What is the matter with the professors of law, the theoreticians of justice, the Blackstones of this country? It is high time they should invent a new theory to vindicate the existence of government, for the accumulating every-day events give the lie to their old theories of the necessity of government.
According to the official theory, government is considered almost infallible; governmental violence is justified, because necessary to preserve social peace, through the government impartially regulating the relations of the various social groups of antagonistic tendency and interest. The function of the government, it is argued, is to make life and property secure. Nations and individuals, we are told, place themselves under the protection of government that they may not be swirled into the chaos of disorder.
The critic of governmental invasion, brutality and oppression is always met with the same argument: human society is impossible without government; man’s evil passions would turn life into a pandemonium, barbarism would triumph and our glorious civilization would be doomed.
According to this theory government is the sole safe haven, the social Providence that we must rejoice in if we are not to perish in the wild struggle of all against all.
Only these reasons can justify the existence of government, say the most liberal theoreticians of the law. From this view-point the government is a sort of animal tamer whose mission it is to subdue the natural ferocity of human nature.
Through the centuries man has been persuaded into this belief, and where persuasion failed, intimidation came to the rescue, with the astonishing result that to-day even the democratic mind quite voluntarily—aye, proudly—gives his assent to the rule of government.
But here and there the veil is being torn. The truth—the Anarchist truth—is penetrating, to the effect that government, whatever its peculiar form, is not and cannot be impartial, but that it is always a straitjacket, the guillotine of the poor, in the hands of the rich.
Far from being the preserver of social peace, government is the very agency that creates disorder and strife in society. In every civilized society to-day it is the expression of the worst possible disorder. The State legalizes and organizes injustice, oppression and bribery, and labels it order. It passes laws for the benefit and aggrandizement of the rich, to facilitate the exploitation and subjection of the poor, and calls it legality.
It is the irony of political evolution that this true nature of government finds in the democratic State its frankest and most disgusting expression.
To illustrate the truth of the above it will suffice to pillory the hypocrisy and criminal attitude of the American Federal and State governments toward the private armies of thugs, provocateurs and plug-uglies of the plutocracy employed to stifle popular discontent and to massacre men, women and children crying for more bread.
These capitalist hirelings, the Swiss Guards and Black Hundreds of the masters, have within recent years become an established institution throughout the country. Striking workingmen are absolutely at their mercy, and their reign of terror appears to be perfectly legal. It is the most cynical form of lawlessness under the protection of the law and its guardians.
There is a Federal government in Washington; in Harrisburg, Springfield, Albany, etc., there are the State governments. But with them rule the Black Hundreds; indeed, they evidently stand above the Federal and State authorities, for there is not a single instance on record in the country where these murderous hordes—the Burns and Pinkerton agencies—are called to account for murder and treason, which would be the case if the workers were to resort to similar methods.
The State authorities, county and city officials entrusted with the preservation of peace and the administration of the law, close their eyes to the situation. They either pretend not to see the reign of terror on the part of the Black Hundreds, or they think the murders and brutal assaults of the capitalist janizaries perfectly justified.
The ordering of the militia to strike districts—customary under Presidents Cleveland and McKinley—has apparently become unpopular. Such a proceeding tends to create the odious impression that the government is the willing tool of capital, following the master’s call like a hound follows the hunter. It is apt to excite ill feeling against the authorities, which is not desirable during presidential elections.
This may be one of the reasons why the Black Hundreds are now given free reign, as a convenient substitute for the militia and the regulars, and therefore the question arises whether the pillars of the law have not come to regard these private thug armies as a most welcome addition to the strong arm of the State.
It would be of interest to have the opinion of our Blackstones in this matter. Should they deny the imputation it would be incomprehensible why the recruiting bureaus of the Black Hundreds are not surpressed as dens of organized murder and their wealthy patrons brought to account for treason and murder.
The McNamara’s are locked up in the San Quentin penitentiary; thirty-eight labor leaders have been doomed to heavy sentences for conspiring against capitalistic interests. The representatives of the law indulged on these occasions in solemn sermons on the majesty and supremacy of the law. But these sound like brutal mockery when they apply only to the under dog, while the masters may with impunity triumph in their lawlessness and brutality.
On the other hand, if the legal theoreticians argue that the Black Hundreds and their methods of drowning strikes in the blood of the workers are in perfect accord with law and its purposes, then what of the justification of the State as a necessary institution to preserve peace and keep society from sinking into murderous chaos? Is this role of government admitted in theory, as it already is in practice, then what good are laws, courts of justice and all the other paraphernalia of government?
