Politics

The First War on Terror

What the fight against anarchism tells us about the fight against radical Islam

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The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents, by Alex Butterworth, Pantheon Books, 482 pages, $30

In the late 19th century, as today, a terrorist cabal detonated bombs in the heart of the Western world. Judged by the number of successful attacks on politicians and royalty, that force was more directly threatening to the inner circles of power than today's radical Islam.

This episodic violence, loosely associated with the extremist wing of the anarchist movement, lasted roughly from 1880 to 1910. It claimed the lives of only about 150 private citizens but also killed a president, a police chief, a prime minister, a czar, a king, and an empress. Yet the wave of terror eventually receded. No one has lived in mortal fear of bomb-throwing, dagger-clutching anarchists for nearly a century. Will citizens in 2110 view radical Islamic terrorism as a similar historical curiosity, useful mostly for colorful storytelling?

I don't know, and neither does Alex Butterworth, author of The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents. The book is a detailed chronicle both of the anarchists—intellectuals and peaceful activists as well as terrorists—and of the cops and spies who set out to nab and crush them. It is irresistible, while contemplating this history in 2011, to look for analogies that might illuminate the current war on terror.

Butterworth, an English historian, brings up that comparison casually in the introduction. It feels like a last-minute addition to give a long tale of days gone by a ripped-from-the-headlines promotional hook. The author himself never returns to the idea. But perhaps the rest of us should.

The anarchists were considerably more precise in their attacks on political leaders, implying, perhaps, that they were more efficient, clever, or at least focused than today's more civilian-oriented terrorists. Although their plots never approached the scale of 9/11, they did outdo the Islamists when it came to the number of successful fatal attacks within Western cities.

Might smarter, more effective intelligence and policing in the 21st century explain the difference? Butterworth provides stories and data relevant to that question but no decisive answers. He does not, after all, have access to a century's worth of delayed revelations about our current twilight struggle. Still, the first war on terror does offer tantalizing hints about what we face when confronting organized nonstate international killers.

Butterworth's walk through the  oft-told tale of 19th-century anarchism includes plenty of familiar material. Peter Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin, the Communards and the narodniki, the First and Second Internationals—all get plenty of attention. (So do many tangential stories, some interesting and some not, about the historical milieu in which they lived.) The freshest and most relevant parts of the book are Butterworth's tales of cops and spies at war with anarchist radicals. The most valuable player in this battle against the international anarchist terror conspiracy—which didn't actually exist, in the sense of one organization centrally planning attacks across national lines—was the Russians' man in Paris, Peter Rachkovsky.

Rachkovsky started as a possibly sincere, possibly duplicitous mover in St. Petersburg's radical underground in the late 1870s, after having been dismissed (for leniency toward political exiles) from a job as a prosecutor for the czar's government. He ended up running the show for the Okhrana, the Russian secret police, in Paris, where so many radicals considered dangerous to the czarist regime had immigrated.

From 1885 until 1902, Rachkovsky was responsible for keeping anarchists under surveillance and on the run—and also, in many cases, financed and supplied with ideas. Butterworth notes that "prominent among his early initiatives were provocations designed to lure credulous émigrés into the most heinous crimes of which they may never have otherwise conceived." Rachkovsky's aim was to entrap his targets into committing acts that would help ensure that his job seemed of vital importance to the czar. This guaranteed him a solid berth in Paris that was lucrative both in salary and prestige—and, Butterworth's research leads him to strongly suspect, in opportunities for corrupt under-the-radar dealings with a French government doing heavy business with Russia.

Rachkovsky wasn't the first cop to use agents provocateurs among the French radicals. Louis Andrieux, the French prefect of police during the early 1880s, had been frustrated that all his spying on the anarchists failed to uncover a crime worthy of his time and attention, so he decided that "it was necessary that the act was accomplished for repression to be possible."

Rachkovsky's bosses in Russia and his hosts in Paris both feared the radicals, allowing the Russian agent to tighten the ties between the two nations. He succeeded so well that Butterworth argues he was partly to blame for the Russo-French alliance that helped make World War I such a bloody mess.

