How to Combat Anarchism
THE solution of the problem as to the manner in which we shall
combat anarchism, and particularly the crimes to which it leads,
seems to me simple enough in principle. Our right to punish anarchistic
crimes cannot be questioned; it is founded upon the necessity to
defend society against its enemies. In taking up that problem two
things have to be considered—what constitutes the crime and what
penal or preventive measures shall be applied.
Speaking in a general way, there are
three species of crimes which demand our attention—the act itself,
the preparations for it, and the incitement to it.
It is unnecessary to enter upon a
discussion for the purpose of determining the criminal character
of the act itself. Whatever it may be, murder, incendiarism, destruction
of property, or robbery, actually committed or attempted, its criminal
character is evident and fully covered by the provisions of the
The punishment of preparatory acts
goes a step farther, but seems to me absolutely justified. Among
the preparatory acts within the scope of the laws of different countries
are the manufacture, storing, transportation, or use of explosive
matters intended to be used in anarchistical crimes. Sometimes the
criminal intention can be clearly proved, at other times the proofs
of the criminal knowledge of the offender are merely circumstantial,
and in still other cases it is quite impossible to determine that
the maker or sender of the explosive had any knowledge or even suspicion
regarding the uses for which the explosive was ultimately intended.
However that may be, the fact that the criminal character of those
preparatory acts is sometimes difficult to prove, or perhaps impossible,
does not exclude the necessity of punishment in all cases where
it can be proved.
The direct incitement to anarchistic
crimes against person or property is already recognized as a crime
by the laws of all civilized countries. There are, however, two
varieties of the crime of incitement which present rather difficult
One of those two varieties is secret
incitement. The great difficulty lies in the fact that it is often
extremely difficult and sometimes actually impossible to obtain
proofs sufficient for conviction. That fact, however, does not constitute
any good reason why that variety of the crime should go unpunished.
Indirect incitement is another variety
of the crime, extremely difficult to deal with. In a general way
it must be admitted that indirect incitement may be just as dangerous
as direct and positive incitement. There is, however, the difficulty
that in classing indirect incitement among the crimes we perhaps
run the risk of threatening the freedom of opinion.
In cases of incitement to criminal
acts there is not a question of opinion or conviction, but, to avoid
all danger of trespassing upon the freedom of opinion, I would suggest
that the law be so framed that its application be confined to the
most distinct and positive form of indirect incitement—the justifying
and sanctioning of anarchistic crimes against person or property.
The principle which should inspire
all measures for the punishment and repression of anarchistic crimes
is the unequivocal and unalterable resolution of existing society
to defend itself in its peaceful evolution against all hostile attacks
and to use, to that end, every means to which its enemies force
it to have recourse. There must be no laxity, no weakness, no hesitation
on that point. The enemy will retreat only before a united and resolute
The lack of organization on the part
of the Anarchists make necessary the most indefatigable vigilance
on the part of the authorities. The police should know every individual
or group or individuals from which danger is threatened. An international
exchange of information regarding those persons and their movements
The question regarding the proper
method of dealing with those who have attempted or committed anarchistic
crimes does not present great difficulties. The common laws should
be applied to all such cases; no exceptional laws are necessary.
The fact that the crime was prompted by passion and was committed
under the impulse of fanaticism should not be considered an excuse
or even a mitigating circumstance.
There can be no doubt regarding the
universally dangerous character of the individuals who commit anarchistic
crimes. No one is safe from their hatred and fanaticism.
The argument has been advanced that
the imposition of extreme punishment for anarchistic crimes will
have a tendency to increase the fanaticism of the Anarchists. I
do not share that opinion. Of course there will always be some degenerates
or illusionary fanatics anxious to pose as “martyrs of the cause
of anarchism,” but the decrease in the number of anarchistic crimes
during the last few years seems to me a strong argument in favor
of rigorous, repressive measures. I believe, however, that in dealing
with that class of criminals everything should be avoided that is
apt to impress them with the idea that their crimes are of an exceptional
character, demanding special treatment. Let them understand that
an individual committing a murder or any other crime prompted by
anarchistic fanaticism is just like any other common criminal, and
will be treated as such by the common law. Insane ambition to become
notorious has led many an anarchistic faction to crime who would
have hesitated perhaps had he known that he would be treated like
an ordinary felon.