Publication information
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Source: Freedom
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Dilemma of Authority”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 15
Issue number: 161
Pagination: 59-60

“The Dilemma of Authority.” Freedom Oct. 1901 v15n161: pp. 59-60.
full text
McKinley assassination (international response: anarchists); the press (criticism); William McKinley (criticism); society (criticism); anarchism; Leon Czolgosz (execution: international response); law (criticism); anarchism (public response).
Named persons
Gaetano Bresci; Hall Caine; Leon Czolgosz; Martin Dooley; Emma Goldman; Mr. Hennessy; William McKinley; George Washington.
Click here to view a newspaper editorial by Hall Caine expressing sentiments identical to those credited to him below.


The Dilemma of Authority

     McKinley’s death calls for little comment from us, so much having already been written upon it. That what has been written, as concerning Anarchists and the movement, is filled with falsities does not alter the case. Truth wears a grim face and is not beloved of penny-a-liners. It might be well, however, if the glib journalists who strive so eagerly to gull the public mind could for once appreciate the difference that lay between McKinley, private citizen, and McKinley, President of Trusts. McKinley, private citizen, may have been, possibly was, a blameless individual. Now, it is only the Newspaper Anarchist who kills the blameless individual. The bullet that, probably aided by his physicians, finally ended McKinley’s career, was not aimed at the blameless individual, but at McKinley—unscrupulous imperialist and crafty politician—at McKinley, ignorer of the rights of working men, defender and supporter of the infamous Trust system of the United States—at the President of a “Free” Republic, who, spurning the title of monarch, possessed more power than all the autocrats of the world rolled into one, and never in one single instance used that power other than to foster the privileges of the rich—to ameliorate the condition of his less fortunate countrymen seems never to have entered his thoughts.
     A George Washington as ruler is never likely to have a shot aimed at him except by some disgruntled politician. Presidents of the Washington type are not foisted into the White House on the back of a bank cheque; Washington was not the embodied representative of the greed of monopoly that today, under the cloak of commercialism, grinds down the American workers and rouses the bitterest animosity against a system and a class of which the human mind is capable. Hall Caine’s contention that the worker who struck this latest blow at capitalism was but fulfilling a natural law, is just. America, he further remarked, like every State, must in its turn reap the fruit of the centuries of oppression that have devastated the nations. A few as serious-minded men write in a similar strain. For Time brings its own revenge, and the militant Anarchist of our day is only one of the instruments by which its insistent hand adjusts the pendulum of Justice. “Anarchists,” says our far-sighted friend Mr. Dooley, “is sewer-gas,” and implies to “Mr. Hinnissey,” that there would be no such gas if it wasn’t for the sewers. [59][60]
     Exactly; but for the gross abuses festering the earth—abuses of power, wealth, position, commerce—abuses patent to all but their blind and hardened purveyors—there would be no militant Anarchists. Fill in the sewers and you will have no deadly gases; drain the swamp and malaria ceases; remove the wrongs under which millions of men and women hopelessly struggle, and you destroy at once the breeding-places of discontent and rebellion. But what do capitalists care about the suffering upon which they batten? What does militarism care for the slain upon whom it treads to earldoms and incomes—or clericalism, what recks it of the human intellects paralysed by its blighting grasp? But the Anarchist thinker and worker does care—cares at times so much that as has been proved, one might say to excess, he is ready at the bidding of a resistless impulse to face death in the expression of his fierce indignation at wrongs that can be remedied but are never remedied until the sufferers weary of suffering revolt. Czolgosz dies, as the American judge put it, to teach a class of people that the law must be supreme, a class which must be given, “a terrible example of the majesty and irresistible force of the law that they would tear down.” Oh, most blind judge! How many “terrible examples” has this “class” not had, and what has been the result but an increased contempt for the majesty of “law” that never since it fell into the hands of Authority has worn other than a smile for the rich and a scowl for the poor.
     Death!—Rest. No, Judge, the majesty of your “law” thus translated has little terror for the Anarchist. Were you to reverse the process and electrocute a few of your Trust fiends, your wheat cornerers, your municipal boodlers, your senators who do not believe in educating the negro, but make an eloquent plea in justification of lynching him—were you to kill off a few of these noble upholders of the law we wretched Anarchists have the courage to despise—it would do your soul good to see how terror might inspire honesty in the ranks of the rich. Anarchist literature may be suppressed, Anarchists themselves throttled off the face of the earth in groups or singly, but Anarchism will live and grow. We are tired of repeating this. But as Emma Goldman once wrote: “What makes the work of propaganda so hard is fighting the prejudice against Anarchy, that popular belief so eagerly spread by police and press that Anarchy means Beer and Bombs. It is difficult to get people to understand that Anarchy as a philosophy has nothing to do with either. Lately,” she continues, “I addressed a meeting of liberal thinkers, and they told me that what I expounded as Anarchy was Socialism, not Anarchism, because as they were taught to understand the principles of Anarchism, these meant Violence and Destruction. I am doing my best to disperse these nonsensical notions.” She has always done her best to do so. But the rapid spread of Socialistic ideas throughout the world is terrifying princes, churchmen, and bureaucracies alike. Anarchists do not make plots in these days; they know that in every case where bomb throwing is advocated the suggestion comes from a police pupil or a police dupe—that is, from men in the pay of those who know that the breath of Liberty is in the air, that Liberty spells loss of power and empty pockets to them. Thus Authority will fight for all it is worth, will not only not put out one finger to right the wrongs of the people, but will not even expend a thought on them until compelled by force of fear, preferring to misrepresent the opinions and acts of their enemy rather than buy a penny pamphlet on Anarchism, with a view to understanding or explaining a philosophy that inculcates a hatred of tyranny and injustice in all their forms. Cleanse your sewers, Capitalists and Kings, for death lurks within their slimy depths, and Time the Avenger, when it means retaliation, is not particular in its choice of instruments. If the rights of the rich are many—the wrongs of the poor, who shall number them? Men like Bresci, Czolgosz—and when they lose their heads over the sum.........??



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