VIOLENCE AND THE LABOR MOVEMENT
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VIOLENCE AND THE LABOR MOVEMENT
AUTHOR OF "POVERTY," "SOCIALISTS AT WORK," ETC.
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1914.
FERRIS PRINTING COMPANY NEW YORK CITY
THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR TO
EUGENE V. DEBS
"ONE WHO NEVER TURNED HIS BACK BUT MARCHED BREAST FORWARD, NEVER DOUBTED CLOUDS WOULD BREAK,"
D. DOUGLAS WILSON
WHO, THOUGH PARALYZED AND BLIND, HAS SO LONG AND FAITHFULLY BLAZED THE TRAIL FOR LABOR
This volume is the result of some studies that I felt impelled to make when, about three years ago, certain sections of the labor movement in the United States were discussing vehemently political action versus direct action. A number of causes combined to produce a serious and critical controversy. The Industrial Workers of the World were carrying on a lively agitation that later culminated in a series of spectacular strikes. With ideas and methods that were not only in opposition to those of the trade unions, but also to those of the socialist party, the new organization sought to displace the older organizations by what it called the "one Big Union." There were many in the older organizations who firmly believed in industrial unionism, and the dissensions which arose were not so much over that question as over the antagonistic character of the new movement and its advocacy here of the violent methods employed by the revolutionary section of the French unions. The most forceful and active spokesman of these methods was Mr. William D. Haywood, and, largely as a result of his agitation, la greve generale and le sabotage became the subjects of the hour in labor and socialist circles. In 1911 Mr. Haywood and Mr. Frank Bohn published a booklet, entitled Industrial Socialism, in which they urged that the worker should "use any weapon which will win his fight."[A] They declared that, as "the present laws of property are made by and for the capitalists, the workers should not hesitate to break them."[B]
The advocacy of such doctrines alarmed the older socialists, who were familiar with the many disasters that had overtaken the labor movement in its earlier days, and nearly all of them assailed the direct actionists. Mr. Eugene V. Debs, Mr. Victor L. Berger, Mr. John Spargo, Mr. Morris Hillquit, and many others, less well known, combated "the new methods" in vigorous language. Mr. Hillquit dealt with the question in a manner that immediately awakened the attention of every active socialist. Condemning without reserve every resort to lawbreaking and violence, and insisting that both were "ethically unjustifiable and tactically suicidal," Mr. Hillquit pointed out that whenever any group or section of the labor movement "has embarked upon a policy of 'breaking the law' or using 'any weapons which will win the fight,' whether such policy was styled 'terrorism,' 'propaganda of the deed,' 'direct action,' 'sabotage,' or 'anarchism,' it has invariably served to demoralize and destroy the movement, by attracting to it professional criminals, infesting it with spies, leading the workers to needless and senseless slaughter, and ultimately engendering a spirit of disgust and reaction. It was this advocacy of 'lawbreaking' which Marx and Engels fought so severely in the International and which finally led to the disruption of the first great international parliament of labor, and the socialist party of every country in the civilized world has since uniformly and emphatically rejected that policy."[C]
There could be no better introduction to the present volume than these words of Mr. Hillquit, and it will, I think, be clear to the reader that the history of the labor movement during the last half-century fully sustains Mr. Hillquit's position. The problem of methods has always been a vital matter to the labor movement, and, for a hundred years at least, the quarrels now dividing syndicalists and socialists have disturbed that movement. In the Chartist days the "physical forcists" opposed the "moral forcists," and later dissensions over the same question occurred between the Bakouninists and the Marxists. Since then anarchists and social democrats, direct actionists and political actionists, syndicalists and socialists have continued the battle. I have attempted here to present the arguments made by both sides of this controversy, and, while no doubt my bias is perfectly clear, I hope I have presented fairly the position of each of the contending elements. Fortunately, the direct actionists have exercised a determining influence only in a few places, and everywhere, in the end, the victory of those who were contending for the employment of peaceable means has been complete. Already in this country, as a result of the recent controversy, it is written in the constitution of the socialist party that "any member of the party who opposes political action or advocates crime, sabotage, or other methods of violence as a weapon of the working class to aid in its emancipation shall be expelled from membership in the party."[D] Adopted by the national convention of the party in 1911, this clause was ratified at a general referendum of all the membership of the party. It is clear, therefore, that the immense majority of socialists are determined to employ peaceable and legal methods of action.
It is, of course, perfectly obvious that the methods to be employed in the struggles between classes, as between nations, cannot be predetermined. And, while the socialists everywhere have condemned the use of violent measures and are now exercising every power at their command to keep the struggle between labor and capital on legal ground, events alone will determine whether the great social problems of our day can be settled peaceably. The entire matter is largely in the hands of the ruling classes. And, while the socialists in all countries are determined not to allow themselves to be provoked into acts of despair by temporary and fleeting methods of repression, conditions may of course arise where no organization, however powerful, could prevent the masses from breaking into an open and bloody conflict. On one memorable occasion (March 31, 1886), August Bebel uttered some impressive words on this subject in the German Reichstag. "Herr von Puttkamer," said Bebel, "calls to mind the speech which I delivered in 1881 in the debate on the Socialist Law a few days after the murder of the Czar. I did not then glorify regicide. I declared that a system like that prevailing in Russia necessarily gave birth to Nihilism and must necessarily lead to deeds of violence. Yes, I do not hesitate to say that if you should inaugurate such a system in Germany it would of necessity lead to deeds of violence with us as well. (A deputy called out: 'The German Monarchy?') The German Monarchy would then certainly be affected, and I do not hesitate to say that I should be one of the first to lend a hand in the work, for all measures are allowable against such a system."[E] I take it that Bebel was, in this instance, simply pointing out to the German bureaucracy the inevitable consequences of the Russian system. At that very moment he was restraining hundreds of thousands of his followers from acts of despair, yet he could not resist warning the German rulers that the time might come in that country when no considerations whatever could persuade men to forego the use of the most violent retaliative measures. This view is, of course, well established in our national history, and our Declaration of Independence, as well as many of our State constitutions, asserts that it is both the right and the duty of the people to overthrow by any means in their power an oppressive and tyrannical government. This was, of course, always the teaching of what Marx liked to call "the bourgeois democrats." It was, in fact, their only conception of revolution.
The socialist idea of revolution is quite a different one. Insurrection plays no necessary part in it, and no one sees more clearly than the socialist that nothing could prove more disastrous to the democratic cause than to have the present class conflict break into a civil war. If such a war becomes necessary, it will be in spite of the organized socialists, who, in every country of the world, not only seek to avoid, but actually condemn, riotous, tempestuous, and violent measures. Such measures do not fit into their philosophy, which sees, as the cause of our present intolerable social wrongs, not the malevolence of individuals or of classes, but the workings of certain economic laws. One can cut off the head of an individual, but it is not possible to cut off the head of an economic law. From the beginning of the modern socialist movement, this has been perfectly clear to the socialist, whose philosophy has taught him that appeals to violence tend, as Engels has pointed out, to obscure the understanding of the real development of things.
The dissensions over the use of force, that have been so continuous and passionate in the labor movement, arise from two diametrically opposed points of view. One is at bottom anarchistic, and looks upon all social evils as the result of individual wrong-doing. The other is at bottom socialistic, and looks upon all social evils as in the main the result of economic and social laws. To those who believe there are good trusts and bad trusts, good capitalists and bad capitalists, and that this is an adequate analysis of our economic ills, there is, of course, after all, nothing left but hatred of individuals and, in the extreme case, the desire to remove those individuals. To those, on the other hand, who see in certain underlying economic forces the source of nearly all of our distressing social evils, individual hatred and malice can make in reality no appeal. This volume, on its historical side, as well as in its survey of the psychology of the various elements in the labor movement, is a contribution to the study of the reactions that affect various minds and temperaments in the face of modern social wrongs. If one's point of view is that of the anarchist, he is led inevitably to make his war upon individuals. The more sensitive and sincere he is, the more bitter and implacable becomes that war. If one's point of view is based on what is now called the economic interpretation of history, one is emancipated, in so far as that is possible for emotional beings, from all hatred of individuals, and one sees before him only the necessity of readjusting the economic basis of our common life in order to achieve a more nearly perfect social order.
