Deeds of Violence

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By Hippolyte Havel.

MAYOR GAYNOR'S opinion that the attack upon his life was the result of the accusations against him by an inimical press demonstrates the peculiar naivity of our reformers. Blind leaders of the blind! They see results but fail to understand the causes. One may be quite sincere and quote Epictetus, yet understand nothing of the psychology of violence.

Indeed, William Randolph Hearst is the enfant terrible in the political muck flood of our times; but he is no worse than the Spreckels, Ochses, Reids, Kohlsaats, and Rosewaters, except that he has secured an unenviable prominence in capitalist journalism. The editorials of his hirelings, Arthur Brisbane and John Temple Graves, will surely induce no one to commit violence. At the worst, the choice morsels of Reverend Parkhurst might cause some readers acute indigestion.

Deep social causes must underlie the commission of desperate anti-social acts. To be sure, there is a tremendous difference between an idealist like Leon Czolgosz, one who considers himself the executor of the social conscience, and a James Gallagher, the enraged avenger of personal wrongs. It is the difference of intellectual growth: the one awakened to complete social consciousness, the other instinctively striking out in blind, helpless fury.

The act of Czolgosz expressed the dull, tortured soul of mute millions, rebelling against social conditions based on murder and exploitation. The assassination of the chief representative of the plutocratic republic was the deed of a conscious social rebel—not specifically that of an Anarchist. His last words, on the threshold of death, were: "I did it for the working people of America."

His act was not understood. But some day labor, freed from its slavery, will honor his memory.

The act of Gallagher indicates the bankruptcy of the reform politicians. The best among them, like Brand Whitlock, are convinced of the uselessness of their efforts, and are withdrawing from the swamp of political corruption. The history of reformative attempts is forever the same: a number of the smaller fry are deprived of their subsistence and driven into the ranks of the wage slaves, thus still further intensifying the struggle for daily existence. On the other hand, the inherent failure of these efforts dispirits and disheartens the people at large, and makes them the easier victims of reaction.

James Gallagher was a staunch follower of his political party. As a common member of the great machine of corruption he gave conscientious yeoman service. He would have gladdened the heart of Pope Pius as one of the faithful. He was a true Catholic, untouched by modernism or sillonism, and always ready to pay homage to the holy fathers. He was a true patriot, ever prepared to rally under the flag of his country.

He could not help seeing that his party friends, because of their social connections and especially because of the almighty dollar, continually rose on the ladder of fortune. But as long as he felt secure in his little political berth, he was satisfied.

One can easily imagine his horror when the reformers took possession of City Hall, and he, together with hundreds of others, found himself on the street, out of a job. In fear and anxiety, he thought of his gray hairs, as he faced the dread spectre of starvation. Daily thousands of wage slaves silently suffer this fate, but in Gallagher there lived a different spirit,—he would not die of hunger without a cry.

In blind rage he fell upon the person he thought responsible for his undeserved misfortune. It was the fear of starvation which prompted his deed.

As long as human society rests upon injustice, just so long will there be rebels like Czolgosz—conscious enemies of oppression and wrong, or men like Gallagher, desperate in their unenlightened protest.

The defenders and apologists of existing conditions find it sufficient to place the responsibility for such acts upon the teachings of Anarchism. They dupe themselves into the belief that they are able to perpetuate their parasitism by palliatives and the persecution of the pioneers of a new social order based on liberty and economic independence. Yet now and then their peace is rudely disturbed—the mene tekel of the Czolgoszes and Gallaghers sounds a terrible warning.

Though absolutely no connection existed between the Anarchists and the act of Czolgosz, the enemy organized a nation-wide persecution against our movement. The campaign of terrorism inaugurated by the capitalist press and the police, in which all the big and little scoundrels and grafters participated, still vibrates in our memory.

Too bad they could not lay Gallagher at the Anarchist door. He is the very type of the desirable citizen. Nothing was heard after the attack upon the Mayor, about the arrest of Gallagher's comrades, religious or political. No patrol wagon was seen in front of the Times office, ready to drive Mr. Ochs and his editors to the police station, and there subject them, for days, to the third degree. Nor has Mr. Murphy, the Tammany chief, been disturbed in his peaceful wigwam; nor John Farley dragged from his episcopal palace to the Tombs; neither Mrs. Belmont, nor Miss Morgan was subjected to physical violence by uniformed ruffians, as happened to Comrade Goldman nine years ago in a police station at Chicago.

Most peculiar of all, no special laws have been framed against Democrats and Catholics.

Such is the even justice of the bourgeoisie.

  • Hippolyte Havel, “Deeds of Violence,” Mother Earth 5, no. 8 (October 1910): 248-250.