Liberty Vol. II. No. 7.
Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order
“For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
The Trial of the Anarchists at Lyons.
In accordance with our promise to keep our readers informed concerning the trial of Kropotkine and his fifty-one fellow Anarchists at Lyons, we present the following condensed report of the judicial (?) proceedings:
The trial began on Monday, January 8, before three judges, the offense of affiliation with the International Association with which the prisoners were charged not being one of those which juries pass upon. The prisoners were interrogated successively by the presiding magistrate, who first addressed himself to Bordat, a light-haired young man of twenty-seven. Bordat, who answered with firmness, dignity, and precision, admitted that he belonged to the Lyonese Revolutionary Federation, that he was one of the editors of the “Droit Social,” that he had attended the Geneva Congress in his individual capacity, and that he was there put on a committee with Elisée Reclus to draw up an Anarchistic manifesto.
The Court. — Did you not declare at a conference on September 9, 1882, that the Anarchists recognized no authority, not even revolutionary authority? Have you not said that the miners of Montceau did well in blowing up crosses and churches?
Bordat. — These statements are inaccurate. But the acts at Montceau were legitimate because the bourgeoisie provoked them. I approve what is called propagandism by acts only when there is provocation on the part of the bourgeoisie.
District Attorney. — What do you mean by those words, “provocation on the part of the bourgeoisie“?
Bordat. — I mean such things as were done at Montceau, where they compelled workingmen to abstain from expressing their political and religious opinions.
The Court. — But where was the provocation for the acts committed at Lyons?
Bordat. — I decline all responsibility for them and condemn them.
The Court. — Is not your programme the abolition of authority?
Bordat. — Yes.
The Court. — And the abolition of property?
Bordat. — Not exactly. I desire, on the contrary, the extension of property, its universalization. I would not take from one to give to another. I am an enemy of the State as well as of God.
The Court. — You pretend, I believe, that the Lyonese Federation was affiliated with no association?
Bordat. — Yes. I am not in favor of secret associations, and the International can be nothing else.
In the examination of Emile Gautier, one of the most active of the Anarchists, the prisoner admitted that he had taken part in the formation of groups.
The Court. — Your programme includes the abolition of property and of the State?
Gautier — Exactly so.
The Court. — You have advocated revolution?
Gautier. — I am of those who think that the social transformation of which we dream and from which justice must result cannot be accomplished without revolution. That is a fact which I establish, history in hand. I consider the acts at Montceau as precursory signals of revolution. When one sees such cracking in the social structure, its downfall is near. Just as the revolution of ‘93 was preceded by three hundred minor riots, so the social revolution will be preceded by numerous disturbances. Never does the thunderbolt leap from a cloudless sky. We belong to an international party, as we have a right to do, but not to an established association.
The Court. — Do you admit that you have held relations with Elisée Reclus?
Gautier. — Yes, and I regret but one thing, that they were not more frequent.
The next notable feature occurred in the examination of Tressaud, a Marseilles youth of twenty-two.
The Court. — Your aim, you say, is to overturn republican government and universal suffrage?
Tressaud. — I never said so; I have spoken only of the present government.
The Court. — We are under a republican government.
Tressaud. — No, sir.
The Court. — The tribunal is not of your opinion.
Tressaud. — That is to be regretted.
The Court. — Did you not tell the examining magistrate that you were in favor of the abolition of property and of the family?
Tressaud. — Yes. I do not wish the labor of all to benefit only one or a few privileged persons.
The Court. — What means do you intend to use for the realization of your projects?
Tressaud. — Peaceful means, if possible; violent means, if necessary.
The Court. — You are an Anarchist?
Tressaud. — Yes, but not an Internationalist, and it is for affiiliation with the International that I am here.
On Tuesday Pierre Kropotkine was called to the bar.
The Court. — Have you not been, since 1879, the supporter and principal editor of the “Révolté”?
Kropotkine. — I need not reply to such a question, for I do not see why French magistrates ask me what happens in the office of a journal published at Geneva. Moreover, if the government had deemed it so dangerous, it could have prohibited its entrance into France, which it has not done.
The Court. — Proofs were found at your house showing that you were the principal editor.
Kropotkine. — Once more, sir, I do not hide the fact that I have been editor of the “Révolté,” but I ask what that has to do with the facts which led to my arrest.
The Court. — Have you not made speeches urging workingmen to take possession of property and with a view to induce them to overthrow the government which extended to you a generous hospitality?
Kropotkine. — I have always propagated Anarchistic doctrines to the best of my ability.
The Court. — Did you not take part in the London Congress as the delegate of the “Révolté”?
Kropotkine. — That did not happen in France. I was the delegate of a Swiss journal to a meeting held in England. I do not see how that concerns a French tribunal.
The judge then read from the “Révolté” reports of Kropotkine’s speeches at the London Congress, and asked the prisoner if they were correct.
Kropotkine. — Yes, I spoke thus, and have never denied it, but I repeat that the presiding judge of a French tribunal has nothing to do with speeches made at London by the delegate of a Swiss journal.
The judge then read the resolutions adopted at the Congress.