The British government, by contrast, initially resisted czarist efforts to capture Russia's radical émigrés. In 1890 Vladimir Burtsev, wanted by the czarist police, boarded a British boat bound from Constantinople to London. When the ship found itself surrounded by Turkish police vessels with Russians on board, the captain refused their demand to hand over the fugitive, announcing: "This is English territory. And I am a gentleman!" But soon even Britain's Special Branch ended up playing the spy and provocateur game.

Although Butterworth warns today's governments and spymasters that future historians will "have access to the material necessary to hold those leaders to account for any deceptions they may have practiced," his own research into the century-old fight indicates that that won't necessarily be so. The current keepers of the Special Branch's archives, which could shed light on the history of police behavior toward the radicals of the time, keep access to the relevant records "tenaciously guarded" even now.

It would be comforting to assume that one of the reasons the radical anarchists were able to gin up more consistent bombing action in the West than radical Islam does today was because their ideals—storming the bastions of illegitimate power, winning a better deal for the working man, crafting a future without any coercive authority—were more inherently inspiring than Shariah or a new Caliphate. These anarcho-radical movements were huge in the late 19th century. Star anarchist figures such as Kropotkin and Errico Malatesta could get tens of thousands, sometimes more than 100,000, fans to show up whenever they arrived in town. The number of people who subscribed to the anarchist movement's many publications was in the tens of thousands in France alone. But the active participants in anarchist congresses numbered less than 1,000, and while many of those activists and intellectuals excused the violence, others opposed it. The number of people actively involved in planning and executing terror plots seems to be no more than a few dozen.

Terror then and terror now both hoped to inspire popular insurrection; both failed. Although anarchists referred to their violent actions as "propaganda by deed," acts such as blowing up cafés or opera houses were really far more successful propaganda against anarchism than for it. Similarly, there is scant evidence that even the spectacularly destructive strike of 9/11 did much to help Al Qaeda recruit smart, useful, self-destructive folk willing to wage constant war on the decadent West. Suicide attacks in the name of jihad are only about 30 years old; they arose from modern circumstances and could disappear as those circumstances change.

To the powers of the time, the anarchist threat was not to be downplayed or doubted. After the anarchist-linked Leon Czolgosz assassinated U.S. President William McKinley, McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt, issued a pronouncement that presaged George W. Bush's rhetoric about the post-9/11 threat of radical Islam: "When compared with the suppression of anarchy, every other question sinks into insignificance." Collaborations of national secret police agencies created an ad hoc global force to fight the nonexistent global anarchist conspiracy, and the very advocacy of anarchist ideas was outlawed in most of the West. 

As history has shown, Roosevelt was wrong about the significance of the anarchist threat. So was George W. Bush when he used the jihadist threat as an excuse for policies that may have done far more to damage America and elsewhere than they did to prevent attacks.

The legacy of the secret police war against anarchists is ongoing and ugly. Both the CIA and the KGB learned from the techniques of the Okhrana, and the authorities today still cling to the notion that policing terror sometimes means encouraging it. Many of the alleged terrorists captured over the past several years were influenced, and in some cases provided materials by, police informants, including the Miami Seven, the accused Rockford, Illinois, shopping mall bomber Derrick Shareef, and Sami Samir Hassoun, who was charged with conspiring to bomb a nightclub near a Dave Matthews concert in Chicago. 

Likewise, Butterworth concludes from his scattered documentary record that provocateurs were close to the planning and/or financing of many headline-making anarchist bomb plots, and that the staff of the British radical magazine Commonweal may have consisted entirely of informants, unbeknownst to each other. (Even today, with unprecedented access to police files, Butterworth is often unsure who was reporting back to the cops.) The French grande dame of anarchy, Louise Michel, once joked, "We love to have [agents provocateurs] in the party, because they always propose the most revolutionary motions." In his fanciful 1908 novel The Man Who Was Thursday, inspired by the milieu of anarcho-skullduggery that Butterworth chronicles, G.K. Chesterton describes a convocation of anarchist conspirators in which all of the plotters turn out to be cops sent to infiltrate the group.

