In Warsaw (two letters to l’anarchie), by “Nanitcha”

[published in l’anarchie n°4, May 4th 1905]

With songs, only songs, with red flags for all guns, the people, in Russia, has yet again gone to their deaths.

And the cosaks, without risk, were able to beat them left and right, this powerless crowd.

They were having a stroll, over 5000 of them, and women and children were with them. They left the Vitzkovsky square, were they had gathered; they went through the streets, protected, they thought, by their red flag and their wisdom.

And the uhlans… and the cosaks came. In the Marchalskovskaia street, police murderers started to charge with great blows from their nagaikas.

I don’t know… they say there are over 50 dead and as many wounded… We will never know the truth, as always here…. Everyone takes home their dead and cry…

A few officers, they say, were hurt by a bomb. Is it true? These brutes have such tough skin…

60.000 soldiers, children of the people, were waiting, arms in hands, for their brothers of servitude. What to tell them, what to shout at them? What inconsequence, what madness on both sides! To walk without weapons towards guns! To use guns on an unarmed crowd!

Here, like in every country, will unfortunate men carry weapons much longer to protect the fortunate and kill their own kin?

How long will poor men who have strength in numbers  still have the ridiculous magnanimity not to use every means to kill the riche men?

Nanitcha

[published in l’anarchie n°5 Thursday May 11th 1905]

I told you all yesterday that people had gone empty handed, without weapons, towards the soldiers. that there had been many dead and wounded, more than 50 of each. I was well below the truth; there has been over 200 dead and 300 wounded.

The workers and the others who went on a stroll like with popes, were following an order by doing this silly action. And this order, how surprising, was given by the Committee of the Socialist Workers’ Party. On the day before the celebration, they had published proclamations throughout the city. They said that people should be on a completely general strike for one day. But also, they wrote: that all who attacked private property would be killed.

The committee wanted it to be a peaceful demonstration, a procession; it was that, a death procession for many people.

Since people don’t have weapons at home, they couldn’t take them, since they had to respect individual property, and consequently the places where there were guns… and then they let themselves be slaughtered.

I don’t have news from your country, but Rosalef told me that the same had happened, in a town where they make pottery in the middle of France [Limoges]… and that the socialists had said the same thing as here.

They are all the same in every country. they do not want to destroy the cause of social evil, the economic injustice. They think or pretend to think that, once they replace the picture of the tsar by the picture of the republic, all will be over.

I feel deeply within myself, as do a few others, that it is not so and that we must do better.

Nanitcha.

The Moral Face of the Revolution, Marie Isidine

The Moral Face of the Revolution
Marie Isidine
Plus Loin
1925

Among all the questions currently in the minds of those who predict coming deep social change, there is one which is extremely painful for human consciousness: the issue of violence, of the rightfulness, for the leaders of the revolution, to impose their decisions by force onto the masses, of revolutionary dictatorship and terror. This issue is discussed everywhere; but there is one country where it has already passed from the realm of ideas into the realm of realisations, where a social revolution using dictatorship as a weapon has already taken place – that is Russia.

That is why anything which can tell us about the material and moral results of this experiment deserves our fullest attention, such as also all the opinions expressed on this subject, under the influence of living among the militants of the Russian revolution. They have infinitely more authority than anything we could say here, as we have never lived through this experiment with a Socialist dictatorship.

That is why we believed it useful to advertise in France a recently published book, but written for the most part in 1920, the author of which is a member of the Left Socialist Revolutionary party1, I. Steinberg. This book’s title is The Moral Face Of The Revolution and its dedication indicates its sympathies: “To the Kronstadt sailors of 1921, who, on the icy plains of the Finnish Gulf, defended the October revolution, enaged in a mortal combat and did not dishonour it by a terror of revenge, – I dedicate this book.”

The author shows us the great disillusionment which the revolution brought the workers. “Never,” he writes, “was the contradiction between what the people had perceived in the red blaze of the revolution, and this heavy, leaden weight which now oppresses them in their daily lives, been so obvious and so dire.” This atrocious misery kills the intellectual and moral life of the masses, who have only just awakened; the bonds of solidarity between people are loosened, the feelings of hatred and mistrust develop and paralyse any creative work. The horrors of the foreign war and the civil war, the material poverty are not enough to explain this state of affairs: there is a deeper, moral cause. “The soul of the revolutionary people is seriously ill”; it is prey to an anguish which compromises the whole future of the revolution, as it kills faith and enthusiasm. And the cause of it is that the people feel outraged by the methods used by the leaders of this revolution in which they had put all their hopes.

The author gives on this issue an analysis which completely agrees with what we never stopped saying about the distinctions made in the programmes of different political parties between “political revolution” and “economic revolution”, between “minimum programme” and “final goal”. Like us, he considers the popular revolution as a phenomenon which cannot be dissected like this. The revolution is of course the result of material conditions, but it represents something else. The people bring to it their need for justice, their moral ideal, – certainly vague and imprecise, but striving towards a new life, absolutely different from the old one. This is why their revolutionary action extends to every domain of life and spirit: political and economic regimes, religious and moral ideas, family life. And if, instead of making justice real, revolutionary practices reveal themselves to be unjust, immoral, oppressive, the people feel troubled and lose interest in the revolution. This is precisely what happened when, in 1918, systematic violence, which we can call terror, entered the revolutionary habits and anchored itself there so well that its contagion is now reaching almost every revolutionary milieu in other countries.

