Propagandism is not, as some suppose, a "trade," because nobody will follow a "trade" at which you may work with the industry of a slave and die with the reputation of a mendicant. The motives of any persons to pursue such a profession must be different from those of trade, deeper than pride, and stronger than interest. GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE. Among the men and women prominent in the public life of America there
are but few whose names are mentioned as often as that of Emma
Goldman. Yet the real Emma Goldman is almost quite unknown. The
sensational press has surrounded her name with so much
misrepresentation and slander, it would seem almost a miracle that,
in spite of this web of calumny, the truth breaks through and a
< better appreciation of this much maligned idealist begins to manifest
itself. There is but little consolation in the fact that almost
every representative of a new idea has had to struggle and suffer
under similar difficulties. Is it of any avail that a former
president of a republic pays homage at Osawatomie to the memory of
John Brown? Or that the president of another republic participates
in the unveiling of a statue in honor of Pierre Proudhon, and holds
up his life to the French nation as a model worthy of enthusiastic
emulation? Of what avail is all this when, at the same time, the
LIVING John Browns and Proudhons are being crucified? The honor and
glory of a Mary Wollstonecraft or of a Louise Michel are not enhanced
by the City Fathers of London or Paris naming a street after
them--the living generation should be concerned with doing justice to
the LIVING Mary Wollstonecrafts and Louise Michels. Posterity
assigns to men like Wendel Phillips and Lloyd Garrison the proper
niche of honor in the temple of human emancipation; but it is the
duty of their contemporaries to bring them due recognition and
appreciation while they live.
The path of the propagandist of social justice is strewn with thorns.
The powers of darkness and injustice exert all their might lest a ray
of sunshine enter his cheerless life. Nay, even his comrades in the
struggle--indeed, too often his most intimate friends--show but
little understanding for the personality of the pioneer. Envy,
sometimes growing to hatred, vanity and jealousy, obstruct his way
and fill his heart with sadness. It requires an inflexible will and
tremendous enthusiasm not to lose, under such conditions, all faith
in the Cause. The representative of a revolutionizing idea stands
between two fires: on the one hand, the persecution of the existing
powers which hold him responsible for all acts resulting from social
conditions; and, on the other, the lack of understanding on the part
of his own followers who often judge all his activity from a narrow
standpoint. Thus it happens that the agitator stands quite alone in
the midst of the multitude surrounding him. Even his most intimate
friends rarely understand how solitary and deserted he feels. That
is the tragedy of the person prominent in the public eye.
The mist in which the name of Emma Goldman has so long been enveloped
is gradually beginning to dissipate. Her energy in the furtherance
of such an unpopular idea as Anarchism, her deep earnestness, her
courage and abilities, find growing understanding and admiration.
The debt American intellectual growth owes to the revolutionary
exiles has never been fully appreciated. The seed disseminated by
them, though so little understood at the time, has brought a rich
harvest. They have at all times held aloft the banner of liberty,
thus impregnating the social vitality of the Nation. But very few
have succeeding in preserving their European education and culture
while at the same time assimilating themselves with American life.
It is difficult for the average man to form an adequate conception
what strength, energy, and perseverance are necessary to absorb the
unfamiliar language, habits, and customs of a new country, without
the loss of one's own personality.
Emma Goldman is one of the few who, while thoroughly preserving their
individuality, have become an important factor in the social and
intellectual atmosphere of America. The life she leads is rich in
color, full of change and variety. She has risen to the topmost
heights, and she has also tasted the bitter dregs of life.
Emma Goldman was born of Jewish parentage on the 27th day of June,
1869, in the Russian province of Kovno. Surely these parents never
dreamed what unique position their child would some day occupy. Like
all conservative parents they, too, were quite convinced that their
daughter would marry a respectable citizen, bear him children, and
round out her allotted years surrounded by a flock of grandchildren,
a good, religious woman. As most parents, they had no inkling what a
strange, impassioned spirit would take hold of the soul of their
child, and carry it to the heights which separate generations in
eternal struggle. They lived in a land and at a time when antagonism
between parent and offspring was fated to find its most acute
expression, irreconcilable hostility. In this tremendous struggle
between fathers and sons--and especially between parents and
daughters--there was no compromise, no weak yielding, no truce. The
spirit of liberty, of progress--an idealism which knew no
considerations and recognized no obstacles--drove the young
generation out of the parental house and away from the hearth of the
home. Just as this same spirit once drove out the revolutionary
breeder of discontent, Jesus, and alienated him from his native
What role the Jewish race--notwithstanding all anti-semitic calumnies
the race of transcendental idealism--played in the struggle of the
Old and the New will probably never be appreciated with complete
impartiality and clarity. Only now are we beginning to perceive the
tremendous debt we owe to Jewish idealists in the realm of science,
art, and literature. But very little is still known of the important
part the sons and daughters of Israel have played in the
revolutionary movement and, especially, in that of modern times.
The first years of her childhood Emma Goldman passed in a small,
idyllic place in the German-Russian province of Kurland, where her
father had charge of the government stage. At the time Kurland was
thoroughly German; even the Russian bureaucracy of that Baltic
province was recruited mostly from German JUNKERS. German fairy
tales and stories, rich in the miraculous deeds of the heroic knights
of Kurland, wove their spell over the youthful mind. But the
beautiful idyl was of short duration. Soon the soul of the growing
child was overcast by the dark shadows of life. Already in her
tenderest youth the seeds of rebellion and unrelenting hatred of
oppression were to be planted in the heart of Emma Goldman. Early
she learned to know the beauty of the State: she saw her father
harassed by the Christian CHINOVNIKS and doubly persecuted as petty
official and hated Jew. The brutality of forced conscription ever
stood before her eyes: she beheld the young men, often the sole
supporter of a large family, brutally dragged to the barracks to lead
the miserable life of a soldier. She heard the weeping of the poor
peasant women, and witnessed the shameful scenes of official venality
which relieved the rich from military service at the expense of the
poor. She was outraged by the terrible treatment to which the female
servants were subjected: maltreated and exploited by their BARINYAS,
they fell to the tender mercies of the regimental officers, who
regarded them as their natural sexual prey. The girls, made pregnant
by respectable gentlemen and driven out by their mistresses, often
found refuge in the Goldman home. And the little girl, her heart
palpitating with sympathy, would abstract coins from the parental
drawer to clandestinely press the money into the hands of the
unfortunate women. Thus Emma Goldman's most striking characteristic,
her sympathy with the underdog, already became manifest in these
At the age of seven little Emma was sent by her parents to her
grandmother at Konigsberg, the city of Emanuel Kant, in Eastern
Prussia. Save for occasional interruptions, she remained there till her
13th birthday. The first years in these surroundings do not exactly
belong to her happiest recollections. The grandmother, indeed, was
very amiable, but the numerous aunts of the household were concerned
more with the spirit of practical rather than pure reason, and the
categoric imperative was applied all too frequently. The situation
was changed when her parents migrated to Konigsberg, and little Emma
was relieved from her role of Cinderella. She now regularly attended
public school and also enjoyed the advantages of private instruction,
customary in middle class life; French and music lessons played an
important part in the curriculum. The future interpreter of Ibsen
and Shaw was then a little German Gretchen, quite at home in the
German atmosphere. Her special predilections in literature were the
sentimental romances of Marlitt; she was a great admirer of the good
Queen Louise, whom the bad Napoleon Buonaparte treated with so marked
a lack of knightly chivalry. What might have been her future
development had she remained in this milieu? Fate--or was it
economic necessity?--willed it otherwise. Her parents decided to
settle in St. Petersburg, the capital of the Almighty Tsar, and there
to embark in business. It was here that a great change took place in
the life of the young dreamer.
