1307 Putnam Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Berkman and His Book
LEXANDER BERKMAN has published a book! The capitalist press has words of praise for it. The anarchist press, above all Mother Earth, in a spirit of solidarity, will, to a man, acclaim the author a genius. The socialist press, more familiar with the historical facts than the writers of the capitalist sheets, but, like they, gratified by the knocks John Most is receiving, will generously abstain from any severe criticism.
The book is not a novel, though it contains a lot of fiction. Those who have deemed Berkman devoid of imagination will learn that he has an almost Oriental facility for mental fabrication. "Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist" do not reflect upon life in prison so much as they concern themselves with the emotional ecstasies of an unappreciated hero.
That's the word. The book is plainly written to show what kind of hero he was, and that those who follow him do right in setting up the hero-worshipping cult.
But if Berkman intended to disprove with this book the contention of his friends, that he was a hero, he could not have succeeded better. And if he intended to disprove the allegation of those who take him for a charlatan, he should have published at most one-third of the book. For the rest is parasitical growth, robbing the readers of time and money. Page after page abound in puerile self-adulation, in adroit prevarications, in confusion of terms, all presumably calculated to overawe an unknowing public, to obscure the minds of readers ignorant of what actually had passed through the filters of time. The distortions of truth may look innocent and magnificent in themselves, but a thorough comprehension of it is gained as soon as the character of the writer is revealed and brought to bear upon them through the perusal of the book itself.
So many words and pages are wasted on explanations of his revolutionary sentiments, that one is almost on the point of suspecting him of insincerity. He wellnigh goes on his knees to assure of his sincerity, but while one approached the book with mixed feelings of pity and forbearing, his treating his personality with so much bombast and bluster and surrounding it with so much self-adulation and prevarication, alienates the affections of the understanding reader, creating a disgust that soon fills one with nausea. One, then, becomes convinced that the excuse given of being "revolutionist first, then human," uncovers the mask of a vindictive nature that is "fanatic first, then conceited." Indeed, the pages loathing the "vituperative eloquence" of John Most, present a cowardly appeal to bourgeois prejudice, releasing an intensity of hatred neither anarchistic in spirit nor truthful in tale, but significant of a shrewd attempt to justify the bourgeois patron who predicts the approach of the "respectability" of anarchism.
Though so much is alluded to "the vision of anarchism," no vision of anarchism is shown. Hands outstretched to the heavens no longer satisfy the working class that want to see what is beyond the points of fingers and wants to know what these heavens hold. If it was beyond the powers of Berkman to make himself clear on this theoretical question that he never, in Mother Earth, approached beyond a mere bark, he should have limited himself properly to the practical points of the prison problem. Seemingly, the proletariat was not considered at all in the issuance of the book, since a prohibitive price was fixed that a priori excluded it from the ranks of its readers.
For the benefit of this great mass of the people this review is written by one who, although many years a collaborator of John Most, wrote and published in the Freiheit a welcome at the release of Berkman and was anxious to stand aside and wait what would become of the heritage of Most assumed by Mother Earth. Six years of undisputed possession have evolved so corrupt a condition of affairs that, though a lone individual, I feel the need of voicing a spirit of resentment that is manifest throughout the United States, suppressed only by fear of the unscupulous persecution by Mother Earth's allies, on one hand, and a natural disinclination to cause public strife in the anarchist ranks, on the other.
Limited to a few pages as we are, we cannot, as we had wished to, go from page to page of the phrased jumbles and worded jingles, but are confined to the mustering of the ground upon which the "Memoirs" are raising the pedestal to the Girl and her Tool.
NDER the inspiration of the girl, B. is prompted to go on his mission of propaganda by deed. He is a "revolutionist" that scorns the idea of preparation. He acts spontaneously. He is a very young man and, of course, impatient of results. I could no longer re- main indifferent. The vision of anarchism alone could imbue discontent with conscious revolutionary purpose."
Alas, here is the great difference between the toot and fanatic, and the purpose and the revolutionist. Did B. forget that he scorns conscious purpose which implies systematic investigation and preparedness in a revolutionist, when he wrote that little sentence? But he was true to himself in stating that he set out with little foresight and discernment. And so his remarks about "conscious revolutionary purpose" condemns unwittingly the pistol shots.
