Source: Chicago Sunday Tribune
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “How to Combat Anarchism”
Author(s): Van Hamel, M.
City of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Date of publication: 15 September 1901
Volume number: 60
Issue number: 258
|Van Hamel, M. “How to Combat Anarchism.” Chicago Sunday Tribune 15 Sept. 1901 v60n258: part 2, p. 13.
|anarchism (dealing with); anarchism (laws against); anarchism (personal response).
|“By M. Van Hamel, Professor of Philosophy of Law, University of Amsterdam.”
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 common law.
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 problems.
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 army.
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 is indispensable.
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.