It was an eventful period--the year of 1882--in which Emma Goldman,
then in her 13th year, arrived in St. Petersburg. A struggle for
life and death between the autocracy and the Russian intellectuals
swept the country. Alexander II had fallen the previous year.
Sophia Perovskaia, Zheliabov, Grinevitzky, Rissakov, Kibalchitch,
Michailov, the heroic executors of the death sentence upon the
tyrant, had then entered the Walhalla of immortality. Jessie
Helfman, the only regicide whose life the government had reluctantly
spared because of pregnancy, followed the unnumbered Russian martyrs
to the etapes of Siberia. It was the most heroic period in the great
battle of emancipation, a battle for freedom such as the world had
never witnessed before. The names of the Nihilist martyrs were on
all lips, and thousands were enthusiastic to follow their example.
The whole INTELLIGENZIA of Russia was filled with the ILLEGAL
spirit: revolutionary sentiments penetrated into every home, from
mansion to hovel, impregnating the military, the CHINOVNIKS, factory
workers, and peasants. The atmosphere pierced the very casemates of
the royal palace. New ideas germinated in the youth. The difference
of sex was forgotten. Shoulder to shoulder fought the men and the
women. The Russian woman! Who shall ever do justice or adequately
portray her heroism and self-sacrifice, her loyalty and devotion?
Holy, Turgeniev calls her in his great prose poem, ON THE THRESHOLD.
It was inevitable that the young dreamer from Konigsberg should be
drawn into the maelstrom. To remain outside of the circle of free
ideas meant a life of vegetation, of death. One need not wonder at
the youthful age. Young enthusiasts were not then--and, fortunately,
are not now--a rare phenomenon in Russia. The study of the Russian
language soon brought young Emma Goldman in touch with revolutionary
students and new ideas. The place of Marlitt was taken by Nekrassov
and Tchernishevsky. The quondam admirer of the good Queen Louise
became a glowing enthusiast of liberty, resolving, like thousands of
others, to devote her life to the emancipation of the people.
The struggle of generations now took place in the Goldman family.
The parents could not comprehend what interest their daughter could
find in the new ideas, which they themselves considered fantastic
utopias. They strove to persuade the young girl out of these
chimeras, and daily repetition of soul-racking disputes was the
result. Only in one member of the family did the young idealist find
understanding--in her elder sister, Helene, with whom she later
emigrated to America, and whose love and sympathy have never failed
her. Even in the darkest hours of later persecution Emma Goldman
always found a haven of refuge in the home of this loyal sister.
Emma Goldman finally resolved to achieve her independence. She saw
hundreds of men and women sacrificing brilliant careers to go V
NAROD, to the people. She followed their example. She became a
factory worker; at first employed as a corset maker, and later in the
manufacture of gloves. She was now 17 years of age and proud to earn
her own living. Had she remained in Russia, she would have probably
sooner or later shared the fate of thousands buried in the snows of
Siberia. But a new chapter of life was to begin for her. Sister
Helene decided to emigrate to America, where another sister had
already made her home. Emma prevailed upon Helene to be allowed to
join her, and together they departed for America, filled with the
joyous hope of a great, free land, the glorious Republic.
America! What magic word. The yearning of the enslaved, the
promised land of the oppressed, the goal of all longing for progress.
Here man's ideals had found their fulfillment: no Tsar, no Cossack,
no CHINOVNIK. The Republic! Glorious synonym of equality, freedom,
Thus thought the two girls as they travelled, in the year 1886, from
New York to Rochester. Soon, all too soon, disillusionment awaited
them. The ideal conception of America was punctured already at
Castle Garden, and soon burst like a soap bubble. Here Emma Goldman
witnessed sights which reminded her of the terrible scenes of her
childhood in Kurland. The brutality and humiliation the future
citizens of the great Republic were subjected to on board ship, were
repeated at Castle Garden by the officials of the democracy in a more
savage and aggravating manner. And what bitter disappointment
followed as the young idealist began to familiarize herself with the
conditions in the new land! Instead of one Tsar, she found scores of
them; the Cossack was replaced by the policeman with the heavy club,
and instead of the Russian CHINOVNIK there was the far more inhuman
slave-driver of the factory.
Emma Goldman soon obtained work in the clothing establishment of the
Garson Co. The wages amounted to two and a half dollars a week. At
that time the factories were not provided with motor power, and the
poor sewing girls had to drive the wheels by foot, from early morning
till late at night. A terribly exhausting toil it was, without a ray
of light, the drudgery of the long day passed in complete
silence--the Russian custom of friendly conversation at work was not
permissible in the free country. But the exploitation of the girls
was not only economic; the poor wage workers were looked upon by
their foremen and bosses as sexual commodities. If a girl resented
the advances of her "superiors", she would speedily find herself on
the street as an undesirable element in the factory. There was never
a lack of willing victims: the supply always exceeded the demand.
The horrible conditions were made still more unbearable by the
fearful dreariness of life in the small American city. The Puritan
spirit suppresses the slightest manifestation of joy; a deadly
dullness beclouds the soul; no intellectual inspiration, no thought
exchange between congenial spirits is possible. Emma Goldman almost
suffocated in this atmosphere. She, above all others, longed for
ideal surroundings, for friendship and understanding, for the
companionship of kindred minds. Mentally she still lived in Russia.
Unfamiliar with the language and life of the country, she dwelt more
in the past than in the present. It was at this period that she met
a young man who spoke Russian. With great joy the acquaintance was
cultivated. At last a person with whom she could converse, one who
could help her bridge the dullness of the narrow existence. The
friendship gradually ripened and finally culminated in marriage.
Emma Goldman, too, had to walk the sorrowful road of married life;
she, too, had to learn from bitter experience that legal statutes
signify dependence and self-effacement, especially for the woman.
The marriage was no liberation from the Puritan dreariness of
American life; indeed, it was rather aggravated by the loss of
self-ownership. The characters of the young people differed too
widely. A separation soon followed, and Emma Goldman went to New
Haven, Conn. There she found employment in a factory, and her
husband disappeared from her horizon. Two decades later she was
fated to be unexpectedly reminded of him by the Federal authorities.
The revolutionists who were active in the Russian movement of the
80's were but little familiar with the social ideas then agitating
Western Europe and America. Their sole activity consisted in
educating the people, their final goal the destruction of the
autocracy. Socialism and Anarchism were terms hardly known even by
name. Emma Goldman, too, was entirely unfamiliar with the
significance of those ideals.
She arrived in America, as four years previously in Russia, at a
period of great social and political unrest. The working people were
in revolt against the terrible labor conditions; the eight-hour
movement of the Knights of Labor was at its height, and throughout
the country echoed the din of sanguine strife between strikers and
police. The struggle culminated in the great strike against the
Harvester Company of Chicago, the massacre of the strikers, and the
judicial murder of the labor leaders, which followed upon the
historic Haymarket bomb explosion. The Anarchists stood the martyr
test of blood baptism. The apologists of capitalism vainly seek to
justify the killing of Parsons, Spies, Lingg, Fischer, and Engel.
Since the publication of Governor Altgeld's reason for his liberation
of the three incarcerated Haymarket Anarchists, no doubt is left that
a fivefold legal murder had been committed in Chicago, in 1887.
Very few have grasped the significance of the Chicago martyrdom;
least of all the ruling classes. By the destruction of a number of
labor leaders they thought to stem the tide of a world-inspiring
idea. They failed to consider that from the blood of the martyrs
grows the new seed, and that the frightful injustice will win new
converts to the Cause.