Kropotkine. — I ask the court not to confuse my speeches with resolutions concerning the diffusion of chemical knowledge. At the Congress there were many young people who desired to study chemistry. I opposed this as impractical, although I believe that all the sciences are necessary to the people who desire a better social state; but I considered that a course of study, to end in such a result, must be broad and not inclusive of chemistry alone. I think that, when a party, like the Nihilists of Russia, finds itself in a position where it must either disappear, subside, or answer violence with violence,— I think, I say, that it has no cause to hesitate, and must necessarily use violence. This idea is so just and so humane that you yourselves, gentlemen, in France, applauded Vera Zassoulitch for firing at the oppressive magistrate, General Trépow.
Here the court and the district attorney interrupted with protests.
Kropotkine. — I beg you to remember that, as magistrates, it is your duty to respect the decision of a jury and bow before the verdict which it pronounced. Now, the jury acquitted Vera Zassoulitch.
The Court. — Were you not expelled from Switzerland on account of the London Congress?
Kropotkine. — The Federal Council expelled me at the demand of the Russian government, because I had protested by posters, put up by permission of the police, against the hanging of Sophy Perovskaya and her five friends,— a punishment so horrible that the correspondent of the London “Times” declared that he had never witnessed so hideous a spectacle, even in Asia Minor, where he had seen many frightful executions. That is why I was expelled, as everybody knows.
The court then asked Kropotkine about his journeys to Lyons and Vienna before he went to London, Kropotkine answered that everybody knew the objects of his visits from the band of spies that followed at his heels. The court, not being able to digest the word “spy,” came to the defence of the police agents, saying that Kropotkine’s expression was insulting to them.
Kropotkine (resuming). — A foreigner, moreover, is considered an outlaw, especially if the foreigner be a Russian exiled by his government which exercises so powerful an influence over France,— I beg pardon, over Switzerland. I did not conceal my intentions, and the letters announcing my journeys were written for no other purpose than to call together as many friends as possible. I have always preached Anarchistic doctrines wherever I have gone.
The Court. — What! you urged the overthrow of the government? That was a bad way of showing gratitude for hospitality.
Kropotkine. — I make a great difference between the nation and the government.
The Court. — You went to Saint Etienne?
Kropotkine. — I am really astonished at being asked this question and not what I went to Lyons for, since my arrest was in consequence of the events that occurred in this city.
The Court. (confused). — What did you go to Lyons for?
Kropotkine. — To talk about Anarchy in a café to a meeting of two hundred persons.
The examination ended by Kropotkine’s denial that he belonged to the International Association.
Two sensations followed; the first created by the fainting of Madame Kropotkine, who soon recovered, however, and insisted upon remaining in court; the second by Bordat, who suddenly rose andl, in the name of four comrades and himself, said: “We have just been insulted by an officer, a captain decorated with the Legion of Honor. This gentleman has just said to us, ‘I fixed your friends of the Commune, and, if I had you, I would fix you as I did them.’” [This officer was afterwards imprisoned by his superior for thirty days.]
On the following day, January 10, Pejot was examined. Being asked if he had said certain things, he answered: “I should like to know whether I am on trial for affiliation with the International or for an offence of speech.”
The Court. — When have you gone to Geneva?
Pejot. — Whenever I needed to go there.
The Court. — Did Elisée Reclus call upon you?
Pejot. — That is my affair.
Pinoy, in his examination, admitted that at a public meeting he had thrown a glass of water in the face of a journalist who had not the courage of his opinions.
The Court. — Were you not once condemned for vagrancy?
Pinoy (with great energy). — Yes, and society’s condemnation is found precisely in the fact that a young and strong workingman may find himself obliged to steal or beg in order to live, while a multitude of idlers die of indigestion over their gold.
The Court. — Did you not strike Officer Marton?
Pinoy. — That does not regard the International.
Next came Nicolas Didelin.
The Court. — You are accused of having urged the conscripts to strike. Why did you refuse to do your twenty-eight days’ military service?
Didelin. — I consent to tell you, although I do not understand why you ask me about facts which have not the slightest relation to the International. I refuse to do my twenty-eight days because there are religious devotees who are exempted from it; because I wish no more standing armies; because I would like to see war disappear; because the soldiers who shot the people in 1871 —
The Court. (interrupting). — You are excusing insurrection. The men upon whom the army fired in 1871 wished to overthrow the government of the Republic.
Didelin. — The men of 1871 had sustained a terrible siege, and wished, on the contrary, to found the Republic.
The Court. (continuing to interrupt). — I see that there are people in this hall who agree with you; the tribunal is not of your opinion. Let us drop this subject, then.
In conclusion Didelin declared that the officer who arrested him insulted him and treated him in a cowardly manner.
The Court. — That must be false. Everybody knows that the police are very polite.
After the prisoners had been interrogated, the government called several witnesses, most of them policemen, not one of whom was able to connect any of the accused in the slightest degree with the International or show the existence of the International at all. The district attorney then summed up his case, claiming that the London Congress proved the existence of the International, that Kropotkine’s relations with members of the Lyonese Federation proved that society to be a section of the association, and that the fact that all the other prisoners belonged to Anarchistic groups in relation with Kropotkine proved then, to be affiliated with the International.