In contrasting the temperaments, the points of view, the philosophy, and the methods of these two antagonistic minds, I have been forced to take two extremes, the Bakouninist anarchist and the Marxian socialist. In the case of the former, it has been necessary to present the views of a particular school of anarchism, more or less regardless of certain other schools. Proudhon, Stirner, Warren, and Tucker do not advocate violent measures, and Tolstoi, Ibsen, Spencer, Thoreau, and Emerson—although having the anarchist point of view—can hardly be conceived of as advocating violent measures. It will be obvious to the reader that I have not dealt with the philosophical anarchism, or whatever one may call it, of these last. I have confined myself to the anarchism of those who have endeavored to carry out their principles in the democratic movement of their time and to the deeds of those who threw themselves into the active life about them and endeavored to impress both their ideas and methods upon the awakening world of labor. It is the anarchism of these men that the world knows. By deeds and not by words have they written their definition of anarchism, and I am taking and using the term in this volume in the sense in which it is used most commonly by people in general. If this offends the anarchists of the non-resistant or passive-resistant type, it cannot be helped. It is the meaning that the most active of the anarchists have themselves given it.
I have sought to take my statements from first-hand sources only, although in a few cases I have had to depend on secondary sources. I am deeply indebted to Mr. Herman Schlueter, editor of the New Yorker Volkszeitung, for lending me certain rare books and pamphlets, and also for reading carefully and critically the entire manuscript. With his help I have managed to get every document that has seemed to me essential. At the end of the volume will be found a complete list of the authorities which I have consulted. I have to regret that I could not read, before sending this manuscript to the publisher, the four volumes just published of the correspondence between Marx and Engels (Der Briefwechsel zwischen Friedrich Engels und Karl Marx 1844 bis 1833, herausgegeben von A. Bebel und Ed. Bernstein, J. H. W. Dietz, Stuttgart, 1913). I must also express here my gratitude to Mr. Morris Hillquit and to Miss Helen Phelps Stokes for making many valuable suggestions, as well as my indebtedness to Miss Helen Bernice Sweeney and Mr. Sidney S. Bobbe for their most capable secretarial assistance. Special appreciation is due my wife for her helpfulness and painstaking care at many difficult stages of the work.
Highland Farm, Noroton Heights, Connecticut. November 1, 1913.
[A] P. 57.
[B] P. 57.
[C] The New York Call, November 20, 1911.
[D] Article II, Section 6.
[E] Quoted by Dawson, "German Socialism and Ferdinand Lassalle," p. 272.
TERRORISM IN WESTERN EUROPE
CHAPTER I. THE FATHER OF TERRORISM 3 II. A SERIES OF INSURRECTIONS 28 III. THE PROPAGANDA OF THE DEED 49 IV. JOHANN MOST IN AMERICA 62 V. A SERIES OF TRAGEDIES 77 VI. SEEKING THE CAUSES 90
STRUGGLES WITH VIOLENCE
VII. THE BIRTH OF MODERN SOCIALISM 125 VIII. THE BATTLE BETWEEN MARX AND BAKOUNIN 154 IX. THE FIGHT FOR EXISTENCE 194 X. THE NEWEST ANARCHISM 229 XI. THE OLDEST ANARCHISM 276 XII. VISIONS OF VICTORY 327 AUTHORITIES 357 INDEX 375
TERRORISM IN WESTERN EUROPE
Violence and the Labor Movement
THE FATHER OF TERRORISM
"Dante tells us," writes Macaulay, "that he saw, in Malebolge, a strange encounter between a human form and a serpent. The enemies, after cruel wounds inflicted, stood for a time glaring on each other. A great cloud surrounded them, and then a wonderful metamorphosis began. Each creature was transfigured into the likeness of its antagonist. The serpent's tail divided into two legs; the man's legs intertwined themselves into a tail. The body of the serpent put forth arms; the arms of the man shrank into his body. At length the serpent stood up a man, and spake; the man sank down a serpent, and glided hissing away." Something, I suppose, not unlike this appalling picture of Dante's occurs in the world whenever a man's soul becomes saturated with hatred. It will be remembered, for instance, that even Shelley's all-forgiving and sublime Prometheus was forced by the torture of the furies to cry out in anguish,
"Whilst I behold such execrable shapes, Methinks I grow like what I contemplate."
It would not be strange, then, if here and there a man's entire nature were transfigured when he sees a monster appear, cruel, pitiless, and unyielding, crushing to the earth the weak, the weary, and the heavy-laden. Nor is it strange that in Russia—the blackest Malebolge in the modern world—a litter of avengers is born every generation of the savage brutality, the murderous oppression, the satanic infamy of the Russian government. And who does not love those innumerable Russian youths and maidens, driven to acts of defiance—hopeless, futile, yet necessary—if for no other reason than to fulfill their duty to humanity and thus perhaps quiet a quivering conscience? There is something truly Promethean in the struggle of the Russian youth against their overpowering antagonist. They know that the price of one single act of protest is their lives. Yet, to the eternal credit of humanity, thousands of them have thrown themselves naked on the spears of their enemy, to become an example of sacrificial revolt. And can any of us wonder that when even this tragic seeding of the martyrs proved unfruitful, many of the Russian youth, brooding over the irremediable wrongs of their people, were driven to insanity and suicide? And, if all that was possible, would it be surprising if it also happened that at least one flaming rebel should have developed a philosophy of warfare no less terrible than that of the Russian bureaucracy itself? I do not know, nor would I allow myself to suggest, that Michael Bakounin, who brought into Western Europe and planted there the seeds of terrorism, came to be like what he contemplated, or that his philosophy and tactics of action were altogether a reflection of those he opposed. Yet, if that were the case, one could better understand that bitter and bewildering character.
That there is some justification for speculation on these grounds is indicated by the heroes of Bakounin. He always meant to write the story of Prometheus, and he never spoke of Satan without an admiration that approached adoration. They were the two unconquerable enemies of absolutism. He was "the eternal rebel," Bakounin once said of Satan, "the first free-thinker and emancipator of the worlds." In another place he speaks of Proudhon as having the instinct of a revolutionist, because "he adored Satan and proclaimed anarchy." In still another place he refers to the proletariat of Paris as "the modern Satan, the great rebel, vanquished, but not pacified." In the statutes of his secret organization, of which I shall speak again later, he insists that "principles, programs, and rules are not nearly as important as that the persons who put them into execution shall have the devil in them." Although an avowed and militant atheist, Bakounin could not subdue his worship of the king of devils, and, had anyone during his life said that Bakounin was not only a modern Satan incarnate, but the eight other devils as well, nothing could have delighted him more. And no doubt he was inspired to this demon worship by his implacable hatred of absolutism—whether it be in religion, which he considered as tyranny over the mind, or in government, which he considered as tyranny over the body. To Bakounin the two eternal enemies of man were the Government and the Church, and no weapon was unworthy of use which promised in any measure to assist in their entire and complete obliteration.
Absolutism was to Bakounin a universal destroyer of the best and the noblest qualities in man. And, as it stands as an effective barrier to the only social order that can lift man above the beast—that of perfect liberty—so must the sincere warrior against absolutism become the universal destroyer of any and everything associated with tyranny. How far such a crusade leads one may be gathered from Bakounin's own words: "The end of revolution can be no other," he declares, "than the destruction of all powers—religious, monarchical, aristocratic, and bourgeois—in Europe. Consequently, the destruction of all now existing States, with all their institutions—political, juridical, bureaucratic, and financial." In another place he says: "It will be essential to destroy everything, and especially and before all else, all property and its inevitable corollary, the State." "We want to destroy all States," he repeats in still another place, "and all Churches, with all their institutions and their laws of religion, politics, jurisprudence, finance, police, universities, economics, and society, in order that all these millions of poor, deceived, enslaved, tormented, exploited human beings, delivered from all their official and officious directors and benefactors, associations, and individuals, can at last breathe with complete freedom." All through life Bakounin clung tenaciously to this immense idea of destruction, "terrible, total, inexorable, and universal," for only after such a period of destructive terror—in which every vestige of "the institutions of tyranny" shall be swept from the earth—can "anarchy, that is to say, the complete manifestation of unchained popular life," develop liberty, equality, and justice. These were the means, and this was the end that Bakounin had in mind all the days of his life from the time he convinced himself as a young man that "the desire for destruction is at the same time a creative desire."
Even so brief a glimpse into Bakounin's mind is likely to startle the reader. But there is no fiction here; he is what Carlyle would have called "a terrible God's Fact." He was a very real product of Russia's infamy, and we need not be surprised if one with Bakounin's great talents, worshiping Satan and preaching ideas of destruction that comprehended Cosmos itself, should have performed in the world a unique and never-to-be-forgotten role. It was inevitable that he should have stood out among the men of his time as a strange, bewildering figure. To his very matter-of-fact and much annoyed antagonist, Karl Marx, he was little more than a buffoon, the "amorphous pan-destroyer, who has succeeded in uniting in one person Rodolphe, Monte Cristo, Karl Moor, and Robert Macaire." On the other hand, to his circle of worshipers he was a mental giant, a flaming titan, a Russian Siegfried, holding out to all the powers of heaven and earth a perpetual challenge to combat. And, in truth, Bakounin's ideas and imagination covered a field that is not exhausted by the range of mythology. He juggled with universal abstractions as an alchemist with the elements of the earth or an astrologist with the celestial spheres. His workshop was the universe, his peculiar task the refashioning of Cosmos, and he began by declaring war upon the Almighty himself and every institution among men fashioned after what he considered to be the absolutism of the Infinite.
