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The Anti-Anarchist Bomb-proof Clockwork Substitute Ruler (1898)

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Punch (October 29, 1898): 203.

IN the gallery of the Fine-Art Society may be seen a number of drawings made in Spain by Mr. E. George, the able architectural etcher and draughtsman. As might be anticipated, they are almost entirely architectural. They are brilliant and broad, limpid in their tones and pure in their tints, but somewhat hard and over-defined even for sunlit Spain. The most artistic of them seem to be No. 10, ‘The City Gate, Salamanca’; ‘A Convent, Salamanca’ (17); ‘San Pedro, and Old Houses, Vitoria’ (21); and ‘The Golden Tower, Seville ’ (44). In the same place the firm has collected nearly two hundred drawings in black and white, made by Mr. E. T. Reed for “Mr. Punch.” These include not only personal satires with queer names, such as we reviewed with much, but qualified admiration when they were republished in a volume, but a large proportion of more witty examples and designs made in a strain of genuine humour, such as that delicious piece which shows the Duke of Devonshire listening to the reading of speeches of the Marquis of Hartington (4) and ‘Britannia a la Beardsley’ (22), which is no caricature. ‘The Anti-Anarchist Bomb-proof Clockwork Substitute Ruler’ (55), a dummy President wisely put forward by the police of Chicago to receive any bombs and bullets that might be going, is first rate; so is ‘Irish Members at Windsor, in Armour’ (64), and ‘The Rev. Arthur Balfour at the Foreign Office’ (72). Mr. Reed is understood to be preparing a large series of illustrations of the ways and manners of the County Council, the Asylums Board, and the School Board of London, each on a field day.

The Athenaeum no. 3743 (July 22, 1899): 138.

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Emile Henry, “Comrades of l’En Dehors” (1892)


I read in your last number an article from the compagnon Malatesta, entitled “A Little Theory.”

Please be so good as to insert these few lines of personal reflections on that subject.

The compagnon Malatesta, after having elaborated upon the imminence and the necessity of a violent revolution, and considering the role of the anarchists to contribute to its imminent arrival, said that “any act of propaganda or achievement, by word or by deed, individual or collective, is good when it serves to bring nearer and to facilitate the Revolution… »

Then, speaking of acts of revolt inspired by hatred resulting from the long suffering of the proletariat, Malatesta says he understands and forgives those acts, but that: “It is one thing to understand and forgive, but another thing to claim. These are not acts that we can accept, encourage, or imitate. We should be resolute and energetic, but we should strive never to overstep the limit marked by necessity. We should do as the surgeon who cuts when he must, but avoid inflicting useless suffering… »

I would observe to the compagnon Malatesta that this part of his article is, at least, strange from the pen of an anarchist.

Indeed, what do the anarchists want? The autonomy of the individual, the development of his free initiative, which alone can assure him happiness; and if he becomes communist, it is through simple deduction, for he understands that it is only in the happiness of all, free and autonomous like him, that he will find his own.

And yet, what does Malatesta want?

To restrict that initiative, to undermine that autonomy, by declaring that the acts of a man — as sincere and convinced as he may be, — are not to be accepted, nor claimed, when they surpass the limit marked by nécessity.

But who can estimate when that limit has been passed? Who can certify that one act is useful to the Revolution, while some other is harmful?

Must the Ravachols of the future, before committing their lives in the struggle, submit their projects for the acceptance of the Malatestas raised up as a Grand Tribunal, who will judge the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the acts?

On the contrary, we say this:

When a man, in the present society, becomes a rebel conscious of his acts, — and Ravachol was such – it is because he has done in his head a work of deduction embracing his whole life, analyzing the causes of his sufferings, and he alone can judge whether he is right or wrong to hate, and be wild, “indeed even ferocious.”

We reckon, ourselves, that the acts of brutal revolt like those that are products, and which are the origin of the polemic between “anarchists” and “terrorists” – in the style of Merlino –, we reckon that those acts strike the mark, for they awaken the masses, shake them with a violent whiplash, and show them the vulnerable side of the Bourgeoisie, all still trembling at the moment when the Rebel walked to the scaffold…

We understand perfectly that all the anarchists do not have the temperament of a Ravachol.

Each of us has a physiognomy and specific aptitudes which differentiate us from our companions in struggle.

Also, we are not astonished to see some revolutionaries focus all their efforts on a given point, for example, like the compagnons Merlino and Malatesto, on the grouping of the proletarians in well organized associations.

But we do not recognize their right to say:

“Our propaganda alone is good; apart from ours, there is no salvation.” That is an old remnant of authoritarianism that we do not wish to bear, and we will be quick to separate our cause from that of the pontiffs or aspirants.

In addition, the compagnon Malatesta tells us that hate does not engender love.

We reply to him that it is love which engenders hate:

The more we love liberty and equality, the more we should have everything that is opposed to men being free and equal.

So, without losing our way in mysticism, we pose the problem on the terrain of reality, and we say:

It is true that men are only the products of institutions; but these institutions are abstract things which only exists as long as there are men of flesh and bone to represent them. There is thus only one means of getting at the institutions; it is to strike the men; and we happily greet all the energetic acts of revolt against bourgeois society, for we do not lose sight of the fact that the Revolution will only be the resultant force of all these individual Rebellions.