The years 1886 and 1887 had seen general activity of propaganda; the purpose of anarchism, the vision of anarchism had been brought out before the public in lectures, pamphlets, papers of all sorts; the discussionof anarchism was on every lip of organized and unorganized labor. The tragedy of 1887 could not be averted. Recovered from the appalling blow, those whose staunch support had failed to rescue the martyrs, understood the task before them. Organization, agitation became the watchwords of the day. The International Workmen's Association, whose purpose it was to propagate the idea of a free commonwealth, saw to it that there was no energy lacking in making the voice of the people heard. Then came the Pittsburgh strike. With their bourgeois spirit the strikers hated the Carnegies and Fricks with the hatred of a cramped patriotism, that saw the integrity of the state offended by the importation of Pinkertons, and as such had repulsed with great telling the offense against their autonomy. But though cursing the murderers in the effigy of Frick and Carnegie, they had no great regard for foreigners, and any untoward act coming from a foreigner was from the inception doomed to contempt.
Now, Berkman could not "remain indifferent." And nobody did. But although he supplies us with malinformation, it is a historical fact that the International existed and that, if anybody actually thirsted for an opportunity to "imbue discontent with conscious revolutionary purposes," he should have availed himself of the nucleus on hand, to propagate or help to propagate the ideas contained in the principles laid down in the platform, instead of throwing all reason to the winds, causing dissension and suspicion in the ranks of the striker-, and helping a threatened disruption in the ranks of the anarchists.
B. could not figure on the aid of Most in claiming his deed as part of propaganda, and he fails to describe the campaign of calumnies in which, among others, he and the Girl were participating, and which caused Most to revise his opinion of both and to utterly detest them. How could M. champion his act when, first, he regarded it as only a piece of bravado that never intended to go beyond an attempted threat on the life of Frick, and, secondly, knowing the condition of the country and the attitude of its people, the conviction had taken firm root in him that organization and agitation were the needed foundation of propaganda ere any other form could be successful. Fully aware of the fact that he made himself the target of his enemies in his own camp and the world without if he did not countenance B.'s act, he rather was determined to forego popular favor and bourgeois respect than to win it by bowing to clamor. It was the courageous stand of a man walking steadily his ways of purpose, midway between the hero and the charlatan, casting a glance of contempt on either side.
Let us calmly review a piece of history as laid down in both the Anarchist, in whom Emma Goldman and Berkman were interested, and the Freiheit, the mouthpiece of John Most.
July 16 there appeared in the Anarchist a correspondence on Homestead, by M. M., which was favorably commented on by the editor of the paper. The passage bearing on our argument reads thus:
"Here, without any further comment, I want to relate the experience of three comrades in Homestead, who arrived there to distribute leaflets in the English language. They were caught at it, abused from all sides, arrested and held for some time and then sent to Pittsburgh with a late train. 'If we had been kept there over night,' remarked one of them, 'for a special trial the next morning, we would certainly have been lynched. That is altogether too ignorant a mob.' "
Commenting on that, the Anarchist says: "Here it is mainly necessary to find the right means and ways to convince the American workmen of the injustice and perniciousness of the present society. Therein lies the specific gravity of our propaganda."
But on July 23 it concludes an article uproariously: "Long live the propaganda by deed! "Long live dynamite! "Long live Anarchy!" Those three anarchists referred to in the correspondence had been doing untiring constructive work around Pittsburgh and were in constant communication with John Most. To illustrate their efforts and methods in regard to the propaganda, we give a number of dates previous to Berkman's attack of convulsive shoutshotitis.
May 9, Bauer reports a discussion meeting arranged by group Southside.
May 15, Rousing meeting in Phillippsburg, Pa., under the auspices of the Maennerverein (Kupferberg on Culture and Progress).
May 15, Group 1, Allegheny in Franken Hall, Allegheny.
May 21, In Mansfield.
May 22, Group Southside in Druiden (Social Question).
May 29, Lawrenceville, Pittsburg (Most's lecture tour; report of press committee; the establishing of a daily workmen's paper in New York).
Most is to tour the district from June 12-26.
This will suffice to show the earnest endeavor of the "Mostianer" to lift the veil from the "vision of anarchism" for the people to see, or form the eyes of the masses to behold the "vision of anarchism."
But to understand Most's development we extract a part from an article in the Freiheit (June 4), entitled "Self Criticism," to wit:
"In regard to individual deeds we had fallen, to great extent, into entirely dubious paths. Instead of holding to the opinion - as precisely accentuated in the original teaching of action-propaganda - that the leading feature thereof lay not in the deed itself but in the propaganda connected with it, so that every act should be left out of consideration, that would be received by the people withdisgust and exploited against the anarchists, while on the contrary, actions should be chosen that would meet the people's comprehension and would enhance effective agitation, some have taken it upon themselves to engage in individual acts for their own personal gain, and called such acting 'anarchistic,' though it coincided with the ways of so-called 'common criminals.'
