Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc.,1931.
THE AUTOMOBILE SPED ON. IT WAS FILLED WITH DEPUTY MARSHALS, with me in their midst. Twenty minutes later we reached the Baltimore and Ohio Station. The hand of time seemed set back twenty-five years. I visioned myself at the same station a quarter of a century ago, straining towards the disappearing train which was bearing Sasha away, leaving me desolate and alone. A gruff voice startled me. "Are you seeing ghosts?" it demanded.
I was in a compartment, a big man and a woman at my side, the deputy marshal and his wife. Then I was left with the woman.
The day's heat, the excitement, and three hours' wait in the Federal Building had exhausted me. I felt worn and sticky in my sweaty clothes. I started for the wash-room, and the woman followed me. I objected. She regretted she could not let me go unattended; her instructions were not to permit me out of sight. She had a rather kindly face. I assured her that I would not try to escape, and she consented to close the door half-way. Having cleaned up, I crawled into my berth and immediately fell asleep.
I was awakened by the loud voices of my keepers. The man's coat was already off and he was proceeding to undress. "You don't mean you're going to sleep here?" I demanded.
"Sure," he answered, "what's wrong? My wife is here. You've got nothing to fear."
What more could morality wish for than the presence of the deputy's wife? It wasn't fear, I told him; it was disgust.
The watchful eyes of the law were closed in sleep, but its mouth was wide open, emitting a rattle of snores. The air was putrid. Anxious thoughts about Sasha beset me. A quarter of a century had passed, crammed with events and rich in the interplay of light and shade. The painful frustration with Ben --- friendships shattered --- others that had never lost their bloom. The earth-spirit often in conflict with the impelling aspirations of the ideal, and Sasha ever dependable all through the long span of time and always my comrade in the struggle. The thought was soothing, and the strain of weeks found relief in blessed sleep.
My male escort stayed away from the compartment most of the day, his presence gracing only our meals, which were brought to us from the diner. At the luncheon I asked the deputy marshal why I was being taken to the Missouri State Prison, at Jefferson City. There was no Federal prison for women, he explained; there used to be one, but it was discontinued because it "did not pay."
"And male federals, do they pay?" I inquired.
"Sure," he said; "there are so many of them that the U. S. Government is planning another prison. One of them is in Atlanta, Georgia," he added, "and that is where your friend Berkman has been taken."
I led him to talk about Atlanta. He assured me that it was a very strict place, and that "Berk" would have a bad time of it if he did not behave himself. Then he remarked with a sneer: "He's an old hand at prisons, ain't he?"
"Yes, but he has survived, and he will prove a match for Atlanta, too, with all its strictness," I retorted hotly.
The lady deputy kept to herself. It gave me a chance to write, read, and think. We changed trains at St. Louis, which afforded me an opportunity for a little exercise while waiting for the local to Jefferson City. I peered eagerly about to discover a familiar face, but I realized that our comrades in St. Louis could not have known when I would reach their town.
Arriving in Jefferson City, my escorts offered to take me to the penitentiary in a taxi. I requested that we walk. It might be my last chance for a long while, I thought. They readily consented, no doubt because they could pocket the price and charge it to their expense accounts.
When my guardians had delivered me to the head matron of the prison, they assured me that they had enjoyed my company. They had not believed that an anarchist would give so little trouble, they remarked. The wife added that she had grown to like me and was sorry to leave me behind. Rather a doubtful compliment, I felt.
With the exception of my two weeks in Queens County Jail, I had somehow managed to steer clear of prisons since my "rest-cure" on Blackwell's Island. There had been numerous arrests and several trials, but no other convictions. A disgusting record for one who could boast of the never-failing attention of every police department in the country.
"Any disease?" the head matron demanded abruptly.
I was somewhat taken aback at the unexpected concern over my health. I answered her that I had nothing to complain of except that I needed a bath and a cold drink.
"Don't be impudent and pretend you don't know what I mean," she sternly reproved me. "I mean the disease immoral women have. Most of those delivered here have it."
"Venereal disease is not particular whom it strikes," I told her; "the most respectable people have been known to be victims of it. I don't happen to have it, which is due perhaps much more to luck than to virtue."
She looked scandalized. She was so self-righteous and prim, she needed to be shocked, and I was catty enough to enjoy watching the effect.
After having been subjected to the routine search for dope and cigarettes, I was given a bath and informed that I could keep my own underwear, shoes and stockings.
My cell contained a cot with stiff but clean sheets and blankets, a table and a chair, a stationary wash-stand with running water, and, blessing of blessings, a toilet built in a little alcove, hidden from view by a curtain. So far my new home was a decided improvement over Blackwell's Island. Two things marred my pleasant discovery. My cell faced a wall that shut off the air and light, and all through the night the clock in the prison yard struck every fifteen minutes, whereupon stentorian voices would call out: "All's well." I tossed about, wondering how long it would take to get used to this new torture.