It is, then, with no ordinary human being that we must deal in treating of him who is known as the father of terrorism. Yet, as he lived in this world and fought with his faithful circle to lay down the principles of universal revolution, we find him very human indeed. Of contradictions, for instance, there seems to be no end. Although an atheist, he had an idol, Satan. Although an eternal enemy of absolutism, he pleaded with Alexander to become the Czar of the people. And, although he fought passionately and superbly to destroy what he called the "authoritarian hierarchy" in the organization of the International, he planned for his own purpose the most complete hierarchy that can well be imagined. His only tactic, that of lex talionis, also worked out a perfect reciprocity even in those common affairs to which this prodigy stooped in order to conquer, for he seemed to create infallibly every institution he combated and to use every weapon that he execrated when employed by others. The most fertile of law-givers himself, he could not tolerate another. Pope of Popes in his little inner circle, he could brook no rival. Machiavelli's Prince was no richer in intrigue than Bakounin; yet he always fancied himself, with the greatest self-compassion, as the naive victim of the endless and malicious intrigues of others. However affectionate, generous, and open he seemed to be with those who followed him worshipfully, even they were not trusted with his secrets, and, if he was always cunning and crafty toward his enemies, he never had a friend that he did not use to his profit. Volatile in his fitful changes toward men and movements, rudderless as he often seemed to be in the incoherence of his ideas and of his policies, there nevertheless burned in his soul throughout life a great flaming, and perhaps redeeming, hatred of tyranny. At times he would lead his little bands into open warfare upon it, dreaming always that the world once in motion would follow him to the end in his great work of destruction. At other times he would go to it bearing gifts, in the hope, as we must charitably think, of destroying it by stealth.
In general outline, this is the father of terrorism as I see him. How he developed his views is not entirely clear, as very little is known of his early life, and there are several broken threads at different periods both early and late in his career. The little known of his youth may be quickly told. He was born in Russia in 1814, of a family of good position, belonging to the old nobility. He was well educated and began his career in the army. Shortly after the Polish insurrection had been crushed, militarism and despotism became abhorrent to him, and the spectacle of that terrorized country made an everlasting impression upon him. In 1834 he renounced his military career and returned to Moscow, where he gave himself up entirely to the study of philosophy, and, as was natural at the period, he saturated himself with Hegel. From Moscow he went to St. Petersburg and later to Berlin, constantly pursuing his studies, and in 1842 he published under the title, "La reaction en Allemagne, fragment, par un Francais," an article ending with the now famous line: "The desire for destruction is at the same time a creative desire." This article appeared in the Deutsche Jahrbuecher, in which publication he soon became a collaborator. The authorities, however, were hostile to the paper, and he went into Switzerland in 1843, only to be driven later to Paris. There he made the acquaintance of Proudhon, "the father of anarchism," and spent days and nights with him discussing the problems of government, of society, and of religion. He also met Marx, "the father of socialism," and, although they were never sympathetic, yet they came frequently in friendly and unfriendly contact with each other. George Sand, George Herwegh, Arnold Ruge, Frederick Engels, William Weitling, Alexander Herzen, Richard Wagner, Adolf Reichel, and many other brilliant revolutionary spirits of the time, Bakounin knew intimately, and for him, as for many others, the period of the forties was one of great intellectual development.
In the insurrectionary period that began in 1848 he became active, but he appears to have done little noteworthy before January, 1849, when he went secretly to Leipsic in the hope of aiding a group of young Czechs to launch an uprising in Bohemia. Shortly afterward an insurrection broke out in Dresden, and he rushed there to become one of the most active leaders of the revolt. It is said that he was "the veritable soul of the revolution," and that he advised the insurrectionists, in order to prevent the Prussians from firing upon the barricades, to place in front of them the masterpieces from the art museum. When that insurrection was suppressed, he, Richard Wagner, and some others hurried to Chemnitz, where Bakounin was captured and condemned to death. Austria, however, demanded his extradition, and there, for the second time, he was condemned to be hanged. Eventually he was handed over to Russia, where he again escaped paying the death penalty by the pardon of the Czar, and, after six years in prison, he was banished to Siberia. Great efforts were made to secure a pardon for him, but without success. However, through his influential relatives, he was allowed such freedom of movement that in the end he succeeded in escaping, and, returning to Europe through Japan and America, he arrived in England in 1861.
The next year is notable for the appearance of two of his brochures, "Aux amis russes, polonais, et a tous les amis slaves," and "La Cause du Peuple, Romanoff, Pougatchoff, ou Pestel?" One would have thought that twelve years in prison and in Siberia would have made him more bitter than ever against the State and the Czar; but, curiously, these writings mark a striking departure from his previous views. For almost the only time in his life he expressed a desire to see Russia develop into a magnificent "State," and he urged the Russians to drive the Tartars back to Asia, the Germans back to Germany, and to become a free people, exclusively Russian. By cooeperative effort between the military powers of the Russian Government and the insurrectionary activities of the Slavs subjected to foreign governments, the Russian peoples could wage a war, he argued, that would create a great united empire. The second of the above-mentioned volumes was addressed particularly to Alexander II. In this Bakounin prophesies that Russia must soon undergo a revolution. It may come through terrible and bloody uprisings on the part of the masses, led by some fierce and sanguinary popular idol, or it will come through the Czar himself, if he should be wise enough to assume in person the leadership of the peasants. He declared that "Alexander II. could so easily become the popular idol, the first Czar of the peasants.... By leaning upon the people he could become the savior and master of the entire Slavic world." He then pictures in glowing terms a united Russia, in which the Czar and the people will work harmoniously together to build up a great democratic State. But he threatens that, if the Czar does not become the "savior of the Slavic world," an avenger will arise to lead an outraged and avenging people. He again declares, "We prefer to follow Romanoff (the family name of the Czar), if Romanoff could and would transform himself from the Petersbourgeois emperor into the Czar of the peasants." Despite much flattery and ill-merited praise, the Czar refused to be converted, and Bakounin rushed off the next year to Stockholm, in the hope of organizing a band of Russians to enter Poland to assist in the insurrection which had broken out there.
The next few years were spent mostly in Italy, and it was here that he conceived his plan of a secret international organization of revolutionists. Little is known of how extensive this secret organization actually became, but Bakounin said in 1864 that it included a number of Italian, French, Scandinavian, and Slavic revolutionists. As a scheme this secret organization is remarkable. It included three orders: I. The International Brothers; II. The National Brothers; III. The semi-secret, semi-public organization of the International Alliance of Social Democracy. Without Bakounin's intending it, doubtless, the International Brothers resembled the circle of gods in mythology; the National Brothers, the circle of heroes; while the third order resembled the mortals who were to bear the burden of the fighting. The International Brothers were not to exceed one hundred, and they were to be the guiding spirits of the great revolutionary storms that Bakounin thought were then imminent in Europe. They must possess above all things "revolutionary passion," and they were to be the supreme secret executive power of the two subordinate organizations. In their hands alone should be the making of the programs, the rules, and the principles of the revolution. The National Brothers were to be under the direction of the International Brothers, and were to be selected because of their revolutionary zeal and their ability to control the masses. They were "to have the devil in them." The semi-secret, semi-public organization was to include the multitude, and sections were to be formed in every country for the purpose of organizing the masses. However, the masses were not to know of the secret organization of the National Brothers, and the National Brothers were not to know of the secret organization of the International Brothers. In order to enable them to work separately but harmoniously, Bakounin, who had chosen himself as the supreme law-giver, wrote for each of the three orders a program of principles, a code of rules, and a plan of methods all its own. The ultimate ends of this movement were not to be communicated to either the National Brothers or to the Alliance, and the masses were to know only that which was good for them to know, and which would not be likely to frighten them. These are very briefly the outlines of the extraordinary hierarchy that was to form throughout all Europe and America an invisible network of "the real revolutionists."
