Leftist Violence Comes to America, a Historical Perspective

(To read previous installment, go here; to start with Part One, go here)

19th century Europe was marked by growing leftists movements, which attempted several short-lived revolutions throughout the continent. While these leftist risings failed, a new left-wing extremist movement, the anarcho-communists, grew out of them.

The word itself comes from a Greek word, anarkos, which means “without a chief.” Anarcho-communist believe that all government should be abolished along with private property, and that common ownership of the means of production in combination with a  stateless societies should be the organizing principle. To bring about such change, anarchists argued that violent actions, rather than words, were the best way to spread ideas. They called this tactic “”propaganda by the deed“”. What it meant in practice was terrorism and targeted assassinations of political leaders.

In 1881 an organization of Russian leftist/anarchists calling themselves the “People’s Will”, targeted Czar Alexander II, the “Russian Abraham Lincoln”.  Alexander, ironically, had freed the Russian serfs and reformed the Russian judicial system, introducing trial by jury.  He also granted the Russian territory of Finland greater autonomy, with plans to completely free the Finns.

That Alexander II was an enlightened ruler and gave monarchy a good face made him particularly odious to the left.

On March 13, 1881, members of the anarchist People’s Will ambushed and murdered the Czar in the streets of St. Petersburg;  throwing a bomb under the Czar’s carriage.

Again ironically, the day before his death Alexander had completed a draft creating  an elected parliament, the Duma.


The assassination of Alexander II was just the beginning of leftist-anarchist terror attacks and murders.

In 1905, Czar Alexander’s son and uncle of the (then) reigning Czar Nicholas II, Grand Duke Sergei, was also targeted and assassinated by the Socialist Revolutionary Party’s “Combat Organization”.

Even more despicably, in July of 1918 his widow Grand Duchess Elisabeth, who had become a nun after her husband’s murder, was also murdered by the Bolsheviks. Elisabeth, along with other members of Russian aristocratic families and her fellow nuns, was herded into an abandoned mineshaft; into which grenades were then hurled.

An observer heard them singing Church hymns to the end, even for some time after the explosions. The last thing Elizabeth did as she lay dying in the mineshaft was to bandage the wounds of Prince Ioann with her own handkerchief.

The murder of these innocent women is part-and-parcel with the obscene level of violence the left is willing to employ to gain its truly evil ends.

Anarchist assassins had a successful (from their viewpoint) run at murdering Heads of State in the last decade leading-up to and into the 20th century.

In 1894, anarchists assassinated the President of France, Marie-Francois Sadi Carnot. In 1900, King Umberto I of Italy was gunned down by an American-Italian anarchist. Then, in 1901, socialist/anarchist Leon Czolgosz, shot to death President William McKinley.

Europe’s far-left, violent ideology had come to America.

In the last decades of the 19th century, a wave of German and Eastern European immigrants came to America. They brought with them the doctrines of Marx and Engels, trade/labor unions, and anarchism.  They brought also the violence the left had exhibited in Europe.

Chicago became the epicenter of the American far-left in the late 19th century. As early as 1875 leftist education and defense organizations (Lehr und Wehr Vereine) were set-up there, and they soon spread to other cities. Members met regularly and drilled with arms. These militant leftist clubs caused a split in the socialist community, with the violent factions joining the anarchists.

The American Left held a convention in Pittsburgh in 1883, dominated by Johann Most, a German-born revolutionary who had served prison terms in a number of countries. Most had come to the United States in December 1882, and transferred his journal, Freiheit, to New York. Through the spoken and written word he became the leader of the left-wing anarchists in the United States and the leading figure of the predominantly immigrant socialists.

In typical socialist fashion the convention explained that since all institutions are aligned against him, the worker has a right to arm himself for self-defense and offense. The convention noted that no ruling class ever surrendered its privileges;  and urged organization for planning and carrying out rebellion. “Capitalists will not leave the field except by force”.