In his critique of Bolshevik terror, Steinberg does not take a purely moral view which would condemn any violence; he accepts violence in some cases and in certain limits. But he criticises the system of terror because of the prejudice it causes to the goal for which it strives. Socialism, he says (and in this we once again agree with him), is not only an economic idea; it aims at a certain organisation of production, but also at a fairer mode of existence for humankind. It must chose the means it uses in consequence. Marxists, following Jesuits and Jacobins, say the end justifies the means. This might be true when we only think about exterior victory, but this victory in no way proves that the goal was reached; for it to be truly reached, it demands certain means, and the exclusion of others.

Socialism wants the happiness not of an abstract “humanity”, but of real, concrete people, and no formula can justify crushing those individual people. “We are fighting, not for the proletarian or the peasant, but for oppressed people. We are fighting, in consequence, not the land owner or the bourgeois, but the regime of exploitation.”

And what were the consequences of forgetting these truths? Government centralisation and political oppression ensured that “everywhere the people’s masses have remained indifferent; the workers don’t create: they do their chores”. That is why nothing works for the government: all its economic and political measures fail2.

Labour productivity depends on both economic and moral causes; the system of terror dealt it a fatal blow. Instead of an emulation at work, it feeds fear, fraud, selfishness. “Not one among the millions of inhabitants is interested in creating in the long-term something socially useful or precious”. In the measure that it is allowed for a revolutionary power to call on personal interest, it must show the advantages of solidarity and cooperation; if not, misery causes the fight of everyone against everyone, which is the most deplorable economic system; and conflicts between the different categories of unfortunates.

On the moral level, the same failure is seen. Systematic terror leads to the reign of the police, provokes perpetual revolts, make people hate the government. And if the reaction failed in Russia despite all the armies raised with the help of the Allies, it is thanks to the hostility of the people in cities and in the countryside to everything which tended to restore the old regime, especialy purely thanks to terror.

To defend revolutionary terror, several arguments are put forward, which the author refutes one by one. People invoke the will of the people’s masses themselves. First of all, even if it were the case, it wouldn’t be an obligation for us, but it is actually false. At the start of the Russian revolution, as early as February-March 1917, and also after October, there were some acts of popular violence directed against the representatives of the old regime: police officers, gendarmes, army officers. But this popular anger was short-lived and, as soon as the people felt their oppressors were vanquished for good, they only showed them contempt or pity. If the ruling party had used this lack of vengefulness in the people’s soul to direct the revolution towards concordance, the events would have unfolded differently. But it thought good, on the contrary, to stir up hatred, to give the example of acts of revenge; as early as 1918, terror became an official system with its Cheka, its shootings, its armed expeditions against peasants, etc. From then on, terror only came from the top, while workers more than once showed their humanity (for example when they were judges in Popular Trials). Making them responsible for so much bloodshed is to slander the Russian people.

Until this point we were fully in agreement with the Russian author. But there is a weak point in his argument: he fails to find any criterion to distinguish acceptable violence from non-acceptable violence. He admits so himself. As long as there is proper civil war or barricade fighting, violence is justified by the fact that both enemies, armed, fight as equals. It’s the same thing for a terrorist act against a representative of the regime: even without taking into account that revolutionaries only ever use this means as a last resort, the fact that the murderer, by killing, gives deliberately their life, does not allow us to drawn any comparison at all between them and the executioner. But there are other cases. Steinberg’s party does not refuse the use of power and doesn’t deny governmental violence, while imposing on it rather strict limits. That is how the author accepts that the bourgeois be denied political rights, and, if he absolutely opposes the death penalty, he accepts that political enemies can be imprisoned or banished. However, where will we stop in political repression, if we don’t oppose it all in principle? And wouldn’t these persecutions, while less ferocious, have the same demoralising effect? He doesn’t and can’t answer these questions. Yet it is absolutely necessary to find a criterion which allows us to justify or condemn this or that method of action.

No social change was obtained without a fight; no step forward was made without sacrifices. Violence had been, in history, a necessary evil; it must be considered as such, and nothing more. What makes it necessary is that the ruling and exploiting classes have always defended their privileges with all the might which the power of the state granted them. But, once the road cleared, once the armed domination of the old order of things is destroyed by insurrection, violence ceases to be a necessary evil and becomes just evil. It can exert no creative action; the best social regime, if it is introduced and maintained by coercion, rapidly degenerates and becomes the worst. Once it used force, it becomes unable to stop using it.

Whether violence is exerted by power in the name of god-given rights, or of majority rule, or of the working-class – the result is the same. That is why we’d rather not wonder: in whose hands is the weapon? But: against whom is it pointing?

If it is against armed forces, there is a right to self-defence which cannot be denied to anyone; if it is against yesterday’s enemy, now disarmed, or against an opponent of ideas, we refuse to recognise any right to violence.

