Bailey83221 (bailey83221) wrote,
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bailey83221

The assassination of President William Mckinley: Anarchism and Socialism

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I was interested about why Teddy Roosevelt became President only a year after the reelection of President William McKinley. I suspected it was because McKinley, the President responsible for the Spanish-American war was assassinated. Curious, I went to the internet.



William McKinley was killed by Leon Czolgosz, an loner anarchist inspired by the anarchist Emma Goldman (see below for more on Goldman).

From Court TV: The Assassin Leon Czolgosz and the history of anarchy and socialism

"To most people, anarchy means violence, but it was not always that way. Although widely believed to endorse a violent overthrow of existing authority, anarchism in its basic form is opposed to violence. Anarchism, as a philosophical doctrine, is the belief that man can only achieve his highest calling by being free from all governmental authority. Derived from a principle of strict independence, anarchy was considered the highest form of human endeavor, unbridled by the restrictions of government and law. Anarchists believe that man is destined to be free and that all government, no matter how democratic, is socially repressive and therefore, anti-human. The birth of modern anarchism is usually traced to the 19th century French writer, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, who believed that the individual is central to society and his independence should be the primary concern of all men.

During the late 19th century, especially in Europe, the ideas of anarchism took hold in labor unions and grew quickly within the socialist movement. But soon, the anarchists broke away from the socialists who they saw as being supportive of more government control, although both groups were opposed to capitalism. However, within the anarchist movement, a violent sect took hold. These disciples were of the opinion that true change could only be achieved through violence and assassination. They believed that capitalists would never change of their own volition. They had to be dragged into a new world where every man would be free and bureaucratic laws that stifle independence would be smashed.

A series of killings took place during this era that was attributed to the violent anarchists. In 1881, Czar Alexander II of Russia and 21 bystanders were killed by an anarchist's bomb. In Chicago in 1886, during the Haymarket Square Riot, a demonstrator tossed a bomb into the crowd and killed seven police officers. An anarchist stabbed French President Marie Francois Sadi Carnot to death in 1894. And in 1901, an Italian-American anarchist from New Jersey assassinated Humbert I, the King of Italy. These terrorist acts helped the public see the anarchist cause as an attempt to subvert existing authority by violence. And soon, all anarchists were assumed to be potential killers. The newspapers of the time are filled with stories about anarchists and their bloody attacks. In America, especially in the larger cities like Chicago, New York and Cleveland, there was a sort of hysterical fear of anarchists, fueled by a freewheeling, speculative press that knew no bounds to their sensationalized reporting. The New York Journal summarized what it thought to be anarchistsТ beliefs in an editorial in April, 1901: 'If bad institutions and bad men can be got rid of only by killing, then the killing must be done!'"



In 1885, a Lithuanian-born radical named Emma Goldman came to the United States. She originally settled in Rochester, New York where she worked as a seamstress in a clothing factory. Goldman had a lifelong interest in politics and abhorred the evils of capitalism and class structure. She began giving speeches in Cleveland and Chicago praising the anarchist movement. After she gave an emotional lecture in New York City denouncing the Government, Goldman was arrested for inciting a riot. When she was released the following year, she toured Europe giving speeches to aid the Anarchist cause. In America during 1900 and 1901, she gained a reputation as the voice of anarchy and traveled across the country organizing rallies.

On May 6, 1901, Emma Goldman gave a speech in Cleveland. She said to the Chicago Daily Tribune, Under the galling yoke of government, ecclesiasticism, and a bond of custom and prejudice, it is impossible for the individual to work out his own career as he could wish." She went on to denounce the present form of government and outlined her vision of the future. Anarchism aims at a new and complete freedom. It strives to bring about the freedom which is not only the freedom from within but a freedom from withoutЕwe demand the fullest and most complete liberty for each and every person to work out his own salvation" she said. These words are hardly drastic ideas in todayТs world. But to a young man in 1901, who spent his entire existence in the iron grip of poverty, who never realized the promise of the American Dream and knew nothing but suffering in his brief life, the words were intoxicating. Leon Czolgosz sat in the Cleveland audience mesmerized by Goldman’s speech. "My head nearly split with the pain. She set me on fire!" Czolgosz said later. He left the lecture hall that day convinced that it was up to him to bring social change to America.

