4. terror and virtue

Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as ‘right’ in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as ‘brute force.’ This replacement of the power of the individual by the power of a community constitutes the decisive step of civilization.

— Sigismund Schlomo Freud, 6 May 185623 September 1939,  
Civilization and Its Discontents, 1929[0]  

In 1905, at the height of his renown as the creator of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud published a deceptively slight volume on the clandestine nature of jokes. According to Freud, jokes employ the methods of condensation, displacement, and indirect representation through allusion, absurdity, and substitution of trivialities for matters of profound importance, in the service of man’s repressed instinctual nature, epitomized in the instincts of sex and aggression. These instincts serve as the wellspring of all wit. In civilized society, they seldom wield direct influence over human affairs. Only owing to a momentary suspension of salubrious repressions that constrain them in the service of the super-ego, do sexuality and aggression enter into collective consciousness. Thus jokes enable the brief pleasure in discharging the energy of the anticathexis responsible for maintaining these repressions.
    The nature of this discharge is best illuminated by example:[1]

Itzig ist zur Artillerie eingeteilt worden. Er ist offenbar ein intelligenter Bursche, aber ungeschickt und ohne Interesse für den Dienst. Einer seiner Vorgesetzten, der ihm wohlgesinnt ist, nimmt ihn beiseite und sagt ihm: «Itzig, du taugst nicht bei uns. Ich will dir einen Rat geben: Kauf dir eine Kanone und mach dichselbständig.» Itzig has been declared fit for service in the artillery. He was clearly an intelligent lad, but intractable and without any interest in the service. One of his superior officers, who was friendlily disposed to him, took him on one side and said to him: “Itzig, you’re no use to us. I’ll give you a piece of advice: buy yourself a cannon and make yourself independent!”

Freud goes to some trouble to explain the joke. The advice, says he, is obvious nonsense. Cannons are not to be bought and an individual cannot make himself independent as a military unit — set himself up in business, as it were. But in so far as the advice is not mere nonsense, but a joking nonsense, it merits scrutiny of the means whereby the nonsense is turned into a joke. And here Freud infers that “[t]he officer who gives Artilleryman Itzig this nonsensical advice is only making himself out stupid to show Itzig how stupidly he himself is behaving. He is copying Itzig: ‘I’ll give you some advice that’s as stupid as you are.’ He enters into Itzig stupidity and makes it clear to him by taking it as the basis of a suggestion which would fit in with Itzig wishes: if Itzig possessed a cannon of his own and carried out military duties on his own account, how useful his ambition and intelligence would be to him! In what good order he would keep his cannon and how familiar he would make himself with its mechanism so as to meet the competition of the other possessors of cannons!”
    In this hasty reading, Freud seems disingenuous in decrying Itzig’s stupidity. After all, his underachieving artillerist hero, denied the opportunity to make a snappy comeback, shares his name with the quick-witted protagonist of Freud’s favorite joke: “Itzig, wohin reit’st Du?” “Weiss ich, frag das Pferd.” That other Itzig has no idea where he is riding to. All interested parties should ask the horse. In a hallowed equation, his self-deprecation compensates for his complacency. As an admirer of this tranquil rider, the physician who built his worldview on a painstaking investigation of ostensible coincidences is unlikely to have overlooked this instance of homonymy. The implication of Freud planting his tongue in cheek is borne out by the fact that the butts of each joke derive their shared name from an aphaeresis omitting the first letter of the German word Witzig, witty or jocular.[2] Through the silence of its protagonist, the joke evinces an elusive quality that resists interpretative closure, suggesting great deeds to come from this intelligent but intractable Jewish underachiever. Be it real or feigned, Freud’s confidence in the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force already rang hollow upon publication in 1905. The reluctant artillerist had come into his own. His self-employment inaugurated a new stage in democratic pluralism. No longer will this plebe be meekly carried along by the steed of History.

    The legitimacy of the state’s monopoly had been previously undermined by revolutionary cataclysms. The concept of terrorism, as the means of establishing the reign of terror, first emerged in 1793. On 7 May 1794, state terrorism received its consecration in one of Maximilien Robespierre’s beautiful sayings so cherished by Charles Baudelaire:[3]

Si le ressort du gouvernement populaire dans la paix est la vertu, le ressort du gouvernement populaire en révolution est à la fois la vertu et la terreur : la vertu, sans laquelle la terreur est funeste; la terreur, sans laquelle la vertu est impuissante. La terreur n’est autre chose que la justice prompte, sévère, inflexible; elle est donc une émanation de la vertu; elle est moins un principe particulier, qu’une conséquence du principe général de la démocratie, appliqué aux plus pressans besoins de la patrie. If the recourse of democratic government in time of peace is virtue, the recourse of democratic government in revolution is at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an issuance of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs.