"We must not drag out a falsely conceived solidarity so far as has been done heretofore by some organs in that regard, to the detriment of the anarchistic movement."
That was written about six weeks before the "attentat."
But months before the article on "Self-criticism,' Most, commenting on a pamphlet written on the same subject by Merlino, whose views were ridiculed in the Anarchist, wrote in the same vein. A sentence from that pamphlet will be of interest when it is remembered that albeit his previous utterances on individual action, when Merlino was given a position on the Solidarity, he turned tooth and nail against his own words and John Most:
"Indeed, there where that form of individual action dominated, the anarchists found themselves isolated from the masses, unable to attempt the smallest movement, and into their ranks crowded persons that belonged rather among the bourgeoisie and the adventurers."
Most remained steadfast in his principled attitude.
Hungry after recruits for their tottering parties and ,affiliations, thirsting for a chance of corrupting publicity and aggrandizement, from all sides the wolves of calumny, jealous for prey and long since ready for an opportunity, set up a howl of "Coward! Scoundrel!"
In the use of juicy epithets all were excelled by Emma Goldman. Her harangue in the Anarchist is so filthy that charity with a conscience-striken soul that knew the extent of her influence over the Tool, refuses to reprint it. But that gave her the opportunity to satisfy the lure of the footlights. Growing more callous with the growth of her opportunities there soon was no limit to her unscrupulous designs. The capitalist press was adorned with her presence in the sanctum of the editor, pamphlets against Most were sent by her to the allies in the country. But not content with wrecking the movement from which the comrades were disappearing, disgusted and despairing, a more spectacular feed for the press had to be served to win for her the title of "Priestess of Anarchism." In emulation of the "fine dame," she procured a horsewhip and at a lecture given by John Most, attacked him, to the delight of that press. That the act was premeditated and meant for the great public lies in the fact that already the next morning some of the Chicago papers printed the news.
And yet this same Emma Goldman, who more than anybody on earth hunted the footsteps of John Most, had the affront to speak at the memorial festivities on his death, and she, who had shouted of his cowardice, impotency, scoundrelism, venality, had the impudence of facing an audience conscious of the facts, to praise to the skies his honesty, uprightness, his life devoted to principle and death in utter poverty. Alas! thou noble and forsaken soul whose heart throbbed with the strongest accords of sympathy and whose body gave thee neither joy nor rest, oh, thou lone and torn soul that wandered over two continents hungry for love and found it not and wandered from town to town to meet an arm to lean his form on and saw it not-many a bitter tear has fallen on thy bier and many a mournful pang was paid to thy memory, but no words of reproach from friends nor babble of hypocrisy from detractors can ever efface that campaign of slander reaching breast deep in the morass of lies and reeking from both hands with the fifth of malice.
A spectacle where clamor for public favor so much prostituted itself, as was beheld at the memorial service for John Most when Emma Goldman delivered her eulogy, was never before witnessed by the radical element of any period.
But let us return to the days following upon the act of Berkman. He accuses Most of cowardice. However preposterous and groundless suspicions and slanders may be, if they are directed against a hated person there is no argument strong enough to convince the malicious of their wrong view. The authorities that direct their at[t]ention to the persecution of ideas, and the press that is on the look-out to hunt 11 objectionable" persons, turned their eyes, not to the paper that had volunteered its services for Berkman and proclaimed the salvation of the propaganda by deed and dynamite, but against the person and the paper whom they wanted out of their way.
The Freiheit on July 30, spoke plainly its opinion about Berkman and Frick, and at once took a stand of deliberate fortitude toward the dissenting comrades and public opinion. "Frick," said Most, "is the personification of capitalism in its dirtiest form, with the least amount of argument and the greatest of avarice . . . Well, this brute was wounded and cut by a young man, the Anarchist Berkman-so little that presumably in a few days the beast will be able to move his cadaver about again."
But the crime of Most consisted in not championing the cause of Berkman. The cause of the people appeared to Most hurt by the cause of Berkman. "We had been so intimate!" Berkman exclaims. For over a year previous to the act he had shown himself so inimical to the Freffieft that when he came to Pittsburgh he was suspected of arriving for the sole purpose of raking against that paper. He had acted for some time as though slandering Most were his sole object.
The extent of the propaganda created by the Anarchist in consequence of that act-that, by the way, had torn the Pittsburgh agitators from their tasks without leaving others to fill their place-can be gleaned from the fact that the Anarchist, barely two years after, June 23, 1894, had to announce that, notwithstanding its numerous invitations to comrades to give their views of ways and means for propagating the cause, not one answer was received and that there seemed to be no sentiment for the proposed conference.
