Anarchism and Other Essays
Part 1 out of 4
ANARCHISM AND OTHER ESSAYS
With Biographic Sketch by Hippolyte Havel
Anarchism: What It Really Stands For
Minorities Versus Majorities
The Psychology of Political Violence
Prisons: A Social Crime and Failure
Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty
Francisco Ferrer and The Modern School
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism
The Traffic in Women
The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation
Marriage and Love
The Drama: A Powerful Disseminator of Radical Thought
Propagandism is not, as some suppose, a "trade," because
nobody will follow a "trade" at which you may work with
the industry of a slave and die with the reputation of a
mendicant. The motives of any persons to pursue such a
profession must be different from those of trade, deeper
than pride, and stronger than interest.
GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE.
Among the men and women prominent in the public life of America there
are but few whose names are mentioned as often as that of Emma
Goldman. Yet the real Emma Goldman is almost quite unknown. The
sensational press has surrounded her name with so much
misrepresentation and slander, it would seem almost a miracle that,
in spite of this web of calumny, the truth breaks through and a
better appreciation of this much maligned idealist begins to manifest
itself. There is but little consolation in the fact that almost
every representative of a new idea has had to struggle and suffer
under similar difficulties. Is it of any avail that a former
president of a republic pays homage at Osawatomie to the memory of
John Brown? Or that the president of another republic participates
in the unveiling of a statue in honor of Pierre Proudhon, and holds
up his life to the French nation as a model worthy of enthusiastic
emulation? Of what avail is all this when, at the same time, the
LIVING John Browns and Proudhons are being crucified? The honor and
glory of a Mary Wollstonecraft or of a Louise Michel are not enhanced
by the City Fathers of London or Paris naming a street after
them--the living generation should be concerned with doing justice to
the LIVING Mary Wollstonecrafts and Louise Michels. Posterity
assigns to men like Wendel Phillips and Lloyd Garrison the proper
niche of honor in the temple of human emancipation; but it is the
duty of their contemporaries to bring them due recognition and
appreciation while they live.
The path of the propagandist of social justice is strewn with thorns.
The powers of darkness and injustice exert all their might lest a ray
of sunshine enter his cheerless life. Nay, even his comrades in the
struggle--indeed, too often his most intimate friends--show but
little understanding for the personality of the pioneer. Envy,
sometimes growing to hatred, vanity and jealousy, obstruct his way
and fill his heart with sadness. It requires an inflexible will and
tremendous enthusiasm not to lose, under such conditions, all faith
in the Cause. The representative of a revolutionizing idea stands
between two fires: on the one hand, the persecution of the existing
powers which hold him responsible for all acts resulting from social
conditions; and, on the other, the lack of understanding on the part
of his own followers who often judge all his activity from a narrow
standpoint. Thus it happens that the agitator stands quite alone in
the midst of the multitude surrounding him. Even his most intimate
friends rarely understand how solitary and deserted he feels. That
is the tragedy of the person prominent in the public eye.
The mist in which the name of Emma Goldman has so long been enveloped
is gradually beginning to dissipate. Her energy in the furtherance
of such an unpopular idea as Anarchism, her deep earnestness, her
courage and abilities, find growing understanding and admiration.
The debt American intellectual growth owes to the revolutionary
exiles has never been fully appreciated. The seed disseminated by
them, though so little understood at the time, has brought a rich
harvest. They have at all times held aloft the banner of liberty,
thus impregnating the social vitality of the Nation. But very few
have succeeding in preserving their European education and culture
while at the same time assimilating themselves with American life.
It is difficult for the average man to form an adequate conception
what strength, energy, and perseverance are necessary to absorb the
unfamiliar language, habits, and customs of a new country, without
the loss of one's own personality.
Emma Goldman is one of the few who, while thoroughly preserving their
individuality, have become an important factor in the social and
intellectual atmosphere of America. The life she leads is rich in
color, full of change and variety. She has risen to the topmost
heights, and she has also tasted the bitter dregs of life.
Emma Goldman was born of Jewish parentage on the 27th day of June,
1869, in the Russian province of Kovno. Surely these parents never
dreamed what unique position their child would some day occupy. Like
all conservative parents they, too, were quite convinced that their
daughter would marry a respectable citizen, bear him children, and
round out her allotted years surrounded by a flock of grandchildren,
a good, religious woman. As most parents, they had no inkling what a
strange, impassioned spirit would take hold of the soul of their
child, and carry it to the heights which separate generations in
eternal struggle. They lived in a land and at a time when antagonism
between parent and offspring was fated to find its most acute
expression, irreconcilable hostility. In this tremendous struggle
between fathers and sons--and especially between parents and
daughters--there was no compromise, no weak yielding, no truce. The
spirit of liberty, of progress--an idealism which knew no
considerations and recognized no obstacles--drove the young
generation out of the parental house and away from the hearth of the
home. Just as this same spirit once drove out the revolutionary
breeder of discontent, Jesus, and alienated him from his native
What role the Jewish race--notwithstanding all anti-semitic calumnies
the race of transcendental idealism--played in the struggle of the
Old and the New will probably never be appreciated with complete
impartiality and clarity. Only now are we beginning to perceive the
tremendous debt we owe to Jewish idealists in the realm of science,
art, and literature. But very little is still known of the important
part the sons and daughters of Israel have played in the
revolutionary movement and, especially, in that of modern times.
The first years of her childhood Emma Goldman passed in a small,
idyllic place in the German-Russian province of Kurland, where her
father had charge of the government stage. At the time Kurland was
thoroughly German; even the Russian bureaucracy of that Baltic
province was recruited mostly from German JUNKERS. German fairy
tales and stories, rich in the miraculous deeds of the heroic knights
of Kurland, wove their spell over the youthful mind. But the
beautiful idyl was of short duration. Soon the soul of the growing
child was overcast by the dark shadows of life. Already in her
tenderest youth the seeds of rebellion and unrelenting hatred of
oppression were to be planted in the heart of Emma Goldman. Early
she learned to know the beauty of the State: she saw her father
harassed by the Christian CHINOVNIKS and doubly persecuted as petty
official and hated Jew. The brutality of forced conscription ever
stood before her eyes: she beheld the young men, often the sole
supporter of a large family, brutally dragged to the barracks to lead
the miserable life of a soldier. She heard the weeping of the poor
peasant women, and witnessed the shameful scenes of official venality
which relieved the rich from military service at the expense of the
poor. She was outraged by the terrible treatment to which the female
servants were subjected: maltreated and exploited by their BARINYAS,
they fell to the tender mercies of the regimental officers, who
regarded them as their natural sexual prey. The girls, made pregnant
by respectable gentlemen and driven out by their mistresses, often
found refuge in the Goldman home. And the little girl, her heart
palpitating with sympathy, would abstract coins from the parental
drawer to clandestinely press the money into the hands of the
unfortunate women. Thus Emma Goldman's most striking characteristic,
her sympathy with the underdog, already became manifest in these
At the age of seven little Emma was sent by her parents to her
grandmother at Konigsberg, the city of Emanuel Kant, in Eastern
Prussia. Save for occasional interruptions, she remained there till her
13th birthday. The first years in these surroundings do not exactly
belong to her happiest recollections. The grandmother, indeed, was
very amiable, but the numerous aunts of the household were concerned
more with the spirit of practical rather than pure reason, and the
categoric imperative was applied all too frequently. The situation
was changed when her parents migrated to Konigsberg, and little Emma
was relieved from her role of Cinderella. She now regularly attended
public school and also enjoyed the advantages of private instruction,
customary in middle class life; French and music lessons played an
important part in the curriculum. The future interpreter of Ibsen
and Shaw was then a little German Gretchen, quite at home in the
German atmosphere. Her special predilections in literature were the
sentimental romances of Marlitt; she was a great admirer of the good
Queen Louise, whom the bad Napoleon Buonaparte treated with so marked
a lack of knightly chivalry. What might have been her future
development had she remained in this milieu? Fate--or was it
economic necessity?--willed it otherwise. Her parents decided to
settle in St. Petersburg, the capital of the Almighty Tsar, and there
to embark in business. It was here that a great change took place in
the life of the young dreamer.
It was an eventful period--the year of 1882--in which Emma Goldman,
then in her 13th year, arrived in St. Petersburg. A struggle for
life and death between the autocracy and the Russian intellectuals
swept the country. Alexander II had fallen the previous year.
Sophia Perovskaia, Zheliabov, Grinevitzky, Rissakov, Kibalchitch,
Michailov, the heroic executors of the death sentence upon the
tyrant, had then entered the Walhalla of immortality. Jessie
Helfman, the only regicide whose life the government had reluctantly
spared because of pregnancy, followed the unnumbered Russian martyrs
to the etapes of Siberia. It was the most heroic period in the great
battle of emancipation, a battle for freedom such as the world had
never witnessed before. The names of the Nihilist martyrs were on
all lips, and thousands were enthusiastic to follow their example.
The whole INTELLIGENZIA of Russia was filled with the ILLEGAL
spirit: revolutionary sentiments penetrated into every home, from
mansion to hovel, impregnating the military, the CHINOVNIKS, factory
workers, and peasants. The atmosphere pierced the very casemates of
the royal palace. New ideas germinated in the youth. The difference
of sex was forgotten. Shoulder to shoulder fought the men and the
women. The Russian woman! Who shall ever do justice or adequately
portray her heroism and self-sacrifice, her loyalty and devotion?
Holy, Turgeniev calls her in his great prose poem, ON THE THRESHOLD.
It was inevitable that the young dreamer from Konigsberg should be
drawn into the maelstrom. To remain outside of the circle of free
ideas meant a life of vegetation, of death. One need not wonder at
the youthful age. Young enthusiasts were not then--and, fortunately,
are not now--a rare phenomenon in Russia. The study of the Russian
language soon brought young Emma Goldman in touch with revolutionary
students and new ideas. The place of Marlitt was taken by Nekrassov
and Tchernishevsky. The quondam admirer of the good Queen Louise
became a glowing enthusiast of liberty, resolving, like thousands of
others, to devote her life to the emancipation of the people.
The struggle of generations now took place in the Goldman family.
