Why Expect Justice from the State?

Why Expect Justice from the State?

[Liberty, September 18, 1886.]

Charles T. Fowler has written and Lucifer has published a very able article showing that the prosecution at Chicago was a prosecution of opinion and not of criminality, that the verdict was a verdict against Anarchy and not against bomb-throwing, and that the offence for which the victims are to be punished was not actual, but purely constructive. Setting aside the doubtless manufactured but certainly direct evidence put forward by the prosecution, of the man who swore that he saw Spies light the fuse and hand the bomb to Schnaubelt, and that then Schnaubelt threw it, Mr. Fowler’s position is a sound one. Sound also is the position taken by O, that the convictions were secured by a trick of the detectives. Sound also is my own position, that the convictions would have been impossible without a packed jury.(151 ¶ 1)

But, sound as all these positions are, what do they amount to? Something, perhaps, as so many instances of the infernalisms practised by the State; but nothing more. If urged in the hope that the State will ever do better, they are futile in the extreme. Is not the State an infernal institution? Why expect from it, then, anything but infernalisms? Let the people of Chicago, says Mr. Fowler, learn that there is no such thing as the crime of incendiary speech.… Then they will no longer prosecute Anarchy or persecute Anarchists, but hunt up the man who threw the bomb.(151 ¶ 2)

It is evident that Mr. Fowler here uses the people of Chicago as one with the State, because it is the State which is prosecuting Anarchy. But why should the State hunt up the man who threw the bomb? Why should it do anything in this matter but prosecute Anarchy? Is not Anarchy its deadliest foe? Is it to be expected that the State will pay heed to anything but its own existence and prosperity?(151 ¶ 3)

No whining, then! Let us not complain of the injustice practised by the State, except we do so for the sole purpose of exhibiting it to the people in its enormity and determining them to throw off its tyrannical yoke. One of the wisest comments that have been made upon the verdict is that of Louis Lingg, the maker of most of the bombs so prevalent in Chicago and the youngest of the convicted men. He is reported to have said, after the verdict, something like this: There is no reason to complain. Had I been in the judge’s place and he in mine, I would have sent him to the gallows inside of twenty-four hours. The attitude of this brave Bohemian boy is superior to that of his older comrades. Louis Lingg understands the situation. He knows that Anarchy has challenged the State. He knows that the State has picked up the gauntlet. He knows that it is a duel to the death.(151 ¶ 4)

Both Lingg and his comrades, however, are fatally weak in that they do not really represent Anarchy. They have challenged in Anarchy’s name, but to institute and secure one of the most revolting of Archies,—the Archy of compulsory Communism. They propose to win and uphold it by methods the most cruel and bloody. The strength of a righteous cause against tyranny lies in the fact that, as long as it remains itself innocent of offence, its persecution will bring it popular sympathy and aid. The so-called Anarchists of Chicago, by making their cause unrighteous, by announcing their readiness to commit any offences, however enormous, and by standing on a platform of Communistic tyranny, have cast aside this strength, alienated this popular sympathy for injured liberty, and thrown it upon the side of the enemy. And what is worse, by adopting the name of the real friends of Liberty and thus confusing the popular mind as to the character of Anarchy, they perhaps have made it possible for the enemy to carry out, sustained by popular sanction, what it dared not before attempt, from fear of popular rebellion,—the immediate suppression of the true Anarchists, who pursue Liberty as an end through Liberty as a means. If we could have gone on in our own way, we should have grown stronger and stronger, until the State would have had to face the alternative of frank surrender on the one hand, or, on the other, death in the last ditch through sacrificing popular support by assuming the offensive against innocent autonomists. As it is, the road to our sure triumph will probably be a much harder one to travel.(151 ¶ 5)

But what of the terrible predicament, it will be asked, in which these men who have injured our cause now find themselves? The answer is ready. They are of the noble few who, however mistaken as to the way of obtaining it, desire universal human comfort and for it are willing to cast their lives into the balance; we will snatch them, therefore, from the jaws of the wild beast, if we consistently can. To that end everything shall be done short of treason to our cause. But there we stop. If we cannot save these men except by resorting to their own erroneous methods and thus indefinitely postponing the objects we have in view, then the wild beast must have its prey. Nothing requires us to sacrifice that which is dearest to us to save misguided men from consequences which we did nothing to bring upon them. Those who think this cruelty may make the most of it. Call me brute, call me coward, call me kid-gloved Anarchist, call me what you will, I stand to my post. I have yet to learn that it is any man’s duty to sustain his reputation for bravery at the cost of his loyalty to truth. By my attitude upon that day—which, if its coming was inevitable, will come the sooner now—when I in turn shall find myself at close quarters with the wild beast, I consent to have my courage judged. For that day I wait. And while I wait I work.(151 ¶ 6)