Anarchists may have been relatively effective at decapitating power, but they were not a mortal threat to Western civilization, and neither are the Islamists. They do not warrant the suppression of civil liberties or the huge cost, in lives and money, of the wars waged by Bush and Barack Obama.

Cracking down on supposed terror threats, whether through mass arrests in the late 19th century or drone air attacks in the 21st, can create martyrs and encourage counterattacks. Many acts of anarchist terror were explicitly conceived to avenge comrades caught and killed or brutalized by Western governments. Sometimes the blowback is more long term, harder to predict, and more terrifying. The 1887 hanging of Alexander Ulyanov, a member of the Russian terror group People's Will, inspired his younger brother to become the revolutionary known as Lenin.

Butterworth's most important lesson for our current war on terror is buried in the middle of the book. Discussing the British police reaction to a bombing campaign—this one not by anarchists but by Irish nationalists—he comments that "the threat may have been smaller than those responsible for its policing liked to maintain." That haunting thought should help guide American voters and politicians as they consider the future of the Second War on International Terror. 

Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man (BenBella), Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs) and Gun Control on Trial (Cato Institute).

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  1. So reason now uses the terms anarchy and criminal synonymously? Geez – if i wanted such shallow workmanship i would turned on CNN.

      1. That was almost relevant… I think it’s becoming self-aware.

        Judgement-Operating Machine Alliance?

    1. When anarchists break the law, yeah, it’s criminal activity. Of course, anarchists can always find a way to rationalize their bad behavior. For instance, if you don’t “believe in” the state, you’re free to break its rules. Childish but effective.

    2. When anarchists break the law, yeah, that’s criminal activity. Of course, anarchists may rationalize their bad behavior by claiming the state’s illegitimacy. No state, no laws. Childish but effective.

      1. “No state, no laws.”

        We don’t need to have states to have laws, or to make sure justice reigns. Tyrants use the above fallacy all the time, to rationalize their regimes. You’d be well advised to take back what you said.

        1. No Marcel, don’t you understand? As an expert historian, ? knows that constant rape, robbery and murder were the norm in human history until the advent of the central state. Only then did people develop morality and law.

          Also, breaking the state’s laws is bad behaviour, irrespective of what the law is about. Legality = morality.

          1. Ummmm ok – Time frame 1763-1846 – come on expert – when in that time with a puny govt did all the heinous crimes stop? Last i looked, they still about.

            1. HTML really needs a <sarcasm> tag.

    3. still listening and waiting. what does the fight against anarchism tell us about the fight against radical Islam?

  2. I hope Mr. Butterworth’s writing is better than his mom’s syrup.

    1. have fallen on floor giggling… help, can not get up.

  3. Joseph Conrad’s short novel is fine writing. Looks like this morsel might be a tasty appetizer.

  4. this is wishful thinking by liberals. Anarchists and their ilk were part of the civilization they wanted to destroy. Their numbers were small. Islam is its own civilization of over one billion souls wanting to destroy other civilizations. Islam does not have the recruiting problem that western anarchists had.

    the threat from Islam is not just violence. It is the PC atmosphere that makes any criticism of the religion illegal in Europe and increasingly difficult here. Anything but the most fulsome praise brings forth hysterical accusations of racism and threats of violence. In Europe people are arrested and accused of crimes when they say things that are negative about the religion. It seems as if Europeans are bending over backwards to assure that Islam takes the place of their culture. Anarchists never won this level of favor.

    1. Islam is its own civilization of over one billion souls wanting to destroy other civilizations

      You’re on my “naughty” list too. A religion is a “civilization” now? Arab Muslims are the same as Indonesian Muslims? Wow.

      1. honor killings are civilized? Wow…

        1. Yeah, all Muslims do that. No toys for you, racist.

          1. Racist? Which race is that? Is it Santa or Mr. Hanky?

        2. What do you think the death penalty is?

      2. Muslims themselves that they are all the same in terms of thinking that ultimately Islam must conquer all. That is a basic part of the religion. If you don’t believe that, you are not a Muslim. To say so is not an insult or racist. That’s just how it is. That’s why there is no person who believes in Islam who will agree that christians should have the freedom to build churches and preach conversion in any Islamic nations. In the west, however, due to Liberalism, we can’t refuse others those rights, at least not yet, because Liberalism is in its twilight. It can’t be sustained against nonliberal cultures.