A dangerous confusion often arises here. We are told: “Revolution cannot be made without bloodshed; you cannot prevent acts of revenge by the oppressed. By condemning “red terror”, you condemn the revolution itself”. We shouldn’t play on words. Popular anger is one thing, government terror another. A government, as scrupulously as it wishes to represent the people, will only ever represent its interests, or maybe its opinions, but never its feelings, its despair, its anger. Whatever the price we place on human life, we excuse the popular mass in what is called its “excesses” – because of accumulated past sufferings among its ranks. But there is no excuse for the cold, well-thought-out, calculated violence of a government.

From this we find this criterion, the only acceptable one in our opinion: violence can only ever be justified in the hands of the weak, of the oppressed, of those who are facing superior armed forces; it has no excuse and is detrimental to the cause it serves the day after the victory.

From Brownings to free love, Henriette Marc

From Brownings to free love

Henriette Marc

La Revue Anarchiste

1922

Brownings are fashionable. It has now replaced, in “honour” killings, the outdated sword, even the more innocuous fists, and as an ending to love stories, poison and vitriol.

“If I love you, beware!” Don Jose sings, louder than ever, his hand on his revolver-pocket. More often than ever, the custom is to hurt the person who has, first, been bored of a two-person romance. Times of the sorrows of love are gone, we won’t see the abandoned cry for the “fragile idyll” and make careful rimes from their tale of woe for posterity. Three warnings, a shot, and love is avenged.

Poor love which takes delight in the blood of the loved one, and suffers less from their death than from the sight of their new happiness!

In reality, love is a rare thing; most of the time, common search for pleasure, selfish possession of a being enviable by their beauty, wealth or mind, hides under its name. But the gift of oneself, the search for happiness of the loved one, how many can boast to have known that kind of love?…

On top of this, killing is a bad way to rekindle love, imposing it as well. When a new love comes, it is that the heart is free, and, therefore, why would the former occupant who couldn’t keep their place and does not have the courage to win it back be outraged? Poor happiness which is built on an abuse of sentimental power, poor satisfaction which destroys what does not reflect you any more.

No doubt there are times when any gesture of excess seems to alleviate the torturing anguish, the definitive void which the indifference of the person we love and who loves us creates, but then, even though it is not a solution and all of life protests against such an act, it would be more normal and human to disappear ourselves, leaving space for the new couple.

But crimes of passion have more general and deeper causes than love suffering. Prejudice which make love a sin and marriage a sacrament have their share in it.

What is jealousy, of not the feeling of ownership which extends from things to individuals themselves? As soon as a person gives themselves freely to another, will they be subjected for the rest of their life and will they not be allowed to take back their whole or part of their freedom without the jealous other, considering them their property, preventing them and punishing their attempt by death?

Some people are true by nature, others are changing and only feel truly alive when they follow their desires of the moment. Why, when the union is based not on fleeting interests or tastes any more, but on real and sustainable affinities, couldn’t each individual, confident in their partner’s trust, and conscious of their promises, live as they wish part of their sexual lives, since that is where most profound disagreements stem from? When weariness would start, earlier for some than for others, the loving hearts would reunite, without any arguments, any drama having torn them apart forever.

Maybe this would bring some fleeting pains, but o so few compared to those which result from the current prejudices, which push the individual, imprisoned in ideas of sin, to free themselves suddenly from an old love, even if they bitterly regret it when the joy of the new desire wears off.

In other words, could there not be, at the start of union, an implied acknowledgement of each other’s freedom?

People will cry that this is licentious, an orgy. Are the early evening meetings of our bourgeois women, the hospitable houses for the men, any more moral? But they are covered by the hypocrisy dear to the time of the Bérangers and Lamarzelles. Also, while virtue is now compulsory, the use of our freedom would not be, and everyone would act according to their tastes and possibilities.

People will object that this would endanger unions. Maybe, but less often than current liaisons; what is allowed is a lot less tempting and how many only leave their households to run after pleasures which are all the more desirable since they are forbidden.

For women especially, people will asked the sacred question of children. Let’s not dwell on it; any conscious person knows that, in the current society, pleasure cannot be lumped with procreation and that children are only desirable when we are sure we don’t have any other desire in us than their education, and especially the material means to provide for it.

In short, although there is for each individual personal ethics, we could wish for some greater freedom to intervene in love relationships, without duplicity, without lies. Also, that people get united only after having known each other, studied each other, to avoid painful discoveries which weaken love. That if some people don’t love any more, that the people sacrificed accept this fact and give them their freedom, easily and without a fight, to those who wish for it. Above all, that selfishness, the basis for relations between individuals, learn how to remain silent in those circumstances, and that the happiness of those we loved, if they truly found it, alleviate and not aggravate the suffering of the abandoned.

Petlioura’s Assassination, May Picqueray

Petlioura’s Assassination
May Picqueray

Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkmann sent me a telegramm. They were arriving in Paris to stay a while and they strongly wished to meet me there. At their demand, I book a room for Emma, on the Sorbonne square, and for Alexander (who we all call Sacha), rue Royer-Collard near the Luxemburg.

Emma will only be staying for 48 hours, people are waiting for her in England for a series of conferences. Sacha has a lot of work. He wishes me to help him for a few days with the writing of his Memoirs. I feel very comfortable around this, good, generous man, who carries with him the stigmata of the fourteen years he spent in prison.