The parents could not comprehend what interest their daughter could
find in the new ideas, which they themselves considered fantastic
utopias. They strove to persuade the young girl out of these
chimeras, and daily repetition of soul-racking disputes was the
result. Only in one member of the family did the young idealist find
understanding--in her elder sister, Helene, with whom she later
emigrated to America, and whose love and sympathy have never failed
her. Even in the darkest hours of later persecution Emma Goldman
always found a haven of refuge in the home of this loyal sister.
Emma Goldman finally resolved to achieve her independence. She saw
hundreds of men and women sacrificing brilliant careers to go V
NAROD, to the people. She followed their example. She became a
factory worker; at first employed as a corset maker, and later in the
manufacture of gloves. She was now 17 years of age and proud to earn
her own living. Had she remained in Russia, she would have probably
sooner or later shared the fate of thousands buried in the snows of
Siberia. But a new chapter of life was to begin for her. Sister
Helene decided to emigrate to America, where another sister had
already made her home. Emma prevailed upon Helene to be allowed to
join her, and together they departed for America, filled with the
joyous hope of a great, free land, the glorious Republic.
America! What magic word. The yearning of the enslaved, the
promised land of the oppressed, the goal of all longing for progress.
Here man's ideals had found their fulfillment: no Tsar, no Cossack,
no CHINOVNIK. The Republic! Glorious synonym of equality, freedom,
Thus thought the two girls as they travelled, in the year 1886, from
New York to Rochester. Soon, all too soon, disillusionment awaited
them. The ideal conception of America was punctured already at
Castle Garden, and soon burst like a soap bubble. Here Emma Goldman
witnessed sights which reminded her of the terrible scenes of her
childhood in Kurland. The brutality and humiliation the future
citizens of the great Republic were subjected to on board ship, were
repeated at Castle Garden by the officials of the democracy in a more
savage and aggravating manner. And what bitter disappointment
followed as the young idealist began to familiarize herself with the
conditions in the new land! Instead of one Tsar, she found scores of
them; the Cossack was replaced by the policeman with the heavy club,
and instead of the Russian CHINOVNIK there was the far more inhuman
slave-driver of the factory.
Emma Goldman soon obtained work in the clothing establishment of the
Garson Co. The wages amounted to two and a half dollars a week. At
that time the factories were not provided with motor power, and the
poor sewing girls had to drive the wheels by foot, from early morning
till late at night. A terribly exhausting toil it was, without a ray
of light, the drudgery of the long day passed in complete
silence--the Russian custom of friendly conversation at work was not
permissible in the free country. But the exploitation of the girls
was not only economic; the poor wage workers were looked upon by
their foremen and bosses as sexual commodities. If a girl resented
the advances of her "superiors", she would speedily find herself on
the street as an undesirable element in the factory. There was never
a lack of willing victims: the supply always exceeded the demand.
The horrible conditions were made still more unbearable by the
fearful dreariness of life in the small American city. The Puritan
spirit suppresses the slightest manifestation of joy; a deadly
dullness beclouds the soul; no intellectual inspiration, no thought
exchange between congenial spirits is possible. Emma Goldman almost
suffocated in this atmosphere. She, above all others, longed for
ideal surroundings, for friendship and understanding, for the
companionship of kindred minds. Mentally she still lived in Russia.
Unfamiliar with the language and life of the country, she dwelt more
in the past than in the present. It was at this period that she met
a young man who spoke Russian. With great joy the acquaintance was
cultivated. At last a person with whom she could converse, one who
could help her bridge the dullness of the narrow existence. The
friendship gradually ripened and finally culminated in marriage.
Emma Goldman, too, had to walk the sorrowful road of married life;
she, too, had to learn from bitter experience that legal statutes
signify dependence and self-effacement, especially for the woman.
The marriage was no liberation from the Puritan dreariness of
American life; indeed, it was rather aggravated by the loss of
self-ownership. The characters of the young people differed too
widely. A separation soon followed, and Emma Goldman went to New
Haven, Conn. There she found employment in a factory, and her
husband disappeared from her horizon. Two decades later she was
fated to be unexpectedly reminded of him by the Federal authorities.
The revolutionists who were active in the Russian movement of the
80's were but little familiar with the social ideas then agitating
Western Europe and America. Their sole activity consisted in
educating the people, their final goal the destruction of the
autocracy. Socialism and Anarchism were terms hardly known even by
name. Emma Goldman, too, was entirely unfamiliar with the
significance of those ideals.
She arrived in America, as four years previously in Russia, at a
period of great social and political unrest. The working people were
in revolt against the terrible labor conditions; the eight-hour
movement of the Knights of Labor was at its height, and throughout
the country echoed the din of sanguine strife between strikers and
police. The struggle culminated in the great strike against the
Harvester Company of Chicago, the massacre of the strikers, and the
judicial murder of the labor leaders, which followed upon the
historic Haymarket bomb explosion. The Anarchists stood the martyr
test of blood baptism. The apologists of capitalism vainly seek to
justify the killing of Parsons, Spies, Lingg, Fischer, and Engel.
Since the publication of Governor Altgeld's reason for his liberation
of the three incarcerated Haymarket Anarchists, no doubt is left that
a fivefold legal murder had been committed in Chicago, in 1887.
Very few have grasped the significance of the Chicago martyrdom;
least of all the ruling classes. By the destruction of a number of
labor leaders they thought to stem the tide of a world-inspiring
idea. They failed to consider that from the blood of the martyrs
grows the new seed, and that the frightful injustice will win new
converts to the Cause.
The two most prominent representatives of the Anarchist idea in
America, Voltairine de Cleyre and Emma Goldman--the one a native
American, the other a Russian--have been converted, like numerous
others, to the ideas of Anarchism by the judicial murder. Two women
who had not known each other before, and who had received a widely
different education, were through that murder united in one idea.
Like most working men and women of America, Emma Goldman followed the
Chicago trial with great anxiety and excitement. She, too, could not
believe that the leaders of the proletariat would be killed. the
11th of November, 1887, taught her differently. She realized that no
mercy could be expected from the ruling class, that between the
Tsarism of Russia and the plutocracy of America there was no
difference save in name. Her whole being rebelled against the crime,
and she vowed to herself a solemn vow to join the ranks of the
revolutionary proletariat and to devote all her energy and strength
to their emancipation from wage slavery. With the glowing enthusiasm
so characteristic of her nature, she now began to familiarize herself
with the literature of Socialism and Anarchism. She attended public
meetings and became acquainted with socialistically and
anarchistically inclined workingmen. Johanna Greie, the well-known
German lecturer, was the first Socialist speaker heard by Emma
Goldman. In New Haven, Conn., where she was employed in a corset
factory, she met Anarchists actively participating in the movement.
Here she read the FREIHEIT, edited by John Most. The Haymarket
tragedy developed her inherent Anarchist tendencies: the reading of
the FREIHEIT made her a conscious Anarchist. Subsequently she was to
learn that the idea of Anarchism found its highest expression through
the best intellects of America: theoretically by Josiah Warren,
Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner; philosophically by Emerson,
Thoreau, and Walt Whitman.
Made ill by the excessive strain of factory work, Emma Goldman
returned to Rochester where she remained till August, 1889, at which
time she removed to New York, the scene of the most important phase
of her life. She was now twenty years old. Features pallid with
suffering, eyes large and full of compassion, greet one in her
pictured likeness of those days. Her hair is, as customary with
Russian student girls, worn short, giving free play to the strong
It is the heroic epoch of militant Anarchism. By leaps and bounds
the movement had grown in every country. In spite of the most severe
governmental persecution new converts swell the ranks. The
propaganda is almost exclusively of a secret character. The
repressive measures of the government drive the disciples of the new
philosophy to conspirative methods. Thousands of victims fall into
the hands of the authorities and languish in prisons. But nothing
can stem the rising tide of enthusiasm, of self-sacrifice and
devotion to the Cause. The efforts of teachers like Peter Kropotkin,
Louise Michel, Elisee Reclus, and others, inspire the devotees with
ever greater energy.
Disruption is imminent with the Socialists, who have sacrificed the
idea of liberty and embraced the State and politics. The struggle is
bitter, the factions irreconcilable. This struggle is not merely
between Anarchists and Socialists; it also finds its echo within the
Anarchist groups. Theoretic differences and personal controversies
lead to strife and acrimonious enmities. The anti-Socialist
legislation of Germany and Austria had driven thousands of Socialists
and Anarchists across the seas to seek refuge in America. John Most,
having lost his seat in the Reichstag, finally had to flee his native
land, and went to London. There, having advanced toward Anarchism,
he entirely withdrew from the Social Democratic Party. Later, coming
to America, he continued the publication of the FREIHEIT in New York,
and developed great activity among the German workingmen.
When Emma Goldman arrived in New York in 1889, she experienced little
difficulty in associating herself with active Anarchists. Anarchist
meetings were an almost daily occurrence. The first lecturer she
heard on the Anarchist platform was Dr. A. Solotaroff. Of great
importance to her future development was her acquaintance with John
Most, who exerted a tremendous influence over the younger elements.
His impassioned eloquence, untiring energy, and the persecution he
had endured for the Cause, all combined to enthuse the comrades. It
was also at this period that she met Alexander Berkman, whose
friendship played an important part throughout her life. Her talents
as a speaker could not long remain in obscurity. The fire of
enthusiasm swept her toward the public platform. Encouraged by her
friends, she began to participate as a German and Yiddish speaker at
Anarchist meetings. Soon followed a brief tour of agitation taking
her as far as Cleveland. With the whole strength and earnestness of
her soul she now threw herself into the propaganda of Anarchist
ideas. The passionate period of her life had begun. Through
constantly toiling in sweat shops, the fiery young orator was at the
same time very active as an agitator and participated in various
labor struggles, notably in the great cloakmakers' strike, in 1889,
led by Professor Garsyde and Joseph Barondess.
A year later Emma Goldman was a delegate to an Anarchist conference
in New York. She was elected to the Executive Committee, but later
withdrew because of differences of opinion regarding tactical
matters. The ideas of the German-speaking Anarchists had at that
time not yet become clarified. Some still believed in parliamentary
methods, the great majority being adherents of strong centralism.
These differences of opinion in regard to tactics led in 1891 to a
breach with John Most. Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and other
comrades joined the group AUTONOMY, in which Joseph Peukert, Otto
Rinke, and Claus Timmermann played an active part. The bitter
controversies which followed this secession terminated only with the
death of Most, in 1906.