Thus inaugurated by Maximilien Robespierre, sustained by his friends in the Committee of Public Safety, state terror was adopted by revolutionary France as its official instrument between the suppression of the Girondins and the reaction of Thermidor. Its defining characteristic was a lack of concern with connections between personal guilt and capital punishment. In principle, most political practices of modernity can be traced back to classical antiquity. The novelty of Robespierre lies in adjoining the reliance upon terror in wartime, to the traditional liberal foundation of democracy in virtue, traceable to Aristotle via Montesquieu. By contrast, the old regime never had any reason to ground its terror in democratic virtue.
    Terrorism entered the repertory of private citizens only with the emergence of counter-revolutionary reaction. In the spirit of Modernity, its ascendance was due to a privately accomplished scientific advance. Following six years of risky experiments that claimed the life of his younger brother Emil, in 1866 Alfred Nobel succeeded in stabilizing nitroglycerine, a highly volatile explosive liquid. By mixing it with silica, he produced a safely pliable paste that presented no danger until and unless it was deliberately detonated with a blasting cap. Nobel called his invention dynamite, deriving its name from the Greek term for power. It was the most significant contribution to social work since the invention of black powder.[4]
    Nobel received his first patent for dynamite in 1867. That year Baudelaire died, suffering the last sacrament after muttering blasphemies for seventeen months of aphastic hemiplegia. That year Napoleon III invited the world to wonder at another Great Exposition in Paris. That year his nemesis Bismarck formed the North German Confederation under the leadership of Prussia. That year Garibaldi marched on Rome, only to taste defeat at the hands of the Papal army and a French expeditionary force. That year Japan committed to the Meiji period of forced modernization, leaving behind its 265 year-long stasis of the Tokugawa Shogunate. That year Russia sold Alaska to the U.S.A. for $7.2 million, netting approximately two cents an acre. That year the Universal Company of the Suez Ship Canal announced a public subscription for 333,333 shares of its stock. That year Ibsen published Peer Gynt, Bagehot published The English Constitution, and Marx published the first volume of Das Kapital. From that year on, until his death in 1896, Alfred Nobel dedicated his career to the art of destruction, obtaining hundreds of patents and commercializing his wondrous invention worldwide.

    Nobel’s efforts were richly rewarded by brisk popular adoption of his invention. Dynamite opened new industrial vistas and precipitated dramatic social change. Its worldwide sales enabled its inventor to amass a vast personal fortune, eventually bequeathed to the cause of tacit expiation. In anticipation of mutually assured destruction, Nobel strove to produce material or a machine so devastating in its effect that thenceforth war would be impossible. In 1891, he justified his enterprise to Countess Bertha von Suttner, a future laureate of his Peace Prize: “Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your congresses: on the day that two army corps can mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilized nations will surely recoil with horror and disband their troops.” From the vantage point of the third millennium, it is hard not to view Nobel’s logic as parodic. Innumerable nations are built and remade by men making their first public appearances on wanted posters. William Tell, George Washington, Michael Collins, Charles de Gaulle, and Mao Zedong, all acquired legitimacy and sovereignty by taking to heart, in one way or another, the condescension suffered by Itzig. And given the trickling down of innovations, the doomsday device is sooner or later bound to fall in the hands of individuals whose destructive personal agenda cannot be constrained by fear of retaliation that binds rational parties acting on the behalves of their societies. Thus Nobel’s invention was fast becoming the focal point of a popular cult.
    Russian innovators set a powerful example for the West.[5] With its government unconstrained by a constitution, with its predominantly illiterate peasantry, with its antiquated industry, Russia was the most retarded major power of the 19th century. In 1867 its autocratic ruler was Alexander II. The eldest son of Emperor Nicholas I, he was born in Moscow on 17 April, 1818, and ascended to the throne on 19 February 1855, following the death of his father. Crowned on 26 August 1856, Alexander II came to power in the midst of his country’s impending humiliation by defeat in the Crimean War, fought against the British and French empires and the Ottoman Turks. Disgraced by the territorial and political concessions in the Treaty of Paris signed on 30 March 1856, Alexander II abandoned overseas expansion early in his reign. He concentrated instead on securing and modernizing his empire through buttressing its borders and reforming its administration. These accomplishments were tainted by compromise. His greatest military triumph of 1877-1878 against the Ottoman Empire caused the annulment of the Treaty of Paris, and precipitated the liberation of the Balkans from Moslem rule. At the same time, it led to financial ruin and political embarrassment. Above all, Russian radicals were disgruntled by the penury that ensued from the long anticipated liberation of the serfs through the 1861 Edict of Emancipation.
    From this frustration of far-reaching hopes emerged a loosely structured secret society called Land and Liberty, Zemlya i Volya. Inspired by the anarchism of Mikhail Bakunin, Land and Liberty sought to precipitate further progress by political violence. On 4 April 1866, thanks to the intervention of a loyal subject, the tsar narrowly escaped the revolver shot fired at close range by the former student Dmitry Karakozov. His reprisals against the revolution in the rescript of 23 May 1866 targeted the universities and the press with special vigilance. Many radicalized students chose to reciprocate their repression. At first, their homicidal skills fell well short of professional standards. When the school teacher Alexander Soloviev, formerly a student of the Petersburg University, emptied his revolver at the tsar on 20 April 1879, military training served his royal target in good stead. Alexander II escaped Soloviev’s bullets by weaving a zigzag trajectory with his hasty retreat. Thus, when People’s Will, Narodnaya Volya, the terrorist wing splintered from Land and Liberty, condemned the tsar to death, its followers chose further ranging means of carrying out their sentence.
    Dynamite had entered Russian popular culture twelve years earlier, in the wake of its use in the Russo-Turkish war of 18771878. It soon turned into the preferred means of revolutionary persuasion. Radicalized by imprisonment for criminal possession of The Communist Manifesto, former engineering student Nikolay Kibalchich took time off his design of rocket-propelled spacecraft, to perfect the composition of dynamite and the construction of hand-propelled bombs set to detonate upon impact. Then his People’s Will confederate Stepan Khalturin got employed in the royal residence of the Winter Palace as a carpenter. After smuggling in nearly 50 kilos of specially blended dynamite, Khalturin set up a mine under the royal dining room. Unbeknownst to the bomb plotters, the royal dinner was delayed. When the charge went off on 17 February 1880, the tsar was not to be found among the 67 casualties. The next execution attempt was set for 1 March 1881. Frustrated by domestic intrigue, People’s Will took to the streets of Petersburg. Their new plot included Sophia Perovskaya, Andrei Zhelyabov, Gesya Gefman, Nikolay Sablin, Ignaty Grinevitsky, Nikolay Rysakov, and Timofei Mikhailov. Peter Kropotkin, the gentle apostle of anarchism, described it as follows:

It is known how it happened. A bomb was thrown under his iron-clad carriage, to stop it. Several Circassians of the escort were wounded. Rysakóff, who flung the bomb was arrested on the spot. Then, although the coachman of the Tsar earnestly advised him not to get out, saying that he could drive him still in the slightly damaged carriage, he insisted upon alighting. He felt that his military dignity required him to see the wounded Circassians, to condole with them as he had done with the wounded during the Turkish war, when a mad storming of Plevna, doomed to end in a terrible disaster, was made on the day of his fête. He approached Rysakóff and asked him something; and as he passed close by another young man, Grinevétsky, the latter threw a bomb between himself and Alexander II, so that both of them should be killed. They both lived but a few hours.

    There Alexander II lay upon the snow, profusely bleeding, abandoned by every one of his followers! All had disappeared. It was cadets, returning from the parade, who lifted the suffering Tsar from the snow and put him in a sledge, covering his shivering body with a cadet mantle and his bare head with a cadet cap. And it was one of the terrorists, Emeliánoff, with a bomb wrapped in a paper under his arm, who, at the risk of being arrested on the spot and hanged, rushed with the cadets to the help of the wounded man. Human nature is full of these contrasts.

    Alexander III succeeded his martyred father. On 15 April 1881, five revolutionaries mounted the scaffold. Sophia Perovskaya, a noblewoman, Andrei Zhelyabov, a liberated serf, Nikolai Rysakov, a petty bourgeois, Timofei Mikhailov, a worker, and Nikolay Kibalchich, son of a priest — all five Russian estates had united in regicide.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection on Blood was erected on the site of their bombing. Long accustomed to mitigating its despotism by strangulation, the Russian Empire never recovered from this explosive demise of a liberalizing regime. Further escalation of propaganda by the deed took place in the New World.
    On 1 May 1886, a general strike swept across the United States. On the same day, a stranger came into an Indianapolis saloon kept by John Phillip Deluse. The man was of a medium size, about five feet two, three, or four inches. He had a moustache. He wore a dark suit and carried a small satchel about one and one half feet long. He said “I come from New York and I guess I will go to Chicago. You will hear of some trouble there very soon.” Pointing to his satchel, he continued “I have got something in here that will work. You will hear of it.” The man drank his whiskey. As he went through the door, he turned around. Holding up his satchel, he repeated his words: “You will hear of it soon.” From the appearance of the satchel and from the manner of the man holding it, Deluse guessed that it contained something heavy.[6]
    Three days later, on 4 May 1886, the general strike culminated with the explosion of the first dynamite bomb thrown in America. The infernal device mortally wounded police officer Matthias J. Degan and injured several of his colleagues during a labor rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. A spontaneous police action ensued. As a result, seven other police officers were fatally wounded and sixty more were injured in the hail of predominantly friendly fire that also achieved an unaccounted number of civilian casualties.