        1. “If you don’t believe that, you are not a Muslim.”

          If I don’t believe that, it means I’m not stupid?

          1. If I don’t believe that, it means I’m not stupid?

            Just narrow-minded and incapable of imagining anything outside your own small world.

            1. It’s narrow-minded not to generalise? I’ve been misled!

        2. Nanda, do you know anything about Muslims, or did you just watch Fox News again?

          I’m friends with several Muslims, and the above strikes me as biased and untrue. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, who is dominating the world right now? Isn’t that Christian US? Hold up the mirror friend.

          1. evil tricksey christians!

          2. Marcel, The problem is not Muslims and Christians but bigotry of Indians (such as Nanda) against Muslims.

            reformistani.wordpress.com

        3. Oh man we finally have a contestant for a christian consevative troll! Quick, where’s Epi??

          1. ‘conservative’

    2. The only difference between Islam and Christianity is that Islam actually admits they want to slaughter infidels. Christianity preaches so-called peace and love yet went on to butcher more people than every other religion put together.

      1. OH? I think my numbers in the USSR & China speak for themselves.

        1. That’s funny… I thought you were Marxism or Communism there for a second. Surely, you jest.

          1. Maybe (s)he’s trying to point out that most religious conflicts are actually fueled by underlying political conflicts. Religion just makes it easier to simplify and generalise, leaving one (usually) with only two “sides” to pick from. Maybe that sounds too reasonable to be true?

      2. *Went* on. Islam is butchering *currently*.

        1. Onward “Christian” soldiers!!!

        2. I’d be interested to hear who exactly is being butchered, where, how? How many? And now, compare to death tolls in Irak, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc. where sainted Christian US imposed its rule through sacred death.

          1. Fuck, at least spell Iraq right when trolling about the Great Satan, dipshi.

      3. True in the general sense but I think the verb tenses are also significant.

      4. have you ever studied who killed how many? do you know about the great jihads that for many centuries swept over north africa, the middle east, asia, and eastern europe, that led to the conquest of southern spain and that would have overtaken western europe, if not for a couple of crucial battles along the way?

        I fear you are a typical liberal who has nothing good to say for his own side and indeed denies the very concept of a side. But 90% of humanity is not with you.

        1. You seem to like to pull numbers out of your ass.

          1. how’s about pullin’ yer head outta yours…

            1. How’s about I like havin’ my head up my ass? Stop telling me what to do, tyrant.

              1. How’s about I like havin’ my head up my ass?

                That must be convenient come lunchtime.

                1. One would assume -seeing how I’ve survived thus far- that I take my asshat off once in a while, as I do with other hats.

      5. Sorry, bud, but how exactly do you know that “Christianity killed more than all other religions put together”? That’s not something even knowable, frankly. We still don’t have a good solid number on the full extent of the Holodomor or the Armenian Genocide, and those JUST happened.

        1. Don’t forget the Mongols, either. They loved them some killin’.

  5. Civilization and anarchy do not mix.

    1. Because to a realist, people are only civilized with each other if they are forced.

      1. Does not compute.

      2. “Because to a realist, people are only civilized with each other if they are forced.” Some people are some aren’t. The ones that aren’t will kill you slowly and eat you! How the fuck old are you….5???

        1. I think you mean terrorists, not anarchists.

          The author terribly conflates both.

  6. Anarchists may have been relatively effective at decapitating power, but they were not a mortal threat to Western civilization, and neither are the Islamists.

    Uh oh. Careful about taking shots at Team Red’s mantra. If we were at Townhall or Neal’s Nuze people would be throwing bricks at their computer screens.

    1. “Anarchists may have been relatively effective at decapitating power, but they were not a mortal threat to Western civilization, and neither are the Islamists.”