Twenty-four hours in the prison gave me an approximate idea of its routine. The institution had a number of progressive features: more frequent visits, the opportunity to order foodstuffs, the privilege of writing letters three times a week, according to the grade one had reached, recreation in the yard daily and twice on Sunday, a bucketful of hot water every evening, and permission to receive packages and printed matter. These were great advantages over conditions in Blackwell's Island. The recreation was especially gratifying. The yard was small and had but little protection from the sun, but the prisoners were free to walk about, talk, play, and sing, without interference from the matron who presided in the yard. On the other hand, the prevailing labour system required definite tasks. The latter were so difficult to accomplish that they kept the inmates in constant trepidation. I was informed that I would be excused from making the complete task, but that was small comfort. With a woman serving a life sentence on one side of me, and another doomed to fifteen years, both forced to do the full amount of work, I did not care to take advantage of my exemption. At the same time I feared that I might never be able to accomplish the task. The subject was the main topic of discussion and the greatest worry of the inmates.
After a week spent in the shop I began suffering excruciating pain in the back of my neck. My condition was aggravated by the first news from New York. Fitzi's letter conveyed what I already knew, that Sasha had been taken to Atlanta. It was far away, she wrote, and it would prevent our friends from visiting him. She had many worries and hardships to face. The Federal authorities, in co-operation with the New York police, had terrorized the proprietor of our office. He had ordered Fitzi to remove Mother Earth and the Blast, without even giving her a week's notice. After much effort she had succeeded in finding quarters on Lafayette Street, but it was questionable whether she would be permitted to remain there. The patriotic hysteria was increasing, the press and the police vying with each other to exterminate every radical activity. Dear, brave Fitzi, and our valiant "Swede"! They had had to carry the whole burden since our arrest. But faithfully they had kept at their post, concerned only about us, with never any complaint about their own difficulties. Even now Fitzi wrote nothing about herself. Dear, sweet soul.
Other letters and several telegrams were more cheering. Harry Weinberger wrote that Judge Mayer had refused to sign the application for our appeal, nor would any other Federal judge give his signature. But Harry was sure that he could induce one of the Supreme Court justices to accept the papers, and that would enable us to be released on bail.
A letter came from Frank Harris, offering to send me reading-matter and anything else permitted in the prison. Another was from my jovial old friend William Marion Reedy. Now that I was living in his State, he wrote, and was his neighbour, as it were, he was anxious to secure for me the right kind of hospitality. He and Mr. Painter, the warden of the penitentiary, had been college chums, and he had written him that he ought to be proud to have Emma Goldman as his guest. He had cautioned him to treat her right, or he would go after him. I should consider myself lucky, his letter read, to have two years' freedom from my hectic activities. It would mean a good rest and it should also mean the autobiography he had long ago advised me to write. "Now is your chance: you have a home, three meals a day and leisure --- all free of charge. Write your life. You have lived it as no other woman. Tell us about it." He had already shipped a box containing paper and pencils, he informed me, and he would persuade Mr. Painter to let me have a typewriter. I must "buckle down and write the book," he concluded.
Like many another, my dear old friend Bill had caught the war fever. Yet he was big enough to continue his interest and friendship, regardless of my stand. But his idea of writing in prison caused me to smile. It showed how little even such a clear-headed man realized the effect of imprisonment; to believe that one could adequately express one's thoughts in captivity, after nine hours' daily drudgery. Just the same, his letter made me very happy.
There were loving messages from Stella, my sisters, and even my dear old mother, who wrote in Yiddish. Very touching were the letters of our St. Louis comrades. They would look after my needs, they wrote; they were so near Jefferson City, they would send me fresh food every day. They would be happy if they could do the same for Sasha, but he was too far away. They hoped friends living in the South would look after his needs.
Two weeks after I had been delivered to the prison, the same deputy marshal and his wife arrived to take me back to New York. Irrepressible Harry Weinberger had succeeded in getting Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis to sign the application for our appeal, which admitted Sasha and me to bail and temporary freedom. The appeal included also the cases of Morris Becker and Louis Kramer. Harry had scored a victory over Judge Mayer. I was sure that our liberty would be of short duration; still, it was good to return to our friends and resume the work where it had been interrupted by our arrest.
It was with emotions quite different from those I had felt on my way to prison that I boarded the train for New York. My escorts, too, seemed changed. The deputy informed me that there would be no need this time to watch me so closely. Only his wife would share my compartment. He wanted me to feel as free as if I were travelling alone, and he hoped that I would have no complaints to make to the reporters. I understood. At the station in St. Louis I was given an ovation by a group of comrades, and of course there were also representatives of the press. The deputy became demonstratively magnanimous. I could invite my people to the station restaurant, he suggested, while he would remain at a neighbouring table. I enjoyed the dear companionship of my friends.
