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Repression did little to stop anarchist violence. But eventually the world moved on and the movement withered (via The anarchists: For jihadist, read anarchist | The Economist - 2005)
The spasm of anarchist violence that was at its most convulsive in the 1880s and 1890s was felt, if indirectly, in every continent. It claimed hundreds of lives, including those of several heads of government, aroused widespread fear and prompted quantities of new laws and restrictions. But it passed. Jihadism is certainly not a lineal descendant of anarchism: far from it. Even so, the parallels between the anarchist bombings of the 19th century and the Islamist ones of today may be instructive.
Their first great theoretician, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, wanted to abolish centralised government altogether. This, though, would not bring the chaos with which the word anarchy is often considered synonymous. On the contrary, a sort of harmonious order would ensue, the state being replaced by a system of autonomous groups and communities, glued together by contract and mutual interest in place of laws. Justice, argued this essentially non-violent man, was the “central star” governing society.
Though Proudhon is remembered for the dictum, “Property is theft!” he actually believed that a man had the right to possess a house, some land and the tools to work it. This was too much for Mikhail Bakunin, a revolutionary nationalist turned anarchist who believed in collective ownership of the means of production. He believed, too, that “the passion for destruction is also a creative urge,” which was not a description of the regenerative workings of capitalism but a call to the barricades. Regeneration, however, was very much an anarchist theme, just as it is a jihadist one. As one of anarchism’s leading interpreters, George Woodcock, has put it, “It is through the wrecks of empires and faiths that the anarchists have always seen the glittering towers of their free world arising.”
For anarchists, the crucial theory was that developed in Italy, where in 1876 Errico Malatesta put it thus: “The insurrectionary deed, destined to affirm socialist principles by acts, is the most efficacious means of propaganda.” This theory of “propaganda by deed” was cheerfully promoted by another great anarchist thinker, Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince who became the toast of radical-chic circles in Europe and America. Whether the theory truly tipped non-violent musers into killers, or whether it merely gave a pretext to psychopaths, simpletons and romantics to commit murders, is unclear. The murders, however, are not in doubt. In deadly sequence, anarchists claimed the lives of President Sadi Carnot of France (1894), Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the prime minister of Spain (1897), Empress Elizabeth of Austria (1898), King Umberto of Italy (1900), President William McKinley of the United States (1901) and José Canalejas y Méndez, another Spanish prime minister (1912).
Such assassinations, it may be argued, were less similar to al-Qaeda’s than to those of the Narodniki, the members of the Russian Party of the People’s Will, who believed in “destroying the most powerful person in government” to undermine its prestige and arouse the revolutionary spirit. This they had undoubtedly done in 1881 by murdering Tsar Alexander II, even though he had been a reformer and, indeed, a liberator of the serfs. In truth, the practice of assassination is as old as the hills, though it got its name only in the 11th-13th centuries when it was followed by the Nizari Ismailiyun, a Shia sect that considered the murder of its enemies—conducted under the influence of hashish (hence assassin)—to be a religious duty.

The response of some was repression and retribution, which often provoked further terrorist violence. Germany arrested 500 people after the second attack on the kaiser, many for “approving” of the attempts on his life. Spain was particularly prone to round up the usual suspects and torture them, though it also passed new laws. After the Liceo bombing, it brought in courts-martial for all crimes committed with explosives, and only military officers were allowed to be present during the trial of the supposed bombers. France, too, resorted to unusual measures. After the bombing of the French Chamber of Deputies, 2,000 warrants were issued, anarchist clubs and cafés were raided, papers were closed down and August Vaillant, the bomber, was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death in a day. An apologist who declared that not a single man in France would grieve for the president if he confirmed the sentence (as he did), and then was assassinated (as he was), was jailed for two years for incitement to murder. The French parliament made it a crime not just to incite sedition but also to justify it. Criminal “associations of malefactors” were defined by intent rather than by action, and all acts of anarchist propaganda were banned.


