Lessons from the Assassination
The assassination of McKinley is
not politics, it is not economics, it is not sociology; it is murder.
Socialists of all kinds believe that the social organism is growing,
and they would aid that growth. They see faults in our present government,—of
course. It is human. They would remedy those faults and make it
a finer, purer, better government, but they would not tear it down.
The destruction of government is the direct opposite of their aim.
The aim of Leon Czolgosz was to strike the government of the United
States a blow that would stagger, if not shatter it. That his act
has had the reverse tendency is due to the shortsightedness of the
criminal. Socialists of all kinds are opposed to the aim of Czolgosz.
Secondly, they are opposed to his
methods, which are the old Jesuitical methods of doing evil that
good may come. This is the very best view that can be put on it.
There was no personal animosity, no partisan bitterness, no race
hatred, no religious enmity. There was a class-conscious hatred
and a deliberate intent. Prince Kropotkin, a professed anarchist
and one of a recognizedly high grade, says this is not anarchy,
but murder. He is right as to the method and wrong as to the aim.
Socialists unite with Prince Kropotkin and the philosophical anarchists;
they unite with the government and society in general in condemning
with horror the method used by Czolgosz. Society in general is perhaps
beginning to dimly understand his aim and to be opposed to it; but
only dimly. Socialists are opposed to both aim and method.
There are four lessons to be learned
from this murder. In McKinley’s last speech he said: “God and man
have linked the nations together. No nation can longer be indifferent
to any other.” A Russian Pole, brought up under centuries of tyranny,
emigrates to America. His son’s heart is full of bitterness and
vanity, his mind and body are that of a degenerate. Born and brought
up in squalor, he is apt soil for violent words. Russian tyranny
was one of the causes of McKinley’s assassination. The world is
one. Socialists are fond of illustrating the brotherhood of man
by the death of the rich man’s child due to a contagious disease
caught from sweatshop-made garments. The antecedents of the murderer
of McKinley were made by Russian tyranny. The world is one.
The immediate development of Czolgosz’s
murderous intentions was due to wild and destructive words here.
He lays it to the talk of Emma Goldman, although the speech he heard
condemned assassination specifically. Guiteau, the murderer of Garfield,
said he was a “stalwart” or the faction of Republicans opposed to
Garfield and that he shot Garfield that Arthur might succeed him.
It would be equally as just to charge the 
murder of Garfield to Conkling and his friends, who bitterly opposed
Blaine and Garfield, as to charge the murder of McKinley to Emma
Goldman and the anarchists. And yet this is partially true in both
cases. Bitterness of denunciation in whatever cause may fall into
a prepared mind and produce unexpected results. It is easy to denounce
and find fault. It is hard to build, to construct. But when you
commence to denounce present conditions, think of Booth, the assassin
of Lincoln, Guiteau of Garfield and Czolgosz of McKinley. In all
three cases, bitter denunciation was one of the causes of the crime.
What is needed is persuasiveness of argument, clearness of statement
and sanity in all methods.
Concentration of power focuses public
attention on the man holding that power. The President of the United
States is the most powerful ruler in the world. This makes our political
campaigns for that office feverish and unhealthy and distracts attention
from the really more important municipal and local affairs. It also
makes him a more shining mark for the assassin’s bullet. Decentralization
of power would partially remedy both evils. The President of the
Swiss Republic is simply the chairman of an executive board of strictly
limited powers. He has none of the vast appointive power that our
President wields. A minor lesson of the assassination should be
the stripping from the Presidency of some of its vast, unusual and
As long as men are human, some of
them will reason illogically and act on those wrong reasons, or
some will be moved by false and bitter emotions. The anarchist method,
if so peculiar, so negative a thing can be called a method—of sowing
bitterness and denunciation that it may sink into the heart of some
degenerate and result, on his own responsibility, in acts of violence
against governments, is absolutely unconquerable against society
as at present constituted. Every method used against it can never
be wholly successful. All the resources of spy, detective and police
at the command of the strong Russian despotism, have failed to suppress
anarchy. The complete freedom of speaking and propaganda in the
United States have not prevented three assassinations. The methods
have run from repression in a despotism to freedom in a republic.
All have failed and will continue to fail. As long as men do not
find life worth living, some of them will be willing to give up
that life for what they mistakenly consider the good of their fellows.
The ultimate remedy is justice, to make life worth living for all.
When all the resources of civilization are used for the benefit
of all, and not for the benefit of a few as at present, then life
will be worth living for all. When an injury to one is the concern
of all, when the social organism is the servant of the lowliest
as well as of the highest, then life will be worth living for all,
then assassination need never be feared.
The making of the social organism
the servant of all is the aim of Socialism.