A roundup of the usual suspects took place under the direction of Inspector John Bonfield and Captain Michael J. Schaack, commander of the Chicago Avenue station on the North Side. Several eyewitnesses fingered Rudolph Schnaubelt as the likely bomb-thrower. A tall and powerfully built anarchist given to inflammatory outbursts against Chicago’s finest, Schnaubelt was a plausible candidate for precisely tossing a heavy missile in their midst. He was arrested and “quizzed and sweated” three days after the explosion, but was inexplicably released without charge, enabling him to get away from the city and recede into anonymity. In the sweep of the usual anarchist suspects, the Chicago police arrested Samuel Fielden, an Englishman, and six German immigrants, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab. The police also sought Albert R. Parsons, one of the speakers at the Haymarket meeting, who had left well before the explosion. The only native born American among the Haymarket defendants, descendant of a noted New England family, Parsons was born in Alabama and raised in Texas. In the Civil War, he served the Confederacy as a soldier in the cavalry under the command of his brother. After the war, Parsons reconsidered his Confederate ideas and served in the Reconstruction government of Texas before rejecting democratic action and becoming a leader of the anarchist International Working Peoples Association in Chicago.
    A grand jury was empanelled on 17 May, presenting ten days later a sixty-nine-count indictment of Engel, Fielden, Fischer, Lingg, Neebe, Parsons, Schwab, Spies, and Schnaubelt for the murder of Officer Degan. That was the one death clearly attributable to the bomb and not to the ensuing gunfire. Parsons managed to avoid capture for six weeks. However, intending to stand by his comrades and expecting to carry the day with his innocence, Parsons surrendered voluntarily during the afternoon of 21 June 1886.
    State’s Attorney Julius Grinnell asked the jury: “Convict these men, make examples of them, hang them, and you save our institutions.” But the prosecution was unable to prove that any one of the eight defendants had advance knowledge of the Haymarket tragedy, let alone aided or abetted its unidentified perpetrators. The two witnesses that placed Spies and Schwab at the scene of the crime, were roundly discredited by the defense. Numerous others testified that none of the accused threw the bomb. The prosecution therefore changed the indictment to the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Its case eventually reduced to the allegation that the unknown bomb-thrower had been impelled to commit his act through speeches made and articles written by the defendants. Accordingly, Judge Joseph E. Gary refused to instruct the jury, as the defense had asked, that a guilty verdict required evidence that showed a clear connection between the defendants and the bomb-throwing. Similarly, he refused to require that the jurors had to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the eight men on trial had entered into an illegal conspiracy involving someone who was directly or indirectly responsible for the bomb. On the contrary, Gary allowed the jury to read speeches and articles by the defendants where they had argued in favor of using violence to obtain political change. The judge then told the jury that if they believed, from the evidence, that these speeches and articles contributed toward the throwing of the bomb, they were justified in finding the defendants guilty. The prosecution entered as People’s Exibits other discussions of dynamite that so inspired and energized anarchists, and angered and terrified their enemies, verged on incantations to the explosive’s magical ability to make a single worker the equal of the gathered minions of capital. An editorial in the Alarm of 15 November 1884 read:

Dynamite is the emancipator! In the hand of the enslaved it cries aloud: “Justice or—annihilation!” But best of all, the workingmen are not only learning its use, they are going to use it. They will use it, and effectually, until personal ownership—property rights—are destroyed, and a free society and justice becomes the rule of action among men. There will then be no need for government since there will be none who will submit to be governed. Hail to the social revolution! Hail to the deliverer—Dynamite.

Among the documents so considered, the clearest position statement emerged from the letter by anarchist Gerhard Lizius, published on 21 February 1885 in The Alarm, one of Chicago’s numerous anarchist newspapers:

Dynamite! of all the good stuff, this is the stuff. Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe, gas or water pipe, plug up both ends, insert a cap with fuse attached, place this in the immediate neighborhood of a lot of rich loafers, who live by the sweat of other people’s brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow. In giving dynamite to the downtrodden millions of the globe, science has done its best work. The dear stuff can be carried around in the pocket without danger, while it is a formidable weapon against any force of militia, police or detectives that may want to stifle the cry for justice that goes forth from the plundered slaves. It is something not very ornamental, but exceedingly useful. It can be used against persons and things; it is better to use it against the former than against bricks and masonry. It is a genuine boon for the disinherited, while it brings terror and fear to the robbers. It brings terror only to the guilty, and consequently the Senator who introduced a bill in congress to stop its manufacture and use, must be guilty of something. He fears the wrath of an outraged people that has been duped and swindled by him and his like. The same must be the case with the “servant” of the people who introduced a like measure in the senate of the Indiana Legislature. All the good this will do. Like everything else, the more you prohibit it, the more will it be done… A pound of this good stuff bears a bushel of ballots all hollow, and don’t you forget it. Our law makers might as well try to sit down on the crater of a volcano or a bayonet as to endeavor to stop the manufacture and use of dynamite. It takes more justice and right than is contained in laws to quiet the spirit of unrest. If workingmen would be truly free, they must learn to know why they are slaves. They must rise above petty prejudice and learn to think. From thought to action is not far, and when the worker has seen the chains, he need but look a little closer to find near at hand the sledge with which to shatter every link. The sledge is dynamite…

