Anarchism and Anti-Militarism on Trial

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(Paris Correspondence.)

I am almost inclined to think that it is a pleasure to be a revolutionist or an Anarchist in Paris. They have, so to speak, "good standing in society." Not, of course, the kind of standing the man has who pays his rent regularly, but as one who has bravely fought many battles, regardless of danger and wounds, and has therefore gained so great a respect that nobody dares to treat him like a beast, as the police and other authorities in the United States usually treat the Anarchists.

Last week I witnessed the court proceedings in the case of nine young Parisian Anarchists, who were indicted for having written and distributed amongst soldiers an anti-militaristic circular in which "violent language" was used.

I was sorry for the American citizen: I remembered very vividly how brutally those New York comrades were treated who were arrested last fall in connection with the Czolgosz meetings. There are, no doubt, many refined and sensitive Americans amongst the stupid multitude of "desirable citizens." If one of them had witnessed the proceedings in the Parisian court, he would have shed tears of regret that he was born in the "beloved free country."

The difference in the treatment of Anarchists in the American and the French courts is astounding—especially would the American judges and State attorneys find it so. In the American courts the Anarchist is an outcast, a criminal pure and simple. He is looked upon as a degenerate, whom society and government must get rid of at all costs.

In the Parisian court the Anarchist stands as a militant representative of a grand and noble idea. He is not at all a mere object, a soulless creature that has meekly to stand aside when the judges, jurors and lawyers indulge in their stale "law and order" trickery. He is the accused, but he is also the accuser.

During the two days of the trial the defendants remained the centre of interest. Freely and vigorously, without interruption from the bench, they gave voice to their deep hatred of militarism, branding it as wholesale slaughter and murder; they spoke in the most disdainful terms of the 'glory of the country,' of the famous grand marshals and generals of France. "Militarism is the bloodhound of capitalism, and we, as workingmen and Anarchists, are determined to energetically combat and finally destroy it. We laugh at your justice, your patriotism, your 'robe rouge.' (In France the judges and State attorneys wear red robes.) It's true you still have the power to send us to prison, but upon our return we shall begin the fight anew, till your wretched society, your rotten patriotism and militarism are destroyed." That was the refrain of the speeches the comrades delivered before the court. It harmonized with the contents of the circular that was the original cause of the arrests. The leaflet contained the following passage: "On the day when the revolutionists will get hold of the 'pillars of society,' they will shoot them without delay."

How the Garys, Goffs and Rosalskys of America would have jumped from their blood-stained seats, had they heard such language, publicly used before their own sacred dignity I No doubt they would have shouted: "Contempt of court! Off with the fellows to the darkest cell!"

How pale you look, messieurs. Is it really true that you and your kind are employed in the slaughter houses, wherein justice and humanity are murdered?

In Paris the Anarchists at the bar were respectfully listened to by the court, jury and audience. One comrade, momentarily excited, paused a few seconds; the president, judge and prosecuting attorney waited in silence until the speaker had recovered his composure.

After the defendants had spoken, the witnesses were called. Again a revolutionary anti-militarist demonstration! Charles Malato, the author of the article on Mateo Morral and his act, published in this issue of Mother Earth, Monore and two other comrades connected with the syndicalistic movement (whose names I cannot recollect), had very little to say, so far as the juristic point of view is concerned. But they had much to say about the righteousness and the revolutionary spirit of the anti-militarist movement. They, too, spoke like aggressive propagandists. No apology was made. It was not argued that the defendants were young, hot-headed and inexperienced, that they would grow more practical and sedate with age. I well remember the attitude of the "old comrades" of New York, on the occasion of the arrest of several young comrades, who had dared to express their opinion as to the motives that prompted Czolgosz to shoot McKinley.

The revolutions of France may have failed to bless mankind with the great, positive results one could have desired, but they have destroyed forever that unmoveable conservative spirit which means death to progress,—that attitude which maintains that the conditions of to-day will last forever.

The Frenchmen gained from their revolutions the knowledge and conviction that everything in society is changeable and is doomed to make place for a new life,— yes, that even the holiest mummies and institutions must fall.

The witnesses were followed by the prosecuting attorney, who spoke in the smooth manner of a comedian. His address, though cynical, was free from personal malice; it was the speech of the official, interested in the continuance of government and capitalism. Thus ran his argument: "You have to send these people to prison, because they are a danger to the government, to patriotism and exploitation, to the good things we, officials and bourgeois, draw our salaries and income from."

Our indicted comrades showed little awe for the importance of the prosecutor; they repeatedly interrupted his speech with ironical and satirical remarks,—again no case of contempt of court.

Gustave Herve and Urbain Gohier were the attorneys for the defense. Herve, editor of La Guerre Sociale (The Social War), is at present the foremost exponent of the anti-militarist movement in France. Urbain Gohier is well known as a distinguished writer and revolutionist.

After a two-hours' session the jury rendered their verdict—guilty. However, an exception was made in the case of Henriette Roussel, a comrade who is connected with the Universite Populaire. Brave Henriette protested energetically against this exception, on the grounds that she cherished the same opinions and had committed the same "crime" as the others. A beautiful example of "solidarity among criminals."

On the charge of having incited to disobedience and mutiny, the comrades received the following sentences: Goldsky, Ruff, and Molinier, three years prison and one hundred francs fine, each; L. Paris, two years and one hundred francs; Moucheboeuf, Josse, and Tafforeau, 15 months and one hundred francs, each; Picardat and Mahe, being very young, were sent to the reformatory.

It will be interesting to the readers to know that our comrades come under the category of political prisoners —something unknown in "free" America. They have the right to see visitors every day, read papers and books, exercise four hours daily; they receive good food, not to be compared with the slush served on Blackwell's Island.

Before being led away, the prisoners were given an opportunity to say something. Tafforeau remarked: "I have expected nothing else from the jury."

Mahi: "I did what I considered right!" Paris: "What else could one expect of them!" Molinier: "I am happy the jury used its power while it lasts; we shall profit; when we will have the power, we, too, shall know how to use it." Moucheboeuf: "It is the verdict of imbeciles." Goldsky: "Gentlemen, you are speeding the revolution; continue, you are doing our work."

With the joint cry: "Hurrah for Anarchy! Down with the army! Long live the Social Revolution!" our brave boys were led away.

Max Baginski.

  • Max Baginski, “Anarchism and Anti-Militarism on Trial,” Mother Earth 2, no. 8 (October 1907): 329-333.