The two most prominent representatives of the Anarchist idea in
America, Voltairine de Cleyre and Emma Goldman--the one a native
American, the other a Russian--have been converted, like numerous
others, to the ideas of Anarchism by the judicial murder. Two women
who had not known each other before, and who had received a widely
different education, were through that murder united in one idea.
Like most working men and women of America, Emma Goldman followed the
Chicago trial with great anxiety and excitement. She, too, could not
believe that the leaders of the proletariat would be killed. the
11th of November, 1887, taught her differently. She realized that no
mercy could be expected from the ruling class, that between the
Tsarism of Russia and the plutocracy of America there was no
difference save in name. Her whole being rebelled against the crime,
and she vowed to herself a solemn vow to join the ranks of the
revolutionary proletariat and to devote all her energy and strength
to their emancipation from wage slavery. With the glowing enthusiasm
so characteristic of her nature, she now began to familiarize herself
with the literature of Socialism and Anarchism. She attended public
meetings and became acquainted with socialistically and
anarchistically inclined workingmen. Johanna Greie, the well-known
German lecturer, was the first Socialist speaker heard by Emma
Goldman. In New Haven, Conn., where she was employed in a corset
factory, she met Anarchists actively participating in the movement.
Here she read the FREIHEIT, edited by John Most. The Haymarket
tragedy developed her inherent Anarchist tendencies: the reading of
the FREIHEIT made her a conscious Anarchist. Subsequently she was to
learn that the idea of Anarchism found its highest expression through
the best intellects of America: theoretically by Josiah Warren,
Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner; philosophically by Emerson,
Thoreau, and Walt Whitman.
Made ill by the excessive strain of factory work, Emma Goldman
returned to Rochester where she remained till August, 1889, at which
time she removed to New York, the scene of the most important phase
of her life. She was now twenty years old. Features pallid with
suffering, eyes large and full of compassion, greet one in her
pictured likeness of those days. Her hair is, as customary with
Russian student girls, worn short, giving free play to the strong
It is the heroic epoch of militant Anarchism. By leaps and bounds
the movement had grown in every country. In spite of the most severe
governmental persecution new converts swell the ranks. The
propaganda is almost exclusively of a secret character. The
repressive measures of the government drive the disciples of the new
philosophy to conspirative methods. Thousands of victims fall into
the hands of the authorities and languish in prisons. But nothing
can stem the rising tide of enthusiasm, of self-sacrifice and
devotion to the Cause. The efforts of teachers like Peter Kropotkin,
Louise Michel, Elisee Reclus, and others, inspire the devotees with
ever greater energy.
Disruption is imminent with the Socialists, who have sacrificed the
idea of liberty and embraced the State and politics. The struggle is
bitter, the factions irreconcilable. This struggle is not merely
between Anarchists and Socialists; it also finds its echo within the
Anarchist groups. Theoretic differences and personal controversies
lead to strife and acrimonious enmities. The anti-Socialist
legislation of Germany and Austria had driven thousands of Socialists
and Anarchists across the seas to seek refuge in America. John Most,
having lost his seat in the Reichstag, finally had to flee his native
land, and went to London. There, having advanced toward Anarchism,
he entirely withdrew from the Social Democratic Party. Later, coming
to America, he continued the publication of the FREIHEIT in New York,
and developed great activity among the German workingmen.
When Emma Goldman arrived in New York in 1889, she experienced little
difficulty in associating herself with active Anarchists. Anarchist
meetings were an almost daily occurrence. The first lecturer she
heard on the Anarchist platform was Dr. A. Solotaroff. Of great
importance to her future development was her acquaintance with John
Most, who exerted a tremendous influence over the younger elements.
His impassioned eloquence, untiring energy, and the persecution he
had endured for the Cause, all combined to enthuse the comrades. It
was also at this period that she met Alexander Berkman, whose
friendship played an important part throughout her life. Her talents
as a speaker could not long remain in obscurity. The fire of
enthusiasm swept her toward the public platform. Encouraged by her
friends, she began to participate as a German and Yiddish speaker at
Anarchist meetings. Soon followed a brief tour of agitation taking
her as far as Cleveland. With the whole strength and earnestness of
her soul she now threw herself into the propaganda of Anarchist
ideas. The passionate period of her life had begun. Through
constantly toiling in sweat shops, the fiery young orator was at the
same time very active as an agitator and participated in various
labor struggles, notably in the great cloakmakers' strike, in 1889,
led by Professor Garsyde and Joseph Barondess.
A year later Emma Goldman was a delegate to an Anarchist conference
in New York. She was elected to the Executive Committee, but later
withdrew because of differences of opinion regarding tactical
matters. The ideas of the German-speaking Anarchists had at that
time not yet become clarified. Some still believed in parliamentary
methods, the great majority being adherents of strong centralism.
These differences of opinion in regard to tactics led in 1891 to a
breach with John Most. Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and other
comrades joined the group AUTONOMY, in which Joseph Peukert, Otto
Rinke, and Claus Timmermann played an active part. The bitter
controversies which followed this secession terminated only with the
death of Most, in 1906.
A great source of inspiration to Emma Goldman proved the Russian
revolutionists who were associated in the group ZNAMYA. Goldenberg,
Solotaroff, Zametkin, Miller, Cahan, the poet Edelstadt, Ivan von
Schewitsch, husband of Helene von Racowitza and editor of the
VOLKSZEITUNG, and numerous other Russian exiles, some of whom are
still living, were members of this group. It was also at this time
that Emma Goldman met Robert Reitzel, the German-American Heine, who
exerted a great influence on her development. Through him she became
acquainted with the best writers of modern literature, and the
friendship thus begun lasted till Reitzel's death, in 1898.
The labor movement of America had not been drowned in the Chicago
massacre; the murder of the Anarchists had failed to bring peace to
the profit-greedy capitalist. The struggle for the eight-hour day
continued. In 1892 broke out the great strike in Pittsburg. The
Homestead fight, the defeat of the Pinkertons, the appearance of the
militia, the suppression of the strikers, and the complete triumph of
the reaction are matters of comparatively recent history. Stirred to
the very depths by the terrible events at the seat of war, Alexander
Berkman resolved to sacrifice his life to the Cause and thus give an
object lesson to the wage slaves of America of active Anarchist
solidarity with labor. His attack upon Frick, the Gessler of
Pittsburg, failed, and the twenty-two-year-old youth was doomed to a
living death of twenty-two years in the penitentiary. The
bourgeoisie, which for decades had exalted and eulogized tyrannicide,
now was filled with terrible rage. The capitalist press organized a
systematic campaign of calumny and misrepresentation against
Anarchists. The police exerted every effort to involve Emma Goldman
in the act of Alexander Berkman. The feared agitator was to be
silenced by all means. It was only due to the circumstance of her
presence in New York that she escaped the clutches of the law. It
was a similar circumstance which, nine years later, during the
McKinley incident, was instrumental in preserving her liberty. It is
almost incredible with what amount of stupidity, baseness, and
vileness the journalists of the period sought to overwhelm the
Anarchist. One must peruse the newspaper files to realize the
enormity of incrimination and slander. It would be difficult to
portray the agony of soul Emma Goldman experienced in those days.