The defence began January 12 with the reading by Tressaud of the following manifesto signed by forty-six of the accused:
“What Anarchy is, what Anarchists are, we are about to tell.
“Anarchists, gentlemen, are citizens, who, in a century in which liberty of opinion is preached everywhere, have thought it their right and their duty to recommend unlimited liberty.
“Yes, gentlemen, we are, the world over, some thousands perhaps some millions,— for our only merit consists in saying aloud what the masses think beneath their breath,— we are some millions of laborers who demand absolute liberty, nothing but liberty, complete liberty.
“We wish liberty,— that is, we claim for every human being the right and the means to do everything which pleases him and only that which pleases him; to satisfy integrally all his needs without any other limit than natural impossibilities or the needs of his equally worthy neighbors.
“We wish liberty, and we believe its existence incompatible with the existence of any power whatever, no matter what its origin or its form, be it elected or imposed, monarchical or republican, inspired by divine right or popular right, by consecrated oil or universal suffrage.
“History tells us that all governments are alike and of equal value. The best are the worst, A little more cynicism in some, a little more hypocrisy in others. At bottom always the same practices, always the same intolerance. Even those apparently the most liberal have in reserve, beneath the dust of their legislative arsenals, some convenient little law against the International for use against troublesome oppositions.
“The evil, in other words, in the eyes of the Anarchists does not reside in one form of government rather than in another. It is in the governmental idea itself, in the principle of authority.
“Our ideal then, in a word, is the substitution in human relations of the free contract, perpetually revisable and dissoluble, for administrative and legal tutelage, for imposed discipline.
“The Anarchists propose, therefore, to teach the people to live without a government, as they are already beginning to learn to live without a god.
“They will learn, likewise, to live without proprietors. The worst of tyrants, indeed, is not he who imprisons you, but he who starves you; not he who takes you by the collar, but he who takes you by the stomach.
“No liberty without equality! No liberty in a society where capital is monopolized in the hands of a minority which grows smaller every day, and where nothing is evenly distributed, not even public education, though paid for by everybody’s mite.
“We believe, for one part, that capital — the common patrimony of humanity, since it is the fruit of the labors of past and present generations — should be put at the disposition of all in such a way that no one may be excluded from its use, and that no one, on the other hand, may monopolize a portion to the detriment of the rest.
“In short, we wish equality, real equality, as a corollary, or rather, a primary condition of liberty. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs; that is what we wish, sincerely, energetically; that is what will come, for no prescription can prevail against claims at once legitimate and necessary. That is why they wish to stigmatize us in every possible way.
“Rascals that we are! We demand bread for all, knowledge for all, work for all; for every person also independence and justice.”
No witnesses were called by the defence, but the prisoners in turn defended themselves, some by counsel, some by their own lips. One of them, Joseph Bernard, said that no evidence having been offered to connect him with the International, he should confine himself to answering the attacks upon his socialistic theories. Then he eloquently depicted the vices of existing society, and laid bare its monstrous iniquities. “The economist, J. B. Say, says that laborers are condemned to perpetual misery, and that there are only certain circumstances which permit them to improve their condition. Do you know what those circumstances are? Well, never have I dared to say it in my speeches, I a revolutionist! and yet they are plainly stated in the great economist’s work on political economy,— fire and pillage. They accuse us of wishing crime; but the present society has killed millions of laborers. Is not the real criminal the man who sustains its unhealthy organization? We wish no crime, since we wish no more war; we do not wish to kill the bourgeois, but only to put them in a position where they will have to produce to satisfy their wants” Bernard then explained that the Revolution does not mean brute force placed at the service of insurrection, but the transformation of society, and concluded by saying that whatever the sentence that awaited him, he would recommence that which he had done, and that, when the workingmen should go down into the streets to put an end to the miserable conditions-under which they live, he would be with them.
On January 13 Emile Gautier was heard. He spoke as follows:—
“Have I the right to be an Anarchist? That is the real and only question in this case.
“It appears, indeed, from the government’s argument that the International and the Lyonese Federation are identical; now, I do not belong to it. This International does not exist then as an association, and consequently does not fall under the law of 1872. The Association is a precise and strictly defined thing. Where are the headquarters of the society which you pursue? Where is its treasury? What are its statutes? Are not the Jesuits and Freemasons international associations? Are not the financial societies equally international? We are charged with wishing no more country. Ask, then, the barons of finance what country is theirs.
“The old International was really an association, but it fall at the Congress of the Hague. The law of 1872 punishes affiliation with the International; now it is certain that the word affiliation means reception into a society after certain formalities and engagements. Have you proofs of our participation in the association? The government has failed to find the slightest trace. The conclusion, then, is self-evident: the International does not exist.
“Or rather, I mistake; it has existed for three months by virtue of this prosecution, and yesterday it issued, armed and equipped, from the brain of the government’s attorney, as Minerva issued from the brain of Jupiter. I did not imagine that justice had the power to resuscitate the dead.