A great source of inspiration to Emma Goldman proved the Russian
revolutionists who were associated in the group ZNAMYA. Goldenberg,
Solotaroff, Zametkin, Miller, Cahan, the poet Edelstadt, Ivan von
Schewitsch, husband of Helene von Racowitza and editor of the
VOLKSZEITUNG, and numerous other Russian exiles, some of whom are
still living, were members of this group. It was also at this time
that Emma Goldman met Robert Reitzel, the German-American Heine, who
exerted a great influence on her development. Through him she became
acquainted with the best writers of modern literature, and the
friendship thus begun lasted till Reitzel's death, in 1898.
The labor movement of America had not been drowned in the Chicago
massacre; the murder of the Anarchists had failed to bring peace to
the profit-greedy capitalist. The struggle for the eight-hour day
continued. In 1892 broke out the great strike in Pittsburg. The
Homestead fight, the defeat of the Pinkertons, the appearance of the
militia, the suppression of the strikers, and the complete triumph of
the reaction are matters of comparatively recent history. Stirred to
the very depths by the terrible events at the seat of war, Alexander
Berkman resolved to sacrifice his life to the Cause and thus give an
object lesson to the wage slaves of America of active Anarchist
solidarity with labor. His attack upon Frick, the Gessler of
Pittsburg, failed, and the twenty-two-year-old youth was doomed to a
living death of twenty-two years in the penitentiary. The
bourgeoisie, which for decades had exalted and eulogized tyrannicide,
now was filled with terrible rage. The capitalist press organized a
systematic campaign of calumny and misrepresentation against
Anarchists. The police exerted every effort to involve Emma Goldman
in the act of Alexander Berkman. The feared agitator was to be
silenced by all means. It was only due to the circumstance of her
presence in New York that she escaped the clutches of the law. It
was a similar circumstance which, nine years later, during the
McKinley incident, was instrumental in preserving her liberty. It is
almost incredible with what amount of stupidity, baseness, and
vileness the journalists of the period sought to overwhelm the
Anarchist. One must peruse the newspaper files to realize the
enormity of incrimination and slander. It would be difficult to
portray the agony of soul Emma Goldman experienced in those days.
The persecutions of the capitalist press were to be borne by an
Anarchist with comparative equanimity; but the attacks from one's own
ranks were far more painful and unbearable. The act of Berkman was
severely criticized by Most and some of his followers among the
German and Jewish Anarchists. Bitter accusations and recriminations
at public meetings and private gatherings followed. Persecuted on
all sides, both because she championed Berkman and his act, and on
account of her revolutionary activity, Emma Goldman was harassed even
to the extent of inability to secure shelter. Too proud to seek
safety in the denial of her identity, she chose to pass the nights in
the public parks rather than expose her friends to danger or vexation
by her visits. The already bitter cup was filled to overflowing by
the attempted suicide of a young comrade who had shared living
quarters with Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and a mutual artist
Many changes have since taken place. Alexander Berkman has survived
the Pennsylvania Inferno, and is back again in the ranks of the
militant Anarchists, his spirit unbroken, his soul full of enthusiasm
for the ideals of his youth. The artist comrade is now among the
well-known illustrators of New York. The suicide candidate left
America shortly after his unfortunate attempt to die, and was
subsequently arrested and condemned to eight years of hard labor for
smuggling Anarchist literature into Germany. He, too, has withstood
the terrors of prison life, and has returned to the revolutionary
movement, since earning the well deserved reputation of a talented
writer in Germany.
To avoid indefinite camping in the parks Emma Goldman finally was
forced to move into a house on Third Street, occupied exclusively by
prostitutes. There, among the outcasts of our good Christian
society, she could at least rent a bit of a room, and find rest and
work at her sewing machine. The women of the street showed more
refinement of feeling and sincere sympathy than the priests of the
Church. But human endurance had been exhausted by overmuch suffering
and privation. There was a complete physical breakdown, and the
renowned agitator was removed to the "Bohemian Republic"--a large
tenement house which derived its euphonious appellation from the fact
that its occupants were mostly Bohemian Anarchists. Here Emma
Goldman found friends ready to aid her. Justus Schwab, one of the
finest representatives of the German revolutionary period of that
time, and Dr. Solotaroff were indefatigable in the care of the
patient. Here, too, she met Edward Brady, the new friendship
subsequently ripening into close intimacy. Brady had been an active
participant in the revolutionary movement of Austria and had, at the
time of his acquaintance with Emma Goldman, lately been released from
an Austrian prison after an incarceration of ten years.
Physicians diagnosed the illness as consumption, and the patient was
advised to leave New York. She went to Rochester, in the hope that
the home circle would help restore her to health. Her parents had
several years previously emigrated to America, settling in that city.
Among the leading traits of the Jewish race is the strong attachment
between the members of the family, and, especially, between parents
and children. Though her conservative parents could not sympathize
with the idealist aspirations of Emma Goldman and did not approve of
her mode of life, they now received their sick daughter with open
arms. The rest and care enjoyed in the parental home, and the
cheering presence of the beloved sister Helene, proved so beneficial
that within a short time she was sufficiently restored to resume her
There is no rest in the life of Emma Goldman. Ceaseless effort and
continuous striving toward the conceived goal are the essentials of
her nature. Too much precious time had already been wasted. It was
imperative to resume her labors immediately. The country was in the
throes of a crisis, and thousands of unemployed crowded the streets
of the large industrial centers. Cold and hungry they tramped
through the land in the vain search for work and bread. The
Anarchists developed a strenuous propaganda among the unemployed and
the strikers. A monster demonstration of striking cloakmakers and of
the unemployed took place at Union Square, New York. Emma Goldman
was one of the invited speakers. She delivered an impassioned
speech, picturing in fiery words the misery of the wage slave's life,
and quoted the famous maxim of Cardinal Manning: "Necessity knows no
law, and the starving man has a natural right to a share of his
neighbor's bread." She concluded her exhortation with the words:
"Ask for work. If they do not give you work, ask for bread. If they
do not give you work or bread, then take bread."
The following day she left for Philadelphia, where she was to address
a public meeting. The capitalist press again raised the alarm. If
Socialists and Anarchists were to be permitted to continue agitating,
there was imminent danger that the workingmen would soon learn to
understand the manner in which they are robbed of the joy and
happiness of life. Such a possibility was to be prevented at all
cost. The Chief of Police of New York, Byrnes, procured a court
order for the arrest of Emma Goldman. She was detained by the
Philadelphia authorities and incarcerated for several days in the
Moyamensing prison, awaiting the extradition papers which Byrnes
intrusted to Detective Jacobs. This man Jacobs (whom Emma Goldman
again met several years later under very unpleasant circumstances)
proposed to her, while she was returning a prisoner to New York, to
betray the cause of labor. In the name of his superior, Chief
Byrnes, he offered lucrative reward. How stupid men sometimes are!
What poverty of psychologic observation to imagine the possibility of
betrayal on the part of a young Russian idealist, who had willingly
sacrificed all personal considerations to help in labor's
In October, 1893, Emma Goldman was tried in the criminal courts of
New York on the charge of inciting to riot. The "intelligent" jury
ignored the testimony of the twelve witnesses for the defense in
favor of the evidence given by one single man--Detective Jacobs. She
was found guilty and sentenced to serve one year in the penitentiary
at Blackwell's Island. Since the foundation of the Republic she was
the first woman--Mrs. Surratt excepted--to be imprisoned for a
political offense. Respectable society had long before stamped upon
her the Scarlet Letter.
Emma Goldman passed her time in the penitentiary in the capacity of
nurse in the prison hospital. Here she found opportunity to shed
some rays of kindness into the dark lives of the unfortunates whose
sisters of the street did not disdain two years previously to share
with her the same house. She also found in prison opportunity to
study English and its literature, and to familiarize herself with the
great American writers. In Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman,
Thoreau, and Emerson she found great treasures.
She left Blackwell's Island in the month of August, 1894, a woman of
twenty-five, developed and matured, and intellectually transformed.
Back into the arena, richer in experience, purified by suffering.
She did not feel herself deserted and alone any more. Many hands
were stretched out to welcome her. There were at the time numerous
intellectual oases in New York. The saloon of Justus Schwab, at
Number Fifty, First Street, was the center where gathered Anarchists,
litterateurs, and bohemians. Among others she also met at this time
a number of American Anarchists, and formed the friendship of
Voltairine de Cleyre, Wm. C. Owen, Miss Van Etton, and Dyer D. Lum,
former editor of the ALARM and executor of the last wishes of the
Chicago martyrs. In John Swinton, the noble old fighter for liberty,
she found one of her staunchest friends. Other intellectual centers
there were: SOLIDARITY, published by John Edelman; LIBERTY, by the
Individualist Anarchist, Benjamin R. Tucker; the REBEL, by Harry
Kelly; DER STURMVOGEL, a German Anarchist publication, edited by
Claus Timmermann; DER ARME TEUFEL, whose presiding genius was the
inimitable Robert Reitzel. Through Arthur Brisbane, now chief
lieutenant of William Randolph Hearst, she became acquainted with the
writings of Fourier. Brisbane then was not yet submerged in the
swamp of political corruption. He sent Emma Goldman an amiable
letter to Blackwell's Island, together with the biography of his
father, the enthusiastic American disciple of Fourier.
Emma Goldman became, upon her release from the penitentiary, a factor
in the public life of New York. She was appreciated in radical ranks
for her devotion, her idealism, and earnestness. Various persons
sought her friendship, and some tried to persuade her to aid in the
furtherance of their special side issues. Thus Rev. Parkhurst,
during the Lexow investigation, did his utmost to induce her to join
the Vigilance Committee in order to fight Tammany Hall. Maria
Louise, the moving spirit of a social center, acted as Parkhurst's
go-between. It is hardly necessary to mention what reply the latter
received from Emma Goldman. Incidentally, Maria Louise subsequently
became a Mahatma. During the free silver campaign, ex-Burgess
McLuckie, one of the most genuine personalities in the Homestead
strike, visited New York in an endeavor to enthuse the local radicals
for free silver. He also attempted to interest Emma Goldman, but
with no greater success than Mahatma Maria Louise of Parkhurst-Lexow
In 1894 the struggle of the Anarchists in France reached its highest
expression. The white terror on the part of the Republican upstarts
was answered by the red terror of our French comrades. With feverish
anxiety the Anarchists throughout the world followed this social
struggle. Propaganda by deed found its reverberating echo in almost
all countries. In order to better familiarize herself with
conditions in the old world, Emma Goldman left for Europe, in the
year 1895. After a lecture tour in England and Scotland, she went to
Vienna where she entered the ALLGEMEINE KRANKENHAUS to prepare
herself as midwife and nurse, and where at the same time she studied
social conditions. She also found opportunity to acquaint herself
with the newest literature of Europe: Hauptmann, Nietzsche, Ibsen,
Zola, Thomas Hardy, and other artist rebels were read with great
In the autumn of 1896 she returned to New York by way of Zurich and
Paris. The project of Alexander Berkman's liberation was on hand.