Throughout the 1880-90s anarchists were active in the incipient American labor movement and union formation, which they regarded as the ideal type of workmen’s societies. Albert Parsons, August Spies, and Samuel Fielden, all of them defendants in the Haymarket Affair Trial, had close connections with a part of the Chicago labor movement.

On May 4, 1886, Chicago was the scene of a violent confrontation between the fledgling leftist labor movement and the Chicago authorities. A labor demonstration in Haymarket Square was broken up by police. As the police moved in, anarchists hurled a bomb (one of some 50 bombs  subsequently found stored in Nepf’s Hall, a labor union facility).  About 60 officers were wounded in the incident, along with an unknown number of civilians. In all, eight policemen and at least four workers were killed. The so called  Haymarket Massacre galvanized public opinion throughout the country against anarchism and was a setback for the American labor movement.

1887 saw labor strikes and riots throughout the Mid-West and Northeastern states. Federal troops had to be called out to help local police contain the rioters. Many of the country’s railroads were shut down for long periods of time, at great cost to the economy.

The 1890s saw violent mine, factory, and railroad strikes that were only put down by Federal troops or the use of Pinkerton “detectives”. While violence was often began by the strikers (destroying owner’s property and attacking “scab” replacement workers), the response by the authorities was at times disproportionate.

Labor violence became a common theme in American industrial life.  Researchers Philip Taft and Philip Ross exhaustively documented this in their study, “American Labor Violence: Its Causes, Character, and Outcome“; concluding that America has the most historically violent labor movement in the world. A large part of the blame for this sits solidly with its Chicago far-left anarchist founders.

In the 1960s, the New Left began organizing and agitating in American cities and across college campuses throughout the country.  Violence soon manifested itself, as a myriad of small, fringe groups became active.

Here is a small sampling of ‘60s radical groups:

In 1969, Bill Ayer’s Weather Underground was founded. It grew out of the campus  radical group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and particularly its Revolutionary Youth Movement faction. The “Weathermen’s” avowed purpose was to bring about the violent overthrow of the American government. In May 21, 1970, the Weathermen issued a Declaration of War against the United States; this following a two year campaign of bombings and instigated riots.

Aside from Ayers, its members included: Karen Ashley, Bernardine Dohrn, John Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Gerry Long, Howie Machtinger, Jim Mellen, Terry Robbins, Mark Rudd, and Steve Tappis. (Many of these are now involved with the Democrat Party; Ayer’s in particular, a former friend and supporter of Barack Obama.)

Another violent Leftist group to grow up in the turbulent 1960s was The Black Liberation Army (BLA).  A splinter group from the Black Panthers (BPP), its stated goal was one of “armed struggle”; to “take up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States.” The BLA is credited with murdering 13 police officers (in ambush shootings) and over 60 acts of left-wing violence from 1970-1980.

In 1978, a new umbrella organization of far-left radicals was formed: the May 19th Communist Organization (M19CO). It was chiefly a combination of the Black Liberation Army and the Weather Underground. It also included members of the Black Panthers and the Republic of New Africa (RNA). They had three objectives: to free political prisoners held in American prisons, to use appropriation of capitalist wealth to fund the third stage, and to initiate a series of bombings and terrorist attacks.  From its inception to the mid-1980s, the group is responsible for over a dozen violent attacks and bombings.

In  1981 in Nanuet, New York, the group (mostly the Weathermen and BLA members) robbed a Brinks armored truck containing $1.6 million. The robbery was violent, resulting in the murders of two police officers and a security guard.

Another of these splinter radical groups was the United Freedom Front (also called the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit), a small American Marxist organization active in the 1970s and 1980s. It was responsible for 29 known robberies and bombings, carried out from October 4, 1975, to September 26, 1984. One of the members, Thomas Manning, was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper. It has been described as “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s”.