“I am going to tell you what does exist. There are citizens of different nationalities who have the same thoughts, and who grasp hands over the frontiers from North to South and from East to West. There are individuals and multitudes who hold ideas in common. I am of these great criminals who think that the government has nothing to do with the distribution of my friendships. The question now is whether in this country of France it is permissible to entertain friendly relations with foreigners. Now, among the foreigners with whom I am reproached for entertaining relations, there is a Frenchman, Elisée Reclus, who by his talent and his character honors his country. If this man is so disorderly that one cannot shake hands with him and remain guiltless, why is he not here? Why have I not met him in any jail during my tour of the penitentiary world in eighty days?
“It was my right to see this grand patriot, as it was Rochefort’s right to receive Parnell, Gambetta’s to be the friend of the Prince of Wales, Grévy’s to greet Kalakaua, king of the Sandwich Islands, as ‘my cousin.’
“If they apply this law of 1872, should they not prosecute the Legitimists, who take their orders from Frohsdorf? For that is an international act. Do not the Free Thinkers continually maintain relations with foreigners? They hold international congresses. Free Thought, which exists for but one end,— to destroy religion,— falls also under this law of 1872.
“Are not the Republicans who hold relations with men like Castelar, Parnell, and Bradlaugh guilty of internationalism?
“Does not ‘Justice’ number German socialistic deputies among its writers? Has not the ‘Intransigeant’ published subscription lists from the socialists of Amsterdam and Rotterdam for the miners of Montceau-les-Mines?
“Why, then, do they not prosecute the Legitimists, the Republicans, the Collectivists, and the Free Thinkers, and why do they reserve the thunders of the law for the Anarchism?
“We are in the presence of a procés de tendance; the prosecution is against our opinions. The government’s attorney has said that as long as there are any Anarchists left he will prosecute them. Well, I am going to tell you what Anarchists are.”
Gautier then explained his views, which are but the application of absolute liberty. His well-chosen word charmed all present and convinced the audience in the court-room. The studede magistrates listended with profound attention to the prisoner as he delivered the following peroration:
“They reproach us for excusing insurrection, but are not governments guilty of the same office? Is there not in Paris a column commemorative of victorious insurrection? Is not the national festival of the Fourteenth of July the glorification of insurrection?
“You, gentlemen, who sit at this tribunal you are insurgents, since you judge us to-day in the name of the Republic which overthrew the imperial monarchy. If Bazaine had been in Paris September 4, you would now be judging us in the name of the emperor.
“On entering you deliberative chamber you will say to yourselves, gentlemen, that these fifty-two workmen, who have been so long in prison awaiting trial, have already paid sufficiently dearly for the right to have an opinion,— the only crime which you charge upon them,— and you will hasten to restore them to their families; for to condemn is not to reply, and there is no proscription which can save a worn-out political system. Remember that in 1871, after the wicked hecatomb of thirty-five thousand Parisians, it was thought that seals had been placed upon the tomb of assassinated socialism, and to-day socialism is stronger than ever.
“It will not be the condemnation of these fifty-two prisoners which will kill the Anarchistic party.
“In spite of your prosecutions our proselytes will increase; and after your persecution, should there remain but Anarchist, I shall be that one.”
The most notable event of the trial occured on Januray 15, when Kropotkine spoke in his own defense, as follows:—
“I believe, gentlemen, that you must have been struck with the weakness of the arguments of the public ministry to prove that we belong to the International.
“You must naturally conclude that the International does not exist; besides, the government has almost confessed as much, since the district attorney said that he would not cease to prosecute Anarchists.
“The question, therefore, stands differently, and it is now plain that this prosecution is one of opinion,— I will say more,— a prosecution of the moment, for the law has been applied so little since 1872 that it seemed a dead letter.
“Since that time workingmen have not ceased to hold relations with foreigners. Has any one concluded from that that the International Association has been re-established?
“This prosecution, independently of its character, is essentially a class prosecution. The law of 1872, indeed, divides society into two classes, since it is aimed only at the International Association of Working People. Is this not proved by the fact that the bourgeoisie have a right to associate with foreigners with impunity and without the interference of the law?
“For instance, lately a number of French deputies attended the unveiling of a monument erected to the Italian revolutionst, Mazzini, who spent all his life in efforts to get Austrian, French, and Italian sovereigns killed. Have they been prosecuted?
“Are not meeting of Italian and French Republicans frequently held in Paris? In the face of this prosecution of opinion, of the moment, and of a class, I have hesitated to defend myself, but above us there is a higher judge,— public opinion. For it I speak.
“Certainly, it would have benn a very fine thing if we could have declared ourselves members of the Internation; but we cannot, because that grand association of the laborers of the entire world has not existed in France since the iniquitous law of 1872 destroyed it.
“For my part, I should have been proud to confess that I belonged to the society of which the great patriot, Garibaldi, said: ‘It is the sun of the future.’
“Never shall I consider it a crime to say to the laborers of two worlds: Laborers, when the bourgeoisie plunge you into misery, a truce to hatred; join hand across the frontiers; be brothers!
