The Anarchists: A Picture of Civilization at the Close of the Nineteenth Century

By John Henry Mackay (1891)

Revolt Library Anarchism The Anarchists

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(1864 - 1933)

John Henry Mackay (6 February 1864 Greenock, Scotland – 16 May 1933 Stahnsdorf, (Germany)) was an egoist anarchist, thinker and writer. Born in Scotland and raised in Germany, Mackay was the author of Die Anarchisten (The Anarchists, 1891) and Der Freiheitsucher (The Searcher for Freedom, 1921). Mackay was published in the United States in his friend Benjamin Tucker's magazine, Liberty. (From:


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Translator’s Preface A large share of whatever of merit this translation may possess is due to Miss Sarah E. Holmes, who kindly gave me her assistance, which I wish to gratefully acknowledge here. My thanks are also due to Mr. Tucker for valuable suggestions. G. S. (From :

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Introduction The work of art must speak for the artist who created it; the labor of the thoughtful student who stands back of it permits him to say what impelled him to give his thought voice. The subject of the work just finished requires me to accompany it with a few words. First of all, this: Let him who does not know me and who would, perhaps, in the following pages, look for such sensational disclosures as we see in those mendacious speculations upon the gullibility of the public from which the latter derives its sole knowledge of the Anarchistic movement, not take the trouble to read beyond the first page. In no other field of social life does there exist to-day a more lamentable confusion, a more naïve superficiality, a more portentous ignorance than in that of Anarchism. The very utterance of the word is like the flourish of a red rag; in blind wrath the majori... (From :

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Chapter 1: In the Heart of the World-Metropolis A wet, cold October evening was beginning to lower upon London. It was the October of the same year in which, not five months before, had been inaugurated those ridiculous celebrations which gave the year 1887 the name of the “Jubilee Year,” — celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the rule of a woman who allows herself to be called “Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India.” On this evening — the last of the week — a man coming from the direction of Waterloo Station was wending his way to the railroad bridge of Charing Cross through labyrinthine, narrow, and almost deserted streets. When, as if fatigued from an extended walk, he had slowly ascended the wooden steps that lead to the narrow walk for pedestrians running beside the tracks on the bridge, and had gone about as far as the middle of the river, he stepped into one of the round recesses fronting the... (From :

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Chapter 2: The Eleventh Hour On Friday evening of the following week Carrard Auban was riding down the endlessly long City Road in an omnibus. He sat beside the driver, — a gentleman in a silk hat and with a faultless exterior, — and watched impatiently the gradual lessening of the distance which separated him from his destination. He was excited and out of sorts. As the omnibus stopped at Finsbury Square, he quickly alighted, hurried down the pavement as far as the next cross-street after he had satisfied himself about the direction, and found himself a few minutes later on the steps of South Place Institute. Even from a distance an unusually large concourse of people was noticeable. At short intervals policemen were standing round. The doors of the dark, church-like building were wide open; as Auban slowly pushed his way in with the stream, he exchanged hasty words of greeting with some acquaintances who were stationed there to sell the p... (From :

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Chapter 3: The Unemployed The metropolis on the Thames, the “greatest wart of the earth,” was again having its annual show: the gloomy spectacle of those crowds whom only excess of misery — the specter of starvation — could drive forth from their dens, into the heart of the city, to that spot of world-wide fame which is dedicated to the memory of past days of “glory and greatness,” there to consider the question: “What must we do to live tomorrow? How pass this long winter without work and without bread?” ... For these unfortunate creatures who had long ago learned that there are no rights for them on earth, either to a foot of its soil, or to the least of its goods, had now lost even their last “right”; the right of slaving for others, — and were standing face to face with that terrible specter which is the most faithful companion of poverty throughout their whole life, — hunger. (From :

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Chapter 4: Carrard Auban During that same afternoon on which so much seething blood flowed back to the heart of the metropolis, Carrard Auban was sitting in his quiet, lofty room on one of the streets north of King’s Cross, which are never very lively on week days, but seem as if haunted by death on holidays. He had been living here since he was again alone. For more than a year already. It was one of those bare, plainly furnished rooms, without modern improvements, for which one pays ten shillings a week, but in whose quiet seclusion one can live without being disturbed by the noise of the life outside. Room after room of the entire three-story house was thus rented; the occupants saw their landlady only when they paid the weekly rent, while they hardly ever met each other. Occasionally they would meet on the stairs, to pass rapidly on without greeting. Auban’s room was divided into two unequal parts by a screen... (From :

