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´╗┐Title: Emma Goldman - Biographical Sketch
Author: Madison, Charles Allan, 1895-1985
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 _Biographical Sketch_


 _Author of_

 _Published by_
 P. O. Box 842

 General Post Office               New York 1, N. Y.

 May 13, 1960

 _Reprinted from_
 _with the permission of_


 The Libertarian Book Club
 has published this pamphlet as
 a tribute to the memory
 of our brave comrade


 died May 13, 1940

 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary
 of her death

[Illustration: EMMA GOLDMAN 1869 1940]



The hanging of several anarchists in 1887 as a consequence of the
Haymarket bombing in Chicago caused many Americans to sympathize with
the gibbeted radicals. Youths swathed in bright idealism, men and women
rooted in equalitarian democracy, workers trusting in the rectitude of
their government--all doubted the guilt of the condemned prisoners and
were deeply perturbed by the egregious miscarriage of justice. Many of
them for the first time became aware of the state's ruthless arrogation
of power, and scores upon scores remained to the end of their lives
inimical to government and apprehensive of all forms of authority.

Emma Goldman was one of these converts. Resentment against the
restraints of authority was no new experience for this spirited girl. As
far back as she could remember she had hated and feared her father, a
quick-tempered and deeply harassed Orthodox Jew who had vented his
emotional and financial vexations on his recalcitrant daughter. Unable
to get from him the love and praise she craved, she had refused to
submit to his strict discipline and had preferred beatings to blind
obedience. Consequently she grew up in an atmosphere of repression and
acrimony. "Since my earliest recollection," she wrote, "home had been
stifling, my father's presence terrifying. My mother, while less violent
with her children, never showed much warmth."

At the age of thirteen she began to work in a factory in St. Petersburg,
and her life became doubly oppressive. She soon learned of the
revolutionary movement and sympathized with its agitation against
Czarist autocracy. To escape from the tyranny of her father, the
irksomeness of the shop, and the repressive measures of the government,
she fought with all her stubborn strength for the opportunity to
accompany her beloved sister Helene to the United States. Early in 1886
the two girls arrived in Rochester to live with their married sister,
who had preceded them to this country.

Like other penniless immigrants, the seventeen-year-old Emma had no
alternative but to follow the common groove to the sweatshop. Paid a
weekly wage of two dollars and a half for sixty-three hours of work, she
naturally resented the social system which permitted such exploitation.
Together with other immigrants she had dreamed of the United States as a
haven of liberty and equality. Instead she found it the home of crass
materialism and cruel disparity. This disillusionment was deepened by
the hysterical accounts of the trial in Chicago. She was quick to
conclude that the accused anarchists were innocent of the charge against
them; and the vilification not only of the prisoners but of all radicals
merely hardened her hatred against the enemies of the working poor.

It was easy enough for her to believe John Most's claim in _Die
Freiheit_ (which chance had brought her way) that Parsons, Spies, and
the other defendants were to be hanged for nothing more than their
advocacy of anarchism. What this doctrine was she did not quite know,
but she assumed it must have merit since it favored poor workers like
herself. When the jury found the men guilty, she could not accept the
reality of the dread verdict. Her thoughts clung to the condemned
anarchists as if they were her brothers. In her passionate yearning to
do something in their behalf she attended meetings of protest and read
everything she could find on the case; and she sympathetically
experienced the torment of a prisoner awaiting execution. In her
autobiography, _Living My Life_, she wrote that on the day of the
hangings "I was in a stupor; a feeling of numbness came over me,
something too horrible even for tears." The very next day, however, she
became imbued with a surging determination to dedicate herself to the
cause of the martyred men, to devote her life to the ideals for which
they had died.

In the meantime, discouraged and lonely, she had welcomed a fellow
worker's show of affection. She felt no love for him and, as a result of
an attempted rape at the age of fifteen, she still experienced a
"violent repulsion" in the presence of men, but she had not the strength
to refuse his urgent proposal of marriage. She soon learned to her
dismay that her husband was impotent and not at all as congenial as she
had thought. However, the very suggestion of a separation enraged her
father, who had recently come to Rochester. After months of aggravation
she did go through the then rare and reprehensible rite of Orthodox
divorce, but she had to leave town to avoid social ostracism. When she
returned some months later, her former husband again pursued her, and
his threat of suicide frightened her into remarrying him.

