Source: Chicago Sunday Tribune
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Assassinations Increasing in Number”
Author(s): Slater, G.
City of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Date of publication: 15 September 1901
Volume number: 60
Issue number: 258
|Slater, G. “Assassinations Increasing in Number.” Chicago Sunday Tribune 15 Sept. 1901 v60n258: part 2, p. 13.|
|anarchism; anarchism (criticism); anarchism (personal response).|
|Mikhail Bakunin; Marie François Sadi Carnot; Victoria.|
A photograph of the author accompanies this editorial on the same page.
“By G. Slater, English Political Economist.”
Assassinations Increasing in Number
ASSASSINATION has always played its part in politics. Yet it has been reserved
to our own times, strange to say, when less depends upon the person on the throne
than ever before, to see the greatest development of this crime. Now that the
most autocratic have learned that they must bend their will to the people’s
when they clash, now that there is little or nothing to be gained by the crime,
the assassin is more in evidence than ever.
Queen Victoria three times had her life attempted. Persia lost her last Shah by his hand. France lost her Carnot, the beauty and the sorrows of the of the Austrian Empress did not prove sufficient defense from his knife. Even the popularly elected President is his victim.
What is the reason of this intensification of the natural danger attendant on high places? Anarchism, we are told. The assassin, if he lurked anywhere, was in old times to be found in the person of a kinsman, a courtier, a great noble, some one within the inner circle. Religious fanaticism has also at times been an acute source of danger; but this is obsolete, and no religious body is likely ever again to commend assassination as a duty.
All the old sources of danger have vanished; the masses of the people are loyal, the only danger that threatens is from the small group of Anarchists.
Anarchism as an intellectual theory is beneath contempt; but as an intellectual theory it is also the mildest, most optimistic creed ever enunciated by man. It is a curious phenomenon that it is the exponents of this milk-and-water theory who have made their name a terror to society. Bakunin first stated the theory; he and his followers believe in the perfection of human nature. All the social evils round us, they say, are due to the restraints of society; abolish the laws and the law-breaking impulses will cease to work; get rid of governments and men will govern themselves wisely and justly. One cannot argue with people like this; one can only marvel at their ignorance of human nature. Under ordinary conditions a theory so in contradiction to human nature could impose on no sane person. Yet this is the creed which gives us the modern political assassin.
To throw bombs about, kill this or that ruler taken at random, to massacre a handful of deputies here, and a group of ordinary citizens there, seems a senseless proceeding, but it is the sort of thing fanaticism will turn to when it sees no other course available.
Probably the connection between the theory of anarchism and this terrible practice of it is less intimate than is generally supposed; the corollary of assassination is probably not drawn by all their teachers, and naturally it is only the craziest of their followers who attempt to put it into execution. The whole thing seems entirely crazy at first sight; the way, above all, in which they make enemies of all classes of society, not only of Princes and rulers but of the bourgeoisie, whom they profess to hate even more, and, indeed, of the masses, the workers whom they profess to benefit. All classes would eagerly join hands to extirpate them if only some practicable scheme should be found—all but the few who are Anarchists themselves. Why are these few Anarchists there? The theory and practice of government are both continually alternating between two poles—the poles of individualism and of socialism. Last century legislation had swung nearer to the individualistic pole than it had ever done before; now it is steadily moving towards to other, and all politicians seem to help on the movement. Anarchism is individualism exaggerated, intensified to the point of absurdity; it is the extreme of one side, just as communism is the extreme of the socialistic tendency. If governments are far more just, more merciful, more tolerant than they were, they are also far more all-pervading, their arms stretch farther and grasp firmer. So it comes about that while formerly discontent was most likely to be found in the upper ranks of society, it is now to be found among the lowest and least educated, among whom the monstrous growth of anarchism is now raising its head.