Emma Goldman (Lithuania/United States, 1869-1940)


Figure 1.--.

Emma Goldman became involved in the Americn Labor Movement as a fevent Anarchist, earning the nick name "Red" Emma. She was born in in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania to middle-class Jewish parents (1869). Her parents ran a small inn. Anarchists assasinated Tsar Alexander II (1881). His reactionary son, Alexander II, launched terrible pogroms against Jews. The family feeling threatened moved to St. Petersburg when she was 13 years old. She got a job in a corset factory, an interesting choice given the feminst princiles she later expoused. It was in the factory that she was first exposed to radical socilaist and anarchist thought. One concept that that made sence to her was the use of revolutionary violence to bing about social change. This concept attracted many young Russians because there was no legal oposition to the Tsar permitted and the Tsar's secret police, the Okrana, was very effective in supressing such oposition. Chernyshevsky's book, What Is to Be Done deeply influenced her. Goldman She emigrated to the United States at age 17 (1885). She was one of millions of Eastern European Jews that immigrated to America at this time. While enduring poverty and anti-Semitism, it was an arranged marriage that drove her to America. She wnt to Rochester New Yotk where here sister lived and found work in a factory. She married a fellow factory worker Jacob Kershner (1887). Emma was outraged when four anarchists were hanged in the aftermath of the Haymarket Riot (1886). She decided to commit herself at age 20 to the revolutionary movement. She left her family nd moved first to New Haven, Connecticut and then to New York City. She divorced Kershner. She becme at a very young age a persuasive speaker for issues like workers'rights, birth control, and free love--quite an incendiary combination in the 1880s. She became close to anarchist Alexander Berkman. When Berkman shot and stabbed factory manager Henry Clay Frick during the Homested strike (1892), Emma defended him, convinced that such targeted acts of violence were the only way to change the system. In fact the attack on Frick turned popular opinion shrply against the workers. Authorities correctly concluded that Emma was aware of the attack in advance. Berkman and others, however, refused to implicate her. She traveled throughout Ameruca giving sppeches and publishing articls supporting the workers anbd feminist issues she expoused becoming known as "Red Emma". She played an important role in development anarchist political philosophy in the United States. She was convicted twice, once for inciting to riot (1893) and then during World War I for promoting resistance to the draft (1917). Authoritie in the United States arrested and deported a number of immigrant radicals after World war I. Authorities deported Goldman to the new Soviet Union (1919). She was at first optimistic about the Revolution. She met Lenin, but was shocked with Lenin cracked down on Russian anarchists with a brutality far beyond what she had experienced in America. She left Russia after only 2 years, totally disilusioned. She spent the rest of her life traveling, living both in Western Europe and Canada. The irony of her life is that this eloquent spokesman for anarchism cme to see herself as an America, the center of world capitalism. She lived several years in the south of France , writing her autobiography, Living My Life, a fascinating account of her tumultous life. Her last major cause was the Spanish Republic which she attempted to support in London (1936). She died in Canada (1940). She has been lionized as an early feminist spokesman and criticism for her promotion of political murder and other violent acts. Goldman like other radicals at the time failed to preceive the importance of law and the democratic system in acieving worker rights. Her experiences Soviet Russia, a society completely devoid of law, came as a great shock to her.

Parents

Emma's middle-class parents ran a small inn.

Childhood

She was born in in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania (1869).

Tsarist Repression

Revolutionaries assasinated Tsar Alexander II (1881). His reactionary son, Alexander II, launched terrible pogroms against Jews. The family feeling threatened moved to St. Petersburg when Emma was 13 years old. She got a job in a corset factory, an interesting choice given the feminst princiles she later expoused.

Exposure to Radical Ideas

It was in the corset factory that she was first exposed to radical socilaist and anarchist thought. One concept that that made sence to her was the use of revolutionary violence to bing about social change. This concept attracted many young Russians because there was no legal oposition to the Tsar permitted and the Tsar's secret police, the Okrana, was very effective in supressing such oposition. Chernyshevsky's book, What Is to Be Done deeply influenced her.

Emigration to America

Goldman She emigrated to the United States at age 17 (1885). She was one of millions of Eastern European Jews that immigrated to America at this time. While enduring poverty and anti-Semitism, it was an arranged marriage that drove her to America. She wnt to Rochester New Yotk where here sister lived and found work in a factory. She married a fellow factory worker Jacob Kershner (1887).

American Labor Movement

Emma Goldman became involved in the Americn Labor Movement as a fevent Anarchist. The movement, however, never embraced anarchism. The American labor movement traces its history to the post-Civil War Era. Americawas a still largely agricultural country in the mid 19th century, but considerable industrial development had occurred in the Northeast and this was significantly stimulated by the Civil War (1861-65). The first American labor union was the the National Labor Union (NLU) founded in 1866. The most powerful early union was the Knights of Labor. It achieved considerable power, but was destoyed in the aftermath of the Haymarket Riot (1886). Industrialists backed by the courts and the goverment showed n ability to break unions. Ths occured in both the Homstead and Pullman strikes diring 1892. Public opinion seemed to assciate the industrial unions with more radical groups like Anarchists and the IWW. Gradually after World War I, labor unions in most Western European countries and America won collective bargaining rights. In America this was one of the achievements of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The Depression put workers at great disadvantge because there were so many unemployed seeking jobs. One of the pillars of the New Deal was the The National Labor Relations Act (1935).

