tv Lectures in History 1880s American Anarchist Movement CSPAN March 4, 2018 3:05pm-4:01pm EST
america. he talks about albert parson, a confederate soldier who became a socialist and leader in the anarchist movement. he uses the 1886 haymarket affair, a bombing at a labor protest as a case study in describing anarchist violence and the government's response. his class is just under an hour. ronald: i am going to begin in 1906. a german sociologist and historian published a collection of his essays. one of those essays translated "why is there no socialism in the united states?" he was baffled by perceiving america as an industrial giant at the forefront of a major economic revolution, and according to his ideological worldview we should have
produced the kind of radical socialist and communist movements as in europe. well a couple of things were , wrong with that comment. there was an american left. there was a socialist party. it was even winning elections on the city level, on the state level and ultimately a couple of , congressman. there were real communists. indeed from 1860, there were communists clubs in several major american cities, marxist communist clubs. and marxism first communist international working men's association was actually at home in the u.s., and indeed for a decade there was a coalition of european socialists and communists and american
reformers, some of whom figured in my book on american reform. the sociologist was less concerned about this, but there were extremes on the right in america. what we code as a right. arch-conservatives, libertarians who differed from anarchists -- i will lump them in with anarchists in a bit, but extreme libertarians who believed private property was sanctified -- you will be reading some of these folks for this week's assignments. and the equivalent of the alt-right today. in the ku klux klan and in the organizations that succeeded the klan. america did have extremes. they just did not quite fit the european model. also i think this perception of
the german sociologist was embedded in american historiography after world war ii. the most powerful historical school in the 1950's to the 1960's was the so-called consensus school of historians and also literary analysts. they argued -- i mentioned i think in passing earlier -- they argued that america was born middle-class, that america began without the extremes of europe, without aristocracies and so on, and they on one level glorified that. that america is better off not having destructive ideologies like communism or socialism but , there was also a negative view that europe had better art and europe had better food than the u.s. because it had an
aristocracy. kind of an american exceptionalism argument. america is different than the rest of the world and lack of radicalism was part of that difference, which this course is designed to try to refute. what i am going to do today is not try to cover all of the types of extremism in your readings this week. i am going to just pick just one of those types, and that is anarchism. i am picking anarchism for a variety of reasons. one is as a historian i am appalled by the use of the word anarchist in the press whenever there is a riot, and in my old hometown of berkeley, the term was used widely. that the protesters were
anarchists. and, what they were doing was equating anarchism first with just vandalism. no ideology in particular, which is wrong. and, also equating anarchists with destructiveness. and, indeed the folks they were covering, the news coverage, were doing destructive things. they were trashing stores and things like that. anarchists of the type i am talking about did do violent acts, at least some schools of anarchy, but those acts of violence were not the kind of looting and vandalism the press was covering, but those acts of violence were targeting particular institutions and particular enemies of the people. as they saw it. there are still some visible
scars of that in parts of america. i think it is still true. it has been five years since i have been in lower manhattan, but if you are down there on wall street and look at the historic j.p. morgan building, you will see scars left by an anarchist's bomb. there are still parts of that legacy around, but these were clearly targeted, and that is something that differentiates the real anarchists of the 19th and 20th century from the use of the term today. the second reason for picking on them does have to do with the use of violence by radical and by reform movements. that they -- the anarchists were guilty of a number of bombings, including the wall street one i