Comrades, the matter would involve lengthy arguments, but I hope that these few lines will suffice to make the compagnons think, who are capable of letting themselves be influenced by a name like that of Malatesta.

To you and to Anarchy!

Emile Henry

(L’En Dehors, no. 69, August 28, 1892.)

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Carlo Pisacane, “Testamento politico” (1857)




Nel momento d’imprendere un’ arrischiata impresa, voglio manifestare al paese le mie opinioni, onde rimbeccare la critica del volgo, corrivo sempre ad applaudire i fortunati e maledire i vinti.

I miei principi politici sono abbastanza noti; io credo che il solo socialismo, ma non già i sistemi francesi informati tutti da quell’ idea monarchica e dispotica che predomina nella nazione, ma il socialismo espresso dalla formola: Libertà ed Associazione, sia il solo avvenire non lontano dell’Italia, e forse dell’Europa: questa mia idea l’ho espressa in due volumi, frutti di circa sei anni di studio; non condotti a forbitura di stile per mancanza di tempo, ma se qualche mio amico volesse supplire a questo difetto e pubblicarli, gliene sarei gratissimo. Sono convinto che le ferrovie, i telegrafi, il miglioramento dell’ industria, la facilità del commercio, le macchine ecc. ecc., per una legge economica e fatale, finchè il riparto del prodotto è fatto dalla concorrenza, accrescono questo prodotto, ma l’ accumulano sempre in ristrettissime mani, ed immiseriscono la moltitudine; epperciò questo vantato progresso non è che regresso: e se vuole considerarsi come progresso, lo si deve nel senso che accrescendo i mali della plebe, la sospingerà ad una terribile rivoluzione, la quale, cangiando d’ un tratto tutti gli ordinamenti sociali, volgerà a profitto di tutti, quello che ora è volto a profitto di pochi. Sono convinto che l’Italia sarà libera e grande oppure schiava: sono convinto che i rimedii necessari come il reggimento costituzionale, la Lombardia, il Piemonte, ecc., ben lungi dall’ avvicinarla al suo risorgimento, ne l’allontanano; per me, non farei il’menomo sacrificio per cangiare un Ministro, per ottenere una costituzione, nemmeno per cacciare gli Austriaci dalla Lombardia ed accrescere il regno Sardo: per me dominio di Casa Savoia e dominio di Casa d’ Austria è precisamente lo stesso. Credo eziandio che il reggimento costituzionale del Piemonte sia più dannoso all’ Italia che la tirannide di Ferdinando II. Credo fermamente che se il Piemonte fosse stato retto nella guisa medesima degli altri stati italiani, la rivoluzione sarebbe fatta. Questo mio convincimento emerge dall’altro che la propaganda dell’ idea è una chimera, che l’ educazione del popolo è un assurdo. Le idee risultano dai fatti, non questi da quelle, ed il popolo non sarà libero quando sarà educato, ma sarà educato quando sarà libero. Che la sola opera che può fare un cittadino per giovare al paese è quella di cooperare alla rivoluzione materiale, epperò cospirazioni, congiure, tentativi, ecc. sono quella serie di fatti attraverso cui l’Italia procede verso la sua meta. Il lampo della baionetta di Milano fu una propaganda più efficace di mille volumi scritti dai dotrinarì, che sono la vera peste del nostro, come di ogni paese.

Alcuni dicono che la rivoluzione deve farla il paese: ciò è incontestabile. Ma il paese è composto d’individui, e poniamo il caso che tutti aspettassero questo giorno senza congiurare, la rivoluzione non scoppierebbe mai; invece se tutti dicessero: la rivoluzione dee farla il paese, di cui io sono una particella infinitesimale, epperò ho anche la mia parte infinitesimale da compiere, e la compio, la rivoluzione sarebbe immediatamente gigante. Si potrà dissentire dal modo, dal luogo, dal tempo di una congiura, ma dissentire dal principio è assurdo, è ipocrisia, è nascondere un basso egoismo. Stimo colui che approva il congiurare e non congiura egli stesso: ma non sento che disprezzo per coloro i quali non solo non vogliono far nulla, ma si compiacciono nel biasimare e maledire coloro che fanno. Cotali principii avrei creduto mancare ad un sacro dovere, se vedendo la possibilità di tentare un colpo in un punto, in un luogo, in un tempo opportunissimo, non avessi impiegato tutta l’ opera mia per mandarlo ad effetto. Io non ispero, come alcuni oziosi mi dicono per schermirsi, di essere il salvatore della patria. No: io sono convinto che nel Sud la rivoluzione morale esista: sono convinto che un impulso gagliardo può sospingerli al moto, opperò il mio scopo, i miei sforzi sonosi rivolti a mandare a compimento una congiura la quale dia un tale impulso: giunto al luogo dello sbarco, che sarà Sapri nel principato citeriore, per me è la vittoria dovessi anche perire sul patibolo. Io individuo, con la cooperazione di tanti generosi, non posso che far questo e lo faccio: il resto dipende dal paese e non da me. Non ho che i miei affetti e la mia vita da sagrificare a tale scopo e non dubito di farlo. Sono persuaso che se l’impresa riesce, avrò il plauso universale; se fallisce il biasimo di tutti: mi diranno stolto, ambizioso, turbolento, e molti, che mai nulla fanno e passano la vita censurando gli altri, esamineranno minutamente la cosa, porranno a nudo i miei errori, mi daranno la colpa di non essere riuscito per difetto di mente, di cuore, di energia… ma costoro sappiano che io li credo non solo incapaci di far quello che io ho tentato, ma incapaci di pensarlo. A coloro poi che diranno l’impresa impossibile, perchè non è riuscita, rispondo, che simili imprese se avessero l’approvazione universale non sarebbero che volgari. Fu detto folle colui che fece in America il primo battello a vapore; si dimostrava più tardi l’impossibilità di traversare l’Atlantico con essi. Era folle il nostro Colombo prima di scoprire l’ America, ed il volgo avrebbe detto stolti ed incapaci Annibale e Napoleone, se fossero periti nel viaggio, o l’ uno fosse stato battuto alla Trebbia, e l’altro a Marengo.