The defense rhetoric was no less florid, describing the accused as “men of broad feelings of humanity,” declaring “that their only desire has been, and their lives have been consecrated to, the betterment of their fellow-men,” and comparing them to Jesus Christ, “the great Socialist of Judea.” More to the point, defense counsel reminded the jurors that, contrary to Grinnell’s statements, law and anarchy were not on trial. The charge was murder and not treason. On Friday, 20 August 1886, after only a few hours of deliberating the previous afternoon and evening, the jury reached a verdict. The following morning the jury foreman Frank Osborne handed the clerk two verdicts. In the first verdict, the jury found Oscar Neebe guilty of murder “in manner and form as changed in the indictment,” and sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. In the second verdict, the jury found August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, and Louis Lingg guilty of the same crime, and fixed the penalty at death.
    Between October 7 and 9 the condemned men spoke to the court—first Spies, then Schwab, Neebe, Fischer, Lingg, Engel, Fielden, and finally Parsons, who declaimed for eight hours over two days. While his fellow defendants had used at least a portion of their time to vent their disappointed hopes for a better America, as the only confirmed bomb-maker amongst them, Lingg would have none of this. Theretofore seemingly indifferent to the trial, he bitterly thanked the court for conceding him the liberty of a final speech. A man whose scrupulous honesty and conscientious dealings with his fellow men could not go unacknowledged even by his bitterest police adversary, Lingg sheered at the judicial process based on the perjuries of “squealers” and “hireling knaves”. He extolled anarchy and its opposition to “the universal misery, the ravages of the capitalist hyena.” He assured his enemies that his death would be avenged by the masses. “IF YOU CANNONADE US we shall dynamite you,” Lingg thundered at his audience. “I despise you, I despise your order; your laws, your force-propped authority. HANG ME FOR IT!” Ever the theoretician, Parsons justified himself in an eloquent encomium to his favorite means of political persuasion:

WHY, THEN, AM I CALLED A DYNAMITER? Listen, and I will tell you. Gunpowder in the fifteenth century marked an era in the world’s history. It was the downfall of the mail armor of he knight, the freebooter, and the robber of that period. It enabled the victims of these highway robbers to stand off at a distance in a safe place and defend themselves by the use of gunpowder, and make a ball enter and pierce into the flesh of their robbers and destroyers. Gunpowder came as a democratic instrument. It came as a republican institution, and the effect was that it immediately began to equalize and bring about an equilibrium of power. There was less power in the hands of the nobility after that; less power in the hands of the king; less power in the hands of those who would plunder and degrade and destroy the people after that.
    So today DYNAMITE COMES AS THE EMANCIPATOR OF MAN from the domination and enslavement of his fellow-man. [The Judge showed symptoms of impatience.] Bear with me now. Dynamite is the diffusion of power. It is democratic; it makes everybody equal. General Sheridan says “arms are worthless.” They are worthless in the presence of this instrument. Nothing can meet it. The Pinkertons, the police, the militia, are absolutely worthless in the presence of dynamite. They can do nothing with the people at all. It is the equilibrium. It is the annihilator. It is the disseminator of power. It is the downfall of oppression. It is the abolition of authority; IT IS THE DAWN OF PEACE; it is the end of war, because war cannot exist unless there is somebody to make war upon, and dynamite makes that unsafe, undesirable, and absolutely impossible. It is a peace-maker; it is man’s best and last friend; it emancipates the world from the domineering of the few over the many, because all government, in the last resort, is violence; all law, in the last resort, is force. Everything is based upon force. Force is the law of the universe; force is the law of nature, and this newly discovered force MAKES ALL MEN EQUAL AND THEREFORE FREE.

    Parsons, Spies, Fisher, Engel, and Lingg had their sentences affirmed on appeal. Fielden and Fischer, as the only two defendants who asked for mercy, had their sentences commuted, to life in prison. On 10 November 1887, Lingg reconsidered his taunt by exploding a dynamite cap in his mouth. His face torn to bits, the young anarchist lingered for six hours before expiring. On the next day, Engel, Spies, Fisher, and Parsons took turns mounting the gallows. As the noose was placed around his neck, Spies shouted out: “There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!” Next in line, Fischer spoke only eight words: “This is the happiest moment of my life.” Parsons, the last to speak, shouted out “Will I be allowed to speak, o men of America? Let me speak, Sheriff Matson! Let the voice of the people be heard!” The voice of the people was silenced by Sheriff Matson, signaling to the executioner to spring the trap.