just mentioned and one i will talk about later today. but then there is a question hanging on present day use of bombings, of which we are seeing, of course. and the question i want to put out is one i hope you pick up in discussion section, and that is what do bombers think they are doing? a list of possible things. i don't like to ask questions without trying to answer them myself. i have done a list which i will share with you after you have your discussions, but the list kept getting longer. in fact, i added another item today. i think there are a lot of answers to the question of violence and why radicals resort to it. another reason for picking on anarchism today is further
misunderstanding about 19th and 20th century anarchism, and that is that it was exclusively committed to violence, and that is not true. there were a number of pacifists anarchists and religious anarchists. even some catholic anarchists' groups that refused to use violence. so there is not a one to one connection between anarchism and violence. the real common denominator is hostility to the state. that is to governments of the sort we primarily think of. they believed that governments are the source of oppression. and that humans will be free
and only free when there are no human governments. that doesn't mean that anybody can do anything, a state of anarchy. what the anarchists are conjuring is an ideal society, a very localized one in which men and women make decisions communally, share property communally, and that that will be when humans achieve their full potential, when there is real justice in the world, so it is a very decentralized view of what human society should be like. excuse me. now another thing i want to dispel in terms of these stereotypes about anarchism
really have to do with -- again, i will go back to religion. anarchism is not defined by atheism. i am going to do now -- i will ask for any questions about anarchism. ok. right, what i am going to do is take a case study of anarchist violence and i think it is an important case study for a number of reasons. one, it has to do with an iconic moment in radical history, the so-called haymarket riot or affair. the other is that it helps understand not just an act of violence, of revolutionary
violence, but it also has to do with the state response to it. what happens to american justice when something like a bombing occurs? i will begin the story with a little biography of the central figure, the one i will trace through this story. his name was albert parsons. born in 1848. he is an unlikely genealogy for an anarchist. he was a descendent of puritans. he had at least one ancestor who fought in the american revolution. he was sent to texas as a young orphan. bynd their by -- sent there east coast relatives to live with family out there. he enlisted in the confederate army, pledging because he was 13 years old when he did it.
and here you get one of the many ironies of this man's life, that he was enlisting to preserve slavery. this is not a typical anarchist's profile. in fact it is not really clear how he became an anarchist. it seems to have been a kind of progression. he went to college in waco, texas, in the institution that became baylor. he was horrified by the treatment of african-americans that he saw in reconstruction texas, the violence directed against them. he became a republican, which was not necessarily a good career move in texas at that point in time. he held some minor public offices, but the failure of
reconstruction, the collapse of the republican party, and that was done. now, he took a strange turn given this genealogy. in 1872, he married. the woman he married was named lucy and she was african-american. this was a very unconventional thing in that time period. they were a deeply devoted couple, and after her death lucy became something of an anarchist heroine, lecturer, and writer. the couple went to chicago in 1873 looking to get out of texas into a different line of work. he first got a job setting type for a printing company.
he then became a journalist. in 1876, the economy tanked. there was a deep depression and this was the beginning of what we can trace as his pathway to being an anarchist. he joined a socialist organization. this was a time of socialist ferment and socialist possibility, and here the core belief of socialism and what attracted him was the notion that workers ought to control the means of production. you have heard this line of reasoning earlier in the course too, that capitalism, people who organize labor were parasites
and were siphoning off the profits of those who did the work. so that is my crude version of the socialism that attracted him. there was a transforming event in 1877. it is one i mentioned in passing earlier in the course. a railroad strike of the baltimore and ohio railroad, the source of johns hopkins university's endowment. the great rail strike was precipitated by the railroad cutting salaries by 10%. keep in mind this was in an economic depression, so here workers were taking a salary hit at the time when they most needed the job and needed the money. the strike paralyzed east coast rail travel for about two weeks, 17 states were affected.
