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Introduction to Anarchist Terrorism

Anarchism is a social and political movement that advocates the elimination of an organized government and social hierarchy. Most anarchists assert that, in the absence of centralized political structures—such as governments, corporations, legal codes, and private ownership of land and resources—people would form voluntary, cooperative, and community-based associations. Since its inception, the anarchist movement has debated the utility and morality of violence as a means of establishing anarchy.

The editors have chosen to distinguish historical incidences of anarchist terrorism from other forms of modern political terrorism. In the United States, anarchism, socialism, bolshevism, and communism were often conflated. Although most anarchists, communists, and socialists did not advocate terrorism, in the media of the day, the terms implied the threat of violence. Some actions attributed to anarchists were perpetrated by members of other political groups. As a consequence, socialist and communist groups suffered increased oppression during periods of anarchist terrorist activity. Anarchist violence added to public and government fears about so-called left-wing extremists, resulting in the panic of the first Red Scare after the end of the Russian Revolution and World War I (1915–1918). However, by the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the anarchist movement had all but disappeared.

While some modern definitions of terrorism exclude assassinations, the editors have chosen to include primary sources on the assassinations of Alexander II of Russia, United States President William McKinley, and Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, all of whom were killed by anarchists or members of extremist groups who espoused anarchist principles. Between the years 1880 and 1915, nearly ten Western members of royal families or heads of state were assassinated by anarchists. Among those who advocated the use of violence to further anarchist principles, political assassinations were one of the most discussed and favored tactics of the era. Leading anarchist Emma Goldman, who claimed to abhor the use of violence within the movement, once quipped that political assassinations were inevitable actions so long as centralized governments continued to exist.

Articles on more recent incidences of terrorism perpetrated by groups with anarchist underpinnings are located elsewhere in the book. The actions of ecoanarchists, such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), and anarcho-primitivists, such as the Unabomber, are featured in the chapter titled "Special Interest Terrorism." An article on terrorist actions in the 1970s by the Baader-Meinhoff Group appears in the "Political Terrorism" chapter.

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Introduction to Anarchist Terrorism

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Introduction to Anarchist Terrorism