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Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, August 06, 2010

The High Priestess of Anarchy

“You’re good at researching,” said a Luddite friend. “Find out who’s behind the ACLU.  I just know there’s somebody bad in there. There’s something about the American Civil Liberties Union. Something deceptive that I can’t put my finger on.”

The operative word here is “liberties.” In their definition of the word, “liberty” means “chaos" and their intent appears to be to use our own freedom against us to destroy the country.

Well, they were right. There’s a bad actor. But it’s not so much the ACLU’s founders, Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver, who founded the ACLU in 1920, as much as it’s who inspired Baldwin.

According to Wikipedia, Baldwin was a Harvard graduate, social worker, and lifelong pacificst who opposed American involvement in World War I. After the passage of the Selective Service Act of 1917, Baldwin called for the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) to create a legal division to protect the rights of conscientious objectors. On July 1, 1917, the AUAM responded by creating the Civil Liberties Bureau (CLB), headed by Baldwin. The CLB separated from the AUAM on October 1, 1917, renaming itself the National Civil Liberties Bureau, with Baldwin as director. In 1920, NCLB was renamed the American Civil Liberties Union with Baldwin continuing as the ACLU's first executive director.

In St. Louis, Baldwin had been greatly influenced by the radical social movement of the anarchist Emma Goldman. He joined the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1927, he had visited the Soviet Union and wrote a book, Liberty Under the Soviets. He later denounced communism in his book, A New Slavery, which condemned "the inhuman communist police state tyranny". In the 1940s, Baldwin led the campaign to purge the ACLU of Communist Party members.

Crystal Eastman was a lawyer, antimilitarist, feminist, socialist, and journalist. She is best fought for women's right to vote, as a co-editor of the radical arts and politics magazine, The Liberator, and as a co-founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

She was born in Marlborough, Mass., the daughter of a Protestant minister and sister of American socialist writer Max Eastman. She graduated from Vassar College in 1903 and received a master’s degree in sociology from Columbia University in 1904. She was second in the class of 1907 at New York University Law School.

Her first job was as a reporter investigating labor conditions for The Pittsburgh Survey sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation. Her report, Work Accidents and the Law (1910), became a classic and resulted in the first workers' compensation law, which she drafted while serving on a New York state commission. She continued to campaign for occupational safety and health while working as an investigating attorney for the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations during Woodrow Wilson's presidency. She was at one time called the "most dangerous woman in America," due to her free-love idealism and outspoken nature.

After a brief, and unsuccessful marriage, Eastman moved to Milwaukee where she managed the unsuccessful 1912 Wisconsin suffrage battle. When she returned east in 1913, she founded the militant Congressional Union, which became the National Woman's Party. After the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the vote in 1920, Eastman and three others wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923.

Eastman was a noted anti-militarist, who helped found the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. During World War I, she was one of the founders of the Woman's Peace Party. She also became executive director of the AUAM, which lobbied against America's entrance into the European war and more successfully against war with Mexico in 1916, sought to remove profiteering from arms manufacturing, and campaigned against conscription and imperial adventures.

When the United States entered World War I, Eastman organized, with Roger Baldwin and Albert DeSilver, the National Civil Liberties Bureau to protect conscientious objectors. She functioned as an attorney in the ACLU.

Finally, there was Albert DeSilver a graduate of Yale in 1910 and Columbia Law School. Though he initially planned on a political career, he resigned his law practice in 1918 to become one of the founding members of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (later known as the American Civil Liberties Union) in order to devote himself full-time to defending conscientious objectors, other citizens, and immigrants against unconstitutional persecution under new laws such as the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. During World War I, DeSilver used his own war bonds to post bail for defendants in free speech cases.

At the founding of the ACLU in 1920, DeSilver was named Associate Director and worked in legal defense, public education, and lobbying. While alive, DeSilver provided more than half of the ACLU's operating funds on an annual basis. After his death at age 36, DeSilver's wife Margaret continued contributing to the ACLU each year in his name.

But who inspired ACLU founder Roger Baldwin? There’s the question. The answer is: Emma Goldman. You may not recognize her name, but you’ll certain recognize the name of her journal: Mother Earth. Emma’s is a really strange and infamous story.

Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire (now Kaunas in Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the US in 1885 and lived in New York City, where she joined the burgeoning anarchist movement, after learning about the Haymarket affair.