Non voglio paragonare la mia impresa a quelle, ma essa ha un testo comune con esse; la disapprovazione universale prima di riuscire e dopo il disastro, e l’ ammirazione dopo un felice risultamento. Se Napoleone, prima di partire dall’ Elba per isbarcare a Frèjus con 50 granatieri, avesse chiesto consiglio altrui, tutti avrebbero disapprovato una tale idea. Napoleone aveva il prestigio del suo nome; io porto sulla bandiera quanti affetti e quante speranze ha con sè la rivoluzione italiana ; combattono a mio favore tutti i dolori e tutte le miserie della nazione italiana.

Riassumo: se non riesco, dispregio profondamente l’ignobile volgo che mi condanna, ed apprezzo poco il suo plauso in caso di riuscita. Tutta la mia ambizione, tutto il mio premio lo trovo nel fondo della mia coscienza, e nel cuore di quei cari e generosi amici che hanno cooperato e diviso i miei palpiti e le mie speranze; e se mai nessun bene frutterà all’Italia il nostro sagrificio, sarà sempre una gloria trovar gente che volonterosa s’ immola al suo avvenire.

Genova, 24 Giugno 1867.

Sottoscritto, Carlo Pisacano.


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Why Vaillant Threw the Bomb! (1894)

220px-Vaillant-facePRICE ONE HALF-PENNY.

Why Vaillant Threw the Bomb!


We feel it our duty, as English comrades, in the face of what has been said by the smug faced hirelings of the capitalist press concerning Vaillant, to say a few words about him and his actions before proceeding to his defence.

Vaillant’s life, like the lives of even our own workpeople, may be summed up in a few words,—one of intense struggle and misery. He, like others, possessed the heritage of the “right of life,” with all its pleasures. These were denied! He protested! Will his co-sufferers blame him? Never; they will admire rather than condemn his action. Will the middle-class disapprove of such deeds? Yes! Why? Because the happiness of such as Vaillant means the downfall of sleek hypocrisy and cant, of which those who blame are the exact examples.

Middle-class society, even as found in France, would never forgive such an one who dared to brook their happiness, built as it is on the misery of the class from which Vaillant came.

Vaillant was a love-child, and, as such, he was exposed to all the vexations of a hypocritical society; a society which will even inflict ostracism and make women criminals for daring to love and bear children without the authority of “the law”!

During the early life he knew what is was to be without joy, without warmth, and without bread. He, like many another worker, had been reared in the cup that overflows with misery, starvation, and woe! Who will wonder much for such an act as his considering his incentive?

We find him on the road at twelve years of age as a tramp, with no money or bread, looking for work, and experiencing continual disappointments.

Thus the years rolled on without sweetening his life, always being the recipient of kicks and cuffs, along with the maddening worry of where the next day’s meals would be obtained.

Such was the youth of Vaillant.

The middle-class of France, as of other “civilized” countries, are themselves to blame. Not satisfied with the cruelty and merciless harassing of Vaillant in his youth, it was still continued as he grew older. His first experience of prison life was for wandering without visible means of subsistence. What a terrible crime! The second time was for having dared to assert his manhood and take bread.

This, then, was the help, the encouragement, he received from society! Can you wonder, fellow-workers, that the iron of bitterness had seared deep into his heart?

Vaillant observed side by side with the luxury and wealth of the middle-class, the woes and tribulations of the workers. It made him a rebel. He detested and abhorred middle-class institutions and developed a strong affection for those who were his fellow-sufferers. It made him a man intensely human. This, we maintain, in spite of the bewailings and nashing of teeth by the writers of the capitalist press, anent the attempted destruction of “innocent life” through his act, of which he was found guilty.

What did Vaillant say on this very point? He said: “On observing the intense misery of others like myself, I felt the imperative and instant necessity of propaganda for one ideal: the need for a society where suffering would be unknown, and where it would be folly for any one to inflict unnecessary pain. That is how and why I became an Anarchist!”

From that moment Vaillant became a passive Anarchist, a preacher, snatching every opportunity to enlighten his fellows of the necessity of doing something for suffering humanity. But his high conception of the ideal state of society, assisted by his deep hate for those who deplore and despise such as he, was not long in spurring him on to action.

