Saturday, 28 November 2015

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman was born on the 27th June 1869.  She belonged to a Jewish family in the Russian Empire.  Out of her siblings, she was not the eldest or youngest: she was the middle child. Emma had two older half-sisters and two younger brothers. The “middle-child” went to elementary school in the city of Koenigsberg.  Her parents were extremely conservative. It was at the age of seven when Emma Goldman was to live with her grandmother in Eastern Prussia.

Emma Goldman’s life was tough from the outset.  She was born into a ghetto; her father would beat her into frenzy at an early age, while her mother remained docile and passive.  She describes her father in her own words as “the nightmare of my childhood”.  The man even tried to marry her off at the age of fifteen but the young feisty and rebellious Emma was having none of it.  She was determined she would carry on with her schooling.  Poverty was rife everywhere; in Emma Goldman’s lifetime the world was on fire.  To say her life was tough is a little unfair, we may say, when all things are considered that her life was not tough at all; no, it was totally barbaric, barbaric by the way she was treated by her father, authority and other menacing figures. This is nothing to what Emma Goldman would endure later in life.  She would be hounded to the degree that she would even struggle to find shelter, persistently be incarcerated for no apparent reason but of course the state always find a way to justify such things, they always have done, and is true to say, always will do; she was to be persistently terrorised by the press, rather the capitalist press.  She would have breakdowns, bouts of depression, there even came a time when she withdrew from public life completely; she had to, she simply had no choice.  Indeed, Emma Goldman was a marked woman. 

 What a scandal; what an outrage; what an abomination that such a person, indeed any person, should be treated like a savage animal in this diseased fashion.  To treat an adult like this is shameful but to treat a childlike that is inhumane, but such things happened.  At the age of thirteen, she moved with her family in St. Petersburg, another ghetto.  It was 1882.  It was in this same year that she was forced to take an utterly degrading factory job. Here, she was treated like a virtual slave. It was horrendous but the young girl simply had no choice in the matter.  She was first employed making corsets; she would later manufacture gloves. Ultimately, it was poverty, the worst crime, as Bernard Shaw said, that forced Emma’s family into this action. Inevitably, so, the young girl was forced to quit school for a bit of sweatshop labour. This, it turned out, was to become Emma Goldman’s real education.  It was here where she saw real torment; she saw suffering; she saw things she would never forget.  This is the real Emma Goldman: Emma Goldman the humanitarian; the; sympathiser; a woman of noble intentions; of charity; of everything that is good and decent in a human being.

It is true, Karl Marx’s nearest and dearest friend and co-contributor to many of his works, Frederick Engels, was happy to work in the office at the Ermen and Engels textile factory of ill-repute, in Manchester, England,  which his father owned, for textile factories in the 19th century were all of ill-repute, as they are today.  Marx would, as it is well known, often borrow money from his friend, money coming from the expense of sweatshop labour.

 Karl Marx, the saintly Karl Marx, the hero of the oppressed, the conscience of the worker, the humanitarian. What rubbish; what nonsense; what fictitious fantasy, that Karl Marx and his lesser-known friend should be deemed heroes of the working classes.  Emma Goldman, I am sure, would be thanking such factory exploiters’ such as Engels and  son, for people as herself to be treated like a non-person, as Orwell would have it, to be treated like a mechanical machine; to be treated like a forgotten slave.  The voices in those appalling sweatshops are distant ones, or rather forgotten. While the two fine gentlemen-Marx and Engels-spout their propaganda, these young, innocent voices are lost forever, never to be returned.  We shall never know the truth of their lives. 

 At the age of fifteen, Emma Goldman’s father tried to force her into marriage, when she refused he blew-up, grabbed her French grammar book and threw it into the fire like a crazed madman.  She only had to endure her overbearing, grotesque father for another two years.  A great opportunity had opened up for her.  It was her chance to get out of Russia, to get away from the tyrannical Tsars, and move to a country full of liberty and freedom like the United States, where she eventually went.  Many years later Emma Goldman had this to say about the North American country:

It has been suggested to me that the constitution of the United States is a sufficient safeguard for the freedom of its citizens.  It is obvious that even the freedom it pretends to guarantee is very limited.  I have not been impressed by the adequacy of this safeguard.  The nations of the world, with centuries of international law behind them, have never hesitated to engage in mass destruction when solemnly pledged to keep the peace; and the legal documents in America have not prevented the United States from doing the same.  Those in authority have and always will abuse their power.  Moreover, the instances when they do not are as rare as roses growing on icebergs.  Far from the constitution playing any liberating part in the lives of the American people, it has robbed them of the capacity to rely on their own resources or do their own thinking.  Americans are so easily hoodwinked by the sanctity of law and authority.  In fact, the pattern of life has become standardised, routinised, and mechanised like canned food and Sunday sermons. The hundred-percenter easily swallows syndicated information and factory-made ideas and beliefs.  He thrives on the wisdom given him over the radio and cheap magazines by corporations whose misanthropic aims of selling America out.  He accepts the standards of conduct and art in the same breath with the advertising of chewing gum, toothpaste, and shoe polish.  Even songs are turned out like buttons-all cast from the same mould.

Her lucky break came when her half-sister, Helene, decided to emigrate to America, Emma went along with her and started a new life for herself.  Again, she obtained work in a factory; the name of the factory was Garson Company.  The wages paid to her was a mere two-and-a-half dollars a week.  It was here that she worked very early in the morning and very late at night.  The exploitation of the girls in the factory was not only economic but also sexual.  If the young girls refused the advances of the brutes in the factory, they often found themselves wandering the streets.  This was New York in the United States: the land of the free; the land of opportunity; of miracles.  It was not the case that America is a land of opportunity was and is a complete fraud.  The girls in the factories fared worse here than they did in Russia.  What drudgery; what suffering; what turmoil; what filth!  Come to our country, the United States, and we will beat you; we will torture your soul.  We will make you suffer; we will force you to work until you can no longer stand; until you can no longer breathe.  How free it is to be American, what repression, oppression, and what total lunacy!  It is easy to exploit a 17-year-old girl from Russia; it is also easy to enslave an entire nation.  All this to Emma Goldman who was still unfamiliar with the Russian language.  Soon after the factory job, she married a fellow compatriot.  The marriage ended before it began.  Afterwards the divorced Emma Goldman moved to New Haven.

  In the 19th century the United States called itself names like “free” and democratic”. Was it “democratic” and “free” in these horror-show factories Emma Goldman worked in?  She was not yet give the nickname “Red Emma” or labelled “the most dangerous woman in the world”, because, thus far, she acted like the rest of us do, as a slave, watching imperialism rip open people’s souls, doing nothing, saying nothing and challenging nothing. 

The event that shook Emma Goldman’s heart to the very core had not yet materialised.  May 1886 had not yet arrived, after this time Emma Goldman would become more than an exploited girl in an awful factory in the land of the oppressed; she would become so much more than that.  She would meet the most radical women and men of her age and she would become involved in revolutionary activities in the next fifty-years or so.  Indeed, she was destined to become the most notorious anarchist in the country, probably in the world.  It is the stuff of nightmares and Emma Goldman was the protagonist.

 What initially drew Emma Goldman to anarchism was the Haymarket Affair: workers in the country had long been protesting about the atrocious working conditions.  People were in revolt about the persistence of the eight-hour day movement. They were persistently working for the eight-hour day.  By this time, 1886, the movement of the knights of labour was really at its height.  The crescendo ended when the great strike against the Harvester Company of Chicago came about, strikers were bloody massacred, as well as murders of labour leaders.  Following this was the Haymarket bomb explosion in Chicago.  A bomb had been thrown at a crowd of police officers.  The following year there was a mock trial. At the trial, the judge said: “not because you have you caused the Haymarket bomb, but because you are Anarchists, you are on trial”.  Indeed.  Eight anarchists were placed on trial for conspiracy, they were eventually convicted on the flimsiest of evidence; four were hanged.  Emma Goldman followed the trial with a great amount of intrigue; this grave injustice changed her life forever.  She was converted to anarchism. 

 The United States of bloodbaths; the United States of state murder; the United States of doom.  The savagery was almost immediate.  After the Haymarket affair, that is, after the bomb was thrown in the throng of police officers the witch-hunt against anarchists was immediate.  They were persecuted, hounded, and brutalised by the land of the free.  It has been known for many years the United States government despise workers, union members, anarchists, socialists, nihilists, existentialists, atheists, feminists, ecologists and so on.  Nevertheless, to execute the people you dislike is the stuff of fascism.  No doubt, the United States would like to patent organised violence, for it is a state that forever carries out acts of organised and premeditated murder.