      1) Which Islamists? I submit that Wahhabist-based Islam is very much a threat, even if the violent form it takes is in the minority.
      Some say Islam is going through its own Reformation. This could be true, but like Christianity’s, will take centuries, at least decades, and we do not know the degree of damage it could do in the mean-time (the fundamentalist branch).
      2) Anarchism was/is a political economic philosophy and one that is fairly new to western culture.
      Islam, by contrast, like all religions developed in a more organic fashion and was/is more of heart-based movement. I submit that these are important, fundamentally distinct processes – and it’s the irrational, organic processes that are much more hard to dislodge

      1. It might also be worth mentioning that the Muslims that we’re at war with can hide as “peaceful” populations to finance the actual fighting part of the movement. See Sayiid Qutb for the philosophy behind that.

        That these supporters are not state actors complicates the question.

  7. Is there no distinction between a loose association of individuals in the 19th century and a well-financed and in many cases state-run campaign against other states currently?

    1. “…well-financed and in many cases state-run campaign against other states currently?”

      You mean like the Contras in Nicaragua?

      1. Sure, that’s an example. My point is not “DURR AY-RABS ARE TEH EVIL,” but just that it’s an inaccurate parallel between the anarchists and today’s modern state-sponsored terrorist/guerrilla/freedom fighter.

  8. Q: What’s the difference between a libertarian and an anarchist?

    A: About two years if you’re paying attention.

    … Hobbit

    1. no, no. Q: what’s the difference between a liberal and an anarchist?
      A: nothing, if you stop paying for bailouts.

      1. You’re spouting ignorant nonsense! Those nowadays referred to as ‘liberals’ are actually completely illiberal, big government, authoritarian absolutists. The only thing liberal about them is their liberal spending of other people’s money. If you consider someone like that hideous harridan, Nancy Pelosi to be an anarchist, then you don’t know the meaning of the word.

        1. Greece: WAH! gimme my gimmies!
          England: WAH! gimme my education!
          and soon in a street near you:
          WAH! gimme my bloated, not ever in reality, you promised, golden parachute, (county,state,federal,union) pension!

          1. You haven’t got a fucking clue what ideas you’re arguing for or against. Just stop.

  9. Back in the day you could just walk up to most leaders right easy like. Nowadays you can’t peacefully protest within 10 square miles of any politician lest their dignity be impugned by viewing a sign critical of their leadership – this has changed the nature of terrorism a bit.

    1. That is undoubtably the correct explanation for the targeting success of the radical anarchists vis-a-vis the Al Qaeda types.

      The ruling elites are much safer in a police state than in a free and open society.

      1. It also occurred to me that, in a democracy, each individual is more important than under something less free. You don’t have to kill leaders anymore to effect public opinion, killing women and children produce the desired effect.

    2. “Back in the day you could just walk up to most leaders right easy like”

      UHHHHH When..?

      1. Sept. 6, 1901, for a start.

  10. Wow. Tough crowd. I would have thought the readers of reason would be more reasonable. Seriously Brian, your point is well taken. Cracking down on the violent and subversive potentially creates more of the same, but comparing 19th century anarchists with 21st century Islamist extremists is too much of a stretch for me.

    1. “Wow. Tough crowd. I would have thought the readers of reason would be more reasonable.” You’re new here aren’t you?

      1. I am new to these parts. But on the whole, I’m just old.

        1. People ’round here don’t cotton much to being called reasonable!

  11. You forget they executed hundreds of anarchists and stopped the attacks. If we just left the terrorists alone we would have daily suicide bombings in America just like in Israel.

    1. Exactly. The article implies that the anarchists got bored and took up knitting or something.

    2. But of course. Because the anarchists were targeting THEM. As long as the Islamists keep targeting just us proles, it’s okey-dokey smokey.

  12. Ill cut it short right now. the answer is no. Islam’s wave of terror, murder, conquest and subjugation is only 1400 years old.

    kthxbye

    1. Hey, my twenty five run of century the same ain’t chopped liver!

      1. “My twenty-five century run of the same…”

  13. I’m not convinced that libertarians necessarily have to be pacifists. Could we ever have articles on here that aren’t tolerant of radical Islam?