We know what followed. For that middle-class “justice” have foully murdered a man who has demonstrated in his own way for the Miserables. His act was far nobler than that of a hireling British soldier potting off black men for the purposes of annexation and governmental schemers.

After his arrest he made the following declaration to the judge: “I have had the courage, the manhood, to strike a blow at your corrupt middle-class system, because I recognize in it a hindrance to all real progress. Your laws, you customs, are strangling all noble aspirations, and swells the despair of women and the sobbing of little children!”

Yes, fellow-workers, he has chosen to demonstrate against so-called “law and order” as advocated by those drones and exploiters of the poor, the members of the Chamber of Deputies! Yes, he has shown to the world that governmental force can be met on its own battle-ground and with its own weapons! It is quite legitimate for governmental hirelings to maim or kill the workers (remember Peterloo, Mitchelstown and Featurerstone, etc.), but quite another thing for the workers, the useful ones, to maim or kill the drones and parasites!

Brave, Vaillant!

Whatever may be said now by his enemies, it is pretty certain that Vaillant will be pointed out as a hero by the coming generations of workpeople, one who had the courage of his convictions and who fought for the emancipation of the downtrodden peoples of all lands.

Hurrah for Anarchy!




Gentlemen,—In a few minutes you are going to condemn me, but I shall have at least the satisfaction of having dealt a blow at existing Society, this accursed Society in which one man may be seen uselessly expending enough to nourish some thousands of families, a hateful Society which allows some individuals to lay hold of all the social wealth, while there are a hundred thousand unfortunate people who have not even the bread that is thrown to the dogs, and whole families that commit suicide from lack of simple necessities. Ah! Gentlemen, if only those who direct affairs could go down among these unfortunate people. But no, they choose to remain deaf to their appeal. A fatality would seem to be driving them as it did the royalty of the eighteenth century in a gulf where they will be buried. Woe unto those who, thinking themselves of finer stuff, believe in the right of trampling in the dust and exploiting those below them! For there comes a time when the people do not reason. They rise like a tornado and overwhelm all like a torrent. Then are seen bloody heads at the end of pikes.

Among the exploited are two classes of individuals. The one, not alive to its own power, or to what it might come to be, takes life as it comes, believes that it is born to be slaves, and is content with the little which is given it in recompense for its work. But the other thinks and studies, and, casting a glance around, perceives the social injustices. Is it their fault if they see clearly, and suffer at the sight of others suffering? Then they throw themselves into the fray, and become the exponents of the claims of the people. I am one of the latter. Wherever I have gone I have seen the unfortunate bowing under the yoke of Capital. Everywhere I have seen the same wounds which make one shed tears of blood, even in the uninhabited provinces of South America, where I had reason to believe that he who was tired out by the troubles of civilization might find rest in the shadow of palm trees and study nature. Yet there more than anywhere else I say Capital like a vampire come to suck up to the last drop the blood of the unfortunate people.

There I returned to France, where it was reserved to me to see those who belonged to me suffering atrociously. It was that drop which made the cup run over. Tired of living this life of suffering and cowardice, I took that bomb into the midst of those who are chiefly responsible for social suffering. I am reproached with having injured those who were truck by my projectiles. Permit me to say that if the bourgeois had not committed massacres during the Revolution they would most likely still be under the yoke of the noblesse. Moreover, count up the killed and wounded of Tonkin, Madagascar, and Dahomey, and the thousands, nay the millions, of unfortunate people who die in the workshops, the mines, and wherever Capital weighs them down. Add those who die of hunger, and that, too, with the assent of our deputies. By the side of all this, how insignificant is the weight of that for which I am blamed to-day! True, one does not efface the other, but, as a matter of fact, are not we Anarchists really well enough able to defend ourselves against reproaches from those above us? I am well aware that I shall be told I might have continued only state our claims, but the deafer a person is the louder one has to speak to make himself heard.

For too long a time the only reply that we have had has been imprisonment, the rope, or a volley of musketry. Make no mistake. The explosion of my bomb is not only the cry of a revolted Vaillant, but that of an entire class demanding its rights, and soon destined to join deeds to words, for you may be sure that it will be all in vain you make your laws. The ideas of those who think will not be stopped. Just as in the last century all the forces of Government could not prevent the Diderots and the Voltaires from disseminating emancipating ideas among the people, so all the forces of Government to-day will not prevent the Reclus, the Darwins, the Spencers, the Ibsens, the Mirbeaus, and others from disseminating those ideas of justice and liberty which will break down the prejudices which keep the masses in ignorance, and these ideas, once received by the unfortunate, will ripen into acts of revolt, as they have done in me. In this way the process will continue until the disappearance of authority enables all men to organize themselves freely according to their affinities, so that each may enjoy the product of his labour. Then will disappear all those moral maladies known as prejudices, and human beings will finally live in harmony, their only aspiration being the study of the sciences and the love of their fellows.