 Emma Goldman now joined the radicals in the U.S. She attended public meetings on a regular basis.  The first socialist speaker Emma Goldman heard speak was Johann Greie, a German lecturer.  She was still working in a factory in New Haven, making corsets.  She met anarchists, socialists, and all other types of radicals during this period.  She was reading newspapers, magazines and pamphlets on anarchism.  It was through reading Freiheit that converted her to anarchism even more so than the tragedy of the Haymarket martyrs.  The editor of Freiheit was Johann Most.  The year was 1889, Emma Goldman was 20 and full of fire, Most made her his protégé, and she started giving lectures and addressing small migrant crowds.  During this time she became ill due to the factory work; she moved to Rochester, and then to New York.  At this time, Emma Goldman and other anarchists were living in hellholes; in concentration-camp conditions.  Many anarchists living in America came from countries such as Germany and Austria because they have anti-socialist legislation, which drove thousands from their native land. In New York, anarchist meetings for Emma Goldman were a regular occurrence. The first anarchist lecturer she was to hear speak was Dr. H. Solotaroff. It was around this time Emma Goldman met Alexander Berkman.  She, in 1889, was a leading organiser in the cloak-makers strike, led the anarchists into the 1891 May Day demonstrations which the socialists tried to ban.  With Berkman, and an artist friend, Freyda, they formed a commune; the three of them became lovers. 

 Emma Goldman, in the years to come, was to become one of the greatest, prolific and most eloquent speakers then U.S would ever see.  She had all the qualities the state despises in an individual.  She had courage, determination, threw herself into the anarchist cause, and worked harder than she had ever done in any factory.  It would be necessary, if another Emma Goldman were to emerge, for the authorities to imprison her for an indefinite period, for she would inspire and encourage the poor; the oppressed; the unemployed; the workers; anybody to organise, to fight, fight, fight!  That is why such people are deemed dangerous.  All it takes is a single radical for thousands of more radicals to emerge.  There are tens of thousands of radicals walking the streets today, the only problem is they just do not realise it, and sadly, never will.  For all the propaganda they are bombarded with controls people's behavioural patterns, and brainwashes them to behave like the docile slaves of the state, of course, there must be criticisms of a certain sort, but these criticisms fall within a very structural constraint.  Anything too critical and your voice will be silenced entirely.  This is how media groups deal with democracy and freedom; in the Stalinist fashion but for the Emma Goldman’s of this world, if there be any, it will be a long, gruelling, cold and dark journey indeed.

  1892 had arrived; Emma Goldman was entering her 23rd year, Berkman his 22nd.  The eight-hour-day struggle continued. Homestead, in Pennsylvania, striking steel workers against the Carnegie Steel Corporation were heavily suppressed.  Nine members of the steel workers were murdered in cold blood and many others injured.  Emma Goldman was mortified.  Henry Clay Frick, the corporation’s manager, proposed a 22% wage cut, something the unions rejected.  As retaliation, Frick closed down the Steel plant and planned to re-open it with non-union workers.  While this was going on, Emma, along with Berkman, planned to go back to their native Russia but these events changed their plans.  Emma Goldman, here, remembers the slaughter at Homestead, and Henry Clay Frick:

“LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN HOMESTEAD-FAMILIES OF STRIKERS EVICTED FROM THE COMPANY HOUSES-WOMAN IN CONFINEMENT CARRIED OUT TO THE STREET BY SHERIFFS”.  I read over the man’s shoulder Frick’s dictum to the workers: he would rather see them dead than concede to their demands, and he threatened to import Pinkerton detectives...a few days after our return to New York the news was flashed across the country of the slaughter of steelworkers by Pinkertons.  Frick had fortified the hometown mills, built a high fence around them.  Then, in the dead of the night, a barge stacked with strike-breakers, under protection of heavily armed Pinkerton thugs, quietly stole up the Monongahela River.  The steel-men had learned of Frick’s move.  They stationed themselves along the shore, determined to drive back Frick’s hirelings.  When the barge got within range, the Pinkerton’s had opened fire, without warning, killing a number of Homestead men on the shoe, among them a little boy, and wounding scores of others.