A notable moment in the history of leftist violence in America occurred at a Marin County Hall of Justice on August 7, 1970. There, three convicts from San Quentin Prison were on trial for murdering a guard. All three were former Black Panthers and members of other radical left-wing groups. United Feedom Front’s Jonathan P. Jackson was the brother of  “Soledad Brothers” defendant George Jackson. He planned an attack aimed at taking hostages and forcing the release of his brother and the other radicals awaiting trial.

At the courthouse, Jackson pulled weapons from a satchel he had brought into the court; and, with the help of three of the defendants, took the court hostage. The subsequent escape attempt ended in a bloody shootout. Jackson and two of his confederates were killed, as was the judge they had taken hostage. The District Attorney was shot and crippled for life.

Involved in the bloody incident was UCLA professor and communist Angela Davis. She was indicted for supplying the weapons used by Jackson in the courthouse takeover. Davis fled the state to avoid arrest; but was apprehended and arrested in New York.

In 1972, she was tried and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was judged not sufficient to establish her responsibility for the plot.

Davis subsequently became a Left-wing celebrity.

In recent years, the drum-roll of leftist violence manifest itself most clearly in the anti-capitalist, anti-globalization movement.

On November 30,1999, at the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Seattle, WA, 40,000 angryanti-capitalist leftist demonstrated in the streets.  Around noon, black-clad anarchists among the demonstrators began smashing windows and vandalizing storefronts. Other protesters pushed dumpsters into the middle of intersections and lit them on fire, closing traffic and generally disrupting all commercial activity in downtown Seattle.

Over 600 people were subsequently arrested.

Such violent demonstrations against globalization ( focusing on the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G-8) and any other organization hateful to the left (such as the Republican Party) have become a normal facet of modern life. All follow the Seattle model, which always results in destruction of private property, personal assaults, and confrontation with police, and large numbers of arrests.

The IMF in particular has drawn the ire of the international Left. Demonstrations against the IMF have occurred in Berlin in 1988 ; Madrid in ’94; Washington, DC, in 2000 (678 arrests); and again in Washington in 2002 (649 arrests).

Labor Unions (particularly the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU) have been active in recent incidents of violence and intimidation. In May 2010, some 500 purple jacketed SEIU members arriving in buses in front of a bank executive’s home and held a raucous demonstration on his front lawn and porch. Only the banker’s 14 year old son was home, terrified by the sudden appearance of this angry mob.

File:Anarchy-symbol.svgIn the last 4 years, the Occupy Movement has staged numerous acts of violence across the country; often instigated by Black Bloc Anarchists within their movement.

Weekly, there are stories of leftwing demonstrators and incidents of violence and destruction of property. Part-and-parcel with the violent history of the Left.

The violent activities of left-wing eco-terrorist groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front, Earth First, and the Earth Liberation Front should not be overlooked. They have set fire to homes and businesses on the West Coast since 1997. They have also burned down university buildings, car lots, government offices, and ski resorts. Spiking of trees in the forests of the Pacific Northwest has led to the injury and death of loggers.

Today antifa and Black Lives Matter are only a new manifestation of a very old leftist practice: employing street violence (thinly disguised as “protest”) to intimidate their opponents and to gain power disproportionate to their numbers.

Next: Conclusions



(To read the previous installment, go here)

In 1792 the French liberal intelligentsia, imbibing the heady wine of Rousseau’s theories, inflamed the urban mobs against the upper classes. To be born into wealth or privilege was deemed an act of treason against “the People”.

No level of dissent was tolerated: disagreeing with the goals or bloody methods of the radical political clubs and demagogues that the revolution placed in charge, invited an  appointment with “Madam Guillotine”. Even women and children were beheaded by the revolutionary authorities (among such victims was Olympe de Gouges, an early feminist and supporter of the revolution).

By the time the Terror ended, 50,000 had died for the crime of being born into the wrong class or disagreeing with the radicals in charge.