This organization was "to accelerate the universal revolution," and what was understood by the revolution was "the unchaining of what is to-day called the bad passions and the destruction of what in the same language is called 'public order.' We do not fear, we invoke anarchy, convinced that from this anarchy, that is to say, from the complete manifestation of unchained popular life, must come forth liberty, equality, justice ..." It was clearly foreseen by Bakounin that there would be opponents to anarchy among the revolutionists themselves, and he declared: "We are the natural enemies of these revolutionists ... who ... dream already of the creation of new revolutionary States." It was admitted that the Brothers could not of themselves create the revolution. All that a secret and well-organized society can do is "to organize, not the army of the revolution—the army must always be the people—but a sort of revolutionary staff composed of individuals who are devoted, energetic, intelligent, and especially sincere friends of the people, not ambitious nor self-conceited—capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the popular instincts. The number of these individuals does not have to be immense. For the international organization of all Europe, one hundred revolutionists, strongly and seriously bound together, are sufficient. Two or three hundred revolutionists will be sufficient for the organization of the largest country."
The idea of a secret organization of revolutionary leaders proved to be wholly repugnant to many of even the most devoted friends of Bakounin, and by 1868 the organization is supposed to have been dissolved, because, it was said, secrets had leaked out and the whole affair had been subjected to much ridicule. The idea of the third order, however, that of the International Alliance, was not abandoned, and it appears that Bakounin and a number of the faithful Brothers felt hopeful in 1867 of capturing a great "bourgeois" congress, called the "League of Peace and of Liberty," that had met that year in Geneva. Bakounin, Elisee Reclus, Aristide Rey, Victor Jaclard, and several others in the conspiracy undertook to persuade the league to pass some revolutionary resolutions. Bakounin was already a member of the central committee of the league, and, in preparation for the battle, he wrote the manuscript afterward published under the title, "Federalisme, Socialisme, et Antitheologisme." But the congress of 1868 dashed their hopes to the ground, and the revolutionists separated from the league and founded the same day, September 25th, a new association, called L'Alliance Internationale de la Democratie Socialiste. The program now adopted by the Alliance, although written by Bakounin, expressed quite different views from those of the International Brothers. But it, too, began its revolutionary creed by declaring itself atheist. Its chief and most important work was "to abolish religion and to substitute science for faith; and human justice for divine justice." Second, it declared for "the political, economic, and social equality of the classes" (which, it was assumed, were to continue to exist), and it intended to attain this end by the destruction of government and by the abolition of the right of inheritance. Third, it assailed all forms of political action and proposed that, in place of the community, groups of producers should assume control of all industrial processes. Fourth, it opposed all centralized organization, believing that both groups and individuals should demand for themselves complete liberty to do in all cases whatever they desired. The same revolutionists who a short time before had planned a complete hierarchy now appeared irreconcilably opposed to any form of authority. They now argued that they must abolish not only God and every political State, but also the right of the majority to rule. Then and then only would the people finally attain perfect liberty.
These were the chief ideas that Bakounin wished to introduce into the International Working Men's Association. That organization, founded in 1864 in London, had already become a great power in Europe, and Bakounin entered it in 1869, not only for the purpose of forwarding the ideas just mentioned, but also in the hope of obtaining the leadership of it. Failing in 1862 to convert the Czar, in 1864-1867 to organize into a hierarchy the revolutionary spirits of Europe, in 1868 to capture the bourgeoisie, he turned in 1869 to seek the aid of the working class. On each of these occasions his views underwent the most magical of transformations. With more bitterness than ever he now declared war upon the political and economic powers of Europe, but he was unable to prosecute this war until he had destroyed every committee or group in the International which possessed, or sought to possess, any power. He assailed Marx, Engels, and all those who he thought wished to dominate the International. The beam in his own eye he saw in theirs, and he now expressed an unspeakable loathing for all hierarchical tendencies and authoritarian methods. The story of the great battle between him and Marx must be left for a later chapter, and we must content ourselves for the present with following the history of Bakounin as he gradually developed in theory and in practice the principles and tactics of terrorism.
While struggling to obtain the leadership of the working classes of Western Europe, Bakounin was also busy with Russian affairs. "I am excessively absorbed in what is going on in Russia," he writes to a friend, April 13, 1869. "Our youth, the most revolutionary in the world perhaps, in theory and in practice, are so stirred up that the Government has been forced to close the universities, academies, and several schools at St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kazan. I have here now a specimen of these young fanatics, who hesitate at nothing and who fear nothing.... They are admirable, ... believers without God and heroes without phrase!" He who called forth this eulogy was the young Russian revolutionist, Sergei Nechayeff. Whether admirable or not we shall leave the reader to judge. But, if Bakounin bewilders one, Nechayeff staggers one. And, if Bakounin was the father of terrorism, Nechayeff was its living embodiment. He was not complex, mystical, or sentimental. He was truly a revolutionist without phrase, and he can be described in the simplest words. He was a liar, a thief, and a murderer—the incarnation of Hatred, Malice, and Revenge, who stopped at no crime against friend or foe that promised to advance what he was pleased to call the revolution. Bakounin had for a long time sought his cooeperation, and now in Switzerland they began that collaboration which resulted in the most extraordinary series of sanguinary revolutionary writings known to history.
In the summer of 1869 there was printed at Geneva "Words Addressed to Students," signed by them both; the "Formula of the Revolutionary Question"; "The Principles of the Revolution"; and the "Publications of the People's Tribunal"—the three last appearing anonymously. All of them counsel the most infamous doctrines of criminal activity. In "Words Addressed to Students," the Russian youth are exhorted to leave the universities and go among the people. They are asked to follow the example of Stenka Razin, a robber chieftain who, in the time of Alexis, placed himself at the head of a popular insurrection.[F] "Robbery," declare Bakounin and Nechayeff, "is one of the most honorable forms of Russian national life. The brigand is the hero, the defender, the popular avenger, the irreconcilable enemy of the State, and of all social and civil order established by the State. He is the wrestler in life and in death against all this civilization of officials, of nobles, of priests, and of the crown.... He who does not understand robbery can understand nothing in the history of the Russian masses. He who is not sympathetic with it, cannot sympathize with the popular life, and has no heart for the ancient, unbounded sufferings of the people; he belongs in the camp of the enemy, the partisans of the State.... It is through brigandage only that the vitality, passion, and force of the people are established undeniably.... The brigand in Russia is the veritable and unique revolutionist—revolutionist without phrase, without rhetoric borrowed from books, a revolutionist indefatigable, irreconcilable, and irresistible in action.... The brigands scattered in the forests, the cities, and villages of all Russia, and the brigands confined in the innumerable prisons of the empire, form a unique and indivisible world, strongly bound together, the world of the Russian revolution. In it, in it alone, has existed for a long time the veritable revolutionary conspiracy."
Once again the principles of the revolution appear to be complete and universal destruction. "There must 'not rest ... one stone upon a stone.' It is necessary to destroy everything, in order to produce 'perfect amorphism,' for, if 'a single one of the old forms' were preserved, it would become 'the embryo' from which would spring all the other old social forms." The same leaflet preaches systematic assassination and declares that for practical revolutionists all speculations about the future are "criminal, because they hinder pure destruction and trammel the march of the revolution. We have confidence only in those who show by their acts their devotion to the revolution, without fear of torture or of imprisonment, and we disclaim all words unless action should follow immediately." ... "Words have no value for us unless followed at once by action. But all is not action that goes under that name: for example, the modest and too-cautious organization of secret societies without some external manifestations is in our eyes merely ridiculous and intolerable child's play. By external manifestations we mean a series of actions that positively destroy something—a person, a cause, a condition that hinders the emancipation of the people. Without sparing our lives, without pausing before any threat, any obstacle, any danger, etc., we must break into the life of the people with a series of daring, even insolent, attempts, and inspire them with a belief in their own power, awake them, rally them, and drive them on to the triumph of their own cause."
The most remarkable of this series of writings is "The Revolutionary Catechism." This existed for several years in cipher, and was guarded most carefully by Nechayeff. Altogether it contained twenty-six articles, classified into four sections. Here it is declared that if the revolutionist continues to live in this world it is only in order to annihilate it all the more surely. "The object remains always the same: the quickest and surest way of destroying this filthy order." ... "For him exists only one single pleasure, one single consolation, one reward, one satisfaction: the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, but one aim—implacable destruction." ... "For this end of implacable destruction a revolutionist can and often must live in the midst of society, feigning to be altogether different from what he really is. A revolutionist must penetrate everywhere: into high society as well as into the middle class, into the shops, into the church, into the palaces of the aristocracy, into the official, military, and literary worlds, into the third section (the secret police), and even into the imperial palace."