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Chapter 5: The Champions of Liberty Auban jumped, up. There was a rap at the door. The bar-boy who came every Sunday thrust his head through the door: “Sir?” He might call again in half an hour. Auban looked at his watch. He had again been musing away a whole hour... It was almost five o’clock. It was already getting dark, and Auban lit a large lamp which illuminated the whole room from the mantelpiece. Then he stirred up the fire to a fresh glow; pushed the table with an effort towards the window, so that there was a large space before the fireplace; and finally placed a number of chairs round the latter in a semicircle. Now there was room for about eight or nine persons. He surveyed the room which, now that the curtains were drawn, warmed by the blazing fire and illumined by the mild light, gave the appearance almost of comfort. But how different it used to be: in the two small rooms in Holb... (From :

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Chapter 6: The Empire of Hunger The East End of London is the hell of poverty. Like an enormous, black, motionless, giant kraken, the poverty of London lies there in lurking silence and encircles with its mighty tentacles the life and the wealth of the city and of the West End: those on the left side extending over the Thames and embracing the entire Embankment on the other side — Rotherhithe, Deptford, Peckham, Camberwell, Lambeth, the other London, the South separated by the Thames; those on the right side stealing round the northern limits of the city in thinner threads. They join each other where Battersea runs into Chelsea and Brompton across the Thames... The East End is a world in itself, separated from the West as the servant is separated from his master. Now and then one hears about it, but only as of something far off, somewhat as one hears about a foreign land inhabited by other people with other manners and customs... It... (From :

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Chapter 7: The Tragedy of Chicago The days beginning the second week of November seemed shrouded in smoke and in blood. While in London the cry for “labor or bread” grew more and more ominous in the ears of the privileged robbers and their protectors, the eyes of the world were fixed on Chicago, on the uplifted hand of power. Would it fall? or, “pardoning,” relax? — The events of the day followed thick and fast, one precipitating another. Auban had passed the first days of the week in his office, working hard, for he wished to have the last two as much as possible to himself. When on Wednesday after luncheon he went to his coffee-house, he saw Fleet Street and the Strand covered with gay-colored flags and streamers, which stood out in strange relief against the melancholy gray of the sky, the slimy black of the street mud, the impenetrable masses of people who monopolized... (From :

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Chapter 8: The Propaganda of Communism Trupp was on the way to his Club. It was the evening of the day on which the London newspapers had published the detailed accounts of the murder in Chicago, and since Trupp had read them, he had wandered — as if impelled by feelings for which he had no name, and as if bounded and pursued by invisible enemies whom he did not know — through the infinite sea of houses, without aim, without purpose, in all directions, without knowing what he did. He saw neither the streets through which he passed, nor the streams of humanity through which he forced his way... Where he had been, he knew not. Once the Thames had lain before him, and, leaning against the railing of a bridge, he had stood a whole hour, gazing fixedly and abstractedly down upon the black tide of the river; several times he had crossed the main arteries of traffic, and then each time instinctively sought quieter and more secluded s... (From :

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Chapter 9: Trafalgar Square London was in a fever. It reached its highest point on the second Sunday of November, the Sunday following the events of Chicago. Among the many memorable days of that memorable year this thirteenth of November was destined to take a most prominent place. For a month, according to the whim of the police authorities, the “unemployed” had been alternately driven from and admitted to Trafalgar Square, the most accessible public meeting ground of the city. This condition was intolerable for any length of time. The complaints of the starving masses grew more and more desperate, while the hotel-keepers and pawnbrokers considered the meetings as harmful to their business and invoked the protection of their servants, the “organs of public power.” At the beginning of the month a decree of the police commissioner interdicted the further holding of meetings... (From :

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Chapter 10: Anarchy Weeks passed. The “bloody Sunday” on Trafalgar Square no longer excited people to passionate discussions. On the following Sunday, indeed, a company of patriotic volunteers had come to offer their support to the police, but after they had been exposed a few hours in the Square to the scorn and ridicule of the curious crowd, who made no attempt at reconquering a lost right, they had to return home, drenched by the rain, and without having swung their newly turned clubs. After the grand spectacle, the comedy of voluntary self-abasement; after the “bloody Sunday” the “laughing-stocks”! ... The Square was and remained empty. The question of the “unemployed” was of course not solved, but it had been pushed into the background, and no longer cried for an answer in the shrill tones of hunger. In Chicago the corpses of the murdered men ha... (From :

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Appendix John Henry Mackay Among the modern poets with a marked personality, John Henry Mackay undoubtedly occupies a conspicuous place. Surely the task of tracing the development of this poet-individuality is not without charm. The personal life, which in all cases reacts powerfully on a man’s works, can here indeed hardly be touched upon, and I can consequently offer no plastic, but only a reflex, picture. With a few exceptions, Mackay’s poems so far have been so entirely lyrical, so entirely the expression of an inner mood, and so little addressed to the public, that they can be understood and appreciated only in their ensemble. To be delighted by rare beauty, surprised by original and saving ideas, one must allow his thought and soul-life to absorb him seriously and without prejudice. This is especially true of Mackay’s latest and, for the general reading public, most incomprehensible book,... (From :


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