Monday, April 7, 2014

Richard Bach Jensen's "The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism"

Richard Bach Jensen is Professor of History at the Louisiana Scholars' College at Northwestern State University. He has published a book about the theory and practice of Italian public security policy from 1848 to the crisis of the 1890s. His other publications deal with the repression of anarchist terrorism in Europe and America, the reform of the Italian police in the 19th century, the Italian political thinker Gaetano Mosca, Italy's system of administrative detention on off-shore islands, futurism and fascism, Mussolini, and Italian and Spanish women in modern politics.

Jensen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism: An International History, 1878-1934, and reported the following:
Dynamite! was supposed to be the original title of my book, since after this powerful explosive was invented in 1866, it became the signature, and much feared, weapon of anarchist terrorists. I present evidence that people at the time reacted to dynamite in ways comparable to reactions later on to the atomic bomb. (The title had to be changed because Cambridge had already published another book with dynamite in the title). In any case, page 99 of The Battle Against Anarchist Terrorism makes no specific references to bombings and assassinations, which make up a significant part of my book and formed the first global wave of terrorism. What that page does discuss is the secret international diplomatic and police efforts to contain anarchist terrorism, a virtually unknown story that forms the book’s central narrative. For many years, historians have had difficulty gaining access to documents regarding these highly secret activities (and some documentation still remains off limits, e.g., the British are withholding information about their highly effective network of spies and agents provocateurs who helped to keep England largely immune from anarchist terrorism). Over a period of twenty years of research, however, I was able to unearth much previously unknown information in the British, German, Austrian, Spanish, Italian, American, and Argentinian archives.

In the mid 1890s Austria-Hungary was at the center of efforts to coordinate international anti-anarchist efforts, just as later, in the early 1920s, it (or rather Austria) would be at the center of efforts to form an international policing organization (the predecessor of Interpol). In 1894, Austria wanted Switzerland to exchange intelligence regarding the activities of the anarchists directly with the Viennese police. Of course good intelligence is crucial for preventing terrorism and had been conspicuously lacking before the 1890s. 1894 had been a particularly alarming year for Europe and the world since in July of that year, the anarchists assassinated their first head of state (in this case, the president of France). During the next seven years, they would murder four more monarchs and heads of state and government, culminating with US President William McKinley in September 1901.

Austrian Foreign Minister Kálnoky’s efforts to organize anti-anarchist cooperation faced many obstacles. I point these out on page 99:
...the Swiss had no central police force to monitor the anarchists. This illustrates a central and often overlooked issue regarding the anti-anarchist campaign. With both Switzerland and, as we have seen, Germany, closer international cooperation in the surveillance of the anarchists required a reform, and especially a centralization, of national police forces. Many individual countries simply lacked the capacity to gather and distribute information about the anarchists without important structural changes in the organization of their police. A second major stumbling block for the Swiss, as for the English, was that they had long upheld the right of asylum for political exiles and were not eager to have their hands tied by an international agreement....

Kálnoky's plans to make Austria-Hungary into the gray eminence of the anti-anarchist campaign failed. The German Kaiser was enthusiastic for a frontal assault on the "revolutionary parties," but his government was not and gave only tepid support to Kalnoky's proposals.
Nor was the Hungarian half of the Dual Monarchy keen for Austria to spearhead an anti-anarchist crusade. Privately many European governments admitted their worry that taking a public stance might draw the unwanted wrath of the anarchists against their leaders. Since so many of the anarchist assassins were “lone wolves” unattached to any anarchist group known to the police, it was feared that no real defense existed against their attacks. This anxiety about the obscure lone bomber or assassin who could never be identified ahead of time and who might strike at any moment accounts for much of the pervasive fear that anarchist terrorism inspired between the 1880s and the 1920s.
Read an excerpt from The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism.

--Marshal Zeringue