From my copy of Emma Goldman's My
Disillusionment in Russia. New York Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923.
DEPORTATION TO RUSSIA
ON THE night of December 21, 1919, together with two hundred and forty-eight other
political prisoners, I was deported from America. Although it was generally known we were
to be deported, few really believed that the United States would so completely deny her
past as an asylum for political refugees, some of whom had lived and worked in America for
more than thirty years.
In my own case, the decision to eliminate me first became known when, in 1909, the
Federal authorities went out of their way to disfranchise the man whose name gave me
citizenship. That Washington waited till 1917 was due to the circumstance that the
psychologic moment for the finale was lacking. Perhaps I should have contested my case at
that time. With the then-prevalent public opinion, the Courts would probably not have
sustained the fraudulent proceedings which robbed me of citizenship. But it did not seem
credible then that America would stoop to the Tsaristic method of deportation.
Our anti-war agitation added fuel to the war hysteria of 1917, and thus furnished the
Federal authorities with the desired opportunity to complete the conspiracy begun against
me in Rochester, N. Y., 1909.
It was on December 5, 1919, while in Chicago lecturing, that I was telegraphically
apprised of the fact that the order for my deportation was final. The question of my
citizenship was then raised in court, but was of course decided adversely. I had intended
to take the case to a higher tribunal, but finally I decided to carry the matter no
further: Soviet Russia was luring me.
Ludicrously secretive were the authorities about our deportation. To the very last
moment we were kept in ignorance as to the time. Then, unexpectedly, in the wee small
hours of December 2Ist we were spirited away. The scene set for this performance was most
thrilling. It was six o'clock Sunday morning, December 21, 1919, when under heavy military
convoy we stepped aboard the Buford.
For twenty-eight days we were prisoners. Sentries at our cabin doors day and night,
sentries on deck during the hour we were daily permitted to breathe the fresh air. Our men
comrades were cooped up in dark, damp quarters, wretchedly fed, all of us in complete
ignorance of the direction we were to take. Yet our spirits were high-Russia, free, new
Russia was before US.
All my life Russia's heroic struggle for freedom was as a beacon to me. The
revolutionary zeal of her martyred men and women, which neither fortress nor katorga
could suppress, was my inspiration in the darkest hours. When the news of the February
Revolution flashed across the world, I longed to hasten to the land which had performed
the miracle and had freed her people from the age-old yoke of Tsarism. But America held
me. The thought of thirty years of struggle for my ideals, of my friends and associates,
made it impossible to tear myself away. I would go to Russia later, I thought.
Then came America's entry into the war and the need of remaining true to the American
people who were swept into the hurricane against their will. After all, I owed a great
debt, I owed my growth and development to what was finest and best in America, to her
fighters for liberty, to the sons and daughters of the revolution to come. I would be true
to them. But the frenzied militarists soon terminated my work.
At last I was bound for Russia and all else was almost blotted out. I would behold with
mine own eyes matushka Rossiya, the land freed from political and economic
masters; the Russian dubinushka, as the peasant was called, raised from the dust;
the Russian worker, the modern Samson, who with a sweep of his mighty arm had pulled down
the pillars of decaying society. The twenty-eight days on our floating prison passed in a
sort of trance. I was hardly conscious of my surroundings.
Finally we reached Finland, across which we were forced to journey in sealed cars. On
the Russian border we were met by a committee of the Soviet Government, headed by Zorin.
They had come to greet the first political refugees driven from America for opinion's
It was a cold day, with the earth a sheet of white, but spring was in our hearts. Soon
we were to behold revolutionary Russia. I preferred to be alone when I touched the sacred
soil: my exaltation was too great, and I feared I might not be able to control my emotion.
When I reached Beloostrov the first enthusiastic reception tendered the refugees was over,
but the place was still surcharged with intensity of feeling. I could sense the awe and
humility of our group who, treated like felons in the United States, were here received as
dear brothers and comrades and welcomed by the Red soldiers, the liberators of Russia.
From Beloostrov we were driven to the village where another reception had been
prepared: A dark hall filled to suffocation, the platform lit up by tallow candles, a huge
red flag, on the stage a group of women in black nuns' attire. I stood as in a dream in
the breathless silence. Suddenly a voice rang out. It beat like metal on my ears and
seemed uninspired, but it spoke of the great suffering of the Russian people and of the
enemies of the Revolution. Others addressed the audience, but I was held by the women in
black, their faces ghastly in the yellow light. Were these really nuns? Had the Revolution
penetrated even the walls of superstition? Had the Red Dawn broken into the narrow lives
of these ascetics? It all seemed strange, fascinating.
Somehow I found myself on the platform. I could only blurt out that like my comrades I
had not come to Russia to teach: I had come to learn, to draw sustenance and hope from
her, to lay down my life on the altar of the Revolution.