The persecutions of the capitalist press were to be borne by an
Anarchist with comparative equanimity; but the attacks from one's own
ranks were far more painful and unbearable. The act of Berkman was
severely criticized by Most and some of his followers among the
German and Jewish Anarchists. Bitter accusations and recriminations
at public meetings and private gatherings followed. Persecuted on
all sides, both because she championed Berkman and his act, and on
account of her revolutionary activity, Emma Goldman was harassed even
to the extent of inability to secure shelter. Too proud to seek
safety in the denial of her identity, she chose to pass the nights in
the public parks rather than expose her friends to danger or vexation
by her visits. The already bitter cup was filled to overflowing by
the attempted suicide of a young comrade who had shared living
quarters with Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and a mutual artist
Many changes have since taken place. Alexander Berkman has survived
the Pennsylvania Inferno, and is back again in the ranks of the
militant Anarchists, his spirit unbroken, his soul full of enthusiasm
for the ideals of his youth. The artist comrade is now among the
well-known illustrators of New York. The suicide candidate left
America shortly after his unfortunate attempt to die, and was
subsequently arrested and condemned to eight years of hard labor for
smuggling Anarchist literature into Germany. He, too, has withstood
the terrors of prison life, and has returned to the revolutionary
movement, since earning the well deserved reputation of a talented
writer in Germany.
To avoid indefinite camping in the parks Emma Goldman finally was
forced to move into a house on Third Street, occupied exclusively by
prostitutes. There, among the outcasts of our good Christian
society, she could at least rent a bit of a room, and find rest and
work at her sewing machine. The women of the street showed more
refinement of feeling and sincere sympathy than the priests of the
Church. But human endurance had been exhausted by overmuch suffering
and privation. There was a complete physical breakdown, and the
renowned agitator was removed to the "Bohemian Republic"--a large
tenement house which derived its euphonious appellation from the fact
that its occupants were mostly Bohemian Anarchists. Here Emma
Goldman found friends ready to aid her. Justus Schwab, one of the
finest representatives of the German revolutionary period of that
time, and Dr. Solotaroff were indefatigable in the care of the
patient. Here, too, she met Edward Brady, the new friendship
subsequently ripening into close intimacy. Brady had been an active
participant in the revolutionary movement of Austria and had, at the
time of his acquaintance with Emma Goldman, lately been released from
an Austrian prison after an incarceration of ten years.
Physicians diagnosed the illness as consumption, and the patient was
advised to leave New York. She went to Rochester, in the hope that
the home circle would help restore her to health. Her parents had
several years previously emigrated to America, settling in that city.
Among the leading traits of the Jewish race is the strong attachment
between the members of the family, and, especially, between parents
and children. Though her conservative parents could not sympathize
with the idealist aspirations of Emma Goldman and did not approve of
her mode of life, they now received their sick daughter with open
arms. The rest and care enjoyed in the parental home, and the
cheering presence of the beloved sister Helene, proved so beneficial
that within a short time she was sufficiently restored to resume her
There is no rest in the life of Emma Goldman. Ceaseless effort and
continuous striving toward the conceived goal are the essentials of
her nature. Too much precious time had already been wasted. It was
imperative to resume her labors immediately. The country was in the
throes of a crisis, and thousands of unemployed crowded the streets
of the large industrial centers. Cold and hungry they tramped
through the land in the vain search for work and bread. The
Anarchists developed a strenuous propaganda among the unemployed and
the strikers. A monster demonstration of striking cloakmakers and of
the unemployed took place at Union Square, New York. Emma Goldman
was one of the invited speakers. She delivered an impassioned
speech, picturing in fiery words the misery of the wage slave's life,
and quoted the famous maxim of Cardinal Manning: "Necessity knows no
law, and the starving man has a natural right to a share of his
neighbor's bread." She concluded her exhortation with the words:
"Ask for work. If they do not give you work, ask for bread. If they
do not give you work or bread, then take bread."
The following day she left for Philadelphia, where she was to address
a public meeting. The capitalist press again raised the alarm. If
Socialists and Anarchists were to be permitted to continue agitating,
there was imminent danger that the workingmen would soon learn to
understand the manner in which they are robbed of the joy and
happiness of life. Such a possibility was to be prevented at all
cost. The Chief of Police of New York, Byrnes, procured a court
order for the arrest of Emma Goldman. She was detained by the
Philadelphia authorities and incarcerated for several days in the
Moyamensing prison, awaiting the extradition papers which Byrnes
intrusted to Detective Jacobs. This man Jacobs (whom Emma Goldman
again met several years later under very unpleasant circumstances)
proposed to her, while she was returning a prisoner to New York, to
betray the cause of labor. In the name of his superior, Chief
Byrnes, he offered lucrative reward. How stupid men sometimes are!
What poverty of psychologic observation to imagine the possibility of
betrayal on the part of a young Russian idealist, who had willingly
sacrificed all personal considerations to help in labor's
In October, 1893, Emma Goldman was tried in the criminal courts of
New York on the charge of inciting to riot. The "intelligent" jury
ignored the testimony of the twelve witnesses for the defense in
favor of the evidence given by one single man--Detective Jacobs. She
was found guilty and sentenced to serve one year in the penitentiary
at Blackwell's Island. Since the foundation of the Republic she was
the first woman--Mrs. Surratt excepted--to be imprisoned for a
political offense. Respectable society had long before stamped upon
her the Scarlet Letter.
Emma Goldman passed her time in the penitentiary in the capacity of
nurse in the prison hospital. Here she found opportunity to shed
some rays of kindness into the dark lives of the unfortunates whose
sisters of the street did not disdain two years previously to share
with her the same house. She also found in prison opportunity to
study English and its literature, and to familiarize herself with the
great American writers. In Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman,
Thoreau, and Emerson she found great treasures.
She left Blackwell's Island in the month of August, 1894, a woman of
twenty-five, developed and matured, and intellectually transformed.
Back into the arena, richer in experience, purified by suffering.
She did not feel herself deserted and alone any more. Many hands
were stretched out to welcome her. There were at the time numerous
intellectual oases in New York. The saloon of Justus Schwab, at
Number Fifty, First Street, was the center where gathered Anarchists,
litterateurs, and bohemians. Among others she also met at this time
a number of American Anarchists, and formed the friendship of
Voltairine de Cleyre, Wm. C. Owen, Miss Van Etton, and Dyer D. Lum,
former editor of the ALARM and executor of the last wishes of the
Chicago martyrs. In John Swinton, the noble old fighter for liberty,
she found one of her staunchest friends. Other intellectual centers
there were: SOLIDARITY, published by John Edelman; LIBERTY, by the
Individualist Anarchist, Benjamin R. Tucker; the REBEL, by Harry
Kelly; DER STURMVOGEL, a German Anarchist publication, edited by
Claus Timmermann; DER ARME TEUFEL, whose presiding genius was the
inimitable Robert Reitzel. Through Arthur Brisbane, now chief
lieutenant of William Randolph Hearst, she became acquainted with the
writings of Fourier. Brisbane then was not yet submerged in the
swamp of political corruption. He sent Emma Goldman an amiable
letter to Blackwell's Island, together with the biography of his
father, the enthusiastic American disciple of Fourier.
Emma Goldman became, upon her release from the penitentiary, a factor
in the public life of New York. She was appreciated in radical ranks
for her devotion, her idealism, and earnestness. Various persons
sought her friendship, and some tried to persuade her to aid in the
furtherance of their special side issues. Thus Rev. Parkhurst,
during the Lexow investigation, did his utmost to induce her to join
the Vigilance Committee in order to fight Tammany Hall. Maria
Louise, the moving spirit of a social center, acted as Parkhurst's
go-between. It is hardly necessary to mention what reply the latter
received from Emma Goldman. Incidentally, Maria Louise subsequently
became a Mahatma. During the free silver campaign, ex-Burgess
McLuckie, one of the most genuine personalities in the Homestead
strike, visited New York in an endeavor to enthuse the local radicals
for free silver. He also attempted to interest Emma Goldman, but
with no greater success than Mahatma Maria Louise of Parkhurst-Lexow
In 1894 the struggle of the Anarchists in France reached its highest
expression. The white terror on the part of the Republican upstarts
was answered by the red terror of our French comrades. With feverish
anxiety the Anarchists throughout the world followed this social
struggle. Propaganda by deed found its reverberating echo in almost
all countries. In order to better familiarize herself with
conditions in the old world, Emma Goldman left for Europe, in the
year 1895. After a lecture tour in England and Scotland, she went to
Vienna where she entered the ALLGEMEINE KRANKENHAUS to prepare
herself as midwife and nurse, and where at the same time she studied
social conditions. She also found opportunity to acquaint herself
with the newest literature of Europe: Hauptmann, Nietzsche, Ibsen,
Zola, Thomas Hardy, and other artist rebels were read with great
In the autumn of 1896 she returned to New York by way of Zurich and
Paris. The project of Alexander Berkman's liberation was on hand.
