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Source: Everybody’s Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Anarchy: The Status of Anarchism To-Day in Europe and the United States”
Author(s): Lombroso, Cesare
Translator(s): Strachey, Lionel
Date of publication: February 1902
Volume number: 6
Issue number: 2
Pagination: 165-68

Lombroso, Cesare. “Anarchy: The Status of Anarchism To-Day in Europe and the United States.” Trans. Lionel Strachey. Everybody’s Magazine Feb. 1902 v6n2: pp. 165-68.
full text
anarchism (international response); anarchism (criticism); anarchists; assassins; anarchism (psychology of); Leon Czolgosz; assassination.
Named persons
Louis Alibaud; Mikhail Bakunin; John Wilkes Booth; Junius Brutus Booth; Gaetano Bresci; Ernst Buchner; Marie François Sadi Carnot; Sante Geronimo Caserio; Leon Czolgosz; Fyodor Dostoyevsky [variant spelling below]; Samuel Fielden; Adolph Fischer [misspelled below]; Primo Frattini; James A. Garfield; Emma Goldman [misspelled below]; Pietro Gori; Jean Grave; Charles J. Guiteau; Émile Henry; Peter Kropotkin; Abraham Lincoln; Louis Lingg; Luigi Luccheni; William McKinley; Louise Michel; Thomas J. Mooney [identified as Monei below]; Johann Most; Oscar Neebe [identified as Niebe below]; Karl Nobiling [misspelled once below]; Juan Oliva Moncusi [identified separately as Oliva and Moncusi below]; Francisco Otero González; Albert R. Parsons [identified as Pearson below]; Giovanni Passannante [misspelled below]; Achille Vittorio Pini; Ravachol; Santiago Salvador Franch; Karl Ludwig Sand; Rudolph Schnaubelt [identified as Schaubel below]; Michael Schwab [misspelled below]; Alexander Soloviev [variant spelling below]; August Spies; Friedrich Staps; Vera Zasulich [identifed as Sassulich below].
The identity of Felica, Rochefort, and Drumont (all below) cannot be determined. Possibly the latter two are Henri Rochefort and Édouard Drumont.

Page 168 in the magazine includes a facsimile of the author’s signature.

From page 165: By Cesare Lombroso, Professor in the University of Turin.


Anarchy: The Status of Anarchism To-Day in Europe and the United States

HE who studies the theory of anarchy may find it strange and paradoxical, but will also allow it to be worthy of discussion and consideration. There are even some very striking truths embodied in this theory. One of these is, for instance, that it is not necessary to surrender one’s own initiative into the hands of other individuals, called magistrates, ministers, and so forth, since they are anything but infallible, and often more apt to do harm than good. Even if men of infinite knowledge and integrity existed, by the mere fact that they belonged to the government their power for good would be paralyzed, from the necessity urging men at the head of affairs to settle matters in which they are incompetent.
     Government, says Kropotkin, has always been the violent domination of the few over the masses, a machine for the maintenance of the privileges of those who by force, cunning, or inheritance have captured all the means of production. It is very true, also, that the protection of governments is in nearly all cases nil; that one does not desist from murder for fear of the police; that there are thousands of people who live far away from the police. Gambling debts are not guaranteed by the law, and yet are paid. But the anarchists lay themselves open to contradiction when they advise authors to become the printers and publishers of their own books, and, worse still, propose to substitute for the demolished machinery of government the will of the masses, of the populace. They would leave every one free to share impartially in the necessities of life by “taking from the heap,” like wild animals, but they do not reflect that, like beasts, once the booty became insufficient men would prey upon one another. Nor do these theorists see that if a government often does harm, a collectivity can do much more harm, simply because it is a much larger body. But all of this is debatable at least. The worst of it is that a party among the anarchists believe the supreme remedy for their ills to be the destruction of property and proprietors, and even of the government. By this means they hope to bring about the radical changes they wish for at one sweep. But they forget that nothing in nature and nothing in human society is accomplished permanently by improvisation or by a catastrophe; that in order to be finally accepted changes must be slow and imperceptible, and that success gained by crime only provokes counteraction from an opposite source. There is thus some truth in the anarchist idea, especially in the criticism of government and in the spur given to individual initiative, but the means suggested for carrying out the improvements are absurd. And when one comes to examine personally, not the theorists of anarchy, but its soldiers—not to say its executioners—one is confronted by a number of the wildest anomalies. In order to have reached this militant stage a tremendous degeneration must have taken place, not merely of the intelligence, but also of the moral sense. It is not enough to be an excessive innovator—which might seem an advantage, but yet is always anomalous—but the persuasion must have been reached that, as in the beginning of the race, crime and action are the same thing, that human life is not a sacred thing, nor murder the greatest of crimes.