“Oh! You say, Mr. Attorney, that we have no country! Do you suppose that my heart beats no faster when a Russian song rings in my ears than when I listen to a French song? Do you suppose that my love is no greater for the airs of my own country and that I do not prefer the cottage of the Russian peasant to the French mansion?
“But I love France, because I consider that this beautiful country marches at the head of the other nations; I am ready to aid in her development, and I am not alone.
“When the German soldiers burned, to the cries of Vire l’empereur! the cottages of your peasants, Bebel and Liebknecht in Germany made their protest heard.
“So many legends have been related regarding me that I am forced, to my great regret, to give here a few details about my life.
“My father was an owner of serfs, slaves, and from my infancy I had an opportunity to witness scenes like those of which you have read in that celebrated book, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ At that time I learned to love the oppresed, and took an oath never to side with the oppresors.
“Later I entered the school of the czar’s pages; I saw the court the inside and learned to despise it.
“That was in 1862. At that time a liberal wind was blowing through Russia, and reforms began to be talked of.
“Having the privilege of choosing the corps in which I should serve, I did not hesitate to choose a regiment of Cossacks in Siberia, thinking that in that unhappy country I could labor for the reforms so much desired. I was the governor-general’s aide-de-camp, and in that position did all the good I could. I was unsophisticated and believed that the government intended to execute reforms. The Polish insurrection broke out, and a terrible reaction followed. After two years I saw that the government did not wish to do anything; I devoted myself to science and travelled through Siberia.
“Finally I left Siberia, and at the age of twenty-six took my seat upon the benches of the mathematical faculty at St. Petersburg. During the four years that I remained there, a great socialistic movement developed itself.
“In 1873 the government arrested me and my brother, and I spent two years and a half in prison. My brother, who had been authorized by a special decree of the emperor to finish a geographical work on Siberia, succeeded in publishing the first volume; the second remained in the hand of the jailers. In that prison I heard above me the cries of the unfortunates who had gone mad, and I suffered doubly. Nine of my companions became insane. Eleven committed suicide. At the end of two years, scurvy and dyspepsia having got the better of me, I was removed to a hospital, whence I escaped. My comrades remained in prison four years without a trial, and were judged in the famous trail of the one hundred and ninety-three.
“In Switzerland, to which I came under the name of Levachoff, I found the working people in the same situation. Everywhere I saw the same wretchedness. I have seen great manufacturing towns where the childern had only dirty and bad-smelling courts to play in. I have seen women searching in heaps of filth for some remains of vegetables to devour. I have seen poverty in London, and I have taken upon myself the mission of laboring for the social transformation.
“In 1881 I was expelled from Switzerland and went to Thonon, where I remained two months. Before going to England I visited Vienna, Saint Etienne, and Lyons. This is the journey for which I am reproached. I returned to Thonon October 12, 1882, and I do not need to tell you that I had nothing to do with the Montceau-les-Mines affair, for I was in London when it happened.
“They have sought to represent me as the chief of the Nihilists and as a great dynamiter. You have seen from the words of my comrades that they wish no chief. I continually receive letters containing dynamite proposals. My wife, who is in Lyons, herself receives propositions concerning infernal machines. In Thonon some persons called upon me, ostensibly to ask employment as gardeners of servants, but really to spy me: I gave them ten sous out of pity for the necessity that compelled them to follow so villainous a trade. The next day the Lyons “Républican” said: ‘Our correspondent has seen Prince Kropotkine, who told him that he was the chief of the Anarchistic movement.’
“I am a socialist. A society which is divided into two distinct classes — one which produces and yet possesses nothing, and another which does not produce and yet possesses all — is a society without morality and self-condemned. A working man’s labor represents an average of ten thousand francs a year, and hi annual wages are but two thousand, and often only one thousand francs. By the side of this misery are displayed the unbridled luxury, the foolish waste, the shameful depravity of that bourgeoisie class so well depicted by the modern novelist, Emile Zola. by what means can this shameful social injustice be reformed? Science is impotent to remedy it, and labor always benefits the well-to-do. Even John Stuart Mill insists upon the necessity of a social transformation.
“I was by violent expropriation that the bourgeoisie stripped the nobility and the clergy of their land and their wealth. We demand the apllication of the Convention’s decree: ‘The land belongs to all.’ Is this a crime? No; for it is necessary to apply it to the welfare of all and not to the profit of a class. The district attorney has said that I was the founder of Anarchy; but how Proudhon and Herbert Spencer and all the great thinkers of 1848?
“We do not cease to labor and to study, and, instead of coming to discuss with us, they imprison us, they condemn us, because we defend these utopias — as you call them — which will be truths tomorrow. Our idea has been planted, had has grown in spite of everything, in spite of persecutions, and it has developed with astounding rapidity. Be sure that our condemnation, our imprisonment, will bring us new proselytes. Persecution, you know, attract sympathy. For the rest, in condemning us, you will not solve the question,— you will enlarge and circulate it.
“Finally I tell you that the laborers of France and Europe who know that the International does not exist, have their eyes fixed upon you, and will say, if you condemn us, that for the bourgeoisie and the laborers there are two weights and two measures.
