the home were a common feature in the anarchist periodicals of the day.) His aim, he claimed later, was to perform a spectacular act of vengeance against certain judges who had sentenced workers for their part in the May Day demonstrations in 1891. In fact, although he succeeded in doing considerable damage to the apartment blocks where the judges lived, in the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the rue de Clichy, in both cases the bomb was placed outside the wrong door, and the only result was to damage the buildings without killing any of the inhabitants. By this time the police had - on the information, it is thought, of Ravachol's landlord - linked up the author of the murders in the Saint-Etienne area with the perpetrator of the explosion in the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and when the building in the rue de Clichy was attacked they were actively looking for him.

Ravachol, after placing his bomb in the building in the rue de Clichy, went off to lunch at a small restaurant -- the Restaurant Very -- where he tried vainly to convert the waiter to his anarchist ideas. However, he seemed to like the restaurant sufficiently to return there a day or two later, and by this time the waiter was able to connect his anarchist talk and his references to the recent explosion with the description of Ravachol which the police had now published. Ravachol was arrested in the restaurant. On the day after his trial opened the Restaurant Very was destroyed by a bomb and its proprietor killed (giving, so the anarchists claimed, a new meaning to the word 'verification'), although the waiter had the good luck to escape and was rewarded for his part in Ravachol's arrest by a minor post in the police. The author of the explosion was never discovered, but it sufficed to surround Ravachol's trial with an atmosphere of vengeance and terror. The jury, for whatever reason, found him guilty of the bomb explosions, but with extenuating circumstances, and he was not condemned to death. This was left to the court at Montbrison, which tried him for his earlier murders. By this time Ravachol's impassive bearing, his frank admission of responsibility and the cry of Vive I'anarchie! with which he had received the Paris verdict had overcome the hesitations which many anarchists had earlier felt about him, and this impression was confirmed by his behaviour at his execution, when he went bravely and impenitently to his [117] death, singing a ribald song against the proprietors he had attacked and the church whose ministrations he had just refused. And, after his death, the mounting series of explosions in Paris was celebrated in anarchist circles to the refrain:

Dansons la Ravachole!
Vive le son, vive le son,
Dansons la Ravachole,
Vive le son De I''explosion!
Ravachol was at once proclaimed a martyr by the anarchists and their sympathizers, and the symbolist writer Paul Adam declared, 'In this time of cynicism and irony, a saint has been born to us.'26 Although Ravachol's anarchist beliefs and connections seem to have been genuine enough, his character remains obscure, and we are left wondering what desire to impose himself on society led him to so strange, if consistent, a course.

One other of the terrorists who were responsible for the epidemic of explosions in France between 1892 and 1894 -- eleven major explosions in Paris, as well as the assassination of President Carnot in Lyons -- provides an even more frightening, because more logical and intellectual, example of the anarchist temperament. This was Emile Henry, a younger man than Ravachol, and from a bourgeois and educated background. He was born in 1872 in Spain, the son of one of the men exiled for his part in the Commune; he returned to Paris when his father was amnestied, and was a brilliant pupil at school. However, after passing successfully into the Ecole Polytechnique, he became intellectually convinced of the truth of anarchist doctrine, gave up his studies and the prospect of an assured and successful career, and plunged into anarchist propaganda by the deed. He seems to have had some associates, though they were never discovered, and certainly some years later there were people in Paris who boasted they had been his friends, such as a young poet whom Oscar Wilde met in 1898.27 Emile Henry's first terrorist attack -- with a bomb made by himself -- was on the Paris offices of the Societe des Mines de Carmaux, a company which had recently suppressed a strike in its coalfields with considerable brutality. In the event the bomb was discovered by the police, who carried it back to their police [118] station, where it exploded and killed five of them. Henry was not caught. A little more than a year later he committed a crime which shocked everyone, including a large number of anarchists themselves. On the evening of 12 February 1894 -- one week after the execution of Vaillant for his attack on the Chamber of Deputies -- Henry deposited a bomb in the Cafe Terminus near the Gare Saint-Lazare at a time when a large crowd of modest Parisian shopkeepers, clerks and even workers were quietly drinking and listening to the band. The bomb caused a great deal of damage; twenty people were wounded, one of whom subsequently died. Henry was arrested after a short chase.