The barbaric sentence of twenty-two years had roused tremendous
indignation among the radical elements. It was known that the Pardon
Board of Pennsylvania would look to Carnegie and Frick for advice in
the case of Alexander Berkman. It was therefore suggested that these
Sultans of Pennsylvania be approached--not with a view of obtaining
their grace, but with the request that they do not attempt to
influence the Board. Ernest Crosby offered to see Carnegie, on
condition that Alexander Berkman repudiate his act. That, however,
was absolutely out of the question. He would never be guilty of such
forswearing of his own personality and self-respect. These efforts
led to friendly relations between Emma Goldman and the circle of
Ernest Crosby, Bolton Hall, and Leonard Abbott. In the year 1897 she
undertook her first great lecture tour, which extended as far as
California. This tour popularized her name as the representative of
the oppressed, her eloquence ringing from coast to coast. In
California Emma Goldman became friendly with the members of the Isaak
family, and learned to appreciate their efforts for the Cause. Under
tremendous obstacles the Isaaks first published the FIREBRAND and,
upon its suppression by the Postal Department, the FREE SOCIETY. It
was also during this tour that Emma Goldman met that grand old rebel
of sexual freedom, Moses Harman.
During the Spanish-American war the spirit of chauvinism was at its
highest tide. To check this dangerous situation, and at the same
time collect funds for the revolutionary Cubans, Emma Goldman became
affiliated with the Latin comrades, among others with Gori, Esteve,
Palaviccini, Merlino, Petruccini, and Ferrara. In the year 1899
followed another protracted tour of agitation, terminating on the
Pacific Coast. Repeated arrests and accusations, though without
ultimate bad results, marked every propaganda tour.
In November of the same year the untiring agitator went on a second
lecture tour to England and Scotland, closing her journey with the
first International Anarchist Congress at Paris. It was at the time of
the Boer war, and again jingoism was at its height, as two years
previously it had celebrated its orgies during the Spanish-American
war. Various meetings, both in England and Scotland, were disturbed
and broken up by patriotic mobs. Emma Goldman found on this occasion
the opportunity of again meeting various English comrades and
interesting personalities like Tom Mann and the sisters Rossetti, the
gifted daughters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, then publishers of the
Anarchist review, the TORCH. One of her life-long hopes found here
its fulfillment: she came in close and friendly touch with Peter
Kropotkin, Enrico Malatesta, Nicholas Tchaikovsky, W. Tcherkessov,
and Louise Michel. Old warriors in the cause of humanity, whose
deeds have enthused thousands of followers throughout the world, and
whose life and work have inspired other thousands with noble idealism
and self-sacrifice. Old warriors they, yet ever young with the
courage of earlier days, unbroken in spirit and filled with the firm
hope of the final triumph of Anarchy.
The chasm in the revolutionary labor movement, which resulted from
the disruption of the INTERNATIONALE, could not be bridged any more.
Two social philosophies were engaged in bitter combat. The
International Congress in 1889, at Paris; in 1892, at Zurich, and in
1896, at London, produced irreconcilable differences. The majority
of Social Democrats, forswearing their libertarian past and becoming
politicians, succeeded in excluding the revolutionary and Anarchist
delegates. The latter decided thenceforth to hold separate
congresses. Their first congress was to take place in 1900, at
Paris. The Socialist renegade, Millerand, who had climbed into the
Ministry of the Interior, here played a Judas role. The congress of
the revolutionists was suppressed, and the delegates dispersed two
days prior to their scheduled opening. But Millerand had no
objections against the Social Democratic Congress, which was
afterwards opened with all the trumpets of the advertiser's art.
However, the renegade did not accomplish his object. A number of
delegates succeeded in holding a secret conference in the house of a
comrade outside of Paris, where various points of theory and tactics
were discussed. Emma Goldman took considerable part in these
proceedings, and on that occasion came in contact with numerous
representatives of the Anarchist movement of Europe.
Owing to the suppression of the congress, the delegates were in
danger of being expelled from France. At this time also came the bad
news from America regarding another unsuccessful attempt to liberate
Alexander Berkman, proving a great shock to Emma Goldman. In
November, 1900, she returned to America to devote herself to her
profession of nurse, at the same time taking an active part in the
American propaganda. Among other activities she organized monster
meetings of protest against the terrible outrages of the Spanish
government, perpetrated upon the political prisoners tortured in
In her vocation as nurse Emma Goldman enjoyed many opportunities of
meeting the most unusual and peculiar characters. Few would have
identified the "notorious Anarchist" in the small blonde woman,
simply attired in the uniform of a nurse. Soon after her return from
Europe she became acquainted with a patient by the name of Mrs.
Stander, a morphine fiend, suffering excruciating agonies. She
required careful attention to enable her to supervise a very
important business she conducted,--that of Mrs. Warren. In Third
Street, near Third Avenue, was situated her private residence, and
near it, connected by a separate entrance, was her place of business.
One evening, the nurse, upon entering the room of her patient,
suddenly came face to face with a male visitor, bull-necked and of
brutal appearance. The man was no other than Mr. Jacobs, the
detective who seven years previously had brought Emma Goldman a
prisoner from Philadelphia and who had attempted to persuade her, on
their way to New York, to betray the cause of the workingmen. It
would be difficult to describe the expression of bewilderment on the
countenance of the man as he so unexpectedly faced Emma Goldman, the
nurse of his mistress. The brute was suddenly transformed into a
gentleman, exerting himself to excuse his shameful behavior on the
previous occasion. Jacobs was the "protector" of Mrs. Stander, and
go-between for the house and the police. Several years later, as one
of the detective staff of District Attorney Jerome, he committed
perjury, was convicted, and sent to Sing Sing for a year. He is now
probably employed by some private detective agency, a desirable
pillar of respectable society.
In 1901 Peter Kropotkin was invited by the Lowell Institute of
Massachusetts to deliver a series of lectures on Russian literature.
It was his second American tour, and naturally the comrades were
anxious to use his presence for the benefit of the movement. Emma
Goldman entered into correspondence with Kropotkin and succeeded in
securing his consent to arrange for him a series of lectures. She
also devoted her energies to organizing the tours of other well known
Anarchists, principally those of Charles W. Mowbray and John Turner.
Similarly she always took part in all the activities of the movement,
ever ready to give her time, ability, and energy to the Cause.
On the sixth of September, 1901, President McKinley was shot by Leon
Czolgosz at Buffalo. Immediately an unprecedented campaign of
persecution was set in motion against Emma Goldman as the best known
Anarchist in the country. Although there was absolutely no
foundation for the accusation, she, together with other prominent
Anarchists, was arrested in Chicago, kept in confinement for several
weeks, and subjected to severest cross-examination. Never before in
the history of the country had such a terrible man-hunt taken place
against a person in public life. But the efforts of police and press
to connect Emma Goldman with Czolgosz proved futile. Yet the episode
left her wounded to the heart. The physical suffering, the
humiliation and brutality at the hands of the police she could bear.