Emma now felt herself thwarted and trapped. Twenty years old and
yearning to make life meaningful, she chafed at the very thought of her
drab and dreary existence. Her anxiety to elude her father's abuse, to
free herself from a loveless marriage, to escape the dullness of her
oppressive environment, only intensified her longing for freedom and
affection. Consequently she began to nurture her dream of dedicating
herself to the ideal championed by the Chicago martyrs. One day in
August 1889 she broke relations with her husband and parents and left
for New York with money supplied by her ever-devoted sister Helene.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the metropolis Emma felt herself gloriously free. For the first time
in her life she was completely independent. On the teeming East Side a
new and wonderful world emerged before her, and she embraced it with
passionate abandon. Alexander Berkman, a determined doctrinaire at
eighteen, made her acquaintance the day she arrived and the pair at once
established an intimate comradeship which endured through many
vicissitudes to the day of his death. John Most, the impetuous anarchist
leader, became her lover as well as her mentor and opened new and
fascinating vistas of the mind. "Most became my idol," she wrote. "I
adored him." Under his tutelage she read seminal books and learned about
significant men and ideas. Anarchism assumed definite meaning; the
struggle by the many in want against the few in power, then so
pathetically feeble, became to her a war unto death; the goal of social
freedom appeared tangible and alluringly near. For months her voracious
hunger for knowledge seemed insatiable, her capacity for emotion
inexhaustible. This tremendous release of energy was in truth the
expression of long-pent-up zeal. She threw herself into the radical
movement of the East Side with the enthusiasm of an inspired visionary.

Her first years in New York were a period of preparation. Along with her
work in sweatshops, which she had to do to earn her living, she found
time to familiarize herself with the latest libertarian literature and
to spend hours on end in intellectual discussion. Nor was she able to
remain a passive onlooker even during her early apprenticeship. With
John Most's helpful guidance she went on her first "tour of agitation"
only a few months after reaching New York. She addressed several
meetings in as many cities on the eight-hour day, then a timely topic,
and discovered that she was able to hold the attention of an audience
and to think quickly while facing its inimical questioning.

That winter the newly formed Cloakmakers' Union called its first general
strike. Emma immediately "became absorbed in it to the exclusion of
everything else." Her task was to persuade the timid girl workers to
join the strike. With prodigious energy she exhorted them at meetings,
encouraged them at dances and parties, and thus influenced many to
partake in the common effort to improve working conditions in the
sweatshops. The strike leaders were greatly impressed by her dynamic
qualities as an organizer and public speaker.

Emma's association with John Most became strained to the breaking point
when she perceived that he esteemed her more as a lover than as a fellow
anarchist. His arrogance irritated her and, much as she admired his
impassioned eloquence and incisive mind, she could not accept the
acquiescent role he had assigned her. When his high-handed behavior
resulted in a factional split, she sided with those who rejected his
domination. Some time later, when Most derided Berkman's attempt to kill
Henry C. Frick and disavowed the theory of "propaganda of the deed" of
which he had been the chief exponent, she came to hate him. At the first
opportunity she lashed him with a horsewhip at a public meeting and
denounced him as a renegade. Nor did time bring about a reconciliation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Emma, Alexander Berkman, and a youthful artist were living together in
congenial intimacy. They worked at their menial tasks during the day and
devoted their evenings to agitation. Because the progress of anarchism
in this country was too slow for them, the news of increased
revolutionary activity in Russia filled them with a romantic nostalgia
for their native land. They decided to engage in some business until
they should have saved enough money for the journey back. In the spring
of 1892 chance brought them to Worcester, Massachusetts, where they were
soon operating a successful lunchroom.

The bloody consequences of the lockout at the Homestead plant of The
Carnegie Steel Company inflamed the minds of these youthful idealists.
The plan to return to Russia was abandoned with little regret. They
agreed it was their duty to go to the aid of the brutally maltreated
workers. Berkman insisted that their great moment was at hand, that they
must give up the lunchroom and leave at once for the scene of the
fighting. "Being internationalists," he argued, "it mattered not to us
where the blow was struck by the workers; we must be with them. We must
bring them our great message and help them see that it was not only for
the moment that they must strike, but for all time, for a free life, for
anarchism. Russia had many heroic men and women, but who was there in
America? Yes, we must go to Homestead, tonight!" Taking with them the
day's receipts and their personal belongings, they left immediately for
New York. Berkman, eager to emulate the Russian nihilists who were then
fighting hangings with assassinations, determined to make Frick, the
dictatorial general manager, pay with his life for the death of those
who had worked for him. Unable to perfect a bomb, he decided to use a
pistol. Emma wanted to accompany him to Pittsburgh, but remained behind
for the lack of railroad fare. A few days later the resolute youth of
twenty-one made his way into Frick's office, discharged three bullets
into his body, and stabbed him several times before being overpowered
and beaten into unconsciousness.

Prior to the attempt on his life Frick had been severely criticized for
harsh and arbitrary treatment of his employees. His determination to
break their union and his reckless use of Pinkertons had antagonized
even those who normally favored the open shop. Berkman's attack, so
alien and repugnant to our democratic mores, completely changed the
situation. Frick became the hero of the day. Journalists and public men
vied in praise of the victim and execration of the assailant. The fact
that the latter was of Russian birth and an anarchist only served to
strengthen his guilt. Although Frick recovered from his wounds with
extraordinary rapidity and was back at his desk within a fortnight, and
although the law of Pennsylvania limited punishment for the crime to
seven years, the defendant was tried without benefit of legal counsel
and sentenced to twenty-two years' imprisonment.