there were bloody clashes. 12 people died in one battle in baltimore, 20 in pittsburgh, and this was the first instance of using federal troops to put down a strike. the strike was broken, but the way it was handled, particularly the use of federal troops, radicalized a number of people. it tended to reinforce what socialists and a few communists around were saying about capitalism. parsons went further to the left. he joined, or at the sat in on various radical organizations in chicago. and radical or at least left
, parties and politicians were making inroads in chicago, where getting elected to the state assembly. one state senator. so he was part of what seemed to be a radical wave in chicago at the time. well, he quickly became disillusioned with what was going on. here was the radical promise, the radical moment, so what happened? one thing that happened was co-option. a splinter party, a third party sprang up called the greenback party. it's chief platform had to do with monetary policy, which is not what people like parsons were concerned about. they wanted jobs. they wanted control of the means of production. they did not just want greenback
dollars printed. so the greenback party siphoned off some of the potential radical support. second thing happened -- it will come as a surprise to some of you from chicago or illinois, but illinois and chicago had a long history of corrupt elections and election fraud. so the major parties found ways of stealing elections that undercut any third party for any radical party. it was clear they weren't going to win an election. as further background here, revolutionary anarchism was beginning to cohere, to take shape between 1883 and the
summer of 1886, the time period i am now dealing with. the great event in this was a -- the beginning of that is better put was a grand congress , in pittsburgh of groups, people with somewhat different ideological positions, but groups calling themselves social revolutionaries, which would include anarchists, communists, some branches of socialism. prior to the great pittsburgh meeting of 1883 were smaller meetings in chicago and a developing "chicago ideal." hand -- and in this movement, the chicago one, they were really anticipating with the
hosynicalism. anarc that meant the union as a social locus for revolution. that unions where the vessel, the organization, for the revolution. and that struggle was inevitable, that local will democratic organizations or revolutionary organizations should create loose federations nationally and internationally. so this is a model of change, a model of revolution that is ground up, but it's ground up connected to like organizations, eventually internationally. two significant things happen in pittsburgh in 1883. i think the resolutions that
came out of that meeting are part of your reading for this week. but what was behind the change and the kind of pronouncements that came in 1883 had to do with something i mentioned on monday when talking about emma goldman. and that was the arrival of a johan must. a political figure in germany. somebody who was partly establishment becoming a revolutionary. he was jailed for seven years in germany for his radicalism, and he would be jailed in the u.s. three different times, so he had a lot of jail time to think about his ideology. he had to flee germany after
publicly suggesting it might be a good thing to assassinate czar alexander ii of russia when he came to germany. that was enough to get him kicked out of germany. he was charming. he was charismatic. he was the author of a revolutionary classic. the title of it is "revolutionary war science 1885." so you are getting something else that is interesting in terms of currents and crosscurrents in this course. here is a guy rooting revolution in science, or evoking the power of science to create a successful revolution. it also had some practical information, like how to make bombs.
you have him on the case, but you also have in 1881 the first american anarchists group. previously most of the anarchism is coming from europe and heavily laden with european immigrants. this was the revolutionary socialistic labour party. it had a small membership of about 300, and most of them were germans, again, even though it was an american group. now the dominant group in 1883 among anarchists was the international working peoples association.
which, again, brings us back to pittsburgh and the pittsburgh declaration that i hope we put on your reading list for this week. there were five authors of it. one of them was johan must, as you would expect, but the other was albert parsons. he had come the full way by 1883, and he represented an american anarchist. and, it was probably to his influence that the declaration and other declarations tried to root anarchism not just in europe, as a european import, but as american. the declaration of independence, for example, were trying to broaden the base of anarchism by
making it an american thing. here are the key beliefs of anarchists in 1883-1886, and you will find them in readings too. that revolution was necessary. society could not evil. it would take a revolution to have change. -- society could not evolve. it would take a revolution to have change. but the wording was very carefully skewed so that it was not necessarily a violent revolution. anarchists were aware of the connection with violence, so the violence is alighted, but the revolution is central. opposition to the state. it was on the list earlier, but something here that seemed to move in a somewhat different direction.
and, that his change through confrontation with capitalism and with capitalists. it can only change by confronting power. the social ideal was the one i mentioned earlier, that is of decisions made through workers organizations, decisions made on the local level. i am going to make a caveat here , or a little bit of an addition in terms of anarchism. some american anarchists, the most prominent guy named benjamin tucker, who is on your reading list, did agree that the society conjured by anarchists
was the ideal human society, but they believed that private property was sacred and that private property should -- could and should exist under the stateness of anarchism. at this point i will put another question on the table. it has to do with what distinction is there between a libertarian and an anarchist? we code one on the left and one on the right, but what i just said about benjamin tucker's anarchism sounds very much like a libertarian too, so that is up for discussion on your next section meeting. the timing of the pittsburgh declaration was also crucial.