"All this unclean society must be divided into several categories, the first composed of those who are condemned to death without delay." (Sec. 15.) ... "In the first place must be destroyed the men most inimical to the revolutionary organization and whose violent and sudden death can frighten the Government the most and break its power in depriving it of energetic and intelligent agents." (Sec. 16.) "The second category must be composed of people to whom we concede life provisionally, in order that by a series of monstrous acts they may drive the people into inevitable revolt." (Sec. 17.) "To the third category belong a great number of animals in high position or of individuals who are remarkable neither for their mind nor for their energy, but who, by their position, have wealth, connections, influence, power. We must exploit them in every possible manner, overreach them, deceive them, and, getting hold of their dirty secrets, make them our slaves." (Sec. 18.) ... "The fourth class is composed of sundry ambitious persons in the service of the State and of liberals of various shades of opinion. With them we can conspire after their own program, pretending to follow them blindly. We must take them in our hands, seize their secrets, compromise them completely, in such a way that retreat becomes impossible for them, so as to make use of them in bringing about disturbances in the State." (Sec. 19.) "The fifth category is composed of doctrinaires, conspirators, revolutionists, and of those who babble at meetings and on paper. We must urge these on and draw them incessantly into practical and perilous manifestations, which will result in making the majority of them disappear, while making some of them genuine revolutionists." (Sec. 20.) "The sixth category is very important. They are the women, who must be divided into three classes: the first, frivolous women, without mind or heart, which we must use in the same manner as the third and fourth categories of men; the second, the ardent, devoted, and capable women, but who are not ours because they have not reached a practical revolutionary understanding, without phrase—we must make use of these like the men of the fifth category; finally, the women who are entirely with us, that is to say, completely initiated and having accepted our program in its entirety. We ought to consider them as the most precious of our treasures, without whose help we can do nothing." (Sec. 21.)
The last section of the "Catechism" treats of the duty of the association toward the people. "The Society has no other end than the complete emancipation and happiness of the people, namely, of the laborers. But, convinced that this emancipation and this happiness can only be reached by means of an all-destroying popular revolution, the Society will use every means and every effort to increase and intensify the evils and sorrows, which must at last exhaust the patience of the people and excite them to insurrection en masse. By a popular revolution the Society does not mean a movement regulated according to the classic patterns of the West, which, always restrained in the face of property and of the traditional social order of so-called civilization and morality, has hitherto been limited merely to exchanging one form of political organization for another, and to the creating of a so-called revolutionary State. The only revolution that can do any good to the people is that which utterly annihilates every idea of the State and overthrows all traditions, orders, and classes in Russia. With this end in view, the Society has no intention of imposing on the people any organization whatever coming from above. The future organization will, without doubt, proceed from the movement and life of the people; but that is the business of future generations. Our task is terrible, total, inexorable, and universal destruction." These are in brief the tactics and principles of terrorism, as understood by Bakounin and Nechayeff. As only the criminal world shared these views in any degree, the "Catechism" ends: "We have got to unite ourselves with the adventurer's world of the brigands, who are the veritable and unique revolutionists of Russia."
It is customary now to credit most of these writings to Nechayeff, although Bakounin himself, I believe, never denied that they were his, and no one can read them without noting the ear-marks of both Bakounin's thought and style. In any case, Nechayeff was constantly with Bakounin in the spring and summer of 1869, and the most important of these brochures were published in Geneva in the summer of that year. And, while it may be said for Bakounin that he nowhere else advocates all the varied criminal methods advised in these publications, there is hardly an argument for their use that is not based upon his well-known views. Furthermore, Nechayeff was primarily a man of action, and in a letter, which is printed hereafter, it appears that he urgently requested Bakounin to develop some of his theories in a Russian journal. Evidently, then, Nechayeff had little confidence in his own power of expression. We must, however, leave the question of paternity undecided and follow the latter to Russia, where he went late in the summer, loaded down with his arsenal of revolutionary literature and burning to put into practice the principles of the "Catechism."
Without following in detail his devious and criminal work, one brief tale will explain how his revolutionary activities were brought quickly to an end. There was in Moscow, so the story runs, a gentle, kindly, and influential member of Nechayeff's society. Of ascetic disposition, this Iwanof spent much of his time in freely educating the peasants and in assisting the poorer students. He starved himself to establish cheap eating houses, which became the centers of the revolutionary groups. The police finally closed his establishments, because Nechayeff had placarded them with revolutionary appeals. Iwanof, quite unhappy at this ending of his usefulness, begged Nechayeff to permit him to retire from the secret society. Nechayeff was, however, in fear that Iwanof might betray the secrets of the society, and he went one night with two fellow conspirators and shot Iwanof and threw the corpse into a pond. The police, in following up the murder, sought out Nechayeff, who had already fled from Russia and was hurrying back to Bakounin in Switzerland.
From January until July, 1870, he was constantly with Bakounin, but quarrels began to arise between them in June, and Bakounin writes in a letter to Ogaref: "Our boy (Nechayeff) is very stubborn, and I, when once I make a decision, am not accustomed to change it. Therefore, the break with him, on my side at least seems inevitable." In the middle of July it was discovered that Nechayeff was once more carrying out the ethics they had jointly evolved, and, in order to make Bakounin his slave, had recourse to all sorts of "Jesuitical maneuvers, of lies and of thefts." Suddenly he disappeared from Geneva, and Bakounin and other Russians discovered that they had been robbed of all their papers and confidential letters. Soon it was learned that Nechayeff had presented himself to Talandier in London, and Bakounin hastened to write to his friend an explanation of their relations. "It may appear strange to you that we advise you to repulse a man to whom we gave letters of recommendation, written in the most cordial terms. But these letters date from the month of May, and there have happened since some events so serious that they have forced us to break all connections with Nechayeff." ... "It is perfectly true that Nechayeff is more persecuted by the Russian Government than any other man.... It is also true that Nechayeff is one of the most active and most energetic men that I have ever met. When it is a question of serving what he calls the cause, he does not hesitate, he stops at nothing, and is as pitiless toward himself as toward all others. That is the principal quality which attracted me to him and which made me for a long time seek his cooeperation. There are those who pretend that he is nothing but a sharper, but that is a lie. He is a devoted fanatic, but at the same time a dangerous fanatic, with whom an alliance could only prove very disastrous for everyone concerned. This is the reason: He first belonged to a secret society which, in reality, existed in Russia. This society exists no more; all its members have been arrested. Nechayeff alone remains, and alone he constitutes to-day what he calls the 'Committee.' The Russian organization in Russia having been destroyed, he is forced to create a new one in a foreign country. All that was perfectly natural, legitimate, very useful—but the means by which he undertakes it are detestable.... He will spy on you and will try to get possession of all your secrets, and to do that, in your absence, left alone in your room, he will open all your drawers, will read all your correspondence, and whenever a letter appears interesting to him, that is to say, compromising you or one of your friends from one point of view or another, he will steal it, and will guard it carefully as a document against you or your friend.... If you have presented him to a friend, his first care will be to sow between you seeds of discord, scandal, intrigue—in a word, to set you two at variance. If your friend has a wife or a daughter, he will try to seduce her, to lead her astray, and to force her away from the conventional morality and throw her into a revolutionary protest against society.... Do not cry out that this is exaggeration. It has all been fully developed and proved. Seeing himself unmasked, this poor Nechayeff is indeed so childlike, so simple, in spite of his systematic perversity, that he believed it possible to convert me. He has even gone so far as to beg me to consent to develop this theory in a Russian journal which he proposed to me to establish. He has betrayed the confidence of us all, he has stolen our letters, he has horribly compromised us—in a word, he has acted like a villain. His only excuse is his fanaticism. He is a terribly ambitious man without knowing it, because he has at last completely identified the revolutionary cause with his own person. But he is not an egoist in the worst sense of that word, because he risks his own person terribly and leads the life of a martyr, of privations, and of unheard-of work. He is a fanatic, and fanaticism draws him on, even to the point of becoming an accomplished Jesuit. At moments he becomes simply stupid. Most of his lies are sewn with white thread.... In spite of this relative naivete, he is very dangerous, because he daily commits acts, abuses of confidence, and treachery, against which it is all the more difficult to safeguard oneself because one hardly suspects the possibility. With all that, Nechayeff is a force, because he is an immense energy. It is with great pain that I have separated from him, because the service of our cause demands much energy, and one rarely finds it developed to such a point."
The irony of fate rarely executes itself quite so humorously. Although perfectly familiar with Nechayeff's philosophy of action for over a year, the viciousness of it appeared to Bakounin only when he himself became a victim. When Nechayeff arrived in London he began the publication of a Russian journal, the Commune, where he bitterly attacked Bakounin and his views. Early in the seventies, he was arrested and taken back to Russia, where he and over eighty others, mostly young men and women students, were tried for belonging to secret societies. For the first time in Russian history the court proceeding took place before a jury and in public. Most of those arrested were condemned for long periods to the mines of Siberia at forced labor, while Nechayeff was kept in solitary imprisonment until his death, some years later.