Clay Anders Frick would long live in Emma Goldman’s and especially Alexander Berkman’s memory.  These were perverse times in America; it was only six years previously in Chicago where anarchist scapegoats were convicted on trumped-up charges.  Now, the bloodshed was worse, and the consequences would prove to be far heavier.  Emma often directed her diatribes at “philosophical anarchists”, rather than revolutionary figures, in other words anarchists that theorise, write on the struggle but do not actively participate in the struggle.  It is true, if anarchists must exist, the state would wish them to be “philosophical anarchists”, rather than revolutionary figures.  For indeed, the books written by these radicals are not widely read at all, if they were, the state would have to find some way to suppress the material.  Nevertheless, as it stands, they have little to worry about.  Emma Goldman was deemed dangerous, as will be revealed, but for now, Emma was debating with Alexander and Freyda what their plan of action would be next.  The choice they made would prove to be catastrophic. 

 Henry Clay Frick had blood on his hands, but he did not care about that, Emma Goldman did, and the youthful, idealist twenty-three year-old, along with her two friends, decided to employ Frick’s philosophy: violence.  Alexander Berkman, at just twenty-one, had the temerity to shoot Frick, murder him and Emma Goldman would be a willing participant.  It was her role to raise the money in order to buy the gun.  She even tried, on Fourteenth Street, to make money as a prostitute, but failed in her task, here she recounts the event:

Saturday evening, July 16, 1892, I walked up and down Fourteenth Street, one of the long procession of girls I had so often seen plying their trade.  By eleven o’clock, I was exhausted.  My feet hurt from the big heels, my head throbbed.  I was close to tears from fatigue and disgust with my inability to carry out what I had come to do. 

I made another effort. I stood on the corner of Fourteenth Street and Fourth Avenue, near the bank building.  The first man that invited me-I would go with him, I had decided.  A tall distinguished-looking person, well dressed, came close.  “Let’s have a drink, little girl”, he said...I was conscious of the man’s scrutiny of my face and body.  I felt myself growing resentful.  Presently he asked: you are a novice in this business, aren’t you? “  “Yes, this is my first time-but how did you know?”  “I watched as you passed me,” he replied. ”But thousands of girls are driven through economic necessity,” I blurted out and he looked at me in surprise.  “Where did you get that stuff?”  I wanted to tell him about the social question, about my idea, who and what I was, but I checked myself.  I must not disclose my identity: it would be too dreadful if he could learn that Emma Goldman, the anarchist, had been soliciting on Fourteenth Street.

Emma ended up borrowing the money to pay for the gun.  Had the three youngsters in the commune gone mad? It appeared so.  Emma Goldman, the would-be prostitute and Alexander Berkman, the would-be murderer.  All they were doing was employing the terror Henry Clay Frick do in this world, albeit the terror was not aimed at defenceless steelworkers, it was aimed at a brute of a man, a tyrant no less.  As the example has been highlighted above, the young anarchists did not know what they were doing.  To denounce a violent act by an anarchist is well and good, but to justify state and corporate violence is inconsistent.  In fact it is more than state and corporate violence, it is outright terror but the terrorist aggression they use is against the poor, the needy, the helpless and no the Fricks’ of this world.  It is easy for humanitarians to lose sight of things, and think it is justice to destroy the aggressor or aggressors.  Indeed, if the state acted, as it should have, Frick would have been imprisoned for his nefarious crimes he committed, but as is well known, such people are above the law. 

 On July 23, 1892, Berkman entered Frick’s office in Pittsburgh, and shot him twice before being thrown to the ground and before he knew it he had been escorted off by the police.  The act failed; Berkman did not murder Frick.  Henry Clay Frick responded by crushing the union with the help of the National Guard.  For his troubles, Berkman was sentenced to twenty-two years imprisonment at Pennsylvania Penitentiary, which can only be described as a hellhole, and indeed, it was.  The maximum sentence he could have received is seven years; such are the wonders of the American imperial justice system!  He would end up spending fourteen of those years in prison. 

 Meanwhile the police were pursuing Emma Goldman, in an attempt to prosecute her over the attempted murder of Frick.  The fact that she happened to be in New York at the time and not in Pittsburgh was enough to avoid being charged with any wrongdoing.  The authorities of all kinds, as well as the capitalist press persecuted her.  She was the target of abuse.  She defended her act by the use of oratory but everyone was against her, indeed, she was a marked woman.  Even her anarchist comrades criticised her in public, including Johann Most.  For Emma had counted on Johann the Most to come to her defence; she was wrong.  Most, a man, in the past, had published papers on bomb making.  In an unforgettable event, the hot-tempered Emma Goldman, sat next to Freyda, watching, or rather listening to Johann Most speak, she asked him to withdraw his attack on the actions of Berkman, when he responded by calling her an “hysterical woman”, Emma leaped on the stage, produced a whip and whipped Johann Most into a frenzy before walking from the hall. 

