Daniel De Leon editorial : Genesis of the Dynamite Bomb


Genesis of the Dynamite Bomb
by Daniel De Leon
from the Daily People, April 11, 1912
as reprinted in The People May 13, 1995



A 1912 lesson to the practitioners and advocates of bombs as a supposed force for "progress."



(DAILY PEOPLE, April 11, 1912)

So much noise is made by a single dynamite bomb, and the circles of the social sea into which the bomb is thrown extend so wide, and so tempestuously, that the genesis of dynamite is commonly taken to be something quite out of the ordinary. The common opinion on the subject should be warning enough against the power of noise to dethrone judgment. *

The fundamental error concerning dynamite is that it is the product of a goal. Given a certain goal, dynamite is supposed to leap into existence by a sort of spontaneous generation. Closely looked into, dynamite will be found to be "nonpartisan" in point of goal: it is applied by all manner of people to most divergent goals. In fact the dynamite bomb has no goal.

At first blush the statement may seem absurd that the "good cry," which some estimable women are said to find solace in, and the dynamite bomb are of one psychic family. Yet the fact remains that they are, and likewise are both kin, of the same degree, with outbursts of profanity on the part of some "strong" men.

When the estimable women referred to have been foiled in some impossible wish, they do not overhaul their premises and the conduct that flowed from the same; they break down; the vent they give to their pent-up feelings is a protest "worded" in "a good cry." When, in turn, the "strong" men, just alluded to, bump their noses against a stone wall which they were not mentally alert enough to discover in advance, they do not learn from experience; they also protest; their protest is fashioned in round volumes of stout profanity.

It is exactly so with the bomb. When men who address themselves to the social question with their feet up in one or another of many rosy-colored clouds that hover in the firmament of the movement; when men, some of whom have their feet in the roseate cloud that fraternity is possible between workingman and capitalist; others of whom stick their feet in the rubicund cloud that class organization of physical force, pure and simple, is possible and is all-sufficient for the establishment of the Industrial Republic; and others of whom plant their feet upon the unsteady footing of the pink vapor that a political organization, pure and simple, is the all-powerful weapon whereby to knock capitalism off its throne; when such men run up, as to run up they are fated to, against the hard terrestrial facts that between capitalist and wage slave the social feud is implacable, or that pure-and-simple physical force leads into a dead alley, or that pure-and-simple political action is a sort of flash in the pan, then, while the dishonest ones among them hasten to make their peace with the foe and become reactionists, the honest but dull ones fly off the handle, and, whether they were Gompersists, or Bakuninists or Hillquit-Spargists, take to the bomb. **

The posture of the dynamiter is that of the pagan -- credulous before the idol creature of his own ignorance, and revengefully wrathful against the idol when he fails "to deliver the goods." The dynamite bomb -- like tears and profanity -- is the language of rage, impotent and ignorant. It is a groan of weakness -- a declaration of bankruptcy.



* De Leon's editorial was a response to the "direct action" of the false and anarchistic Industrial Workers of the World that rejected the original De Leonist political and economic program of the IWW adopted in 1905. In some instances, the false IWW was lyingly accused of using bombs; as for example in the 1912 Lawrence, Mass., textile strike. Dynamite was found, but a local undertaker confessed that he had planted it at the behest of the American Woolen Company and police officials in an effort to break the strike. The president of the company was arrested. A record of the advocacy of "direct action" by members of the anarchistic IWW, and answers to it, is compiled in Daniel De Leon's AS TO POLITICS. The term "direct action" meant anything any member thought it meant.

** "Gompersists" were AFL union officials and others who, like the McNamara brothers, used dynamite in fighting for wage demands. Bombings, sabotage, shootings, etc., are still reported during some AFL-CIO strikes. "Bakuninists" were (and are) those anarchists influenced by the anti-Marxism of Michael Bakunin, who tried to capture the First International of Marxian socialism. Bakunin's insurrectionary tactics were developed by the Russian nihilist Serge Nechayev. Nechayev, who, as Irving Howe once observed in THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, scorned "the Marxist idea of 'going to the masses,' advocated the use of terror, arson, robbery and spying on comrades." The "Hillquit-Spargists" were members of the false Socialist Party. Morris Hillquit himself, who tried to capture and then to destroy the Socialist Labor Party, on one occasion shouted publicly that the aim of the Socialist Party was to capture political power "by ballots if we can, by bullets if we must." John Spargo, who wound up as an extreme right-wing Republican, was a completely political "Socialist" with great pretensions of knowledge that were not justified. The net effect of the influence of Hillquit and Spargo was to attract socially ignorant people who ranged from "Christian Socialists" to "fire-and-brimstone" anarchists and direct actionists, with tactics ranging from soul-searching to violence. The so-called Socialist Party had no workable program to offer them.