Michael Schwab

The Famous Speeches of the Chicago Anarchists in Court

Michael Schwab (1853- 1887) Michael Schwab was born in Mannheim, Germany, on 9th August, 1853. He worked as a bookbinder before emigrating to the United States in 1879. He settled in Chicago where he joined the Socialist Labor Party and became active in trade union activities.

It is not much I have to say. And I would say nothing at all if keeping silent did not look like a cowardly approval of what has been done here. To term the proceedings during the trial “justice”, would be a sneer.

If one class is arrayed against the other, it is idle and hypocritical to think about justice. Anarchy was on trial, as the State’s Attorney put it in his closing speech. A doctrine, an opinion hostile to brute force, hostile to our present murderous system of production and distribution. I am condemned to die for writing newspaper articles and making speeches.
Anarchy was on trial. Little did it matter who the accused were, to be honored by the prosecution. It was the movement the blow was aimed at. It was directed against the labor movement, against Socialism.

A movement is not a conspiracy. All we did was done in open daylight. There were no secrets. We prophesied in word and writing the coming of a great revolution, a change in the system of production in all industrial countries of the globe. And the change will come, and must come.

Is it not absurd, as the State’s Attorney and his associates have done, to suppose that this social revolution-a change of such immense proportions-was to be inaugurated on the first of May in the city of Chicago by making war on the police!?

The police searched hundreds of issues of our papers, of the Arbeiter-Zeitung and the Alarm, and so the prosecution must have known very well what we understood when we talked about the coming revolution. And we do not deny that the working class will defend its revolution, even if it comes to violence.

But it is not only we who called for violence! The president of the Citizens’ Association, Edwin Lee Brown, made a speech in North Side Turner Hall in which he called on all good citizens to take possession of the courthouse by force so that they might lynch us! It seems to me that the most violent speakers are not to be found in the ranks of the Anarchists.

Murder is committed day by day. Children are slain, women worked to death, men killed inch by inch, and these crimes are never punished by law. The great principle underlying the present system is unpaid labor.

Those who amass fortunes, build palaces, and live in luxury, are doing that by virtue of unpaid labor. Being the possessors of land and machinery, they dictate their terms to the workingman. He is compelled to sell his labor cheap, or to starve. The price paid him is always far below the real value. He acts under compulsion, and they call it a free contract.
I know what life has in store for the masses. I was one of them. I slept in their apartments, and lived in their cellars. I saw them work and die. I worked with girls in the same factory-prostitutes they were, because they could not earn enough wages for their living.

I saw families starving and able-bodied men worked to death. Thousands of laborers in the city of Chicago live in rooms without sufficient protection from the weather, without proper ventilation, where never a stream of sunlight flows in. There are hovels where two, three and four families live in one room.

Improved machinery that ought to be a blessing for the workingman under the existing conditions turns for him to a curse. Machinery multiplies the army of unskilled laborers, makes the laborer more dependent upon the men who own the land and the machines.

The outcry that Socialism, Communism and Anarchism are the creed of foreigners, is a big mistake. There are more Socialists of American birth in this country than foreigners, and that is much, if we consider that nearly half of all industrial workingmen are not native-born Americans. There are Socialistic papers in a great many States edited by Americans for Americans. The capitalistic newspapers conceal that fact very carefully.

Socialism, as we understand it, means that land and machinery shall be held in common by the people. The production of goods shall be carried on by producing groups which shall supply the demands of the people. Under such a system every human being would have an opportunity to do useful work, and no doubt would work. Some hours’ work every day would suffice to produce all that, according to statistics, is necessary for a comfortable living. Time would be left to cultivate the mind.

That is what the Socialists propose. Some say it is un-American! Well, then, is it American to let people starve and die in ignorance? Is exploitation and robbery of the poor, American? What have the great political parties done for the poor? Promised much; done nothing, except corrupting them by buying their votes on election day. A poverty-stricken man has no interest in the welfare of the community. It is only natural that in a society where women are driven to sell their honor, men should sell their votes.

In the present state of society violence is used on all sides, and, therefore, we advocated the use of violence against violence, but against violence only, as a necessary means of defense. I have not the slightest idea who threw the bomb on the Haymarket, and had no knowledge of any conspiracy to use violence on that or any other night.

I have nothing to regret in the actions of myself and my comrades. We stood for our ideals, nothing more. If we had kept silent, stones would have cried out.