In conclusion, to gain an understanding of the ferocious activity of the pernicious propagandists, an article by John Most (Freiheit, September 10, 1892) is here appended, attesting to his sincerity of purpose and readiness for argument.
"I always thought, at least, to have a right to expect from my readers that they peruse with a certain understanding the outpourings of my pen, that they, determined to attach their measure of criticism to the matter thus read, would criticize me as I must appear to them as finished product, not as an unknown fellow from nowhere, who is caught, at every second or third step, in some wrong box or on some wrong way. But I was brought to realize recently that in this respect I was carried by inflated illusions. I have to observe with pain that scoundrels and cranks, although recognized as such by many of my, up to this time friendly, readers, suddenly were converted in men of probity and wisdom because they grinned after the, fashion, and that my other well-wishers attacked me as if I were their stepmother, with all the bad attributes of such a creature, because for good reasons I could not perform the usual round dance in a party circus. The custom-demagogue, not to speak of anything worse, became the real Simon Pure, even among those whom I should have trusted with more tact, taste and judgment; I was degraded to the rogue because - anarchistic ultra-heresy! - I have dared to pronounce on a certain case the result of independent thinking not patented on party lines and patterns-with the best intentions and without falsehood, and because I dared to connect with it arguments that are the fruit of mature calculation.
"Fortunately there are but few who thus have jumped with both filthy shoes into my face and have in such a manner wounded my heart that in the first moments I had to say to myself, Enough, rather shine shoes in the streets than suffer again such indignities. But most readers have turned out to be for what I always took them, as brotherly men who even then when I do not curry favor with them, do not spring up to throw like savages their dagger into my back. Yes, I had the satisfaction to notice that many who usually sat quietly and lonely in some comer and never said what they thought of my opinions, in this dire time of trial pressed my -hand from afar and evidenced their comprehension of my courage to speak out what many have long since thought but for fear to become unpopular never dared to say. That gives me the courage not to despair of mankind - in spite of all.
"At the same time, I feel the need to examine myself on general principles. I invite the readers to follow. Rational people will know what to think of my answers, I don't care a straw about the opinions of fanatics, phantasts, intrigants and demagogues.
"What is your idea of God, religion, immortality, heaven, hell and clergy? Do you believe in it? No.
"Do you intend to work as heretofore with all your might for the death of celestial pestilence and priestly domination? Yes.
"Do you believe that the present system of capitalistic enslavement of all who are poor in favor of the rich is reasonable? No.
"Do you want to promote the forces of destruction of such a paragon of monstrous iniquity with all means that are suitable for the purpose? Yes.
"Do you see in the State with all its representations and institutions a higher being that only needs reforming to help everybody to his own? No.
"Is it, therefore, your will to work uninterruptedly toward the downfall of the State, in whatever name it may appear? Yes.
"Are you a reformer who wants to change by ballotbox and means of moral weight the State and Society? No.
"Do you opine that the nations have to rise with weapons in hand to gain liberty? Yes.
"Do you mean to say that a revolution can be made in a day? No.
"Do you opine that it is possible by revolutionary propaganda to promote the development of things that at all events must culminate in the defeat of modem society? Yes.
"Is there a pattern according to which in all countries at the same time and in the same manner labor to this effect can be done? No.
"But is not a proportionate agitation by way of mouth and letter the first and therefore all over practicable prerequisite in the revolutionary battle? Yes.
"Do you renounce the propaganda by deed per se? No.
"Do you believe that it will be the more successful the more the mind of the people is prepared for it by oral and written word, and the quicker and harder one blow follows the other? Yes.
"is it your opinion that the propaganda by deed is practicable even in countries where the revolutionary movement is yet in its infancy and where the powers that be can return with ease such blows by destroying or paralyzing all revolutionary combatants? No.
"But did you not often before incite in this respect indiscriminately? Yes.
"Have you become more timid, peaceful, sparing? No.
"Have the observations, gained in the lapse of time and teaching better calculation, brought you to discriminate between the countries? Yes.
"Then it is not your opinion that, in America for instance, the propaganda by deed must be given up forever? No.
"Perhaps you are convinced that just in this country, if once the time had come, which means, if the indispensable prerequisites for it are given, the propaganda by deed will prove more effective than elsewhere? Yes.
"Do you aspire for the future after a state of affairs as depicted by Bellamy, Tucker or Groenlund? No.