    Captain Schaack, who had played a major role in the arrests following the bombing, was determined to stay in the limelight in which Haymarket had placed him. Indefatigable at self-promoting and “not overscrupulous” in policing, Schaack made up for his absence from the Haymarket by thrusting himself into the public eye throughout its aftermath. He credited Bonfield and himself with the Haymarket prosecuton succeeding despite the incompetence and permissiveness of Superintendent Ebersold. In true entrepreneurial fashion Schaack collected nearly $300,000 for extracurricular investigations from prominent Chicago businessmen like Marshall Field, George Pullman, and Cyrus McCormick Jr., specially targeted as capitalist villains by anarchist invective. In the third volume of History of Chicago, published the same year as Haymarket, Alfred T. Andreas attributed 865 criminal arrests in an eleven-year period to Schaack. Schaack distinguished himself further with his 1889 Anarchy and Anarchists, the most comprehensive contemporaneous history of the Haymarket affair:

In the year 1866, according to the most trustworthy authorities, dynamite was first made by Alfred Nobel. In speaking of the invention, Adolf [sic.] Houssaye, the French litterateur, recently said:
    It should be remembered that nine-tenths, probably, of the dynamite made is used in peaceful pursuits; in mining, and similar works. Indeed, since its invention great engineering achievements have been accomplished which would have been entirely impossible without it. I do not see, then, much room for doubt that it has on the whole been a great blessing to humanity. Such certainly its inventor regards it. “If I did not look upon it as such,” I heard him say recently, “I should close up all my manufactories and not make another ounce of the stuff.” He is a strong advocate of peace, and regards with the utmost horror the use of dynamite by assassins and political conspirators. When the news of the Haymarket tragedy in Chicago reached him, M. Nobel was in Paris, and I well remember his expressions of horror and detestation at the cowardly crime.
    “Look you,” he exclaimed. “I am a man of peace. But when I see these miscreants misusing my invention, do you know how it makes me feel? It makes me feel like gathering the whole crowd of them into a storehouse full of dynamite and blowing them all up together!”

Echoing Lingg threatening him, Schaack concluded: “Dynamite, however, is the weapon with which the ‘revolution’ has armed itself for its assault upon society. A terrible arm truly, but one difficult to handle, dangerous to hold, and certainly no stronger in their hands than in ours, if it should ever become necessary to use it in defense of law and order.”
    By the time Schaack’s magnum opus was published, both he and Bonfield had been cashiered from the police force for trafficking in stolen goods and extorting saloon-keepers, prostitutes, and thieves. The corruption of their past and present confederates remains inextricably intertwined with their efforts to take down the Black Flag. Thus the extent to which the propagation of dynamite was due to sincere believers in the anarchist cause, or to agents provocateurs acting on behalf of law and order, is forever bound to remain obscure.
    Nevertheless, responding to the mounting doubts as to the justice of their convictions, on 26 June 1893, newly elected Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the surviving anarchists, earning widespread opprobrium from the friends of law and order.

When Altgeld lost his reelection campaign in 1896, his enemies attributed the end of his political career to the pardon. Meanwhile, in Paris in 1889 the Second International called for demonstrations of labor solidarity in commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs on the 1st of May of the following year, causing May Day to be observed worldwide ever since. Its celebration was not long in setting off a chain of terror and expiation.
    By 1929, in the aftermath of the carnage of World War I, and in anticipation of greater destruction to come, Freud turned his speculative gaze toward issues of world-historical scale. Increasingly pessimistic as to the social prospects of human culture and altogether dismissive as to the availability of individual happiness, he accounted for the cruel and indispensable mechanisms of repression responsible for maintaining precarious balances that serve as the prerequisite of civic order:[7]

What means does civilization employ in order to inhibit the aggressiveness which opposes it, to make it harmless, to get rid of it, perhaps? We have already become acquainted with a few of these methods, but not yet with the one that appears to be the most important. This we can study in the history of the development of the individual. What happens in him to render his desire for aggression innocuous? Something very remarkable, which we should never have guessed and which is nevertheless quite obvious. His aggressiveness is introjected, internalized; it is, in point of fact, sent back to where it came from—that is, it is directed towards his own ego. There it is taken over by a portion of the ego, which sets itself over against the rest of the ego as super-ego, and which now, in the form of ‘conscience’, is ready to put into action against the ego the same harsh aggressiveness that the ego would have liked to satisfy upon other, extraneous individuals. The tension between the harsh super-ego and the ego that is subjected to it, is called by us the sense of guilt; it expresses itself as a need for punishment. Civilization, therefore, obtains mastery over the individual’s dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city.