The barbaric sentence of twenty-two years had roused tremendous
indignation among the radical elements. It was known that the Pardon
Board of Pennsylvania would look to Carnegie and Frick for advice in
the case of Alexander Berkman. It was therefore suggested that these
Sultans of Pennsylvania be approached--not with a view of obtaining
their grace, but with the request that they do not attempt to
influence the Board. Ernest Crosby offered to see Carnegie, on
condition that Alexander Berkman repudiate his act. That, however,
was absolutely out of the question. He would never be guilty of such
forswearing of his own personality and self-respect. These efforts
led to friendly relations between Emma Goldman and the circle of
Ernest Crosby, Bolton Hall, and Leonard Abbott. In the year 1897 she
undertook her first great lecture tour, which extended as far as
California. This tour popularized her name as the representative of
the oppressed, her eloquence ringing from coast to coast. In
California Emma Goldman became friendly with the members of the Isaak
family, and learned to appreciate their efforts for the Cause. Under
tremendous obstacles the Isaaks first published the FIREBRAND and,
upon its suppression by the Postal Department, the FREE SOCIETY. It
was also during this tour that Emma Goldman met that grand old rebel
of sexual freedom, Moses Harman.
During the Spanish-American war the spirit of chauvinism was at its
highest tide. To check this dangerous situation, and at the same
time collect funds for the revolutionary Cubans, Emma Goldman became
affiliated with the Latin comrades, among others with Gori, Esteve,
Palaviccini, Merlino, Petruccini, and Ferrara. In the year 1899
followed another protracted tour of agitation, terminating on the
Pacific Coast. Repeated arrests and accusations, though without
ultimate bad results, marked every propaganda tour.
In November of the same year the untiring agitator went on a second
lecture tour to England and Scotland, closing her journey with the
first International Anarchist Congress at Paris. It was at the time of
the Boer war, and again jingoism was at its height, as two years
previously it had celebrated its orgies during the Spanish-American
war. Various meetings, both in England and Scotland, were disturbed
and broken up by patriotic mobs. Emma Goldman found on this occasion
the opportunity of again meeting various English comrades and
interesting personalities like Tom Mann and the sisters Rossetti, the
gifted daughters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, then publishers of the
Anarchist review, the TORCH. One of her life-long hopes found here
its fulfillment: she came in close and friendly touch with Peter
Kropotkin, Enrico Malatesta, Nicholas Tchaikovsky, W. Tcherkessov,
and Louise Michel. Old warriors in the cause of humanity, whose
deeds have enthused thousands of followers throughout the world, and
whose life and work have inspired other thousands with noble idealism
and self-sacrifice. Old warriors they, yet ever young with the
courage of earlier days, unbroken in spirit and filled with the firm
hope of the final triumph of Anarchy.
The chasm in the revolutionary labor movement, which resulted from
the disruption of the INTERNATIONALE, could not be bridged any more.
Two social philosophies were engaged in bitter combat. The
International Congress in 1889, at Paris; in 1892, at Zurich, and in
1896, at London, produced irreconcilable differences. The majority
of Social Democrats, forswearing their libertarian past and becoming
politicians, succeeded in excluding the revolutionary and Anarchist
delegates. The latter decided thenceforth to hold separate
congresses. Their first congress was to take place in 1900, at
Paris. The Socialist renegade, Millerand, who had climbed into the
Ministry of the Interior, here played a Judas role. The congress of
the revolutionists was suppressed, and the delegates dispersed two
days prior to their scheduled opening. But Millerand had no
objections against the Social Democratic Congress, which was
afterwards opened with all the trumpets of the advertiser's art.
However, the renegade did not accomplish his object. A number of
delegates succeeded in holding a secret conference in the house of a
comrade outside of Paris, where various points of theory and tactics
were discussed. Emma Goldman took considerable part in these
proceedings, and on that occasion came in contact with numerous
representatives of the Anarchist movement of Europe.
Owing to the suppression of the congress, the delegates were in
danger of being expelled from France. At this time also came the bad
news from America regarding another unsuccessful attempt to liberate
Alexander Berkman, proving a great shock to Emma Goldman. In
November, 1900, she returned to America to devote herself to her
profession of nurse, at the same time taking an active part in the
American propaganda. Among other activities she organized monster
meetings of protest against the terrible outrages of the Spanish
government, perpetrated upon the political prisoners tortured in
In her vocation as nurse Emma Goldman enjoyed many opportunities of
meeting the most unusual and peculiar characters. Few would have
identified the "notorious Anarchist" in the small blonde woman,
simply attired in the uniform of a nurse. Soon after her return from
Europe she became acquainted with a patient by the name of Mrs.
Stander, a morphine fiend, suffering excruciating agonies. She
required careful attention to enable her to supervise a very
important business she conducted,--that of Mrs. Warren. In Third
Street, near Third Avenue, was situated her private residence, and
near it, connected by a separate entrance, was her place of business.
One evening, the nurse, upon entering the room of her patient,
suddenly came face to face with a male visitor, bull-necked and of
brutal appearance. The man was no other than Mr. Jacobs, the
detective who seven years previously had brought Emma Goldman a
prisoner from Philadelphia and who had attempted to persuade her, on
their way to New York, to betray the cause of the workingmen. It
would be difficult to describe the expression of bewilderment on the
countenance of the man as he so unexpectedly faced Emma Goldman, the
nurse of his mistress. The brute was suddenly transformed into a
gentleman, exerting himself to excuse his shameful behavior on the
previous occasion. Jacobs was the "protector" of Mrs. Stander, and
go-between for the house and the police. Several years later, as one
of the detective staff of District Attorney Jerome, he committed
perjury, was convicted, and sent to Sing Sing for a year. He is now
probably employed by some private detective agency, a desirable
pillar of respectable society.
In 1901 Peter Kropotkin was invited by the Lowell Institute of
Massachusetts to deliver a series of lectures on Russian literature.
It was his second American tour, and naturally the comrades were
anxious to use his presence for the benefit of the movement. Emma
Goldman entered into correspondence with Kropotkin and succeeded in
securing his consent to arrange for him a series of lectures. She
also devoted her energies to organizing the tours of other well known
Anarchists, principally those of Charles W. Mowbray and John Turner.
Similarly she always took part in all the activities of the movement,
ever ready to give her time, ability, and energy to the Cause.
On the sixth of September, 1901, President McKinley was shot by Leon
Czolgosz at Buffalo. Immediately an unprecedented campaign of
persecution was set in motion against Emma Goldman as the best known
Anarchist in the country. Although there was absolutely no
foundation for the accusation, she, together with other prominent
Anarchists, was arrested in Chicago, kept in confinement for several
weeks, and subjected to severest cross-examination. Never before in
the history of the country had such a terrible man-hunt taken place
against a person in public life. But the efforts of police and press
to connect Emma Goldman with Czolgosz proved futile. Yet the episode
left her wounded to the heart. The physical suffering, the
humiliation and brutality at the hands of the police she could bear.
The depression of soul was far worse. She was overwhelmed by
realization of the stupidity, lack of understanding, and vileness
which characterized the events of those terrible days. The attitude
of misunderstanding on the part of the majority of her own comrades
toward Czolgosz almost drove her to desperation. Stirred to the very
inmost of her soul, she published an article on Czolgosz in which she
tried to explain the deed in its social and individual aspects. As
once before, after Berkman's act, she now also was unable to find
quarters; like a veritable wild animal she was driven from place to
place. This terrible persecution and, especially, the attitude of
her comrades made it impossible for her to continue propaganda. The
soreness of body and soul had first to heal. During 1901-1903 she
did not resume the platform. As "Miss Smith" she lived a quiet life,
practicing her profession and devoting her leisure to the study of
literature and, particularly, to the modern drama, which she
considers one of the greatest disseminators of radical ideas and
Yet one thing the persecution of Emma Goldman accomplished. Her name
was brought before the public with greater frequency and emphasis
than ever before, the malicious harassing of the much maligned
agitator arousing strong sympathy in many circles. Persons in
various walks of life began to get interested in her struggle and her
ideas. A better understanding and appreciation were now beginning to
The arrival in America of the English Anarchist, John Turner, induced
Emma Goldman to leave her retirement. Again she threw herself into
her public activities, organizing an energetic movement for the
defense of Turner, whom the Immigration authorities condemned to
deportation on account of the Anarchist exclusion law, passed after
the death of McKinley.
When Paul Orleneff and Mme. Nazimova arrived in New York to acquaint
the American public with Russian dramatic art, Emma Goldman became
the manager of the undertaking. By much patience and perseverance
she succeeded in raising the necessary funds to introduce the Russian
artists to the theater-goers of New York and Chicago. Though
financially not a success, the venture proved of great artistic
value. As manager of the Russian theater Emma Goldman enjoyed some
unique experiences. M. Orleneff could converse only in Russian, and
"Miss Smith" was forced to act as his interpreter at various polite
functions. Most of the aristocratic ladies of Fifth Avenue had not
the least inkling that the amiable manager who so entertainingly
discussed philosophy, drama, and literature at their five o'clock
teas, was the "notorious" Emma Goldman. If the latter should some
day write her autobiography, she will no doubt have many interesting
anecdotes to relate in connection with these experiences.
The weekly Anarchist publication, FREE SOCIETY, issued by the Isaak
family, was forced to suspend in consequence of the nation-wide fury
that swept the country after the death of McKinley. To fill out the
gap Emma Goldman, in co-operation with Max Baginski and other
comrades, decided to publish a monthly magazine devoted to the
furtherance of Anarchist ideas in life and literature. The first
issue of MOTHER EARTH appeared in the month of March, 1906, the
initial expenses of the periodical partly covered by the proceeds of
a theater benefit given by Orleneff, Mme. Nazimova, and their
company, in favor of the Anarchist magazine. Under tremendous
difficulties and obstacles the tireless propagandist has succeeded in
continuing MOTHER EARTH uninterruptedly since 1906--an achievement
rarely equalled in the annals of radical publications.
