The Accused, the accusers: the famous speeches of the eight Chicago anarchists in court when asked if they had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon them. On October 7th, 8th and 9th, 1886, Chicago, Illinois. Speech of Michel Schwab, pp. 24 - 28
Chicago, Ill.: Socialistic Publishing Society, [1886?]
88 p.; 22 cm.
(CHS ICHi 31373)
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The Accused, the accusers: the famous speeches of the eight Chicago anarchists in court when asked if they had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon them. On October 7th, 8th and 9th, 1886, Chicago, Illinois.
Speech of Michel Schwab, pp. 24 - 28Go to Next Speaker | Return to Previous Speaker
It is not much I have to say. And I would say nothing at all if keeping silent did not look like a cowardly approval of what has been done here. To term the proceedings during the trial justice, would be a sneer. Justice has not been done, more than this, could not be done. If one class is arrayed against the other, it is idle and hypocritical to think about justice. Anarchy was on trial, as the State's Attorney put it in his closing speech. A doctrine, an opinion hostile to brute force, hostile to our present murderous system of production and distribution. I am condemned to die for writing newspaper articles and making speeches. The State's Attorney knows as well as I do that that alleged conversation between Mr. Spies and myself never took place. He knows a good deal more than that. He knows of all the beautiful work of his organizer Furthman. When I was before the Coroner's jury, two or three detectives swore very positive of having seen me at the Haymarket when Mr. Parsons finished his speech. I suppose they wanted at that time
For the first dispatches to Europe said that M. Schwab had thrown several bombs at the police. Later on they sent detectives to Lake View and found that would not do. And then Schnaubelt was the man.
Anarchy was on trial. Little did it matter who the persons were to be honored by the prosecution. It was the movement the blow was aimed at. It was directed against the labor movement, against Socialism, for today every labor movement must, of necessity, be socialistic.
Talk about a gigantic conspiracy! A movement is not a conspiracy. All we did
There were no secrets. We prophesied in word and writing the coming of a great revolution, a change in the system of production in all industrial countries of the globe. And the change will come, and must come. Is it not absurd, as the State's Attorney and his associates have done, to suppose that this social revolution-a change of such immense proportions-was to be inaugurated on or about the first of May in the city of Chicago by making war on the police! The organizer Furthman
searched hundreds of numbers of the Arbeiter-Zeitung and the Alarm, and so the prosecution must have known very well what we understood when we talked about the coming revolution. But the prosecuting attorneys preferred to ignore these explanatory articles.
The articles in evidence were carefully selected and paraded as samples of violent language, but the language used in them was just the same as newspapers used in general against us and their anemies. Even against the police and their practices they used words
The president of the Citizens' Association, Edwin Lee Brown, after the last election of Mayor Harrison, made a speech in North Side Turner Hall in which he called on all good citizens to take possession of the courthouse by force, even if they had to wade in blood. It seems to me that the most violent speakers are not to be found in the ranks of the Anarchists.
It is not violence in word or action the attorneys of the State and their urgers-on are waging war against; it is our doctrine-Anarchy.
We contend for communism and Anarchy-why? If we had kept silent, stones would have cried out. Murder was committed day by day. Children were slain, women worked to death, men killed inch by inch, and these crimes are never punished by law. The great principle underlying the present system is
Those who amass fortunes, build palaces, and live in luxury, are doing that by virtue of unpaid labor. Being directly or indirectly the possessors of land and machinery, they dictate their terms to the workingman. He is compelled to sell his labor cheap, or to starve. The price paid him is always far below the real value. He acts under compulsion, and they call it a free contract. This infernal state of affairs keeps him poor and ignorant; an easy prey for exploitation.