The return journey had many pleasant features, the main one being the absence of the deputy. His wife also did not intrude, both remaining outside my compartment. The door was left ajar, more to afford me air than to keep me in view. It was an unusually close day, and I had a foretaste of what was to be meted out to such a godless creature when I should have joined the departed.
In the Tombs the keepers received the prodigal daughter with glad acclaim. It was late and the prison had closed for the day, but I was permitted a bath. The head matron was an old friend of mine, of the birth-control fight days. She believed in family limitation, she had confided to me, and she had been kind and solicitous, once even attending our Carnegie Hall meeting as my guest. When the other matrons left, she engaged me in conversation and remarked that she saw no reason to be excited about what the Germans had done to the Belgians. England had treated Ireland no better during hundreds of years and recently again during the Easter uprising. She was Irish, and she had no use for the Allies. I explained that my sympathies were not with any of the warring countries, but with the people of every land, because they alone have to pay the terrible price. She looked rather disappointed, but she gave me clean sheets for my bunk, and I liked her as a good Irish soul.
In the morning friends came to see me, among them Harry Weinberger, Stella, and Fitzi. I inquired about Sasha. Had he been brought back, and how was his leg? Fitzi averted her face.
"What is it?" I asked anxiously. "Sasha is in the Tombs," she replied in a dead voice; "he will be safer there for a while." Her tone and manner filled me with apprehension. Urged to tell me the worst, she informed me that Sasha was wanted in San Francisco. He had been indicted for murder in connexion with the Mooney case.
The Chamber of Commerce and the District Attorney had carried out their threat to "get" Sasha. They were going to have revenge for the splendid work he had done to expose the frame-up against five lives. Billings had already been put out of the way, immured for life, and Tom Mooney was facing death. Their next prey was Sasha. I knew they meant to murder him. Instinctively I raised my hand as if to ward off a blow.
I fully realized only when I was bailed out what Fitzi had meant by saying that Sasha would be safer in the Tombs. Released on bail, he would be in danger of being kidnapped and spirited away to California. Such things had happened before. After Sasha's arrest in 1892, our comrade Mollock had been secretly taken from New Jersey by Pennsylvania detectives who hoped to connect him with the attack on Frick. In 1906 Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone had been abducted from Colorado to Idaho, and in 1910 the McNamara brothers had met with a like fate in Indiana. If the Government dared resort to such methods with members of powerful labour organizations, native-born at that, why not with a "foreign" anarchist? It was clear we could not risk bailing Sasha out. No time was to be lost if his extradition was to be prevented. Governor Whitman was a reactionary and would probably oblige the unscrupulous crew on the Coast; nothing but a mighty protest on the part of organized labour could stop him.
We immediately set to work, Fitzi, the "Swede," and I. We called a group of people together to organize a publicity committee. Then we invited the labour leaders at the head of the Jewish trade unions. A large gathering was held, attended by men and women influential in the world of labour and letters, which resulted in the formation of an active committee, with Dolly Sloan as secretary-treasurer.
The response of the United Hebrew Trades was immediate and whole-hearted, and the joint board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America followed suit. The former offered to head the appeal for Sasha and to get us a hearing by every union.
Sasha's life was at stake. Conferences with labour men, canvassing unions, arranging meetings and theatre benefits, circularizing organizations, press interviews, and a vast correspondence crowded every minute of those nerve-racking days.
Sasha himself was in gay spirits. To see his visitors he had to be taken from the Tombs to the Federal Building and back again, which afforded him a walk in the fresh air. He had not yet been able to discard his crutches, and hobbling along was rather uncomfortable. But when one faces the possible loss of one's life, promenading even on crutches is a great boon. Marshal McCarthy supervised our visits and he acted rather decently. He made no objections when we brought many friends to see Sasha and he did not have us watched too obviously. In fact, he tried his best to gain our good will. On one occasion he remarked to me: "I know you hate me, Emma Goldman, but just you wait until the espionage bill is passed; then you'll thank me for having arrested you and Berkman in the early stages of the game. Now you get only two years, but later you would get twenty. Own up, wasn't I your friend?"
"None better," I admitted; "I'll see that you get a vote of thanks."
Our visits with Sasha were turned into merry family reunion. His genial humour and equanimity in the face of imminent danger gained him the respect even of the members of the Marshal's office. They asked for copies of his Memoirs and later they told us how greatly the book had impressed them. After that they became very cordial, and we were delighted for Sasha's sake.
