The world stands aghast at the reign of terror that held the city of Paris in its grip. At last the "bandits" have been hounded to death. many and varied have been the opinions expressed in the radical press of the world. We had not contemplated writing our opinion on this subject, but when we read the condemnation of these men in one of the leading revolutionary weeklies, last week, we could not refrain from expressing our small tribute to the men who had the strength of their convictions to risk all that they posessed, a miserable life, in carrying them to their logical conclusion.
For years these men had preached the expropriation of the master class, and pray why should they wait until the Social Revolution had conquered before carrying out their plans? Why should they submit like sheep to exploitation and tyranny and do nought but raise a feeble baa of protest?
Before condemning these men let us try and imagine ourself in their position. Let us try and understand the motives which led them to commit the acts of violence for which they have been condemned.
Expropriation of the master class. What real revolutionist can condemn expropriation? Now, or in the future. It matters not. Expropriation of the means of existence or for the spreading of propaganda is always justifyable.
But in this case there is also some circumstances which must be considered. Hounded by the police and detectives these men were denounced as anarchists and agitators, wherever and whenever they succeeded in obtaining work. What then was left for them to do? Were they to starve slowly in the midsts of wealth and luxury? Become parasites on the workers, or expropriate the wealth that was rightly theirs? Not only was it their actual right to expropriate the means of existence, it was their duty.
As to the horrible murders to which they were driven, by the bloodhounds of the law, who can hold them responsible?
"Smitten stones will talk
with fiery tongue
And the worm when trodden
It is all well and good to speak of the ideal life, but in reality, for we all get down to brass tacks once in a while, life itself is a compromise in this miserable parasitic society.
Our good friends who speak of having a model life for the sake of the cause, remind me very much of the metaphysicians who teach that the body is nought and must be sacrificed as an offering to the almighty god in order that the soul may live.
Speaking of such men as Bakunin and Cafiero and the beautiful lessons of their lives, Let us remember that both Bakunin and Cafiero, although they gave their fortunes to the spreading of the propaganda, both had the full benefit of their wealth in the leisure time and opportunities that they had had to study and develope themselves into super-men, so to speak. Neither of these two great intellectuals, at any time, had to suffer the spiritual hunger along with the material hunger as the so called auto bandits of Paris.
The one great mistake that we all make is that when a really great man dies we canonize him right away, and hold his life up as an example to future humanity. His ideas are likewise crystalized in a stage of evolution, while the world and all life goes on evolving so that we come to live in the domain of the unreal, thinking in the past and living in the present.
And when a case like the so-called bandits of Paris is put before us, living as we do in the realm of the past, we are horrified, for it is impossible for us to perceive the motives, the conditions and circumstances which led up to the so-called crime.
From: The Social War, New York, v. 1, n. 3, March 26th 1913..
In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 37, January 2004