crucial for the history of anarchism. there had been five years of relative prosperity. after 1877 and the great strike, the economy recovered. that ended in 1883, the year of the pittsburgh declaration. again, the government used force to stifle strikes. in 1885 in illinois, the state militia used gatling guns, the precursor to the machine gun, rapid fire gun, used them on a group of striking quarrymen. they killed two in that process.
so it seems to be two contradictory things happening here. one, reformers in the anarchists and liberal reformers, conservative liberal reformers, are both agreeing that something is wrong with the state, that the state, the american state, is becoming stronger, hence more repressive. they were certainly right about the first part, because we are going to get into this a little later in the course, but you are beginning to see by the 1880's the emergence of the modern american state. so both extremes are disturbed by this, by the growth of its power, by its economic structure.
second, at the time that the groups i just mentioned are becoming very edgy about the american state you have other groups represented in this course who are looking to the state, and high among those groups were of course african-americans who were seeking state protection. that is federal protection, from the sorts of things that were going on in the american south. so you have one part of the course, the radicalism part, suspicious of the state. the other part, the race part, looking towards a stronger state. and it was not just african-americans who were looking for a stronger state. veterans groups, civil war veterans groups, quite successfully negotiated federal
pensions for civil war veterans, union veterans, not confederate veterans, which increased the u.s. budget enormously. those are the currents and crosscurrents. there was a growth also in this time period in membership in radical organizations. one group called the international workers protective association had about 5000 real members. that is not a lot, but it is still the core of a movement. it had about 15,000 sympathizers, people who had drifted in and out of the organization, and they were pretty much geographically dispersed.
there were groups affiliated with this in 50 american cities, including new orleans, denver, and san francisco, the second tier of cities. so not big numbers, but signs there is discontent, and discontent may be channeled into these kinds of workers organization. and a couple of things to say about the organizations. first, in the instance i just cited, as well as in the burgeoning labor movement, conservative labor movement, called the american federation of labor, the easiest to recruit were not the most oppressed. it was the skilled and semi-skilled laborers who were the easiest to organize, and of
course the hardest to fire. if you have a guy whose job is just to carry bricks, you can replace him. but if you have somebody who is a plumber, you can't just pull somebody off the street. so it is the skilled laborers who are also organizing, but who are also a lot less radical. and something else going on -- a couple of other points i want to make -- is that these are workers, both skilled and the unskilled i am talking about, who are important for what they are not doing. they are not resisting technology and industrialization. they are not trying to fight a
retrograde, let's go back to the old days, but they are trying to make the new world more egalitarian and something else going on with the working class in this time period was not just to be political, but to create a working class and revolutionary culture, that have parties, various kinds of self-help organizations. even to follow a german model and have mens choirs. and you can still find a few of them, the socialists mens singing groups in places like
eureka pennsylvania. what they are doing is attempting to create a working class culture and a working-class politics. well, they had competition. i mentioned the american federation of labor, which was successfully organizing. at its head was a disillusioned socialist who gave up on socialism, but thought organizing workers, not for revolution, but for a more just society. so what the american federation of labor was doing, they are not trying to overthrow the system. they are trying to guarantee better working conditions,
higher pay, and what were called the bread and butter issues, and insurance for workers who were maimed and could not support their families again. so you have on the left the anarchists on the far left, but you have a kind of center labor movement emerging too. the anarchists that i am going to return to now had their own internal problems as well as external. they were divided over politics, whether to reject politics totally, or to work against politics. not so much within them. whether to create coalitions with nonbelievers, coalitions on
certain issues with more conservative people. whether to use violence, whether violence was a legitimate tool of the revolution. and if so, was it to be only in self-defense, or could it be used as a weapon in its own right? and they accepted pretty much the ideal of the so-called chicago plan, and that was one that fit well with the left, and that is the idea that the union is the primary vessel of radicalism, not afl-type unions, but radical unions. even with this fairly clear platform, one that was quite consistent with anarchism, there were still divisions, ok.