Emile Henry's behaviour at his trial and before his execution showed him to be an intellectual to the end. His actions were inspired by a cold logic and a controlled, fanatical hatred of existing society. When reproached with killing innocent people, he simply replied: Il n'y a pas d'innocents'.28 When faced with the death penalty, he accepted it, saying: 'We inflict death; we will know how to endure it.' He refused to accept the help of a family doctor, who tried to give evidence that his mind was deranged as a result of illness in childhood. In prison he had long conversations with the governor, for whom he wrote a lucid essay setting forth anarchist philosophy. And in the dock he propounded what is in some ways the clearest and most uncompromising statement of the terrorist position:

I was convinced that the existing organization was bad; I wanted to struggle against it so as to hasten its disappearance. I brought to the struggle a profound hatred, intensified every day by the revolting spectacle of society where all is base, all is cowardly, where everything is a barrier to the development of human passions, to the generous tendencies of the heart, to the free flight of thought. ... I wanted to show the bourgeoisie that their pleasures would no longer be complete, that their insolent triumphs would be disturbed, that their golden calf would tremble violently on its pedestal, until the final shock would cast it down in mud and blood.
The bomb in the Cafe Terminus was a reply to all the injustices inflicted by bourgeois society. Anarchists have no respect for [119] human life, because the bourgeois do not respect it. Anarchists, Henry said,
do not spare bourgeois women and children, because the wives and children of those they love are not spared either. Are not those children innocent victims who, in the slums, die slowly of anaemia because bread is scarce at home: or those women who grow pale in your workshops and wear themselves out to earn forty sous a day, and yet are lucky when poverty does not turn them into prostitutes; those old people whom you have turned into machines for production all their lives, and whom you cast on to the garbage dump and the workhouse when their strength is exhausted? At least have the courage of your crimes, gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, and agree that our reprisals are fully legitimate!
Finally, Emile Henry explicitly linked his acts with the international anarchist movement:
You have hung men in Chicago, cut off their heads in Germany, strangled them in Jerez, shot them in Barcelona, guillotined them in Montbrison and Paris, but what you will never destroy is anarchism. Its roots are too deep: it is born at the heart of a corrupt society which is falling to pieces; it is a violent reaction against the established order. It represents egalitarian and libertarian aspirations which are battering down existing authority; it is everywhere, which makes it impossible to capture. It will end by killing you.29


The anarchist movement in the 1880s and 1890s was genuinely international, and the various acts of propaganda by the deed, whether of individual protest against society as a whole or directed against monarchs and political leaders, symbolized a deep sense of uneasiness and of revolt against industrial society. Conditions in many industries both in Europe and America produced a feeling of real class warfare. Outbreaks of violence took place that were more spontaneous and direct than the calculated [120] acts of the assassins or the bomb throwers. The miners of Montceau-les-Mines who murdered an unpopular overseer, the demonstrators at Fourmies in northern France who were shot down on May Day 1891, the strikers in the Rio Tinto mines in Spain or the peasants in Sicily or Andalusia whose risings were suppressed by the army, all provided martyrs whom the anarchists claimed as their own. Wherever the situation seemed desperate, the landlords or employers particularly harsh and grasping and the conditions of work intolerable, anarchist ideas found some sympathy and easily served as a spur to action. The studied protests of the individual terrorists seemed to be the symbols of mass discontent and latent revolutionary passion.

Such situations were not only to be found in Europe. Anarchists from Europe brought anarchist ideas to the United States and, for a short time at least, influenced the development of the labour movement there. The most famous apostle of anarchism in the U.S.A. was a German, Johann Most, who arrived there in 1882. Most was born at Augsburg in Bavaria, the illegitimate son of an impoverished clerk and a governess.30 He was brought up by a stepmother whom he hated, and at the age of thirteen he had an operation on his face which left him badly disfigured -- though later he was partly able to cover it with a thick beard. He was apprenticed as a bookbinder and in the 1860s was in Switzerland, where he joined the International. After ten years or so of socialist agitation in Germany and Austria, during which he was briefly a member of the German Reichstag, he left for London in 1878, after a period of imprisonment for speaking and writing against the Kaiser and the clergy. During the next few years he broke with the German socialists and abandoned all belief in the possibility of effective political action. He was expelled from the German social democratic party, who, over the next twenty years, assiduously expelled anyone tainted with anarchist heresy. Most was influenced by Bakunin's ideas, especially through some of Bakunin's Belgian followers and also by Auguste Blanqui, the veteran French revolutionary, for whom the act of revolution was almost an end in itself. In London, Most founded a paper, Freiheit, and used this to preach the doctrine of direct action. In 1881 he was sent to prison for sixteen months because of an article approving the murder of the Tsar Alexander II. His paper was by now [121] suspected of fomenting assassinations of all kinds, and when Lord Frederick Cavendish was murdered in Dublin by Irish nationalists who had nothing to do with the anarchist movement and of whose aims Most would have thoroughly disapproved, Freiheit was again raided and two of its printers arrested. When Most himself came out of prison he decided that further activity in London was impossible, and in December 1882 he sailed for America.