Contrary to what I have read about him afterwards, on his pessimism which would have led him to suicide, Sacha was very jovial, very easy to get along with. We often had our meals in either restaurant opposite his hotel, one was Russian, the other Polish. Musicians and singers performed there, which livened up our meals. And Sacha hummed the old tunes they played.

He received the visit of a young Russo-American blouse-maker who was going on holidays in Israel. It was an occasion to reunite a few comrades around a bortch, in a restaurant of the rue Racine; Mollie, Senya, and Schwartzbard, who held a small shop as a jeweller-clockmaker on the boulevard de Belleville, joined us.

We were discussing merrily while having lunch, when a group of men entered the restaurant with a lot of noise; the outbursts of their voices attarcted the consumers’ attention. Suddenly, Schwartzbard turned livid, he had just recognised in this group the former ataman of the Ukraine, Petlioura, the author of many bloody pogroms against Jewish people, who became famous for his uncountable murders, rapes, and acts of looting. Fifteen members of Schwartzbard’s family had been hanged on Petlioura’s orders.

He came back to the restaurant the next day, armed this time; that is how on May, 25th, Petlioura fell under Schwartzbard’s shots, who had come to avenge his people.

Gravely injured, Petlioura was taken to the Charité hospital, where he died upon arrival.

Schwartzbard was sent to trial in Paris, on October 18th, 1925, his trial lasted for a week. Mr. Heni Torrès defended him brilliantly. It was one of the most famous legal cases of that period.

Many famous people testified in his favour, such as Séverine, the countess of Noailles, Maxime Gorki, Joseph Kessel, Professor Langevin, Vicor Margueritte, who all put on trial the pogroms and Petlioura the murderer.

Schwartzbard then declared at his trial:

“I am happy I did what I did, I avenged my people, I killed a murderer!”

He was discharged.

L’Action Française, the Germaine Berton and Philippe Daudet affair, May Picqueray

L’Action Française, the Germaine Berton and Philippe Daudet affairs
May Picqueray

Here are now two stories in which I played almost no part, but to which I want to bear witness to, since I lived them from inside the libertarian movement.

First if all, the Germaine Berton case.

Germaine was brown-haired. She was younger than me (born in Puteaux in 1902). I have hardly spent any time with her. We met however at a meeting at the Wagram meeting hall organised by the Action Française.

You might be surprised that I attend an extreme right meeting. But I strongly wished to see with my own eyes someone like Léon Daudet. What I had read about him in L’Action Française semed so extraordinary that I wondered whether he actually existed.

War was his favourite subject. He talked about it with a truly hysterical violence. At some point, he started to scream:

“Never forget that, above love, there is hatred…”

Even before the clapping flared up, a young boy stood up:

“No, mister,” he said, “above hatred, there is love. At least, that is what I’ve always been told…”

Not only was he silenced, but the “King’s Comelots” in attendance threw him out, beating him with canes.

Leon Daudet resumed his speech. His language was warmongering, pushing his troops to war and the restoration of the monarchy. I was absolutely astonished.

L’Action Française, the Royalist newspaper that he directed had for its motto “Tomorrow on their graves… Wheat will grow more beautiful.”

What I found appalling was that the young people who drank his words seemed to be okay to be used as fertilizer.

When we left the meeting, I was frankly feeling sick. Germaine Berton was even more outraged than I was. She told me:

“What a bastard, he doesn’t deserve to live!”

She had not been around the anarchist milieu for long and already had a solid anti-militarist and pacifist training. She often took part in the discussions of her group and always to say something intelligent.

She lived with a bookshop delivery boy, Armand Gohary. I saw him a couple of times, he seemed nice. People said he had important documents on the Red Hat affair1.

He was found dead in his room, probably murdered.

Taupin, an Anarchist comrade, who was also his friend, “committed suicide”. That was the official version at least.

I hadn’t seen Germaine again, and I hadn’t taken seriously the words she had uttered in her outrage.

I was wrong.

On January 23rd, 1923, some time after the meeting, carrying a revolver in her handbag, she showed up at the Action Française headquarters and asked to see Léon Daudet. He said he was absent and had her meet Marius Plateau. She was introduced in a large room with magnificent blue armchairs, embroidered with fleur-de-lis motifs.

The fact he was a Monarchist did not prevent Marius Plateau from being a vulgar character. He bahaved with Germaine with a vulgarity, a baseness and an arrogance beyond description. He accused her of being paid by the police “like all the Anarchists, anyway”. He offered her money “for the information she no doubt had come to give him”, etc.

Angered by his words, she took out her weapon and shoot him down without a word. Then she shot a bullet towards herself, missed, and fell unconscious. The camelots on guard burst in at the sound of gunshots, they believed her dead, or they would have no doubt torn her to pieces.

Le Libertaire had to face the attacks and slander of L’Action Française, and they vigorously defended Germaine Berton, and instead of weekly, it was published daily, what they had planned to do for a while already. They asked Mr. Henri Torrès to represent Germaine Berton. He was starting his career as a lawyer, which did not prevent him to defend her brilliantly. Séverine, Louis Lecoin, and other famous people came to support Germaine Berton and she was discharged.

