Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In Memory of Emma Goldman

Today is Tuesday, 27 June 2006.

Emma Goldman was born on this day in 1869 in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. She grew up there and in St. Petersburg, then came to the United States at age 17, settling in Rochester, New York. Radicalized and introduced to the anarchist movement after the legal lynching of the Haymarket Martyrs in 1887, she moved to New Haven, Connecticut and later New York City.

Goldman became well-known and respected as a theoretician and organizer of anarchism. Contrary to its popular image as nihilism, anarchism is the political belief that social life must be organized around freely-given cooperation, not coercion and exploitation. In 1893, she was imprisoned for one year for incitement to riot, for a speech in which she said that the unemployed have the right to “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they don’t give you work or bread, take bread.”

In 1906 she founded Mother Earth, an anarchist journal, which she edited until its suppression by the US government in 1917. She worked closely with the great radical labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the “Wobblies”), which was also suppressed in the Red Scare attendant to American involvement in the Great War.

In 1916, Goldman was imprisoned for advocating birth control and distributing birth control literature. Like most of the Left of her time, she opposed US entry into the capitalists’ “Great War.” In Anarchism and Other Essays, she wrote "The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism. The very moment the latter is undermined, capitalism will totter." She was imprisoned for two years in 1917 for organizing opposition and resistance to the draft.

Along with hundreds of other foreign-born leftists, Goldman was deported to the Soviet Union in 1919, having been illegally stripped of her American citizenship in 1908. She was initially supportive of the Bolshevik Revolution, but turned against it when Bolshevism institutionalized the statism and violence of the struggle against the counter-revolution. In 1921 she left for Britain, then lived in France and finally Canada. She tirelessly supported the Loyalist cause against the Fascist revolt during the Spanish Civil War. She died in Toronto on 14 May 1940.

Goldman is buried in Forest Park, Illinois, near the graves of the Haymarket Martyrs. The inscription on her tombstone reads, “Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to Liberty”.

Goldman’s book, Anarchism and Other Essays, is available as a free Ebook at Project Gutenberg. Her autobiography, Living My Life, is also highly recommended.

"Organization 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.”

--- Emma Goldman

Full disclosure: Your author’s cocker spaniel friend is named in honour of Emma Goldman.


Anonymous La_Libertine said...

Happy Birthday (June 27)to "The Most Dangerous Woman in America" - and one of my personal heroes. She of those dangerous, dangerous ideas, so radically righteous (in the best way). I wonder what would have happened in this country if they had not deported her? All I can think is that we were (and are today) poorer without her.

9:27 PM  

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