I conclude by saying that a Society in which are seen such social inequalities as we witness every day about us, in which we see daily suicides that are the result of poverty, and prostitution flaunting itself at every corner, a Society whose principal monuments are barracks and prisons—such a Society must be transformed as soon as possible at the risk of being speedily wiped out from the human species. Hail to those who labour in any way whatever for this transformation! This is the idea that has guided me in my duel with authority. But, as in this duel I have wounded my adversary, it is for him to strike me in turn. It is of little account what the penalty may be with which you strike me, for, gazing upon this assembly with the eyes of reason, I cannot restrain a smile at beholding you atoms lost in matter reasoning because you possess a prolongation of the spinal cord, and pretending to the right of judging one of your fellows. Ah! how insignificant a thing is your assembly and your verdict in the history of humanity! Human history, too, is just as small a thing in the whirlwind which carries it across immensity, and which is destined to disappear, or at least to be changed, in order to begin again the same history and the same deeds—a veritable and perpetual play of the cosmic forces which are renewed and transformed for ever.

This leaflet can be obtain of N. Rhodes, Bootmaker, 22, St. Martin’s Court, St. Martin’s Lane, London, England, at 5s. per Thousand.


Issued by the Necessity Group of English Anarchists.


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A Handwritten Manuscript by Ravachol (1892)


Since his condemnation to death, Ravachol has written a great deal in prison. Here is a long handwritten text that we have been able to obtain, not without great difficulties. We have confided the reproduction of this interesting document to the house of Sédard in Lyon. It is written on two pages, and in it Ravachol explains his theories.

[The manuscript combines bad spelling, horrible penmanship, rotten grammar and nonexistent punctuation. Decoding it has been a long process. But here is a rough translation.]

Society can only be improved by a complete transformation of its organization. The most advanced political reforms, such as a tax on revenue and pensions for old age, all sound good to the ears of a great number of people. They don’t understand that if they were imposed the proprietor would fall back on his tenants for the pension fund. The government is obliged to impose new taxes, but since we complain that it cannot be enough to provide for our necessities, we run the risk of dying before we have the pension because of the privations that we have to bear, which can only shorten life. There are men who believe that if we put a high tax on fine wines we could decrease the cost of table wines. [It is an] error. The one who drinks fine wines is not a worker. It cannot be the one who makes nothing who pays. It will thus always be the one who works who pays the taxes, in whatever ever form they present themselves. Now the reduction of the workday to eight hours is an increase of wages. Eight hours of labor would be enough to satisfy the men who reflect. Indeed, what effort is necessary in order to obtain them! And if we succeed, what would we gain, exchanging for a greater number put to work temporarily? A little more time to rest and reflect, which is always good. But with the perfection of tools the number of idle workers will soon be as considerable as before. Thus, monthly demands to obtain the same result, an illusory increase in wages. For if the bosses consent to increased wages they can augment their products, so that that by earning more we will pay more dearly. So there is nothing to gain by this reform, which always leaves us to die of hunger in the midst of abundance and indeed products we lack, necessary things. And those [who starve are] the same who have produced by their labor that surplus production. Isn’t the world upside down to be deprived of things of all sorts, because there is more than enough of them to put an end to a state of things that is only disorder. We want to substitute an anarchic organization, which is the putting-in-common of all the world’s goods, whatever they may be. There will be no more proprietors and bosses. No more money. Everyone will work except the children, the infirm and the elderly. And we will have no need to produce useless and harmful things, such as forts, armor, cannons, rifles, or anything made with the intention of killing men. No need to falsify silk … which is burned when it suffers all [the dyer’s] operations and which is no longer silk, but a dangerous product, because of the poisons that have been attached to it. While one can dye the silk without charging it and with inoffensive products [but] that will be done when men no longer have to speculate on men. [Then] I would not seek to falsify the things that I am charged to make by hand, since it would get me nothing in return, since there will be no more money and since I have all the things that are useful to me. I need shoes and clothing. I only have to ask for them to take them. No more need, as today, to create demand by printing advertisements, which are then distributed. No more useless things to make. Everyone is interested in making fine things, of the first quality. No more need of the locksmith… No more fear of the thief, who could never make a profit on things that could not be found there. No more need of the strongbox, lock … or coin-purse. No more need of the rural police, the gendarmes, the sergeant, … the snitch, all the prison guards, the lawyers, the jurors, the sub-prefect, the deputies, the senator, the presidents of all sorts. Women will no longer have to prostitute themselves to live. No more need of the caisse d’emploi, of excise, regulations, bailiffs, notaries, or bankers. No more need of soldier, cannons, rifles, sabers, torpedo boats, armor, or forts. Everyone being concerned with conserving things, they will just surround and protect them better.



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A jailhouse fragment (April 13, 1892)

Screen shot 2015-07-10 at 6.59.51 PMA Jailhouse Fragment

Conciergerie, Cell 1, April 13, 1892

Individual interest, the source of all of men’s wrongs, must, if we wish to establish harmony in humanity, be replaced by the common interest.


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“Ravachol’s Experiment” (April 17, 1892)


He Felt the Revolutionary Pulse and Found It Does Not Beat.

Paris, April 17. — In an interview with his brother today Ravachol said: “I am neither a visionary nor a firebrand. I wished to feel the pulse of the revolutionary movement. To be candid, I find it does not beat. If it did, my example would be followed by others. Instead of this, they call me a criminal. I have written my memoirs covering my whole life. Let me be judged by these.” The persons on the jury list likely to be empanelled for the Ravachol case are panic-stricken and seeking to avoid serving.