Léon Daudet and Maurras’s spite, their jingoism, did not attract the sympathy of the jury. On the contrary, and it was an important factor in Germaine Berton’s acquittal.

After her trial, Germaine Berton was no longer seen in the Anarchist movement. She had come back for a short time at the front of the scene during the Philippe Daudet affair. She had claimed that she had been her lover, having met him by chance in the Quartier Latin a few months before.

“Pure invention,” all our comrades who knew her better than I did said. She attempted suicide in the Belleville church then she disappeared from our milieu.

It was a very dark story around the death of Léon’s son. It was on the front page of newspapers during all the end of 1923 and L’Action Française made it into a daily episode serial.

Let’s recall the facts:

A young man of around 15, but who looked much older, showed up at Le Libertaire headquarters, 9 rue Louis Blanc. He asked with insistence to be given a revolver. He intended to “do a hit, kill someone important”. He said his name was Philippe, that he had run away from home, and that he had no money. His parents were members of the bourgeoisie, he did not want to go back to them.

The young anarchist poet Georges Vidal, who received him, talked to him at length, explaining him what anarchism was, that Anarchists did not kill for the pleasure of killing, and that his act should have real meaning for him to sacrifice his life. Then, he took him for dinner, and, to distract and entertain him, to the “Grenier Gringoire”, on the Butte, the cabaret owned by our friend Charles d’Avray. He spent the evening with a group of comrades who welcomed him like a brother. Charles gave him a bit of money to pay for accommodation, but one of the comrades in attendance and his partner took him home for the night. He was called Jean Gruffy.

How come the son of someone like Léon Daudet was attracted by anarchism?

After his death, some journalists deemed he had attempted to infiltrate the anarchist movement in order to avenge the death of Marius Plateau of whom he were one of the most fervent admirers…

Let’s try to keep to the facts:

Although he didn’t manage to obtain the weapon he was demanding, Philippe came back to Le Libertaire. Georges Vidal was not there this time, he met a certain F. who took him to the bookshop owner Le Flaouter, who might sell him a weapon. Indeed, Le Flaouter promised it for the next day.

The bookshop owner received him as planned in the basement of his shop. From this moment on, there is a complete black-out.

The official version was that Le Flaouter sold him a weapon, that Philippe took a taxi on th boulevard, near Bastille, and asked the driver to take him to the Medrano circus. When they reached Gare de l’Est, the driver would have heard a gunshot from his car, and, looking round, saw his client slumped across the seats in a pool of blood. According to the witnesses who arrived on the scene, the floor of the taxi were already well drenched in blood. The driver made the observations stop and took the “injured” to Lariboisière hospital. There, he was found to be dead and his corpse was taken to the morgue.

The other version, the Anarchists’ version, was that Philippe, believed to be a dangerous Anarchist, was shot down by a police officer, warned by Le Flaouter, in the basement, then loaded in a taxi paid for by the police, everything else being fabricated. Philippe having been dead when the driver made people witness it.

It has to be said that Le Flaouter was very close to a police officer, whom he probably fed information. They played cards together every evening.

The Daudet family, worried about Philippe missing, looked every day at the crime section of the newspapers; their attention was attracted to the suicide of a young an, whose description matched Philippe’s. Léon Daudet, accompanied by a friend, went to the hospital, where he could only identify the corpse.

He held the Anarchists responsible for his death, and launched an extremely violent campaign in L’Action Française, to which Le Libertaire answered blow for blow.

Léon Daudet especially attacked Georges Vidal, who had welcomed Philippe the first tim he came. Philippe had given him a letter to his mother, in case something happened to him. This letter, the contents of which Georges Vidal did not know, was opened and addressed to Mrs. Daudet. The name of his father was not mentioned.

Embarassed by what Le Libertaire revealed, all of L’Action Française launched romantic fantasies, in which a tiny bit of truth tried to cover gigantic lies…

Haymarket was a Riot, May Picqueray

Haymarket Was A Riot

May Picqueray

May Day 1920 and 1921 were particularly wild. Leaving the Bourse du Travail, the République square and the boulevard de Magenta, horse-riding guards charged us and hit us with the flat of their sabre blades, and one of them slapped me in the face in such a way that I thought my head had flown off. I kept the mark of his sabre on my face for a long time, and I had a swollen and multicoloured eye of the prettiest effect.

I do not speak of those May Days with the nostalgia for past times. Because they were the May Days of my youth.

But I say categorically that these May days were “authentic”.

The Communists had not yet hijacked this day to make it the “celebration” of labour.

I need to restore historical truth:

Chicago, in 1886, was only a city of immigrants, coming from every corner of Europe. It comprised different factories, canning factories, slaughter houses. The lack of hygiene and physical protection, the inhumane work speed, the low wages, the lack of employment security, pushed the workers to organise to defend themselves against the exploitation they were subjected to. Not only in Chicago, but on all the American continent, there was undiluted class struggle. Syndicalism was growing roots in the United States. Not without problems. American workers showed an instinctive distrust for the Socialist ideas imported from Europe. Newspapers written in German, English, or French claimed: “to fight against private property is a right, and even a duty.”

A group of Chicago industrials and bankers asked the mayor to ban these newspapers, and to arrest their directors. The mayor told them:

“We have a police force in our hands, nothing will happen, we do not fear them.”