the left has a great track record in terms of the fighting -- of dividing and arguing over stuff. a minority, a vocal minority on the anarchist left had a different model, and that model was to place less interest is on -- less emphasis on union organizing and more on creating thatolutionary avant-garde , is a cadre of revolutionaries who would lead the working-class into revolution, rather than the working-class creating the revolution. now, i am mentioning these ideological differences, feuds, because part of the tragedy that is coming ahead, the haymarket
tragedy, is that the state executed men -- the haymarket riot, who actually hated each other, who took different positions with anarchism. but as far as the state is concerned, and anarchist is an and anarchist as an anarchist and that is it. anarchists in the u.s. were having some pr problems because the anarchists in europe especially were using assassination. there were two attempts in 1878 kaiser.erman one each on the king of spain and italy, and a second attempt
on the king of spain. and james a. garfield assassinated in 1882 by a suspected anarchist, as was mckinley. in 1901. two british officials were killed by irish revolutionists, blamed on anarchists. if you want to check me out on this, wikipedia has a list of assassinations by country, so you can trace the anarchist bloodshed on wikipedia. the appeal of violence was, of course, as you would expect, totally disturbing to people in power. it also was a threat to the modest. to the more moderate leaders
like the american federation of labor. he saw it not just as ideologicaly different, but as creating such a horrible image of the working-class and of violence that it was hurting his form of unionism. in the spring of 1886, things changed a lot. organized labor was organized enough. that is the modern union's. -- unions. it could call for certain demands. demands such as an eight hour workday, rather than a 10-11 our -- 10 or 11 hour workday. with the idea to be a good citizen, to be a good husband, that workers needed an eight
hour day. anarchists were slow to join the in this sort of stuff in part because they , figured this was just a false issue. workers get the eight hour day. they will be contented. they will not be the revolutionaries they should be, so the anarchists are dragging their heels on this. there were large demonstrations however in april in chicago about labor and about such issues. parsons himself spoke at one, and another three anarchists who would soon be swept up in the haymarket affair were also participating. they were trying to play nice
with the larger labor movement in chicago. the background to the disaster that is going to happen is a strike at the mccormick reaper company. a very important company making all kinds of agricultural products, machinery. the company played hard. it used force against the strikers. there were deaths and injuries that occurred. a council of labor convened, a kind of coalition of chicago labor groups, convened and called for general strike on all workers on may 1, mayday, the revolutionary holiday. the strike passed reasonably peacefully. this was a national movement i
should have said, talking from the chicago perspective. but nationally probably at least 300,000 workers went out on strike and demonstrated. chicago was a major hub for the mayday event. about 40,000 which was a pretty big turnout, a show of labor power. later in the day, it got even bigger than the 40,000 who initially turned out. there were roughly 80,000 marchers up michigan avenue. so these numbers are putting the fear of god in the city officials in chicago. the police were out. the city and police department deputized citizens to be acting police.
i neglected to mention that parsons and several other anarchists were at the head of this 80,000-person march. real trouble came may 3, unexpectedly mccormick workers just walked out. a year earlier management had been forced to rescind a wage cut. this time the management was fed up with these uppity workers. it was determined to break the strike, break the union, and fire the striking workers. various other unions, including anarchist and non-anarchist ones supported that strike. and you soon began to have mccormick and some other employers importing
strikebreakers, that is scabs in the language of the time, folks who would work for lower wages. there were confrontations, conflicts between strikers and strikebreakers, the scabs. police arrived and fired into the crowd. they killed at least two of the strikers and injured several others. we don't have a good injury count. anarchists had already called for a meeting that evening, and the call was to meet at haymarket square, 7:30 p.m. it was a widening in the streets where it would be harder to be penned in by cops.
