Guy A. Aldred Archive

Pioneers of Anti-Parliamentarism
Chapter 6
Chicago's Red Martyrs

Written: 1940.
Source: PDF Scans from; OCR'ing and editing from
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

“For the nineteenth century has produced these men -— men who bowed at no shrine, acknowledged no God, believed in no hereafter, and yet went as proudly and triumphantly to the gallows as ever did Christian martyr of old.”

—Voltairine de Cleyre, November, 1895.

“Let no attempt be made to avert the final tragedy of the 11th November, make no effort to avenge our deaths.”

—Statement issued by condemned Anarchists a few days before execution.


Hanged 11th November, 1887

ALBERT R. PARSONS.—-Born 24th June, 1848, at Montgomery, Alabama. Orphaned. Adopted by his brother, Major-General W. H. Parsons, of the Confederate Army, and educated at the latter‘s home, Tyler, Texas, 1853. Printer’s apprentice, 1859. Joined the Confederate Army, 1861. Established a weekly newspaper at Waco, Texas, 1868. This failed, and he became traveling correspondent for the Houston Daily Telegraph. Identified himself with Republican Party, and became "Secretary of the State Senate under the Federal Government. Married daughter of an Indian chief, at Houston, in 1872. Discarded by his brother and friends in consequence. Migrated to Chicago in 187.3. Interested himself in Socialism, 1874. joined the Knights of Labor, 1876. Participated in the Great Railway Strike and brutally treated by police, 1877. Worked as compositor and journalist, but suffered repeated victimization for his radical opinions. Two years without any regular work and his family suffered much privation. Left the parliamentary Labor party. Delegate to the Labor Congress, where the International Working People's Association was founded on Anarchist Communist Principles, 1881. Edited Alarm, 1884, to its suppression in May, 1886. Indicted for conspiracy same month and voluntarily surrendered himself in judge Gary’s Court, June 21 of that year.

Lombroso complained that Parsons lacked moral sensibility, because, at an Anarchist meeting, he said: “Strangle the spies, and throw them out of the windows.”

Adolph Fischer -- Born Bremen, Germany, 1860. Educated at a common school. Emigrated to America, 1875, and learned the printing trade at Nashville, Ten., in the office of a German paper conducted by his brother. Acquired an interest in a German paper at Little Rock, Ark. Moved to St. Louis, where he married, worked at the case and became known for his extreme Socialism, 1881. Migrated to Chicago, where he worked on the German paper Anarrizist, and found employment as a compositor in the office of the Arbeiter Zeitung. He was a stern, zealous, and uncomplaining revolutionist and had received an earlv insight into the rottenness of society from his father. who was a member of the Socialist Party of Bremen.

Interviewed by Black, in the Cook County Jail, immediately after the verdict, Fischer said:——“l am ready to die for the cause of the people."

His last words were: “Hurrah for Anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life.”

Dyer D. Lum commented on them at the time as follows:-— “ln so exalted a state were they (the four Anarchists), sure that death by the gallows was but a means of spreading further into the hearts of the people they loved the ideas apart from which they had no life, that it was exactly the truth when Fischer said: “This is the happiest moment of my life. And those who saw his face say it shone with a white light on the scaffold.”

AUGUST THEODORE VINCENT SPIES.——Born on 10th December, 1855, at Freidwald, Germany. Son of a forester, at that time in Germany, a Government official. Educated by private tutors for the Polytechnicum, where he studied the science of forest culture. Adopted his father’s profession. Had read all the great German classics, studied Kant and Hegel, and became a religious skeptic. 1869. Abandoned his studies and decided to join his relatives in America, 1871, owing to the death of his father. Learned the upholstery trade in New York. Proceeded to Chicago, October, 1872. joined the Socialist Labor Party, 1876. Became a Socialist candidate and believed in parliamentary action till 1880, when he became editor of the Arbeiter Zeitung. Repudiated parliamentarism for the economic struggle only. Unmarried. Supported his mother and sister.

