Reader Carlo, are you trying to get this blog investigated by the DHS? People use the word “bomb thrower” to describe anyone who’s style of political discourse is crude, demagogic or, er…”explosive.” But the term was originally coined in the 1880’s to describe anyone who was an anarchist, most especially an eastern European anarchist. In 1881 a group of Russian anarchists killed Czar Alexander II with a bomb. Just a few years later, in my old hometown of Chicago, the so-called Haymarket Affair occurred, in which anarchists threw a bomb at a group of police who were trying to break up a mass anarchist/socialist demonstration in favor of the 8-hour work day. Seven of the police were killed.
Today we consider anarchists and socialists at opposite ends of the political spectrum…one group wants a stateless society, the other a very powerful state. However back in those days they were two sides of the same coin, both vehemently anti-industrial, anti-capitalist and anti-Church. Both looking for ways to destroy the old class and/or international financial orders, place the ownership of the means of production in the hands of groups of non-elites, and deliver more individual liberty to average people. Sure, there were some radically individualistic schools of anarchism, but the more “mainstream” ones were collectivist in their thinking.
Indeed 125 years ago anarchism was surprisingly popular as political ideologies go. Its main problem was that its adherents tended to be quite violent in their attempts to create “propaganda by deed.” They were also frequently contemptuous of quaint democratic notions like voting. As such, there was a natural ceiling to their popular appeal here in the States. Still one could make the argument that of all the revolutionary collectivist/egalitarian ideologies that have been floated here in the U.S. — socialism, communism, etc. — anarchism has probably been the most successful, at least from an historical point of view. American Communism never posed a real threat to the established order here, but there was a time when anarchism actually did.