The Haymarket Martyrs: Adolf Fischer

Adolf Fischer (1858-1887) was one of the Chicago anarchists executed on November 11, 1887. His trial speech has often been cited for his comment that “every anarchist is a socialist but every socialist is not necessarily an anarchist,” emphasizing that by the mid-1880s, anarchism was clearly regarded by most of its proponents as a form of revolutionary socialism. Fischer quotes from the International Working People’s Association’s Pittsburgh Proclamation (Volume One, Selection 55), which had effectively become the program of anarchist revolutionaries in North America. In his speech he contrasts anarchist communism to the “middle class” anarchism of Proudhon and the mutualists, but makes no mention of the anarchist collectivists, such as Johann Most (1846-1906), who also advocated armed struggle but thought that each worker should be entitled to the full product of his or her labour, rather than distributing goods on the basis of need. The trial speeches of the Haymarket Martyrs demonstrate the degree to which by the mid-1880s anarchist communism had become the prevalent point of view among those anarchists who advocated a far-reaching social revolution, by force of arms if necessary.

Adolph Fischer

The capitalist press, and even numerous labour journals, define anarchism as murder, plunder, arson and outrage upon society in general. These ‘learned’ journalists, or at least a majority of them thus defining anarchism, misrepresent the object and aims of this teaching maliciously. Anarchism does not mean plunder and outrage upon society; contrarily, its mission is to uproot the systematic plunder of a vast majority of the people by a comparative few—the working classes by the capitalists. It aims at the extermination of the outrages committed by the reigning classes upon the wage-slaves, under the name of ‘law and order.’

Murder, plunder, robbery, outrages. ‘Is an anarchist really the impersonation of all crimes, of everything dastardly and damnable?’ The International Working Peoples’ Association, the organization of the anarchists, has the following platform, which was agreed upon at the congress at Pittsburg in October, 1883. Let this platform be the answer to the question I have raised before:

“I. Destruction of the existing class rule, by all means, i.e., by energetic, relentless, revolutionary and international action.

2. Establishment of a free society based upon co-operative organization of production.

3. Free exchange of equivalent products by and between the productive organizations without commerce and profit-mongery.

4. Organization of education on a secular, scientific and equal basis for both sexes.

5. Equal rights for all without distinction of sex or race.

6. Regulation of all public affairs by free contracts between the autonomous (independent) communes and associations, resting on a federalistic basis.”

Does this sound like outrages and crime?

In the course of my observations I will dwell more thoroughly on the aims and objects of anarchy.

Many people undoubtedly long to know what the relationship between anarchism and socialism is, and whether these two doctrines have anything in common with each other. A number of persons claim that an anarchist cannot be a socialist, and a socialist not an anarchist. This is wrong. The philosophy of socialism is a general one, and covers several subordinate teachings. To illustrate, I will cite the word ‘Christianity.’ There are Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, and various other religious sects, all of whom call themselves Christians. Although every Catholic is a Christian, it would not be correct to say that every Christian believes in Catholicism. Webster defined socialism thus: ‘A more orderly, equitable and harmonious arrangement of social affairs than has hitherto prevailed.’ Anarchism is aiming at this: anarchism is seeking a more just form of society. Therefore every anarchist is a socialist but every socialist is not necessarily an anarchist.

The anarchists again are divided into two factions; the communist anarchists and the Proudhon or middle-class anarchists. The International Working Peoples’ Association is the representative organization of the communist anarchists. Politically we are anarchists, and economically, communists or socialists. With regard to political organization the communist anarchists demand the abolition of political authority, the state; we deny the right of a single class or single individual to govern or rule another class or individual. We hold that, as long as one man is under the dictation of another, as long as one man can in any form subjugate his fellow man, and as long as the means of existence can be monopolized by a certain class or certain individuals, there can be no liberty. Concerning the economic form of society, we advocate the communist or co-operative method of production.

As to the distribution of products, a free exchange between the organizations of productions without profit-mongery would take place. Machinery and the means of production in general would be the common servant, and the products certainly the common property of the whole of the people. In what respect do the social democrats differ from the anarchists? The state socialists do not seek the abolition of the state, but they advocate the centralization of the means of production in the hands of the government; in other words, they want the government to be the controller of industry. Now, a socialist who is not a state socialist must necessarily be an anarchist. It is utterly ridiculous for men like Dr. Aveling to state that they are neither state socialists nor anarchists. Dr. Aveling has to be either one or the other [Aveling toured the United States in 1886 with his companion, Eleanor Marx].