Gradually our work was bringing results. The United Hebrew Trades issued a strong appeal to organized labour to rally to the support of Sasha. The joint board of the cloakmakers' union voted five hundred dollars for our campaign and promised to contribute more. The Joint Board of Furriers, the International Brotherhood of Bookbinders, Typographical Union Local 83, and other organizations co-operated with us in the most solidaric manner. They proposed that a representative delegation of at least a hundred labour men be sent to Governor Whitman to protest against Sasha's extradition to California, and steps were immediately taken to put before Whitman the facts of the judicial crime already perpetrated in San Francisco.
Uncertain how long I should remain at liberty, I had not taken an apartment. I shared with Fitzi her flat and spent an occasional weekend with Stella in Darien. One day Dolly Sloan asked me to stay with her while her husband was absent from the city. Their studio was large, very quaint and charming; and I enjoyed Dolly's hospitality. She was an energetic little lady and most eager to help in our campaign for Sasha, but she was not physically strong enough to endure the continual strain, and she often had to take to bed. Unfortunately, I had so much to do and was feeling so bad myself that I could give her little time. She was not bedridden, however, and was able to get about a great deal.
One morning I left her apparently in improved condition. She had had a good night's sleep and she intended remaining home to rest. I worked all day in the office, and in the evening I canvassed several organizations meeting in different parts of the city. The last was the union of the stage mechanics and electrical workers. They were supposed to meet at midnight, but I had to wait three hours in a narrow, stuffy passage piled up with boxes, one of which served me as a seat. When I was finalIy given the floor, I could see hostility written on every face. It was like swimming against a heavy tide to speak in the atmosphere thick with prejudice and the smell of bad tobacco and stale beer. When I had concluded my address, quite a number of those present expressed themselves as willing to support the campaign for Sasha, but the politicians in official positions were opposed. Berkman was an enemy of the country, they argued, and they would have nothing to do with him. I left them to fight the matter out among themselves.
Returning to Sloan's studio, I could not unlock the door. I rang in vain for a long time, then knocked loudly. At last I heard someone turn the key on the inside, and a woman was facing me. I recognized Pearl, the former wife of Robert Minor. She demanded whether I could not see the new lock on the door and did not guess that it was to keep me out. She was taking care of Mrs. Sloan and I was not wanted in the house. In astonishment I stared at her, then pushed her aside and walked in. The door to Dolly's room was ajar and I saw her lying on her bed evidently in a stupor. I was alarmed by her condition and turned to the woman for an explanation. She merely reiterated that Mrs. Sloan had ordered her to change the lock. But I knew she was lying.
I went out into the street. The day was breaking; I did not want to go to wake Fitzi, who needed sleep so badly. I walked over to Union Square. Once more I had been shut out, a homeless creature, as in the days I had believed gone for ever.
I rented a furnished room. Fitzi agreed with me that Dolly could have had nothing to do with the changing of the lock. It was known to everybody that Pearl Minor was bitterly opposed to all Bob's friends. For some unaccountable reason she had a special grudge against me. It was stupid of her, but I was aware that she was the product of an orphanage, her mind and heart warped by her miserable childhood.
In the midst of those trying days there came another and far greater shock. I learned that my nephew David Hochstein had waived exemption and volunteered for the army. His mother, all unconscious of the blow awaiting her, was on her way to New York to meet him. My sister had only recently lost her husband after a short illness. I could not bear to think how the news about David would affect her. David, her beloved son, in whom she had concentrated all her hopes --- a soldier! His young life to be given for something Helena had always hated as the crime of crimes!
Life's a fiendish contradiction! To think that David, Helena's child, should of his own free will offer himself for the army. He had never been politically or socially conscious, and I was therefore not surprised when told that he had registered. I was sure he would not be drafted. His break-down from tuberculosis a few years previously, though arrested, had yet left his lungs in such a condition that he was certain to be exempted. The news that he had submitted himself to the examination board in New York instead of in Rochester, and that he had said nothing about the state of his health, came as a shock. I could not believe that the boy had deliberately done so, that he believed in the war or in his country's ethical claims. Helena's children were too much like their parents to think that wars are worth fighting or that they solve anything. What, then, could have been the reason, I wondered, to induce David voluntarily to join the army? Perhaps something personal, or the popular maelstrom had caught him too unawares to resist. Whatever the cause, it was appalling that this richly endowed youth, with a brilliant artistic career just begun, should be among the first to offer himself.
I visited Helena at Darien. Her appearance told me more than words. The frightened expression in her eyes made me fear that she would not survive the blow of the vain sacrifice of her boy. I found David also there, and I longed to talk to him. But I remained dumb. Notwithstanding his family affection for me and my love for him, we had remained distant. How could I now hope to reach his mind? I had proclaimed that the choice of military service must be left to the conscience of every man. How could I attempt to impose my views on David, even if I could hope to persuade him, which I did not? I remained tongue-tied. But I argued hotly with Helena that her son was only one of the many, and her tears but a drop in the ocean already shed by the mothers of the world. Yet abstract theories are not for those whose tragedies are open wounds. I saw the agony in my sister's face and I knew there was nothing I could say or do to bring her relief. I returned to New York to continue our campaign for Sasha.