After the meeting we were escorted to the waiting Petrograd train, the women in the
black hood intoning the "Internationale," the whole audience joining in. I was
in the car with our host, Zorin, who had lived in America and spoke English fluently. He
talked enthusiastically about the Soviet Government and its marvellous achievements. His
conversation was illuminative, but one phrase struck me as discordant. Speaking of the
political organization of his Party, he remarked: "Tammany Hall has nothing on us,
and as to Boss Murphy, we could teach him a thing or two." I thought the man was
jesting. What relation could there be between Tammany Hall, Boss Murphy, and the Soviet
I inquired about our comrades who had hastened from America at the first news of the
Revolution. Many of them had died at the front, Zorin informed me, others were working
with the Soviet Government. And Shatov? William Shatov, a brilliant speaker and able
organizer, was a well-known figure in America, frequently associated with us in our work.
We had sent him a telegram from Finland and were much surprised at his failure to reply.
Why did not Shatov come to meet us? "Shatov had to leave for Siberia, where he is to
take the post of Minister of Railways," said Zorin.
In Petrograd our group again received an ovation. Then the deportees were taken to the
famous Tauride Palace, where they were to be fed and housed for the night. Zorin asked
Alexander Berkman and myself to accept his hospitality. We entered the waiting automobile.
The city was dark and deserted; not a living soul to be seen anywhere. We had not gone
very far when the car was suddenly halted, and an electric light flashed into our eyes. It
was the militia, demanding the password. Petrograd had recently fought back the Yudenitch
attack and was still under martial law. The process was repeated frequently along the
route. Shortly before we reached our destination we passed a well-lighted building
"It is our station house," Zorin explained, "but we have few prisoners
there now. Capital punishment is abolished and we have recently proclaimed a general
Presently the automobile came to a halt. "The First House of the Soviets,"
said Zorin, "the living place of the most active members of our Party." Zorin
and his wife occupied two rooms, simply but comfortably furnished. Tea and refreshments
were served, and our hosts entertained us with the absorbing story of the marvellous
defence the Petrograd workers had organized against the Yudenitch forces. How heroically
the men and women, even the children, had rushed to the defence of the Red City! What
wonderful self-discipline and cooperation the proletariat demonstrated. The evening passed
in these reminiscences, and I was about to retire to the room secured for me when a young
woman arrived who introduced herself as the sister-in-law of "Bill" Shatov. She
greeted us warmly and asked us to come up to see her sister who lived on the floor above.
When we reached their apartment I found myself embraced by big jovial Bill himself. How
strange of Zorin to tell me that Shatov had left for Siberia! What did it mean? Shatov
explained that he had been ordered not to meet us at the border, to prevent his giving us
our first impressions of Soviet Russia. He had fallen into disfavour with the Government
and was being sent to Siberia into virtual exile. His trip had been delayed and therefore
we still happened to find him.
We spent much time with Shatov before he left Petrograd. For whole days I listened to
his story of the Revolution, with its light and shadows, and the developing tendency of
the Bolsheviki toward the right. Shatov, however, insisted that it was necessary for all
the revolutionary elements to work with the Bolsheviki Government. Of course, the
Communists had made many mistakes, but what they did was inevitable, imposed upon them by
Allied interference and the blockade.
A few days after our arrival Zorin asked Alexander Berkman and myself to accompany him
to Smolny. Smolny, the erstwhile boarding school for the daughters of the aristocracy, had
been the centre of revolutionary events. Almost every stone had played its part. Now it
was the seat of the Petrograd Government. I found the place heavily guarded and giving the
impression of a beehive of officials and government employees. The Department of the Third
International was particularly interesting' It was the domain of Zinoviev. I was much
impressed by the magnitude of it all.
After showing us about, Zorin invited us to the Smolny dining room. The meal consisted
of good soup, meat and potatoes, bread and tea. Rather a good meal in starving Russia, I
Our group of deportees was quartered in Smoiny. I was anxious about my travelling
companions, the two girls who had shared my cabin on the Buford. I wished to take
them back with me to the First House of the Soviet. Zorin sent for them. They arrived
greatly excited and told us that the whole group of deportees had been placed under
military guard. The news was startling. The people who had been driven out of America for
their political opinions, now in Revolutionary Russia again prisoners-three days after
their arrival. What had happened?
We turned to Zorin. He seemed embarrassed. "Some mistake," he said, and
immediately began to make inquiries. It developed that four ordinary criminals had been
found among the politicals deported by the United States Government, and therefore a guard
was placed over the whole group. The proceeding seemed to me unjust and uncalled for. It
was my first lesson in Bolshevik methods.
Go to Chapter II.
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