The ascetic youth was thoroughly dismayed by the calamitous turn of
events. He regarded Frick as "an enemy of the People," a cruel exploiter
of labor who had to be destroyed as a concrete warning of the oncoming
revolution. He gloried in this opportunity to serve the American workers
in the manner of the Russian nihilists. It pained him therefore to think
that he owed his failure to kill Frick to the interference of the very
workers for whom he was ready to die. The attack upon him by John Most
was distressing enough, but the scornful repudiation by the strikers and
the coolness of labor everywhere cut him to the heart. Suffering the
anguish of a living death in one of the worst prisons in the United
States, he sought comfort in the thought that he was a revolutionist and
not a would-be murderer. "A revolutionist," he later explained, "would
rather perish a thousand times than be guilty of what is ordinarily
called murder. In truth, murder and _Attentat_ are to me opposite terms.
To remove a tyrant is an act of liberation, the giving of life and
opportunity to an oppressed people." Some years afterwards he came to
believe that even such shedding of blood "must be resorted to only as a
last extremity." It was this faith in the ideal for which he was
prepared to die that kept him alive through fourteen years of physical
torture and mental martyrdom. One need only read his _Prison Memoirs of
an Anarchist_, a work of extraordinary acumen and power, to appreciate
the high purpose that had motivated him and the strength of character
that enabled him to turn his prison trials into spiritual triumphs.

Emma, his lover and accomplice, from the very first defended him with
passionate abandon. To her he was "the idealist whose humanity can
tolerate no injustice and endure no wrong." The excessive punishment
dealt to him by the state struck her as barbarous and cowardly. "The
idealists and visionaries," she asserted years later, "foolish enough to
throw caution to the winds and express their ardor and faith in some
supreme deed, have advanced mankind and have enriched the world." At the
time, however, she grieved to think of her noble companion doomed to
waste the best years of his life in execrable confinement.

Unable to lighten his suffering, she resolved to double her effort
towards the realization of their common ideal. A physical breakdown,
however, forced her to seek rest and medical care. Her sister Helene
welcomed her back and helped her to regain strength. But the aggravation
of the unemployment crisis in 1893 caused her to disregard the doctor's
warning and to return to her post on the East Side. "Committee sessions,
public meetings, collection of foodstuffs, supervising the feeding of
the homeless and their numerous children, and, finally, the organization
of a mass-meeting on Union Square entirely filled my time." As the main
speaker at this large gathering she excoriated the state for functioning
only as the protector of the rich and for keeping the poor starved and
enslaved, like a giant shorn of his strength. Commenting on Cardinal
Manning's dictum that "necessity knows no law," she continued: "They
will go on robbing you, your children, and your children's children,
unless you wake up, unless you become daring enough to demand your
rights. Well, then, demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand
work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both,
take bread. It is your sacred right." For this speech she was arrested,
charged with inciting to riot although the meeting was peaceable, and
sentenced to one year in Blackwell's Island Penitentiary.

She went to prison in a defiant mood. She was now the avowed enemy of
the corrupt minions of the state and she knew they would stop at nothing
to keep her from agitating for a better world--the world for which she
and Berkman were then in jail. She resolved to fight back and fight
hard. So long as breath remained in her lungs and strength in her body,
she would deliver her message to the oppressed masses! No amount of
torture in prison or persecution outside would deter her in the struggle
against the state and the powerful rich!

While in prison Emma learned the rudiments of nursing. She liked the
work better than sewing, and upon her release she persuaded several
doctors to recommend her as a practical nurse. Wishing to qualify
herself, she accepted the aid of devoted friends in order to study
nursing in the Vienna Allgemeines Krankenhaus, a hospital of very high
repute. While in Europe she lectured in England and Scotland and met the
leading anarchists in London and on the Continent. She also made
first-hand acquaintance with the contemporary social theater, on which
she was later to lecture and write with penetrating insight. In the
summer of 1896 she returned to this country, qualified as a nurse and

       *       *       *       *       *

Once back in New York, she immediately resumed her anarchist activity.
Her first concern was to promote an appeal for Berkman's pardon, and
keen was her sorrow and resentment when it was refused. More than ever
eager to further their common ideal, and greatly moved by the sporadic
attacks upon the more aggressive workers, she undertook her first
continental lecture tour.

     Everywhere workers were slain, everywhere the same butchery!...
     The masses were millions, yet how weak! To awaken them from
     their stupor, to make them conscious of their power--that is
     the great need! Soon, I told myself, I should be able to reach
     them throughout America. With a tongue of fire I would rouse
     them to a realization of their dependence and indignity!
     Glowingly I visioned my first great tour and the opportunities
     it would offer me to plead our Cause.

Her opportunities fell far short of her expectations, but her words of
fire ignited the hearts of many who came to scoff.

For the next twenty years she devoted most of her time to lecturing. She
spoke wherever there were comrades enough to organize a meeting; and in
scores of cities, from Maine to Oregon, there were libertarians ready to
suffer great inconvenience for their cause. At first most of her talks
were given in Yiddish and German; later, as she attracted more
Americanized audiences, she spoke mainly in English. Her topics ranged
widely in content. She expounded the doctrine of anarchism whenever
possible, but her lectures dealt mainly with current social problems and
the modern European drama. Shortly before World War I she discussed
birth control with a frankness that sent her to jail for a fortnight.
She usually keyed her talks to the intelligence of her auditors, and
always she spoke with clarity and enthusiasm.