“What a revelation for them!
“Do not foment hatreds; repression has never served a good purpose. Prosecuted twice under the empire, the International rose in 1870 more glorious and stronger than ever. Crushed in the streets, after the Commune, under thirty-five thousand dead bodies, socialism, stronger than before, has infused new life into the blood of old disciples. Its ideas on property have spread to a formidable extent and Bismarck himself has admitted the uselessness of law against socialists.
“Gentleman, believe me, the social revolution is at hand; before ten years it will break out; I live among the laborers, and I affirm it. Inspire yourselves with their ideas, go down into their ranks, and you will see that I am right.
“Permit me to tell you what I think. Do not excite the vengeance of labobrers, for thereby you will prepare new misfortunes. You know that persecution is the best means of spreading the idea. Is that what you wish? Do you desire for France a future of massacres? For, I repeat, ten years will not go by without a social revolution.
“What is it necessary to do in view of this revolution? Will you sulk, shut your eyes, wish nothing, know nothing? No, you should frankly study the movement, frankly inquire whether, perchance, we may not be right. I adjure you, every man of heart who hears me, the question is serious and inevitable.
“Perhaps you will deem it very audacious in me to use such language to a court; but if only two or three persons are struck with the truth of my words and consider them a salutary warning, I shall not have paid too dearly by a few years of imprisonment for the satisfaction of having done my duty.
“If I, by counselling yen to look at the certainty of a social revolution, could avoid the shedding of a few drops of blood, oh! I could die within the walls of a prison and die satisfied.
“If, however, my warnings do not suffice and the social revolution bursts forth by force and by the fault of the bourgeoisie, I shall be found with my friends.”
In spite of these warnings the tribunal, on January 19, sentenced Kropotkine, Bernard, Bordat, and Gautier to imprisonment for five years, a fine of one thousand francs, ten years of police supervision, and five years of exclusion from civil rights; three others to imprisonment for four years, a fine of one hundred francs, ten years of supervision and five years of exclusion; four others to imprisonment for three years, a fine of five hundred francs, ten years of supervision, and five years of exclusion; five others to imprisonment for two years a fine of three hundred francs, ten years of supervision, and five years of exclusion; twelve others to imprisonment for fifteen months, a fine of two hundred francs, and five years of exclusion; eight others to imprisonment for one year, a fine of one hundred francs, and five years of exclusion; and ten others to imprisonment for six months, a fine of fifty francs, and five years of exclusion. The remaining five or six were acquitted.
Gautier and a number of his comrades have appealed from the verdict, but Kropotkine steadfastly declines to take any further steps in his own behalf.
“A free man is one who enjoys the use of his reason and his faculties; who is neither blinded by passion, not hindered or driven by oppression, not deceived by erroneous opinions.” — Proudhon.
Blind as well as Brutal.
Liberty bitterly regrets the necessity of giving up nearly the whole of the present issue to so sad a subject as the cruel fate of Kropotkine and his comrades. But there is no other paper in the world to lay before English readers the record of this infamy, and our duty is plain. The trial of the Anarchists at Lyons should and shall go down in history as one of the most notable illustrations, not only of the brutality, but of the blindness, of oppression, and it should not be of less interest to Americans because it occurred in France. Anarchy knows no frontiers; it is a gospel of human brotherhood that spans oceans. We beg every person who sees this paper to read carefully the proceedings which we report. Their outcome will prove of moment to the world. Anarchists in jail means the people in revolution; and unless they are speedily liberated, not a tenth of the decade allowed by Kropotkine will elapse before the dawn of the social day of judgment. Kropotkine, Gautier, and the rest have stood at the bar of Capital and Tyranny and received, sentence most harsh. The verdict must be reversed, or Capital and Tyranny will soon be arraigned at the bar of outraged Labor and Liberty, and the revenge of the people upon their plunderers and jailers will be terrible, swift, and sure. Already they are awakening. Indignation meetings are being held throughout France and even in lethargic England; the workmen of Paris are demanding the confiscation of the property of the Rothschilds as a first step in expropriation; and a flame is rapidly spreading beside which that kindled by the manifesto of Jerome was but a fitful flicker.
Let our readers note, too, the manly bearing and uncompromising words of the accused. One would suppose that the judges were on trial before the prisoners at the bar (as indeed they were). But the result was a foregone conclusion. The judges, relies of the empire, were appointed for just such work, and they were bound to do it. But their verdict was not the climax of the infamy. That was attained only when Kropotkine, sick and delirious from the strain upon his mind, was removed to a hospital room, and the Russian ambassador to France, by permission of the ministry which Gambetta created, was admitted to his bedside with two stenographers to take down his ravings. And America is silent! So far as we now, but one paper in the country, the Boston “Globe,” has been heard in protest.
Imagine an analogous situation. Suppose John Devoy, the Irish revolutionist, for instance, to be lodged in jail in this country for a political offence, and the victim of a high fever as the result. Would not the country be too hot to hold the administration which should admit the British ambassador at Washington to his sick-room, with two stenographers to record his incoherent mutterings as evidence to be used against him and his allies in British courts? Yet the treatment of Kropotkine is no different from this.