Every day brought new evidence of the love and esteem he enjoyed on the East Side. The radical Yiddish press outdid itself in championing his cause. Particularly did S. Yanofsksy, the editor of the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, exert himself. That was especially gratifying because he had never been very comradely with either Sasha or me, and in our stand on the war we had completely drifted apart. Abe Cahan, the editor of the socialist Forward, was also very sympathetic and stressed the urgency of coming to Sasha's support. In fact, everyone in the radical Jewish circles heartily co-operated with us. A special group to aid our efforts was composed of the Yiddish writers and poets, among them Abraham Raisin, Nadir, and Sholom Asch.
With these strong drawing cards we organized a series of affairs, a theatre performance to raise funds, on which occasion Asch and Raisin spoke between the acts; a mass meeting in Cooper Union at which Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, Alex Cohen, Morris Sigman, and other prominent labor men publicly protested in behalf of Sasha. Large meetings took place in Forward Hall and in the Brooklyn Labor Lyceum. For the same purpose were organized also a number of English meetings. The New York Call, the socialist daily wrote forcibly against Sasha's extradition. It was peculiar to see the paper wax so enthusiastic in the campaign, considering that it had remained silent during our arrest and trial.
Fortunately there was no police interference, and our gatherings were attended by thousands of people. Much encouraged, we arranged a special affair at the Kessler Theatre. But Marshal McCarthy had apparently decided that I had already enjoyed too much freedom of speech and should therefore be stopped "for her own good." He announced that he would prohibit the meeting if I should attempt to address the audience. The purpose of the gathering being too important to risk having it disrupted, I promised to comply.
S. Yanofsky, a very clever man with a vitriolic tongue, was the last speaker. He talked eloquently of the Billings-Mooney case and the attempt of the San Francisco bosses to drag Sasha into their net. Then he proceeded to pay his respects to Marshal McCarthy. "He has gagged Emma," he declared, "too stupid to realize that her voice will now carry far beyond the walls of this theatre." At that moment I stepped upon the stage with a handkerchief stuck in my mouth. The audience shrieked with laughter, stamped their feet, and screamed.
"You can't stop that speech," they shouted.
McCarthy looked sheepish, but I had kept my promise.
The agitation in behalf of Sasha was spreading. More labour bodies were constantly added to our list, among them the important New Jersey State Federation. This feat was accomplished by our Fitzi, and it had been no easy task to reach that by no means radical organization. She charmed people into sympathy and action -- not merely by her Irish name and beautiful auburn hair, but by her fine and suave personality. Little did anyone outside of her immediate friends sense the Celtic temperament behind her tranquil manner.
Our activities in New York multiplied to such an extent that I could not accept the numerous invitations which came from other cities to address meetings arranged in behalf of Sasha. I had to select the most important calls, among them that for three lectures in Chicago.
Max Pine, general secretary, and M. Finestone, assistant secretary, of the United Hebrew Trades, were desirous of having Morris Hillquit, the socialist attorney, go to Albany with our delegation, to address Governor Whitman against Sasha's extradition. I had known Morris Hillquit for many years. When I first came to New York, I used to attend the joint gatherings of anarchists and socialists, among whom there were also the two brothers Hilkowitch. One occasion of those days had been particularly memorable. It was a Yom Kippur celebration held as a protest against Jewish orthodoxy. Speeches on free thought, dances, and plenty of eats took the place of the traditional fast and prayers. The religious Jews resented our desecration of their holiest Day of Atonement, and their sons came down in strong force to meet our boys in pitched battle. Sasha, who always loved a fight, was, of course, the leader and easily the most effective in repulsing the attack. While the affray was going on in the street, anarchist and socialist orators were holding forth inside the hall, young Morris Hilkowitch having the floor at the time. Over two decades had passed since then --- Hilkowitch had changed his name to the more euphonious Hillquit and had become a successful lawyer, a leading Marxian theoretician, and an important personage in the Socialist Party. Socialism had never appealed to me, though there were many socialists among my friends. I liked them because they were freer and bigger than their creed. Mr. Hillquit I knew very slightly, but I considered his writings as lacking in vision. We had no common ground; he had risen high in the estimation of respectable society, while I remained a pariah.