    1. Ignorant racist homophobic xenophobe.

  14. Reminds me of a story about Boonesborough. Daniel called a meeting and intoned that they had tried trading with the natives, farming with the natives and neighboring with the natives. The only thing they had not tried was killing every mother’s son of them. Tried that and were finally able to exist beyond the stockade. Such things, however regrettable, often happen with the collison of two cultures, and more regrettably, often work.

    Go figure.

  15. The author seems to tie everything up nicely, EXCEPT: the anarchists survived past 1910, to assassinate an archduke, which caused WW1, which caused WW2, which caused the Cold War, which caused the rise of islamo-terrorism…

    1. And there was another wave of letter bombs in the US in the early 1920s – although there the US Attorney-General (Mitchell?) completely over-reacted.

    2. …you forgot global warming!

    3. The assassination of the archduke did not cause WW1, except if you take states and and their war-waging for granted. “Oh no, some guy got assassinated somewhere. Well, there is no other choice but to engage in a huge bloodbath.”

  16. I’m senile. But that doesn’t mean you guys aren’t all over the place.

  17. I think it’s time to bring these Anarchist-bomb-throwers back

  18. Thanks for pointing out that Islam did not invent terrorism (despite what Team Red says). I said something similar on a previous thread, but I really think if there is any link between terrorism in the past and present, it is through the Left.

    Terrorism is not something intrinsic to Islam. Formally, it was associated with far-leftists and I think it is more likely that radical Muslims absorbed some of their ideas from the Left.

    1. As I said, I’m senile. But not so much that I can’t tell that your argument is incoherent.

      1. Check out Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism. He makes a better connection between all the violent and totalitarian movements.

    2. “Thanks for pointing out that Islam did not invent terrorism (despite what Team Red says)”

      Source?

    3. Terrorism is not something intrinsic to Islam. Formally, it was associated with far-leftists and I think it is more likely that radical Muslims absorbed some of their ideas from the Left.

      The Hashashins beat the Marxists to terror by about a millennium.

    4. Thanks for pointing out that Islam did not invent terrorism (despite what Team Red says)

      Where does “Team Red” say any such thing? I’m sure you can find one person on some seldom-read blog post saying something this stupid, but that’s not much of a challenge. However, where is it the current meme?

  19. By coincidence, I received my copy of “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer today.

    I’m hoping it will help me to understand the nature of mass movements.

  20. All in all it appears to me that there are a lot of faux-Libertarians commenting about this Libertarian article on this Libertarian website.

    1. i think you got it fauxed-up…

      1. “i think …”

        No.

  21. This article reaches some undeniable conclusions: “As history has shown, Roosevelt was wrong about the significance of the anarchist threat. So was George W. Bush when he used the jihadist threat as an excuse for policies that may have done far more to damage America and elsewhere than they did to prevent attacks. The legacy of the secret police war against anarchists is ongoing and ugly….Sometimes the blowback is more long term, harder to predict, and more terrifying.” Self-serving, dishonest justifications of state violence often have unforeseen, unwelcome consequences.

    Note that the false conflation of anarchism (an anti-authoritarian, atheist political philosophy) and Islamic terrorism (which pursues a religious biggotry and authoritarian social structure which anarchists abhor) has been made before, e.g. by James Gelvin, but naturally doesn’t hold up at all, either historically or philosophically. As Paul Stott writes, despite the comparative ease of “dismiss[ing] certain attacks or groups as ‘anarchist’ few credible, weighty descriptions emerge from such narratives” (a pdf of his Anarchism, Terrorism Studies and Islamism can be found at http://bit.ly/fCaAnu). See further (excuse the [DOT]’s in place of the necessary periods):

    George Esenwein, Comments on James L. Gelvin’s Al-Qaeda and Anarchism: A Historian’s Reply to Terrorology:
    slackbastard[DOT]anarchobase[DOT]com/?p=1629

    Walter Laquer, responding to Gelvin and disclaiming any useful analogy between 19th century anarchists and current islamic terrorist:
    www[DOT]laqueur[DOT]net/index2.php?r=2&id=87

