A Brief History of Radical Left-Wing Violence in America
Pundits eager to dismiss modern far left's roots in extreme tactics, rhetoric of the past
In the wake of the targeted shooting of Republican congressmen in Alexandria, Virginia, liberal commentator Sally Kohn took to Facebook to claim that, historically speaking, people on the Right have been responsible for more violence than their leftist counterparts.
“I do happen to believe that conservatives are habitually more hateful and violent than progressives, that those on the right end of the spectrum have historically been guilty of perpetuating more hatred and violence than those on the Left,” Kohn wrote.
“Slave owners were infinitely more violent than abolitionists. Segregationists extraordinarily more hateful than civil rights protesters,” she continued. “It is indisputable that throughout history, more evil has been done by those seeking to prop up and perpetuate misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and racism than by those seeking inclusion and equality.”
But Kohn is wrong. The truth is that throughout history — both in America and elsewhere — the Left has been indisputably spotted by ties to violence and hateful rhetoric.
While Kohn can only point unconvincingly towards slave owners and segregationists as proof of right-wing violence (it is a stretch in the extreme to try to apply the modern left-right paradigm to conflicts over slavery or segregation), American history is rich with examples of shockingly violent leftists and political radicals.
As The New York Times itself declared in an op-ed published in 2016, “The First Global Terrorists Were Anarchists in the 1890s.” In 1901, a radical socialist anarchist named Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley.
“Leftist extremists were responsible for three fourths of the officially designated acts of terrorism in America in the 1980s.”
In 1919, anarchists in America led by Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani perpetrated a series of bombings and attempted bombings. In April of that year, Galleani’s followers sent 36 small mail bombs to a number of prominent politicians and businessmen.
In June, they detonated eight large bombs in eight U.S. cities simultaneously. The eight bombs were accompanied with fliers that read: “War, Class war, and you were the first to wage it under the cover of the powerful institutions you call order, in the darkness of your laws.”
“There will have to be bloodshed; we will not dodge; there will have to be murder,” it continued. “[W]e will kill, because it is necessary; there will have to be destruction; we will destroy to rid the world of your tyrannical institutions.” In 1920, a blast at the J.P. Morgan headquarters at 23 Wall Street killed nearly 40 people and injured hundreds more. It is also believed to have been the work of the Galleanists.
Fast-forward a half century later, and radical leftists were still bringing violence to America’s streets. The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of left-wing domestic terrorist groups such as the Weather Underground, the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Puerto Rican organization FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional).
The Weather Underground was responsible for a number of bombings and arson attacks across the country. These included the bombings of the Haymarket police memorial in Chicago on October 6,1969, the U.S. Capitol on March 1, 1971, the Pentagon on May 19, 1972, and a Department of State building on January 29, 1975.
The Black Liberation Army committed a series of murders, bombings, robberies, and even prison breaks, while members of the Black Panther party also committed numerous violent crimes, including murder. In 1973 Assata Shakur, a former member of the Panthers and a then-member of the BLA, and two other members of the group, murdered a New Jersey state trooper.
Also in 1973, two members of the Symbionese Liberation Army murdered Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster. In 1974, the group infamously kidnapped publishing heiress Patty Hearst. Between its creation in 1974 and 1983, FALN carried out more than 120 bombings in the United States.
But left-wing terrorism in America didn’t end in the 1970s. The 1980s saw the establishment of the May 19th Communist Organization (M19CO) and the United Freedom Front. The M19C0 was responsible for a string of bombings, at least one bank robbery, and a break-in to release Assata Shakur from jail.
A 2001 study done on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Safeguards and Security found that “Leftist extremists were responsible for three-fourths of the officially designated acts of terrorism in America in the 1980s.” (click on page 2 for the rest of the story)[lz_pagination]