terrorism: worshiping dynamite

…While counting on the strategy of the Big Bang to disorganize bourgeois society, anarchist publications of the period also offered their readers practical hints for furthering the cause at the village or household level. “Burn down or blow up churches,” advised La Lutte Sociale ( “The Social Struggle”) . “Poison fruit and vegetables and offer them to the priests. Do the same with the big landowners. Let servants season the dishes of the bourgeoisie with poison. Let the peasant kill the rural constable with his shotgun.”


According to Emile Marenssin, a specialist on revolutionary violence, in the year 1892 alone some five hundred acts of terrorism occurred in the Western Hemisphere and more than a thousand in Europe.

The most spectacular exploits of anarchist terrorism in nineteenth-century France were probably the assassination of President Sadi Carnot in 1894, the bomb thrown from a public gallery onto the floor of the Chamber of Deputies in 1892, causing a number of flesh wounds, but no deaths or permanent injuries, and the explosion in a crowded Paris cafe in 1894 that killed one customer and wounded some twenty others.

The last outrage was perhaps the most significant psychologically. Its author, Emile Henry, a well-educated young man from a respectable bourgeois family, who for unknown reasons had turned into an anarchist fanatic, walked into the Cafe terminus, a large establishment near St. Lazare station, pulled a small but powerful homemade bomb out of his overcoat pocket, and threw it directly at the orchestra,which was playing on a dais in the middle of the room.


Source: Anarchist Encyclopedia;
From: Gazette des Tribunaux, 27-8 April 1894;
Translated: by George Woodcock.

Emile Henry: It is not a defence that I present to you. I am not in any way seeking to escape the reprisals of the society I have attacked. Besides, I acknowledge only one tribunal -myself, and the verdict of any other is meaningless to me. I wish merely to give you an explanation of my acts and to tell you how I was led to perform them.

I have been an anarchist for only a short time. It was as recently as the middle of the year 1891 that I entered the revolutionary movement, Up to that time, I had lived in circles entirely imbued with current morality. I had been accustomed to respect and even to love the principles of fatherland and family, of authority and property.

For teachers in the present generation too often forget one thing; it is that life, with its struggles and defeats, its injustices and iniquities, takes upon itself indiscreetly to open the eyes of the ignorant to

lity. This happened to me, as it happens to everyone. I had been told that life was easy, that it was wide open to those who were intelligent and energetic; experience showed me that only the cynical and the servile were able to secure good seats at the banquet.

I had been told that our social institutions were founded on justice and equality; I observed all around me nothing but lies and impostures.

Each day I shed an illusion. Everywhere I went, I witnessed the same miseries among some, and the same joys among others. I was not slow to understand that the grand words I had been taught to venerate: honour, devotion, duty, were only the mask that concealed the most shameful basenesses.

The manufacturer who created a colossal fortune out of the toil of workers who lacked everything was an honest gentleman. The deputy and the minister, their hands ever open for bribes, were devoted to the public good. The officer who experimented with a new type of rifle on children of seven had done his duty, and, openly in parliament, the president of the council congratulated him!

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