Chicago Martyrs Meeting, London 1891

An account of a meeting to remember the Chicago Martrs, held in South Place, London, 1891

The meeting at South Place was in every way a complete success. The hall was crowded and the enthusiasm was tremendous. In accordance with our usual custom, there was no chairman, but that did not prevent the meeting going off splendidly.
Wess opened the proceedings by reading a letter from Comrade Marsh, who was prevented by illness from being present.
Our Comrade wrote as follows :
Dear Comrade, I hope it will be clear to all our friends tonight that we do not meet here only to commemorate an act of capitalistic barbarity however much our indignation may be aroused by that unspeakable crime of 1887. If our only aim was to be denounce the crimes of the present system we should meet here every day of our lives. The truth is that the present system is past denouncing, no honest man feels satisfied, with the state of things around him. We find people are turning in all directions to find some loophole of escape from the tortures of our present life. There is no peace to-day, for those who care anything for humanity. Let us then without fear examine the causes of misery, which surround us and decide for ourselves, what is best to be done. We ask you therefore who are not Anarchists to watch every day of your lives the evil workings of Government. To watch how its stupid laws stifle human development driving it into crime. To watch how it helps the strong and crushes the weak. To note how those, who are " wrapped in a little brief authority " not only make the angels weep, but make poor humanity bleed. Then you will see that freedom, a life without Government and law must be our aim, because man lives best where he is freest.

After reading telegrams of sympathy from the Anarchists of Walsall, Newcastle, Sheffield, Hull, Dublin and Manchester, Wess said, that each celebration of the murder of our comrades was more and more Anarchist in character. The first celebrations had been held by people, more with a feeling of generosity than of conviction of the truth of Anarchist ideals. At the earlier meetings, the mere mention of the fact that our comrades were suppressed Anarchists, and anyone purchasing their speeches, would be convinced, if he was honest, of their truth of their opinions. Anarchism is the idea, which declares that men must act for themselves without trusting their interests to any one else. Whenever they have entrusted their interests to a representative he has looked after his own interest better than that of the men who elected him. The part played by our comrades in the labour movement in Chicago, was not like that of the old and new Trade Unionists in England. Our comrades did not seek place and power, but fought like heroes side by side with the workers in the fray, and it was because of their fearless honesty, that they were marked men, and at the first opportunity were seized by the capitalist classes and brutally murdered.

S. Merlino pointed out, that the Chicago Anarchists were murdered that Anarchy should not triumph but Anarchy would triumph. As to the throwing of the bomb he thought the capitalists had crinies enough upon their shoulders without crediting them with that. It might be that our comrades did throw the bomb. They might have killed some police ruffians who were advancing to attack a peaceable meeting but, was not that killing justified. For his part he should venerate and love these men none the less if instead of one bomb they had thrown a hundred.

Touzeau Parris said : We have met here to-night to commemorate the dead — No not the dead but the living. These men still live. They live in their ideas in our memory and our love. It was not by speaking but by acting that the flame was to be lit around the world. The men who murdered our comrades lived for property, we live for men. People said that, it was grand and glorious to be a poet or an artist, but there was something grander and greater and that was to lift up the poor and downtrodden. The workers of the world must learn, that their freedom must be taken and not given. The weak, the poor and downtrodden must be lifted up, and it is for us to do it, not by our words but our deeds.

Kropotkine thought that we had arrived at a crisis in the history of Socialism. We had recently seen at the Brussels Congress, a repetition of the events, which had destroyed the International Workmen's Association at the Congress of Hague in 1873. The present labour movement like that of the International was a purely economic one. The original idea of the new movement was to bring about a series of Great Strikes to end in a General Strike of all European work-men and the Social Revolution. But now their Social Democratic
leaders had decided that the movement should in future be political, but in the meantime, what had become of Socialism. The workmen's party in Germany were advising the workmen to shoot down the poor Russian peasants of whom twenty milliion were starving at the bidding of the young Imperial despot. These leaders were as much at service of the German Emperor as the Enqlish working class leaders were at the disposal of the Liberal and Tory parties. What could be done, when the best men were brought thus to abandon their flag and betray their cause. They knew that their only hope was the formation of an International Revolutionary party. It was not necessary in this party, that every one should obey and march like a soldier. A revolutionary ideal is the negation of every part of the present system. For the coming revolution, we must accustom, every man to act on his own initiative, and take all the responsibility of his own acts.

After Kropotkine spoke a collection was made and then Mrs. Tochatti sung " Annie Laurie " amid loud applause.

Miss Henry then spoke as follows : We have heard for eighteen hundred years, that mankind should be as brothers, but this sublime doctrine as interpreted by the capitalist class sterns to be letting your brother starve while. you have plenty. We are told that Government exists for the benefit of the people. But Government does not exist for the benefit of the people, but to rob them in the interests of propertied classes. Government was not only the cause of misery but the cause of crime. If people could be brought to believe that a beautiful society was possible where want crime and misery would be unknown, then they would rebel and there would be an end of capitalism and government.

