It is not my desire to ask for space in your paper for propagandist purposes. Recently in various quarters certain accusations have been made against the Anarchists into which other sections of socialists have been drawn, to which accusations I would ask the honor of a reply for the defence.
Without further preliminary I will set to work to dispose of the accusation that a policy of violence is related to the philosophy of Anarchism or that it is resorted to in connection with the movement.
In point of fact throughout the history of the movement with the exception probably of Caserio Santo and Le Breton (Camille Henry) the whole of the dynamite or allied affairs have had their origin in a single quarter, outside the Anarchist movement, no matter whether they occurred in France, England, Spain, America, or any other country, even to Australia ...
In the Chicago case, Police Captain Bonfield was proved to have been embezzling public funds, and his colleague Schaak to have been making a fortune by levying blackmail upon prostitutes. A special act, passed after the judicial murder had been committed, for the purpose of legalising it, was repealed because under it no mans life was safe. And eventually Governor Altgeld, in liberating the survivors, wrote a minute setting forth the entire innocence of the whole of the condemned men, the fact that an atrocious judicial crime had been perpetrated, and further, that the public conduct of Bonfield and his subordinates was such as to invite violence against them, so that almost any member of the public might have thrown the bomb. Carter Harrison, the mayor who presided where the bomb was thrown, had been very instrumental in agitating of behalf of the prisoners, and he had taken notice of circumstances that tended to show the bomb had been thrown by Bonfield's own instructions; as soon as Altgeld's minute appeared and the release of the survivors was ordered, Harrison was assassinated.
His murder was alleged to be a disappointed office seeker but the murderers of Banquo in Shakespeare's Macbeth were people with real or supposed grievances against the victim, whilst Macbeth was the instigator of their crimes. I have left out many details which would make the narrative too long for this place, but the essential features are the foregoing; and this Chicago business is the key to the later accusations made against the Anarchists, it being the first case in which that sort of thing was charged to them ...
The possible connection of this Chicago affair in its origin with the state of the American currency has been mentioned, and this will appear more probable as we proceed. It is well known that a central group of financiers, existing in Europe, carries its speculative operations all over the world, taking advantage of any temporary conditions which may embarrass the local capitalists. In relation to colonial loans, in Truth of August 1st, '03 I find this passage.
"This is a desperate move on the part of international conspirators of capitalism."
A certain ring or clique, connected with this group, controlled the French Government, which always served as its diplomatic agency, so to speak, there being no specially aristocratic or royal interests there to oppose the course of pure financial capitalism. And while yet the Chicago affair was in every one's memory, and before its real character was made publicly manifest, the members of the clique found themselves deeply involved in politics - financial swindles, which were getting nearer and nearer to failure and exposure, and which eventuated in the Panama Canal scandals.
The principal result of this was the Ravachol affair but there were others of a minor interest.
The first, in order of suggestiveness, was one that took place in a Parisian suburb, where an explosion suddenly occurred in the street. A number of people rushed to the spot and found a piece of paper, blackened and smoking. On examination it proved to be an old ballot form, having written on the back the draft of a policeman's report. When this fact became public, the authorities denied that the paper had any connection with the explosion; it had been wrapped around a sardine tin. From the relative size of the ordinary sardine tin to the ballot paper the latter did not strike the mind as a very efficient wrapper. This explosion hurt nobody, and did no particular damage. About the same time at Levallois - Perret, a person who was signalled by the Parisian to the local anarchists as a suspectable character, but who nevertheless succeeded in gaining confidence in the locality, represented himself as out of work and persecuted for his opinions, and on the plea of evading a probable charge of vagrancy obtained access to a garden surrounding a hut where an anarchist working man lived, and some others, who went to their work later, came every morning to economise fuel by there preparing their breakfast. Eventually, he gained access to the hut itself overnight, on the plea ~ng without shelter. In the morning he accompanied the early- riser some way towards his work, and then made a pretext to bring him back to the hut, where a party of gendarmes had singularly enough just made a raid and arrested the other working men at their breakfast. The occupier of the hut shared their fate. The officer-in- charge simply walked in, tapped on a spot on the floor, said to his subordinates, "Dig here, and you will find some dynamite." They dug - and found it. The peculiar part of the affair is that at this juncture one Colonel Dodd had just returned from Tonquin, covered with glory, whilst the Government had just been covered with dishonor through financial scandals. The Colonel seemed disposed to take advantage of the position; this dynamite discovery served as a nine day's wonder, to divert public attention from the Government and the Colonel; and as soon as the latter had become 'stale' and no longer immediately to be feared, the prisoners were released without ever being brought to trial.
But in point of importance the chief affair of the period was that of Ravachol. His real name was Konigstein. He was not known in the Anarchist movement, except privately to one or two people. It appears that he was by occupation a counterfeiter of money, a man of peculiar neurotic temperament, and that this temperament with the disagreeable consciousness of his own situation had evolved in him that discontent with existing society which led him to embrace the Anarchist theories. But in addition he evolved an acute personal hatred of the existing social organisation and those who appeared to profit by it. In short, he was a melancholic subject, with intervals of child-like gaiety in which he gave himself up to dissipation, only to be plunged again in a mood of universal bitterness. This man was somehow got hold of and worked upon to execute various dynamite outrages planned by Baron Reinach, the Panama swindler who died mysteriously (generally concluded that he committed suicide) at the critical time when the scandals were red hot, and among whose effects were found documentary evidences that he had designed and furnished funds for the explosions in question. Whether the Baron's object was to provide a counter-sensation to screen himself from the financial scandals, or whether he had the hope of retrieving his power by a financial intrigue operated by a dynamite panic, or whether he was an intermediary for the others with similar ends to serve, can only be conjectured.
It is noticeable that financiers more or less connected with the Panama ring and with the French Government, got into difficulties also in connection with Argentine speculations, of a miscellaneous character, but largely in connection with the pastoral-export businesses. Now, there was an attempt made very determinedly on a previous occasion to capture the Australian pastoral trade, and the parties who made the attempt were European rings collaterally interested in the Argentine. In fact, the possession of the two leading wool-producing countries would be necessary to ensure the success of the operations of a ring. And by this time it happened that Australian finances, which were before too powerful by force of circumstances at all events, had become exceedingly shaky. Moreover there had been extensive labor troubles in connection with the shearing.
But by this time the methods of financial magnates had become known to many labor advocates and the fact that a few obviously hostile dynamite outrages which have not been mentioned took place in the local financial capitals of the most important wool-growing countries, led them to reflect whether danger did not lie this way. In the latter part of 1892 certain well known men in the labor movement were warned that, "there was a capitalist conspiracy to work up a dynamite plot, and that it was intended if possible to involve these men." Had it not been for this friendly warning it is probable there would have been a repetition of the Chicago business in Sydney. The Sydney incidents will be recalled by those who are cognisant of the manoeuvres at the period. The recent incidents in connection with an alleged explosion in connection with the Outhrim strike are also significant.
Anticipating that I have already encroached too far on your space, I will conclude by warning the workers of Australia that, whenever they find in their midst any person, no matter what they call themselves, talking dynamite or any other form of violence, they should treat him as a suspicious character, and watch him closely. The Anarchists, or any other '-ists' on the labor side of the social struggle, do not nor ever did rely or reckon in their policy the 'means' in question.
Adapted from unpublished notes by B.P. O'Dowd, 1904.