Bakounin, on the other hand, remained in Switzerland and became the very soul of that element in Italy, Spain, and Switzerland which fought the policies of Marx in the International. At the same time he was training a group of youngsters to carry out in Western Europe the principles of revolution as laid down in his Russian publications. Over young middle-class youths, especially, Bakounin's magnetic power was extraordinary, and his followers were the faithful of the faithful. A very striking picture of Bakounin's hypnotic influence over this circle is to be found in the memoirs of Madame A. Bauler. She tells us of some Sundays she spent with Bakounin and his friends.
"At the beginning," she says, "being unfamiliar with the Italian language, I did not even understand the general drift of the conversation, but, observing the faces of those present, I had the impression that something extraordinarily grave and solemn was taking place. The atmosphere of these conferences imbued me; it created in me a state of mind which I shall call, for want of a better term, an 'etat de grace.' Faith increased; doubts vanished. The value of Bakounin became clear to me. His personality enlarged. I saw that his strength was in the power of taking possession of human souls. Beyond a doubt, all these men who were listening to him were ready to undertake anything, at the slightest word from him. I could picture to myself another gathering, less intimate, that of a great crowd, and I realized that there the influence of Bakounin would be the same. Only the enthusiasm, here gentle and intimate, would become incomparably more intense and the atmosphere more agitated by the mutual contagion of the human beings in a crowd.
"At bottom, in what did the charm of Bakounin consist? I believe that it is impossible to define it exactly. It was not by the force of persuasion that he agitated. It was not his thought which awakened the thought of others. But he aroused every rebellious heart and awoke there an 'elemental' anger. And this anger, transplendent with beauty, became creative and showed to the exalted thirst for justice and happiness an issue and a possibility of accomplishment. 'The desire for destruction is at the same time a creative desire,' Bakounin has repeated to the end of his life."
[F] This formidable peasant insurrection occurred in 1669-1671. When Pougatchoff, a century later, in 1773-1775, urged the Cossacks and serfs to insurrection against Catherine II, the Russian people saw in him a new Stenka Razin; and they expected in Russia, in 1869 and the following years, a third centennial apparition of the legendary brigand who, in the minds of the oppressed people, personified revolt.
A SERIES OF INSURRECTIONS
At the beginning of the seventies Bakounin and his friends found opening before them a field of practical activity. On the whole, the sixties were spent in theorizing, in organizing, and in planning, but with the seventies the moment arrived "to unchain the hydra of revolution." On the 4th of September, 1870, the Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris, and a few days afterward there were many uprisings in the other cities of France. It was, however, only in Lyons that the Bakouninists played an important part. Bakounin had a fixed idea that, wherever there was an uprising of the people, there he must go, and he wrote to Adolphe Vogt on September 6: "My friends, the revolutionary socialists of Lyons, are calling me there. I am resolved to take my old bones thither and to play there what will probably be my last game. But, as usual, I have not a sou. Can you, I do not say lend me, but give me 500 or 400, or 300 or 200, or even 100 francs, for my voyage?" Guillaume does not state where the money finally came from, but Bakounin evidently raised it somehow, for he left Locarno on September 9. The night of the 11th he spent in Neuchatel, where he conferred with Guillaume regarding the publication of a manuscript. On the 12th he arrived in Geneva, and two days later set out for Lyons, accompanied by two revolutionary enthusiasts, Ozerof and the young Pole, Valence Lankiewicz.
Since the 4th of September a Committee of Public Safety had been installed at the Hotel de Ville composed of republicans, radicals, and some militants of the International. Gaspard Blanc and Albert Richard, two intimate friends of Bakounin, were not members of this committee, and in a public meeting, September 8, Richard made a motion, which was carried, to name a standing commission of ten to act as the "intermediaries between the people of Lyons and the Committee of Public Safety." Three of these commissioners, Richard, Andrieux, and Jaclard, were then appointed to go as delegates to Paris in order to come to some understanding with the Government. Andrieux, in the days of the Empire, had acquired fame as a revolutionist by proposing at a meeting to burn the ledger of the public debt. It seems, however, that these close and trusted friends of Bakounin began immediately upon their arrival in Paris to solicit various public positions remunerative to themselves, and, although they succeeded in having General Cluseret sent to take command of the voluntary corps then forming in the department of the Rhone, that proved, as we shall see, most disastrous of all.
This is about all that had happened previous to Bakounin's arrival in Lyons, and, when he came, there was confusion everywhere. Even the members of the Alliance had no clear idea of what ought to be done. Bakounin, however, was an old hand at insurrections, and in a little lodging house where he and his friends were staying a new uprising was planned. He lost no time in getting hold of all the men of action. Under his energetic leadership "public meetings were multiplied and assumed a character of unheard-of violence. The most sanguinary motions were introduced and welcomed with enthusiasm. They openly provoked revolt in order to overthrow the laws and the established order of things." On September 19 Bakounin wrote to Ogaref: "There is so much work to do that it turns my head. The real revolution has not yet burst forth here, but it will come. Everything possible is being done to prepare for it. I am playing a great game. I hope to see the approaching triumph."
A great public meeting was held on the 24th, presided over by Eugene Saignes, a plasterer and painter, and a man of energy and influence among the Lyons workmen, at which various questions relative to proposed political changes were voted upon. But it was the following day, the 25th, that probably the most notable event of the insurrection took place. "The next day, Sunday, was employed," Guillaume says, "in the drawing up and printing of a great red placard, containing the program of the revolution which the Central Committee of Safety of France proposed to the people...." The first article of the program declares: "The administrative and governmental machinery of the State, having become powerless, is abolished. The people of France once again enter into full possession of themselves." The second article suspends "all civil and criminal courts," and replaces them "by the justice of the people." The third suspends "the payment of taxes and of mortgages." The fourth declares that "the State, having decayed, can no longer intervene in the payment of private debts." The fifth states that "all existing municipal organizations are broken up and replaced in all the federated communes by Committees of Safety of France, which will exercise all powers under the immediate control of the people." The revolution was at last launched, and the placard ends, "Aux Armes!!!"
While the Bakouninists were decreeing the revolution by posters and vainly calling the people to arms, an event occurred in Lyons which brought to them a very useful contingent of fighters. The Lyons municipality had just reduced the pay of the workers in the national dock yards from three to two and a half francs a day, and, on this account, these laborers joined the ranks of the insurgents. On the evening of September 27 a meeting of the Central Committee of Safety of France took place, and there a definite plan of action for the next day was decided upon. Velay, a tulle maker and municipal councillor, Bakounin, and others advised an armed manifestation, but the majority expressed itself in favor of a peaceful one. An executive committee composed of eight members signed the following proclamation, drawn up by Gaspard Blanc, which was printed during the night and posted early the next morning: "The people of Lyons ... are summoned, through the organ of their assembled popular committees, to a popular manifestation to be held to-day, September 28, at noon, on the Place des Terreaux, in order to force the authority to take immediately the most energetic and efficacious measures for the national defense."
Turning again to Guillaume, we find "At noon many thousands of men pressed together on the Place des Terreaux. A delegation of sixteen of the national dock-yard workmen entered the Hotel de Ville to demand of the Municipal Council the reestablishment of their wage to three francs a day, but the Council was not in session. Very soon a movement began in the crowd, and a hundred resolute men, Saignes at their head, forcing the door of the Hotel de Ville, penetrated the municipal building. Some members of the Central Committee of Safety of France, Bakounin, Parraton, Bastelica, and others, went in with them. From the balcony, Saignes announced that the Municipal Council was to be compelled to accept the program of the red proclamation of September 26 or to resign, and he proposed to name Cluseret general of the revolutionary army. Cluseret, cheered by the crowd, appeared in the balcony, thanked them, and announced that he was going to Croix-Rousse" (the working-class district). He went there, it is true, but not to call to arms the national guards of that quarter. Indeed, his aim appears to have been to avoid a conflict, and he simply asked the workers "to come down en masse and without arms." In the meantime the national guards of the wealthier quarters of the city hastened to the Hotel de Ville and penetrated the interior court, while the Committee of Safety of France installed itself inside the building. There they passed two or three hours in drawing up resolutions, while Bakounin and others in vain protested: "We must act. We are losing time. We are going to be invaded by the national bourgeois guard. It is necessary to arrest immediately the prefect, the mayor, and General Mazure." But their words went unheeded. And all the while the bourgeois guards were massing themselves before the Hotel de Ville, and Cluseret and his unarmed manifestants were yielding place to them. In fact, Cluseret even persuaded the members of the Committee of Safety to retire and those of the Municipal Council to return to their seats, which they consented to do.
