Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)

When many today think of an anarchist, or anarchy in general, their minds fill with images of bomb-throwing, chaotic, law breaking lunatics. But to Emma Goldman & her comrades being an anarchist was about equality, freedom from coercive institutions, lack of a centralized goverment, & the end of capitalism.

A Lithuanian immigrant, Goldman was not only an anarchist, but a feminist, agitator, & an organizer, as well. She was thrown into jail many times for her speeches, & as an outspoken critic of war. Her criticism of mandatory conscription of young men into the military during the war led to her 2 year imprisonment, followed by her deportation.

The hanging of 4 anarchists after the Haymarket Riot in 1886 drew the young Emma to the anarchist movement, & at the age of 20 she became a revolutionary.

Goldman's defense of Alexander Berkman's attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick in July 1892 made her very unpopular with authorities. Berkman was jailed for 14 years, & released in 1906.

In 1893 she was jailed for publicly urging unemployed workers that they should, " Ask for work. If they dont give you work, ask for bread. If they dont give you work or bread, take bread." She was convicted of "inciting a riot", & served a one year prison sentence.

Goldman was arrested again in 1901 with 9 others in Chicago on charges of conspiracy to assassinate President McKinley. The President had been shot a few days earlier by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. Goldman had met Czolgosz breifly several weeks prior to the assassination attempt, & therefore was accused of conspiracy in a plot with Czolgosz. She was released after authorities could not connect her to Czolgosz's crime.

On Feb.11th, 1916, Emma Goldman was again arrested & jailed for her distribution of birth control literature. As a feminist she saw abortion as a tragic consequence of social conditions, & birth control was a means to avoid abortion.

Her 3rd imprisonment was in 1917 for conspiring to obstruct the draft. Goldman was involved in setting up the No Conscription Leagues & organizing rallies against WWI. She believed strongly that militarism needed to be defeated to achieve freedom, writing, " The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism. The very moment the latter is undermined, capitalism will totter." She was jailed for 2 years, then deported to Russia. There she witnessed the aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

After 2 years, Goldman left Russia & stayed with friends in England & France until funds were raised for a cottage for Goldman. In 1936, she went to Spain to support the Spanish Revolution & fight against Francisco Franco's fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

Emma Goldman died of a stroke May 14th, 1940 in Toronto. The U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service allowed her body to be brought back to the US & was buried in Illinois. Her tombstone reads, " Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to Liberty."

Emma Goldman always provoked a response. She dealt with issues like individual freedom, civil rights, birth control, feminism, fairness in the workpalce, & sexual orientation long before these topics were fashionable or popular. For her fearless & tireless efforts, Emma Goldman was censored, evicted, threatened, jailed, & even deported. She shattered the image of an anarchist by embracing art, music, nature, & drama.

Emma Goldman was a true Revolutionary, willing to risk her personal freedoms to stand up for causes she believed in.

" Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others."

" We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations."--Emma Goldman in her speech in San Francisco, leading up to WWI.