In Germany itself Most had little influence, though there were some scattered anarchist groups which had had contact with the followers of Bakunin and Guillaume in the Jura. Attempts to form a broader organization collapsed, largely because of sectarian differences among the tiny groups, but there were one or two attempts at propaganda by the deed. It is not always easy to determine which of these were specifically the work of anarchists, since neither the police nor the public ever really distinguished between anarchists and socialists. Moreover, Nobiling and Hoedel, the authors of the two attempts on the life of the Kaiser in 1878 which gave Bismarck the excuse for curbing the activities of the Social Democratic Party, had each been in touch with both anarchists and socialists, though neither of them seem to have been regular members of any specific group.31

One clearly anarchist attempt at a spectacular act of propaganda by the deed ended in pathetic failure. A young man called August Reinsdorf planned to blow up the National Memorial at Rudesheim on the Rhine on the occasion of its opening in the presence of the Kaiser and the German princes. Unfortunately for Reinsdorf, he hurt his foot shortly before the ceremony, and had to entrust the operation to two of his associates, who forgot to buy a waterproof fuse for the bomb. As it poured with rain the night before the attempt, the bomb, not surprisingly, failed to go off. However, a few weeks later there was an explosion in the main police station at Frankfurt, and the Police President, Rumpf -- who may indeed have arranged the explosion himself -- succeeded, in his subsequent investigations, in discovering, through the indiscretion of Reinsdorf's friends, the story of the abortive plot to blow up the Kaiser and princes. In December 1884 Reinsdorf was arrested and condemned to death. On the night before his execution he wrote a touching letter to his younger brother [122] exhorting him to look after his parents and prescribing a characteristically anarchist standard of puritan morality:

Always look at life from the serious side, as if it has been given you so as to be of use to humanity and to fulfil holy obligations. Take part as little as possible in the stupid pleasures which unfortunately still preoccupy poor workers, but rather educate your mind in all directions so that nothing is strange to you.32
On the next morning he was executed, going to his death with the ritual formula 'Down with barbarism! Long live Anarchy!'33

It looked as though Reinsdorf had already had his revenge, for shortly before he was executed Police President Rumpf was murdered. A young anarchist who had recently arrived from Switzerland was accused and charged with the murder, though the evidence against him was slight and he swore he was innocent. When the state prosecutor asked for the death penalty, the young man shouted, in true anarchist style: 'You will not ask for another death sentence.' In this case, there was no need for another act of anarchist vengeance, as the prosecutor shortly afterwards went mad. However, these were isolated acts, and anarchist ideas in Germany soon virtually vanished, except among a few bohemian intellectuals such as the Bavarian writer, Gustav Landauer, and a few dissident social democrats who were expelled from the socialist party for advocating direct revolutionary action.