Throughout her years of agitation she exercised extraordinary tact and
exceptional physical courage. No other woman in America ever had to
suffer such persistent persecution. She was arrested innumerable times,
beaten more than once, refused admission to halls where she was to
speak. Often the police dispersed her audience. Intimidated owners
frequently refused to rent her meeting places or cancelled contracts at
the last minute. On various occasions she was met at the train and
compelled by sheer force to proceed to the next stopping place. In 1912
she and Ben Reitman, at that time her manager and lover, were driven
from San Diego and the latter was tarred and tortured.

It must be said that the lawbreakers and defilers of liberty were not
Emma Goldman and her harassed followers but the sworn guardians of the
law and leading local citizens. The latter and not the anarchists were
guilty of violating the rights of free speech and free assembly, of
beating their victims without cause and of jailing them without warrant.
It was after one such instance of unprovoked brutality that Emma wrote:

     In no country, Russia not exempt, would the police dare to
     exercise such brutal power over the lives of men and women. In
     no country would the people stand for such beastliness and
     vulgarity. Nor do I know of any people who have so little
     regard for their own manhood and self-respect as the average
     American citizen, with all his boasted independence.

The newspapers abetted the police in the lawless treatment of Emma and
her fellow rebels. They sometimes perverted a grain of truth into
columns of muck and made "Red Emma" a symbol of all that was dangerous
and despicable. The rank injustice of this abuse caused the staid New
York _Sun_ to protest on September 30, 1909: "The popular belief is that
she preaches bombs and murder, but she certainly does nothing of the
kind. Bombs are very definite things, and one of the peculiarities of
her doctrine is its vagueness. The wonder is that with a doctrine so
vague she managed to strike terror into the stout hearts of the police."

Nor were the police and the press the only perpetrators of this modern
witch hunt. President Theodore Roosevelt expressed the attitude of many
persons of privilege and respectability when he blustered: "The
Anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is
the deeper degree of criminality than any other." When William Buwalda,
a soldier in the United States Army and the recipient of a medal for
bravery, shook hands with Emma Goldman at one of her lectures in 1908,
he was courtmartialed and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. It was
only as a consequence of numerous public protests that Buwalda was
pardoned after he had served ten months. The Red Hysteria of 1917-21
merely climaxed decades of ill-treatment of a militant minority in a
nation founded on the principles of human rights and individual

If this ugly chapter in recent American history was the work of men of
property and of public officers, there were numerous other Americans,
less powerful but of greater probity, who cherished the fundamental
freedoms of our Founding Fathers. These liberals spoke out forcefully
against the violation of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They
gladly gave of their time and money to the defense of the harassed
radicals. Because Emma Goldman suffered most from police brutality and
because her dynamic personality attracted those who came in contact with
her, she was befriended by scores of Americans in every part of the
country. These Jeffersonian liberals admired her courage and sincerity
and helped her to organize her lecture tours and to finance her
propagandistic and literary ventures.

Emma reached the nadir of her career during the aftermath of President
McKinley's assassination. With the memory of Alexander Berkman's fate
still festering in her heart, she said: "Leon Czolgosz and other men of
his type ... are drawn to some violent expression, even at the sacrifice
of their own lives, because they cannot supinely witness the misery and
suffering of their fellows." Even before her attitude was known, she was
arrested as an accomplice of Czolgosz and treated with extreme savagery
before being released for lack of evidence.

Even more painful to her was the obtuseness of those anarchists who
condemned Czolgosz's act as wanton murder. Ironically enough, even
Berkman wrote from prison to disapprove of the shooting and to
differentiate it from his own attack upon Frick; in his opinion the
killing of McKinley was individual terrorism and not a deed motivated by
social necessity. Emma was shocked by this argument, since to her both
acts were inspired by the same high idealism and spirit of
self-sacrifice. Unlike Berkman, who had come to see the futility of
terrorism in a country like the United States, she was more interested
in the incentive than in the effectiveness of an assassination. She was
ostracized for her loyalty to Czolgosz and, as a consequence of his
execution, suffered severe depression.

Once Emma Goldman had mastered the English language, she was not long in
wishing to establish a periodical that would carry the message of
anarchism to those whom she could not reach in person. Outbreaks of
strikes in this country and increased revolutionary activity in Russia
only made her more eager for a magazine of her own. In 1905 she was
serving as manager and interpreter for Paul Orleneff and Alla Nazimova,
who had come to the United States for a theatrical tour. When Orleneff
learned of Emma's ambition to publish a periodical, he insisted on
giving a special performance for her benefit. Although a pouring rain
kept the audience to a fraction of the expected number, the receipts
sufficed to pay for the first issue of _Mother Earth_.