 In the following year, 1893, Emma encountered more trouble of a different kind.  During this period in her life, she was organising as well as being on the lecture circuit, getting involved in all kinds of issues.  It is true there was nobody in the world like Emma Goldman.  Her energy and her attacks on the state, marriage, the church, on everything. She was labelled as “the most dangerous woman”.  Thousands in the city were living on the streets, thousands were unemployed living in awful conditions, so for Emma, this was no time to rest.  A huge demonstration was taking place at Union Square in New York, the protesters were cloak makers.  She was one of their invited speakers.  “Necessity knows no law”, she said “and the starving man has a natural right to a share of his neighbour’s bread”, then she uttered those fatal words: “Ask for work.  If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread”.  The following day the capitalist press went on the rampage once again over Emma Goldman’s comments.  The Chief of police in New York obtained an arrest warrant for the twenty-four year-old; she was incarcerated for several days.  She was being charged with “inciting a riot”, although no riot took place.  During the trial, the assistant district Attorney addressed her:


            “Do you believe in the supreme being, Miss Goodman?

            No, sir, I do not.

            Is there any government or laws on earth whose laws you approve of?

            No, sir, for they are against the people.

            Why don’t you leave this country if you do not like its laws?

Where shall I go?  Everywhere on earth, the laws are against the poor, and they tell me I cannot go to heaven, nor do I want to go there.

She was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison on Blackwell’s Island.  In the penitentiary she worked as a nurse in the hospital as well as studying English Literature, it was in this environment that she matured. The following year at the age of twenty-five, she was released.

 When she was released she became known as “Red Emma”, this was her first time in prison but it certainly not her last.  By this time, she was now the most famous anarchist in America and she was only twenty-five.  Like today, the capitalist press, remained as an extension of state power, she could not breathe without them knowing about it first.  Now she was even more watched than ever before.  She even said the following: “For further information (about me) consult any police department in America or Europe”.

  Throughout the 1890s, she toured and lectured extensively right across America and Europe.  The 1890s for Emma Goldman was exciting enough.

1897 was the first year when she undertook her first lecture tour.  After her two trips to Europe (1895 and 1898), she attended clandestine anarchist meetings, lectured and studied nursing and midwifery.  She showed no sign of slowing down either; her energy was as fiery as ever.  It is a queer thing to ponder if Emma Goldman was alive today she would have spent more years in prison, undergone more attacks by the capitalist press, be watched and monitored ever more closely.  For back in Emma Goldman’s lifetime anarchism was a very strong movement, but today it is laughable to even suggest such a thing.  It is true the more civilised people become the more autocratic government is.  Ultimately, the aim of the government is to control the people it laughably claims to represent.  This means rooting out the radicals, by monitoring them, shrivelling them, hounding, terrorising, threatening, manipulating, bullying, condemning, imprisoning and even eliminating them. 

 Emma Goldman was now in her thirties; Berkman was still languishing in prison and the event of the year would prove to have Emma Goldman a marked woman once and for all, she would be an outcast, she would suffer like she had never suffered before because of one inopportune meeting with a young Polish immigrant.  On the 6th September 1901 President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz at Buffalo. Emma Goldman was immediately set upon, hounded and persecuted, anarchists all over the world were arrested, intimidated interrogated, it was a repression against a group of people that had never even seen America before.  She was arrested and taken to Chicago where she was incarcerated for a number of weeks.  She was persistently interrogated and cross-examined.  When the Polish immigrant, Leon Czolgosz assassinated the then American President, he claimed it was Goldman who incited him into the act.  She denied the accusations for one simple reason: Czolgosz was lying.  He had met her during one of her lectures.  Emma Goldman recounts the story:

The President had been shot at the exposition grounds in Buffalo by a young man by the name of Leon Czolgosz.  “I have never heard the name”, Carl said, “have you?

            “No, never”, I replied.

“It is fortunate you are here and not in Buffalo,” he continued.  “As usual the papers will connect you with this act.”