Haymarket Bombing (1886)

The Knights of Labor were led by Terence V. Powderly, the leader of the Knights. They alsp puhed for an 8-hour day. The Knights development into a powerful national force. They assistee unions around the country. They achieved some success, but in 1886 several important strikes failed. The Knights had about 80,000 members in Chicago. The situation in Chicago became increasingly viloent. The police were called out to supress a labor rally at Haymarket Square (May 4, 1886). A bomb wa detenated, prbably by anarchists unassociated with the Knights. Public opinion associated the Knights with violence and national and local officials supressed the organization.

American Anarchism

Anarchism has had little appeal in the United States. There was some interest in utopian communities. An important early advocate was Josiah Warren (1798-1874). Even the utopian communities that developed, however, had rules. Two early figures in the American anarchist movement were William Greene and Benjamin Tucker. They founded journals like The Word and Liberty where they published the work of important European anarchists such as Peter Kropotkin, Michael Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Leo Tolstoy. At this time anarchism still had an essentially pacifist ethos. In response to scts of terror, European monarchies became increasingly repressive, especially in Russia. This was just as large numbers of European immigrants began reaching America. Important anarchists in Europe, including Johann Most and Emma Goldman, joined the immigrant flow to the United States. Seeing the poor working conditions here and a government largely favoring moneyed interests, they both inisisted that as in Europe, violence was acceptable to overthrow capitalism. Neither saw that the democratic system was a tool for change or the importance of law. (Goldman was to see first hand when she returned to Lenin's Russia after the Revolution the horrors of violence in a society without laws.) Anarchists were blamed for the Haymarket Bombing in Chicago (1886). The Chicago authorities were never able to identify the actual person who threw the bomb. They did identify an anarchist cell (Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fisher, Louis Lingg and George Engel) who helped organized the meeting. They were tried and sentenced to death for "conspiracy to murder". The anarchist movement in America lost whatever minor support it had as it becamne associated with violence. Alexander Berkman, a Russian immigrant and anarchist attempted to murder industrialist William Frick (1892). Gaetano Bresci, am Italian immigrant, returned to Italy and assassinated King Umberto. Another anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, from a Polish immigrant family assassinated President William McKinley (1901). . This resulted in the passage of the Immigrant Exclusion Act (1901).

Revolutionary Struggle

Emma was outraged when four anarchists were hanged in the aftermath of the Haymarket Riot (1886). She decided to commit herself at age 20 to the revolutionary movement. She left her family nd moved first to New Haven, Connecticut and then to New York City. She divorced Kershner. She becme at a very young age a persuasive speaker for issues like workers'rights, birth control, and free love--quite an incendiary combination in the 1880s. She became close to anarchist Alexander Berkman. When Berkman shot and stabbed factory manager Henry Clay Frick during the Homested strike (1892), Emma defended him, convinced that such targeted acts of violence were the only way to change the system. In fact the attack on Frick turned popular opinion shrply against the workers. Authorities correctly concluded that Emma was aware of the attack in advance. Berkman and others, however, refused to implicate her. She traveled throughout Ameruca giving sppeches and publishing articls supporting the workers anbd feminist issues she expoused becoming known as "Red Emma". She played an important role in development anarchist political philosophy in the United States.

Convictions

She was convicted twice, once for inciting to riot (1893) and then during World War I for promoting resistance to the draft (1917).

Deportation

Authoritie in the United States arrested and deported a number of immigrant radicals after World war I. She was arrested as part of the Palmer Raids (1919). Authorities deported Goldman to the new Soviet Union (1919).

Russian Revolution

Golman was at first optimistic about the Revolution. She met Lenin, but was shocked with Lenin cracked down on Russian anarchists with a brutality far beyond what she had experienced in America.

Final Years

She left Russia after only 2 years, totally disilusioned. She spent the rest of her life traveling, living both in Western Europe and Canada. The irony of her life is that this eloquent spokesman for anarchism cme to see herself as an America, the center of world capitalism. She lived several years in the south of France, writing her autobiography, Living My Life, a fascinating account of her tumultous life. Her last major cause was the Spanish Republic which she attempted to support from London (1936). She died in Canada (1940). She has been lionized as an early feminist spokesman and criticism for her promotion of political murder and other violent acts. Goldman like other radicals at the time failed to preceive the importance of law and the democratic system in acieving worker rights. Her experiences Soviet Russia, a society completely devoid of law, came as a great shock to her.

Sources

Goldman, Emma. Living My Life.







CIH





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Created: 8:17 PM 9/1/2006
Last updated: 9:06 PM 5/30/2009