I know what life has in store for the masses. I was one of them. I slept in their garrets, and lived in their cellars. I saw them work and die. I worked with girls in the same factory-prostitutes they were, because they could not earn enough wages for their living. I saw females sick from overwork, sick in body and mind on account of the lives they were forced to lead. I saw girls from ten to fourteen years of age working for a mere pittance. I heard
by the foul and vile language and the bad example of their ignorant fellow-workers, leading them on to the same road of misery, and as an individual I could do nothing. I saw families starving and able-bodied men worked to death. That was in Europe. When I came to the United States, I found that there were classes of workingmen who were better paid than the European workmen, but I perceived that the state of things in a great number of industries was even worse, and that the so-called better paid skilled laborers were degrading rapidly into mere automatic parts of machinery. I found that the proletariat of the great industrial cities was in a condition that could not be worse. Thousands of laborers in the city of Chicago live in rooms without sufficient protection from the weather, without proper ventilation, where never a stream of sunlight flows in. There are hovels where two, three and four families live in one room. How these conditions influence the health and the morals of these unfortunate sufferers, it is needless to say. And how do they live? From the ash-barrels
in the butcher shops they buy for some cents offal of meat, and these precious morsels they carry home to prepare from them their meals. The delapidated houses in which this class of laborers live need repairs very badly, but the greedy landlord waits in most cases till he is compelled by the city to have them done. Is it a wonder that diseases of all kind kill men, women and children in such places by wholesale, especially children? Is this not horrible in a so-called civilized land where there is plenty of food and riches? Some years ago a committee of the Citizen's Association, or League, made an investigation of these matters, and I was one of the reporters that went with them. What these common laborers are today,
Improved machinery that ought to be a blessing for the workingman under the existing conditions turns for him to a curse. Machinery multiplies the army of unskilled laborers, makes the laborer more dependent upon the men who own the land and the machines. And that is the reason that Socialism and Communism got a foothold in this country. The outcry that Socialism, Communism and Anarchism are the creed of foreigners, is a big mistake. There are more Socialists of American birth in this country than foreigners, and that is much, if we consider that nearly half of all industrial workingmen are not native Americans. There
are Socialistic papers in a great many States edited by Americans for Americans. The capitalistic newspapers conceal that fact very carefully.
Socialism, as we understand it, means that land and machinery shall be held in common by the people. The production of goods shall be carried on by producing groups which shall supply the demands of the people. Under such a system every human being would have an opportunity to do useful work, and no doubt would work. Some hours' work every day would suffice to produce all that, according to statistics, is necessary for a comfortable living. Time would be left
and to further science and art.
That is what the Socialists propose. Some say it is un-American! Well, then, is it American to let people starve and die in ignorance? Is exploitation and robbery of the poor, American? What have the great political parties done for the poor? Promised much; done nothing, except corrupting them by buying their votes on election day. A poverty-stricken man has no interest in the welfare of the community. It is only natural that in a society where women are driven to sell their honor, men should sell their votes.
But we "were not only Socialists and Communists; we were Anarchists."
What is Anarchy?
Is it not strange that when Anarchy was tried nobody ever told what Anarchy was. Even when I was on the witness stand, and asked the State's Attorney for a definition of Anarchy, he declined to give it. But in their speeches he and his associates spoke very frequently about Anarchy, and it appeared that they understood it to be something horrible -arson, rapine, murder. In so speaking, Mr. Grinnell and his associates did not speak the truth. They searched the Alarm and the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and hunted up articles written years before the month of May, 1886. In the columns of these papers it is very often stated what we, the "Anarchists," understood by the term Anarchy. And we are the only competent judges in this matter. As soon as the word is applied to us and our doctrine, it carries with it the meaning which we, the Anarchists, saw fit to give to it. "Anarchy" is Greek, and means, verbatim, without rulership; not being ruled. According to our vocabulary, Anarchy is a state of society,
A state of society in which all human beings do right for the simple reason that it is right, and hate wrong because it is wrong. In such a society, no laws, no compulsion will be necessary. The attorney of the State was wrong when he said: "Anarchy is dead." Anarchy, up to the present day, has existed only as a doctrine, and Mr. Grinnell has not the power to kill any doctrine whatever. You may call Anarchy, as defined by us, an idle dream, but that dream was dreamed by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, one of the three great German poets and the most celebrated German critic of the last century. If anarchy were the thing the State's attorney makes it out to be, how could it be that such eminent scholars as Prince Krapotkine and the greatest living geographer, Elisee Reclus, were avowed Anarchists, even editors of Anarchistic newspapers? Anarchy is a dream, but only in the present. It will be realized.
in spite of all obstacles. Who is the man that has the cheek to tell us that human development has already reached its culminating point? I know that our ideal will not be accomplished this or next year, but I know that it will be accomplished as near as possible, some day, in the future. It is entirely wrong to use the word Anarchy as synonymous with violence. Violence is one thing and Anarchy another. In the present state of society violence is used on all sides, and, therefore, we advocated the use of violence against violence, but against violence only, as a necessary means of defense. I never read Mr. Most's book, simply because I did not find time to read it. And if I had read it, what of it? I am an agnostic, but I like to read the Bible nevertheless. I have not the slightest idea who threw the bomb on the Haymarket, and had no knowledge of any conspiracy to use violence on that or any other night.Return to Top