In May, 1906, Alexander Berkman at last left the hell of
Pennsylvania, where he had passed the best fourteen years of his
life. No one had believed in the possibility of his survival. His
liberation terminated a nightmare of fourteen years for Emma Goldman,
and an important chapter of her career was thus concluded.
Nowhere had the birth of the Russian revolution aroused such vital
and active response as among the Russians living in America. The
heroes of the revolutionary movement in Russia, Tchaikovsky, Mme.
Breshkovskaia, Gershuni, and others visited these shores to waken the
sympathies of the American people toward the struggle for liberty,
and to collect aid for its continuance and support. The success of
these efforts was to a considerable extent due to the exertions,
eloquence, and the talent for organization on the part of Emma
Goldman. This opportunity enabled her to give valuable services to
the struggle for liberty in her native land. It is not generally
known that it is the Anarchists who are mainly instrumental in
insuring the success, moral as well as financial, of most of the
radical undertakings. The Anarchist is indifferent to acknowledged
appreciation; the needs of the Cause absorb his whole interest, and
to these he devotes his energy and abilities. Yet it may be
mentioned that some otherwise decent folks, though at all times
anxious for Anarchist support and co-operation, are ever willing to
monopolize all the credit for the work done. During the last several
decades it was chiefly the Anarchists who had organized all the great
revolutionary efforts, and aided in every struggle for liberty. But
for fear of shocking the respectable mob, who looks upon the
Anarchists as the apostles of Satan, and because of their social
position in bourgeois society, the would-be radicals ignore the
activity of the Anarchists.
In 1907 Emma Goldman participated as delegate to the second Anarchist
Congress, at Amsterdam. She was intensely active in all its
proceedings and supported the organization of the Anarchist
INTERNATIONALE. Together with the other American delegate, Max
Baginski, she submitted to the congress an exhaustive report of
American conditions, closing with the following characteristic
"The charge that Anarchism is destructive, rather than constructive,
and that, therefore, Anarchism is opposed to organization, is one of
the many falsehoods spread by our opponents. They confound our
present social institutions with organization; hence they fail to
understand how we can oppose the former, and yet favor the latter.
The fact, however, is that the two are not identical.
"The State is commonly regarded as the highest form of organization.
But is it in reality a true organization? Is it not rather an
arbitrary institution, cunningly imposed upon the masses?
"Industry, too, is called an organization; yet nothing is farther
from the truth. Industry is the ceaseless piracy of the rich against
"We are asked to believe that the Army is an organization, but a
close investigation will show that it is nothing else than a cruel
instrument of blind force.
"The Public School! The colleges and other institutions of learning,
are they not models of organization, offering the people fine
opportunities for instruction? Far from it. The school, more than
any other institution, is a veritable barrack, where the human mind
is drilled and manipulated into submission to various social and
moral spooks, and thus fitted to continue our system of exploitation
"Organization, as WE understand it, however, is a different thing.
It is based, primarily, on freedom. It is a natural and voluntary
grouping of energies to secure results beneficial to humanity.
"It is the harmony of organic growth which produces variety of color
and form, the complete whole we admire in the flower. Analogously
will the organized activity of free human beings, imbued with the
spirit of solidarity, result in the perfection of social harmony,
which we call Anarchism. In fact, Anarchism alone makes
non-authoritarian organization of common interests possible, since it
abolishes the existing antagonism between individuals and classes.
"Under present conditions the antagonism of economic and social
interests results in relentless war among the social units, and
creates an insurmountable obstacle in the way of a co-operative
"There is a mistaken notion that organization does not foster
individual freedom; that, on the contrary, it means the decay of
individuality. In reality, however, the true function of
organization is to aid the development and growth of personality.
"Just as the animal cells, by mutual co-operation, express their
latent powers in formation of the complete organism, so does the
individual, by co-operative effort with other individuals, attain his
highest form of development.
"An organization, in the true sense, cannot result from the
combination of mere nonentities. It must be composed of
self-conscious, intelligent individualities. Indeed, the total of
the possibilities and activities of an organization is represented in
the expression of individual energies.
"It therefore logically follows that the greater the number of
strong, self-conscious personalities in an organization, the less
danger of stagnation, and the more intense its life element.
"Anarchism asserts the possibility of an organization without
discipline, fear, or punishment, and without the pressure of poverty:
a new social organism which will make an end to the terrible struggle
for the means of existence,--the savage struggle which undermines the
finest qualities in man, and ever widens the social abyss. In short,
Anarchism strives towards a social organization which will establish
well-being for all.
"The germ of such an organization can be found in that form of trades
unionism which has done away with centralization, bureaucracy, and
discipline, and which favors independent and direct action on the
part of its members."
The very considerable progress of Anarchist ideas in America can best
be gauged by the remarkable success of the three extensive lecture
tours of Emma Goldman since the Amsterdam Congress of 1907. Each
tour extended over new territory, including localities where
Anarchism had never before received a hearing. But the most
gratifying aspect of her untiring efforts is the tremendous sale of
Anarchist literature, whose propagandist effect cannot be estimated.
It was during one of these tours that a remarkable incident happened,
strikingly demonstrating the inspiring potentialities of the
Anarchist idea. In San Francisco, in 1908, Emma Goldman's lecture
attracted a soldier of the United States Army, William Buwalda. For
daring to attend an Anarchist meeting, the free Republic
court-martialed Buwalda and imprisoned him for one year. Thanks to
the regenerating power of the new philosophy, the government lost a
soldier, but the cause of liberty gained a man.
A propagandist of Emma Goldman's importance is necessarily a sharp
thorn to the reaction. She is looked upon as a danger to the
continued existence of authoritarian usurpation. No wonder, then,
that the enemy resorts to any and all means to make her impossible.
A systematic attempt to suppress her activities was organized a year
ago by the united police force of the country. But like all previous
similar attempts, it failed in a most brilliant manner. Energetic
protests on the part of the intellectual element of America succeeded
in overthrowing the dastardly conspiracy against free speech.
Another attempt to make Emma Goldman impossible was essayed by the
Federal authorities at Washington. In order to deprive her of the
rights of citizenship, the government revoked the citizenship papers
of her husband, whom she had married at the youthful age of eighteen,
and whose whereabouts, if he be alive, could not be determined for
the last two decades. The great government of the glorious United
States did not hesitate to stoop to the most despicable methods to
accomplish that achievement. But as her citizenship had never proved
of use to Emma Goldman, she can bear the loss with a light heart.
There are personalities who possess such a powerful individuality
that by its very force they exert the most potent influence over the
best representatives of their time. Michael Bakunin was such a
personality. But for him, Richard Wagner had never written DIE KUNST
UND DIE REVOLUTION. Emma Goldman is a similar personality. She is a
strong factor in the socio-political life of America. By virtue of
her eloquence, energy, and brilliant mentality, she moulds the minds
and hearts of thousands of her auditors.
Deep sympathy and compassion for suffering humanity, and an
inexorable honesty toward herself, are the leading traits of Emma
Goldman. No person, whether friend or foe, shall presume to control
her goal or dictate her mode of life. She would perish rather than
sacrifice her convictions, or the right of self-ownership of soul and
body. Respectability could easily forgive the teaching of theoretic
Anarchism; but Emma Goldman does not merely preach the new
philosophy; she also persists in living it,--and that is the one
supreme, unforgivable crime. Were she, like so many radicals, to
consider her ideal as merely an intellectual ornament; were she to
make concessions to existing society and compromise with old
prejudices,--then even the most radical views could be pardoned in
her. But that she takes her radicalism seriously; that it has
permeated her blood and marrow to the extent where she not merely
teaches but also practices her convictions--this shocks even the
radical Mrs. Grundy. Emma Goldman lives her own life; she associates
with publicans--hence the indignation of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
It is no mere coincidence that such divergent writers as Pietro Gori
and William Marion Reedy find similar traits in their
characterization of Emma Goldman. In a contribution to LA QUESTIONE
SOCIALE, Pietro Gori calls her a "moral power, a woman who, with the
vision of a sibyl, prophesies the coming of a new kingdom for the
oppressed; a woman who, with logic and deep earnestness, analyses the
ills of society, and portrays, with artist touch, the coming dawn of
humanity, founded on equality, brotherhood, and liberty."
William Reedy sees in Emma Goldman the "daughter of the dream, her
gospel a vision which is the vision of every truly great-souled man
and woman who has ever lived."
Cowards who fear the consequences of their deeds have coined the word
of philosophic Anarchism. Emma Goldman is too sincere, too defiant,
to seek safety behind such paltry pleas. She is an Anarchist, pure
and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah
Warrn, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also
understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a
Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of
violence. To the soldier in the social struggle it is a point of
honor to come in conflict with the powers of darkness and tyranny,
and Emma Goldman is proud to count among her best friends and
comrades men and women who bear the wounds and scars received in
In the words of Voltairine de Cleyre, characterizing Emma Goldman
after the latter's imprisonment in 1893: The spirit that animates
Emma Goldman is the only one which will emancipate the slave from his
slavery, the tyrant from his tyranny--the spirit which is willing to
dare and suffer.
New York, December, 1910.
Some twenty-one years ago I heard the first great Anarchist
speaker--the inimitable John Most. It seemed to me then, and for
many years after, that the spoken word hurled forth among the masses
with such wonderful eloquence, such enthusiasm and fire, could never
be erased from the human mind and soul. How could any one of all the
multitudes who flocked to Most's meetings escape his prophetic voice!
Surely they had but to hear him to throw off their old beliefs, and
see the truth and beauty of Anarchism!
My one great longing then was to be able to speak with the tongue of
John Most,--that I, too, might thus reach the masses. Oh, for the
naivety of Youth's enthusiasm! It is the time when the hardest thing
seems but child's play. It is the only period in life worth while.
Alas! This period is but of short duration. Like Spring, the STURM
UND DRANG period of the propagandist brings forth growth, frail and
delicate, to be matured or killed according to its powers of
resistance against a thousand vicissitudes.