Bakounin made a last desperate effort to save the situation and to induce the insurgents to oppose force to force, but they would not. Even Albert Richard failed him. The Revolutionary committee, after parleying with the Municipal Councillors, then evacuated the Hotel de Ville and contented itself with issuing a statement to the effect that "The delegates of the people have not believed it their duty to impose themselves on the Municipal Council by violence and have retired when it went into session, leaving it to the people to fully appreciate the situation." "At the moment," says Guillaume, "when ... Mayor Henon, with an escort of national bourgeois guards, reentered the Hotel de Ville, he met Bakounin in the hall of the Pas-Perdus. The mayor immediately ordered his companions to take him in custody and to confine him at once in an underground hiding-place." The Municipal Councillors then opened their session and pledged that no pursuit should be instituted in view of the happenings of the day. They voted to reestablish the former wage of the national dock-yard workers, but declared themselves unable to undertake the revolutionary measures proposed by the Committee of Safety of France, as these were outside their legal province.
In the meantime Bakounin was undergoing an experience far from pleasant, if we are to judge from the account which he gives in a letter written the following day: "Some used me brutally in all sorts of ways, jostling me about, pushing me, pinching me, twisting my arms and hands. I must, however, admit that others cried: 'Do not harm him.' In truth the bourgeoisie showed itself what it is everywhere: brutal and cowardly. For you know that I was delivered by some sharpshooters who put to flight three or four times their number of these heroic shopkeepers armed with their rifles. I was delivered, but of all the objects which had been stolen from me by these gentlemen I was able to find only my revolver. My memorandum book and my purse, which contained 165 francs and some sous, without doubt stayed in the hands of these gentlemen.... I beg you to reclaim them in my name. You will send them to me when you have recovered them."
As a matter of fact, it was at the instance of his follower, Ozerof, that Bakounin was finally delivered. When he came forth from the Hotel de Ville, the Committee of Safety of France and its thousands of sympathizers had disappeared, and he found himself practically alone. He spent the night at the house of a friend, and departed for Marseilles the next day, after writing the following letter to Palix: "My dear friend, I do not wish to leave Lyons without having said a last word of farewell to you. Prudence keeps me from coming to shake hands with you for the last time. I have nothing more to do here. I came to Lyons to fight or to die with you. I came because I am profoundly convinced that the cause of France has become again, at this supreme hour, ... the cause of humanity. I have taken part in yesterday's movement, and I have signed my name to the resolutions of the Committee of Safety of France, because it is evident to me that, after the real and certain destruction of all the administrative and governmental machinery, there is nothing but the immediate and revolutionary action of the people which can save France.... The movement of yesterday, if it had been successful ... could have saved Lyons and France.... I leave Lyons, dear friend, with a heart full of sadness and somber forebodings. I begin to think now that it is finished with France.... She will become a viceroyalty of Germany. In place of her living and real socialism,[G] we shall have the doctrinaire socialism of the Germans, who will say no more than the Prussian bayonets will permit them to say. The bureaucratic and military intelligence of Prussia, combined with the knout of the Czar of St. Petersburg, are going to assure peace and public order for at least fifty years on the whole continent of Europe. Farewell, liberty! Farewell, socialism! Farewell, justice for the people and the triumph of humanity! All that could have grown out of the present disaster of France. All that would have grown out of it if the people of France, if the people of Lyons, had wished it."
The insurrection at Lyons and Bakounin's decree abolishing the State amounted to very little in the history of the French Republic. Writing afterward to Professor Edward Spencer Beesly, Karl Marx comments on the events that had taken place in Lyons: "At the beginning everything went well," he writes. "Under the pressure of the section of the International, the Republic had been proclaimed at Lyons before it had been at Paris. A revolutionary government was immediately established, namely the Commune, composed in part of workmen belonging to the International, in part of bourgeois radical republicans.... But those blunderers, Bakounin and Cluseret, arrived at Lyons and spoiled everything. Both being members of the International, they had unfortunately enough influence to lead our friends astray. The Hotel de Ville was taken, for a moment only, and very ridiculous decrees on the abolition of the State and other nonsense were issued. You understand that the fact alone of a Russian—whom the newspapers of the bourgeoisie represented as an agent of Bismarck—pretending to thrust himself at the head of a Committee of Safety of France was quite sufficient to change completely public opinion. As to Cluseret, he behaved at once like an idiot and a coward. These two men left Lyons after their failure." Bakounin's so-called abolition of the State appealed to the humor of Marx. He speaks of it in another place in these words: "Then arrived the critical moment, the moment longed for since many years, when Bakounin was able to accomplish the most revolutionary act the world has ever seen: he decreed the abolition of the State. But the State, in the form and aspect of two companies of national bourgeois guards, entered by a door which they had forgotten to guard, swept the hall, and caused Bakounin to hasten back along the road to Geneva."
Such indeed was the humiliating and vexatious ending of Bakounin's dream of an immediate social revolution. His sole reward was to be jostled, pinched, and robbed. This was perhaps most tragic of all, especially when added to this injury there was the further indignity of allowing the father of terrorism to keep his revolver. The incident is one that George Meredith should have immortalized in another of his "Tragic Comedians." However, although the insurrection at Lyons was a complete failure, the Commune of Paris was really a spontaneous and memorable working-class uprising. The details of that insurrection, the legislation of the Commune itself, and its violent suppression on May 28, 1871, are not strictly germane to this chapter, because, in fact, the Bakouninists played no part in it. In the case of Lyons, the revolution maker was at work; in the case of Paris, "The working class," says Marx, "did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce par decret du peuple. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending, by its own economic agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men."[H] But, while Marx wrote in this manner of the Paris Commune, he evidently had in mind men of the type of Bakounin when he declared: "In every revolution there intrude, at the side of its true agents, men of a different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, ... others mere bawlers, who by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declamations against the Government of the day have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. After the 18th of March some such men turned up, and in some cases contrived to play preeminent parts. As far as their power went, they hampered the real action of the working class, exactly as men of that sort have hampered the full development of every previous revolution. They are an unavoidable evil; with time they are shaken off; but time was not allowed to the Commune."
The despair of Bakounin over the miserable ending of his great plans for the salvation of France had, of course, disappeared long before the revolution broke out in Spain, and he easily persuaded himself that his presence there was absolutely necessary to insure its success. "I have always felt and thought," he wrote in the Memoire justificatif, "that the most desirable end for me would be to fall in the midst of a great revolutionary storm." Consequently, in the summer of the year 1873, when the uprising gave promise of victory to the insurgents, Bakounin decided that he must go and, to do so, that he must have money. Bakounin then wrote to his wealthy young disciple, Cafiero, in a symbolic language which they had worked out between them, declaring his intention of going to Spain and asking him to furnish the necessary money for his expenses. As usual, Bakounin became melodramatic in his effort to work upon the impressionable Cafiero, and, as he put it afterward in the Memoire justificatif, "I added a prayer that he would become the protector of my wife and my children, in case I should fall in Spain." Cafiero, who at this time worshiped Bakounin, pleaded with him not to risk his precious life in Spain. He promised to do everything possible for his family in case he persisted in going, but he sent no money, whether because he did not have it or because he did not wish Bakounin to go is not clear. Bakounin now wrote to Guillaume that he was greatly disappointed not to be able to take part in the Spanish revolution, but that it was impossible for him to do so without money. Guillaume admits that he was not convinced of the absolute necessity of Bakounin's presence in Spain, but, nevertheless, since he desired to go there, Guillaume offered to secure for him fifteen hundred francs to make the journey. On the receipt of this news, Bakounin answered Guillaume that the sum would be wholly insufficient.
If, however, the Spanish revolution was forced to proceed without Bakounin, his influence in that country was not wanting. In the year 1873 the Spanish sections of the International were among the largest and most numerous in Europe. At the time of the congress of Cordova, which assembled at the close of the year 1872, three hundred and thirty-one sections with over twenty-five thousand members expressed themselves in favor of "anarchist and collectivist" principles. The trade unions were very active, and they formed the basis of the Spanish movement. They had numerous organs of propaganda, and the general unrest, both political and economic, led for a time to an extraordinary development in revolutionary ideas.