The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was a demonstration turned riot that took place on May 4, 1886, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago. Initially a rally in support of striking workers, someone threw a bomb at police as they dispersed the crowd. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of eight police officers. Four men were convicted and executed, and one committed suicide in prison. The Haymarket affair is generally considered the origin of international May Day observances for workers. The event also inspired the notion of the bomb-throwing anarchist.

Inspired by the Haymarket riot, Goldman and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick. Fortunately, Frick survived the attempt on his life and Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for “inciting to riot” and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to “induce persons not to register” for the newly-instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested and deported to Russia. Initially, they were supportive of the Bolshevik revolution. Goldman opposed the Soviet government’s use of violence and the repression of free speech. In 1923, she wrote a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there.

Among the tactics that Goldman endorsed was targeted violence. She believed that the use of violence, while distasteful, could be effective in achieving a greater good. She advocated propaganda of the deed – attentat, or violence carried out to encourage the masses to revolt. She supported her partner Alexander Berkman's attempt to kill industrialist Henry Clay Frick, and even begged him to allow her to participate. She believed that Frick's actions during the Homestead strike were reprehensible and that his murder would produce a positive result for working people.

While she never gave explicit approval of Leon Czolgosz's assassination of U.S. President William McKinley, she defended his ideals and believed actions like his were a natural consequence of repressive institutions. As she wrote in "The Psychology of Political Violence": "the accumulated forces in our social and economic life, culminating in an act of violence, are similar to the terrors of the atmosphere, manifested in storm and lightning."

She disapproved of authoritarian rule and oppression, yet Goldman still viewed the state as essentially and inevitably a tool of control and domination. As a result, she believed that voting was useless at best and dangerous at worst. Voting, she wrote, provided an illusion of participation while masking the true structures of decision-making. Instead, Goldman advocated targeted resistance in the form of strikes, protests, and “direct action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code.”

Emma Goldman's mother Taube Bienowitch had been married before, to a man with whom she had two daughters – Helena in 1860 and Lena in 1862. When her first husband died of tuberculosis, Taube was devastated. Goldman later wrote: "Whatever love she had had died with the young man to whom she had been married at the age of fifteen."

Taube's second marriage to Abraham Goldman was arranged by her family and the mismatched pair’s relationship soon eroded. He invested Taube's inheritance in a business that quickly failed. The ensuing hardship combined with the emotional distance of husband and wife made the household a tense place for the children. When Taube became pregnant, Abraham hoped desperately for a son; a daughter, he believed, would serve as one more sign of failure.

They eventually had three sons, but their first child together was a girl, Emma, born on June 27, 1869. Her father used violence to punish his children, beating them when they disobeyed him. He used a whip only on Emma, the most rebellious of them. Her mother seldom intervened on Emma’s behalf, calling only rarely on Abraham to tone down his beatings.

Goldman's relationships with her sisters Lena and Helena were a study in contrasts. Helena, the oldest, provided the comfort they lacked from their mother; she filled Goldman's childhood with “whatever joy it had.” Lena, however, was distant and uncharitable. The three sisters were joined by brothers Louis (who died at the age of six), Herman, and Moishe.

When Emma was a young girl, the Goldman family moved to the village of Papilė, where her father ran an inn. There, she witnessed a peasant being whipped with a knout (a whip) in the street, contributing to her lifelong distaste for violent authority.

At the age of seven, Goldman moved with her family to the Königsberg and she enrolled in a Realschule. One teacher punished disobedient students – targeting Goldman in particular – by beating their hands with a ruler. Another teacher tried to molest his female students and was fired when Goldman fought back. She found a sympathetic mentor in her German teacher, who loaned her books. A passionate student, Goldman passed the exam for admission into secondary school, but her religion teacher refused to provide a certificate of good behavior and she was unable to attend.

One book in particular, caught Goldman’s attention: Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel, What Is to Be Done?, an official Soviet “classic.” Essentially a guidebook to revolution in the form of a soap opera, the novel espouses the philosophical materialism and nobility of Russian radicalism. In it, the main character dreams of a society gaining eternal joy of an earthly kind.

The Goldman family then moved to Saint Petersburg, where her father opened one unsuccessful store after another. Forced into poverty, Goldman took an assortment of jobs including one in a corset shop. As a teenager, Goldman begged her father to allow her to return to school, but instead he threw her French book into the fire, exclaiming, “Girls do not have to learn much! All a Jewish daughter needs to know is how to prepare gefilte fish, cut noodles fine, and give the man plenty of children.”

