Chapter 09: Anarchists

Note, the beginning of this chapter is incredibly sectarian, but it does go on to give a thorough account of the trial of the Anarchists of Haymarket, with a point by point exposure of the trial being fixed. Furthermore as part of her tour Eleanor made agitation for new trial and the conspiracy of the first one a key part of her program.

IT is necessary, in the first place, to make clear our own relations to Anarchism, and the relations between Anarchism and Socialism.

It is hardly necessary to say that, as Socialists, we are not Anarchists, and are, of necessity, entirely opposed to the methods and aims of Anarchism. It is true both Anarchist and Socialist attack the present capitalist system. But the Anarchist attacks it from the individualist, conservative, reactionary point of view, the Socialist from the communist, progressive, revolutionary standpoint. The two " schools "--if the one can be called a school which has no definite programme, no clear teaching--have, in fact, nothing in common. It is characteristic that the most violent attacks made on us during our tour in 1886 were made by Anarchist writers and speakers. The Chicago capitalist press wanted us to be hanged after we had landed; Herr Most's paper, Die Freiheit, was for shooting us "on sight" before we landed.

This personal fact is mentioned because it is characteristic of the general Anarchist tactics. In every country, wherever a revolutionary movement has begun, a small handful of men has cropped up (as often as not thoroughly honest, but usually led or urged on by police agents), calling themselves Anarchists, yet very vague and contradictory as to what they mean by this name. Everywhere they have proved a hindrance to the real working-class movement; everywhere they have proved a danger, since the police have egged them on to premature and disastrous emeutes; and everywhere, happily, they disappear when once the movement attains real power and meaning. In a word, where the working class has come to years of discretion, and where from a vague feeling of misery and unrest it has grown to understand its true position, has awakened to class consciousness, Anarchism dies out. Anarchism ruined the International movement; it threw back the Spanish, Italian, and French movements for many years; it has proved a hindrance in America; and so much or so little of it as exists in England is found by the Revolutionary Socialist party a decided nuisance. Everywhere Anarchism (especially when police inspired) talks very big; but while there is "great talk of revolution, there is great chance of despotism." The Socialist believes in organisation; he believes in political action, in the seizure of political power by the working class as the only means of attaining that complete economic emancipation which is the final aim. As to what the Anarchists believe, it is a little difficult to say, as no two give the same definition of their views. But the tree is known by its fruit; and the fruit of Anarchism has invariably been reaction, a throwing back of the movement, and a confusing of men's minds.

But while it is true that Anarchism has proved, to some extent, a hindrance in America, chiefly because so many Americans have been induced to call Socialism Anarchism as a mere protest, or from want of accurate knowledge, the power of Anarchism, pure and simple, must not be overestimated. There is a great deal of sound and fury, but it signifies nothing. In their very stronghold, Chicago, events have taught them the folly of their own doctrines; and at the November election, in 1886, there were no heartier workers for the Labour candidates than the Anarchists, who until that time had seized every opportunity of denouncing the political action of the Socialists. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that well-nigh every word spoken by the chief defendants at the Chicago trial, of which more in a moment, could be indorsed by Socialists; for they there preached, not Anarchism, but Socialism. Indeed, he that will compare the fine speech by Parsons in 1886 with that of Liebknecht at the high treason trial at Leipzig, will find the two practically identical.

Our very antagonism to the Anarchist doctrines, therefore, made it the more incumbent upon us, whilst in America in 1886, to do all in our power toward demanding for the Chicago Anarchists that justice which was denied them. It was our duty, and we made it our business, to speak at every meeting we held in America in favour of a new trial for the condemned Anarchists of Chicago. And this on the following grounds:--

(1) The trial took place too near the event of May 4th, 1886, in point of time.

(2) The trial took place too near the event of May 4th in point of place. A change of venue was necessary for justice. This is recognised in the case of the police when held on a charge of murder. Thus a private detective agency man, Joy, arrested in November of the same year on a charge of shooting one Begley, in an unarmed and peaceful crowd, was not tried where the event occurred.

(3) The arrests were made without any legal warrant. This statement is true, not only of the eight men sentenced, but of many others, who were thus illegally arrested, kept in prison four months, and then discharged without even being brought to trial.

(4) The houses, offices, and desks of the accused were broken into, and their contents taken by the police without any search-warrants having been issued.

(5) During the trial and after its close the police made, at judicious intervals, opportune discoveries of bombs and the like in Chicago. These discoveries were simultaneous with any awakening of public feeling on behalf of the accused. Thus, four infernal machines were discovered a month after their arrest, and the attempt was actually made to use this discovery as evidence against the imprisoned men. In the opinion of many people these bombs found by the police were also hidden by the, police.