Then, as now, unwanted heirs of Alfred Nobel have carried the day. Dynamite and its increasingly volatile descendants still pass in the hands of insubordinate individuals in riotous cities, serving as the means of production of those essential commodities of political modernity, hatred, strife, and chaos. In defying the foundations of social order, their makers continue to pose a challenge to the rational conception of political power. In so far as it derives its inspiration in religion or grounds its justification in ideology, terrorism stands at odds with necessary conditions of public reason. The stakes continue to increase. The premisses of emancipation continue to accrue. It is only a matter of raising the explosive yield beyond the resilience of social order. Nuclear explosives can no more be interdicted in the XXIst century, than dynamite could be interdicted in the XIXth. The integrity of our institutions in their duty to countermand the imperatives of these infernal devices is warranted no better now than it was then. In coping with their fallout, we cannot avoid the predicament identified by Robespierre. The recourse of democratic governments in the face of ongoing Islamofascist revolutions is at once virtue and terror. Our political identity and cultural continuance therefore depend on mutual support between terror and virtue.


[0] Sigmund Freud, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, 1929, translated by James Strachey as Civilization and Its Discontents, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989, Chapter III, p. 49.

[1] Sigmund Freud, Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten, Leipzig, Vienna: Dueticke, 1905, p. 44, translated by James Strachey as Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989, p. 64.

[2] See his letter to Wilhelm Fliess, 7 July 1898, in Aus den Anfängen der Psychoanalyse (The Origins of Psychoanalysis), Frankfurt: Fischer, 1950, p. 275. In his genial embrace of Yiddishkeit, Freud is free of the self-loathing that compels Karl Kraus to decry the speed with which every Itzig Witzig today rhymes ästhetisch [aesthetic] with Teetisch [tea-table].

[3] See Mon cœur mis à nu, V.8, OC I, p. 679; Maximilien Robespierre, Œuvres complètes, ed. Eugène Déprez et al., Paris, 1910-1967, vol. X, p. 357, quoted by David P. Jordan in “The Robespierre problem”, in Colin Haydon, William Doyle (editors), Robespierre, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 29. All translations are by MZ, unless noted otherwise.

[4] References on Alfred Nobel: TBA.

[5] References on Russian history: TBA.

[6] The principal synthesis of the Haymarket Affair remains the magisterial study by the late Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy, Princeton University Press, 1984. Court transcripts and newspaper articles are quoted from linked online sources, accessed at the time of this posting.

[7] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989, Chapter VII, pp. 83-84.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus, [info]real_philosophy, and [info]history in commemoration of Sigmund Freud’s sesquicentennial.

12 thoughts on “4. terror and virtue”

  1. Your references are better, than your analysis

    Islamofascism is nothing but an empty propaganda term. And wartime propaganda is usually, if not always, crafted to produce hysteria, the destruction of any sense of proportion. Such words, undefined and unmeasured, are used by people more interested in making us lose our heads than in keeping their own.”

    —Joseph Sobran, Catholic commentator.

    1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

      The propensity to impose religious orthodoxy on the state and the citizenry will do nicely as a basis for definition and measurement.

      1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

        Imposing religious beliefs on others, like in this: I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …” And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, “Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.” And by God I’m gonna do it.'” ?

        Anyway, if a state’s adherence to religious orthodoxy were the yardstick by which Washington picks allies and enemies in the Middle East, the list of the former and the latter would have looked quite differently. Methinks the proposed definition has an unpublished appendix.

        1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

          It would be impossible to overstate my unconcern with Washingtonian apologetics. But consider the source of “Nabil Shaath says”.
              You seem to be having an issue with the idea of the separation of church and state. On the other hand, you have persuaded me to omit the Islamofascist troll from the next revision. Thanks for the inspiration.

          1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

            You seem to be having an issue with the idea of the separation of church and state.

            Not in the slightest. I am merely pointing out, that if the degree of the said separation figured among the criteria that the US policy planners use to select Middle East allies, than neither the harsh Wahhabi theocracy nor nuclear-armed creator of Taliban would have been among them.

            And once thae fanciful notion that the US in the Middle is “fighting Islamofascism” is dispatched, what reasons are you left with ? Surely you don’t believe that Iraq had ever anything to do with attacks of 2001 ?

            1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

              Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Consider the possibility that the U.S. venture in Iraq means to promote democratic values among peoples of alternative complexions and competing confessions. Unsavory alliances elsewhere are a separate matter. So is the character of George W. Bush. I have no need to admire the intellectual capacity or the moral integrity of Ronald Reagan, to appreciate and honor his contribution to tearing down that wall.