Did this first leftist revolution, born in blood, lead to a better world?

No. It led to dictatorship.

As was to prove invariably the case, the leftist revolution in France gave birth not to utopia but to the dictatorship of Napoleon.

Whatever one thinks of Napoleon, his “glories” led to the deaths of between three and six million Europeans.  He is emblematic of what so often happens in the romanticized world of the Left: the arrival of the leftist champion on a white horse,to sweep away opposition and lead the revolutionary vanguard on to ultimate triumph. Unfortunately, all too often “utopia” is ephemeral while the dictatorship of the revolutionary leader is all too real.

In the middle years of the 19th century, Karl Marx, advancing the theories ofRousseau to the next level, putting forward the concept of “class criminal”. That economics (and the left believe that all politics are driven by economics) is a “zero sum game”. That is, if someone has more than someone else must have less. So, by extension, the wealthy are rich at the expense of the poor.

Again working from Rousseau, Marx arrived at the answer: a “classless” society  which outlawed private property, redistributing all evenly to the proletariat masses; and in which the workers owned the means of production.

The 20th century gave leftist a chance to create their versions of utopia as a wave of Marxist revolutions took power around the globe; and produced the most violent century ever.

In February of 1917 Czar Nicholas II of Russia, an authoritarian ruler to be sure, was overthrown by a revolt of soldiers and sailors; and a Provisional Government attempted to establish a democracy. Unwilling to work within a democratic framework, the communists (Bolsheviks) in October 1917 took up arms and seized power from the Provisional Government, and instituted the Soviet Union.

An authoritarian regime was replaced by a totalitarian one. This was a model that would follow as night follows day everywhere the left took power: monarchs or dictators wielding authoritarian power and often leading corrupt regimes were overthrown by bloody-minded leftist revolutionaries who then, in turn, established totalitarian regimes even more brutal and less free than that which they replaced.

In Russia opponents of Bolshevism banded together under the banner of the “Whites” to oppose the Bolshevik “Reds”.  The Russian Civil War (1917-1923) that followed claimed the lives of an estimated  9 million people. When the blood-soaked dust settled Lenin (and his successor, Stalin) began happily breaking eggs in order to create their socialist omelet.

As seen in France a century earlier, the “democratic republic” promised by the leftists led instead to dictatorship. First Lenin and then Stalin ruled Russia far more ruthlessly than had the Czar they had replaced in the Kremlin. [1]

Establishing a vast internal security and prison system, Lenin and Stalin arrested any who opposed their communist utopia. Spies and informants were everywhere, with neighbor informing on neighbor, wives informing on their husbands, and children denouncing their parents (a common theme in every leftist-controlled country). In the dead of night, the Chekisty or Cheka (State Security Police, forerunner of the NKVD and KGB)  would come. Tens of thousands were arrested for voicing anti-party opinions, in public or private.

In the gulag prisons established throughout the vast wastelands of greater Russia, millions were worked to death. In the Ukraine, the free land-owning peasants, called Kulaks, were systematically wiped out for the crime of having more land and being more productive than the state-run collective farms established by the communists. Starvation was deliberately used as a tool to bend recalcitrant populations to their will.

The result was hardly the paradise Marx promised. Instead it was a hell where men were afraid to speak and retreated instead into drink and taciturn silence. Where corruption flourished, because “all pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others”[2]: the Party officials lived like the old nobility, while the “proles” lived in Spartan squalor. Where the environment, like the people themselves, was ruthlessly exploited by the crushingly oppressive state.

If history is any indicator, it is only through murder, repression, and terror that the left can ever achieve (or attempt to achieve) their goal of creating a “worker’s paradise”. 

By the end of Stalin’s time in power, the death toll reached some 51 million dead. A lot of eggs to make a very nasty tasting omelet!

The butchers bill for leftist movements in the 20th century began with Lenin and Stalin, but didn’t stop with the Soviet Union. Everywhere the Left took power, death and repression followed.

