Leon Czolgosz, et al.
by Jim Davies, 10/13/2011
On September 6th 1901 William McKinley offered him his hand in greeting, but his response was to knock it aside and shoot the President dead. He was given a fair trial and then electrocuted on October 29th. Government "justice" in those days was a deal swifter than today.
Why the interest in Czolgosz, here on the ZGB? - because he called himself an "anarchist", and McKinley's successor Theodore Roosevelt took him at his word and issued the following blood-curdling statement:
Nothing, said he of Teddy Bear fame (he'd hunted a number of inoffensive wild bears to death, but clever political PR has made him the patron saint of cuddly, furry animals) is more important; not foreign policy, not war, not fiscal policy, not social policy, nothing. Just suppress anarchists, that's the ticket. And from the viewpoint of government people, he was absolutely right; for anarchists alone propose to abolish government, and when abolished, nobody will be able to do any governing, warmaking or social engineering whatsoever.
To suppress a peaceful and reasoned expression of opinion such as this Blog and many other fine sites might, however, bring severe blowback to government people, so they have to be very circumspect while "free speech" is still valued by voters. But when a Leon Czolgosz does something violent and outrageous and calls himself an anarchist, no such restraint is needed. So Roosevelt told it like it is, without bothering to distinguish between peaceful anarchists like me and murderous ones like Leon. Why would he? - for he would know that the pen is far mightier than the sword, and the keyboard than the revolver.
Was Czolgosz right, in his self-description? - can there be such a person as a violent anarchist?
No. There can be an anarchist who chooses to use violence in self defense, which is an universal human right fully consistent with the self-ownership axiom, but there can not be an anarchist who uses violence to advance his aims because his aim is to terminate government - while the use of violence is the prime characteristic of government; so a killer or rapist or thief is one-person government in action, imposing his will upon his victim. The phrase is therefore an oxymoron; if a person initiates force, he cannot also be an anarchist. Pretty simple, right?
So Leon Czolgosz was wrong, and so are all soi-disant "anarchists" who propose to use force, in any way or degree, to advance their aims. There are quite a few of them, and it's a great pity, because it does violence to English and to logic and hands ammunition to the enemies of a voluntary society... like Teddy and all his predecessors and successors and all who sail in them.
He had associated, says Wiki, with several leading "anarcho-socialists" including Emma Goldman. He dabbled in socialism but it didn't "gel" with him, and from a warning notice put out by the Free Society [sic] newspaper it appears the feeling was mutual. At age 28 it seems he hadn't yet clarified his beliefs and that is abundantly confirmed by his murder of McKinley; he was exercising ultimate rule over that man's life, and so was no an-archist, ie a believer in no-rule. In so doing, he reflected the confusion found in the minds of all "socialist anarchists" because to one degree or another, all of them would, having somehow abolished the existing order, impose a new one by force.
That was true even of one of the most kindly and sincere - the Russian, Pyotr Kropotkin. Born a Prince with 1,200 serfs, he repudiated that system and all his life searched for a better one and was known as an anarchist; but, like Czolgosz, never tore himself away from socialist ideas like syndicalism, or worker control of factories. The distinction is this: if, in a free society, people associate to set up or purchase a workplace such as a factory and then work in it, well and good! - nobody's property rights are violated, no force is used, no governing is committed. But if an existing enterprise is commandeered by its employees against the will of the existing owning shareolders, obviously that's theft; such force is socialism in action and one example of it is enshrined in Amendment Five; "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." So theft in the USA is legalized, provided the thief pays what he declares to be a "fair" price. A truly fair transaction would be one only the market can provide, ie one leaving each party equally satisfied in a voluntary deal.
It's a puzzle to me that any socialist would even wish to call himself also an anarchist, since the words contradict one another; but many do. Possibly it's all part of a massive disinformation program to discredit true anarchists in public understanding. Do help, won't you, to set the record straight?