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I have long held the view that "anarchist" as a label became passé with the invention of psychiatry. Of course it has stuck around as a vestigial etymological fossil, but any current criminal shrink can now vouch that the loonies who espoused anarchy were really just pathological egotistical narcissists. As proof of this contention I now present you with the head of Emile Henri, who lost his head over the injustice he suffered because of another inarticulate Frenchman who sought to challenge the establishment and managed only to blow his nose at them.

Everything about Auguste Vaillant screams of irony. He was a kin of Lee Harvey Oswald, a little man who wanted to be important, but lacked the necessary attention span. He was the leader of a socialist group but seems to have been the only regular member. While waiting for the revolution he was ironically employed sewing expensive handbags and wallets for rich people to store their money in.
*
Concerned about justice for the poor, Vaillant had abandoned a wife and two children - leaving them in poverty - and then lived with a deaf woman. For a political revolutionary to be living with a woman who could not hear his rants against capitalism passes beyond ironic into the realm of absurdity. And that is where we find Auguste Vaillant on Saturday December 10, 1893 entering the public gallery above the Chamber of Deputies, the French congress, carrying a sauce pan bomb in his overcoat. Ce n'est pas ironique, c'est le plus absurde
*
Auguste had constructed two sauce pan bombs, but discarded the larger one after realizing he could never sneak a 3 quart sauce pan past security. Spotting his intended target, the French President, standing on the Chamber floor, Auguste revealed and armed his 1 quart sauce pan. This attracted the attention of the woman sitting next to him. (“Excuse me, but is that a sauce pan bomb in your pocket or are you just unhappy to see me?”). She was able to deflect his throw so that the sauce pan bounced off a decorative cornice before exploding. The blast shattered Auguste’s right arm. The nuts and bolts packed around the explosive, shrapnel intended to kill 150 deputies, instead lacerated Auguste’s neck and chest. And the explosion blew his nose completely off his face. Unfortunately, the quick acting heroine was also badly wounded, as were at least 20 politicians. But the only person who died, if not immediately, was Auguste. Ce n'est pas tragique, c'est le plus absurde.
*
Auguste’s trial was brief. And on February 3, 1894, the guillotine finished what Auguste’s own bomb had started. His last words, before the blade severed the rest of his head from his body, were, “Mort à la société bourgeoise! Vive l’anarchie!” The translation would be, “Death to the Bourgeoisie! Long live Anarchy!” Even his last words turned out to have been ironic.
*
The irony developed because, of the millions who were outraged by Auguste’s departing utterance, the most significant turned out to have been another nobody anarchist fanatic, this one named Emile Henri, a 21 year old who was consumed with envy. Henri was convinced that Auguste’s noble death scene should have been his. After all, just over a year before had not Henri stricken a much more effective blow against the bourgeois but had received little of the press coverage afforded to the now headless incompetent.
*
Henri had decided to strike his blow for striking miners. He packed 20 sticks of dynamite into a sauce pan rigged to explode if it was jostled. He carefully left this “infernal device” outside the second floor offices of a mining company just before lunch on November 8, 1892.
*
A lowly Porter noticed the sauce pan, and realized immediately it was probably not somebodies' lunch. But rather than evacuating the offices he ordered an office boy to carry the suspect sauce pan down to the street. Somehow the office boy made it in once piece, but he felt a little uneasy about just leaving it on the sidewalk, in case a passing pedestrian should be injured. So he alerted a nearby school crossing guard. She called the police, and two patrol officers responded. They tied a napkin around the bomb and then the three of them, the cops and the office boy, carried the bomb suspended between them to the local police station at the rather mis-named Rue des Bon Enfants (Street of the wonderful children.) There the bomb exploded, killing four cops and the office boy.
*
Henri had to lay low for awhile, but he was still living in anonymity in a crummy apartment when he opened his anarchist newspaper on February 4, 1894 to read of Auguste’s dramatic speech at his execution. And Henri was green with envy.
*
Now, there might be some who feel my tone slights the victims of such attacks; baloney. Murder has been anathema for at least six thousand years, when the ancient Egyptians made “Thou shalt not kill” their first commandment, predating Moses by at least a thousand years. If a human being is murdered by a serial killer, a lunatic at the controls of a hijacked jet, a deluded doctor, a drunk at the wheel of a car or a waiter too busy to wash their hands, the result for the victims is the same; tragedy. Fundamentalist Islamic-Christian-Marxist- Socialist-cultural-political justifications matter only to the perpetrator; I say again, baloney.
*
As if to prove my point, one week after the glorious execution of Auguste, Henri entered the restaurant at Hotel Terminus, next to the Gar Saint Lazare train station in Paris. He had stopped at two other bars earlier but, he claimed later, they were not crowded enough. My guess is he had not yet drunk enough courage. He nursed two drinks for an hour at the Terminus, and then as he staggered out the door, tossed his bomb back into the café, where the bomb exploded, killing one. A waiter ran after Henri, who shot him. Two policemen took up the chase. Henri shot one of them. The other knocked him down and restrained him. Henri’s toll was now eight dead – five at the police station and three at the restaurant.
*
At his trial Henri was defiant and bombastic, until his attorney put Henri’s mother on the witness list. Now Henri objected. He told the judge, “It never occurred to me to inflict such pain on my mother.” In fact I suspect Henri was more concerned about sullying his image as a cold heartless anarchist with a sobbing mommy.
*
According to the New York Times, On May 21, 1894 at “4:07 a.m.…the iron doors swung apart…Henri was ghastly white, but walked with a firm step. As he approached the platform he shouted, “Courage comrades. Long live anarchy.” His voice…trembled noticeably…As they pushed him against the plank he shouted again, ““Courage comrades. Long live anarchy.” He had evidently worked this out and wanted to be quoted exactly. The click of the knife was heard the next moment, and Henri’s head dropped to the ground. The blood from the trunk spurted high as the body revolved into the basket. (The executioner) himself picked up the head from the sawdust and threw it viciously into the basket with the body.”
*
Anarchy, it turned out, was not long lived. History proved it to be a temporary delusion, to join those other temporary delusions people have claimed as justification for random murder of innocent people; communism, fascism, Black power, White power, the Basque Independence Party, the Irish Republican Army, the John Birch Society, the Confederacy, radical Islam, and the myriad other stupid self-justifications invented by humans.
*
Hatred is a lot like ideology in this respect - reduced to its core it is all about self.
- 30 -
WEDNESDAY: COXEY'S ARMY: PART SIX. ON TO WASHINGTON!
COMING SOON, DOMINATIONS FOR THE 2011 IDES OF MARCH AWARD!

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