  • 80 million died in Mao’s People’s Republic of China
  • 2-3 million were killed in Pol Pot’s communist Cambodia
  • 1.6 million in North Korea
  • 1.7 million in various communist insurrections, terror movements, and      dictatorships in Africa
  • 1.5 million in Afghanistan
  • 1 million in the Communist states of Eastern Europe (with tens of thousands      more imprisoned)
  • 1 million in Vietnam
  • 150,000  in Latin America
  • 10,000  deaths “resulting from actions of the international Communist      movement and Communist parties not in power.”

(The death toll of victims includes executions, intentional destruction of population by starvation, and deaths resulting from deportations, physical confinement, or through forced labor.)

These numbers above are from the Black Book of Communism; edited by a team of French intellectuals. These numbers are considered on the conservative side.

Do not kid yourself: wherever the left takes power totalitarian regimes soon replace whatever came before; and executions and work/death camps follow. (“Re-education Camps” is the euphemism used by leftist for labor-prison camps. In their world-view, the left believes that one is not a leftist only because of lack of education; or because one suffers from a mental disorder. So in the old USSR, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela today opponents of the regime were/are committed to mental institutions indefinitely, as they must be insane not to be communists. Recently, leftist actor Sean Penn suggested that Sen.Ted Cruz and other Republican or Tea Party conservatives should be forcibly committed, by Presidential Executive Order, to mental institutions. Penn merely showed here his mainstream communist beliefs.)

Worse even than the repression and violence in Stalinist Russia was what Mao wrought in China.

“I don’t think we’ve yet come to grips with the horrors perpetrated by Mao,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, professor of government at Harvard University.

After overthrowing the authoritarian, corrupt, but at least semi-democratic Republic of China under Gen. Chiang Kai Chek in 1949, Mao’s communists oppressed, imprisoned, starved, and outright murdered the Chinese people for 25 years.

Mao, unlike Stalin, did not target individuals for assassination, did not directly supervise any of the killing and did not revel in it. And unlike Hitler, he did not select a whole people for extermination.

What Mao did was unleash mass movements against his rivals and the “bad classes” of society. He did in fact target segments of society for repression, which sometimes led to public humiliation of the victims and death by torture, unchecked by any legal constraints. Mao used social isolation and humiliation as instruments of mayhem. During mass campaigns, designated “enemies of the people” were hounded, tortured and broken psychologically. Many committed suicide.

“Mao was unsystematically, fanatically dangerous,” said a former well-placed Chinese official in Beijing who was persecuted and jailed as a “rightist” during the Cultural Revolution. “He was not a mass murderer, but his lunacy probably caused the deaths of more people than Stalin.” [3]

“Class Enemies” languished in Mao’s gulags, where millions were worked and starved to death; a precursor to the Killing Fields of communist Cambodia.

Communist social and economic policies (particularly forced collectivization of the peasantry) led to massive famines. Food shortages in the countryside were so great even cannibalism was seen; including parents cooking and eating their children (63 such cases are documented). During the Great Leap Forward tens of millions died because of famine caused by government policy.

Estimating the ‘butcher’s bill’ in Maoist China is difficult. But the latest scholarship puts the number upwards of 80 million dead, making Mao (and his policies) the greatest mass murderer in history.

In Khymer Rouge Cambodia in the 1970s the first thing the communists did was round-up all the educated classes in the cities, and march them to “re-education camps” in the countryside. There they were worked to death or killed outright. Their crime (aside from not being communists)? Not being peasants. That by not being peasants, they were betraying the peasants. Only laborers were legitimate in Pol Pot’s version of Maoism.

In the “Killing Fields” they turned the country into, the Khymer Rouge communists murdered a quarter of the population of Cambodia; and most of that the educated classes.

Communist revolutions swept though post-colonial Africa in the 1970s. Wherever they came, death on a massive scale followed.