The scope and purpose of the new monthly, which began to appear in March
1906, were explained at the outset:

     _Mother Earth_ will endeavor to attract and appeal to all those
     who oppose encroachment on public and individual life. It will
     appeal to those who strive for something higher, weary of the
     commonplace; to those who feel that stagnation is a deadweight
     on the firm and elastic step of progress; to those who breathe
     freely only in limitless space; to those who long for the
     tender shade of a new dawn for a humanity free from the dread
     of want, the dread of starvation in the face of mountains of
     riches. The Earth free for the free individual.

Emma Goldman edited the monthly throughout its eleven years of
existence. In all this time it reflected her views, her interests, her
dynamic liveliness. Her fellow editors at one time or another were Max
Baginski, Hippolyte Havel, and Alexander Berkman, but the character of
the periodical underwent no change as a consequence. Each issue
contained at least one poem, brief editorials on the events of the
month, articles on current aspects of anarchism, comments on labor
strikes and radical activities the world over, reports by Emma on topics
of interest to her or on her frequent lecture tours, and finally appeals
for money. Many prominent libertarians contributed essays of a
philosophical or hortatory nature. It emanated a youthful vigor and an
exuberance not found in any other contemporary periodical. Its several
thousand readers were devoted to it and supported it with their limited
means until the postal censor put an end to the monthly shortly after
the declaration of war in 1917.

_Mother Earth_ was not Emma Goldman's sole publishing activity. A firm
believer in the efficacy of educational propaganda, she printed and sold
a long list of inexpensive tracts. Her table of literature became a
prominent feature at all her meetings. When no commercial publisher
would accept Berkman's _Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist_, she collected
funds and issued the book herself. The volume has since become a classic
in its field, and stands to this day as a living reminder of the
dominance of a keen and determined mind over all physical obstacles.
Emma also brought out her own collection of lectures, _Anarchism and
Other Essays_. She was able, however, to find a publisher for her
impressive volume of lectures on _The Social Significance of the Modern
Drama_, which deals incisively with the European plays that dissect the
common failures and fallacies of bourgeois society.

       *       *       *       *       *

Face to face with an audience, Emma Goldman was a forceful and witty
propagandist. Frequently she lifted her rapt hearers to heights from
which they envisioned a world wholly free and completely delightful. In
cold print, however, her lectures reveal little of her dynamic appeal.
They are primarily the work of a forceful agitator: clear, pointed,
spirited, but without originality or intellectual rigor.

The faithful disciple of Bakunin and Kropotkin, Emma perceived
civilization as "a continuous struggle of the individual or of groups of
individuals against the State and even against 'society,' that is,
against the majority subdued and hypnotized by the State and State
worship." This conflict, she argued, was bound to last as long as the
state itself, since it was of the very nature of government to be
"conservative, static, intolerant of change and opposed to it," while
the instinct of the individual was to resent restriction, combat
authority, and seek the benefits of innovation.

Her definition of anarchism first appeared on the masthead of _Mother
Earth_ in the issue of April 1910: "The philosophy of a new social order
based on liberty unrestrained by man-made law; the theory that all forms
of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as
well as unnecessary." In her oft-repeated lecture on the subject she
warmly described the benefits to ensue from social revolution:

     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.

To the end of her life Emma avowed the soundness and practicality of her
doctrine. As late as 1934 she declared in _Harper's Magazine_: "I am
certain that Anarchism is too vital and too close to human nature ever
to die. When the failure of modern dictatorship and authoritarian
philosophies becomes apparent and the realization of failure more
general, Anarchism will be vindicated." It was her belief that sooner or
later the mass of mankind would perceive the futility of begging for
crumbs and would take power into its own hands. Since she scorned
political means, she expounded the validity of direct action. This
method she defined as the "conscious individual or collective effort to
protest against, or remedy, social conditions through the systematic
assertion of the economic power of the workers." Once the state and
capitalism were destroyed, anarchism would assume the form of free
communism, which she described as "a social arrangement based on the
principle: To each according to his needs; from each according to his
ability." It must be stressed that although the wording is common to all
forms of communism, that of Marx and Lenin implies strict centralized
authority, while that of Kropotkin and Emma Goldman envisions complete
decentralization and the supremacy of the individual.

No man who has pondered the concept of the good life will fail to
appreciate the ideal propounded by the anarchists. And one who has
observed the results of modern dictatorship cannot but sympathize with a
vision of the future in which the individual is the prime beneficiary of
all social activity. Yet life often makes mock of man's noblest dreams.
Emma may have been "the daughter of the dream"; her doctrine remains as
utopian as it is alluring. There is no gainsaying the fact that modern
conditions still favor national and industrial centralization. The
philosophy of anarchism appears less tenable today than ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though in no sense a pacifist, Emma Goldman was intensely opposed to
wars between nations. The very idea of human slaughter on the
battlefield appeared to her as barbaric and criminal. And to her the
culprit was the state. Without governments to lead their subjects to
battle wars would be as unthinkable as duels are now. "No war is
justified unless it be for the purpose of overthrowing the Capitalist
system and establishing industrial control for the working class."