A word, in closing, to the Anarchists themselves, in condemnation of their advocacy of communism. Communism is anti-Anarchistic, and the perfection of authority. We shall not shrink from the policy of expropriation, if capital forces its adoption by the people; but, the old barriers once down, any attempt to re-establish privilege, in behalf of no matter how large a class, will be a violation of Liberty that cannot be tolerated. Any communistic attempt to interfere with the freedom of individual production and exchange will result in still another revolution. Advocacy of such a course is a departure from the Anarchy that Proudhon taught, a departure from the Anarchy that Liberty teaches, a departure that leads straight to Karl Marx’s ground. We warn our friends to beware of it. The manifesto of the accused at Lyons speaks of equality as “a corollary, or, rather, a primary condition of Liberty.” It makes all the difference which. Equality as a primary condition of Liberty must be imposed equality, and imposed equality, the child of Authority, can give birth in turn to nothing but Authority. Or, to use the words with which Proudhon closes his terrific attack on communism, Whoever, to organize labor, appeals to power and to capital, lies, because the organization of labor means the downfall of capital and power.
Our “Strange” Governor.
The “Commonwealth” was sorely distressed because Governor Butler had interfered with the “discipline” of the Concord prison. In its opinion, “the people” would surely have something to say of so strange a proceeding. What had the governor done? Why, he had directed that the prisoners — each of them — should have an opportunity to write him a letter, and seal it, so that the warden should not know its contents! Eighty or more of such sealed missives soon came into the governor’s hands. Strange proceeding, indeed! So unlike any other governor! His illustrious predecessors had gone bodily, staff officers and all, and visited the warden on appointed days, and seen and heard prisoners only in the warden’s sacred presence. And they always came away convinced that said warden was doing his “whole duty.” Of course! What was the warden going to do? Give their excellencies a chance to discover the truth? Not if the warden knew himself, and most wardens think they do. What was going on in the minds of the caged and dumb prisoners not even their eyes dared reveal. Their side of the story was hidden away as in a sealed book. Therein lies the difference. A Governor Long could go to Concord, and the wily warden could keep the thoughts of the convicts sealed from his gaze. But Governor Butler is a “strange” man, and he ordered that their thoughts should be sealed from the warden’s view. And this is the crime of the governor which has disturbed the dull “Commonwealth.” Yes, and the people will have much to say about it, we doubt not. Probably Judge or Senator Hoar will look from his high place frigidly, and deem the deed another slice of “Butler’s impertinence.” And the cool “Advertiser” will solemnly render its frigid opinion as to how all cool and frigid people will view the scene of prison convicts in free and untrammelled correspondence with the governor of the commonwealth. And we shall not be surprised if Joseph Cook, ere this is in type, shall have made a “prelude” out of the astonishing and utterly demoralizing data.
But, for all that all the frigids can say, the plain and humane sense of the plain people will take the governor’s side. The congregation at Lexington to which Emerson once preached was made up, as one of their number testified, of plain people, who could not understand other preachers. And we have often wondered if the plain people of Massachusetts could understand the other governors; for it seemed so difficult to conceive of a man having the power and not the will to sift the vast, accumulating testimony of ill, not to say savage, treatment administered to the prisoners of the State’s prison. No one of them has heretofore even attempted to do it; for every one has willingly been the dupe of the warden.
But here comes a governor who has not the fear of men before his eyes, and cares little, we judge, for institutions, if, in his judgment, they need breaking up. This virtue he certainly has. We wish he had others we could name; but “his shortcoming shall not blind us to that which he hath.” His effort to get at the “true inwardness” of the doomed men within these prison walls is one of the notable signs of the day. It is not the mere freak of Governor Benjamin F. Butler. He but echoes a public opinion that is steadily increasing in volume, and gaining boldness and definiteness with every passing year. The governor’s action in this present case is but a slight indication of the “strange” things that are to come. What it emphasizes is a determination to guard with a new vigilance the liberties of all the people; even the “condemned,” who are supposed to have no rights which anybody is bound to respect, are to feel the effects of the rays spreading everywhere from the rising sun of Liberty.
Assuming that the majority of the people have a right to manufacture an institution called the State, and, in accordance with their arbitrary decisions, shut people up in prison pens,— a point we leave out in this article,— to what end, we ask, is it done? And the reply will of course be: “For the safety of the general public. It is to give increased protection to the lives and property of all unoffending citizens. Concord prison stands as the symbol of Liberty: liberty to live, and liberty to remain in secure possession of all that is your own.”
Agreed, so far; have it your own way up to this point for all that we will at present controvert you. Grant that your penitentiary is the sign of a real desire on your part to protect the good and deter the evil-minded; we ask, are you sure you are doing very much in that direction? If such is your opinion there are several reasons which lead us to think that you are very much mistaken. To borrow the phraseology of the “Monday Lectureship,” we would say that it is “scientifically demonstrable” that you are not protecting either life or property. Crime steadily increases; your prisons are filling up. At the same ratio, twenty years (more likely ten) from now, the question will be, not where to locate the one State prison you have, but where to build another. During that time you will be refining your civilization, and making wonderful progress in the arts and sciences. But poverty and crime will keep pace with your advance, however rapid.