Knowing that it would be rejected so far as he was concerned, Spies signed the petition to Governor Oglesby, in the hope that it would influence Parsons to petition. His letter to Oglesby was characteristic. He said that he realized fully that popular sentiment demanded somewhat in the nature of retribution for the loss of life at the Haymarket: and some sacrifice has to be made to that overwhelming public demand. That historic event had made shipwreck of the movement in which he and his comrades were engaged, and to which they had devoted and were devoting their every energy. It would be realized, therefore, that they were free of any intentional responsibility. He pleaded with Governor Oglesby. therefore. to extend executive clemency to his comrades in the trial and judgment, and to let him (Spies) be the sacrifice of the hour.

Spies’ last words were: “There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle to-day.”

GEORGE ENGELL--Born 15th April, 1836, Cassel, Germany. His father, a mason and bricklayer, died whilst George was still an infant. His mother, with four young children to keep. struggled on against poverty. She died when he was twelve. Experienced hunger and starvation till a Frankford painter taught him his trade and gave him a home during his apprenticeship. Emigrated to Philadelphia, 1873. Saw the American militia employed against starving miners. Fell sick and lost his savings. Migrated to Chicago; studied socialism and became an Anarchist. Saw the ballot-box actually stolen and “corrected” after a Chicago election. wherein the Social Democrats had a majority of votes. Courts refused to cancel the election thus secured. Was one of the most active workers in the International Working People’s Association.

Engel was brought to the study of Socialism through active Anti-Socialist propaganda. After his first arrest he was released on the good word of Coroner Herg, who declared that he had known Engel for years as a quiet and well-behaved citizen.

Engel, on the scaffold, triumphantly exclaimed: "Hurrah for Anarchy!”

Committed Suicide? 10th November, 1887.

LOUIS LINGG.--Born Schwetzingen, Germany, 9th September. 1866. Apprentice to a carpenter. Emigrated to America. 1885 Went to Chicago; joined the union of his trade, and became one of the chief organizers of the eight-hour movement. Believed that the great revolutionary struggle was at hand, and that the people needed arms to meet the open violence of their oppressors. Studied explosives and made a supply of bombs for use in case of need. Is supposed to have blown himself up in his cell.

Released Unconditionally, as Being the Victims of False Imprisonment, June, 1893


OSCAR NEEBE.——Born in Philadelphia, of German parents, 1850. Had established a prosperous business in Chicago, in the sale of yeast to grocers and traders. Identified himself with the cause of the working people and exerted himself on its behalf day and night with untiring energy. Knew nothing of Haymarket meeting. Shortly after his sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment, his wife died of anxiety. Neebe was permitted a last look at her remains under official escort.

Death Sentence Committed on Petition to 15 Years Imprisonment

SAMUEL FIELDEN. Born on 25th February, 1847, at Todmorden, Lancashire. His father was a weaver by trade, a man of fine physique and more than average intelligence, who took part in the Chartist movement without -becoming very prominent in it. He was related to Fielden, the Chartist orator, who secured some distinction as M.P., a founder of the Consumers Cooperative Society, and a prime mover in the Society of Oddfellows. This Fielden agitated the question of agricultural lands for working men in Britain. It can be easily understood, therefore, that the Fielden house on Sunday was the meeting place of an advanced group of persons who discussed various social subjects. These meetings first gave him his taste for the study of Sociology.

Spent a number of years in a cotton mill. Became a Sunday School teacher, and becoming a religious enthusiast, perambulated the towns of Lancashire as a Methodist preacher.

Emigrated to America in 1868, settling in New York. Went to Chicago, 1869, then to Arkansas and Louisiana, where he worked at railroad construction. Returned to Chicago and worked as teamster in handling stone, 1871. Had continued his preaching but realized, in Chicago, that something was wrong. joined the Liberal League, 1880. Converted to Socialism by George Schilling.

On his release by Altgeld, settled with his wife and children on a farm in Colorado.

Image::1 Three days before the execution of Parsons, Spies, Fischer, and Engel. Judge Joseph E. Gary forwarded the petition of Fielden to the Hon. Richard J. Oglesby, Governor of Illinois, with a covering letter stating that Fielden was “the honest, industrious. and peaceable laboring man,” with “a natural love of justice, an impatience at all undeserved suffering, an impulsive temper,” and “an advocate of force as a heroic remedy for the hardships that the poor endure.” Urging that Fielden should benefit by the extension of executive clemency, Gary added :——

"As there is no evidence that he knew of any preparation to do the specific act of throwing the bomb that killed Degan, he does not understand even now that general advice to large masses to‘ do violence makes him responsible for the violence done by reason of that advice, nor that being joined by others in an effort to subvert law and order by force makes him responsible for the acts of those others tending to make that effort effectual."