"Are you one of those communists who desire that in a future society everybody produce according to his ability and inclination and have the right therefor to consume according to his needs? Yes.
"Are you of the opinion that such conditions could only exist if some well organized though but periodically elected authoritative hierarchy is watching over it? No.
"So your standpoint is anarchistic, according to which it is thought that expediency, necessity, brotherhood and mutual sentiments of justice and fairness are the natural laws that adjust everything by themselves and harmonize all? Yes.
"You have, then, not swerved, either theoretically or tactically, from those roads that up to this time are known as the most radical? No.
"You argue, on the contrary, that you have further developed? Yes.
"Now, then, I examined myself before my own forum - about the only forum I recognize. If everyone would once in a while do the same, he'd know from time to time how he stands, but unfortunately and apparently this is not the case with many, or there would not exist so much misunderstanding and confusion. I am satisfied with the result of my examination. This, my self consciousness, indemnifies me for much that I have recently had to submit to and much that may follow.
"The position I have held heretofore in the movement - I offer it now to anybody who wants to relieve me. I'll never envy it anybody, for I know what it means. Any successor will be sure of voluntary help. If I remain on my post until suitable relief comes it is not ambition that moves me to it, for that could actually not be satisfied in this way. It is simply my sense of responsibility toward the anarchist cause. I have no personal pleasure in it. Rather I could say I am sick of being the scapegoat for everybody.
One cannot mistake his conciliatory spirit. When he still persists in his attitude of defiance, the reason for it must be found in his conviction, and not in malice.
But there is a lesson we derive from the systematic persecution of Most, that should not be overlooked, and that is the fall of truth before the onslaught of falsehood. Those who rely so much on the justice of a cause that they think it will conquer by the strength of its value, are fooled by dishonesty that, placing itself behind the armored batteries of hypocrisy and intrigue, sing the praises of truth while battling against it. They win because they don't fight in the open, and are despots when you least expect any. The success of quackery follows upon the failure of vigilance.
The less the schemeres know the wiser they look. The less they think the more they talk.
Suavity or Swaggering?
OOKS are written to entertain, to instruct, to elevate the mind, but the Autobiography of Berkman is evidently brought out to sell. To relieve the lack of a genuine ring in the narration of events, occasioned by the pon- derosity of an overwheening self-esteem and the neur- asthenia of lachrymose appeals, the author introduces for the benefit of disordered sexual appetites an abund- ant series of tickling sensations. While, in the main, his play with words and sentiments reminds one of the savage who is attracted by the shining toys without knowing their value, he grows eloquent to the degree of a revivalist at a prayer-meeting, as though he were in the business to make converts, as soon as he ap- proaches the subject of sexual perversity. In fact, the merit of the whole book lies in the excellent use of slang where he appears natural and where he rings true, and in his feverish declamation of sensual episodes, normal or perverse. He should have stuck to that alone. But, "l have always hoped from the American . . ." "I had always taken the extreme view. The more rad?cal the treatment, I held, the quicker the cure," etc., etc., have a ridiculous self-praise in them that in a youth who has only reflected in his words the views of other minds, are absurd. And such utterances as "The People, the toilers of the world, the producers," "The beloved People," "The People's cause," "The People alone count. The rest are parasites"-don't they sound from the mouth of Berkman in the same tune as from the electioneering tricksters of politics?
Why does he drag into his story these notions that must repel any honest reader? Why flaunt into the face -of the public this abominable sight of professional anarchism? Was Berkman intent upon condemning himself? For that he is altogether too conceited. Did he care to hurt the influence of anarchists? The idea is absurd, for withal he is an anarchist. And yet, he does both, he condemns himself and hurts the movement to which he professes to adhere.
Professional anarchists are nothing else in the eyes of the working class but parasitic existencies deriving their nourishment by sapping the life-blood of others without adding a mite to the existence and growth of things and men. The working people, conscious of their struggle, understand ?t well that every art of cunning is used by politicians of al] sorts to bore themselves into their confidence in order to play that detestable role thereafter that these professional men pretended to denounce. Professional anarchism, to establish a more or less comfortable income, must conspire against the suspicion below and must buckle to the prejudice above. Exactly what has been done. Firmly established, denouncing every opposition to them as an opposition to propaganda, they become the persecutors of ideas, under the cover of revolutionists. just what has happened. Is it any wonder, then, when the "Syndicalist League" coming as *t does from the office of Mother Earth, is guarded by the revolutionary element of the working people with suspicion lest it develop into a formidable camp to war on whatever progress-and be it ever so littie-has been achieved by the constructive work of toilers? The "Syndicalist's League's" assertion of being in the field for the mere educational interest is not taken for granted. On the contrary, ?t is regarded as a snubbish assumption that the revolutionary working class is not able to reach its salvation without the guidance of parasites who even have not the gumption to sign their names to the appeal but have seen to ?t that the signatures don't bear the repulsive record of notoriety.