The depression of soul was far worse. She was overwhelmed by
realization of the stupidity, lack of understanding, and vileness
which characterized the events of those terrible days. The attitude
of misunderstanding on the part of the majority of her own comrades
toward Czolgosz almost drove her to desperation. Stirred to the very
inmost of her soul, she published an article on Czolgosz in which she
tried to explain the deed in its social and individual aspects. As
once before, after Berkman's act, she now also was unable to find
quarters; like a veritable wild animal she was driven from place to
place. This terrible persecution and, especially, the attitude of
her comrades made it impossible for her to continue propaganda. The
soreness of body and soul had first to heal. During 1901-1903 she
did not resume the platform. As "Miss Smith" she lived a quiet life,
practicing her profession and devoting her leisure to the study of
literature and, particularly, to the modern drama, which she
considers one of the greatest disseminators of radical ideas and
Yet one thing the persecution of Emma Goldman accomplished. Her name
was brought before the public with greater frequency and emphasis
than ever before, the malicious harassing of the much maligned
agitator arousing strong sympathy in many circles. Persons in
various walks of life began to get interested in her struggle and her
ideas. A better understanding and appreciation were now beginning to
The arrival in America of the English Anarchist, John Turner, induced
Emma Goldman to leave her retirement. Again she threw herself into
her public activities, organizing an energetic movement for the
defense of Turner, whom the Immigration authorities condemned to
deportation on account of the Anarchist exclusion law, passed after
the death of McKinley.
When Paul Orleneff and Mme. Nazimova arrived in New York to acquaint
the American public with Russian dramatic art, Emma Goldman became
the manager of the undertaking. By much patience and perseverance
she succeeded in raising the necessary funds to introduce the Russian
artists to the theater-goers of New York and Chicago. Though
financially not a success, the venture proved of great artistic
value. As manager of the Russian theater Emma Goldman enjoyed some
unique experiences. M. Orleneff could converse only in Russian, and
"Miss Smith" was forced to act as his interpreter at various polite
functions. Most of the aristocratic ladies of Fifth Avenue had not
the least inkling that the amiable manager who so entertainingly
discussed philosophy, drama, and literature at their five o'clock
teas, was the "notorious" Emma Goldman. If the latter should some
day write her autobiography, she will no doubt have many interesting
anecdotes to relate in connection with these experiences.
The weekly Anarchist publication, FREE SOCIETY, issued by the Isaak
family, was forced to suspend in consequence of the nation-wide fury
that swept the country after the death of McKinley. To fill out the
gap Emma Goldman, in co-operation with Max Baginski and other
comrades, decided to publish a monthly magazine devoted to the
furtherance of Anarchist ideas in life and literature. The first
issue of MOTHER EARTH appeared in the month of March, 1906, the
initial expenses of the periodical partly covered by the proceeds of
a theater benefit given by Orleneff, Mme. Nazimova, and their
company, in favor of the Anarchist magazine. Under tremendous
difficulties and obstacles the tireless propagandist has succeeded in
continuing MOTHER EARTH uninterruptedly since 1906--an achievement
rarely equalled in the annals of radical publications.
In May, 1906, Alexander Berkman at last left the hell of
Pennsylvania, where he had passed the best fourteen years of his
life. No one had believed in the possibility of his survival. His
liberation terminated a nightmare of fourteen years for Emma Goldman,
and an important chapter of her career was thus concluded.
Nowhere had the birth of the Russian revolution aroused such vital
and active response as among the Russians living in America. The
heroes of the revolutionary movement in Russia, Tchaikovsky, Mme.
Breshkovskaia, Gershuni, and others visited these shores to waken the
sympathies of the American people toward the struggle for liberty,
and to collect aid for its continuance and support. The success of
these efforts was to a considerable extent due to the exertions,
eloquence, and the talent for organization on the part of Emma
Goldman. This opportunity enabled her to give valuable services to
the struggle for liberty in her native land. It is not generally
known that it is the Anarchists who are mainly instrumental in
insuring the success, moral as well as financial, of most of the
radical undertakings. The Anarchist is indifferent to acknowledged
appreciation; the needs of the Cause absorb his whole interest, and
to these he devotes his energy and abilities. Yet it may be
mentioned that some otherwise decent folks, though at all times
anxious for Anarchist support and co-operation, are ever willing to
monopolize all the credit for the work done. During the last several
decades it was chiefly the Anarchists who had organized all the great
revolutionary efforts, and aided in every struggle for liberty. But
for fear of shocking the respectable mob, who looks upon the
Anarchists as the apostles of Satan, and because of their social
position in bourgeois society, the would-be radicals ignore the
activity of the Anarchists.
In 1907 Emma Goldman participated as delegate to the second Anarchist
Congress, at Amsterdam. She was intensely active in all its
proceedings and supported the organization of the Anarchist
INTERNATIONALE. Together with the other American delegate, Max
Baginski, she submitted to the congress an exhaustive report of
American conditions, closing with the following characteristic
"The charge that Anarchism is destructive, rather than constructive,
and that, therefore, Anarchism is opposed to organization, is one of
the many falsehoods spread by our opponents. They confound our
present social institutions with organization; hence they fail to
understand how we can oppose the former, and yet favor the latter.
The fact, however, is that the two are not identical.
"The State is commonly regarded as the highest form of organization.
But is it in reality a true organization? Is it not rather an
arbitrary institution, cunningly imposed upon the masses?
"Industry, too, is called an organization; yet nothing is farther
from the truth. Industry is the ceaseless piracy of the rich against
"We are asked to believe that the Army is an organization, but a
close investigation will show that it is nothing else than a cruel
instrument of blind force.
"The Public School! The colleges and other institutions of learning,
are they not models of organization, offering the people fine
opportunities for instruction? Far from it. The school, more than
any other institution, is a veritable barrack, where the human mind
is drilled and manipulated into submission to various social and
moral spooks, and thus fitted to continue our system of exploitation
"Organization, as WE understand it, however, is a different thing.
It is based, primarily, on freedom. It is a natural and voluntary
grouping of energies to secure results beneficial to humanity.
"It is the harmony of organic growth which produces variety of color
and form, the complete whole we admire in the flower. Analogously
will the organized activity of free human beings, imbued with the
spirit of solidarity, result in the perfection of social harmony,
which we call Anarchism. In fact, Anarchism alone makes
non-authoritarian organization of common interests possible, since it
abolishes the existing antagonism between individuals and classes.
"Under present conditions the antagonism of economic and social
interests results in relentless war among the social units, and
creates an insurmountable obstacle in the way of a co-operative
"There is a mistaken notion that organization does not foster
individual freedom; that, on the contrary, it means the decay of
individuality. In reality, however, the true function of
organization is to aid the development and growth of personality.
"Just as the animal cells, by mutual co-operation, express their
latent powers in formation of the complete organism, so does the
individual, by co-operative effort with other individuals, attain his
highest form of development.
"An organization, in the true sense, cannot result from the
combination of mere nonentities. It must be composed of
self-conscious, intelligent individualities. Indeed, the total of
the possibilities and activities of an organization is represented in
the expression of individual energies.
"It therefore logically follows that the greater the number of
strong, self-conscious personalities in an organization, the less
danger of stagnation, and the more intense its life element.
"Anarchism asserts the possibility of an organization without
discipline, fear, or punishment, and without the pressure of poverty:
a new social organism which will make an end to the terrible struggle
for the means of existence,--the savage struggle which undermines the
finest qualities in man, and ever widens the social abyss. In short,
Anarchism strives towards a social organization which will establish
well-being for all.
