Other apostles of violence called themselves anarchists, believing that the best government was no government at all. For them it was not enough that the state should wither at some distant time, however; such an instrument of oppression should be annihilated at once.
The weapon of the anarchist terrorists was the assassination of heads of state, and by the turn of the century they had killed the French president Carnot in 1894, King Humbert of Italy in 1900, and the American president William McKinley in 1901.
The anarchist ideal exerted an important influence on the proletarian movement. The Russian scientist and thinker Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) made the most complete statement of its theory in his book Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution (1902).
Kropotkin foresaw a revolution that would abolish the state as well as private property, and that would lead to a new society of cooperating autonomous groups wherein workers would achieve greater fulfillment and would need to labor only four to five hours a day. Kropotkin’s countryman and fellow anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) helped to shape the Russian revolutionary movement and won the attention of workers from many countries by his participation in the First International.
Bakunin contributed to the formation of the program known as anarcho-syndicalism (from the French word syndicat, which means an economic grouping, particularly a trade union). The anarcho-syndicalists scorned political parties, even Marxist ones; they believed in direct action by the workers culminating in a spontaneous general strike that would free labor from the capitalistic yoke.
Meantime, workers could rehearse for the great day by engaging in acts of anticapitalist sabotage. In 1908 these theories received their most forceful expression in Reflections on Violence by a French engineer and anarchosyndicalist, Georges Sorel (1847-1922), who declared that belief in the general strike constituted a kind of false hope that would convert all workers into saboteurs.
But the writer most frequently cited by the anarcho-syndicalists was the French publicist Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865). “What is property?” Proudhon asked in a pamphlet in 1840. “Property is theft,” he answered.