    Richard Bach Jensen, Nineteenth Century Anarchist Terrorism: How Comparable to the Terrorism of al-Qaeda?
    slackbastard[DOT]anarchobase[DOT]com/?p=1623

    The British Anarchist Federation, The bomb-throwing anarchist: a relic of the past:
    http://bit.ly/gERXtA

    An anarchist critique of Islam:
    theanarchistlibrary[DOT]org/HTML/Al-Djouhall__The_Misery_of_Islam.html

    Anarchismo Editorial Group: Islam and Anarchism (a collection of sources addressing the possible relevance of anarchism to the Muslim world):
    www[DOT]anarkismo[DOT]net/article/977

  22. Already covered six months ago, with the same headline, no?:

    http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/06/20/anarchism

  23. Agent provocateurs? Oh, boy! Get the tin-foil hats out ’cause some nut-job thinks the government or its subsidiaries would terrorize their own people; to profit in some way odd way. Next thing you’re going to tell us is that the Military Commissions Act, Patriot I and II, and FISA is some wild conspiracy to get us into the cattle cars, rather then protect us from terrorists!

    Sorry, but our men and women in law enforcement, in this day and age, are impervious to corruption and use their vast powers for only good, not to benefit themselves, like Michael Chertoff. God bless him!

    You people should be happy the government allows you to have the freedoms that you do, especially considering that the terrorists hate you for them.

    1. Wow! Double-plus good duck speaker!

      Yes, we should all be glad that when we stare into our bowls of cold porridge each night before the warden shuts the lights out, that our medications allow us to so clearly vizualise the Very Face of our Glorious Leader embossed upon the curds. Save us, unworthy, from his Mighty Fist!

      God bless us every one!

  24. Ignorant trash. The anarchist terror campaign didn’t “recede,” it was stamped out, except in Russia, where it was nationalized then exported or imitated around the world. Tell 100 million or so murdered by the Commies who picked up where the anarchists left off that the anarcho-terrorist destabilization of Russia wasn’t that great a threat.

    1. The Bolsheviks didn’t follow the Anarchists; they slaughtered them.

      1. The Bolsheviks were allied with the anarchists against the Tsar, and Lenin studied the methods of the Social Revolutionaries carefully, following to the extent that their cell-structure organization became known as “Leninist.” It was only after the Bolshies came to power that they turned on the anarchists, like the Kronstadt sailors.

  25. In the later “Red Scares” it turned out that both communist parties in the USA basically depended on the membership dues of FBI informants and agents. That’s probably the best way to detect FBI informants, they’re the ones who pay their dues.

  26. In the later “Red Scares” it turned out that both communist parties in the USA basically depended on the membership dues of FBI informants and agents. That’s probably the best way to detect FBI informants, they’re the ones who pay their dues.

  27. In the later “Red Scares” it turned out that both communist parties in the USA basically depended on the membership dues of FBI informants and agents. That’s probably the best way to detect FBI informants, they’re the ones who pay their dues.

  28. For FUCK’S SAKE, STOP using the word ‘anarchist’ to refer to violent political activists. It’s ‘terrorist’.
    Anarchy = against government.

    Terrorism = against government we don’t like and willing to hurt people to get what we want.

    1. Sometimes the most accurate statements are made with simplicity. Bravo.

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  31. “the threat may have been smaller than those responsible for its policing liked to maintain” – yes, that’s how it is today. Consider that the TSA fails to detect approximately 80% of weapons and explosives in tests – the TSA is proven to be so inept that it would be as effective against real threats as a sieve against water; therefore, the actual threat must be a great deal smaller than we have been led to believe.

  32. I was somewhat involved in the Militia movement years ago and it was common knowledge among all members that anybody that advocated violence was almost without a doubt an FBI, BATF or some other government agent.
    I don’t know of a single incident involving a member of an established Militia were the criminals were not supplied their bombs or other prohibited devices by the undercover government agents.

    1. An even more egregious example is the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The FBI not only supplied the funding and the information for building the bomb, they explicitly ordered that the bomb be a real bomb, not the dud bomb the maker wished to build.

