The Social War

Peter Kropotkin

“La Guerre Sociale”, Le Révolté: Organ Communiste-Anarchiste , 11 September 1886

War! All-out war against socialists of all shades! Examination, if possible, of all workers who dare to revolt against the reign of capital! – This is what American democracy offers us at the moment.

Seven death sentences in the Chicago trial; countless convictions for boycotting, for striking. Discretionary powers given to mayors. Demands for summary executions from top to bottom of the bourgeois press. – This is the record of the capitalist regime in the United States. Never, not even in Russia, have we seen in any trial anything so despicable as the Chicago trial. It is established, proven, by witnesses even in the pay of the State that out of the seven co ndemned to death for murder that two were not in Haymarket Square and that three left before the bomb exploded. All the same they are condemned to death, and the bourgeois press applauds.

As for the other two convicts, a witness paid by the State – a pimp and conman – believes he saw Spies light the fuse of the bomb but contradicts himself twice. He saw it in the front, he only saw the back! Spies was in black; and when it is proven that he was in grey – “Yes,” affirms the conman, “he was indeed in grey!”

On which the jury hastens to sentence Spies to death. He is intelligent, active – that is enough.


Our friends are convicted of murder. And the mayor of Chicago says that the speeches of Spies, Fielden and the others called for so little violence that he, the mayor, ordered Bonfield to send the police home. The anarchists, in fact, having resolved not to attempt an uprising, the meeting was quite peaceful.

They found bombs and dynamite at our friends’ homes. But neither American law nor custom is against this. O’Donovan Rossa, the Irish patriot, makes no secret of having explosives in his office, and the bourgeois arm many soldiers to massacre workers.

Finally, the agent provocateur, the Brenin of the affair, is not missing. It is a certain Seeliger who taught the art of making bombs in the armed anarchist section and had them made before his eyes. Like Brenin, he makes no secret of having been paid. And, as it is quite possible that Cleveland would not do like Grévy (we know that Grévy hastened to pardon Brenin last July) the agent provocateur Seeliger only appears in the trial as a witness.[1]


That is the trial.

As for the press – democrats, republicans, radicals welcomed the sentence with loud cries of joy.

This sentence must be the prelude to a whole series and the raging cowards are simply demanding the summary execution of all anarchists.

Only a good massacre could satisfy them, and they will do it at the first opportunity.

– “Those damned women and children who come to their meetings!” cried Chief Police Officer Bonfield to a bourgeois travelling salesman, who went to the court to repeat these words. – “Those damned women and children! Otherwise I would have drove three thousand of those socialist scoundrels into a dead end and there I would have quickly finished them!”

This is the Bourgeoise at work!


Workers, reflect on this trial, reflect on this attitude of the bourgeois democrats!

Woe to you if you let yourselves be defeated at the next taking up of arms! Woe to your wives and children!

It will be relentless, ferocious extermination!

 Do not lose a single moment to disarm the bourgeoisie and do not forget that its weapon – more powerful than its guns – is the capital it possesses.

End Notes

[1] Claude Brenin was a miner who became an agent of the police in October 1884. He was ordered to join a secret organisation of miners in Montceau-les-Mines called the “Black Band” and gave a younger colleague a bomb and a revolver for an attack. Caught in the act, the colleague denounced the perpetrators of previous attacks. Brenin was sentenced to five years of hard labour, commuted to five years’ imprisonment the following year. This trial followed the famous Lyons anarchist trial of 1883 in which Kropotkin was sentenced to five years imprisonment for being a member of the International. (Translator)