Emma Goldman

Spunk Library: Biography of Emma Goldman

"Emma Goldman was many things -- a feminist, a writer and an incredible public speaker -- but first and foremost, she was an anarchist. Not coincidentally, her life in many ways parallels the life of anarchism as a movement. Anarchism, although its roots are dated much earlier, was born just two years after Emma's birth."
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"Emma was incredibly controversial during her own lifetime. Teddy Roosevelt called her a "madwoman... a mental as well as a moral pervert", the New York Times said she was a "mischievous foreigner... apart from the mass of humanity". The San Francisco Call said she was a "despicable creature... [a] snake... unfit to live in a civilized country". The government called her the "ablest and most dangerous" anarchist in the country."
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Emma Goldman’s anarchist agitation was interrupted in 1901 when Leon Czolgosz, a self-proclaimed anarchist, assassinated President William McKinley. Emma was blamed for Czolgosz's action and was forced into hiding by a massive wave of anti-anarchist hysteria. The same year Berkman (Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman planned the assassination of Henry Clay Finch…) was released from prison Emma began publishing Mother Earth, in 1906. A couple of years later, Emma met Ben Reitman, who would remain her lover until her arrest in 1917. She was jailed as a result of her work in the No-Conscription League and her anti-war stand against World War I, also causing Mother Earth to be shut-down by the government.

After serving out their two year sentence, Emma and Berkman were deported in 1919 to Soviet Russia. At first, Emma was excited to see first hand the revolution she had fought to bring about all her life. But it didn't take long for her to realize that the Bolsheviks were no anarchists and that the massive dictatorship created by Lenin was crushing the "spontaneity of the masses." In 1921, Libertarian sailors revolted at Kronstadt against the Bolshevik government. The suppression of Kronstadt by the Communists was too much for Emma and Berkman and they made the decision to finally leave Russia in a state of disillusionment. For the next few years, traveling from country to country as she could get permission, she wrote a long series of articles and two books about her experience in and the ideological contradictions she perceived within Soviet Russia.

From enrager.net: Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman was born in 1869 in a Jewish ghetto in Russia where her family ran a small inn. When she was 13 the family moved to St Petersburg. It was just after the assassination of Alexander II and so was a time of political repression. The Jewish community suffered a wave of pogroms. The severe economic hardship of the time meant that Emma Goldman had to leave school after six months in St Petersburg and work in a factory.

It was here that Goldman secured a copy of Cherychevsky's 'What is to be done' in which the heroine Vera is converted to nihilism and lives in a world of equality between sexes and co-operative work. The book offered an embryonic sketch of Goldman's later anarchism and also strengthened her determination to live her life in her own way.

At 15 her father tried to marry her off but she refused. It was eventually agreed that the rebellious child should go to America with a half sister to join another sister in Rochester. Goldman quickly realized that for a Jewish immigrant, America was not the land of opportunity that had been promised. America, for Goldman meant slums and sweatshops where she earned her living as a seamstress.

What initially drew Goldman to anarchism was the outcry that followed the Haymarket Square tragedy in 1886 in Chicago. After a bomb had been thrown into a crowd of police during a workers' rally for the 8 hour day. Four anarchists were eventually hanged. Convicted on the flimsiest evidence; the judge at the trial openly declared; “Not because you caused the Haymarket bomb, but because you are Anarchists, you are on trial”.

Emma Goldman had followed the event intensely and as the day on the day of the hanging she decided to become a revolutionary. By this time Goldman was 20 and had been married for 10 months to a Russian immigrant. The marriage had not worked out so she divorced him and moved to New York.

Here, she befriended Johann Most, the editor of a German language anarchist paper. He quickly decided to make Goldman his protege and sent her on a speaking tour. Most instructed Goldman to condemn the in adequacy of a campaign for the eight hour day. Rather he argued we must demand the complete overthrow of capitalism.

Campaigns for the eight hour day were merely a diversion. Goldman duly conveyed this message at her public meetings. However, in Buffalo, she was challenged by an old worker who asked, “What were man of his age to do? They were not likely to see the ultimate overthrow of the capitalist system. Were they also to forego the release of perhaps two hours a day form the hated work?”

From this encounter Goldman realized that specific efforts for improvement such as higher wages and shorter hours, far from being a diversion were part of the revolutionary transformation of society.