Goldman pursued an independent education on her own, however, and soon began to study the political turmoil around her, particularly the Nihilists responsible for assassinating Alexander II of Russia. The ensuing turmoil intrigued Goldman, even though she did not fully understand it at the time. When she read Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel, she found a role model in the protagonist Vera, who adopts a Nihilist philosophy and escapes her repressive family to live freely and organize a sewing cooperative. The book enthralled Goldman and remained a source of inspiration throughout her life.

In 1885, Emma and her sister Helena moved to Rochester to live with their sister Lena. Fleeing the rising anti-Semitism of Saint Petersburg, their parents and brothers joined them a year later. Goldman worked as a seamstress, sewing overcoats for more than ten hours a day, earning two and a half dollars a week.

Less than a year after marrying a fellow worker named Kershner, with whom she shared the frustration with the monotony of factory work, they were divorced. Her parents disapproved and threw her out. Carrying her sewing machine in one hand and a bag with five dollars in the other, she left Rochester and headed to New York City.

On her first day in the city, Goldman met two men who would forever change her life. At Sachs's Café, a gathering place for radicals, she was introduced to Alexander Berkman, an anarchist who invited her to a public speech that evening, with whom she had a decades-long relationship. They went to hear Johann Most, editor of a radical publication called Die Freiheit and an advocate of “propaganda of the deed” – the use of violence to instigate change. She was impressed by his fiery oration, and Most took her under his wing, training her in methods of public speaking. He encouraged her vigorously, telling her that she was “to take my place when I am gone.”

Enchanted by her first experience at public speaking, she refined her public persona during subsequent engagements. Quickly, however, she found herself arguing with Most over her independence. After a momentous speech in Cleveland, she felt as though she had become “a parrot repeating Most's views” and resolved to express her own views on the stage. Upon her return to New York, Most became furious and told her: "Who is not with me is against me!" She quit and went to work for another publication.

One of the first political moments that brought Berkman and Goldman together was the Homestead Strike. In June 1892, a steel plant in Pittsburgh, Pa., owned by Andrew Carnegie, became the focus of national attention when talks between the Carnegie Steel Company and the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AA) broke down. The factory's manager was Henry Clay Frick, a fierce opponent of the union. When a final round of talks failed at the end of June, he closed the plant and locked out the workers, who immediately went on strike. Strikebreakers were brought in and the company hired Pinkerton guards to protect them. On July 6 a fight broke out between three hundred Pinkerton guards and a crowd of armed union workers. During the twelve-hour gunfight, seven guards and nine strikers were killed.

Goldman and Berkman believed that a retaliatory assassination of Frick would “strike terror into the soul of his class” and “bring the teachings of Anarchism before the world.” When a majority of the nation's newspapers came out in support of the strikers, Goldman and Berkman resolved to assassinate him, an action they expected would inspire the workers to revolt against the capitalist system. Berkman chose to carry out the assassination, and ordered Goldman to stay behind in order to explain his motives after he went to jail. He would be in charge of the deed; she of the word. Berkman tried and failed to make a bomb, then set off for Pittsburgh to buy a gun and a suit of decent clothes.

On July 23, Berkman gained access to Frick's office with a concealed handgun and shot him three times, then stabbed him in the leg. A group of workers – far from joining in his attentat – beat Berkman unconscious, and he was carried away by the police. Berkman was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Convinced Goldman was involved in the plot, police raided her apartment and – finding no evidence – pressured her landlord into evicting her. Worse, the attentat had failed to rouse the masses; workers and anarchists alike condemned Berkman's action. Johann Most, their former mentor, lashed out at Berkman and the assassination attempt. Furious at these attacks, Goldman brought a toy horsewhip to a public lecture and demanded, onstage, that Most explain his betrayal. He dismissed her, whereupon she struck him with the whip, broke it on her knee, and hurled the pieces at him.

When the Panic of 1893 struck in the following year, the United States suffered one of its worst economic crises ever. Goldman began speaking to crowds of frustrated men and women in New York. On Aug. 21, she spoke to a crowd of nearly 3,000 people in Union Square, where she encouraged unemployed workers to take direct action rather than depend on charity or government aid.