"The germ of such an organization can be found in that form of trades
unionism which has done away with centralization, bureaucracy, and
discipline, and which favors independent and direct action on the
part of its members."
The very considerable progress of Anarchist ideas in America can best
be gauged by the remarkable success of the three extensive lecture
tours of Emma Goldman since the Amsterdam Congress of 1907. Each
tour extended over new territory, including localities where
Anarchism had never before received a hearing. But the most
gratifying aspect of her untiring efforts is the tremendous sale of
Anarchist literature, whose propagandist effect cannot be estimated.
It was during one of these tours that a remarkable incident happened,
strikingly demonstrating the inspiring potentialities of the
Anarchist idea. In San Francisco, in 1908, Emma Goldman's lecture
attracted a soldier of the United States Army, William Buwalda. For
daring to attend an Anarchist meeting, the free Republic
court-martialed Buwalda and imprisoned him for one year. Thanks to
the regenerating power of the new philosophy, the government lost a
soldier, but the cause of liberty gained a man.
A propagandist of Emma Goldman's importance is necessarily a sharp
thorn to the reaction. She is looked upon as a danger to the
continued existence of authoritarian usurpation. No wonder, then,
that the enemy resorts to any and all means to make her impossible.
A systematic attempt to suppress her activities was organized a year
ago by the united police force of the country. But like all previous
similar attempts, it failed in a most brilliant manner. Energetic
protests on the part of the intellectual element of America succeeded
in overthrowing the dastardly conspiracy against free speech.
Another attempt to make Emma Goldman impossible was essayed by the
Federal authorities at Washington. In order to deprive her of the
rights of citizenship, the government revoked the citizenship papers
of her husband, whom she had married at the youthful age of eighteen,
and whose whereabouts, if he be alive, could not be determined for
the last two decades. The great government of the glorious United
States did not hesitate to stoop to the most despicable methods to
accomplish that achievement. But as her citizenship had never proved
of use to Emma Goldman, she can bear the loss with a light heart.
There are personalities who possess such a powerful individuality
that by its very force they exert the most potent influence over the
best representatives of their time. Michael Bakunin was such a
personality. But for him, Richard Wagner had never written DIE KUNST
UND DIE REVOLUTION. Emma Goldman is a similar personality. She is a
strong factor in the socio-political life of America. By virtue of
her eloquence, energy, and brilliant mentality, she moulds the minds
and hearts of thousands of her auditors.
Deep sympathy and compassion for suffering humanity, and an
inexorable honesty toward herself, are the leading traits of Emma
Goldman. No person, whether friend or foe, shall presume to control
her goal or dictate her mode of life. She would perish rather than
sacrifice her convictions, or the right of self-ownership of soul and
body. Respectability could easily forgive the teaching of theoretic
Anarchism; but Emma Goldman does not merely preach the new
philosophy; she also persists in living it,--and that is the one
supreme, unforgivable crime. Were she, like so many radicals, to
consider her ideal as merely an intellectual ornament; were she to
make concessions to existing society and compromise with old
prejudices,--then even the most radical views could be pardoned in
her. But that she takes her radicalism seriously; that it has
permeated her blood and marrow to the extent where she not merely
teaches but also practices her convictions--this shocks even the
radical Mrs. Grundy. Emma Goldman lives her own life; she associates
with publicans--hence the indignation of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
It is no mere coincidence that such divergent writers as Pietro Gori
and William Marion Reedy find similar traits in their
characterization of Emma Goldman. In a contribution to LA QUESTIONE
SOCIALE, Pietro Gori calls her a "moral power, a woman who, with the
vision of a sibyl, prophesies the coming of a new kingdom for the
oppressed; a woman who, with logic and deep earnestness, analyses the
ills of society, and portrays, with artist touch, the coming dawn of
humanity, founded on equality, brotherhood, and liberty."
William Reedy sees in Emma Goldman the "daughter of the dream, her
gospel a vision which is the vision of every truly great-souled man
and woman who has ever lived."
Cowards who fear the consequences of their deeds have coined the word
of philosophic Anarchism. Emma Goldman is too sincere, too defiant,
to seek safety behind such paltry pleas. She is an Anarchist, pure
and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah
Warrn, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also
understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a
Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of
violence. To the soldier in the social struggle it is a point of
honor to come in conflict with the powers of darkness and tyranny,
and Emma Goldman is proud to count among her best friends and
comrades men and women who bear the wounds and scars received in
In the words of Voltairine de Cleyre, characterizing Emma Goldman
after the latter's imprisonment in 1893: The spirit that animates
Emma Goldman is the only one which will emancipate the slave from his
slavery, the tyrant from his tyranny--the spirit which is willing to
dare and suffer.
New York, December, 1910.
Some twenty-one years ago I heard the first great Anarchist
speaker--the inimitable John Most. It seemed to me then, and for
many years after, that the spoken word hurled forth among the masses
with such wonderful eloquence, such enthusiasm and fire, could never
be erased from the human mind and soul. How could any one of all the
multitudes who flocked to Most's meetings escape his prophetic voice!
Surely they had but to hear him to throw off their old beliefs, and
see the truth and beauty of Anarchism!
My one great longing then was to be able to speak with the tongue of
John Most,--that I, too, might thus reach the masses. Oh, for the
naivety of Youth's enthusiasm! It is the time when the hardest thing
seems but child's play. It is the only period in life worth while.
Alas! This period is but of short duration. Like Spring, the STURM
UND DRANG period of the propagandist brings forth growth, frail and
delicate, to be matured or killed according to its powers of
resistance against a thousand vicissitudes.
My great faith in the wonder worker, the spoken word, is no more. I
have realized its inadequacy to awaken thought, or even emotion.
Gradually, and with no small struggle against this realization, I
came to see that oral propaganda is at best but a means of shaking
people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression. The
very fact that most people attend meetings only if aroused by
newspaper sensations, or because they expect to be amused, is proof
that they really have no inner urge to learn.
It is altogether different with the written mode of human expression.
No one, unless intensely interested in progressive ideas, will bother
with serious books. That leads me to another discovery made after
many years of public activity. It is this: All claims of education
notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind
craves. Already this truth is recognized by most modern educators in
relation to the immature mind. I think it is equally true regarding
the adult. Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than
musicians. All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought.
Whether something vital will develop depends largely on the fertility
of the human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must
not be overlooked.
In meetings the audience is distracted by a thousand non-essentials.
The speaker, though ever so eloquent, cannot escape the restlessness
of the crowd, with the inevitable result that he will fail to strike
root. In all probability he will not even do justice to himself.
The relation between the writer and the reader is more intimate.
True, books are only what we want them to be; rather, what we read
into them. That we can do so demonstrates the importance of written
as against oral expression. It is this certainty which has induced
me to gather in one volume my ideas on various topics of individual
and social importance. They represent the mental and soul struggles
of twenty-one years,--the conclusions derived after many changes and
I am not sanguine enough to hope that my readers will be as numerous
as those who have heard me. But I prefer to reach the few who really
want to learn, rather than the many who come to be amused.
As to the book, it must speak for itself. Explanatory remarks do but
detract from the ideas set forth. However, I wish to forestall two
objections which will undoubtedly be raised. One is in reference to
the essay on ANARCHISM; the other, on MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES.
"Why do you not say how things will be operated under Anarchism?" is
a question I have had to meet thousands of times. Because I believe
that Anarchism can not consistently impose an iron-clad program or
method on the future. The things every new generation has to fight,
and which it can least overcome, are the burdens of the past, which
holds us all as in a net. Anarchism, at least as I understand it,
leaves posterity free to develop its own particular systems, in
harmony with its needs. Our most vivid imagination can not foresee
the potentialities of a race set free from external restraints.