Such acts of duplicity hurt: every cause.
"My anarchist ideals and traditions rise in revolt against the vampires gloating over its prey." The trouble with Berkman is that he rises too much instead of facing steadfast the object in view. Had he only stood still a inoment and measured his thoughts he should have expressed himself clearer. "Anarchist ideal" is the spirit of laissez faire. But this is a fair sample of his confused mind as it runs through the whole book, beginning with his brother Maxim, named after an uncle who is among the living, although it's well known to be against the Jewish, religious custom to which, nillywilly, Jews in Russia are forced. Yet it's too good a story, however incredible, to leave out. For that living uncle, after whom the brother is named, is a "nihilist," and this tradition fits excellently into the book. Somehow somebody gets a gas pipe to hit somebody else, and, mind you, that happened before the little town in Russia had any gas supply. Little Alexander is a born rebel. The first one who finds that out is his mother, whom he strikes violently for her mistreatment of a servant girl. That is to show what a tender-hearted boy "Golubtchik" (dove) was. They are overawed by the "unwonted presence" in their house of a rich uncle. Good, honest, poor working people or bearably comfortable middle class folks, you think? Oh, no, we live in a "well appointed" house, "we have servants and nurses," why, we can afford to rest, like the dying mother, in so 11 well appointed" a room that little Sashenka picks up a salt-container and hurls it at the "French mirror." Mother dead-it appears the uncle helped to support the family and withdrew his help at her expiration-the brave lad of 15 or 16 is seized with the desire for greater freedom, and goes to America. He had, ostensibly, not yet reached the fifth class of the gymnasium (corresponding to the quarta of the German school), for, if there, he would have learned enough about the institutions of the United States to know that only compulsion drives members of the educated classes to seek a refuge in America. Well, he arrives here, and the first thing he does after acquainting himself with the new conditions, he organizes the first Jewish Anarchist Group then in existence, that alas! denies him when he gets into trouble with his act later on; he goes about to vindicate Peukert; is about to scatter the remnants of the "Mostianer" and-but this is too quick a pace for us ordinary folks, and we'd better go over his tracks a little slower ere we land in the Western Penitentiary.
These remarks about "savings an' noises" to which we are used from the lips of semi-illiterate immigrants with a stifled intelligence, who are born upon and for the market, move our heads to shake incredulously and impatiently if coming from a self-confessed member of a cultured family. Behind this ostentatious display of vulgarity - how it is possible to imagine a soul inspired by nobility of purpose and gentleness of impulse? Sounds, sounds, and no soul in them. What monkeys these immortals be!
But he has aristocratic tastes. He goes to see and bear Sarah Bernhard, and, naturally, scorns the action of the spendthrift Tikhon, his friend, who forgets the cause so far as to take, after a long fast, a meal that cost twenty cents. As a true revolutionist, he should have saved the money for the cause. As to Berkmanwell, that's another story. "You are either a knave or a hero," says Tikhon. Of course, Berkman is a hero. Doesn't he say so himself? "They shall learn what a true revolutionist is capable of accomplishing." Some are still waiting to learn, some may have learned when he did the act.
Why does Berkman use the German word "Attentat"? He tells us that political assassination and revolutionary tactics are foreign to the German "phlegmatic" temperament. Why this circumscription? Roundabout ways don't add to the reputation of a revolutionist who acts spontaneously, without preparation and circumspection. Or is it a sign of a little confusion into which Pittsburgh throws him? That same Pittsburgh where iron is made from steel? "Cold as steel, hard as iron, its product."
The great moment of the trial arrives when he is to start the flight of the vision of anarchism with a message to the people. But be does not understand enough English to express himself; for in all these years the phlegmatic Germans had just had time enough to acquaint him with their own language. He is forced to trust his speech to an interpreter who mutilates it alarmingly. But he progresses wonderfully. Four weeks later or thereabouts he sends a letter to "Sonya" in faultless English. That letter is reproduced in the book and the incredulous who may hint at "sub rosa" manipulations are sent home by the facsimile.
In prison, the "savings an' noises" spirit is revived with his bumptuous babble-maniac bluster: "I have studied the classics." Nothing short of a bible containing Greek and Latin anondations can satisfy a scholar who has gone through the rudiments of Latin and Greek.