In America, on the other hand, Most found more fruitful ground for his agitation than he had in Germany or England. When he arrived, there had recently been strikes all over the country, and the movement in favour of an eight-hour working day was well under way. Many of the recent immigrants, especially the Russians and Italians, had brought their anarchist ideas with them and kept up contacts with anarchists at home. (It was a group of Italian anarchists in Paterson, New Jersey, who planned and executed the assassination of KingUmberto I in 1900.) In the tough world of expanding American capitalism an industrial dispute could easily turn into a real war between workers and employers, as when, for example, strikers at the Carnegie Corporation's steel mills at Homestead, Pennsylvania, engaged in a pitched battle with the Pinkerton men hired by the employers to break the strike. Most himself started up Freiheit as a German-language [123] anarchist paper, and there were soon Italian and Spanish anarchist journals to propagate the ideas and methods of the anarchist social revolution, as well as anarchist periodicals in French, Czech and Yiddish. Indeed, during these years the anarchist movement in the U.S.A. was almost entirely a foreign one; and it was in German, Russian, Italian or Yiddish that the famous agitators made their speeches. The violence of this propaganda and the explicit incitement contained in pamphlets like Most's own Science of Revolutionary Warfare ('a manual of instruction in the use and preparation of Nitro-glycerine, Dynamite, Gun-cotton, Fulminating Mercury, Bombs, Fuses, Poisons, etc.')34 all contributed to the anarchists' being held responsible for any violent disturbances. Anarchist demonstrations, complete with the black flag which was by now the official anarchist emblem, might well be suspected of leading to something worse, when anarchist papers were publishing exhortations like the following:

Dynamite! Of all the good stuff, that is the stuff. Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe. . . plug up both ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the vicinity of a lot of rich loafers who live by the sweat of other peoples' brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow.... A pound of this good stuff beats a bushel of ballots hollow -- and don't you forget it!35

It was in this atmosphere that one of the most famous incidents in the history of American anarchism occurred. The situation in 1886 in Chicago was tense: the city was a centre of agitation in favour of the eight-hour day; there was an active group of anarchists, mostly of German origin; and there had been repeated clashes between strikers and blacklegs at the McCormick harvester works. It was in Chicago that May Day was first celebrated as a day of working-class demonstrations and, although 1 May 1886 had passed off quietly, two days later the police fired shots during a clash at the McCormick works. As a result, the local German anarchist paper, the Arbeiterzeitung, published a leading article by the editor, August Spies, headed, 'Revenge! Working men! To Arms!' At the same time plans were made for a protest meeting at the Haymarket, a large open space in the city, at which, so the handbill announced, 'Good speakers will be present to denounce [124] the latest atrocious act of the police, the shooting of our fellow workmen yesterday afternoon'.36

The meeting passed off peacefully enough, and towards the end a heavy storm drove many of the crowd away. At this point the police ordered the closing of the meeting, in the middle of a speech by Samuel Fielden, one of the leaders of the demonstration. Fielden objected and said that the meeting was a perfectly orderly one. The police lieutenant insisted, and at that moment a bomb was thrown into the crowd. A policeman was killed and several others wounded, and the police opened fire: in the confusion which followed more policemen and demonstrators were killed or wounded. The responsibility for the original bomb has never been wholly cleared up; as so often in episodes of this kind, there have been suggestions that it was an act of provocation by the police themselves.

The city was soon in a panic as violent as any produced by later 'red scares' in the United States. As a contemporary journalist put it: 'Good men forgot reason and clamoured for revenge.'37 The police decided to arrest nine prominent anarchist agitators and journalists. Of these two could not be found; one of them, Schnaubelt, who may indeed possibly have thrown the bomb, disappeared; another, Albert Parsons, later surrendered so as to share the fate of his comrades. Eight men appeared in the dock charged with murdering the policeman, and after a trial which accurately reflected the popular mood of alarm and vengefulness rather than impartial justice, four were sentenced to death and the remainder to long terms of imprisonment. One of them, Lingg, was, in fact, a true terrorist who had manufactured bombs, but there was no evidence that he had any connection with the Haymarket bomb. The evidence against the rest was even more slender. They challenged the court's competence and used a second trial as an opportunity to make defiant and unrepentantly anarchist speeches. Parsons spoke for eight hours and Fielden for three, while Schwab called for 'a state of society in which all human beings do right for the simple reason that it is right and hate wrong because it is wrong'.38 Lingg expressed contempt for 'your "order", your laws, your force-propped authority'.39

In spite of appeals to the higher courts and petitions for mercy -including one signed by eminent writers, among them Bernard [125] Shaw and Oscar Wilde -- four of the accused were executed, testifying to their anarchist beliefs and deliberately claiming martyrdom: one of them especially, August Spies, became famous for his dramatic words from the scaffold: 'There will come a time when our silence in the grave will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.'40 As a result of these events, John Most was arrested, after addressing a meeting of sympathy in New York. For the rest of his life he was in and out of prison, struggling to keep his paper Freiheit going and becoming involved in controversies with other anarchists, both American and foreign. Some of these were extremely bitter; and on one occasion the tempestuous and intrepid Emma Goldman tried to horsewhip him at a meeting. Until his death in 1906, Most remained an unremitting and dedicated propagandist, whose subversive message seemed wholly at odds with his industrious 'petit-bourgeois' nature, at once affectionate and crabbed, generous and suspicious.