Italy, by contrast, produced many of the assassins: for example, those who killed Carnot, Cánovas, Empress Elizabeth and King Umberto. It also exported utopians who founded anarchist settlements like the Cecilia colony in Brazil. Germany, too, had its share of fanatics, including Johann Most, the editor of an incendiary New York newspaper, Freiheit, and many of the Jewish anarchists who congregated in London’s East End. France also sent anarchos abroad: a prominent theorist, Elisée Reclus, taught in Brussels. The man who shot McKinley was the child of Polish immigrants to America. And Switzerland, like England, played host to exiles who came and went with considerable freedom.


No wonder, then, that anti-foreigner feeling ran high in many places. In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt asked Congress to exclude anyone who believed in “anarchistic principles” and, by treaty, to make the advocacy of killing an offence against international law. Congress duly obliged with an act that kept out anyone “teaching disbelief in or opposition to all organised government”. By then an international conference had been held (in 1898) at the behest of Italy to seek help in fighting anarchism. The Italians did not get all they wanted: Belgium, Britain and Switzerland refused to abandon the right of asylum or to extradite suspected anarchists. But in 1893, just after the Liceo bombing, Britain had reluctantly banned open meetings of anarchists after the Liberal home secretary, H.H. Asquith, had come under attack for allowing an anarchist meeting to commemorate the Chicago Haymarket martyrs.

Repression did little to stop anarchist violence. But eventually the world moved on and the movement withered (via The anarchists: For jihadist, read anarchist | The Economist - 2005)

  • The spasm of anarchist violence that was at its most convulsive in the 1880s and 1890s was felt, if indirectly, in every continent. It claimed hundreds of lives, including those of several heads of government, aroused widespread fear and prompted quantities of new laws and restrictions. But it passed. Jihadism is certainly not a lineal descendant of anarchism: far from it. Even so, the parallels between the anarchist bombings of the 19th century and the Islamist ones of today may be instructive.
  • Their first great theoretician, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, wanted to abolish centralised government altogether. This, though, would not bring the chaos with which the word anarchy is often considered synonymous. On the contrary, a sort of harmonious order would ensue, the state being replaced by a system of autonomous groups and communities, glued together by contract and mutual interest in place of laws. Justice, argued this essentially non-violent man, was the “central star” governing society.
  • Though Proudhon is remembered for the dictum, “Property is theft!” he actually believed that a man had the right to possess a house, some land and the tools to work it. This was too much for Mikhail Bakunin, a revolutionary nationalist turned anarchist who believed in collective ownership of the means of production. He believed, too, that “the passion for destruction is also a creative urge,” which was not a description of the regenerative workings of capitalism but a call to the barricades. Regeneration, however, was very much an anarchist theme, just as it is a jihadist one. As one of anarchism’s leading interpreters, George Woodcock, has put it, “It is through the wrecks of empires and faiths that the anarchists have always seen the glittering towers of their free world arising.”
  • For anarchists, the crucial theory was that developed in Italy, where in 1876 Errico Malatesta put it thus: “The insurrectionary deed, destined to affirm socialist principles by acts, is the most efficacious means of propaganda.” This theory of “propaganda by deed” was cheerfully promoted by another great anarchist thinker, Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince who became the toast of radical-chic circles in Europe and America. Whether the theory truly tipped non-violent musers into killers, or whether it merely gave a pretext to psychopaths, simpletons and romantics to commit murders, is unclear. The murders, however, are not in doubt. In deadly sequence, anarchists claimed the lives of President Sadi Carnot of France (1894), Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the prime minister of Spain (1897), Empress Elizabeth of Austria (1898), King Umberto of Italy (1900), President William McKinley of the United States (1901) and José Canalejas y Méndez, another Spanish prime minister (1912).
  • Such assassinations, it may be argued, were less similar to al-Qaeda’s than to those of the Narodniki, the members of the Russian Party of the People’s Will, who believed in “destroying the most powerful person in government” to undermine its prestige and arouse the revolutionary spirit. This they had undoubtedly done in 1881 by murdering Tsar Alexander II, even though he had been a reformer and, indeed, a liberator of the serfs. In truth, the practice of assassination is as old as the hills, though it got its name only in the 11th-13th centuries when it was followed by the Nizari Ismailiyun, a Shia sect that considered the murder of its enemies—conducted under the influence of hashish (hence assassin)—to be a religious duty.
  • The response of some was repression and retribution, which often provoked further terrorist violence. Germany arrested 500 people after the second attack on the kaiser, many for “approving” of the attempts on his life. Spain was particularly prone to round up the usual suspects and torture them, though it also passed new laws. After the Liceo bombing, it brought in courts-martial for all crimes committed with explosives, and only military officers were allowed to be present during the trial of the supposed bombers. France, too, resorted to unusual measures. After the bombing of the French Chamber of Deputies, 2,000 warrants were issued, anarchist clubs and cafés were raided, papers were closed down and August Vaillant, the bomber, was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death in a day. An apologist who declared that not a single man in France would grieve for the president if he confirmed the sentence (as he did), and then was assassinated (as he was), was jailed for two years for incitement to murder. The French parliament made it a crime not just to incite sedition but also to justify it. Criminal “associations of malefactors” were defined by intent rather than by action, and all acts of anarchist propaganda were banned.