An infernal machine, filled with powder, eighty Gayelot cartridges and a quantity of scrap-iron, with a burning fuse attached, was found in the electric lighting abed of the Compagnie du Nord, at Lille, today.

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The Voice of the Penal Colony (1893)

ilesdusalut-484_001THE VOICE OF THE PENAL COLONY

While the populations panic and cheer the hangman tsar, while the bourgeois and the governmentals congratulate themselves on the success of their stratagems and observe that human stupidity is always so great, a protest must come, proud and energetic, to remind the bourgeois that there are still free men, even, and especially, in their prisons and their penal colonies.

We must remind our leaders, who, in the joy of their triumph, lick the boots of the hangman of nihilists and whipper of women, that in the French penal colonies are also found those whose only crime has been to dream of a society of justice and equality.

The anarchist convicts in the penal colonies of Guyana address to us a manifesto in which, still and always glorifying the humanitarian principles that they have defended by deed and by word, before the so-called bourgeois justice, they make known to us the foul tortures, the vulgar and stupid means employed to conduct them more rapidly to death.

Even in irons they are still those who have made the bourgeois capitalists tremble, and that is why every means is used against them, in order to make them disappear.

Their outraged protest will be known, their words will be heard, while we await the hour, so much desired, when we can finally avenge them.


Dear Comrades,

We take advantage of an occasion that presents itself to bring you some news of the situation we face in the penal colonies where the bourgeois detain us.

When the bourgeois, who bear the name of magistrates, have struck at us, they have not dared to strike us with special laws enacting punishments created for us; they sense that they have already done something offensive in the joining together of the words convicts and anarchist, and they feign to apply to us their famous equality before the law.

Lies and hypocrisy, like everything done by a ruler. It is not the common penal servitude that they apply to us, but a penal servitude where all the cowardice of the tyrants and the hatred of the bourgeois weigh upon us.—You know by our previous letters that comrade Duval, the first who has been sent to Guyana, had to submit to all sorts of nuisances, each one as cowardly as the others, that his correspondence had been intercepted, and that finally, without any reason, he had been confined to the Île Royale (one of the Îles du Salut). That island, which is nothing but a rock in the middle of the ocean, has been chosen by the prison administration for the detainment of the convicts considered incorrigible, as well as those on the continent, either at Cayenne or at Maroni, who have been guilty of escape attempts, thefts crimes against persons and have been condemned again by the special maritime tribunal charged with judging the convicts. On that island there is a discipline more savage than anywhere, and the commandant there is a machine for handing out solitary confinement and irons.—Like comrade Duval, the comrades Pini and Girier, as well as the comrade Simon [Biscuit, accomplice of Ravachol], arrived in the last convoy, are all confined on that rock.

Our conduct with regard to the regulations, however, has never provided reasons for the internment imposed on us, but is instead to avoid the possibility of any escape on our part; and our jailers have judged it proper to isolate us in the midst of the ocean and to subject us to an iron discipline. Even that rigor does not seem to have satisfied them; for some time, instead of sleeping in the common hut, on a hammock, we are forced to sleep in the prison, in the narrow, filthy room where they cram the convicts condemned by the special tribunal to seclusion. There, we have a plank for a hammock, as if the ironclad doors, the bars and the ocean were not enough to hold us.

They chain us by the feet to an iron bar, which in the language of the penal colony is called the “spit.” — It is a spit, in fact, to which we are secured like game ready for roasting, while our persecutors, in the shelter of a mosquito net, rest on soft bunks that this good Administration furnishes them with the taxpayers’ money.

In the face of this last measure of cruelty, we have demanded the reasons of the commandant, who has responded to us in the language of the torturer who believes himself sheltered from the vengeance of his victims. I have, he responded to us, demanded this measure of the higher Administration in order to safeguard my personal security. We have the right to take such measures with regard to dangerous men, and you are dangerous since you are anarchists.

Dangerous!!! Read it, comrades! The anarchists are dangerous, but not those who have snatched women and children; not those who have chopped women in bits; not the cousin of the politician Reinach, the famous Altmayer. The administrators surround themselves with those men, and they have made them faithful servants whose mission is to double the guard by spying on the words and deeds that can be accomplished by the anarchist convicts, who have been able to preserve a certain respect with those charged with torturing them.—They are right to do so, by the way, as it is those who know how to hold up their heads and make themselves respected who are dangerous, not those who crawl like vipers or who come like dogs to lick the hands of those who strike them. So, despite the danger that there is in remaining men, we will not weaken in the face of adversity and we will show our tyrants that the smock of a convict is still not thick enough to hide the heart of an anarchist.

We cannot depict for you here all the vexations of which we are the object. That would require entering into the detail of life in the penal colony and that would lead us too far afield, but what it is important to make known to you, because we want it to be known, is the barbarity with which the Administration has deprived us of our correspondence. Comrade Girier, in Guyana, has had no news of his family in 18 months. A single letter was given him on his arrival, and nothing since.

To inform you of all the crimes committed in the name of the law in this country of death would take volumes.—So you will see pass before your eyes some wretches chained and pummeled with blows by the guard, and the cowardly convicts charged with aiding them in accomplishing their ferocities!