The Chicago trial fired the imagination of many young revolutionaries and reformers. The young Russian Jewess, Emma Goldman, who had already experienced the harshness of American working-class life, threw herself passionately into anarchist agitation and embarked on what was to be, both personally and politically, a long and turbulent career.41 Her friend, another Russian, Alexander Berkman, was so moved by the Carnegie Corporation's lock-out at their works at Homestead, Pennsylvania, that he resolved to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the Chairman of the Board. Accordingly, he, Emma Goldman and a young anarchist painter, who all lived as a menage a trois running an ice-cream parlour in Worcester, Massachusetts, planned the murder; and, leaving Emma to raise funds in New York by any possible means, including an unsuccessful attempt at prostitution, Berkman set off on his mission. He succeeded in being shown into Frick's office, but failed to do more than wound him. He was arrested and sentenced to twenty-two years' imprisonment. Emma Goldman worked hard to arouse support for a campaign in favour of a remission of his sentence, but Berkman was not released till 1906.

In the meantime, in 1901 President William McKinley was assassinated at Buffalo by a young man of Polish origin called [126] Czolgosz. Czolgosz was probably not a member of any regular anarchist organization and seems to have acted on his own, prompted only by his inner sense of persecution and injustice. However, he had been to a lecture by Emma Goldman, and she at once started a vigorous speaking tour on his behalf, although she did not know him and declared that she did not approve of murdering the President. Czolgosz was executed, and Emma Goldman was arrested, as was Most, in spite of the fact that he had long declared himself against individual terrorism, and although his lack of sympathy with Berkman nine years earlier contributed to his breach with Emma Goldman, once a devoted disciple who had previously been, according to her own account, on the point of becoming his mistress.

The assassination of President McKinley convinced the authorities that there was a real anarchist peril. Theodore Roosevelt, the new President, denounced it in his message to Congress in December 1901 and Congress passed a law excluding from the U.S.A. any person 'who disbelieves in or is opposed to all organized governments'. The fear of anarchism remained alive into the 1920s, as the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti showed; but, although active anarchist groups continued to flourish among foreign immigrants, and although a number of intellectuals fell under the spell of anarchist doctrines or of Emma Goldman's personality, in fact individual acts of terrorism were largely abandoned, and it was in direct industrial action that the anarchist spirit remained an important influence in the United States for a few years longer.

In general, however, the experience of two decades of 'propaganda by the deed' forced all anarchists in Europe and America to think again about their methods and aims. In spite of the temporary reaction after the Commune, and in spite of the recurrent crises of the capitalist economy, by the end of the nineteenth century the legal and constitutional machinery for obtaining social reform and economic improvement was more efficient than it had been at any time since the industrial revolution. In the more advanced countries, therefore, it seemed more sensible to join a political party or a trade union and to agitate legally for piecemeal reforms rather than to make the apocalyptic gestures of the anarchists. Indeed, it was only in countries where, as in Spain, the [127] possibility of open working-class political activity scarcely existed that the direct violence of the anarchists still had a wide appeal. Moreover, propaganda by the deed could easily become better propaganda against than for anarchist ideas. As Octave Mirbeau, one of the French writers of the 1890s who was highly sympathetic to anarchism, wrote at the time of Emile Henry's trial:

A mortal enemy of anarchism could not have done better than Emile Henry when he hurled his inexplicable bomb in the midst of peaceful anonymous people who had come into a cafe to drink a beer before going to bed. . . . Emile Henry says, affirms, claims that he is an anarchist. It is possible. But anarchism has a broad back, like paper it endures anything. Today it is a fashion for criminals to claim a connection with it when they have perpetrated a good crime. . . . Each party has its criminals and its lunatics because each party has its human beings.42
Not all of the anarchist intellectuals were as uncompromising in condemning terrorism, but all of them were conscious of the dilemma it posed. John Most saw all criminal acts as the inevitable result of existing society. 'I recognize a "wild" anarchist in every criminal, whether he is otherwise sympathetic to me or not, because a man of this kind, even when he acts on his own for personal advantage, is simply a product of his age.'43 Elisee Reclus, the eminent geographer and a man of real scientific ability, who brought to his anarchist beliefs the conscientious scruples of his Huguenot background, suspended judgement:
If an isolated individual filled with rage takes his revenge on a society which brought him up badly, fed him badly, advised him badly, what can I say? It is the result of terrible forces, the consequences of deep passions, the eruption of justice in its primitive phases. To take sides against the unfortunate man, and so justify, however indirectly, the system of humiliation and oppression that weighs on him and millions of his fellow men -- never!44
It was an attitude that annoyed Jean Grave, the editor of La Revolte, whose belief in himself as the repository of true anarchist ideals and doctrine won him the nickname of 'the Pope of the rue Mouffetard'. He once wrote of Reclus: [128]
As far as his tolerance and goodness are concerned, I must admit that they have more than once got on my nerves and have often brought us into conflict with each other over propaganda questions. . . . Have idiots or knaves the right to destroy the ideas we defend?. . . We often quarrelled, especially over theft. 'Thieves,' he once wrote to me, 'we are all thieves and I myself among the chief thieves, as I work for a publisher to try and earn ten or twenty times the wages of an honest man. Everything is robbery.'45

Still, terrorism has made its effect; and as a technique for drawing attention to a cause it is still familiar. Even if terrorism made enemies for the anarchists, it aroused profound and intense fears in respectable breasts. The very fact that all the terrorist acts, whatever their motive or aim, were committed by individuals or by very small groups tended to make detection and police precautions very difficult. The French police, according to M. Maitron's researches which have illuminated the French anarchist movement at the end of the century so vividly, reckoned that there were in France about 1,000 active anarchist militants and 4,500 sympathizers who regularly read anarchist papers, but that there were also 100,000 people who were vaguely anarchist in sympathy and up to a point prepared passively to support their aims. In the absence, however, of any regular organization, it was hard to control the movement, especially as the terrorist acts were often not the work of known militants, and the perpetrators were therefore all the harder to catch. In the circumstances, the well-known leaders of anarchist thought -- Kropotkin, Malatesta, Elisee Reclus or John Most, for instance -- were inevitably regarded as responsible, even though nothing could be proved against them. Never has the gap between theory and practice seemed wider than that between mild, scholarly and thoughtful men like Kropotkin, living quietly in Harrow or Bromley or Brighton, lecturing to the Royal Geographical Society and entertaining William Morris and G. F. Watts, [Even Stepniak, a professed technician of revolution, specializing in manuals on guerrilla warfare and home-made explosives, used to entertain girls from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, to tea.] and those who, like Ravachol or Emile Henry, defied society with acts of blind and brutal terrorism. [129]

It was during the years when 'propaganda by the deed' was making anarchism notorious as a creed of revolutionary action that the thinkers of the movement were trying, not wholly successfully, to turn it into a respectable political philosophy. The trouble was that those who were excited by the sensational violence of the assassins and bombers were likely to find Kropotkin's views somewhat tame, while those who were attracted by the high-minded optimism of anarchist theory were the people who were-most apt to be shocked and outraged by the indiscriminate cruelty involved in propaganda by the deed, or, in fact, any other form of violent revolutionary action. It is typical of the gulf between anarchist theory and terrorist practice that when the enterprising editor of the tenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica invited Kropotkin to write the article on anarchism, it was the editor who felt obliged to append a footnote saying: 'It is important to remember that the term "Anarchist" is inevitably rather loosely used in public, in connection with the authors of a certain class of murderous outrage', and added a resume of 'the chief modern so-called "Anarchist" incidents', since Kropotkin had wholly omitted to mention them. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, serious attempts were being made to resolve the problems which had confronted the anarchist movement in the 1890s: how to combine a confident belief in rational cooperation and enlightened progress with faith in the purifying value of the revolutionary act, and how to convert an essentially undisciplined individualistic creed into an effective basis for practical action.