     There is, in fact, a large number of madmen and criminals among the anarchists. We have regular criminals, like Pini and Ravachol. Even Jean Grave, who was no criminal, wrote: “Appropriation by force must be the anarchists’ prelude to the wholesale insurrection which they will sooner or later enact.” Commonvale [sic] wrote: “Theft is the recovery by violence from the rich of that which the rich have taken by violence [165][166] from the poor.” I have myself found typical criminal characteristics in thirty-four out of one hundred Italian anarchists, and in forty per cent. among fifty North American anarchists. Further proofs of their criminal proclivities are their use of thieves’ jargon, their songs peculiar to jailbirds, and their addiction to tattooing. We also have a number of epileptics among them, and I have even found some of these whose complaint was accompanied by a fancy for politics. I knew a varnisher who told me in prison, where he had been confined for vagrancy: “If social reforms come into my mind, and I speak to my comrades about them, I seem to become dazed and blind, and I fall down.” Felica, who had attempted several assassinations and taken part in strikes, was an epileptic, and so was, as I have shown elsewhere, Caserio, and likewise Santiago Salvador, who was a Carlist in his youth and afterwards an anarchist. “I am an anarchist,” said he, “not only by conviction, but by instinct. When I committed the crime at the Liceo, I did it from an impulse I could not resist.” Gori, an anarchist leader, stated of his adherents: “Among the anarchists there are some who declare that if a certain impulse arises in them it must be satisfied. Thus, when they feel the need of killing a man, they imagine the thing is permissible, and that they must do it.” Then we have insane anarchists like Monei, who was implicated in a dynamite outrage in London, and subsequently adjudged mad by two New York doctors. To this class belong especially the half-witted people I call mattoids, since, though they have a rational manner of conducting themselves under ordinary circumstances, in writing and speaking they are demented. They believe themselves persecuted, and, when carried away by a paroxysm of their malady, or stung by poverty or ill-treatment, end by committing a crime. Such was Luccheni. “At first I was horrified at the idea of murder,” he confessed; “but soon I found that a real inspiration had seized upon me. I felt inspired for a fortnight. I could not eat, and could think of nothing but the assassination, but as soon as it was done sleep and appetite came back to me.” Büchner cites the case of a mattoid who thought himself persecuted, and who founded a society for persons ill-used by the courts of law, sending a prospectus of the society to the king.
     Some anarchists are victims to alcoholism. I studied a strange specimen of this sort for a long time, who declared himself endowed with a mission to kill kings. Being arrested, he denied his alleged mission altogether, even asserting that he was a fervent monarchist. But after drinking a litre [quart] of wine, which his relatives brought him, he suddenly became a wild anarchist who wanted to kill the king, and even the prison guards. The next day he denied it all again. It was then that I resolved to experiment upon him with alcohol. I saw how this man, who after consuming forty grammes [616 grains] was still an average, commonplace individual, and even a monarchist, upon taking ninety grammes [1,389 grains] became furiously anarchistic against the prison guards; at the same time his eyes distended. It must be confessed, however, that in childhood he had suffered from meningitis. Other anarchists are indirect suicides, desperate people glad to find the opportunity of being put to death for the murder of a king or a president. Such an one was Henry, who forbade his lawyer to mention the extenuating circumstance of his father’s insanity, and who said to the court that the lawyer’s part was to defend him and that his own part was to die. Frattini, who threw a bomb in the Piazza Colonna, at Rome, with the object of protesting against the existing order of things, had previously written: “I have no fear for my liberty, nor for my life—in fact, to get rid of it would be the greatest blessing to me.” Passanante declared that he committed his act of assassination with the certainty of being killed; his life had become a burden to him owing to the bad treatment he had been subjected to. The same statement was made by Oliva and Nobili.