(6) The jury was, at least in part, made up of men prejudiced against the accused. Amongst the many whom the prisoners' advocates challenged was one who admitted that he had formed a distinct affirmative opinion as to their guilt before the trial began, and who was certain that no amount of evidence could shake that opinion. Judge Gary overruled the objection to this man, and he served on the jury. Besides this one special case, there was general evidence that the jury was packed. We quote from the Chicago Inter-Ocean of October 2nd, 1886. The application to Judge Gary for a new trial was made on October 1st. "The affidavit of E. V. Stevens, a travelling salesman,... states that the affiant is well acquainted with Otis S. Favor; that he knows the latter to be intimate with Ryce, the special bailiff; that he has heard Favor state that Ryce had said to him in his presence and the presence of others, while Ryce was engaged in summoning jurors, the following words: 'I am managing this case, and know what I am about. These fellows are going to be hung as certain as death. I am calling such men as the defendants will have to challenge and to waste their challenges.' The defendants' counsel then said that Favor had refused to appear in the court to testify openly or to do so by affidavit, unless he was compelled to do so by order of the Court. They therefore asked that the Court order a subpoena to compel Favor's appearance....Judge Gary:'I shall overrule the motion.'"

(7) The judge was unfair. Two cases have already been given. He ruled out of order questions as to whether the police had given money to the witnesses for the prosecution. He ruled in order the introduction of translated extracts from a work of Most's, although there was no evidence that any of the accused had ever seen the book, and although it was known that two of them (Parsons and Fielden) could not read the language in which the book was written. To the counsel for the defence, when they pleaded against the introduction of such evidence as this, Judge Gary said, " Sit down, and don't make scenes." He allowed the bloody clothing of the policemen that were killed to be introduced in court. When, on Captain Black protesting, State-Attorney Grinnell said," I could bring in the shattered corpses of the policemen," Judge Gary uttered no reproof. He overruled an objection to evidence as to conversations between the prisoners and the police. To the defendants' counsel, cross-examining, he said, " I think you ask much too much." When the verdict and sentence were given by the jury, unimpeachable witnesses state that the judge went out to his wife, who was waiting for the result, and said, "All is well, mother. Seven to be hanged, and one fifteen years. All is well."

(8) The counsel for the prosecution, Mr. Grinnell, was passionate and venomous. In his opening speech he denounced the accused as "godless foreigners. When the group "Freiheit" was mentioned, the familiar German word had to be translated to Mr. Grinnell, whose comment was, "Oh yes, freedom to send people into the air!'' He tried hard to use the after discovery of infernal machines (v.a.) as evidence against the accused men. When the desk, stolen and broken into by the police without warrant, was found to be fitted by a key in the possession of Spies, the demand was made that the keys should be returned to their owner. " Oh, hell never need them again!" said Grinnell.

(9) The witnesses upon whose evidence the men were condemned were tainted. Wilhelm Seliger, who turned States' evidence, had been living in the police-station, admitted many conversations with the police, and the receipt of money from them, and was contradicted on essential points by witnesses equally independent of prosecution and defence. Of Gottfried Waller, the second States' evidence witness, the same assertions may be made. The most important witness, one Gillmer, who saw everything--saw Schnaubelt (never in custody) throw the bomb, saw Spies light it, Raw Fischer with them--was a semi-tramp, out of work, living in the prison, who said nothing of all he saw at the inquest nor for days after. He knew all details of build and face of men in the alley, but not a word of the speeches. Shea and Jansen, two detectives, the latter of whom had been in the Anarchist organisation with other policemen for sixteen months, and a number of newspaper reporters, for the most part on intimate terms with the police, completed the list of the witnesses for the prosecution. Shea confessed that he tried to get Spies to sign an incriminating paper in prison, without letting him see its contents. Jansen attended secret meetings,and furnished the police with notes of them. When anything was wanted to egg on the Anarchists to action, he considerately provided it. One Malcolm MacThomson heard a compromising conversation between Spies and Schwab, in which "pistols" and " police " were mentioned, and the question, "Will one be enough?" asked. He confessed that he did not understand a word of German, and it was proved that Spies and Schwab always spoke in German to one another.

Against these may be set their own contradictions and the evidence of an army of independent witnesses. These showed that the Haymarket meeting was peaceful and orderly, that many women were present, that no incendiary speeches were made. Thus, a certain Freeman saw Parsons, Fielden, and Spies, not in the alley a la Gillmer, but on the waggon; heard Parsons suggest adjournment as it was raining; heard Fielden say, "I am ready. Wait a minute, and then we'll go." This witness contradicted the police evidence. Dr. James Taylor, aged seventy-six, was in the alley at the time the bomb was thrown from a point twenty feet from the alley. He testified to the perfectly peaceful character of the meeting until the police interfered.