That paragraph is priceless, as representing the argument put forward against capitalist society by the men who stood for propaganda by deed, when told that not all the wealthy folk were consciously responsible for the outraging of the poor by capitalist conditions.

MICHAEL SCHWAB.——Born in Kitzingen, Central Germany, 9th August, 1853. Father a small tradesman. Lost both parents, 1866. Became a communicant and then lost all faith because of the worldly habits of his priest, 1867. Schiller’s works and other German classics dispelled his religious illusions. Apprenticed to a bookbinder in Wuerrburg. Led a solitary life surrounded only by books. Journeyman, 1872. Joined the Socialist Labor Party and traveled through Europe distributing Socialist literature, and living by his trade. Emigrated to America, 1879. Settled in Chicago, 1880. Became reporter and assistant editor of the Arbeiter Zeitung.

Schwab, on his release. embraced Social Democracy. Died, 29th June, 1898, in Chicago, of consumption. which disease he had contracted in prison.

The Chicago Anarchists' Program

Alhert R. Parsons, writing in the Alarm, for December, 1885, defined his attitude towards the eight hours’ day agitation thus:—

"We of the Internationale are frequently asked why we do not give. our active support to the proposed eight-hour movement. Let us take what we can get. say our eight-hour friends, else by asking too much we may get nothing. We answer: Because we will not. compromise.

"Either our position that capitalists have no right to the exclusive ownership of the means of life is a true one, or it is not. it‘ we are correct, then to concede the point that capitalists have the right to eight hours of our labor, is more than a compromise; it is a virtual confession that the wage system is right.

“Il' capitalists have the right to own labor or to control the results of labor, we have no business dictating the terms upon which we may be employed. We cannot say to our employers, ‘Yes, we acknowledge your right to employ us, we are satisfied that the wage system is all right, but we, your slaves, propose to dictate the terms upon which we will work.‘ how inconsistent!

"And yet that is exactly the position of our eight-hour friends. They presume to dictate to capital, while they maintain the justness of the capitalistic system; they would regulate wages while defending the claims of the capitalists to the absolute control of Industry."

The position adopted by Parsons in 1885 is that adopted by the Anti-Parliamentary Communist movement in Britain since 1906. It defines the Anti-Parliamentarian opposition to the Syndicalist movement and also to the Communist Party Minority movement.

August Spies defined his opposition in these terms:--

"We do not antagonize the eight-hour movement. Viewing it from the standpoint that it is a social struggle, we simply predict that it is a lost battle, and we will prove that, even though the eight-hour system should be established at this late day, the wage- workers would gain nothing. They would still remain the slaves of their masters.

“Suppose the hours of labor should be shortened to eight. our productive capacity would thereby not be diminished. The shortening of the hours of labor in England was immediately followed by a general increase of labor-saving machines, with a subsequent discharge of a proportionate number of employees. The reverse of what had been sought took place. The exploitation of those at work was intensified. They now performed more labor, and produced more than before."

The program on which our Chicago comrades took their stand was agreed to at an Anarchist Congress convened in Pittsburgh, May, 1883. It was as follows:—

"1. Destruction of the existing class rule by all means, i.e., by energetic, relentless. revolutionary, and international action.

“2. Establishment of a free Society based upon a cooperative system of production.

"3. Free exchange of equivalent products, by and between the productive organizations, without commerce and prorit-niongery.

"4. Organization of education on a secular, scientific and equal basis for both sexes.

"5. Equal rights for all, without distinction of sex or race.

“6. Regulation of all public affairs by free contracts between the autonomous independent communes and associations, resting on a federalistic basis.”

This declaration of principles was subsequently published in Chicago. It immediately roused the wrath of the Trust magnates and their kept press, who called for drastic police suppression. This campaign found its climax in the tragedy of May, 1886, and the executions of November, 1887.