My husband's employer dispatched him to New York City for a couple of days last week. He never goes anywhere without his Contax U4R digital camera; it's the sort of object Sidney Reilly might have used to great advantage before the Bolshies executed him in 1918. He spent his small ration of spare time wandering around Manhattan and Brooklyn snapping pictures.
This photo was taken at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. It is 23 Wall Street, the J.P. Morgan Building, built in 1914.
He went to that spot as a sort of pilgrimage, in homage to Paul Strand, one of the towering pioneers of 20th C. photography. Strand stood on that spot in 1915; the resulting picture is an icon of New Realism fixed in platinum and potassium oxalate, and one of the most famous images ever printed.
If you really, really look at this picture, for a few moments you can see the world through the eyes of the people he captured walking down Wall Street. Yes, I know the critical consensus is that the picture captures the shrinking of modern man in the context of his overwhelmingly gargantuan surroundings. I still think it's a photograph overflowing with empathy.
Obviously a few things have been added since 1915. The food vendors and No Parking sign bleat out in color. There is another addition, more subtle, and much older: these pockmarks in the pink Tennessee marble facade. They have been there for 85 years, and were put there by anarchists.
On September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn wagon was pulled up to the sidewalk on the Wall Street side of the Morgan building. Seconds after noon, the wagon exploded. It had been filled with 100 lbs of TNT and 500 lbs. of amateur shrapnel. The sidewalks were crowded with lunchtime pedestrians; accounts of the damage are not exact, but approximately 400 people were injured and between 30 and 40 died. The horse didn't make it either.
Anarchists were immediately suspected, since there had been wave after wave of such violent attacks in the recent past, and the target was such a figurehead of unrepentant capitalism. This suspicion was solidified when circulars were found in a postbox at Cedar and Broadway, proclaiming
Remember we will not tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchists Fighters.
No one was ever arrested in connection with the bombing; decades later historian Paul Avritch fingered Mario Buda, an Italian anarchist and acquaintance of Sacco and Vanzetti, claiming their prosecution was the motive for the attack. This theory remains unsubstantiated.
If you ask most people who went to American public schools after World War II who the "anarchists" were, they'll be able to mumble something incoherent about Sacco and Vanzetti, and how they probably weren't guilty and were executed because of bigotry towards Italian immigrants. Not one in 50 could give you a concrete example of the violence wrought by anarchists between 1870 and 1925; that one might know that President McKinley was assassinated by a self-professed anarchist. In fact, anarchists were responsible for assassinating half a dozen world leaders in the early 1900s, including the Prime Minister of Spain, the President of France, and the King of Italy. Their code of "propoganda by the deed" justified random acts of violence and murder; they believed that only by exploding the old order, literally, could freedom be gained.
Their tactics caused a backlash of anger, not just against anarchy, but against any group or movement that formed their base or lent even tacit support: immigrants, labor agitators, small c communists. Given that, what is the motivation, in 2005, of calling one's self an anarchist? Many of us know modern anarchy only through reading Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick's book length reply to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. Nozick later backed away from much of this book (and even in his original formulation, he believed that pure anarchy was unachievable, although the barest minimal state that could be contrived was the only one he could endorse). Nevertheless, it remains a philosophical lodestode for the more rigorous type of political libertarian. These folks lack one notable animus of the bomb-throwing anarchists: they don't hate capitalism. In fact, they often call themselves anarcho-capitalists. They celebrate anarchy as the blossoming of enterprise, and in that and most others senses seem to have little to do with the other set of people who call themselves anarchists these days, the anti-globalization Nike-haters, Frankenfood neurotics, tree sitters, and people with "Free Rob Thaxton" bumperstickers.
Why, in the absence of a clear philosophical or tactical similarity, do either of these two groups call themselves "anarchists" ?? I am interested because of the abuse I've taken at times as a supporter of states' rights, which other than pasting a Confederate battle flag in the back of your domestic pickup truck window, is the best way to get yourself called a segregationist bigot these days. It's bad enough having to put up with the baggage when there is a philosophical connection. Why would you do it when there's not?