              1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

                Consider the possibility that the U.S. venture in Iraq means to promote democratic values among peoples of alternative complexions and competing confessions.

                There have to be some evidence before such an unlikely possibility may be entertained. And heartfelt assurances of the US politicians and media/intellectual circles do not count, I regret to mention.

                1. Re: Your references are better, than your analysis

                  Prima facie plausibility is satisfied by relevant policy statements by Maximilien Robespierre and George W. Bush, du sublime au ridicule. As I said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Which is to say that the burden of proof always falls on the purveyor of conspiracy theories.

                  1. Doublethink

                    Over there, you emphasize your unconcern with “Washingtonian apologetics”, yet over here you expect that Bush and co. assurances be taken at a face value ?

                    Rather, given the historical record of the American involvement in the Third World, including the recent examples of the US reaction to the elections in Venezuela and Palestinian autonomy, the assertion that the rulers of America care about a democracy deserves the status of a conspiracy theory.

                    1. Re: Doublethink

                      Michael, you know better than that, or ought to. No responsible man cares about promoting democracy as such, nor should he. Political philosophy owes little to Tocqueville for his analysis of the tyranny of the majority in De la Démocratie en Amérique I, Deuxième partie, Chapitre VII. Aristotle deserves the credit for repudiating democracy in the Politics III at 1279b:4-10. In the context of American politics, and U.S. Policy statements, democracy is a shorthand term for some descendant of Aristotelian polity, most commonly a constitutional republic. Whereas your examples exhibit the traits of unjust deviance in favor of rule by the poor, on which see also Plato’s Republic 8, 552a.

                    2. Re: Doublethink

                      By all means, let us understand “democracy” in this way. Still, in view of the long record of Washington’s support for the assorted thugs and death squads worldwide, the only evidence that all those Reagan era incumbents now in charge had the sudden moral reawakening are their own solemn assurances to that effect.

                      In my examples, the objections are raised not to the electoral system, but to the results of the election. If when the approved by the US elites party wins, it’s democracy, wheras when the other wins – it’s the unjust rule of the poor, why bother with the ballots at all ? Why not simply declare the winner of the democratic contest by the cable from Washington ?

                    3. Re: Doublethink

                      In your examples, legitimate objections that concern me are raised to subversion of democracy brought upon by democratic means:

                      Venezuela is an improbable country to have fallen into this political abyss. It is vast, wealthy, relatively modern and cosmopolitan, with a strong private sector and a homogeneous mixed-race population with little history of conflict. Democracy was supposed to have prevented its decline into a failed state. Yet once President Chávez gained control over the government, his rule became exclusionary and profoundly undemocratic.
                      Moisés Naím, Hugo Chavez and the Limits of Democracy, The New York Times, March 5, 2003

                      But Mr. Chavez does not genuinely accept democracy or the rule of law. He delayed the referendum for a year through legal manipulation and political dirty tricks. Now he flirts with outright political repression in an attempt to determine its outcome. In that sense, Sumate and its leaders are the proverbial canary in the coal mine: If they are prosecuted or jailed, the world will know that Venezuela’s referendum is tainted.
                      —Editorial, A Venezuelan Monitor, The Washington Post, July 30, 2004

                      For the moment, [Teodoro Petkoff] is on the sidelines. “Chávez has two pedals,” he said: “One is formal democracy and the other is authoritarianism, and he steps on one or the other as circumstances dictate. At every election, the results are close to being evenly divided [for and against him], and he knows how to read and weigh those results correctly. Aside from everything else, the sector that is against him is the most dynamic [of the economy]. And if he were to crush this sector he would have to do it a sangre y fuego — with blood and fire. But if Chávez sees that the 40 percent that is against him is growing weaker, he will step again on the authoritarian pedal.”
                      Alma Guillermoprieto, The Gambler, The New York Review of Books, Volume 52, Number 16, October 20, 2005

                      Chávez has the potential to disrupt this progress and revive Latin America’s old political habits. According to a recent poll, only about half of the region’s citizens — including minorities in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil — now believe that democracy is always the best form of government. Latin America is vulnerable, and Chávez has provided a blueprint not just for harnessing anti-Americanism but for the slow consolidation of power. Along the way, he may succeed in baiting the United States into a rhetorical fight that it can’t win, and impeding its international leadership. But ultimately, the United States will not be the biggest loser in the battle Chávez is waging. It will never suffer nearly as much as the people of the continent he dreams of liberating.
                      Franklin Foer, The Talented Mr. Chávez, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2006

                      The excerpted articles are well worth reading in their entirety. I recuse myself from providing counterparts to these complaints regarding the case of Hamas. Naming the precedents recounted by Plato and Thucydides is left as an exercise for the reader.

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