“Nonsense”, I said.  “The American press is fantastic enough, but it would hardly concoct such a crazy story”.


 Emma Goldman had seen a picture of McKinley’s assassin.  “Why, that’s Nieman!” she gasped.  The same man asked her for anarchistic literature in Cleveland.  Before she was arrested police forces in the whole country were searching for her, thousands of them.  When the police arrested her, they said: “You’re the shrewdest crook I ever met! Take her, quick!”  After some weeks, the newspapers published a few lines saying: “After a month’s detention Emma Goldman was found not to have been in complicity with the assassin of President McKinley”.

 After she was freed, she thought of the young assassin waiting for his death sentence.  She felt pity for him, and decided to write an article, the response she got was terrifying.  Almost everyone condemned her.  In the article, she wrote:

Leon Czolgosz and other men of his type far from being depraved creatures of low instincts are in reality super sensitive beings unable to bear under too great social stress.  They are driven to some violent expression, even at the sacrifice of their own lives, because they cannot supinely witness the misery and suffering of their fellows.  The blame of such an act must be laid at the door of those who are responsible for the injustice and inhumanity which dominate the world. 

As I write, my thoughts wander to the young man with the girlish face about to be put to death, pacing his cell, followed by cruel eyes:

            “Who watch him when he tries to weep

                   And when he tries to pray

            And watch him lest himself should robe

                 The prison of its prey”.

My heart goes out to him in deep sympathy, as it goes to all the victims of oppression and misery, to the martyrs past and present that die, the forerunners of a better and nobler life.”

When asked if was not sorry the President was dead, Emma Goldman replied:

Is it possible in the entire United States only the President passed away on this day?  Surely many others have died at the same time, perhaps in poverty and destitution, leaving helpless dependents behind.  Do you expect me to feel more regret over the death of McKinley than the rest?

My compassion has always been with the living.  The dead no longer need it.  No doubt, that is the reason why you all feel sympathetic to the dead.  You know that you’ll never be called upon to make good your protestations.”

            “I think you’re crazy”, replied the reporter.

For the next several years, repression against anarchists in America was so unprecedented that Emma Goldman had to retire from public life and change her name.  From now on, she became known as Miss E.G Smith.  She lived by sewing, nursing and managing a group of Russian actors.

 In 1906, two events happened that changed Emma Goldman’s life: Alexander Berkman, or Sasha, as she liked to call him, was finally released from prison, after fourteen years of pure torment.  That he even survived is quite incredible.  The second event was the arrival of the English anarchist, John turner, he induced her to come out of retirement and she did.  Berkman and herself started publishing Mother Earth which replaced Free Society but this was forced to close after the murder of McKinley.  Of the former publication Goldman and Sasha were the co-editors, the first issue published in March 1906.  It ran until 1918, when the pair found themselves in prison yet again.  Her touring and lecturing during this time was prolific.  In 1910, she spoke 120 times in 37 cities to 25,000 listeners.  She kept on going; despite the authorities doing everything, they could to stop her.  It was unlike the aftermath of the McKinley murder, where she was hounded out of every property; indeed, she could not even find shelter, she found herself living with prostitutes.  Now Emma Goldman had replaced Miss Smith.

 In February, 1916, Emma Goldman was arrested and imprisoned for disseminating information on birth control; Goldman and Berkman’s trial over Woodrow Wilson’s 1917 draft bill...such was the life of Emma Goldman.  Emma Goldman arrived in San Diego in 1912, when she was in her 43rd year, to see the I.W.W (International Workers of the World), as well as the Anarcho Syndicalist union.  People were beaten jailed and even murdered by vigilante groups.  Over five years later when President Wilson signed the Draft Bill for all twenty-one to thirty-year-old men for compulsory conscription, Emma Goldman and Sasha came up with their own “No-conscription manifesto”, of which they distributed 100,000 copies.  In June 1917, the edition of Mother Earth, read:

We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, anti-militarists, and oppose all wars waged by capitalist governments.  We will fight what we choose to fight for.  We will never fight simply because we are ordered to fight. 

We believe that the militarisation of America is an evil that far outweighs, in its antisocial and anti-libertarian affects, any good that may come from America’s participation in the war.

We will resist conscription by every means in our power, and we will sustain those who, for similar reasons, refuse to be inscripted.