Her first contact with war occurred in 1898, when the United States
attacked Spain. While she abominated the medieval monarchy which
oppressed the Cubans, she did not want our politicians and
industrialists to use the liberation of that island as a pretext for
their imperial aggrandizement. She therefore agitated against the war at
every one of her lectures, and did not cease to expose our imperialist
intentions until the end of the fighting. Fortunately for her, the
liberties of the people were not curbed as a result of the war, and the
police did not consider her lack of patriotism more provoking than her
advocacy of anarchism.

In 1914, when war broke out in Europe, she immediately perceived its
catastrophic nature and condemned its instigators as monstrous
criminals. Alexander Berkman, who had been enjoying uneasy liberty since
1906 and who worked closely with her despite their intermittent personal
and ideological differences, at once joined her in the attack. Both did
their utmost to rouse the people against our involvement. It was a hard
and increasingly thankless fight against deep-seated prejudices.
Consternation struck their hearts when they learned that Peter Kropotkin
and other eminent anarchists had embraced the cause of the Allies and
were participating in the propaganda campaign against Germany. Resolved
to retain their sanity in a world gone mad, they repudiated all
"warmongers" regardless of their previous professions and intensified
their efforts to keep the United States out of the European holocaust.

When events moved us in the direction of belligerency, the government
sought feverishly to regiment the nation for the war struggle. Emma,
Berkman, and numerous other radicals resisted this martial hysteria with
all the force at their command. _Mother Earth_ blasted the proponents of
preparedness in issue after issue and denounced the government for
trampling upon the Bill of Rights in its hypocritical pretence of making
the world safe for democracy. Emma denounced the capitalist basis of war
before crowds of enthusiastic sympathizers. As late as March 1917 she

     I for one will speak against war so long as my voice will last,
     now and during the war. A thousand times rather would I die
     calling to the people of America to refuse to be obedient, to
     refuse military service, to refuse to murder their brothers,
     than I should ever give my voice in justification of war,
     except the one war of all the peoples against their despots and
     exploiters--the Social Revolution.

She and Berkman organized the No-Conscription League for the purpose of
encouraging conscientious objectors to resist induction into the army.
Writing in behalf of the League, Emma explained: "We will resist
conscription by every means in our power, and we will sustain those who,
for similar reasons, refuse to be conscripted." At several mass-meetings
she and Berkman expressed these sentiments, knowing that government
agents were taking notes on their speeches. On June 15, 1917, both were
arrested and charged with "conspiring against the draft."

The two rebels did not flinch from the ordeal awaiting them. "Tell all
friends," Emma wrote shortly before their trial, "that we will not
waver, that we will not compromise, and that if the worst comes, we
shall go to prison in the proud consciousness that we have remained
faithful to the spirit of internationalism and to the solidarity of all
the people of the world." In court they conducted their own defense with
a facility and frankness that gained the admiration of even their
detractors. They shrewdly used the courtroom as a forum. In addressing
the jury they were eloquently polemical.

     It is organized violence on top [Emma asserted] which creates
     individual violence at the bottom. It is the accumulated
     indignation against organized wrong, organized crime, organized
     injustice, which drives the political offender to his act....
     We are but the atoms in the incessant human struggle towards
     the light that shines in the darkness--the ideal of economic,
     political, and spiritual liberation of mankind!

The dramatic trial was in a sense another re-enactment of the age-old
tragedy in which the rebellious idealist is condemned by the gross
guardians of society. The obdurate defendants were each given the
maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of ten thousand

Time passed in dreary monotony for Emma in Jefferson City and Berkman in
Atlanta. The war was fought and won, the millions of American soldiers
were back from Europe, and peace again prevailed over the earth. But to
conservatives the specter of Bolshevism had replaced the ogre of
Prussianism as the enemy of established society. In this country
Attorney-General Mitchell Palmer, a Quaker and God-fearing man, led the
manhunt against those who were suspected of sympathy with the Russian
Revolution. Thousands of men and women were made the victims of an
Anti-Red hysteria, and hundreds were deported as undesirable aliens.
When Emma and Berkman were released, they also became subject to
expulsion. Although she had long been a naturalized citizen by virtue of
her marriage to a citizen, the Department of Labor ruled otherwise. On
the night of December 21, 1919, the two rebels together with 247 other
undesirables were hurried aboard the ancient troopship _Buford_ for
passage to Russia.

Thirty years of struggle and suffering on this side of the Atlantic had
so Americanized Emma and Berkman that they could not think of themselves
as belonging to another country. The ignominy of expulsion and the loss
of their friends wounded them deeply. Yet they were comforted by the
thought of the adventure that lay ahead. As the battered _Buford_ plowed
its billowy way to the shores of Finland they reflected on the ironic
turn of events which had transformed Czarist Russia into a land of
revolution and converted the free United States into a citadel of
reaction. While still in jail they had approved the Bolshevik coup as a
necessary safeguard of the revolution. They believed that Lenin and his
fellow leaders, while Marxists and therefore advocates of a strong
centralized government, were devoted to the principles of freedom and
equality and therefore deserved the support of all workers and
libertarians. Now, outcasts from the capitalist stronghold, they longed
to join their Russian comrades in the defense of the revolution. When
she reached the Soviet border, Emma later wrote, "my heart trembled with
anticipation and fervent hope."