You will also see—an unbelievable thing!—you will see tied to a tree, at the foot of which is found an anthill, arms and legs plastered with brown sugar destined to attract the manioc ants, big as your little fingers and armed with sharp, powerful antennae.

We could continue on this subject, but what would be the use? When you know that there are so-called “civilized” savages, capable of committing the atrocities that we have cited, you will easily imagine what can arise from these barbaric brains

We will stop there, authorizing you to give our letter all that publicity that you can, for it is time that the people know what crimes are committed in their name; it places a grave responsibility on them, since they are the ones who give the power to other men who use it for the triumph of disgrace.

All men with a heart have the duty to think that those condemned by the magistrates in the name of the people have, if they were guilty, only had a glimmer of crime in their thoughts, and have only been criminals for a moment; and the still more criminal society avenges itself in a cowardly manner on these wretches by committing crimes against their persons for the full duration of their existence.

Publish this letter so that all the comrades also know how we are treated, and so that those who still believe there is something good in the bourgeois tear off the last blindfold that blinds them.

Let them all also be convinced that we have preserved all our courage and our love for anarchy, and let them no believe that the men fallen in the struggle are men doomed for the future. That is false. Our courage is greater than ever, and today we also have the hatred that our persecutors have poured into our hearts.

Forward, comrades, have no fear of coming to join us, but fight. We are wretched here, our food is disgusting, our lodgings unhealthy, the climate murderous, the men are like a plague for us, but all of that cannot make an anarchist suffer, for in the midst of these miseries, we have within us a deep joy from having struggled for the truth.

And we have the good fortune to know that others still fight, and the firm hope of fighting once again.

Courage then, comrades, strike hard against the monster of authority, break the machine of exploitation, squeeze the canker of religion, and fly without fear the flag of Anarchy.

The hearts of the anarchist convicts accompany you in the battle.

Long live Anarchy!

The Anarchist Convicts of Guyana

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“A Whisky Anarchist” (Cleveland, OH, 1887)


A Young Man Excites People by Calling for Nitro-Glycerine to Make Bombs With.

George A. Schroeder, who keeps a drug store at No. 423 St. Clair Street, telephoned the central police station about 7 o’clock saying that a man had just entered his place and asked for nitro-glycerine. He asked the druggist if he knew how to make a fuse, to which the latter replied that he did not. Then the fellow said that four ofhis brethren had been hanged in Chicago yesterday and he meant to avenge their death, for which he would be vindicated by the newspapers.

“I am an anarchist,” said he.

He had a bundle of cotton batting under his arm with which he said he was going to make the bombs. He was given 10 cents worth of oil of vitrol. Some of this he poured over the batting, burning the paper which was wrapped around it. He then walked down St. Clair street.

The central police station notified the second precinct station, to look out for the man. About fifteen minutes after he had left someone told Officer McCabe of the affair. He went down St. Clair street and found the anarchist in Flandermeyer’s drug store, corner Muirson and St. Clair. There he had renewed his application for nitro-glycerine and scared the folks half out of their wits. The officer searched him and found a bottle of whisky and the cotton batting saturated with vitrol. The man was well under the influence ofliquor. He was taken to the second precinct police station, where he fervently declared himself to be a brother of August Spies, though he said his name is Harry Stephens and afterwards said it was Harry Loomis. As soon as he began to sober. up he denied that he was related to August Spies but said that he was acquainted with him. Then he said that he left Chicago five weeks ago. He claimed that he was only, humbugging on the streets and asked for glycerine for his hands and not nitro-glycerine. He was locked-up on the charge of intoxication. He is a good-looking, intelligent-appearing young man.

[Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 12, 1887.]

The Whisky Anarchist.

Henry Stephens, alias Loomis, the young man who created excitement Friday night in St. Clair street by announcing himself as the brother of August Spies and asking at several drug stores for nitro-glycerine, was arraigned in the police court Saturday morning. Stephens was an altogether changed man and not near so bloodthirsty as on the previous evening. In answer to questions he told Judge Kelly that being drunk and hearing so much of the anarchists he became excited; that he was only joking about carrying or making bombs; that his is a book agent but doesn’t make a living at that occupation; that he came from Chicago and wishes to go to Buffalo. Judge Kelly fined Stephens the cost for intoxication and permitted him to depart.

[Cleveland Plain Dealer (Sunday, November 13, 1887): 16]

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Max Nettlau on the Ravachol Meetings (July 20, 1892)


JULY 20, 1892


Having been present at the two meetings held with the object to discuss Ravachol’s acts, I should like to make a few remarks on the two currents dividing at the present time the anarchist movement. I have not read everything publishing on both sides as I am too old to crave for knowing what opinion this, that or the other authority expresses on the subject, but as I understand the three languages used at the meetings I could fairly follow the several strings of arguments, used, and here, then, are my impressions.

I wonder at the amount of misunderstanding and misrepresentation still prevailing among those usually held to be free from bigotry and prejudices. What shall I say when I hear a speaker repudiate all organization and adducing as an example of the evils of organization nobody else but that person who was constantly declamating against organization, the late “anarchist” Coulon?! This individual was the very type of what the so called “moralist” anarchists are objecting to, and now we hear him proclaimed as an advocate of organization and, in the eyes of an outsider, if there was any one present at all at that meeting, he illustrates the type of the “organizing” anarchist, and the next time perhaps he will be declared to be a “moralist” too! Such things are simply ridiculous as well as mean… The same enemy of organization next advocated small groups—as if the evils of organization could not manifest themselves as well in the smallest group as in the larger organization; had not Ravachol’s group its Chaumartin?