D. J. Nicoll said, that our comrades at Chicago were murdered because they were honest and sincere. Because they did not seek places on the Labour Commissions or seats in Parliament, nor did they preach the latest gospel according to Fabian Society, that salvation of labour is to be achieved by running sweaters as Labour Candidates, but told the people boldly to help themselves, by taking possession of the wealth and the means of production. The capitalist classes had not crushed the movement by murdering these brave and devoted men, any more than they had crushed the Socialist movement in England by driving away a crowd of starving men by bludgeons .and bayonets from Trafalgar Square. Some people condemned the throwing of the bomb at Chicago, for his part he thougnt it would have been well in London, if a man had been found courageous enough to hurl death and destruction among the ruffians who had attacked a peaceful meeting and brutally murdered four workmen. The police had to wait for their lesson here and if they were not careful it might not be long in coming. The Social Democratic leaders not only in Germany, but throughout Europe had betrayed the labour movement. [Cries of dissent from Social Democrats,]
These men had everywhere endeavoured to crush the spirit of revolt among the workers to curry favour with propertied classes to get in Parliament. (More dissent from Social Democrats.) Surely Social Democrats would admit that this was true in England of the leaders of the present labour movement. Our comrades at Chicago were not like these men, they did their beat to spread the spirit of revolt among the people, instead of dragging them back and for this reason, they were brutally murdered.

Louise Michel said : The martyrs who fall on the scaffold are much smaller in number than those who die every day of starvation. After all to die for a great cause is a noble death. There is a great monster capitalism, who must be destroyed by seizing on his riches. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few has destroyed all education and culture and has degraded and embruted mankind. Let us remember to-day all our martyrs. The noble Russians who have perished in endeavour to overturns the despotism of the Czar. Reinsdorf who fell beneath the murderous axe, and when we heard the news in prison we felt that we could have stood beside this noble man and died with him. Since the day when our comrades fell at Chicago their blood has spread over all the world, which will rise in hosts of armed men, and will crush their murderers of our comrades. Anarchy is all to us. Anarchy is humanity itself. Everyone must fight in the battle that is close upon us, the women as well as the men. We all have our work to do in the great Revolution.

Yanowsky then addressed the meeting in Yiddish. We regret that we are unable to give a translation of his address, which drew frequent laughter and applause from our Jewish and German comrades.

C. W. Mowbray said : We had heard much of the doctrine of brotherhood and love to-night, but the doctrine of hate and vengeance was just as necessary and right. The soldier is thought to hate the enemies of his country, let us teach to our children our enemies, the rich men and rulers. Look here the Anarchist movement had spread in England since the death of comrades. Three years ago, no message came from Sheffield now the movement was spreading and growing there, as it did everywhere where our comrades were bold and spoke plainly. This evening some Social Democrats had been offended because Social Democratic leaders had been denounced from the platform, but they should remember that we did not attack Social Democrats of the rank and file but the leaders ; the gentry with the high hats, frock coats and stiff collars, who not only deceive you but thousands of other workers. To prevent these " leaders " betraying the Labour movement, we must teach the people not to allow their own work to be done by others but to do it themselves. If they left all the work to a few propagandists, they were not Anarchists, but the enemies of Anarchism for they had failed to learn the lesson taught by the deaths of our heroic comrades.

Cyril Bell declared that we must become more and more daring in our action. Not only must we go in for the No Rent Campaign, but we must tell the people to help themselves in the shops. Not only must we preach dynamite, but we must t learn how to make it, and use it.

Tochatti objected to the wild language. We must not indulge in wild talk about dynamite and pillage. [Cries of dissent.] As to dynamite, he was as ready to use it as any man, when the time came but any talk of its present use was madness. [Oh !] If we wanted to learn how to preach Anarchy let us study the speeches of our Chicago Comrades, and learn to explain our noble principles in same clear and plain fashion.

Leggatt said that people might object to physical force, but he had been to Trafalgar Square and had suffered from the brutal blows of police, who afterwards dragged him to prison. For his part, if force was used against him, he would use force in return.

Frohlich then said a few words in German, and a most successful meeting concluded with cheers for Anarchy.

From The Commonweal, November 21, 1891

Posted By

Apr 27 2015 11:30


Attached files


Apr 27 2015 20:24

Marsh is Alfred Marsh, Miss Henry is Agnes Henry. Yanowsky is Saul Yanovsky, Leggatt is Ted Leggatt, Wess is William Wess.Tochatti is James Tochatti. Frohlich is Conrad Froehlich, German-speaking Swiss.