A week later she was arrested in Philadelphia and returned to New York City for trial, charged with “inciting to riot.” During the train ride, a detective who had witnessed the riot offered to drop the charges against her if she would inform on other radicals in the area. She responded by throwing a glass of ice water in his face. As she awaited trial, Goldman was visited by Nellie Bly, a reporter for the New York World. She spent two hours talking to Goldman, and wrote a positive article about the woman she described as a "modern Joan of Arc".

Despite this positive publicity, the jury was persuaded by Jacobs' testimony and scared by Goldman's politics. The assistant District Attorney questioned Goldman about her anarchism, as well as her atheism; the judge spoke of her as "a dangerous woman". She was sentenced to one year in the Blackwell's Island Penitentiary. To make money, Goldman decided to pursue the medical work she had studied in prison. However, her preferred fields of specialization – midwifery and massage – were not available to nursing students in the US. Thus, she sailed to Europe, lecturing in London, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, meeting with and encouraging anarchists worldwide for years.

On September 6, 1901, Leon Czolgosz, an unemployed factory worker and registered Republican with a history of mental illness, shot US President William McKinley twice during a public speaking event in Buffalo, New York. McKinley was hit in the breastbone and stomach; eight days later, he died. Czolgosz was arrested and interrogated around the clock. During interrogation, he claimed to be an Anarchist and said he had been inspired to his action after attending a speech by Goldman. The authorities used this declaration to charge her with planning the action. Goldman was arrested, along with eleven other anarchists.

Learning of her arrest, Czolgosz insisted that Goldman had not guided his assassination plot, but she was arrested and held for two weeks. Goldman claimed he had tried to befriend her, but she and the others, assuming he was an infiltrator and spy, rejected his friendship. No evidence was found linking Goldman to the attack, and she was eventually released after two weeks of detention. Before McKinley died, Goldman offered to provide nursing care, referring to him as "merely a human being". Czolgosz was convicted of murder and executed.

Throughout her detention and after her release, Goldman steadfastly refused to condemn Czolgosz' action, standing virtually alone in doing so. Friends and supporters – including Berkman – urged her to quit his cause. But Goldman defended Czolgosz as a “supersensitive being" and chastised other anarchists for abandoning him. She was vilified in the press as the “high priestess of anarchy.” while many newspapers declared the anarchist movement responsible for the murder. In the wake of these events, socialism gained support over anarchism among US radicals. McKinley's successor Theodore Roosevelt declared his intent to crack down “not only against anarchists, but against all active and passive sympathizers with anarchists.”

After Czolgosz's execution, Goldman withdrew from the world. Scorned by her fellow anarchists, vilified by the press, and separated from her love, she retreated into anonymity and nursing. Using a pseudonym, she vanished from public life and took on a series of private nursing jobs. When the U.S. Congress passed the Anarchist Exclusion Act, however, a new wave of activism rose to oppose it, carrying Goldman back into the movement. A coalition of people and organizations across the left end of the political spectrum opposed the law on grounds that it violated freedom of speech, and she had the nation's ear once again.

In 1906 Goldman decided to start a publication of her own, "a place of expression for the young idealists in arts and letters". Mother Earth was staffed by a cadre of radical activists, including Hippolyte Havel, Max Baginski, and Leonard Abbott.

For the next ten years, Goldman traveled around the country nonstop, delivering lectures and agitating for anarchism. The coalitions formed in opposition to the Anarchist Exclusion Act had given her an appreciation for reaching out to those of other political persuasions. When the US Justice Department sent spies to observe, they reported the meetings as “packed.” Writers, journalists, artists, judges, and workers from across the spectrum spoke of her “magnetic power,” her “convincing presence,” her “force, eloquence, and fire.”

Goldman joined Margaret Sanger in crusading for women's access to birth control; both women were arrested for violating the Comstock Law. When Margaret Sanger, an advocate of access to contraception, coined the term "birth control" and disseminated information about various methods in the June 1914 issue of her magazine The Woman Rebel, she received aggressive support from Goldman. Sanger was arrested in August under the Comstock Law, which prohibited the dissemination of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles” – including information relating to birth control.