The term ‘anarchism’ is of Greek origin and means ‘without government,’ or, in other words, ‘without oppression.’ I only wish that every workingman would understand the proper meaning of this word. It is an absurd falsehood if the capitalists and their hired editors say that anarchism is identical with disorder and crime. On the contrary, anarchism wants to do away with the now existing social disorder; it aims at the establishment of the real—the natural—order. I think every sensible man ought to conceive that where ruling exists on the one hand, there must be submission on the other. He who rules is a tyrant, and he who submits is a slave. Logically there can be no other outlet, because submission is the antithesis of rule. Anarchists hold that it is the natural right of every member of the human family to control themselves. If a centralized power—government—is ruling the mass of people (no matter whether this government ‘represents the will of the majority of the people’ or not) it is enslaving them, and a direct violation of the laws of nature. When laws are made there must be certain interests which cause their issue. Now every statute law, and consequently every violation thereof—crime— can be traced back to the institution of private property. The state protects the interests of the owners of private property (wealthy class), and therefore does not and cannot possibly protect the interests of the non-possessing people (the wage-workers), because the interests of both are of an opposite nature. The capitalists who have taken possession of the means of production—factories, machinery, land; etc., are the masters, and the workingmen who have to apply to the capitalists for the use of the means of production (for which they receive a small compensation in order to live), are the slaves. The interests of the capitalistic class are backed by the state (militia, sheriffs, and police) while the interests of the non-possessing people are not protected. Anarchists say that there should be no class interests, but that every human being should have free access to the means of existence and that the pantries of mother-earth should be accessible to all of her children. One part of the great human family has no right to deprive their brothers and sisters of their legitimate place at the common table, which is set so richly by generous mother nature for all. Anarchists, as well as all other thinking people, claim that in the present society a great number of people are deprived of a decent existence. We demand the re-installation of the disinherited! Is this a crime? Is this an outrage upon society? Are we therefore dangerous criminals, whose lives should be taken in the interests of the common good of society?

Yes, the anarchists demand the re-installation of the disinherited members of the human family. It is, therefore, quite natural that the privileged classes should hate them. Why, do not wrong doing parties always hate those who disclose the nature of their transactions and open the eyes of their ignorant victims? Certainly they do. The anarchists are very much hated by the extortioners; indeed, they are proud of it. To them, this is a proof that they are on the right road. But the ruling classes very cunningly play the role of the thief, who, when pursued by his discoverers, cries out, ‘stop the thief,’ and by this manipulation succeeds in making good his escape. The anarchists have proven that the existing form of society is based upon the exploitation of one class by another; in plain words, upon legalized robbery. They say that a few persons have no right whatever, to monopolize the resources of nature; and they urge the victims, the toilers, to take possession of the means of production, which belong to the people in common, and thus secure the full benefit of their toil. Anarchists do not want to deprive the capitalists of their existence, but they protest against the capitalists depriving the toilers of their right to a decent existence. Should the communistic form of production prevail, the capitalists of today would not have to starve; they would be situated just as comfortably and would be just as happy (yea, happier than they are now) as the rest of the people. But, certainly they would have to take an active part in the production and be satisfied with their respective share of the results of labour, performed in common with their fellowmen. The strongest bulwark of the capitalist system is the ignorance of its victims. The average toiler shakes his head like the incredulous Thomas, when one tries to make plausible to him that he is held in economic bondage. And yet this is so easily to be seen if one only takes the pains to think a little. Working at my trade alongside my colleagues, whom I tried to convince of my ideas, I used to tell them a story about some foxes:

‘Several foxes, in speculating about some scheme whichwould enable them to live without hunting for food themselves, succeeded at last in discovering one. They took possession of all the springs and other water-places. Now, as the other animals came to quench their thirst, the foxes said unto them: The water-places belong to us; if you want to drink, you must bring us something in return, you must bring us food for compensation. The other animals were foolish enough to obey, and, in order to drink, they had to hunt the whole day fat food for the foxes, so that they themselves had to live very meagerly.’

I asked one of my colleagues, who was prominent as a denunciator of socialism, what his opinion was concerning the just mentioned story. He said that the animals who were thus swindled by the foxes were very foolish in obeying them, and ought to drive the latter away from the water-places. When I directed his attention to the fact that a similar practice was being cultivated in modern society, with the only difference that the role of the foxes was occupied by the capitalists, and the water-places were represented by the means of production, and that he (my colleague) was very inconsistent in condemning the one and defending the other, he owed me the answer. This, for instance, illustrates the ignorance and indifference of average workingmen. In the case of the foxes, they see no more and no less than robbery in their schemes, while in the case of the capitalists they approve of their methods.

Many inconsistent objections to anarchism are being made by its opponents. Some people have the impression that in an anarchistic society, where there is nobody to govern and nobody to be governed, every person would be isolated. This is false. Men have implanted by nature an impulse to associate with their fellow men. In a free society men would form economic as well as social associations; but all organizations would be voluntary, not compulsory. As I have asserted before, laws and the violations thereof, crimes, are attributed to the institution of private property, especially to the unequal distribution of the means of existence, to degradation and want. When the institution of private property will be abolished; when economic and social equalities will be established; when misery and want will belong to the past, then crime will be unknown and laws will become superfluous. It is a wrong assertion when people claim that a man is a criminal because of a natural disposition to crime. A man, as a rule, is but the reflex of the conditions which surround him. In a society which places no obstacles on the road of free development of men, and which gives everybody an equal share in the pursuit of happiness, there will be no course which will induce men to become bad.