But, "the ingenuity of imprisoned intellect treads devious paths, all leading to the highways of enlarged liberty and privilege," we are told. No, M. Berkman, you are very unfortunate in poetical allusions. The only imprisoned intellect is an arrested intelligence, and that is usually termed insanity of mind. It is very doubtful whether the enlarged liberty thus gained will lead to any other privileges than the madhouse. I was very favorably impressed to notice that with page 4, "forever" ceased, and thanked the unknown somebody who cut it out. That habitual "forever" in the observations of Mother Earth, got on my nerves. It seemed to have become your second name much like "after all" with Miss Goldman. "Forever" Berkman, "After all" Goldman-does that sound well? Why wasn't a little more censured ?
No, cut it out. The swaggering and quackery of your ways help neither the cause nor your prestige. A cause is never lost unless it's given up. But you can give it up in many ways. You may ridicule it with bluster, you may throttle it with domination, you may poison it with quackery.
It was a painful task to get to work and say these harsh things. But let it not be said that among anarchists the aggrieved rank and file have no means of airing their grievances. Even if they are dead, justice should be done. If battle you must, fight with the living and not the dead. With a monopoly on the press, which you are enjoying, you will be accused as tyrannical and cowardly if you continue your tactics to "fight" for the mere pleasure of revenge.
"Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist" suggest themselves a condition of mind in the two young persons, whose names are coupled together, that is given below.
The Girl and the Tool
N the front room of the three-room apartment scantily furnished, the sewing machine was going at a rapid pace. The young, pale, and haggard looking girt at work seldom looked up to glance at the gloomy tenement-row, or at The Girl who, seemingly, was busily engaged with the few books on the mantelpiece.
The pale girl at the sewing machine stealthily dried a tear that had run down her cheek. She and her sister who was employed in a corset factory, were working so hard, and the harder they worked the farther they seemed to be from the realization of their ideal. Will The Girl ever make true her promise to return with them to Russia?
Presently the latter approached the seamstress and spoke in a tone of command and admonition:
"I mean what I say. These sentimental imaginings must cease, once and for ever. Aron is a poor devil, and you should know better than to turn his head with your lovy-dovy nonsense."
"I turn nobody's head," answered the seamstress irritated. "How can I help it if he follows me at every step ?"
The Girl, irate and impatient, stamped the bare floor with her foot.
"You encourage him, I say," she fairly yelled at the martyred worker. "You all are silly and you forget the task before us. But more than that. You want to destroy my career, you want to ruin me. You ought to know your place. You are only soldiers that can be replaced. But I am the one who is able to propagate our ideas. And the young man is also hindered in his career if such inexperienced girls like you and your sister take sexual relations seriously."
The seamstress dropped her work and looked piteously at the scornful agitator.
"Leave me in peace!" she begged with a suppressed sob. "Or - or - I'll go!"
A sudden change took place in The Girl's demeanor after the weak worker had made her threat. Her indignant attitude gave way to a tender smile on her hard features as she embraced the seamstress and, sitting down by her, tried to calm her.
"Don't be hurt so quickly, Lyubushka! You know we must prepare ourselves to go to Russia. Forget the incident."
The tired eyes of the seamstress brightened up.
"Oh, Russia!" she sighed.
She was no student of human nature. Or she could have recognized the artificial tone in The Girl's voice, and had not trusted her assertion. She would have heard the mockery that played with her yearning.
The door was opened and, unannounced, the sister in company with The Tool entered.
The seamstress left the chair and went into the bedroom, where the sister was about to change her shoes for a pair of slippers.
The Girl threw herself upon a bed in the front room, resting her legs upon the railing, so that the seductive position showed the soft white skin over a rolled down stocking. The Tool sat down alongside of her.
But in the bedroom, the sister, the younger of the two, but the more energetic, mustered the pale seamstress with knowing eyes. Something has happened again, she was sure of it.
"The geese!" The Girl whispered to The Tool.
The seamstress and the sister came out from the bedroom ready to leave the house.
The Girl jumped from the bed, bright as a ray.
"My smart, brave girls!" she exclaimed, kissing the sister on the cheek. "Taking your tired, poor sister for a walk?"
No sooner was the door closed behind the departing sisters than The Girl in a volley of words upbraided The Tool for his attention to the sister.
"What a miserable weakling you are! And you call yourself a revolutionist! Revolutionist. It is a desecration of the word to connect it with you. You and a revolutionist. Why, can you couple a lion and a rabbit? Still, I thought much of you; thought that by combining our efforts I and you would become the leading spirits of our movement. But I may as well bury my hopes."