  • Italy, by contrast, produced many of the assassins: for example, those who killed Carnot, Cánovas, Empress Elizabeth and King Umberto. It also exported utopians who founded anarchist settlements like the Cecilia colony in Brazil. Germany, too, had its share of fanatics, including Johann Most, the editor of an incendiary New York newspaper, Freiheit, and many of the Jewish anarchists who congregated in London’s East End. France also sent anarchos abroad: a prominent theorist, Elisée Reclus, taught in Brussels. The man who shot McKinley was the child of Polish immigrants to America. And Switzerland, like England, played host to exiles who came and went with considerable freedom.

  • No wonder, then, that anti-foreigner feeling ran high in many places. In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt asked Congress to exclude anyone who believed in “anarchistic principles” and, by treaty, to make the advocacy of killing an offence against international law. Congress duly obliged with an act that kept out anyone “teaching disbelief in or opposition to all organised government”. By then an international conference had been held (in 1898) at the behest of Italy to seek help in fighting anarchism. The Italians did not get all they wanted: Belgium, Britain and Switzerland refused to abandon the right of asylum or to extradite suspected anarchists. But in 1893, just after the Liceo bombing, Britain had reluctantly banned open meetings of anarchists after the Liberal home secretary, H.H. Asquith, had come under attack for allowing an anarchist meeting to commemorate the Chicago Haymarket martyrs.

On Saturday, Michael Grunwald, a senior correspondent at Time, stoked controversy by tweeting, “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” The tweet triggered an immediate backlash among people who believe that murder is wrong, and that expressing preemptive delight at the prospect of defending murder is wrongheaded and repugnant. Shortly thereafter, Grunwald apologized to his followers, called his tweet “dumb,” and deleted it. (via The Ideology Behind Michael Grunwald’s Repugnant Assange Tweet - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic)
Even though, as Amy Davidson noted at the New Yorker, “Grunwald seems a bit oblivious as to what was wrong with what he said,” I’m allergic to anyone being fired over any one tweet, especially if they express regret for sending it.
It is nevertheless worth dwelling on his tweet a moment longer, because it illuminates a type that is common but seldom pegged in America. You see, Grunwald is a radical ideologue. It’s just that almost no one recognizes it. The label “radical ideologue” is usually used to describe Noam Chomsky or members of the John Birch Society. We think of radical ideologues as occupying the far right or left. Lately a lot of people seem to think that The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald is a radical (often they wrongly conflate the style with which he expresses his views with their substance). But Grunwald graduated from Harvard, spent a decade at the Washington Post, and now works as a senior correspondent at Time. How radical could someone with that resume possibly be?
That doesn’t mean that he’s a bad guy, or that he shouldn’t be a journalist. But as someone who finds Grunwald’s ideology as problematic and wrongheaded as I’m sure he finds aspects of my worldview, I tire of the fact that people who share it are treated as pragmatic centrists while their critics, whether on the libertarian right or the civil liberties left, are dismissed as impractical ideologues.
He reflexively assumed that objections to a tweet about the extrajudicial killing of a transparency activist came from the “Don’t Tread on Me crowd” — as if only right-wing libertarians would object to such a sentiment! The link delivers us to a Time essay, “Tread on Me,” that surveys a whole range of controversies and lays out his overarching attitude, which manages to combine anti-libertarian and anti-civil-libertarian aspects. 
Denying a particular American his Miranda rights, because we’re really sure this one is guilty, and hey, terrorism!, is objectionable in different ways, which cannot be waived away with “the republic will survive.” Preserving a culture of due process is, in fact, vital to the survival of a free society. No single violation is fatal, but Grunwald appears oblivious to the danger of undermining the culture, and to how radical it is to call for one-off departures of convenience from long established norms. Using the same logic, one could argue that, hey, torturing Dzhokar Tsarnaev might’ve prevented further tragedy, and it isn’t like the republic wouldn’t survive another waterboarding!