Although they later split from Sanger over charges of insufficient support, Goldman and Reitman distributed copies of Sanger's pamphlet Family Limitation (along with a similar essay of Reitman's). In 1915 Goldman conducted a nationwide speaking tour in part to raise awareness about contraception options. Although the nation's attitude toward the topic seemed to be liberalizing, Goldman was arrested in February 1916 and charged with violation of the Comstock Law. Choosing not to pay a hundred-dollar fine, she spent two weeks in a prison workhouse, which she saw as an "opportunity" to reconnect with those rejected by society.[90]

Although US President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 under the slogan “He kept us out of the war,” at the start of his second term he decided that Germany's continued deployment of unrestricted submarine warfare was sufficient cause for the US to enter World War I. Shortly afterward, Congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1917, which required all males aged 21–30 to register for military conscription. Goldman saw the decision as an exercise in militarist aggression, driven by capitalism. She declared in Mother Earth her intent to resist conscription, and to oppose US involvement in the war.

Goldman and Berkman organized the No Conscription League of New York, which proclaimed: “We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, antimilitarists, and opposed to all wars waged by capitalistic governments.” The group became a vanguard for anti-draft activism, and chapters began to appear in other cities. When police began raiding the group's public events to find young men who had not registered for the draft, however, Goldman and others focused their efforts on spreading pamphlets and other written work. In the midst of the nation's patriotic fervor, many elements of the political left refused to support the League's efforts. The Women's Peace Party, for example, ceased its opposition to the war once the U.S. entered it. The Socialist Party of America took an official stance against US involvement, but supported Wilson in most of his activities.

On June 15, 1917, Goldman and Berkman were arrested during a raid of their offices which yielded "a wagon load of anarchist records and propaganda" for the authorities. The pair were charged with conspiracy to "induce persons not to register" under the newly enacted Espionage Act and were held on US$25,000 each. Defending herself and Berkman during their trial, Goldman invoked the First Amendment, asking how the government could claim to fight for democracy abroad while suppressing free speech at home.

The jury found them guilty; and they were sentence to two years in prison, a $10,000 fine each, and the possibility of deportation after their release from prison. In prison she was assigned once again to work as a seamstress She met the socialist Kate Richards O'Hare, who had also been imprisoned under the Espionage Act. Although they differed on political strategy – O'Hare believed in voting to achieve state power – the two women came together to agitate for better conditions among prisoners. Goldman also met and became friends with Gabriella Segata Antolini, an anarchist and follower of Luigi Galleani. Antolini had been arrested transporting a satchel filled with dynamite on a Chicago-bound train. She had refused to cooperate with authorities, and was sent to prison for fourteen months. Working together to make life better for the other inmates, the three women became known as "The Trinity". Goldman was released on September 27, 1919.

J. Edgar Hoover, head of the U.S. Department of Justice's General Intelligence Division, were intent on using the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1918 to deport any non-citizens they could identify as advocates of anarchy or revolution. “Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman,” Hoover wrote while they were in prison, “are, beyond doubt, two of the most dangerous anarchists in this country and return to the community will result in undue harm.”

At her deportation hearing on October 27, Goldman refused to answer questions about her beliefs on the grounds that her American citizenship invalidated any attempt to deport her under the Anarchist Exclusion Act, which could be enforced only against non-citizens of the U.S. The Labor Department included Goldman and Berkman among 249 aliens it deported en masse, mostly people with only vague associations with radical groups who had been swept up in government raids in November. Buford, a ship the press nicknamed the "Soviet Ark," sailed from New York on December 21. Upon arrival in Finland, authorities there conducted the deportees to the Russian frontier under a flag of truce.

You sort of get the picture of Goldman’s career, and there are still more stories of her global adventures as an anarchist. Russia, Spain, Canada – wherever there was government, there was Goldman ready to do battle with it.

On Saturday, February 17, 1940, Goldman suffered a debilitating stroke. She became paralyzed on her right side, and although her hearing was unaffected, she could not speak. For three months she improved slightly. She suffered another stroke on May 8, however, and on May 14 she died in Toronto, Canada. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service allowed her body to be brought back to the United States. She was buried in German Waldheim Cemetery (now named Forest Home Cemetery) in Forest Park, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, among the graves of other labor and social activists including those executed after the Haymarket affair.

This woman – she just had an amazing talent for finding and causing trouble. It’s been a nuisance just to have to write about her. The blog is nine pages long; that’s how bad the ACLU is. Goldman did so many awful things, one just doesn’t know where to begin – or stop. But being sick of writing about her, I’ll leave it to my readers to research this High Priestess of Anarchy” on their own.

I hope this answers my friend's question (who was alarmed to find the answer is nine pages long).


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