The Tool raised his fallow face.
"No, dear, you need not bury your hopes. What has happened? Believe me, I just met her on the street as she returned from work and did not think of anything as intimate as you seem to suggest when I came home with her. You have no cause for jealousy."
The Girl threw herself on the bed again and retorted with a forced laugh, "Jealousy! Oh, you clown, I am a free woman and don't know such weakness. But jackasses like you I must protect from harm. Because I am stronger and more intelligent I have to see that you are not hampered in your development."
"I'll always appreciate it," the young man interrupted her.
"It would be the reward that all martyrs of progress receive if you'd forget, like an ingrate and an imbecile, what I aspire to for your sake. But don't you see yourself," she continued in a calmed and yielding tone, "that we can't go on in this manner any longer. Something must be done, something must be done that would elevate our position, that would draw the attention to us, that, in a word, would give us a leading role. Most is overshadowing everybody. Something must happen that gives his enemies all over the country a chance to pounce upon him. Something must happen that puts us in a strong light, or there is no hope of ever gaining a commanding position."
The Tool rose and, deep in thought, walked up and down. At last he confronted The Girl and looked expectantly into her eyes.
"Well ?" she asked with flushed face.
The Tool shrugged his shoulders.
"What is there to be done?" he asked, naively.
The Girl shook her head in disgust.
"Is that the result of your deep meditation? I should have known that you couldn't find the courage to come to a conclusion. But you should have realized, and I dare say you're convinced of it, that the opportunity is ripe. Here are some men of influence who chafe at the impossibility to dictate the policy of the proposed daily paper-damn it! - there are Yost and other popular men who are forced to take a stand against Most because he shuns their gin-mill and thus casts suspicion on their center; then the jester has come from St. Louis to make Most the butt of his attacks; the Anarchist has done excellent skirmishing and needs but a good story to take the lead from the Freiheit, and, last, but not least, I enjoy quite some popularity, thanks to Most himself who never missed an opportunity topraise my talents as speaker. It's ridiculous to talk, in the fashion of schoolmasters, about scruples of conscience. The question is, Do we get ahead by honest dealing, i. e., stupidity, or by inconsiderate expediency, or prudence. In other words, whoever feels himself called upon to march at the helm of a movement must learn how to utilize for himself every phase of opportunity and the men of his surroundings. If you can do it you're successful, and if you fail to do it, you're foolish."
The Tool nodded assent: "You're right."
The Girl left the bed, embraced him and drew him toward the window where, clasped in each other's arms, they looked out into the twilight of the noisy evening and the yellow gas-flames of the burdened tenements.
Did they realize that their ambition played mercilessly with the prayers and hopes of the poor? Are these tortured souls a prize for jugglers; are their tears dice, their hopes cards, that these heroes run out into the market place to praise their wares of dice and cards?
These heroes fight for the possession of the future of martyred souls, heroes that begin as jugglers and end as tyrants.
A busy street. Fine steeds and stiff coachmen. Crowded sidewalks.
But the young man had no eyes for all that. His mind was occupied with matters of greater importance. He thought of the man whose name was on everybody's lips, whose person kindled the flame of hatred in every workman's heart. He, The Tool, would engrave his own name on the memory of history, if he stepped before this brute incarnate and called him before the tribunal of revenge.
He, the unknown, the unobserved, the obscure young man, would presently be hailed in all tongues of the wide world. They would cheer and applaud him, throw laurels over a heroic deed for which just one moment of resolution was needed. His breath fairly flew with hope promising happiness. There would be a short term of imprisonment. Meanwhile, there would be held, in his behalf, meetings and discussions, his martyrdom celebrated in songs and odes. And The Girl-his Girl-the infallible Girl, would call from the platforms of the wide land upon the audiences to honor his act and to honor the man who set that courageous example.
And then he would return. Enthusiastically received, carried by the acclaim of the assemblage, holding the hand of The Girl with a firm grip, he would cry out in this moment of emotion, Your applause does not belong to me but to her who was my moving spirit.
What solemn moments, what sublime emotions!
And the people caught by his spirit of unselfishness, would break out in a storm of rejoicing, and he would take The Girl in his arms and in this hour of consecration press a kiss upon her smiling lips.
With that the power of Most would be broken.
"Something must be done!" The Girl had said, and The Tool understood that something extraordinary must happen.
"Something must be done!"
With cold resolve he pressed his teeth together and entered the building for the fatal act.