First published in 1969, ‘Killing No Murder’ is a provocative and stimulating study dedicated to the memory of the tens of millions of war dead who, since the author’s birth, have sacrificed their lives for the score of leaders who might, at the cost of their own, have saved them. When should we or must we kill a politician? Churchill is said to have refused to sanction the assassination of Hitler—was he right to consider aerial bombing a more acceptable way of dealing with Nazism? If a racist, populist, wilfully ignorant, narcissistic, cynically scapegoating, truth-twisting and irredeemably self-serving and apparently irremovable political leader emerges, paving the way to civil strife, the breakdown of the social fabric, xenophobia, the dictatorship and possibly war — when, if ever, can we appeal to justice and common sense? How useful or ethical is assassination or tyrannicide as an expression of domestic or foreign policy? Edward Hyams here considers two classes: socially or politically motivated assassinations, and assassinations designed to advance or protect the interests of oppressed peoples. By what right do assassins judge, condemn and execute their victims? Is it the same right that legitimises the murder by politicians, air force and drone pilots of innocent civilians along with a randomly and arbitrarily selected adversary? Can a society that condones war morally condemn assassination? The conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq have shown, time and time again, how it is the ordinary man, woman and child, caught in the crossfire of the paranoid fantasies of political leaders, who suffer as a consequence. Would it not be logical and in the widest human interests if assassination could be accepted as a legitimate and highly preferable alternative to war itself ? These questions are central to the conclusions drawn in Edward Hyams’s book.
Among the examples he analyses in detail are those of Caesar, whose death had the opposite effect to that intended, and Lincoln, whose killing was a tragedy which still carries its aftermath. The killing of Franz Ferdinand, the Phoenix Park murders, the death of Lord Moyne at the hands of Zionists, all offer solid ground for speculation, as does the extraordinary case of Walther Rathenau, the Jewish Finance Minister in the Weimar Republic figuratively offered up on a Teutonic altar.
Born in London 1910, educated in England, Switzerland and France, Edward Hyams served in the RAF and the Royal Navy during the war. He lived in Kent, Devon, London, and died in Besançon, France, in 1975. A novelist by vocation and choice — though he did work in factories, in offices and as a lorry-driver — he lived by writing most of his life, writing, translating or editing over 120 books. The gardening correspondent of the Illustrated London News and The Spectator, he was particularly well-known for his writings on the art and science of gardens, and for the connection between soil and landscape and the human societies which developed in particular regions. These works include: The Grapevine in England; A History of Gardens and Gardening; and English Cottage Gardens (in which he describes how between 1760 and 1867 the English ruling class stole seven milion acres of common land, the property and livelihgood of the common people of England, which he called a “gigantic crime, by far the grandest larceny in England’s history”.
Hyams was well-versed in the history of anarchism. His non-fiction publications include the present Killing No Murder. A Study of Assassination as a Political Means (1969), A Dictionary of Modern Revolution (1973), The Millennium Postponed (1974), Terrorists and Terrorism (1975), and his final work, unfinished at his death, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works (1979).