Dismay darkened their days throughout the twenty months of their sojourn
in Russia. Their official welcome quickly spent itself. They began to
look about for themselves, to speak privately with fellow anarchists,
and to seek explanations of events and practices not to their liking.
The twin demons of inefficiency and stupidity--judged by their American
and anarchist standards respectively--leered at them wherever they went;
the black walls of bureaucracy rose before them at every turn. Perverse
cruelty on the part of the government came to their attention with
distressing frequency. All their early efforts at rationalization failed
to excuse the needless hunger, the mass arrests, the arbitrary
executions. They discussed these events with prominent Bolshevik
leaders, including Trotsky and Lenin, in the hope of persuading them to
mitigate conditions injurious to the revolution. In each instance the
response was either enigmatic or equivocal. Angelica Balabanova, then
secretary of the Third International and later as disaffected an exile
as herself, told Emma that life was "a rock on which the highest hopes
are shattered. Life thwarts the best intentions and breaks the finest
spirits." Alexandra Kollontay, the hard-headed diplomat, chilled her
with the advice to stop "brooding over a few dull gray spots." Even
Lenin impressed her and Berkman as callous and unsympathetic.

Time only deepened their perturbation. After eight months of life in
Russia, Emma began to doubt the revolution itself. "Its manifestations
were so completely at variance with what I had conceived and propagated
as revolution that I did not know any more which was right. My old
values had been shipwrecked and I myself thrown overboard to sink or
swim." The climax of her quarrel with the Bolsheviki came a year later
during the attack upon the mutinous Kronstadt sailors. That hundreds of
true sons of the revolution should be shot down for sympathizing with
striking workers seemed to her a crime worse than any committed by the
Czarist regime. Neither she nor Berkman could any longer stomach such
ruthless authoritarianism and both left the country as soon as they were
able to obtain visas.

Once past the Soviet border, the hapless pair became true Ishmaelites,
without either home or country. No government offered them asylum, and
few were willing to provide them with even temporary visas. Devoted
friends had great difficulty in getting Swedish officials to permit the
two refugees a long-enough stay in Stockholm to procure visas for a
sojourn in Germany.

Their one great mission now became the unmasking of the Bolsheviki, and
their attacks were more virulent and hysterical than those of the most
extreme reactionaries. Berkman's _The Bolshevik Myth_ and Emma's _My
Disillusionment in Russia_ and _My Further Disillusionment in Russia_
(the book was published in two separate volumes as a result of an
inadvertent misunderstanding) are charged with fanatic hatred. Both
insisted that Lenin and his monstrous crew were perverting the Russian
Revolution to their own sinister purposes and must be destroyed at all
costs. They made no effort to view the situation objectively.

In 1924 Emma was permitted to make her home in England. At once she
busied herself with plans to rouse the people against the Bolsheviki,
but found herself either snubbed or scorned. The liberals refused to
support her for fear of endangering Soviet Russia's precarious relations
with Great Britain; the radicals insisted on the need of bolstering the
Bolsheviki during the period of revolutionary experimentation. Her
lectures were poorly attended; her audiences failed to be impressed.
After two years of discouragement she decided to leave England
altogether. Shortly before her departure she married James Colton, an
old rebel, for the convenience of British citizenship.

A vacation in France preceded a lecture tour through Canada. Again on
American soil, she resumed the old pattern of agitation. But the
Dominion did not provide sufficient scope for her seething energy. And
when friends, who had long urged her to write her autobiography,
provided her with funds for that purpose, she returned to France.

_Living My Life_ appeared in 1932. It is a lively story, palpitating
with strong feeling and epitomizing the blazing years of her anarchist
activity. The writing is vivacious, forceful, exciting. The narrative is
colorful and wholly uninhibited. Emma's strong personality stamps every
page. She was as dynamic in her numerous amours as in her work for human
freedom, and she discusses both with equal zest. Her unrepressed egotism
prompts her to relate personal incidents which have little bearing on
her own development and none on that of anarchism--incidents that
sometimes reveal petty malice and that might better have been left
unrecorded. The final impression, however, is of her generous character,
her profound devotion to the ideal of liberty, her extraordinary energy,
her great courage, and her successful insistence on living her life in
her own way.

