America’s Forgotten Terrorists
From Shepherd Express by David Luhrssen
The Rise and Fall of the Galleanists, by Jeffrey D. Simon
At the turn of the 20th century, anarchist groups across the world waged war against not only corporations and governments but against the very idea of authority. In the U.S. many anarchists were led—and contradictions of leadership are always rife in anarchism—by a charismatic, cultivated Italian immigrant. He is forgotten today but was for many years the focus of police investigations and prosecutions across America. He was Luigi Galleani and his followers called themselves by his name.
In his latest book, security consultant Jeffrey D. Simon turns his attention to the anarchists who took Galleani’s lead. Most of his disciples were fellow Italians, victims of discrimination and deemed “not white” in American society. In the South, Italians were sometimes lynched. Galleani’s newspaper, Cronaca Sovvesiva, was written in Italian; his speeches were largely in that language and directed toward his countrymen, hard-pressed at that time by American bigotry.
America’s Forgotten Terrorists includes several compelling characters, starting with Galleani, the Professor Moriarty of anarchy who continually slipped the net (and noose); Ella Antolini, the beautiful teenager, dubbed the “Dynamite Girl” by the press when arrested for transporting 36 sticks of dynamite to Milwaukee (intending to blow-up the district attorney); and Rayme W. Finch, agent for the FBI’s predecessor agency who doggedly pursued Galleani and his followers.
The Galleanists were philosophical absolutists. They condemned socialists, argued with other anarchists and took a role in strikes, always with a mind to inciting violent revolution. On June 2, 1919, they set off bombs in seven cities, including the home of the U.S. Attorney General. They were also probably responsible for the country’s first vehicular bombing a year later when a horse cart exploded on Wall Street, killing 38 and wounding hundreds.
All their efforts were in vain, as capitalism and the U.S. government survived their assaults and continued to evolve. America’s Forgotten Terrorists is an object lesson about idealists who broke no compromise, even as they broke people and buildings in a Quixotic lurch toward their idea of Utopia.