A couple of days later, however, a grumbling flow of people filled the streets and the red and black flags were flowing above the crowd.

“We are fighting for the eight hour day, for a wage increase, for better working conditions, for the abolition of black lists” we could hear every night when workers left the factories.

There was no right to strike, in the sense that, once the strike was over, the bosses took back who they chose, creating discord among workers. Fights broke out between workers and the police intervened with extreme brutality.

On May 4th, a large meeting was planned in Haymarket, and workers’ leaders were supposed to speak there. 6000 strikers from the Mac Cormick factories were already there when the factory’s bell struck, and the scabs who had been working came out. The strikers left the meeting and fights broke out between workers.

The police intervened and shot at them: the toll among workers was one dead and six seriously injured by bullets; an indeterminate number of superficial wounds; a few injured on the police side. Haymarket was a long square which could contain up to 20 000 people. August Spies, a typographer for the Arbeiter Zeitung, Fischer, who had left Germany at age 15 and had become a social anarchist, Parsons, an American and director of The Alarm, who had joined the army during the Civil War, at age 13, Fielden, an Englishman who had moved to America in 1868, were supposed to speak, but it started raining and so they moved to a nearby hall to finish the meeting. When they arrived there, Fielden was on the platform, when suddenly a troop of policemen barged in, officers at the front, and gave the order to disperse. The speakers started leaving the platform, when a “round and luminous” object flew into the air and a loud detonation followed.

First there was silence… then the police opened fire on the crowd of workers who were fleeing and screaming. In a few minutes, it was all over. The square was emptied, all that could be heard was the moaing of the wounded. There are 70 injured and one policeman killed.

“The Anarchists inaugurated yesterday evening the rule of chaos. They ambushed the policemen and threw a bomb…” the reactionary press printed. Yet, the workers had not fired and the bomb was thrown from the police ranks.

The workers’ leaders: Spies, Fielden, Schwab, Waller, G. Engel, Oscar Neeve, W. Senger and L. Lingg were arrested. Parsons could not be found. Two hundred arrests in a week. An atmosphere of inquisition and xenophobia ruled. Four lawyers offered their help to the accused, despite the threats they received. The jury was chosen from 981 people. In truth, the twelve people finally selected all already had their judgement made.

The judge declared at the start of the audience that it was useless to know who threw the bomb, that all the accused were responsible.

George Engel, 50, declared:

“I was not at the meeting but at home, with my wife, my kids and some friends.”

Adolph Fischer ackowledged he had taken part in the meeting; Samuel Fielden was accused of having shouted:

“Here come those ferocious beasts, comrades, do your duty.”

But some policemen recognized that he had only said:

“We are peaceful…”

Parsons, who had come for the trial, after fleeing on the day of the meeting, declared:

“I have been on black lists for ten years, have published The Alarm for two years. I fight against workers’ poverty…”

Spies, turning to the counsel for the plaintiff:

“My defence is your accusation itself.”

Michel Schwab and Oscar Neeve, who weren’t in Haymarket, were also charged with murder. Neeve had said these words:

“The police reaction is inadmissible.”

Louis Lingg was accused of having made the bomb. Witnesses attested he was not at the meeting.

“It is true that I have made bombs”, he said, “but not this one.”

The counsel for the plaintiff repeated twenty times to the jury:

“You must choose between law and anarchy, between good and evil. Your decision will mark history. Your responsibility is huge. Do not let yourselves go to clemency.”

The defence claimed that the accused were on trial for their opinions, in the absence of any proof. The pleas were closed on August 19th.

On the morning of the 20th, a line of police officers blocked the entrance to the courthouse, patrols circulated round the city. The jury were the first to enter the room, then the lawyers and both parties. Then the judges. The judge stood up, and everyone with him.

The verdict: death for all, except for Neeve, 15 years in prison. Whispers were heard in the room. The eight men left the room without a word, with great dignity.

Two minutes later, a great clamour came from the crowd, then clapping. The crowd was scared…

The general opinion was expressed in the press: “The verdict has killed off anarchism in our city. It is a warning for European snakes, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists. The Chicago verdict will at least limit the immigration to our country of organised killers.”

Many letters were sent by US and European celebrities to Governor Oglesby: Walter Besant, Walter Crane, Stafford Brooke, Ford Madox Brown. A large meeting was organised in London with William Morris, Bernard Shaw, Anne Besant, Kropotkin, Stepniak, etc.

The governor suggested:

“The condemned would have to renounce their doctrine.”

“Show them a sign,” the lawyers told their clients.

The condemned welcomed this offer with haughty contempt. They demanded freedom or death.

An extraordinary fact, the 50 most important bankers in the city, who held supreme power in Chicago met up to decide whether the condemned should be pardoned or not. It was not a matter of mercy: “Executions can cause trouble, it is useless to revive the agitation…” Should they pardon these men? Some were in favour, others against.

On the morning of November 10th, the wardens hear an explosion from Lingg’s cell. They see blood everywhere, Lingg’s face is ripped away. People talk of a bomb. He had used a lozenge of mercury fulminate. Some doctors wished to save Lingg by making him pass as mad. He had preferred death to the asylum. On the wall of his cell, drawn with his blood, this inscription: “Long live anarchy”.