1 For the Lazzaretti, see E. J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (Manchester 1959).

2 Carlo Monticelli, A. Costa e l'Internazionale, quoted Armando Borghi, Errico Malatesta (Milan 1947), p. 48.

3 G. Woodcock, Anarchism (New York 1962), p. 344.

4 A. Costa, Bagliori di socialismo (Florence 1900), quoted R. Hostetter, The Italian Socialist Movement. I Origins (1860-1882) (Princeton, N.J., 1958).

5 See the discussion in Hostetter, op. cit., pp. 252-3.

6 Cessarelli to Cipriani, April 1881, quoted ibid., p. 377.

7 This account is mainly based on Dr Hostetter's researches, op. cit., pp. 381 ff; see also M. Nettlau, Errico Malatesta; la vida de un anarquista (Buenos Aires 1923), pp. 107-9.

8 A. Costa, Open letter from a group of Internationalists to G. Nicotera, January 1877, quoted Hostetter, op. cit., p. 376.

9 Borghi, op. cit., p. 63.

10 Emilio Covelli in La Plebe, 27 July 1879, quoted Hostetter, op. cit., p. 409.

11 A. Sergent and C. Harmel, Histoire de l'anarchie (Paris 1949), p. 443.

12 For Kropotkin's life, see G. Woodcock and I. Avakumovic, The Anarchist Prince (London 1950); also Kropotkin's own Memoirs of a Revolutionist.

13 F. Venturi, Il populismo russo (Turin 1952), vol. II, p. 790.

14 Kropotkin gives a dramatic account in his own Memoirs; also Woodcock and Avakumovic, who have assembled further details, op. cit., pp. 140-4.

15 Le Revolte, December 18 80, quoted Jean Maitron, Histoire du mouvement anarchiste en France (1880-1914) (Paris 1951), p. 70. A fuller revised edition of this important work appeared in two volumes in 1975.

16 Woodcock and Avakumovic, op. cit., p. 343.

17 James's knowledge was derived from a fait divers in the newspaper; see Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (New York 1953), pp. 65-96. Conrad probably knew both Kropotkin and Stepniak through their English friends Edward Garnett and his family; see Jocelyn Baines, Joseph Conrad (London 1959), pp. 370-1.

18 Gaetano Natale, Giolitti e gli Italiani (Milan 1949), pp. 467-70.

19 Le Droit Social, 12 March 1888, quoted Maitron, op. cit., p. 150.

20 Maitron, op. cit., p. 194.

21 ibid.

22 ibid., p. 213.

23 ibid., p. 169.

24 See Andre Salmon, La terreur noire (Paris 1959), pp. 141-256, a vivid, if over-imaginative account. See also Maitron, op. cit., pp. 195-212. The most recent account in English, based on a careful study of contemporary evidence is in J. C. Longoni, Four Patients of Dr Deibler (1970).

25 Maitron, op. cit., p. 205 n.

26 Quoted Eugenia W. Herbert, The Artist and Social Reform: France and Belgium 1885-1900 (New Haven 1961), p. 119.

27 The Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis (London 1962), p. 768.

28 Salmon, op. cit., p. 343.

29 Emile Henry's speech to the jury is printed in full in Maitron, op. cit., pp. 529-34.

30 For Most's life, see Rudolf Rocker, Johann Most (Berlin 1924).

31 ibid., p. 209.

32 Unpublished letter from August to Bruno Reinsdorf, 6 February 1885, in the possession of Mr Walter Reinsdorf.

33 See Andrew R. Carlson, Anarchism in Germany, vol. I: The Early Movement (Metuchen, N.J. 1972) and Ulrich Linse, Organisierter Anarchismus im Deutschen Kaiserreich von 1871 (Berlin 1969).

34 Henry David, History of the Haymarket Affair (New York 1936), p. 292.

35 ibid., pp. 121-2; Louis Adamic, Dynamite (London 1931), p. 47.

36 David, op. cit., p. 194.

37 ibid., p. 208.

38 Adamic, op. cit., p. 79.

39 David, op. cit., p. 339; Adamic, op. cit., p. 79.

40 David, op. cit., p. 463.

41 For Emma Goldman's life, see her own Living My Life (New York 1932), and Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise (Chicago 1961).

42 Le Journal, 19 February 1894, quoted Maitron, op. cit., p. 227.

43 Rocker, op. cit., p. 301.

44 M. Nettlau, Elisee Reclus; Anarchist und Gelehrter (Berlin 1928), p. 248.

45 ibid., p. 241.