The war, and particularly America's entry into the dance of death, had shifted many, positions and contacts. People formerly closely allied in ideas and effort were now far apart, while others widely separated in the past found now a strong bond. Morris Hillquit had dared to stand out against the war. No wonder he now discovered himself in the same boat with Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and their associates. The frenzied attacks on him by our common enemies and his erstwhile comrades bridged the chasm of the past as well as our theoretic differences. Indeed, I felt much closer to HilIquit than to many of my own comrades whose social vision had been gassed. Nevertheless, I experienced a sense of strangeness to come face to face with the man for the first time in twenty-seven years.
Hillquit was probably no more than three or four years older than Sasha, but he looked at least fifteen years his senior. His hair was thickly streaked with grey, his face lined, and his eyes weary. He had won success, renown, and wealth. Sasha's life had been a Golgotha, yet how different the two men appeared! However, Hillquit had remained simple in his ways, his manner was gracious, and I soon felt at home with him.
He was not very reassuring about Sasha's chances. At any other time, he said, it would not have been difficult to defeat extradition. In the present war hysteria, with Sasha convicted on a Federal conspiracy charge, the outlook was not very promising.
His candidacy for the mayoralty of New York on the Socialist ticket kept Mr. Hillquit exceedingly busy, but he unhesitatingly responded to the invitation to appear before Governor Whitman with the labour delegation. His campaign meetings were the first gatherings of the kind I had ever attended without being sickened by their inanity. I had no more faith in what Hillquit might achieve if elected mayor than anyone else in his place, though I did not doubt the sincerity of his intentions. His electoral campaign had great anti-war propaganda value. It presented the only chance in the hysteria-crazed country for some freedom of speech, and as an experienced orator and clever lawyer Morris Hiliquit knew how to steer safely between dangerous patriotic cliffs.
I was glad that he made such good use of his election opportunities yet I had to decline the invitation of his brother to participate in the work. I had told him how much I had enjoyed hearing the brilliant Morris and his speeches against war. "Why not join us, then?" he suggested; "you could be of great help in our campaign." He sought to persuade me to set aside my opposition to political action on that exceptional occasion. "Think of the good you could do by helping stem the tide of the war madness," he urged.
But I had grown to like Morris too much to assist him to a political job. One might wish such a thing on one's enemies, not on one's friends.
Our activities for Sasha and the San Francisco cases received unexpected and far-reaching impetus through news from Russia: demonstrations in their behalf had taken place in Petrograd and Kronstadt. It was the answer to the message we had sent to the councils of workers, soldiers, and sailors by the refugees that had departed in May and June. We had followed it up with cables that our good friend Isaac A. Hourwich and our efficient secretary Pauline had succeeded in getting through to Russia after we had learned of Sasha's indictment in San Francisco. With joyful heart I visited Sasha, knowing what the demonstration of solidarity in Russia would mean to him. I tried to appear calm, but he soon sensed that something must have happened. At hearing the glorious tidings his face lit up and his eyes filled with wonder. But, as usual when profoundly stirred, he was silent. We sat quietly, our hearts beating in unison with gratitude to our Matushka Rossiya.
The problem was now how to use the demonstrations in Russia to best advantage. We had wide connexions and channels to bring the matter to the attention of the labour bodies, by meetings and circulars, but other means were needed to interest those who were in a position to intercede for our friends in San Francisco. Sasha suggested that I confer with his friend Ed Morgan, a former socialist, now an Industrial Worker of the World. He had been very active in behalf of Mooney and he might prove of great help in his case, Sasha thought.
I had known Morgan for some time. He was a good-hearted fellow, genuine and tireless when given a task. But I was not sure of his abilities and he was fearfully long-wind. I had no doubts about his willingness to do what we should request, but I was dubious about his chances of accomplishing anything vital in Washington. I was wrong. Ed Morgan proved a wizard. In a short time he succeeded in getting more publicity for our purpose than we had got in months. His first step in the capital had been to find out President Wilson's favourite morning papers, his second to bombard them with news items about the agitation in Russia over the San Francisco frame-up. Then Morgan buttonholed influential officials in Washington, made them familiar with the happenings on the Coast, and enlisted their sympathies. The net results of this one man's efforts were a Federal investigation ordered by President Wilson into the labour situation in San Francisco.
I had seen too many official investigations to expect much from this one; still, it held out the hope that the skeleton in the family closet of Big Business and Fickert and Co. would at last be dragged into the light of day. Morgan and many of our trade-union associates were more optimistic. They looked for the complete exoneration and release of Billings, Mooney, and their co-defendants, as well as of Sasha. I could not share their faith, but it did not lessen my admiration for Ed Morgan's splendid achievement.