We will tell you.
It is because you are to be all this while a “breeder of sinners.” In all your efforts particularly directed to that end, you have made not one “criminal” less in the past, but have engendered continually the very spirit of which evil-disposed men and women are manufactured. Is it a new thing to be told that there is a generation of the spirit as well as of the body? Your own Christ said: “You must be born again, of water and the spirit.” That is, as we suppose, he intended to say: “You must not only wash your faces and keep clean hands; you must have new and clean spirits,— wash all the evil out of your thoughts and dispositions.”
Now, supposing that, so far as you, yourselves, are concerned, you have been careful to follow this injunction — as you understand it. You are clean, every whit. You have not ventured to cast the first stone at anybody until you were wholly “without sin” — as you understand it. So far, good. And being thus prepared, you have turned to the task of protecting yourselves against the “unwashed,” who were sure to come upon you and despoil you.
But what has been your method? Have you sought out these offending ones and striven to allay in them the spirit of the devil, and introduce the spirit of all goodness, and mercy, and charity, and forbearance from theft, and regard for the lives and liberties of their fellowmen? In other words, have you turned your attention to them that they also may be “born again”?
You have done nothing of the sort. You have built a strong fortress and entombed therein as many of them as you have been able to catch. And you have put over them a “warden” with absolute power to string them up by their thumbs for one hundred and twenty-eight hours, if he pleases, or confine them in noisome dungeons without other food than bread and water, and all this for no other cause than that, in sheer desperation, they have on occasions ventured to say by word or look that their souls were their own.
This, in faintest outline, is a picture of your doings.
What did you think such conduct would accomplish?
You thought you would so frighten the bad people of the old commonwealth that they would not dare to behave otherwise than as you thought right.
That is the kind of protection you have sought for yourselves. You would freeze people with fear into good behavior. That is, you would force them to wash their faces and hands. If this were all you did, the result would not be so bad. But it is not. For, in the very act of forcing these bad people, you commit the almost unpardonable sin. You stifle the spirit that is in all men which would, if steadily invited, assert itself in their lives,— the spirit of brotherly regard and trustfulness. You array all such people against you; you evoke the spirit that dooms you.
The truth is, you are still “orthodox,” and worship the orthodox god, whose “place of torment” has cast its baleful influence over our planet for centuries. You are taking pains, it seems,— or some of you are,— to amend the character of your god-idol You or some of you, are crying “probation after death,” and a number are shouting “probation forever.” This is well, for it indicates in you a growing intelligence and an improving spirit. You are getting ashamed of a god who will get angry and punish his convicts for ever and ever,— turning them over to the tender mercies of some cloven-footed and horned warden,— Satan, we should have said. And men never get ashamed of their idol unless they have been subject to certain improvements in their own natures. This attempt at reforming your theology will undoubtedly, in the years to come, bear fruit in your own characters. You will make the “earthward pilgrimage” which brings you back from idle and vain wanderings after gods and devils in other worlds to this little planet on which all the terrible tragedy of “hell and damnation” has been from most ancient times enacted.
And here, we trust, you will set up your god with a new spirit. For, marvel not that we say unto you, your god must be born again and dwell among you, even in your own lives lived here upon the earth. Yes, banish your hells hereafter and here, and strive to set up the kingdom of heaven. But build no more outwardly. “The kingdom of heaven is within you” — if anywhere. In you, in all. Your strong building at Concord, if it still endures, should be a place of liberation, and not an abode of slavery and death. Then the influence radiating from it would bo one of healing and balm to all the inhabitants of the land. It would beget a softened and kindlier nature in those now hardened and envenomed.
And you, gentlemen, by this and other institutions you would establish, would no longer be the “breeders of sinners.” Sin is a negation. Every denial of good, whether by sinner or saint, feeds that negation. It despoils the land of that wealth of goodness which a positive, believing mode of dealing would as readily produce.
What you want to do is to tear down the barrier raised between men, and let the good and the evil, the wheat and the tares, grow together unto the day of judgment, which shall gradually dawn in the most darkened mind.
You must make the “wicked” feel they are not outcasts,— souls irredeemable,— not by preaching to them of the exceeding sinfulness of their sins, but by showing them the open paths to new and inspiring occupations. The fact is, half of the world goes to the devil for the want of seeing the opportunity of something better to do.
Do you, gentlemen, see a better employment of human powers? And the opportunity before you? And have you entered into the high enjoyment your energies thus directed bring?
If so, ’tis that, which keeps you from “sin.”
We will amend the rule so that it shall read, “Do unto others as you do unto yourselves.” Then you will no longer be “breeders of sinners,” but “helpers one of another, bearing each other’s burdens,”
And this shall be your protection.
And it shall come to pass that you will not need to discuss the whereabouts of your “prison,” for the stream which supplied the evil waters shall be dried up at its source.
We welcome Governor Butler’s “strange proceeding” as evidence that there is a new beginning of a new end.