On the same day, Fielden and Schwab were pardoned, their sentence is commuted to a life sentence. The others will be executed.

The scaffold was set up in the night between November 10th and 11th 1887, very close to the prison. On the morning of the 11th, the condemned had their breakfast quietly, writing letters.

At 8.40, a lawyer rushes in: the man responsible for the bomb had been arrested in New York, he demanded the execution to be reported. At 10.15, the governor replied “No!”

At 11.30, the sheriff came to read the sentence to each of the prisoners. They were handcuffed and they were dressed in a white muslin shroud. Fischer helped to put his on. Hoods were placed on the four men’s heads. They then said their final words:

Spies: “One day will come when our silence will be louder than the voices you strangle today!”

Fischer: “Long live anarchy! This is the most beautiful moment in my life!”

Engel: “Long live anarchy!”

Parsons: “Will you let me speak, o Americans? Let me speak, sheriff Matson, let the voice of the people be heard! Let…”

Then nothing.

The funerals were held on Sunday, November 13th. “No signs, no flags, no speeches,” the mayor of Chicago had said. Over 250 000 people were crammed along the path of the coffins; around 15 000 people came in the cemetery. The procession marched in complete silence. Four speakers made speeches, including Black, the lawyer of the condemned.

Five years later, a monument was erected on the graves of the martyrs and Waldheim Cemetery became a place of pilgrimage.

The novellist Henry James, the equivalent to Marcel proust, then wrote he had “felt a sinister world, inferior, anarchic, boiled in its grief, its power and its hatred.”

This sinister world was the working class, then crushed by exploitation. Its roaring revolt, which Americans started to feel, was going to keep growing until it shook the world.

It is from this date that May Day is the day of revolt throughout the world and that it is marked in France (in Cléry, in Fourmies) like everywhere, by violence and blood.

Pétain tried to turn May day into a patronage “celebration”.

And the Communists, whether they like it or not, have borrowed his idea and updated it.

But for the “old ones”, May Day will always be a synonym of demands, struggle, REVOLT.

The “victorious” murderer, Henriette Marc

The “victorious” murderer
Henriette Marc
1922
La Revue Anarchiste

It is particularly interesting for women to know how war modified men’s characters. Did it send them back to their lives more violent or more weary? This is the issue that several books published since the end of the war tried to solve, among which, recently, The Pleasure Of Killing, by André Dax.

Put in such general terms, the question is badly phrased: most of the true warriors, violent males driven by their instincts, have died in the war – and that’s for the best – and as for the others, their ability to forget, without which we could not live, gave them back to their partners as they were, quite mediocre.
However, we cannot deny that war imprinted the minds – of those who think, at least – so deeply that many works reminds us of it.

The Pleasure Of Killing is still full, if not of facts of war, of its consequences, my colleague in charge of the book review section will forgive me if I tell I a few words what this book adds to the answer to the earlier question.

War, André Dax proves, wakes up in men its instincts for cruelty, the call to murder remains heard, and the gesture which was a habit during these long years can never be forgotten.

His main character, Michel, after having gotten a taste for women and sex in the tranches, gradually feels the taste for murder rise in him, and, cheated, kills his rival in an almost automatic gesture, as if to pierce the flesh and make the blood of the enemy flow was still something normal and sanctioned by the law.
However, once the crime is committed, he regains consciousness. Should he give himself up to the justice of men? Who is worthy of judging him? But he will expiate his crime by going to the Far East, far away from any civilisation, to live a harsh and difficult life which will redeem himself in his own eyes. Later, the woman he has never ceased to love, as a soldier and as a criminal, will meet him there, and, thanks to love, he will tame the evil beast we all carry within ourselves.

There are in this book many digressions, among other things about the survival of the souls, which, according to Michel, survive generation after generation, offering to men the violent or beneficial heredity of their ancestors.

This book, written in a pleasant if slightly monotonous language is worth to read. André Dax has observed and thought before he wrote. The pages in which he describes the miserable future of Europe, destined to unavoidable decadence, are deep and beautiful. His views on Christianity, which “in nineteen centuries failed its founding goal three times” are right. We can only wish a bit more rationalism from this probably young author, and that, in later works, he base his thesis on more solid scientific grounds.
His theory is right: war brought the old man back to life: these multitudes of heredities which the appearances of civilisation had pushed back deep into our unconscious during this upheaval, like in the aftermath of any exterior and interior turmoil. There is no need for the souls of our predecessors on this earth reincarnate in us to explain this. Soul is a meaningless word. The holdovers from brain and nervous system cells is largely enough, thanks to the heredity of acquired characteristics, to transmit throughout the centuries visions of murder and the aptitude to renew them. This is also accompanied with ancestral terrors which created gods, souls and all metaphysics. As for violent jealousy which André Dax tells us about, how could we be surprised to see it reborn in organisms unbalanced by war, and sent back by it into primitive barbarity?