My great faith in the wonder worker, the spoken word, is no more. I
have realized its inadequacy to awaken thought, or even emotion.
Gradually, and with no small struggle against this realization, I
came to see that oral propaganda is at best but a means of shaking
people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression. The
very fact that most people attend meetings only if aroused by
newspaper sensations, or because they expect to be amused, is proof
that they really have no inner urge to learn.
It is altogether different with the written mode of human expression.
No one, unless intensely interested in progressive ideas, will bother
with serious books. That leads me to another discovery made after
many years of public activity. It is this: All claims of education
notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind
craves. Already this truth is recognized by most modern educators in
relation to the immature mind. I think it is equally true regarding
the adult. Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than
musicians. All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought.
Whether something vital will develop depends largely on the fertility
of the human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must
not be overlooked.
In meetings the audience is distracted by a thousand non-essentials.
The speaker, though ever so eloquent, cannot escape the restlessness
of the crowd, with the inevitable result that he will fail to strike
root. In all probability he will not even do justice to himself.
The relation between the writer and the reader is more intimate.
True, books are only what we want them to be; rather, what we read
into them. That we can do so demonstrates the importance of written
as against oral expression. It is this certainty which has induced
me to gather in one volume my ideas on various topics of individual
and social importance. They represent the mental and soul struggles
of twenty-one years,--the conclusions derived after many changes and
I am not sanguine enough to hope that my readers will be as numerous
as those who have heard me. But I prefer to reach the few who really
want to learn, rather than the many who come to be amused.
As to the book, it must speak for itself. Explanatory remarks do but
detract from the ideas set forth. However, I wish to forestall two
objections which will undoubtedly be raised. One is in reference to
the essay on ANARCHISM; the other, on MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES.
"Why do you not say how things will be operated under Anarchism?" is
a question I have had to meet thousands of times. Because I believe
that Anarchism can not consistently impose an iron-clad program or
method on the future. The things every new generation has to fight,
and which it can least overcome, are the burdens of the past, which
holds us all as in a net. Anarchism, at least as I understand it,
leaves posterity free to develop its own particular systems, in
harmony with its needs. Our most vivid imagination can not foresee
the potentialities of a race set free from external restraints.
How, then, can any one assume to map out a line of conduct for those
to come? We, who pay dearly for every breath of pure, fresh air,
must guard against the tendency to fetter the future. If we succeed
in clearing the soil from the rubbish of the past and present, we
will leave to posterity the greatest and safest heritage of all ages.
The most disheartening tendency common among readers is to tear out
one sentence from a work, as a criterion of the writer's ideas or
personality. Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, is decried as a
hater of the weak because he believed in the UEBERMENSCH. It does
not occur to the shallow interpreters of that giant mind that this
vision of the UEBERMENSCH also called for a state of society which
will not give birth to a race of weaklings and slaves.
It is the same narrow attitude which sees in Max Stirner naught but
the apostle of the theory "each for himself, the devil take the hind
one." That Stirner's individualism contains the greatest social
possibilities is utterly ignored. Yet, it is nevertheless true that
if society is ever to become free, it will be so through liberated
individuals, whose free efforts make society.
These examples bring me to the objection that will be raised to
MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES. No doubt, I shall be excommunicated as
an enemy of the people, because I repudiate the mass as a creative
factor. I shall prefer that rather than be guilty of the demagogic
platitudes so commonly in vogue as a bait for the people. I realize
the malady of the oppressed and disinherited masses only too well,
but I refuse to prescribe the usual ridiculous palliatives which
allow the patient neither to die nor to recover. One cannot be too
extreme in dealing with social ills; besides, the extreme thing is
generally the true thing. My lack of faith in the majority is
dictated by my faith in the potentialities of the individual. Only
when the latter becomes free to choose his associates for a common
purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos
For the rest, my book must speak for itself.
ANARCHISM: WHAT IT REALLY STANDS FOR
Ever reviled, accursed, ne'er understood,
Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
"Wreck of all order," cry the multitude,
"Art thou, and war and murder's endless rage."
O, let them cry. To them that ne'er have striven
The truth that lies behind a word to find,
To them the word's right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.
But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so pure,
Thou sayest all which I for goal have taken.
I give thee to the future! Thine secure
When each at least unto himself shall waken.
Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest's thrill?
I cannot tell--but it the earth shall see!
I am an Anarchist! Wherefore I will
Not rule, and also ruled I will not be!
JOHN HENRY MACKAY.
The history of human growth and development is at the same time the
history of the terrible struggle of every new idea heralding the
approach of a brighter dawn. In its tenacious hold on tradition, the
Old has never hesitated to make use of the foulest and cruelest means
to stay the advent of the New, in whatever form or period the latter
may have asserted itself. Nor need we retrace our steps into the
distant past to realize the enormity of opposition, difficulties, and
hardships placed in the path of every progressive idea. The rack,
the thumbscrew, and the knout are still with us; so are the convict's
garb and the social wrath, all conspiring against the spirit that is
serenely marching on.
Anarchism could not hope to escape the fate of all other ideas of
innovation. Indeed, as the most revolutionary and uncompromising
innovator, Anarchism must needs meet with the combined ignorance and
venom of the world it aims to reconstruct.
To deal even remotely with all that is being said and done against
Anarchism would necessitate the writing of a whole volume. I shall
therefore meet only two of the principal objections. In so doing, I
shall attempt to elucidate what Anarchism really stands for.
The strange phenomenon of the opposition to Anarchism is that it
brings to light the relation between so-called intelligence and
ignorance. And yet this is not so very strange when we consider the
relativity of all things. The ignorant mass has in its favor that it
makes no pretense of knowledge or tolerance. Acting, as it always
does, by mere impulse, its reasons are like those of a child.
"Why?" "Because." Yet the opposition of the uneducated to Anarchism
deserves the same consideration as that of the intelligent man.
What, then, are the objections? First, Anarchism is impractical,
though a beautiful ideal. Second, Anarchism stands for violence and
destruction, hence it must be repudiated as vile and dangerous.
Both the intelligent man and the ignorant mass judge not from a
thorough knowledge of the subject, but either from hearsay or false
A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in
existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing
conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one
objects to, and any scheme that could accept these conditions is
wrong and foolish. The true criterion of the practical, therefore,
is not whether the latter can keep intact the wrong or foolish;
rather is it whether the scheme has vitality enough to leave the
stagnant waters of the old, and build, as well as sustain, new life.
In the light of this conception, Anarchism is indeed practical.
More than any other idea, it is helping to do away with the wrong and
foolish; more than any other idea, it is building and sustaining new
The emotions of the ignorant man are continuously kept at a pitch by
the most blood-curdling stories about Anarchism. Not a thing too
outrageous to be employed against this philosophy and its exponents.
Therefore Anarchism represents to the unthinking what the proverbial
bad man does to the child,--a black monster bent on swallowing
everything; in short, destruction and violence.
Destruction and violence! How is the ordinary man to know that the
most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of
destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating? Nor is he
aware that Anarchism, whose roots, as it were, are part of nature's
forces, destroys, not healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that
feed on the life's essence of society. It is merely clearing the
soil from weeds and sagebrush, that it may eventually bear healthy
Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than
to think. The widespread mental indolence, so prevalent in society,
proves this to be only too true. Rather than to go to the bottom of
any given idea, to examine into its origin and meaning, most people
will either condemn it altogether, or rely on some superficial or
prejudicial definition of non-essentials.
Anarchism urges man to think, to investigate, to analyze every
proposition; but that the brain capacity of the average reader be not
taxed too much, I also shall begin with a definition, and then
elaborate on the latter.
ANARCHISM:--The philosophy of a new social order based on
liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all
forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong
and harmful, as well as unnecessary.
The new social order rests, of course, on the materialistic basis of
life; but while all Anarchists agree that the main evil today is an
economic one, they maintain that the solution of that evil can be
brought about only through the consideration of EVERY PHASE of
life,--individual, as well as the collective; the internal, as well
as the external phases.
A thorough perusal of the history of human development will disclose
two elements in bitter conflict with each other; elements that are
only now beginning to be understood, not as foreign to each other,
but as closely related and truly harmonious, if only placed in proper
environment: the individual and social instincts. The individual and
society have waged a relentless and bloody battle for ages, each
striving for supremacy, because each was blind to the value and
importance of the other. The individual and social instincts,--the
one a most potent factor for individual endeavor, for growth,
aspiration, self-realization; the other an equally potent factor for
mutual helpfulness and social well-being.
The explanation of the storm raging within the individual, and
between him and his surroundings, is not far to seek. The primitive
man, unable to understand his being, much less the unity of all life,
felt himself absolutely dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready
to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious
concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers
on high, who can only be appeased by complete surrender. All the
early sagas rest on that idea, which continues to be the LEIT-MOTIF
of the biblical tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the
State, to society. Again and again the same motif, MAN IS NOTHING,
THE POWERS ARE EVERYTHING. Thus Jehovah would only endure man on
condition of complete surrender. Man can have all the glories of the
earth, but he must not become conscious of himself. The State,
society, and moral laws all sing the same refrain: Man can have all
the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of
Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the
consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and
society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void,
since they can be fulfilled only through man's subordination.
Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely
in nature, but in man. There is no conflict between the individual
and the social instincts, any more than there is between the heart
and the lungs: the one the receptacle of a precious life essence, the
other the repository of the element that keeps the essence pure and
strong. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the
essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing
the element to keep the life essence--that is, the individual--pure
"The one thing of value in the world," says Emerson, "is the active
soul; this every man contains within him. The soul active sees
absolute truth and utters truth and creates." In other words, the
individual instinct is the thing of value in the world. It is the
true soul that sees and creates the truth alive, out of which is to
come a still greater truth, the re-born social soul.
Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have
held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces
for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity,
Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so
far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social
instincts, the individual and society.
Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of
human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent
the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails.
Religion! How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades
his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out
of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical,
so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and
blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man to
rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says
Anarchism to man, for not until you think and judge for yourself will
you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all
Property, the dominion of man's needs, the denial of the right to
satisfy his needs. Time was when property claimed a divine right,
when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion,
"Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!" The spirit of Anarchism has lifted
man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face
toward the light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring,
devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike the
"Property is robbery," said the great French Anarchist, Proudhon.
Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber. Monopolizing the
accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his
birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast.
Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create
enough to satisfy all needs. The A B C student of economics knows
that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far
exceeds normal demand a hundredfold. But what are normal demands to
an abnormal institution? The only demand that property recognizes is
its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means
power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to
enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly boastful of
her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what
avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are
wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with
hope and joy gone, a homeless, soilless army of human prey.
It is generally conceded that unless the returns of any business
venture exceed the cost, bankruptcy is inevitable. But those engaged
in the business of producing wealth have not yet learned even this
simple lesson. Every year the cost of production in human life is
growing larger (50,000 killed, 100,000 wounded in America last year);
the returns to the masses, who help to create wealth, are ever
getting smaller. Yet America continues to be blind to the inevitable
bankruptcy of our business of production. Nor is this the only crime
of the latter. Still more fatal is the crime of turning the producer
into a mere particle of a machine, with less will and decision than
his master of steel and iron. Man is being robbed not merely of the
products of his labor, but of the power of free initiative, of
originality, and the interest in, or desire for, the things he is
Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that
help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to
live in. But if man is doomed to wind cotton around a spool, or dig
coal, or build roads for thirty years of his life, there can be no
talk of wealth. What he gives to the world is only gray and hideous
things, reflecting a dull and hideous existence,--too weak to live,
too cowardly to die. Strange to say, there are people who extol this
deadening method of centralized production as the proudest
achievement of our age. They fail utterly to realize that if we are
to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete
than was our bondage to the King. They do not want to know that
centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of
health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in
a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.
Anarchism cannot but repudiate such a method of production: its goal
is the freest possible expression of all the latent powers of the
individual. Oscar Wilde defines a perfect personality as "one who
develops under perfect conditions, who is not wounded, maimed, or in
danger." A perfect personality, then, is only possible in a state of
society where man is free to choose the mode of work, the conditions
of work, and the freedom to work. One to whom the making of a table,
the building of a house, or the tilling of the soil, is what the
painting is to the artist and the discovery to the scientist,--the
result of inspiration, of intense longing, and deep interest in work
as a creative force. That being the ideal of Anarchism, its economic
arrangements must consist of voluntary productive and distributive
associations, gradually developing into free communism, as the best
means of producing with the least waste of human energy. Anarchism,
however, also recognizes the right of the individual, or numbers of
individuals, to arrange at all times for other forms of work, in
harmony with their tastes and desires.
Such free display of human energy being possible only under complete
individual and social freedom, Anarchism directs its forces against
the third and greatest foe of all social equality; namely, the State,
organized authority, or statutory law,--the dominion of human
Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the
monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man's needs, so has the
State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. "All
government in essence," says Emerson, "is tyranny." It matters not
whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every
instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.
Referring to the American government, the greatest American
Anarchist, David Thoreau, said: "Government, what is it but a
tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself
unimpaired to posterity, but each instance losing its integrity; it
has not the vitality and force of a single living man. Law never
made man a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even
the well disposed are daily made agents of injustice."
Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance
and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments
ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses,
while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the
annihilation of individual liberty. Thus Ouida is right when she
maintains that "the State only aims at instilling those qualities in
its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is
filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to
clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate
liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably
dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which
there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit,
and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving
humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two
Yet even a flock of sheep would resist the chicanery of the State, if
it were not for the corruptive, tyrannical, and oppressive methods it
employs to serve its purposes. Therefore Bakunin repudiates the
State as synonymous with the surrender of the liberty of the
individual or small minorities,--the destruction of social
relationship, the curtailment, or complete denial even, of life
itself, for its own aggrandizement. The State is the altar of
political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for
the purpose of human sacrifice.
In fact, there is hardly a modern thinker who does not agree that
government, organized authority, or the State, is necessary ONLY to
maintain or protect property and monopoly. It has proven efficient
in that function only.
Even George Bernard Shaw, who hopes for the miraculous from the State
under Fabianism, nevertheless admits that "it is at present a huge
machine for robbing and slave-driving of the poor by brute force."
This being the case, it is hard to see why the clever prefacer wishes
to uphold the State after poverty shall have ceased to exist.
Unfortunately there are still a number of people who continue in the
fatal belief that government rests on natural laws, that it maintains
social order and harmony, that it diminishes crime, and that it
prevents the lazy man from fleecing his fellows. I shall therefore
examine these contentions.
A natural law is that factor in man which asserts itself freely and
spontaneously without any external force, in harmony with the
requirements of nature. For instance, the demand for nutrition, for
sex gratification, for light, air, and exercise, is a natural law.
But its expression needs not the machinery of government, needs not
the club, the gun, the handcuff, or the prison. To obey such laws,
if we may call it obedience, requires only spontaneity and free
opportunity. That governments do not maintain themselves through
such harmonious factors is proven by the terrible array of violence,
force, and coercion all governments use in order to live. Thus
Blackstone is right when he says, "Human laws are invalid, because
they are contrary to the laws of nature."
Unless it be the order of Warsaw after the slaughter of thousands of
people, it is difficult to ascribe to governments any capacity for
order or social harmony. Order derived through submission and
maintained by terror is not much of a safe guaranty; yet that is the
only "order" that governments have ever maintained. True social
harmony grows naturally out of solidarity of interests. In a society
where those who always work never have anything, while those who
never work enjoy everything, solidarity of interests is non-existent;
hence social harmony is but a myth. The only way organized authority
meets this grave situation is by extending still greater privileges
to those who have already monopolized the earth, and by still further
enslaving the disinherited masses. Thus the entire arsenal of
government--laws, police, soldiers, the courts, legislatures,
prisons,--is strenuously engaged in "harmonizing" the most
antagonistic elements in society.
The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to
diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the
greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing
in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital
punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with
crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the
horrible scourge of its own creation.
Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution
of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to
misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people
are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they
loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the
statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does
society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the
poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass
on its way to crime and degradation. Who that knows this terrible
process can fail to see the truth in these words of Peter Kropotkin:
"Those who will hold the balance between the benefits thus attributed
to law and punishment and the degrading effect of the latter on
humanity; those who will estimate the torrent of depravity poured
abroad in human society by the informer, favored by the Judge even,
and paid for in clinking cash by governments, under the pretext of
aiding to unmask crime; those who will go within prison walls and
there see what human beings become when deprived of liberty, when
subjected to the care of brutal keepers, to coarse, cruel words, to a
thousand stinging, piercing humiliations, will agree with us that the
entire apparatus of prison and punishment is an abomination which
ought to be brought to an end."
The deterrent influence of law on the lazy man is too absurd to merit
consideration. If society were only relieved of the waste and
expense of keeping a lazy class, and the equally great expense of the
paraphernalia of protection this lazy class requires, the social
tables would contain an abundance for all, including even the
occasional lazy individual. Besides, it is well to consider that
laziness results either from special privileges, or physical and
mental abnormalities. Our present insane system of production
fosters both, and the most astounding phenomenon is that people
should want to work at all now. Anarchism aims to strip labor of its
deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom and compulsion. It aims to
make work an instrument of joy, of strength, of color, of real
harmony, so that the poorest sort of a man should find in work both
recreation and hope.
To achieve such an arrangement of life, government, with its unjust,
arbitrary, repressive measures, must be done away with. At best it
has but imposed one single mode of life upon all, without regard to
individual and social variations and needs. In destroying government
and statutory laws, Anarchism proposes to rescue the self-respect and
independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by
authority. Only in freedom can man grow to his full stature. Only
in freedom will he learn to think and move, and give the very best in
him. Only in freedom will he realize the true force of the social
bonds which knit men together, and which are the true foundation of a
normal social life.
But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it
endure under Anarchism?
Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy
name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson
to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak
authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan,
the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of
human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every
soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?
John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in
captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits,
their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from
their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow
space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its
Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose,
alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all
its wonderful possibilities.
Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind
from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from
the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint
of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free
grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social
wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access
to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according
to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
This is not a wild fancy or an aberration of the mind. It is the
conclusion arrived at by hosts of intellectual men and women the
world over; a conclusion resulting from the close and studious
observation of the tendencies of modern society: individual liberty
and economic equality, the twin forces for the birth of what is fine
and true in man.
As to methods. Anarchism is not, as some may suppose, a theory of
the future to be realized through divine inspiration. It is a living
force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions.
The methods of Anarchism therefore do not comprise an iron-clad
program to be carried out under all circumstances. Methods must grow
out of the economic needs of each place and clime, and of the
intellectual and temperamental requirements of the individual. The
serene, calm character of a Tolstoy will wish different methods for
social reconstruction than the intense, overflowing personality of a
Michael Bakunin or a Peter Kropotkin. Equally so it must be apparent
that the economic and political needs of Russia will dictate more
drastic measures than would England or America. Anarchism does not
stand for military drill and uniformity; it does, however, stand for
the spirit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that
hinders human growth. All Anarchists agree in that, as they also
agree in their opposition to the political machinery as a means of
bringing about the great social change.
"All voting," says Thoreau, "is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or
backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never
exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing
nothing for it. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of
chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority."
A close examination of the machinery of politics and its achievements
will bear out the logic of Thoreau.
What does the history of parliamentarism show? Nothing but failure
and defeat, not even a single reform to ameliorate the economic and
social stress of the people. Laws have been passed and enactments
made for the improvement and protection of labor. Thus it was proven
only last year that Illinois, with the most rigid laws for mine
protection, had the greatest mine disasters. In States where child
labor laws prevail, child exploitation is at its highest, and though
with us the workers enjoy full political opportunities, capitalism
has reached the most brazen zenith.
Even were the workers able to have their own representatives, for
which our good Socialist politicians are clamoring, what chances are
there for their honesty and good faith? One has but to bear in mind
the process of politics to realize that its path of good intentions
is full of pitfalls: wire-pulling, intriguing, flattering, lying,
cheating; in fact, chicanery of every description, whereby the
political aspirant can achieve success. Added to that is a complete
demoralization of character and conviction, until nothing is left
that would make one hope for anything from such a human derelict.
Time and time again the people were foolish enough to trust, believe,
and support with their last farthing aspiring politicians, only to
find themselves betrayed and cheated.
It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in
the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but such men would be
absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of
labor, as indeed has been shown in numerous instances. The State is
the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be,
would either remain true to their political faith and lose their
economic support, or they would cling to their economic master and be
utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves
one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.
