Death Before Injustice The Era of Anarchist Trials Publication date : October 29, 2009
A lawyer on the Paris bar, Thierry Lévy is a former chairman of the International Prison Observatory. His published works include Eloge de la barbarie judiciaire and Convaincre (written with Jean-Denis Bredin).
On 8 November 1892, a bomb went off in the staircase of a Paris police station. There was little doubt it had been the act of an anarchist, although the perpetrator remained unidentified for a long time. Some time later, an anarchist assassinated the French President Sadi Carnot.
This was a time of upheaval in France. The Paris Commune was still a vivid memory; the Panama Canal Scandal had been followed by Boulangisme (which advocated “Revenge on Germany”); and the Carmaux miners had initiated a major strike. It was then that the “anarchist peril” erupted, threatening France’s corrupt Third Republic.
A celebrated criminal lawyer, Thierry Lévy vividly restores the ideas of the thinkers who inspired the anarchist movement: Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin. He evokes Ravachol, Auguste Vaillant, Emile Henry, as well as Caserio and the “Trente”, who undertook violent actions, and describes how the authorities reacted. He brilliantly reproduces the stormy debates that took place at the anarchist trials, and how government violence matched anarchist violence.
“Anarchy did not advocate violence: the very essence of the doctrine was opposed to it. The bomb throwers did not feel they had abandoned the principles of anarchy, yet their ideas, though generous, had thrown them among the killers. They committed acts of violence in order to inspire loathing towards all forms of domination rather than to exercise power. The price they exacted was minor, compared to the slaughter that would engulf the warring nations twenty years later. In this, they provided an alternative concept of humanity,” writes Thierry Lévy.