Another fact called forward much righteous indignation against the “moralists,” namely that they did not fully admit at once the comradeship of Ravachol, but rather doubted if for a certain time. I maintain, that, when they had sufficient proofs of it, they fully admitted his sincerity, and that is all required. If the “anti-moralists,” as soon as an explosion comes off anywhere, at once hail the persons supposed to be connected with it as friends and have implicite faith in them, they are acting rather as enthusiasts than as serious men to cooperate with them.

At the bottom of the question about certain acts lies this primary opinion: who steals, etc., remains either honest and sincere, as Ravachol did, or not, he gets sooner or later demoralized (I apologize to the “antimoralists” for the use of this word; they need not distort its meaning but take it in the ordinary sense it has in colloquial English. Everyone understands what I mean by it.) The latter ones, business-anarchists, a worthy match to the business-socialists (members of parliament, trade societies officials, etc.) were even considered to be useful by one speaker at the last meeting, who said, they had become bourgeois and it was a good thing of the bourgeois role and destroy each other. That may be so, but the fact is, that many and even good comrades are lost to the movement in this way, and the movement loses all next and definite outlines. Solidarity is declamated against too, anyone may consider at his choice his comrade either as a friend or as an object to be robbed, and still pretend to be his comrade; it becomes more and more difficult to say which is which. This does not strengthen our party but weaken it, and so those who are called “moralists” consider it not wise to emphasize the stealing doctrine in view of such consequences. That is all.

Do those who every day admit that authority spoils the best men, not realize the fact that getting wealth, be it by theft, corrupts also? Very few are like Ravachol whom wealth did not corrupt.

Further on, the example of Ravachol ought to be examined more closely. He himself preferred to expose himself to a much greater danger by placing the bombs when haunted by the whole force at the disposal of a centralized government, to going to kill another old man or woman. He did not cause any noise to be made about his coining, or grave-plundering [-sacking] or murders. He did not advertise these acts as anarchist deeds, but was content with using the money thus won for anarchist propaganda of a more serious kind, and in his defense he accused society of having driven him to commit such acts.

Here he differs from some “antimoralists” who, if consequence of thought and logics were authorities they admitted, which some do evidently not, rather ought to declare himself, Ravachol, as a “moralist” too. For some did not throw the blame for these deeds upon society as Ravachol did, but they actually declared the acts of grave-sacking and killing the old hermit for extremely wise, sensible and practical things. Why should the jewels be useless lying round the corpse in the grave? Was not killing a man of 88 years simply an act of social hygiene, and an eminently practical measure?

The persons who indulge in such talk are the silliest heroworshippers and flunkeys on record. I am sure, if next week somebody connected with the anarchist movement was going to kill his mother and eat her, then some persons would come on the platform and enhance the great pratical value and usefulness, nay, necessity of so doing. It is needless to say that there is no spark of anarchist feelings in these [   ] who rank side to side with the worshipers of Gladstone or Burns who will also swallow everything that these supreme beings may do.

The best that can be said by sincere friends of Ravachol, is, that he undertook to do these things for the cause, overcoming for the cause their repulsive features, and that by these acts he was not corrupted but remained able to carry on his splendid campaign of explosions. In the eyes of the masses his memory is associated with explosions to avenge his comrades and in the opinion of many of the people the other deeds were heaped upon him by the lying government and press in order to revile his memory.

Some of the “antimoralists” would [love] to make it a standard test for an anarchist whether he relishes in grave-plundering and the killing of old aged persons of both sexes, or not, and they excommunicate and sneer at those who do not. The next week, as I said, may see cannibalism established as the test case, and what next? They are nicely independent antiauthoritarian thinkers, indeed, who are beforehand solidary with the deed of all future anarchists, born or unborn! The atavistic submissiveness to authority haunts their poor brains, and the anarchistic hero took the place of the priest or the politician in their mind.

Their bullying tolerance is indifferent some but it must drive all intelligent newcomers away who, being interested in anarchism by Ravachol’s real propaganda, might care to know his principles but are now told disgusting things about graves and corpses.

I may add that in the preceding remarks I dealed with the “antimoralist” arguments as used by all the speakers, not only by those using the English tongue.

What a difference between these hairsplitting debates about the details of such acts on which Ravachol himself hardly said anything in his defence, and the English anarchist meetings of some years ago. Then we spoke to the people and our ranks widened; but now in the best season of the year we remain indoors, hurling abuse at each other, and after much talk remain exactly the same as before. The summer is half over; should not the remaining two months be used for some good old propaganda as before? Those who share this opinion should at once set to work and not care for the sneers of the rest.

I, personally, have not much hope, at present, for a revival of the propaganda, knowing the power of the most tenacious thing in existence, [   ] phrases. Still, sooner or later, a revival will come and we shall have an opportunity to see who the real and who the melodramatic revolutionists are.


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