Introduction - Robert Helms

Submitted by GrouchoMarxist on June 24, 2012

Francois-Claudius Koeningstein (Oct. 14, 1859 -- July 11, 1892), known to posterity as Ravachol, was born to Dutch and French parents at Saint-Chamond, near St. Etienne in Eastern France. He was angered by two actions taken by the French government on May 1, 1891. One was at Fourmies, where the newly designed Lebels machine gun was used against a peaceful May Day rally at which women and children were carrying flowers and palms. Casualties there numbered 14 dead and 40 wounded. The other incident was at Clichy, where police attacked a six-man anarchist labor rally. The workers defended themselves with pistol-shots and were subsequently given long terms at hard labor.

Ravachol took retribution for the Clichy defendants by bombing the homes of the presiding judge (Mar. 11, 1892) and the prosecutor (Mar. 27, 1892). During the same month he bombed the Lobau Barracks in Paris in response to the Army's slaughter of innocents at Fourmies. These three attentats caused extensive property damage, but no deaths. Ravachol was pointed out to police by a waiter in a restaurant, and then on the night before his trial began on April 25, the restaurant was bombed, killing its owner. A long cycle of vendetta between the anarchists and the government was to follow.

Ravachol's first trial resulted in a sentence of life at forced labor. Octave Mirbeau's article appeared the following week in L'Endehors, 52 (May 1,1892), giving one of the most balanced anarchist views of Ravachol's terrorist activity. Two months later, though, he was extradited to Montbrison in his native region and condemned to death for the killings of an old hermit and a certain landlady he once knew. Before his death Ravachol denied having committed these murders, but he admitted to some burglaries and grave-robbings. He was beheaded at Montbrison and buried there. Today, Ravachol is an important cult hero among French anarchists.