Monday, Sept. 17, 2012
The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks (University of Illinois Press), By Timothy Messer-Kruse
Just as some leftists continue to insist on the innocence of Alger Hiss, despite all incriminating evidence to the contrary that surfaced from the Soviet archives, others persist in glorifying the anarchists convicted of tossing a bomb at police—killing five—during Chicago’s infamous Haymarket Riot (1886). As Timothy Messer-Kruse shows, the anarchists were protesting on the side of a just cause, the eight-hour workday. But contrary to the hagiographies perpetrated by the Communist Party and perpetuated by the New Left, they conspired to touch off a violent showdown with the authorities. The public backlash resulted in the growing conservatism of many sectors of the nascent union movement—exactly opposite of what the bomb throwers intended.
Messer-Kruse, professor of ethnic studies at Bowling Green, explodes much false folklore, beginning with the innocence of the anarchists convicted in the riot’s aftermath and exploding the notion that they represented a form of homegrown American rebellion. As he shows, most were German immigrants, banded together in a militia called the Lehr und Wehr Verein and organized around a newspaper called the Arbeiter-Zeitung, whose editors kept dynamite in their desks. Not only did the Haymarket bombing fail “to ignite the popular insurrection the anarchists had dared hope for,” it turned the people on whose behalf they claimed to act against them.