At one of Berkman’s rallies, a supporter was arrested and sentenced to two years for conspiracy.  Blast, Sasha’s journal was raided by marshals, as was Mother Earth, the contents confiscated.  Consequently, the two anarchists were arrested and charged.  The trial started on 27th June 1917, on Emma Goldman’s 48th birthday.  She addressed the jury; here are selected passages from the speech:

The stage having been appropriately for the three-act comedy, and the first act successfully played out by carrying off the villains in a madly dashing automobile-which broke every traffic regulation and barely escaped crushing everyone in its way-the second act proved to be even more ludicrous.  Fifty thousand dollars bail was demanded, and the real estate was refused when offered by a man whose property is rated at three-hundred thousand dollars, and after that, the District Attorney had considered and, in fact, promised to accept the property for one of the defendants, Alexander Berkman, thus breaking every right guaranteed by even the most heinous criminal.  Finally the third act, played by the Government in this court during the last week.  The pity of it is that the prosecution knows so little of dramatic reconstruction; else, it would have equipped itself with better dramatic material to sustain the continuity of the play.  As is was, the third act fell flat, utterly, and presents the question, why such a tempest in a teapot?

...It is organised violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom.  It is the accumulated indignation against organised wrong, organised crime, injustice which cause the political offender to his act.  To condemn him means to be blind to the cause which make him.

...To say that America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe for America.  How else is the world supposed to take America seriously, when democracy at home is being outraged, free speech suppressed, peaceable assemblies broken up by overbearing and brutal gangsters in uniform; when free press is curtailed and every independent opinion gagged.

Despite the speech or indeed because of it, the pair were sentenced to two years in prison, and upon release they were to be deported back to Russia.  It was the judge who recommended they be deported, when he said “we have no place in our country”.

The judge's recommendation was followed.  The Government revoked her citizenship, and after serving two-years in prison, she, along with Sasha, was deported to Russia.  Emma Goldman was now 50.  She, along with 247 other “reds” were flown out of the country in what became known as the “1918 Alien Exclusion Act”

After the pair were released in 1919 they were deported to Russia.  Even Lenin told Emma Goldman free speech did not exist in Russia. It was not the utopian paradise she expected it to be, far from it.  She and Berkman travelled the country looking at the archives at “revolutionary Russia”, and were completely mortified by their findings.  It was in these archives where they found widespread repression and forced labour camps.  She writes about her thoughts on Leninist Russia:

All the succeeding acts of the Bolsheviki, all their following policies, changing of policies, their compromises and retreats, their methods of suppression and persecution, their terrorism and extermination of all other political views-all were the means to an end: the retaining of state power in the hands of the communist Party...once in possession of the state the communists began their process of elimination.  All the political parties and groups which refused to submit to the new dictatorship had to go.  First the Anarchists and Left Social Revolutionists, then the Mensheviki and other opponents from the Right, and finally everybody who dared aspire to an opinion of his own. Similar was the fate of all independent organisations. They were either subordinated to the needs of the new state, or destroyed altogether, as were the Soviets, the trade unions and the cooperatives...while the workers continued to starve, engineers, industrial experts and technicians received high salaries, special privileges, and the best rations.  They became the pampered employees of the state and the new slave drivers of the masses. 

Two years later, in 1921, the pair left on temporary voluntary exile, being so outraged at the extent of Lenin’s state terror.  What provoked them to leave their homeland was the treatment of the sailors of Kronstadt.  When these sailors, and other groups went on a series of marches in March 1921, appealing directly to Lenin and Trotsky, asking for basic things like free elections, freedom of speech, the Government responded by massacring the workers in their thousands.  It was time for Emma to leave and settle in Western Europe.  In 1925, she became a British subject, and in desperate need of a valid passport, she married an English anarchist.  She left with her new passport for Canada.  In the 1930s, she denounced Hitler regularly, during this time, in her sixties, she was not quite the Emma Goldman she used to be, she had, in her own words, “moved to the centre”.  She was allowed back in America because she was no longer a danger; she was tame, her views moderate.  Emma Goldman’s time had been and gone.  Sasha had committed suicide, and in early 1940, Emma Goldman suffered a stroke, three months later, on May 14th, she died.  The U.S authorities were generous and allowed her body to be shipped to Chicago so she could be buried among the Haymarket martyrs, she was seventy. 

November 2012


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