The legalized private-property system gives birth to crime and at the same time punishes it because it exists. The mother punishes her own child because it is born. Do away with the systems that produce evils and the latter will vanish. The removal of the cause is synonymous with the removal of the effects; but the social diseases will never be cured if you declare war against the victims and on the other hand defend the cause which produced them. If one has small pox it would not cure the disease if one would scratch the scabs off. The disease in this case is the system of private property, and the scabs its evil effects.

How will the anarchists realize their ideas? What means do they intend to employ to accomplish the realization of a free society? Much has been written and talked on this subject and, as an avowed anarchist, I will in plain terms give my individual opinion… ‘Anarchism’ itself does not indicate force; on the contrary it means peace. But I believe that everybody who has studied the true character of the capitalistic form of society, and who will not deceive himself, will agree with me that now and never will the ruling classes abandon their privileges peaceably. Anarchism demands a thorough transformation of society, the total abolition of the private property system. Now, history shows us that even reforms within the frame of the existing society have never been accomplished without the force of arms. Feudalism received its death blow through the great French revolution a century ago, which at the same time gave form to modern capitalism. Capitalism now is speedily attaining its most extreme character, that is, it is developing into monopolism. Wealth concentrates itself more and more in a few hands and the misery and poverty of the great mass of people is consequently enlarging in the same degree. The rich get richer and the poor poorer. Like the ruling classes in the eighteenth century, so the same classes at the eve of the nineteenth century are deaf to the complaints and warnings of the disinherited, and blind to the misery and degradation which surround their luxuriously outfitted palaces. The natural result will be that perhaps before the nineteenth century will wing its last hours the people will arise en masse, expropriate the privileged and proclaim the freedom of the human race. It is wrong if people assert that the anarchists will be responsible for the coming revolution. No, the drones of society are the parties who will have to answer to the charge of being the cause of the prospective uprising of the people; for the rich and mighty have ears and hear not, and eyes and yet see not.

To abolish chattel slavery in this country a long and awful war took place. Notwithstanding the fact that indemnification was offered for their losses, the slaveholders would not bestow freedom upon their slaves. Now, in my judgment, he who believes that the modem slave holders—the capitalists—would voluntarily, without being forced to do so, give up their privileges and set free their wage-slaves, are poor students. Capitalists possess too much egotism to give way to reason. Their egotism is so enormous that they even refuse to grant subordinate and insignificant concessions. Capitalists and syndicates, for instance, rather lose millions of dollars than to accept the eight-hour labour system. Would a peaceable solution of the social question be possible, the anarchists would be the first ones to rejoice over it.

But is it not a fact that on the occasion of almost every strike the minions of the institution of private property—militia, police, deputy sheriffs, yea, even federal troops—are being called to the scenes of the conflict between capital and labour, in order to protect the interests of capital? Did it ever happen that the interests of labour were guarded by these forces? What peaceable means should the toilers employ? There is, for example, the strike. If the ruling classes want to enforce the ‘law’ they can have every striker arrested and punished for ‘intimidation’ and conspiracy. A strike can only be successful if the striking workingmen prevent their places being occupied by others. But this prevention is a crime in the eyes of the law. Boycott! In several states the ‘courts of justice’ have decided that the boycott is a violation of the law, and in consequence thereof a number of boycotters have had the pleasure of examining the inner construction of penitentiaries ‘for conspiracy’ against the interests of capital. ‘But,’ says some apostle of harmony, ‘there is something left which will help us; there is the ballot.’ No doubt many people who say this are honest in their belief.

But scarcely did the workingmen participate in the elections as a class, many representatives of ‘law and order’ advocate a limitation (in many instances even the total abolition) of the right of the proletarian to vote. People who read the Chicago Tribune and Times and other representative capitalistic organs, will confirm my statement. The propaganda among capitalists in favour of limiting the right to vote to tax payers—property owners—only, is increasing constantly, and will be realized whenever the political movement of the workingmen becomes really dangerous to the interests of capital. The ‘Law and Order League’ of capitalists recently organized all over the country to defeat the demands of organized labor, has declared that the workingmen must not be allowed to obtain power over the ballot box. They have so resolved everywhere.

The anarchists are not blind. They see the development of things and predict that a collision between the plebeians and patricians is inevitable. Therefore in time for the coming struggle—to arms! If threatening clouds are visible on the horizon, I advise my fellow man to carry an umbrella with him, so he will not get wet. Am I then the cause of the rain? No. So let me say plainly that, in my opinion, only by the force of arms can the wage slaves make their way out of capitalistic bondage.

As the court as well as the states attorney have plainly said, the verdict of death was rendered for the purpose of crushing the anarchistic and the socialistic movement. But I am satisfied that just the contrary has been accomplished by this barbarous measure. Thousands of workingmen have been led by our ‘conviction’ to study anarchism, and if we are executed, we can ascend the scaffold with the satisfaction that by our death, we have advanced our noble cause more than we could possibly have done had we grown as old as Methusalah.


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