The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and
minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more
to do with it. Instead, they believe with Stirner that man has as
much liberty as he is willing to take. Anarchism therefore stands
for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws
and restrictions, economic, social, and moral. But defiance and
resistance are illegal. Therein lies the salvation of man.
Everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance, and
courage. In short, it calls for free, independent spirits, for "men
who are men, and who have a bone in their backs which you cannot pass
your hand through."
Universal suffrage itself owes its existence to direct action. If
not for the spirit of rebellion, of the defiance on the part of the
American revolutionary fathers, their posterity would still wear the
King's coat. If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his
comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man.
True, the trade in white flesh is still going on; but that, too, will
have to be abolished by direct action. Trade-unionism, the economic
arena of the modern gladiator, owes its existence to direct action.
It is but recently that law and government have attempted to crush
the trade-union movement, and condemned the exponents of man's right
to organize to prison as conspirators. Had they sought to assert
their cause through begging, pleading, and compromise, trade-unionism
would today be a negligible quantity. In France, in Spain, in Italy,
in Russia, nay even in England (witness the growing rebellion of
English labor unions) direct, revolutionary, economic action has
become so strong a force in the battle for industrial liberty as to
make the world realize the tremendous importance of labor's power.
The General Strike, the supreme expression of the economic
consciousness of the workers, was ridiculed in America but a short
time ago. Today every great strike, in order to win, must realize
the importance of the solidaric general protest.
Direct action, having proven effective along economic lines, is
equally potent in the environment of the individual. There a hundred
forces encroach upon his being, and only persistent resistance to
them will finally set him free. Direct action against the authority
in the shop, direct action against the authority of the law, direct
action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code,
is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism.
Will it not lead to a revolution? Indeed, it will. No real social
change has ever come about without a revolution. People are either
not familiar with their history, or they have not yet learned that
revolution is but thought carried into action.
Anarchism, the great leaven of thought, is today permeating every
phase of human endeavor. Science, art, literature, the drama, the
effort for economic betterment, in fact every individual and social
opposition to the existing disorder of things, is illumined by the
spiritual light of Anarchism. It is the philosophy of the
sovereignty of the individual. It is the theory of social harmony.
It is the great, surging, living truth that is reconstructing the
world, and that will usher in the Dawn.
MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES
If I were to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would
say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit, dominates everywhere,
destroying quality. Our entire life--production, politics, and
education--rests on quantity, on numbers. The worker who once took
pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced
by brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous
quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and generally
injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding
to life's comforts and peace, has merely increased man's burden.
In politics, naught but quantity counts. In proportion to its
increase, however, principles, ideals, justice, and uprightness are
completely swamped by the array of numbers. In the struggle for
supremacy the various political parties outdo each other in trickery,
deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who
succeeds is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is
the only god,--Success. As to what expense, what terrible cost to
character, is of no moment. We have not far to go in search of proof
to verify this sad fact.
Never before did the corruption, the complete rottenness of our
government stand so thoroughly exposed; never before were the
American people brought face to face with the Judas nature of that
political body, which has claimed for years to be absolutely beyond
reproach, as the mainstay of our institutions, the true protector of
the rights and liberties of the people.
Yet when the crimes of that party became so brazen that even the
blind could see them, it needed but to muster up its minions, and its
supremacy was assured. Thus the very victims, duped, betrayed,
outraged a hundred times, decided, not against, but in favor of the
victor. Bewildered, the few asked how could the majority betray the
traditions of American liberty? Where was its judgment, its
reasoning capacity? That is just it, the majority cannot reason; it
has no judgment. Lacking utterly in originality and moral courage,
the majority has always placed its destiny in the hands of others.
Incapable of standing responsibilities, it has followed its leaders
even unto destruction. Dr. Stockman was right: "The most dangerous
enemies of truth and justice in our midst are the compact majorities,
the damned compact majority." Without ambition or initiative, the
compact mass hates nothing so much as innovation. It has always
opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new
The oft repeated slogan of our time is, among all politicians, the
Socialists included, that ours is an era of individualism, of the
minority. Only those who do not probe beneath the surface might be
led to entertain this view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth
of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the
situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but
to the inertia, the cravenness, the utter submission of the mass.
The latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As
to individualism, at no time in human history did it have less chance
of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, healthy
The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or
writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the
non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the
wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit
Educators of Ferrer's type are nowhere tolerated, while the
dietitians of predigested food, a la Professors Eliot and Butler, are
the successful perpetuators of an age of nonentities, of automatons.
In the literary and dramatic world, the Humphrey Wards and Clyde
Fitches are the idols of the mass, while but few know or appreciate
the beauty and genius of an Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman; an Ibsen, a
Hauptmann, a Butler Yeats, or a Stephen Phillips. They are like
solitary stars, far beyond the horizon of the multitude.
Publishers, theatrical managers, and critics ask not for the quality
inherent in creative art, but will it meet with a good sale, will it
suit the palate of the people? Alas, this palate is like a dumping
ground; it relishes anything that needs no mental mastication. As a
result, the mediocre, the ordinary, the commonplace represents the
chief literary output.
Need I say that in art we are confronted with the same sad facts?
One has but to inspect our parks and thoroughfares to realize the
hideousness and vulgarity of the art manufacture. Certainly, none
but a majority taste would tolerate such an outrage on art. False in
conception and barbarous in execution, the statuary that infests
American cities has as much relation to true art, as a totem to a
Michael Angelo. Yet that is the only art that succeeds. The true
artistic genius, who will not cater to accepted notions, who
exercises originality, and strives to be true to life, leads an
obscure and wretched existence. His work may some day become the fad
of the mob, but not until his heart's blood had been exhausted; not
until the pathfinder has ceased to be, and a throng of an idealless
and visionless mob has done to death the heritage of the master.
It is said that the artist of today cannot create because
Prometheus-like he is bound to the rock of economic necessity.
This, however, is true of art in all ages. Michael Angelo was
dependent on his patron saint, no less than the sculptor or painter
of today, except that the art connoisseurs of those days were far
away from the madding crowd. They felt honored to be permitted to
worship at the shrine of the master.
The art protector of our time knows but one criterion, one
value,--the dollar. He is not concerned about the quality of any
great work, but in the quantity of dollars his purchase implies.
Thus the financier in Mirbeau's LES AFFAIRES SONT LES AFFAIRES points
to some blurred arrangement in colors, saying "See how great it is;
it cost 50,000 francs." Just like our own parvenues. The fabulous
figures paid for their great art discoveries must make up for the
poverty of their taste.
The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought.
That this should be so terribly apparent in a country whose symbol is
democracy, is very significant of the tremendous power of the
Wendell Phillips said fifty years ago: "In our country of absolute
democratic equality, public opinion is not only omnipotent, it is
omnipresent. There is no refuge from its tyranny, there is no hiding
from its reach, and the result is that if you take the old Greek
lantern and go about to seek among a hundred, you will not find a
single American who has not, or who does not fancy at least he has,
something to gain or lose in his ambition, his social life, or
business, from the good opinion and the votes of those around him.
And the consequence is that instead of being a mass of individuals,
each one fearlessly blurting out his own conviction, as a nation
compared to other nations we are a mass of cowards. More than any
other people we are afraid of each other." Evidently we have not
advanced very far from the condition that confronted Wendell
Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as
then, the majority represents a mass of cowards, willing to accept
him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty. That accounts for the
unprecedented rise of a man like Roosevelt. He embodies the very
worst element of mob psychology. A politician, he knows that the
majority cares little for ideals or integrity. What it craves is
display. It matters not whether that be a dog show, a prize fight,
the lynching of a "nigger," the rounding up of some petty offender,
the marriage exposition of an heiress, or the acrobatic stunts of an
ex-president. The more hideous the mental contortions, the greater
the delight and bravos of the mass. Thus, poor in ideals and vulgar
of soul, Roosevelt continues to be the man of the hour.
On the other hand, men towering high above such political pygmies,
men of refinement, of culture, of ability, are jeered into silence as
mollycoddles. It is absurd to claim that ours is the era of
individualism. Ours is merely a more poignant repetition of the
phenomenon of all history: every effort for progress, for
enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic
liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass. Today,
as ever, the few are misunderstood, hounded, imprisoned, tortured,
The principle of brotherhood expounded by the agitator of Nazareth
preserved the germ of life, of truth and justice, so long as it was
the beacon light of the few. The moment the majority seized upon it,
that great principle became a shibboleth and harbinger of blood and
fire, spreading suffering and disaster. The attack on the
omnipotence of Rome was like a sunrise amid the darkness of the
night, only so long as it was made by the colossal figures of a Huss,
a Calvin, or a Luther. Yet when the mass joined in the procession
against the Catholic monster, it was no less cruel, no less
bloodthirsty than its enemy. Woe to the heretics, to the minority,
who would not bow to its dicta. After infinite zeal, endurance, and
sacrifice, the human mind is at last free from the religious phantom;
the minority has gone on in pursuit of new conquests, and the
majority is lagging behind, handicapped by truth grown false with
Politically the human race would still be in the most absolute
slavery, were it not for the John Balls, the Wat Tylers, the Tells,
the innumerable individual giants who fought inch by inch against the
power of kings and tyrants. But for individual pioneers the world
would have never been shaken to its very roots by that tremendous
wave, the French Revolution. Great events are usually preceded by
apparently small things. Thus the eloquence and fire of Camille
Desmoulins was like the trumpet before Jericho, razing to the ground
that emblem of torture, of abuse, of horror, the Bastille.
Always, at every period, the few were the banner bearers of a great
idea, of liberating effort. Not so the mass, the leaden weight of
which does not let it move. The truth of this is borne out in Russia
with greater force than elsewhere. Thousands of lives have already
been consumed by that bloody regime, yet the monster on the throne is
not appeased. How is such a thing possible when ideas, culture,
literature, when the deepest and finest emotions groan under the iron
yoke? The majority, that compact, immobile, drowsy mass, the Russian
peasant, after a century of struggle, of sacrifice, of untold misery,
still believes that the rope which strangles "the man with the white
hands"* brings luck.
* The intellectuals.
In the American struggle for liberty, the majority was no less of a
stumbling block. Until this very day the ideas of Jefferson, of
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