On February 11, 1873, the king abdicated and a republic was proclaimed. Insurrections broke out in all parts of Spain. At Barcelona, Cartagena, Murcia, Cadiz, Seville, Granada, and Valencia there existed a state of civil war, while throughout the industrial districts strikes were both frequent and violent. Demands were made on all sides for shorter hours and increase of wages. At Alcoy ten thousand workingmen declared a general strike, and, when the municipal authorities opposed them, they took the town by storm. In some cases the strikers lent their support to the republicans; in other cases they followed the ideas of Bakounin, and openly declared they had no concern for the republic. The changes in the government were numerous. Indeed, for three years Spain, politically and industrially, was in a state of chaos. At times the revolt of the workers was suppressed with the utmost brutality. Their leaders were arrested, their papers suppressed, and their meetings dispersed with bloodshed. At other times they were allowed to riot for weeks if the turbulence promised to aid the intrigues of the politicians.
A lively discussion took place as to the wisdom of the tactics employed by the anarchists in Spain. Frederick Engels severely criticised the position of the Bakouninists in two articles which he published in the Volksstaat. He reviewed the events that had taken place during the summer of 1873, and he condemned the folly of the anarchists, who had refused to cooeperate with the other revolutionary forces in Spain. In his opinion, the workers were simply wasting their energy and lives in pursuit of a distant and unattainable end. "Spain is a country so backward industrially," he wrote, "that it cannot be a question there of the immediate complete emancipation of the workers. Before arriving at that stage, Spain will still have to pass through diverse phases of development and struggle against a whole series of obstacles. The republic furnished the means of passing through these phases most rapidly and of removing these obstacles most quickly. But, to accomplish that, the Spanish proletariat would have had to launch boldly into active politics. The mass of the working people realized this, and everywhere demanded that they should take part in what was happening, that they should profit by the opportunities to act, instead of leaving, as formerly, the field free to the action and intrigues of the possessing classes. The government ordered elections for the Cortes members. What position should the International take? The leaders of the Bakouninists were in the greatest dilemma. A continued political inactivity appeared more ridiculous and more impossible from day to day. The workers wanted to 'see deeds.' On the other hand, the alliancistes (Bakouninists) had preached for years that one ought not to take part in any revolution that had not for its end the immediate and entire emancipation of the workers, that participation in any political action constituted an acceptance of the principle of the State, that source of all evil, and that especially taking part in any election was a mortal sin."
The anarchists were of course very bitter over this attack on their policies, and they concluded that the socialists had become reactionaries who no longer sought the emancipation of the working class. They were more than incensed at the reference Engels had made to an act of the insurgents of Cartagena, who, in order to gain allies in their struggle, had armed the convicts of a prison, "eighteen hundred villains, the most dangerous robbers and murderers of Spain." According to Engels' information, this infamous act had been undertaken upon the advice of Bakounin, but, whether or not that is true, it was a fatal mistake that brought utter disaster to the insurgents.
Certainly of this fact there can be no question—the divisions among the revolutionary forces in Spain, which Engels deplored, resulted, after many months of fighting, in returning to power the most reactionary elements in Spain. And this was foreseen, as even before the end of the summer Bakounin had despaired of success. In his opinion, the Spanish revolution miscarried miserably, "for want," as he afterward wrote, "of energy and revolutionary spirit in the leaders as well as in the masses. And all the rest of the world was plunged," he lamented, "into the most dismal reaction."
France and Spain, having now failed to launch the universal revolution, Bakounin's hopes turned to Italy, where a series of artificial uprisings among the almost famished peasants was being stirred up by his followers. Their greatest activity was during the first two weeks in August of the next year, 1874, and the three main centers were Bologna, Romagna, and Apulia. In spite of the fact that the followers of Mazzini were opposed to the International, an attempt was made in the summer of 1874 by some Italian socialists (Celso Cerretti among others), to effect a union in order that by common action they might work more advantageously against the monarchy. Garibaldi, to whom these socialists appealed, at first disapproved of any reconciliation with Bakounin and his friends, but later allowed himself to be persuaded. A meeting of the Mazzinian leaders to discuss the matter convened August 2 at the village of Ruffi. The older members were opposed to all common action, while the younger elements desired it. However, before an agreement was reached, twenty-eight Mazzinians were arrested, among them Saffi, Fortis, and Valzania. Three days later, the police succeeded in arresting Andrea Costa, for whom they had been searching for more than a year on account of his participation in the International congress at Geneva. Although these events were something of a setback, the revolutionists decided that they had gone too far to retreat. It was then that Bakounin wrote: "And now, my friends, there remains nothing more for me but to die. Farewell!" On the way to Italy he wrote to his friend, Guillaume, saying good-by to him and announcing, without explanation, that he was journeying to Italy to take part in a struggle from which he would not return alive. On his arrival in that country, however, he carefully concealed himself in a small house where only the revolutionary "intimates" could see him.
The nights of August 7 and 8 had been chosen for the insurrection which was to burst forth in Bologna and thence to extend, first to Romagna, and afterward to the Marches and Tuscany. A group of Bologna insurgents, reinforced by about three thousand others from Romagna, were to enter Bologna by the San Felice gate. Another group would enter the arsenal, the doors of which would be opened by two non-commissioned officers, and take possession of the arms and ammunition, carrying them to the Church of Santa Annunziata, where all the guns should be stored. At certain places in the city material was already gathered with which to improvise barricades. One hundred republicans had promised to take part in the movement, not as a group, but individually. On the 7th copies of the proclamation of the Italian Committee for the Social Revolution were distributed throughout the city, calling the masses to arms and urging the soldiers to make common cause with the people. During the nights of the 7th and 8th, groups from Bologna assembled at the appointed places of meeting outside the walls, but the Romagna comrades did not come, or at least came in very small numbers. Those from Imola were surrounded in their march, some being arrested and others being forced to retreat. At dawn the insurgents who had gathered under the walls of Bologna dispersed, some taking refuge in the mountains. Bakounin had been alone during the night, and became convinced that the insurrection had failed. He was trying to make up his mind to commit suicide, when his friend, Silvio, arrived and told him that all was not lost and that perhaps other attempts might yet be made. The following day Bakounin was removed to another retreat of greater safety, as numerous arrests had been made at Bologna, Imola, Romagna, the Marches, as well as in Florence, Rome, and other parts of Italy.
About the same time a conspiracy similar to that undertaken at Bologna was launched by Enrico Malatesta and some friends in Apulia. A heavy chest of guns had been dispatched from Tarentum to a station in the province of Bari, from which it was carried on a cart to the old chateau of Castel del Monte, which had been chosen as the rendezvous. "Many hundreds of conspirators," Malatesta recounts, "had promised to meet at Castel del Monte. I arrived, but of all those who had sworn to be there we found ourselves six. No matter. We opened the box of arms and found it was filled with old percussion guns, but that made no difference. We armed ourselves and declared war on the Italian army. We roamed the country for some days, trying to gain over the peasants, but meeting with no response. The second day we met eight carabinieri, who opened fire on us and imagined that we were very numerous. Three days later we discovered that we were surrounded by soldiers. There remained only one thing to do. We buried the guns and decided to disperse. I hid myself in a load of hay, and thus succeeded in escaping from the dangerous region." An attempt at insurrection also took place in Romagna, but it appears to have been limited to cutting the telegraph wires between Bologna and Imola.
Back of all the Italian riots lay a serious economic condition. The peasants were in very deep distress, and it was not difficult for the Bakouninists to stir them to revolt. The Bulletin of the Jura Federation of August 16 informs us: "During the last two years there have been about sixty riots produced by hunger; but the rioters, in their ignorance, only bore a grudge against the immediate monopolists, and did not know how to discern the fundamental causes of their misery." This is all too plainly shown in the events of 1874. Beyond giving the Bakouninists a chance to play at revolution, there is little significance in the Italian uprisings of that year.
The failure of the various insurrections in France, Spain, and Italy was, naturally enough, discouraging to Bakounin and his followers. The Commune of Paris was the one uprising that had made any serious impression upon the people, and it was the one wherein the Bakouninists had played no important part. The others had failed miserably, with no other result than that of increasing the power of reaction, while discouraging and disorganizing the workers. Even Bakounin had now reached the point where he was thoroughly disillusioned, and he wrote to his friends that he was exhausted, disheartened, and without hope. He desired, he said, to withdraw from the movement which made him the object of the persecutions of the police and the calumnies of the jealous. The whole world was in the evening of a black reaction, he thought, and he wrote to the truest and most devoted of all that loyal circle of Swiss workmen, James Guillaume, that the time for revolutionary struggles was past and that Europe had entered into a period of profound reaction, of which the present generation would probably not see the end. "He urged me," relates Guillaume, "to imitate himself and 'to make my peace with the bourgeoisie.'" "It is useless," are Bakounin's words, "to wish obstinately to obtain the impossible. It is necessary to recognize reality and to realize that, for the moment, the popular masses do not wish socialism. And, if some tipplers of the mountains desire on this account to accuse you of treason, you will have for yourself the witness of your conscience and the esteem of your friends."