Among the first men, war, or more precisely fights, between tribes or between animals were intimately linked to the sexual instinct. Carpentier proved this in a thorough study, “War and sexual instinct” – what François de Curel calls the “dance in front of a mirror” is nothing else than the need for the male to look stronger in front of the female he chose. In time of peace, this instinct changes, and it is moral or intellectual supremacy which men aspire to in order to win women over; but, with such violent tremors as those caused by a war of this magnitude, the varnish which Christianity, moralists and philosophers of all kinds tried to apply on the human machine peels off and the old instincts are uncovered.

It would be childish to be surprised or outraged against such obvious facts, we will only ever be poor beings, full of contradictions and doomed by our very nature to sudden returns to the quasi-animality which was our fate.

I know, among the people, women who complain about the unfortunate change that war brought to their partners’ characters. It is as late as it is useless to lament, it would have been much better to prevent and help the future soldier to be a deserter, logically revolted against the cruel and idiotic order which attempted to make him forget the dearly acquired notions of love and gentleness which made lecherous anthropoids into civilised and loving men.

Let’s hope the “next one” won’t find them in the same state.

Midinettes on strike, by May Picqueray

Midinettes on strike

May Picqueray

The small hands, the midinettes, these small bees of the great fashion houses, from where the masterpieces worn by artists and ladies of the Paris and international bourgeoisie come, these young girls who you can meet in squares or at the Tuileries, at lunchtime, sharing their meagre meals with the birds, their friends, are very badly paid, live on very little, dress with almost nothing, but always with taste. The midinettes are known in all of Paris for their laughter, their chicness, and their small artists’ hands.

But there’s a down-side to this. Today, they are on strike. They can no longer manage. Bosses who exploit them shamelessly don’t want to hear anything about granting them a pay increase. So, they take to the streets.

There is a meeting this afternoon at the trade union hall, near République. Our friends Margot, Marie, Mado Ferré are on strike. Thérèse and I decide, in solidarity, to join them, to bring them our support. The room is packed. Girls and women follow one another on the platform, they explain the situation in couture: whether it is in workshops or in rooms, they are exploited all the same. They will not give up, a delegation is chosen to start negotiations with the bosses’ union.

When they leave, it is like sparrows taking flight. They laugh, hail one another. Surprise: we can see several hundred guys from the building industry and road workers who have stopped work to bring their moral and material support to the midinettes. That’s great! They are cheered and even kissed. It is decided to go demonstrate in front of the great fashion houses, and then on the Champs Elysées. He guys give their arms to the girls, and the picturesque and joyous march is ready to flow onto the Grands Boulevards. Suddenly, a squadron of republican guards shows up on the République square, surrounding open carriages. Poincaré1 sits in the front carriage. The rest of the government in the other ones.
“It is Poincaré, you know, ‘the man who laughs in cemeteries’…”
He is simply here to inaugurate a very strange exhibition on the République square. In some sheds, machines have been set up in which we could see photographic sights of life in the tranches, the transport of the wounded, the dead lying on the battlefields, and all the horrors of war. And, on top of this, the Paris public had to pay to see that…

We are at the edge of the pavement, ready to join the march, Poincaré gets off, waving at the crowd who came to salute him. All of a sudden, Mado leaves us, walks towards him, raises her hand and shouts at his face: “Bastard! You came to see your dead!” Immediately she is seized by the guard and handed to the police who rushed to the scene (and so are we as we didn’t want to leave her); there we are embarked for the police station, mistreated and pushed into a corner like thieves, then interrogated by the commissar who gives us such an earful!…

We are thrown into cells and kept overnight. We weren’t proud! What was to become of us? Fortunately this “attentat” was not taken seriously. There was probably an order not to talk about it to the press, in other words to stifle the case.

We got off lightly, but we were furious we had missed the march on the Champs Elysées.

Why I shot a Royalist, Germaine Berton

Why I shot a Royalist
Germaine Berton
1923
Le Flambeau, Algiers

Amongst the enemies of the proletariat, I have always had a particular hatred for the Royalists and their agents provocateurs; I could hardly contain my anger when I recalled the abject attitude of MM. Maurras and Daudet towards workers’ organisations. The articles and the media campaign by the Action Française in 1920 through which the King’s Camelots became strike breakers; the incessant call to violence; the shameful slander of some Anarchists and Communists; the threats of repression and fascism. Towards the end of 1922 I was pushed to the limit, I would have been a coward if I hadn’t had the courage to express, in my own way, my rancour and my disgust.

At that time, while Poincaré was busy with the invasion of the Ruhr, the Royalists were actively preparing their social war, hiding their resentment and their unhealthy appetites under a hypocritical jingoism of dubious tatste. The facts prove this. It is none other than the Action Française who demanded the arrest of French Syndicalists and Communists with whom they had old affairs to settle; it is the Action Française who demanded the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of the Deputy Cachin; it is them, lastly, who never stopped, in their columns, to stir up hatreds in the attempt of creating fascist politics, – Daudet was the main instigator of all this. I recalled his entire life spent fighting workers’ organisations. This is when I decided to kill him.

I am not insensitive, and I had to overcome great reluctance before killing a human being, even my enemy.

However, in no way do I regret the act I committed and my conscience feels no remorse. Because, in killing the leader of the King’s Camelots, I only obeyed my heart, torn by the suffering of all unfortunate proletarians, hounded and enslaved pariahs.