so if the cops came, it would be easier to escape. handbills announced the meeting with the line, workingmen arm yourselves and appear in full force. this appeared to be a call to arms, and certainly the chicago police interpreted it that way, that there was going to be violence. the leader of the anarchists objected to that line and got it omitted in some of the pamphlets, the papers that went out, but not all, so the police had been tipped that there might be violence. a few hundred would be evidenced in the trial that followed, and evidence -- when the cops thought they had some more evidence that violence was being
planned -- so the police were on the case of the haymarket riots and assumed there was going to be violence there. chicago's mayor decided he would attend the meeting. a man named carter henderson, a democrat in his fourth term and kind of friendly to labor, so he thought his showing up might be a good thing to do. he even appointed socialists to his administration. so henderson went and did not see anything wrong, and labor -- later testified on behalf of the people who were tried for violence at haymarket, saying he had not seen anything that looked like violence. the meeting appeared to be winding down around 10:00 p.m.
drizzling rain. that is when the mayor left. parsons had also left by 10:00. this is important. one of the anarchists was giving a speech. police surrounded the group, infiltrated it. two detectives claimed to hear the anarchist speaker deliver the faithful lines about the american system. the lines for quote, " throttle it. kill it. do anything you can to impede its progress. that was nothing that anarchists had not said before in other venues. the detectives thought that things were going on. it is not clear what happened, except that somebody threw a bomb, which was a trademark of anarchists supposedly. the police began firing wildly.
eight police eventually died of wounds, 67 people were injured, and we really don't know the full extent of all the injuries, so this was an act of violence, and of course it was blamed on the anarchists even though there was no particular proof. and, what followed was a wave of anti-radical rhetoric. what also followed was a trial, and because we are running out of time, i will do the quick version of the trial. it was a trial in which 10 anarchists were cited and blamed for the violence, for the deaths. two of the 10 were never tried, one escaped, and one turned state's evidence.
so the ones left included parsons, who had not even been present when the violence occurred. the long story i will make short it followed a trial in which all , but three of the anarchists were sentenced to death. seven died in what was one of the worst trials in american history. the anarchists had a good attorney, but they had a bad judge. a judge who did puzzles when the defense was talking and talked with people when the defense was talking. who clearly indicated his contempt. he was so bad that a fellow judge said, gary, the judge was
ignoring every rule of law that was designed to assure a fair trial for the defendant. the trial was notorious. the jury found guilty the anarchists and sought the death penalty for all three of them. the very good defense attorney the anarchists had lived with this case for the rest of his life. he was deeply depressed he had not been able to win it. he was even more depressed because parsons was in hiding and his attorney urged him to come back to face the trial and be executed. so you have this as a kind of iconic face of anarchists associated with violence, and paying with their lives for that association, but who was the loser here? well, maybe i will start with
who was the winner here? the winner was the judge honored by the bar society for his good judgemansship. the governor of illinois lost his political career because he showed some sympathy for the advisors. and in the aftermath there were a couple of pardons. lucy parsons lived on to see her children die or go insane, a very sad, tragic life. there were those remote from chicago affected by it. teddy roosevelt was in dakota territory when he got the news. he and his cowboy buddies burned -- greeted the executions by burning images of anarchists. the biggest loser probably
however was the american system of justice. that ends my story. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> >> does that relate to what we are seeing with football players today with the national anthem? history ofa long racism. >> you could be featured during our program. join the conversation on facebook and on twitter. 50 years ago after a then-month investigation,
national advisory commission on civil disorders released its report on february 29, 1968. president johnson created the commission in the wake of widespread rioting, unrest, and racial tension in several major cities including los angeles, chicago, newark, and detroit. up next, "remedy for riot," an hour-long cbs news report from 1968 detailing the commission's findings about the causes of racial division and civil disorders and proposals for preventing similar unrest in the future. the report is commonly known as the kerner report, named after the commission chairman. >> good evening. for the last few days this , country have lived under indictment, white racism, national in scale. terrible and its effect. the evidence to support that charge has been presented. more than 1400 pages of testimony, findings, conclusions, the full text of a report released last night.