In the African nation of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), a communist insurrection (supported by the Soviet Union) erupted in the 1970s. Two main factions battled the white-settler dominated government in Salisbury: ZANU, led by Robert Mugabe; and ZAPU, led by Joshua Nkomo. Murder gangs of communist thugs fanned out throughout the countryside, attacking the white-owned farms that fed the country. Men were killed, women raped and then murdered. By the time the communists negotiated a peace that put them in power, 30,000 had died.

In the subsequent years since Mugabe and the communists took power, the country has sunk into economic chaos and political terror. Most of the productive white-owned farms have been taken over by Mugabe supporters from the urban poor. Having no knowledge of farming, these now squat on the land seized, and the country starves for lack of productive farmers.

Sokwanele, a non-governmental organization has compiled details of more than 1,300 political attacks ranging from the wanton destruction of property to vicious murders. Using techniques chillingly reminiscent of those employed to quell backsliders during the “liberation” war, Mugabe’s militiamen have terrorized “enemies” of the regime. Some victims were simply beaten to a pulp. Others had their limbs hacked off or were burnt alive. One brutal technique, known as falanga, is an updated version of the bastinado: beatings administered across the buttocks or soles of the feet so hard that victims are scarred for life and sometimes unable to sit or walk again.

In neighboring Mozambique, the communist FRELIMO guerrillas took power in the wake of the disintegration of the Portuguese colonial empire. Aside from the some 50,000 civilian deaths during the insurrection against the Portuguese a further 800,000 have fallen victim to murder by the FRELIMO government and its oppressive policies since taking power in 1980.

Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo all experience communist take-over during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In every case gulags and killing fields followed. In Ethiopia, forced collectivization of formerly productive farmers led (as always) to famine and mass starvation.

Central and South America were likewise targets of communist revolution.

In Nicaragua, a coalition of freedom fighters calling themselves the Sandinista over threw that country’s long-time dictator, Anastasio Somoza in 1980; and a fledgling democracy was started. Within months of taking power, the communist faction drove out their coalition powers and closed down all opposition parties. Thousands were killed, arrested, or forced to flee the country.

By 1986, some 35,000 identified political prisoners had been processed though Sandinista prison camps; higher by a factor of 10 than the greatest number ever assigned to the Somoza regime. Most were arrested by DGSS security agents and sentenced without any semblance of judicial process. The Miskito Indians were particularly repressed by the new communist government.

As is so often the case, an authoritarian and corrupt regime had been replaced by a totalitarian communist regime. Instead of the corrupted ballot boxes of the Somoza Era, Nicaraguans now had only one party to vote for: the communist Sandinista.

The same story writ large was seen decades earlier in Cuba. Since taking power there Castro’s communist regime has outright killed between 9,000 – 12,000 people since 1959; and is directly responsible for the deaths of a total of 97,000 though forced imprisonment, torture, and starvation.

Che, the iconic hero of Cuba’s communist revolution, was famous for putting hundreds of military and political prisoners at a time up against the wall to be executed. Some 5,600 of the victims of Cuba’s communist murders were shot by Che’s firing squads.

“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary…These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall! (El Paredón)” – Che

Wherever the left takes power, corrupt or authoritarian regimes are replaced with totalitarian states that routinely use indefinite imprisonment, forced re-education and labor, starvation, torture, and outright murder on a genocidal scale to achieve their vision of the “worker’s paradise”. To make the “perfect socialist man”, the left has always been willing to sacrifice millions of lives.

No ideology in history has spilled more blood than the far-left.

Next: Leftist Violence in America, a Historical Perspective


  1. It is telling that these leftist leaders, while espousing equality of all, invariably end-up living in the palaces of the monarchs or dictators they supplant, in every bit as much luxury and splendor.
  2. George Orwell, “Animal Farm
  3. Daniel Southerland, Washington Post, July 17, 1994