Publication information
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Source: Advance
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Idiocy of Murder as a Means of Propaganda”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: San Francisco, California
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: 371
Pagination: 1

“The Idiocy of Murder as a Means of Propaganda.” Advance 14 Sept. 1901 n371: p. 1.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response: socialists); society (criticism); economic system (impact on society); anarchism (personal response); capitalism; socialism; anarchism (criticism).
Named persons
Delilah; Humbert I; William McKinley; J. Pierpont Morgan; John D. Rockefeller; Theodore Roosevelt; Victor Emmanuel III [misspelled below].


The Idiocy of Murder as a Means of Propaganda

     If Socialists were victims of the belief that circumstances are the creatures of men and are molded by them they would, as a natural corollary, be also the victims of the spiteful habit of perforating, for the sake of helping forward the world’s work, occupants of the seats of the mighty. Socialists have contended and they still contend that the removal of one man or a dozen has no appreciable effect on the history of institutions or ideas. The removal of one king makes way for another, and the second king steps so comfortably into the shoes of his predecessor that only the extra taxation for a monument gives evidence that King No. 1 had ever existed. The world’s work is being done in exactly the same way. Instead of Humbert I we have Humbert II, or Emanuel III, and they each affected, or affect so little, their age and time, no one would miss them if they had never been born. Some other figure-head would “grace” the throne and the developing institutions would go on developing indifferent to the coming or going. As it is with kings, so with presidents. The removal of the weak and quiet-loving McKinley would make room for the egotistical swashbuckler, Roosevelt, and still the world’s work would go on in just the same fashion. The Steel Trust would not suspend its antagonism to trades unionism long enough to attend the funeral. The Shylocks of Wall street [sic] would still exact the pound of flesh from their victims on the western prairies. The farmers would still work for the money sharks and the railroad corporations. The Southern Pacific and the balance of the railway combine would still demand all the traffic would bear. The machinists’ union would still have a strike on against the growing despotism of the Scotts. The Cooks and Waiters’ Alliance would still be protesting against being compelled to work 12 and 14 hours per day at whatever wages their masters deemed sufficient, and the Employers’ Association would be still determined to crush the unions. It is primitive, of course, to judge a certain action by its results, but we have no other satisfactory criterion. And this being so, we are forced to conclude that the removal of President McKinley by a pistol ball would redound to no temporary or permanent good to the working class. Progress is not made in a republic by violence executed at the expense of one individual, no matter how exalted a position he may hold, but rather in spite of it.
     There is a peaceful way whereby presidents may be removed and the object lesson, which anarchists put forth as an apology for shedding human blood, would be of greater moment. The world’s progress is measured by the development of the tools of production. To add to the world’s wealth intellectually or materially is of greater worth than to add to the misery of one human heart. This the destroying anarchist forgets, if he ever knew. He takes the little chip on the crest of the wave for the wave itself. It is not given to him to know that McKinley, or Roosevelt, or whoever might occupy the president’s chair is swept along on the current of economic development. That they are creatures of circumstance and the servants of a class. This class owns the tools, the perfecting of which determines progress and in the owning controlls [sic] the destinies, to a greater or a less extent, of all who are dependent upon it. The presidents are dependent upon this class for their power, for all power may be expressed in economic terms. And the class that possesses the economic power in last analysis possesses all other power. The workers are dependent upon this class for the privilege of earning enough to keep body and soul together. The relation of Mr. McKinley to this class being that of a servant, the absurdity of an attack on him is very apparent, for one never inflicts injury on the servant for the purpose of causing the master to reflect on his evil deeds. That the master, the capitalist class, has been guilty of many evil deeds cannot be gainsaid. In sweat-shop, mine and strike its victims have fallen. More broken hearts and cries of hunger and tears of sorrowing motherhood can be traced to this class than to any other class in the history of the world. In the days of slavery the chattels were cared for and fed; now the wage slave, if unable to find a master willing to purchase his labor power, must starve and allow his children to starve. The crushed hope of youth and the bitter disappointment of worn old age can be traced to this class. If it had only one neck so many Socialists of character and determination would be reaching for it, no foolish anarchist would get within shooting distance. But unfortunately the monster is hydra-headed, with a neck attached to every head. And aside from the lack of desire to waste time in the inartistic occupation of cutting throats, the Socialist is acquainted with the folly of doing propaganda with poniards. There is a surer way whereby the vital spot in the capitalist system may be reached than by way of the capitalists’ throats. We intend to strike them where their power lies. Like Delilah of old, we shall cut the hair of this modern Samson. We shall take from the capitalist class the unpaid wages of our fathers and grandfathers, the tools of production. The thing which gives the capitalist class power is the tool you and I and all of us tried to improve from the time sufficient intelligence came to us to use rude implements to gain subsistence, and because the improved tool today is in possession of the capitalist class, we are the slaves of this class. These tools are its power. Through them this class exploits us and exploits nature, making nature and us give up all our possessions to add to the already overburdened luxury. Through the possession of these tools the capitalist class inflicts on society those ills the unthinking anarchist would remove by shooting a president. The anarchists are all idealists. They ignore completely the fundamental factor in progress, the economic factor. They think the world is moved by ideas and brave deeds of isolated human beings. They usually wish to be different and are only absurd. In last analysis the anarchist is a capitalist without capital. The capitalist class, instead of hounding them down, should sprinkle them with cologne water and make a pretense at tolerating them, as they are the best friends of the capitalist system. They are the most vigorous defenders of Morgan and Rockefeller. Atavism drives them to use the knife on the government officials, just as Morgan and Rockefeller would use it if the government officials were not their servants. The puny effort of the individual to regenerate society makes anarchism destructive. The consciousness of the strength in the working class makes Socialism constructive. By legal means, with patience, secure in the right, pressing forward ever, Socialism moves to secure the government for the working class and to wrest the tools of production from the capitalist class. This done, there will be no excuse for the anarchist or his knife, for the wretched conditions that bring them into being will have passed away forever.
     For in the time to come, when every man with the courage of a man desires work, he shall get it and without begging or cringing. This alone will secure the wives and children of the workers; this alone will make the inequalities of today less glaring and thereby rob the anarchist of his excuse for murder. It will also be the entering wedge for complete protection of the individual by the State. The theory of non-interference has run its course. Interference by the State, guaranteeing a man protection from death by starvation, or by the bullet of an assassin, can well be endured, if such a system as we have today, which guarantees the mass of the people absolutely nothing, can be tolerated for a day.



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