When Emma had completed her long book and was ready to resume her role
as lecturer and agitator, the menace of fascism drove the Bolshevik
betrayal from the forefront of her mind. A tour through Germany and
other parts of Europe convinced her that the Nazis were the greater
threat to freedom and must be fought without let. Late in 1933 she
returned to Canada and addressed large audiences on such topics as
"Hitler and His Cohorts," "Germany's Tragedy," and "The Collapse of
German Culture." With Cassandra-like foresight she argued that England
and Germany's neighbors were blind to the danger confronting them and
that if the Nazis were not ousted from power they would destroy

In January 1934 she was granted permission to visit the United States
for ninety days. Friends arranged for a two-month lecture tour. Her
audiences were large, though a good percentage came more out of
curiosity than to pay homage to her anarchist leadership. Some hotels
refused to admit her, and detectives and policemen were as conspicuous
within the halls as in former times. Communists heckled her, but there
was comparatively little of the excitement and defiance of her previous
"tours of agitation." In truth neither Emma nor her hearers bothered
much about the doctrine of anarchism. The immediate menace had become
not the capitalistic state but fascist authoritarianism (to Emma,
Bolshevism was "only left-wing fascism"); and she attacked it not as the
apostolic anarchist but as the passionate libertarian. The end of April
came all too soon, and again she had to depart from the land in which
she had spent her best years. Nor did the fact that she was an old woman
without roots elsewhere make leavetaking any easier.

The following year she sojourned in Canada, lecturing, writing, hoping
in vain for readmission to the United States. In the spring of 1935 she
went to France. Berkman was already there, and the two old friends again
saw much of each other. The day after her sixty-seventh birthday their
lifelong intimacy was abruptly ended by his suicide; he had been ill for
some time and characteristically preferred death to a wretched old age.
The tragic event oppressed her grievously.

The Spanish Civil War, beginning shortly after, provided her with
much-needed distraction. With energies renewed she at once went to
Spain. Her previous friendly association with Spanish anarchists made
her a welcome addition to their ranks. For the next two years she
devoted herself to bolstering the cause of the Loyalists. Since
England's sympathy was of crucial importance, she went to London to work
in behalf of the Spanish government. The callous and undiscerning
attitude of the ruling Tories deprived her of the last atom of hope. She
returned to Spain in 1938, wishing to stand beside her comrades during
their final futile efforts to hold back the fascist inundation.

Early in 1939, with darkness rapidly enveloping the whole of Europe,
Emma returned to Canada. There she died on May 13, 1940, clinging
tenaciously to the shreds of her revolutionary ideal until her last

       *       *       *       *       *

Emma Goldman was unquestionably the most active and audacious rebel of
her time. An idealist to the core of her being, cherishing liberty as
the most precious of human possessions, completely dedicated to the full
and free life for all mankind, she early became the object of
concentrated contumely and brutal abuse on the part of the defenders of
the status quo. Her threat to society lay not so much in her
revolutionary doctrine as in her attacks upon the abuses of capitalism.
B. R. Tucker and other individualist anarchists were equally opposed to
authority, but they were not molested so long as they did not concern
themselves with economic exploitation. Emma, however, had made it her
duty to fight against injustice toward the worker and the nonconformist.
Consequently she organized mass-meetings and marches against
unemployment; she became a picket-leader and fund-raiser, and protested
openly and persistently against violations of free speech and against
police brutality. This activity, especially effective because of her
untiring zeal and bold eloquence, gave her pre-eminence as a dangerous
enemy of capitalism and subjected her to persecution by the authorities
until she was driven out of the country.

Quite a few Americans, however, respected her for her honest idealism
and valued her as a goad stinging the social conscience of our
complacent public. One of them, William Marion Reedy, called her "the
daughter of the dream" after a meeting with her in 1908 and added: "She
threatens all society that is sham, all society that is slavery, all
society that is a mask of greed and lust." Floyd Dell spoke for many in
the blithe year of 1912 when he wrote: "She has a legitimate social
function--that of holding before our eyes the ideals of freedom. She is
licenced to taunt us with our moral cowardice, to plant in our souls the
nettles of remorse at having acquiesced so tamely in the brutal artifice
of present-day society."

For all her courage and iconoclasm, she was deeply feminine in outlook
and behavior. Her strongest attribute was of an emotional rather than
intellectual nature: she felt first and thought afterwards. She had an
extraordinary capacity for believing whatever suited her ideological or
personal purposes. Rationalization and ratiocination merged in her mind
very readily. Thus in her autobiography she was punctilious in recording
the details of her love affairs, presumably in the belief that
everything she did and felt affected her revolutionary development. Yet
at all times she was ready to sacrifice her own happiness for the good
of anarchism.

On her fiftieth birthday, while in prison for obstructing the draft, she
took stock of her past. "Fifty years--thirty of them on the firing
line--had they borne fruit or had I merely been repeating Don Quixote's
idle chase? Had my efforts served only to fill my inner void, to find an
outlet for the turbulence of my being? Or was it really the ideal that
had dictated my conscious course?" She had not the slightest doubt,
however, that her life had not been lived in vain. She had fought
valiantly, and was to remain on the firing line for another twenty
years. And while it is in the very nature of an ideal to fail of
achievement, its mere existence gives life its impetus and its reward.
Emma's quotation from Ibsen, made while waiting for deportation in
1919--"that it is the struggle for the ideal that counts, rather than
the attainment of it"--may well be her epitaph.



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