On Saturday, Michael Grunwald, a senior correspondent at Time, stoked controversy by tweeting, “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” The tweet triggered an immediate backlash among people who believe that murder is wrong, and that expressing preemptive delight at the prospect of defending murder is wrongheaded and repugnant. Shortly thereafter, Grunwald apologized to his followers, called his tweet “dumb,” and deleted it. (via The Ideology Behind Michael Grunwald’s Repugnant Assange Tweet - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic)

  • Even though, as Amy Davidson noted at the New Yorker, “Grunwald seems a bit oblivious as to what was wrong with what he said,” I’m allergic to anyone being fired over any one tweet, especially if they express regret for sending it.
  • It is nevertheless worth dwelling on his tweet a moment longer, because it illuminates a type that is common but seldom pegged in America. You see, Grunwald is a radical ideologue. It’s just that almost no one recognizes it. The label “radical ideologue” is usually used to describe Noam Chomsky or members of the John Birch Society. We think of radical ideologues as occupying the far right or left. Lately a lot of people seem to think that The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald is a radical (often they wrongly conflate the style with which he expresses his views with their substance). But Grunwald graduated from Harvard, spent a decade at the Washington Post, and now works as a senior correspondent at Time. How radical could someone with that resume possibly be?
  • That doesn’t mean that he’s a bad guy, or that he shouldn’t be a journalist. But as someone who finds Grunwald’s ideology as problematic and wrongheaded as I’m sure he finds aspects of my worldview, I tire of the fact that people who share it are treated as pragmatic centrists while their critics, whether on the libertarian right or the civil liberties left, are dismissed as impractical ideologues.
  • He reflexively assumed that objections to a tweet about the extrajudicial killing of a transparency activist came from the “Don’t Tread on Me crowd” — as if only right-wing libertarians would object to such a sentiment! The link delivers us to a Time essay, “Tread on Me,” that surveys a whole range of controversies and lays out his overarching attitude, which manages to combine anti-libertarian and anti-civil-libertarian aspects. 
  • Denying a particular American his Miranda rights, because we’re really sure this one is guilty, and hey, terrorism!, is objectionable in different ways, which cannot be waived away with “the republic will survive.” Preserving a culture of due process is, in fact, vital to the survival of a free society. No single violation is fatal, but Grunwald appears oblivious to the danger of undermining the culture, and to how radical it is to call for one-off departures of convenience from long established norms. Using the same logic, one could argue that, hey, torturing Dzhokar Tsarnaev might’ve prevented further tragedy, and it isn’t like the republic wouldn’t survive another waterboarding!
"Nothing is more dangerous for man’s private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one’s own merits."
Mikahil Bakunin (1814-1876), Power Corrupts Best

"Nothing is more dangerous for man’s private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one’s own merits."

Mikahil Bakunin (1814-1876), Power Corrupts Best