If the greed of the money-changers and captains of industry may turn the land into a despotism of murder and bloodshed, and lord it over the people without let or hindrance—who may expect the workers to continue to respect the law and believe in its majesty and justice?
Whatever the theory of the doctors of law, actions speak louder than words. They stand on the side of capital, their sole interest to preserve the sanctity of property. Property is more valuable than life—and as the workers have no property they can expect no protection from the government.
That this logic prevails in the camp of the government, every-day events prove without the shadow of a doubt: Lawrence, Little Falls, and hundreds of similar instances, where the expense of supporting the Black Hundreds has been shifted by the masters to the shoulders of the community. It proves that the legal authorities not only approve of the crimes of the plutocratic Hessians, but that they are even determined to make the taxpayers foot the bill for the protection of the property of the masters. And the hundreds of strikers—men and women—who to-day are prisoners before the
bar of justice, as victims of this warfare, are no less significant witnesses of the role of government as the tool of capital and of its attitude toward the masses as to
Let us mention a few of these victims.
On December eleventh the Erie Railroad sent two barges of scabs to take the places of its striking coal workers at Edgewater, N. J. The scab boats were accompanied by armed deputies, hired by the company to terrorize the strikers to return to work under the old conditions.
Standing on the palisades, a number of strike pickets caught sight of the approaching barges. Quite naturally, they descended to the river bank to attempt, if possible, to persuade the scabs from taking the places of the strikers. The meeting of the pickets and scabs might have passed off peaceably, had not the hired myrmidons stood between them. These precipitated a clash, during which two deputies were killed and a number of others wounded.
Up to that moment the legally constituted authorities remained indifferent. They cared naught that the company deliberately dispatched armed assassins to shoot down the workers. And when such a horde of thugs descends upon a strike region, is it not to be expected, quite inevitably, that those assaulted will be roused to defend their lives and their families?
The representatives of the law evidently gave no thought to this very vital matter. But after two deputies lay shot on the ground—as a result of the circumstances which the authorities could have guarded against and prevented, they suddenly recollected that it is their duty to maintain law and order. And they did—in the usual approved manner. They instituted a reign of police terror in the strike district, swooped down upon the quarters of the strikers and raided two hundred of the workers’ homes, under the pretext of seeking the
leaders, although every circumstance of the situation indicated that there had been no leaders, and that the clash had been spontaneous and unpremeditated on the part of the workers. Right and left the strikers were put under arrest, the police using the most arbitrary and despotic means to break the backbone of the strike. Twelve men were thrown into prison, and are now held without bail on the charge of murder in the first degree, while a number of others are indicted on minor charges. A monster trial is in preparation, that is once more to prove to the country that
the ignorant foreigners are the worst menace to America, and that the most difficult problem of the government is to keep those criminal foreigners in subjection.
Criminals? Indeed, there are criminals in this case. The company that hires assassins for the express purpose of
beating the strikers into submission, and the authorities that stand by, ignoring or even directly furthering this capitalist massacre—these are the criminals.
Government and capital constitute a conspiracy of such magnitude and menace against the general welfare, that compared with it all other conspiracies sink into insignificance.
There is no end to the victims of capitalist greed and oppression. The bandits of plutocracy do their work East as well as West. From Pittsburgh sounds again the cry of the martyred workers:
One man was shot dead, one was mortally wounded and twelve persons were injured in rioting which broke out late this afternoon at Rankin, Pa., six miles from Pittsburg, where 1,500 employees of the wire mill of the American Steel and Wire Company, a subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation, are on strike. George Kenasco, the man killed, was not a striker, but a bystander who was watching the fighting. Two women and one child were severely clubbed. Among the more seriously injured were: Fritz Beck, shot in head, dying; Mrs. John Seblan, shot in left arm; Richard Parish, shot in left leg; Annie Leba, shot in abdomen; Michael Miles, aged six months, shot in left ear, and Charles Benson, shot in abdomen.
From further accounts it is to be seen that it was the private police of the company that precipitated the massacre. It is even claimed that the local sheriff, as the
legal representative of order, sought to prevent the bloodshed, but without success. The privilege of the plutocracy to murder workers on its own hook proved more potent than the
The situation is clear, ominously clear. The workers become outlawed the moment they dare to defend their natural human rights. They are the prey of the capitalist hunter, at his absolute mercy—worse even than the beasts of the forest, who are at least permitted a short season of protection.
As Anarchists we welcome this tearing off of the governmental mask, and the manifest bankruptcy of the smug official theory of legal justice and right. At the same time, being of the people, we feel and suffer with them and long for the hour when the workers shall cease to be the hunted prey—when they shall turn upon their pursuers and rend them to pieces, and do away with pursuers and pursued.