The Psychology of Political Violence [excerpt]
When we approach the tragedy of September
sixth, 1901, we are confronted by one of the most striking examples
of how little social theories are responsible for an act of political
violence. “Leon Czolgosz, an Anarchist, incited to commit the act
by Emma Goldman.” To be sure, has she not incited violence even
before her birth, and will she not continue to do so beyond death?
Everything is possible with the Anarchists.
Today, even, nine years after the
tragedy, after it was proven a hundred times that Emma Goldman had
nothing to do with the event, that no evidence whatsoever exists
to indicate that Czolgosz ever called himself an Anarchist, we are
confronted with the same lie, fabricated by the police and perpetuated
by the press. No living soul ever heard Czolgosz make that statement,
nor is there a single written word to prove that the boy ever breathed
the accusation. Nothing but ignorance and insane hysteria, which
have never yet been able to solve the simplest problem of cause
The President of a free Republic killed!
What else can be the cause, except that the Attentäter must
have been insane, or that he was incited to the act.
A free Republic! How a myth will maintain
itself, how it will continue to deceive, to dupe, and blind even
the comparatively intelligent to its monstrous absurdities. A free
Republic! And yet within a little over thirty years a small band
of parasites have successfully robbed the American people, and trampled
upon the fundamental principles, laid down by the fathers of this
country, guaranteeing to  every
man, woman, and child “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
For thirty years they have been increasing their wealth and power
at the expense of the vast mass of workers, thereby enlarging the
army of the unemployed, the hungry, homeless, and friendless portion
of humanity, who are tramping the country from east to west, from
north to south, in a vain search for work. For many years the home
has been left to the care of the little ones, while the parents
are exhausting their life and strength for a mere pittance. For
thirty years the sturdy sons of America have been sacrificed on
the battlefield of industrial war, and the daughters outraged in
corrupt factory surroundings. For long and weary years this process
of undermining the nation’s health, vigor, and pride, without much
protest from the disinherited and oppressed, has been going on.
Maddened by success and victory, the money powers of this “free
land of ours” became more and more audacious in their heartless,
cruel efforts to compete with the rotten and decayed European tyrannies
for supremacy of power.
In vain did a lying press repudiate
Leon Czolgosz as a foreigner. The boy was a product of our own free
American soil, that lulled him to sleep with,
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty.
Who can tell how many times this American child had gloried in
the celebration of the Fourth of July, or of Decoration Day, when
he faithfully honored the Nation’s dead? Who knows but that he,
too, was willing to “fight for his country and die for her 
liberty,” until it dawned upon him that those he belonged
to have no country, because they have been robbed of all that they
have produced; until he realized that the liberty and independence
of his youthful dreams were but a farce. Poor Leon Czolgosz, your
crime consisted of too sensitive a social consciousness. Unlike
your idealless and brainless American brothers, your ideals soared
above the belly and the bank account. No wonder you impressed the
one human being among all the infuriated mob at your trial—a newspaper
woman—as a visionary, totally oblivious to your surroundings. Your
large, dreamy eyes must have beheld a new and glorious dawn.
Now, to a recent instance of police-manufactured
Anarchist plots. In that bloodstained city, Chicago, the life of
Chief of Police Shippy was attempted by a young man named Averbuch.
Immediately the cry was sent to the four corners of the world that
Averbuch was an Anarchist, and that the Anarchists were responsible
for the act. Everyone who was at all known to entertain Anarchist
ideas was closely watched, a number of people arrested, the library
of an Anarchist group confiscated, and all meetings made impossible.
It goes without saying that, as on various previous occasions, I
must needs be held responsible for the act. Evidently the American
police credit me with occult powers. I did not know Averbuch; in
fact, had never before heard his name, and the only way I could
have possibly “conspired” with him was in my astral body. But, then,
the police are not concerned with logic or justice. What they seek
is a target, to mask their absolute ignorance of the cause, 
of the psychology of a political act. Was Averbuch an Anarchist?
There is no positive proof of it. He had been but three months in
the country, did not know the language, and, as far as I could ascertain,
was quite unknown to the Anarchists of Chicago.
What led to his act? Averbuch, like
most young Russian immigrants, undoubtedly believed in the mythical
liberty of America. He received his first baptism by the policeman’s
club during the brutal dispersement of the unemployed parade. He
further experienced American quality and opportunity in the vain
efforts to find an economic master. In short, a three months’ sojourn
in the glorious land brought him face to face with the fact that
the disinherited are in the same position the world over. In his
native land he probably learned that necessity knows no law—there
was no difference between a Russian and an American policeman.
The question to the intelligent social
student is not whether the acts of Czolgosz or Averbuch were practical,
any more than whether the thunderstorm is practical. The thing that
will inevitably impress itself on the thinking and feeling man and
woman is that the sight of brutal clubbing of innocent victims in
a so-called free Republic, and the degrading, soul-destroying economic
struggle, furnish the spark that kindles the dynamic force in the
overwrought, outraged souls of men like Czolgosz or Averbuch. No
amount of persecution, of hounding, of repression, can stay this