     But the majority—and this is the thing which renders them less hateful and less repulsive—are criminals by temperament. Some of these even have fine faces, like Bakunin and Sassulich; and among the criminal anarchists of America, Pearson, Spies, Lingg, Fisher, Schwabe, Niebe, and Schaubel had ample foreheads, clustering hair and beard, soft eyes, and altogether gentle mien. Most of this category are very young. Otero was nineteen, Solovieff and Staps eighteen, Booth twenty-seven. They never have accomplices. The police endeavored to find some in the cases of Oliva, of Sand, of Passanante, of Moncusi, of [166][167] Bresci, and of Czolgosz, but they did not succeed. It is a fact that the alleged Chicago conspiracy, which cost so many anarchists their lives, was an invention of the police.
     One of the most striking traits of the anarchists is their love of innovation, the majority of men being conservative. Thus Spies said, when he was about to be executed, that he had finally concluded humanity was the slave of custom and regarded habit as its nurse. These people are carried away by new ideas for no other reason than their novelty. And to this is added an exaggerated altruism, an intense desire to undergo suffering. “It is sweet to suffer,” one of the Besi said to Dostoiewski. Like religious fanatics, they like suffering for its own sake. Thus a female nihilist of St. Petersburg, who was near death’s door from a long siege of consumption and the hardships of prison life, improvised a beautiful poem:
     “My offence is grave and terrible. Clad in coarse garments I wended my way barefoot to the place where our brothers lay moaning, there where no respite is from poverty and toil. But what purpose shall words serve? However guilty I may be, yet do I judge you. You are powerless against me, for I have faith—which in you is lacking—faith in the triumph of an idea! You may imprison me for life, but my malady will abridge my woes. I shall die with my heart full of that great love, and the very jailers, throwing down their dungeon keys, will burst into tears at my bedside.”
     Their faith, and the notion of being useful to humanity makes them bold in the face of sacrifice, and precludes the repentance which is frequent after crimes due to temperament. Several anarchists, too, have led blameless lives. Spies was so charitable that out of a small weekly salary he gave part to a sick friend. His comrades said that if the revolution succeeded he would have to be locked up, lest he should injure the revolution by his sentimentality. Louise Michel was called “the red angel of the sick” in Scotland. Of this sort was also Caserio, whom I studied very particularly, who had always been honest, and who killed Carnot to avenge the sufferings of his kin and the indignities heaped upon the humble by their superiors. It is true that this hypersensitiveness, this extravagant altruism, is partly ascribable to hereditary morbidness. Nobiling, Booth, and Alibaud were the sons of suicides. The Padlewskis had a father, a brother, and a grandfather who had been involved in a revolt. The whole Pearson family had participated in revolutionary movements for a century. Booth’s father styled himself Junius Brutus. His father and Staps’s were religious maniacs. Fielden’s father was one of the foremost labor agitators in England. But persons of this class are also under the spell of a kind of monomania, of an absolute obsession by a single idea, which produces hypersensitiveness and makes them excessively susceptible to the influence of others who second their idea, to the exclusion of all contrary arguments. Czolgosz was one of these. He had inherited morbid tendencies. His father had been concerned in the murder, or lynching, of a contractor who ill-treated his workmen. Czolgosz, in the rare instances in which he departed from silence, confessed to having been incited to crime by the speeches of Emma Goldmann against the United States form of government. It seems probable that this is the truth. Emma Goldmann appears to me as the true type of the American anarchist. Of foreign extraction, and descended from a doubly unfortunate race, resident in American [sic] for ten years, after changing among several lovers as fanatical as herself (she thought Most ultra-conservative), she preached that the day was dawning when women would cook dynamite instead of coffee. Her speeches may well have carried away a man hereditarily predisposed, a fanatic at the same time, and given to dark views on the misfortunes of his country. The Goldmann woman intoxicated herself with words and declamation, but Czolgosz went so far as actual murder, even considering it meritorious. However, after the anarchist influences had ceased to reach him for some time, and after seeing the horror of the whole American people at his deed, he appeared slightly repentant. Perhaps, if he had lived, he might, like Luccheni, Rochefort, and Drumont, have changed from the spirit of revolt to the opposite extreme of conservatism, with the same fanatical blindness. Like all criminals by temperament, Czolgosz had no accomplices. True, the police of America, like that of Europe, at once scented a number of accomplices; but the formless nature of anarchism, in fact, opposes the idea of a regular conspiracy. But the difference [167][168] was that in the United States the truth was soon recognized, whereas in Europe the supposed accomplices of Caserio and Luccheni and Bresci are still in prison. Czolgosz was a foreigner—a Pole—an alien, as are most of the anarchists in the United States—Italians, Russians, Spaniards, Poles. In North America, indeed, anarchy exists only through importation, and its adherents are distributed by nationality over five or six districts.