      Don’t believe that? Research it. There were recordings made of the FBI phone calls about it, recordings submitted as evidence during the trial.

      Wonder why you never heard that? Interesting question, huh? Research it, go ahead.

  33. Brian, In typically Paulian fashion [of the John and Rand variety] your response is well-researched and thoughtful. But comparing anarchism to Islamist extremism is all about apples and oranges–if for no other reason than because they’ve occured a century apart and the ability of the relatively few to wreak havoc on the many has increased exponentially.

  34. The parallel of these two eras of terrorism (1920 and this century) is the subject of my novel, “Gladdy’s Wake” published by Second Story Press in Toronto and available in all bookstores.

    1. Between 1910 and John Kennedy’s assassination the US engaged in two world wars and a Korean conflict. What: It doesn’t count if those who are terrorized are middle-class or poor?

  35. There are many problems with Brian Doherty’s take on terrorism, new and old. For one thing, at a time when bombs are being thrown the actual size of the threat is hard to estimate. Moreover, as many readers have pointed out, the 19th century anarchists didn’t just fade into the woodwork. And also, as far as lessons from the past go, to attribute the comparatively modest figures of civilian casualties of the “old” terrorism to superior “efficiency” ignores the qualitative difference between terrorists who explicitly aim at killing government figures (a public target for an extremist public objective) and those, like many modern terrorists, who deliberately target civilians for lethal violence (private targets as a means to reach public objectives).
    Such means are never legitimate, no matter what the cause or objective. They are depraved, simply despicable. Their use strips the perpetrator not only of legitimacy, but of all human decency. It is not possible to sink to lower means in matters public. It is a sad commentary on our age that sufficiently many fail to realize this to allow modern terrorism to pay off… And that, of course, is its root cause: it pays!

  36. The anarchists were a tiny group of people who basically targeted the rich, the politicians, and the nobility. They would have had NOTHING in common with radical Islam.

    Islamists and the Tea Party on the other hand have a great deal in common. They share a similar world view in which dissent from the “truth” by large numbers of people is reprehensible and traitorous. Of course the Tea Party does not advocate murder and mayhem, (as yet) simply because it does not pursue its ideas to their logical extreme. But its language is certainly that of extremist Islam.

    Nevertheless, the West’s real enemy is not the Tea Party or its ilk– it is rather a religion which is mired in both barbarism and the middle ages, which literally murders dissent, and which can command an audience of 50,000 in Pakistan who applaud the killing of an outspoken politician merely because of his opinions. Anarchism never had anything like the reach or power of this antediluvian religion. This is in fact a murderous world-view which commands the allegiance of literally millions.

    People like the writer of the article simply do not understand the deep implications of the last thousand years of history as it relates to Islam and the West.

  37. How about mbt kisumu sandals this one: there are X driving deaths a year- what % of driving deaths (or serious injuries) involve alcohol, or other intoxicating substances? kisumu 2 People are pretty darn good drivers when they are not impaired.

  38. this is wishful thinking by liberals. Anarchists and their ilk were part of the civilization they wanted to destroy. Their numbers were small. Islam is its own civilization of over one billion souls wanting to destroy other civilizations. Islam does not have the recruiting problem that western anarchists had.
    ???? ????? ??? ???????
    the threat from Islam is not just violence. It is the PC atmosphere that makes any criticism of the religion illegal in Europe and increasingly difficult here. Anything but the most fulsome praise brings forth hysterical accusations of racism and threats of violence. In Europe people are arrested and accused of crimes when they say things that are negative about the religion. It seems as if Europeans are bending over backwards to assure that Islam takes the place of their culture. Anarchists never won this level of favor.

  39. the threat from Islam is not just violence. It is the PC atmosphere that makes any criticism of the religion illegal in Europe and increasingly difficult here. Anything but the most fulsome praise brings forth hysterical accusations of racism and threats of violence. In Europe people are arrested and accused of crimes when they say things that are negative about the religion. ???? ????? ?????? ???????
    ???? ???? ?????? ??????? It seems as if Europeans are bending over backwards to assure that Islam takes the place of their culture. Anarchists never won this level of favor.

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