The Week [excerpt]
Mr. John R. Dos Passos publishes
in the Times is views of anarchism and the proper methods
of dealing with it by law. The difficulties of the subject are candidly
acknowledged by the writer, and for the most part carefully treated.
He rules out, as any lawyer must, the method, most commonly advocated
by public meetings and by extempore speakers, of “stamping out”—which,
if it means anything, means the employment of anarchy to suppress
anarchism. Mr. Dos Passos also deprecates the plan for making any
attempt upon the life of a President or Vice-President, or other
ruler, whether successful or not, punishable by death. Other crude
conceptions of the moment to which the crime of Czolgosz gave birth
are “stamped out” by Mr. Dos Passos. So much for the negative side
of his argument. On the positive side he suggests, first, a method
of dealing with anarchistic societies and demonstrations by international
action. The plan proposed is the appointment of an International
Commission to discuss the whole subject in conferences with like
commissioners appointed by other countries. Details of the process
of hunting down the anarchists of all countries are not supplied.
They are left to the imagination mostly. Therefore, the only comment
that occurs to us at this point is that an international commission
would scarcely be able to devise or execute more drastic means for
hunting down anarchists than those which Russia adopted and put
in force against nihilists. Yet it is remembered that, in spite
of everything, they compassed the death of Alexander II. in broad
daylight in the streets of St. Petersburg, and blew up a train on
which his successor was travelling from Odessa to Moscow. It does
not follow from these facts that no steps should be taken to hunt
down those who plot against the lives of rulers. The facts do serve
to show how difficult is the problem we have to deal with.
Taking up the subject of separate
State action, Mr. Dos Passos thinks that the laws of New York against
unlawful assemblages are already ample, but that the penalty for
assembling to commit an injury to person or property or a breach
of the peace should be made a felony, instead of a misdemeanor.
We agree to this also; but let us remark, in passing, that nobody
who has made up his mind to play the part of an anarchist by taking
the life of a ruler will be deterred from attending a forbidden
assemblage by the legal difference between felony and misdemeanor.
Closely following this suggestion, Mr. Dos Passos says:
“I would add a section to it,
making it a felony punishable as to members two years, and as
to officers ten years, in State prison, to belong to or aid
or contribute to the support of any society having for its object
the overthrow of this or any foreign Government, or the killing
or attempted killing of any supreme ruler or officer thereof.
Of course, I am now merely throwing out rough suggestions.”
This suggestion seems to us much too “rough,” for, if it had been
in force four years ago, it would have subjected the members of
the Cuban society in this country of which Mr. Estrada Palma was
the head, to punishment by imprisonment from two to ten years. It
would have subjected the Kossuth societies of 1849 to similar punishment.
The Fenians and other organizations conspiring to overthrow English
rule in Ireland would have been equally under the ban, and, to go
further back, our Revolutionary fathers would have sinned against
the same law. However, we welcome Mr. Dos Passos’s letter as one
of the saner communications of the hour, one of those which bring
the light of reason to bear upon much reckless writing and speech
that can hardly be distinguished from anarchical literature itself.