Goldman began to distance herself from Most and became more interested in a rival German anarchist journal 'Die Autonomie' Here she was introduced to the writings of Kropotkin. She sought to balance the inclination of human beings towards the socialsability and mutual aid which Peter Kropotkin stressed with her own strong belief in the Freedom of the individual. This belief in personal freedom is highlighted in the story where Goldman was taken aside at a dance by a young revolutionary and told it did not become an agitator to dance. Goldman wrote I insisted that our cause could not expect me to behave as a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. I want freedom, the right to self expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.
In 1892, together with Alexander Berkman she planned the assassination of Henry Clay Finch, who has suppressed strikes in the Homestead Pennsylvania factory with armed guards. She even tried unsuccessfully to work as a prostitute to raise money for the gun. They believed that by killing a tyrant, a representative of a cruel system, the consciousness of the people would be aroused. This didn't happen.

Berkman only managed to injure Finch and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Goldman tried to explain and justify the attempted assassination insisting that true morality deals with the motives not the consequences. Her time in post-revolutionary Russian meant that she re-assessed this belief that the end justifies the means but I'll come to that later.


Her defense of Berkman made Goldman a marked woman and her lectures were regularly disrupted by the authorities. In 1893 she was arrested for allegedly urging the unemployed to take bread 'by force' and was given a year in Blackwell’s Island penitentiary.

She was imprisoned a second time for distributing birth control literature , but her longest sentence resulted from her involvement in setting up 'No Conscription' leagues and organizing rallies against the first world war. Goldman and Berkman were arrested in 1917 for conspiring to obstruct the draft and given two years. Afterwards they were stripped of their citizenship and deported along with other undesirable 'Reds' to Russia. J. Edgar Hoover, who directed her deportation hearing called her one of the most dangerous women in America.

The plus side to deportation meant that Goldman got a free ticket to Russia where she was able to witness the Russian Revolution at first hand. Goldman had been prepared to bury the hatchet of mans conflict with anarchism in the 1st international and support the Bolsheviks . However, in 1919 as Goldman and Berkman traveled throughout the country they were horrified by the increased bureaucracy, political persecution and forced labor they found. The breaking point came in 1921 when the Kronstadt sailors and soldiers rebelled against the Bolsheviks and sided with the workers on strike. They were attacked and crushed by Trotsky and the Red Army. On leaving Russia in December 1921, Goldman set down her findings on Russia in two works - 'My Disillusionment in Russia' and 'My Further Disillusionment in Russia'. She argued that 'never before in all history has authority, government, the state, proved so inherently static, reactionary, and even counter-revolutionary. In short, the very antithesis of revolution.

Her time in Russia led her to reassess her earlier belief that the end justifies the means. Goldman accepted that violence as a necessary evil in the process of social transformation. However, her experience in Russia forced a distinction. She wrote I know that in the past every great political and social change, necessitated violence....Yet it is one thing to employ violence in combat as a means of defense. It is quiet another thing to make a principle of terrorism, to institutionalize it to assign it the most vital place in the social struggle. Such terrorism begets counter-revolution and in turn itself becomes counter-revolutionary.

These views were unpopular among radicals as most still wanted to believe that the Russian Revolution was a success. When Goldman moved to Britain in 1921 she was virtually alone on the left in condemning the Bolsheviks and her lectures were poorly attended. On hearing that she might be deported in 1925, a Welsh miner offered to marry her in order to give her British Nationality. With a British passport, she was the able to travel to France and Canada. In 1934, she was even allowed to give a lecture tour in the States.

In 1936 Berkman committed suicide, months before the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution. At the age of 67, Goldman went to Spain to join in the struggle. She told a rally of libertarian youth Your Revolution will destroy forever [the notion] that anarchism stands for chaos. She disagreed with the participation of the CNT-FAI in the coalition government of 1937 and the concessions they made to the increasingly powerful communist for the sake of the war effort. However she refused to condemn the anarchists for joining the government and accepting militarization as she felt the alternative at the time was communist dictatorship.

Goldman died in 1940 and was buried in Chicago not far from the Haymarket Martyrs whose fate had changed the course of her life.

Emma Goldman has left behind her a number of important contributions to anarchist thought. In particular she is remembered for incorporating the area of sexual politics into anarchism which had only been hinted at by earlier anarchists. Goldman campaigned and went to prison for the right of women to practice birth control. She argued that a political solution was not enough to get rid of the unequal and repressive relations between the sexes. There had to be massive transformation of values and most importantly in womens themselves. She argued that women could do this.

First, by asserting herself as a personalities and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children unless she wants them; by refusing to be a servant to God, the state, society, the husband, the family etc, by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities, by freeing herself from fear of public opinion and public condemnation...
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