Shortly afterwards came further news from Russia of still greater moment. A resolution proposed by the sailors of Kronstadt and adopted at a monster meeting called for the arrest of Mr. Francis, the American Ambassador in Russia, who was to be held as hostage until the San Francisco victims and Sasha should be free. A delegation of armed sailors had marched to the American Embassy in Petrograd to carry out the decision. Our old comrade Louise Berger, who with other Russian refugees had returned to her native land after the outbreak of the Revolution, served as their interpreter. Mr. Francis had solemnly assured the delegation that it was all a mistake, and that the lives of Mooney, Billings, and Berkman were in no danger. But the sailors were insistent, and Mr. Francis in their presence cabled to Washington and promised to exert himself further with the American Government to secure the release of the San Francisco prisoners.
The threat of the sailors evidently had an effect on the Ambassador, with the result that President Wilson was moved to prompt action. Whatever the message of the President to Governor Whitman, our delegation found the latter in a very receptive mood. Moreover, quantity is always appreciated by aspiring politicians, and the labour delegation consisted of a hundred men, representing nearly a million organized workers of New York. With them were Morris Hillquit and Harry Weinberger, who impressed upon the Governor that Alexander Berkman did not stand alone, and that his extradition would be resented by labour all through the United States. Mr. Whitman thereupon decided to telegraph District Attorney Fickert for the records of the case and promised to postpone final action until he had thoroughly acquainted himself with the indictment against Sasha.
It was a victory indeed, though it did only temporarily delay proceedings. But instead of sending the requested documents, the San Francisco prosecutor wired Albany that "the Berkman extradition would not be pressed for the present." We had known all along that Fickert could not afford to produce the records, since they did not contain a scintilla of evidence to connect Sasha with the explosion.
The demand for extradition not having been granted within the legally allowed thirty days, Sasha could not be detained in prison longer. The Warden of the Tombs was anxious to get rid of him; he had already upset the prison routine too much, the administration said. His numerous visitors and the stacks of letters and messages he was receiving added to the burdens of the prison officials, not to speak of the excitement among the other prisoners who had become interested in the Berkman case. "Take him away, for the love of Mike," the Warden urged; "you are out on bail, so why don't you raise his?" I assured him that the bond was on hand, and I should love nothing better than to relieve him of the worry Sasha's presence was causing him. But my friend had decided to sign himself back to the Tombs for another thirty days to keep the promise made by his attorney. San Francisco had informed Governor Whitiman that they needed more time to prepare the record requested by him. Though Sasha could not lawfully be compelled to wait for them, Weinberger had consented to prove that we had nothing to be afraid of in Fickert's records. The Warden stared incredulously. An anarchist feeling bound to live up to a pledge which he had not even given himself! "You people are a crazy lot!" he said. "Who ever heard of a man's insisting on remaining in prison when he has a chance to get out?" But he would treat Sasha right, he added, and maybe I would speak a good word for him to Mr. HilIquit, who was sure to be the next mayor of New York. I tried to tell him that I had no influence with the future socialist mayor, but it was to no purpose. It was sheer anarchist cussedness, the Warden reiterated, not to help a fellow who had been such a friend to us.
America, only seven months in the war, had already outstripped in brutality every European land with three years' experience in the business of slaughter. Non-combatants and conscientious objectors from every social stratum were filling the jails and prisons. The new Espionage Law turned the country into a lunatic asylum, with every State and Federal official, as well as a large part of the civilian population, running amuck. They spread terror and destruction. Disruption of public meetings and wholesale arrests, sentences of incredible severity, suppression of radical publications and indictments of their staffs, beating of workers -- even murder -- became the chief patriotic pastime.
In Bisbee, Arizona, twelve hundred I.W.W.'s were manhandled and driven across the border. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, seventeen of their comrades were tarred and feathered and in a half-dead condition left in the sage-brush. In Kentucky Dr. Bigelow, a single-taxer and pacifist, was kidnapped and whipped for a speech he was about to deliver. In Milwaukee a group of anarchists and socialists met an even more terrible fate. Their activities had aroused the ire and envy of an unfrocked Catholic priest. He was especially enraged over the audacity of the young Italians who heckled him at his open-air meetings. He set the police on them and they charged the crowd with drawn clubs and guns. Antonio Fornasier, an anarchist, was instantly killed. Augusta Marinelli, another comrade, was mortally wounded, dying in the hospital five days later. In the general shooting several officers were slightly injured. Arrests followed. The Italian club-rooms were raided, literature and pictures destroyed. Eleven persons, including a woman, were held responsible for the riot caused by the uniformed ruffians. While the Italians were under arrest, an explosion took place in the police station. The perpetrators were unknown, but the prisoners were tried for that bomb. The jury was out just seventeen minutes, returning a verdict of guilty. The ten men and Mary Baldini were given twenty-five years each, and the State appropriated Mary's five-year-old child, although her people were willing and able to take care of it.