     There is reason, of course, for the prevalence of anarchy, and for its flourishing condition, in countries where there are no means of obtaining justice, and where the government is so bad that anything seems preferable to submission to it, and where, too, nominally at least, it is vested in one man. So that in Russia anarchy is comprehensible, and in Italy too, and in Spain, in which countries it goes hand-in-hand with brigandage and the camorra, a very vile system of justice, something like lynch law on a grand scale. Here, where enormous and irreparable social grievances are to be met with, one understands the existence of anarchy. But it is not easily explained in a country like America, where there is real liberty, and where a bad government falls, or always has a formidable opposition which brings about its defeat when it seems on the verge of triumph. The excessive protectionism and the imperialistic inclinations of the McKinley government had already found strong opposition; there was hence no necessity for a fanatic to kill a man who was not an omnipotent ruler, and whose successor might come from a party with principles exactly the reverse of his.
     But then, it will be asked, how is it that other American Presidents have been slain, irrespective of the last? Here it must be taken into consideration that the other assassins were not anarchists, but that Guiteau was a maniac and Booth a fanactic [sic]—both under the sway of party opinions. Now, apart from the fact that there are lunatics in all countries, history supplies us with a foundation for these political crimes which redounds entirely to the credit of America. In every country of the world where there has been great liberty, it has been observed that the assassination of the heads of parties has been easiest. The most glorious days of Venice and Florence and Athens have been conspicuous for the murder of chiefs of the government. At first sight this seems the veriest paradox, because we have said that this was just what happened under the worst governments. Although, however, the causes are contrary, the effects are alike: in the case of a bad government it is the hope of killing in one man the evil condition of a country under his authority. Here, it must be said, if attempts are numerous success is rare, owing to the employment of police and soldiery who surround an autocrat, and the cowardice engendered by tyranny. In very free countries the cause is quite different. There it is the vehemence of the parties, which, buffeting one another like the waves of the sea, break into extremes of fanaticism, and thence into political crime. In America there have always been two or more parties violently at odds. In the first half of the nineteenth century there were the Slave party and the anti-Slave party; in the fifties, the Republicans and the Democrats; in the seventies the Prohibition party sprang up, and after the Populists came the gold Democrats. The furious struggles of so many parties often end in a victory for what is good and right, but in the interval they influence the passionate and the violent and the half-witted, and drive them to political assassination. During the most flourishing period of Venetian liberty out of fifty doges nine were exiled, ten deprived of their eyesight or killed, and five forced to abdicate. At the time when liberty was at its height in Florence and Athens, the hostile parties in turn banished their adversaries, or took away their vote. So that while anarchist crime in Europe proves the desperation of peoples oppressed by despotic tyranny, political murder in America, especially that of the Presidents—that is of frequent recurrence—merely demonstrates the immediate fanaticism of parties to whom liberty allows the fullest scope. Thus, Lincoln and Garfield, like McKinley, are holy victims sacrificed on the altar of liberty.



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