But especially Mayor Harrison must be quoted. Was present at the meeting until within twenty minutes of explosion. Had agreed with Chief of Police that it must be dissolved if not peaceful. Tone of speeches generally such that feared a point might be reached when he must dissolve it, as he was determined to do as soon as any use of force was threatened. Parsons' speech a political tirade. Witness told Captain Bonfield (Chief of Police) it had been a very tame speech. Rent to police-station, told Bonfield there would be no trouble, and it would be better if his men went home. Then left, thinking all was well.

(10) The American press to some extent, the Chicago papers to a considerable, and the Times and especially the Tribune of that city to a hideous extent, clamoured for the hanging of these men. Anything more indecent, undignified, and panic-stricken than the Chicago Tribune's articles we have never, in a fairly large and varied experience of journalism, seen. If these men are ultimately hanged, it will be the Chicago Tribune that has done it. And as proof that the condemned were condemned not because the evidence showed they were murderers, but because it showed they were Anarchists, one quotation from the Tribune will suffice: "Chicago hangs Anarchists." There are no words of qualification: "Chicago hangs Anarchists."

During the months of September to December 1886 a change was wrought in popular feeling. The speaking and writing of many men and women, altogether opposed to Anarchist teachings, the constant appeal to the sense of justice of the American people, the gradual recovery of the latter from the state of unreasoning fear into which the events of May and the infamous newspaper articles had worked them,--these and other things had their effect. By the time of the municipal elections in November a great body of public opinion had declared fur a new trial. Then came the thunderbolt of the success of the Labour Party at the elections. From that moment it was certain the men would not be hanged in December 3rd. On Thanksgiving Day (November 25th) Captain Black, the magnificent advocate for the Chicago Anarchists, obtained a stay of execution.

In April 1887 we received from our friend, Captain Black, the printed copies of his brief and argument, and of his oral argument before the Supreme Court of Illinois on March 18th. In his accompanying letter, dated April 6th, he writes: "Let me as a lawyer say to you that I deem it [the argument] unanswerable, and I know it has not been met, although upon the other side they filed printed arguments aggregating over 546 pages. ...I think the opposition really expect a reversal of the judgment; and for myself I am absolutely confident of the result."

The opinion of the better class of journals was in the main the same. And the opinion of almost every one, when the first angry panic was over and calmer judgment prevailed, was, even as far back as December 1886, that unless some new and much more reliable and conclusive evidence could be brought forward by the police at the second trial, no jury would convict the Chicago Anarchists of murder.

Of one thing there can be no doubt. After on Ulysses' wanderings and the coming into contact with Knights of Labour, Central Labour Unionists, and so forth, in many towns, we can say with confidence that the vast majority of the working class were of opinion that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. Of course this majority were not. Anarchists. Nor were they even Socialists. To the teachings--the avowed teachings--of the eight men sentenced they were as intensely opposed as any Socialist could be. But they considered that justice had not been done.

The present position of affairs in this celebrated case is (September 19th, 1887), that the Supreme Court of Illinois has refused the application for a new trial, and has confirmed the sentence, fixing as the date of execution, November 11th. Probably appeal will be made to the Supreme Court of the United States. It seems impossible that men can be done to death on such no-evidence as was brought against the Chicago Anarchists, and if they are executed we have no hesitation in declaring that the American people will be guilty of a cowardly and brutal murder.

We have thought it wise to retain in this volume that which we wrote originally in May 1887, as throwing light upon subsequent events in connection with the Chicago Anarchists, and as having a general bearing upon trials in a capitalistic society of men whose greatest crime is antagonism to that society.


Apr 23 2016 10:47

"Moreover, it must be borne in mind that well-nigh every word spoken by the chief defendants at the Chicago trial, of which more in a moment, could be indorsed by Socialists; for they there preached, not Anarchism, but Socialism"

This seems to be the first in a long line of people asserting that the Chicago anarchists were not really anarchists (see, for example, the terrible book by Carolyn Ashbaugh).

There are two possibilities: either the Chicago anarchists understand their ideas or Marx understands their ideas. Marx, smugly, knows better than the Martyrs what their ideas actually are... as if. But, of course, the obvious conclusion is that the Chicago Anarchists understood what they advocated and died for... like the rest of the anarchist movement (see Kropotkin's speeches on the subject, for example).

Also: "Synthesised" Marxism and Anarchism? My arse!