Through the length and breadth of the country stalked the madness of jingoism. One hundred and sixty I.W.W.'s were arrested in Chicago and held for trial on charges of treason. Among them were Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Arturo Giovannitti, Carlo Tresca, and our old comrade Cassius V. Cook. Dr. William J. Robinson, editor of the New York Critic and Guide, was imprisoned for expressing his opinion on war. Harry D. Wallace, president of the League of Humanity and author of Shanghaied in the European War, was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for a lecture delivered in Davenport, Iowa. Another victim of this frightfulness was Louise Olivereau, an idealist of the finest type of American womanhood, who was condemned in Colorado to forty-five years' imprisonment for a circular in which she voiced her abhorrence of human slaughter. There was hardly a city or town in the wide United States where the jails did not contain some men and women who would not be terrorized into patriotic slaughter.
The most appalling crime was the murder of Frank Little, a member of the executive board of the I.W.W., and of another poor fellow who happened to bear a German name. Frank Little was a cripple, but that did not deter the masked bandits. In the dead of night they dragged the helpless man from his bed in Butte, Montana, carried him to an isolated spot, and strung him to a railroad trestle. The other "alien enemy" was similarly lynched, whereupon it was found that the man's room was decorated with a large American flag and his money was invested in Liberty Bonds.
The assaults on life and on free speech were supplemented by the suppression of the printed word. Under the Espionage Law and similar statutes passed in the war fever the Postmaster General had been constituted absolute dictator over the press. Even private distribution had become impossible for any paper opposed to the war. Mother Earth became the first victim, soon followed by the Blast, the Masses, and other publications, and by indictments against their editorial staffs.
The reactionaries were not the only element responsible for the patriotic orgy. Sam Gompers handed over the American Federation of Labor to the war baiters. The liberal intelligentsia, with Walter Lippman, Louis F. Post, and George Creel in the lead, socialists like Charles Edward Russell, Arthur Bullard, English Walling, Phelps Stokes, John Spargo, Simons, and Ghent, all shared in the glory. The Socialist war phobia, the resolutions of their Minneapolis Conference, their patriotic special train, draped in red, white, and blue, their urging of every worker to support the war, all helped to destroy reason and justice in the United States.
On the other hand, the Industrial Workers of the World and those socialists who had not gone back on their ideals had by their blind self-sufficiency in the past also helped to sow the seeds of the crop they were now reaping. As long as persecution had been directed only against anarchists, they had refused to take notice or even to comment on the matter in their press. Not one of the I.W.W. papers had protested against our arrest and conviction. At the Socialist meetings not a single speaker would denounce the suppression of the Blast and Mother Earth. The New York Call thought the issue of free speech, when it was not itself directly concerned, deserving only of a few perfunctory lines. When Daniel Kiefer, the staunch fighter for freedom, had sent in a protest, it appeared in the Call thoroughly expurgated, with every reference to our magazines, to Sasha, and to me left out. The silly people were unable to foresee that the reactionary measures, always aimed first at the most unpopular ideas and their exponents, must in the course of time inevitably also be applied to them. Now the American Huns no longer discriminated between one radical group and another: liberals, I.W.W.'s, socialists, preachers, and college professors were being made to pay for their former shortsightedness.
In comparison with the patriotic crime wave the suppression of Mother Earth was a matter of insignificance. But to me it proved a greater blow than the prospect of spending two years in prison. No offspring of flesh and blood could absorb its mother as this child of mine had drained me. A struggle of over a decade, exhausting tours for its support, much worry and grief, had gone into the maintenance of Mother Earth, and now with one blow its life had been snuffed out! We decided to continue it in another form. The circular letter I had sent out to our subscribers and friends, informing them of the suppression of the magazine and of the new publication I was contemplating, brought many promises of help. Some, however, declined to have anything to do with the matter. It was reckless to defy the war sentiment of the country, they wrote. They could not give their support to such a purpose -- they could not afford to get into trouble. Too well I knew that consistency and courage, like genius, are the rarest of gifts. Ben, of my own intimate circle, was sadly lacking in both. Having endured him for a decade, how could I condemn others for running to cover in danger?
A new project was sure to make Ben enthusiastic. The idea of a Mother Earth Bulletin caught his fancy, and his usual energy was put into motion at once to bring the publication about. But we had drifted apart too far. He wanted the Bulletin kept free from the war; there were so many other matters to discuss, he argued, and continued opposition to the Government was sure to ruin what we had built up during so many years. We must be more cautious, more practical, he insisted. Such an attitude seemed incredible in one who had been quite reckless in his anti-war talks. It was strange and ludicrous to see Ben in that rôle. His change, like everything else about him, was without reason or consistency.
Our strained relations could not last. One day the storm burst, and Ben left. For good. Listless and dry-eyed, I sank into a chair. Fitzi was near me, soothingly stroking my head.
EMMA GOLDMAN'S MOTHER
Go to Chapter 47
Return to Table of Contents