How, then, can any one assume to map out a line of conduct for those
to come? We, who pay dearly for every breath of pure, fresh air,
must guard against the tendency to fetter the future. If we succeed
in clearing the soil from the rubbish of the past and present, we
will leave to posterity the greatest and safest heritage of all ages.
The most disheartening tendency common among readers is to tear out
one sentence from a work, as a criterion of the writer's ideas or
personality. Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, is decried as a
hater of the weak because he believed in the UEBERMENSCH. It does
not occur to the shallow interpreters of that giant mind that this
vision of the UEBERMENSCH also called for a state of society which
will not give birth to a race of weaklings and slaves.
It is the same narrow attitude which sees in Max Stirner naught but
the apostle of the theory "each for himself, the devil take the hind
one." That Stirner's individualism contains the greatest social
possibilities is utterly ignored. Yet, it is nevertheless true that
if society is ever to become free, it will be so through liberated
individuals, whose free efforts make society.
These examples bring me to the objection that will be raised to
MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES. No doubt, I shall be excommunicated as
an enemy of the people, because I repudiate the mass as a creative
factor. I shall prefer that rather than be guilty of the demagogic
platitudes so commonly in vogue as a bait for the people. I realize
the malady of the oppressed and disinherited masses only too well,
but I refuse to prescribe the usual ridiculous palliatives which
allow the patient neither to die nor to recover. One cannot be too
extreme in dealing with social ills; besides, the extreme thing is
generally the true thing. My lack of faith in the majority is
dictated by my faith in the potentialities of the individual. Only
when the latter becomes free to choose his associates for a common
purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos
For the rest, my book must speak for itself.
ANARCHISM: WHAT IT REALLY STANDS FOR
Ever reviled, accursed, ne'er understood,
Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
"Wreck of all order," cry the multitude,
"Art thou, and war and murder's endless rage."
O, let them cry. To them that ne'er have striven
The truth that lies behind a word to find,
To them the word's right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.
But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so pure,
Thou sayest all which I for goal have taken.
I give thee to the future! Thine secure
When each at least unto himself shall waken.
Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest's thrill?
I cannot tell--but it the earth shall see!
I am an Anarchist! Wherefore I will
Not rule, and also ruled I will not be!
JOHN HENRY MACKAY.
The history of human growth and development is at the same time the
history of the terrible struggle of every new idea heralding the
approach of a brighter dawn. In its tenacious hold on tradition, the
Old has never hesitated to make use of the foulest and cruelest means
to stay the advent of the New, in whatever form or period the latter
may have asserted itself. Nor need we retrace our steps into the
distant past to realize the enormity of opposition, difficulties, and
hardships placed in the path of every progressive idea. The rack,
the thumbscrew, and the knout are still with us; so are the convict's
garb and the social wrath, all conspiring against the spirit that is
serenely marching on.
Anarchism could not hope to escape the fate of all other ideas of
innovation. Indeed, as the most revolutionary and uncompromising
innovator, Anarchism must needs meet with the combined ignorance and
venom of the world it aims to reconstruct.
To deal even remotely with all that is being said and done against
Anarchism would necessitate the writing of a whole volume. I shall
therefore meet only two of the principal objections. In so doing, I
shall attempt to elucidate what Anarchism really stands for.
The strange phenomenon of the opposition to Anarchism is that it
brings to light the relation between so-called intelligence and
ignorance. And yet this is not so very strange when we consider the
relativity of all things. The ignorant mass has in its favor that it
makes no pretense of knowledge or tolerance. Acting, as it always
does, by mere impulse, its reasons are like those of a child.
"Why?" "Because." Yet the opposition of the uneducated to Anarchism
deserves the same consideration as that of the intelligent man.
What, then, are the objections? First, Anarchism is impractical,
though a beautiful ideal. Second, Anarchism stands for violence and
destruction, hence it must be repudiated as vile and dangerous.
Both the intelligent man and the ignorant mass judge not from a
thorough knowledge of the subject, but either from hearsay or false
A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in
existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing
conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one
objects to, and any scheme that could accept these conditions is
wrong and foolish. The true criterion of the practical, therefore,
is not whether the latter can keep intact the wrong or foolish;
rather is it whether the scheme has vitality enough to leave the
stagnant waters of the old, and build, as well as sustain, new life.
In the light of this conception, Anarchism is indeed practical.
More than any other idea, it is helping to do away with the wrong and
foolish; more than any other idea, it is building and sustaining new
The emotions of the ignorant man are continuously kept at a pitch by
the most blood-curdling stories about Anarchism. Not a thing too
outrageous to be employed against this philosophy and its exponents.
Therefore Anarchism represents to the unthinking what the proverbial
bad man does to the child,--a black monster bent on swallowing
everything; in short, destruction and violence.
Destruction and violence! How is the ordinary man to know that the
most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of
destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating? Nor is he
aware that Anarchism, whose roots, as it were, are part of nature's
forces, destroys, not healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that
feed on the life's essence of society. It is merely clearing the
soil from weeds and sagebrush, that it may eventually bear healthy
Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than
to think. The widespread mental indolence, so prevalent in society,
proves this to be only too true. Rather than to go to the bottom of
any given idea, to examine into its origin and meaning, most people
will either condemn it altogether, or rely on some superficial or
prejudicial definition of non-essentials.
Anarchism urges man to think, to investigate, to analyze every
proposition; but that the brain capacity of the average reader be not
taxed too much, I also shall begin with a definition, and then
elaborate on the latter.
ANARCHISM:--The philosophy of a new social order based on
liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all
forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong
and harmful, as well as unnecessary.
The new social order rests, of course, on the materialistic basis of
life; but while all Anarchists agree that the main evil today is an
economic one, they maintain that the solution of that evil can be
brought about only through the consideration of EVERY PHASE of
life,--individual, as well as the collective; the internal, as well
as the external phases.
A thorough perusal of the history of human development will disclose
two elements in bitter conflict with each other; elements that are
only now beginning to be understood, not as foreign to each other,
but as closely related and truly harmonious, if only placed in proper
environment: the individual and social instincts. The individual and
society have waged a relentless and bloody battle for ages, each
striving for supremacy, because each was blind to the value and
importance of the other. The individual and social instincts,--the
one a most potent factor for individual endeavor, for growth,
aspiration, self-realization; the other an equally potent factor for
mutual helpfulness and social well-being.
The explanation of the storm raging within the individual, and
between him and his surroundings, is not far to seek. The primitive
man, unable to understand his being, much less the unity of all life,
felt himself absolutely dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready
to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious
concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers
on high, who can only be appeased by complete surrender. All the
early sagas rest on that idea, which continues to be the LEIT-MOTIF
of the biblical tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the
State, to society. Again and again the same motif, MAN IS NOTHING,
THE POWERS ARE EVERYTHING. Thus Jehovah would only endure man on
condition of complete surrender. Man can have all the glories of the
earth, but he must not become conscious of himself. The State,
society, and moral laws all sing the same refrain: Man can have all
the glories of the earth, but he must not become conscious of
Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the
consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and
society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void,
since they can be fulfilled only through man's subordination.
Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely
in nature, but in man. There is no conflict between the individual
and the social instincts, any more than there is between the heart
and the lungs: the one the receptacle of a precious life essence, the
other the repository of the element that keeps the essence pure and
strong. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the
essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing
the element to keep the life essence--that is, the individual--pure
"The one thing of value in the world," says Emerson, "is the active
soul; this every man contains within him. The soul active sees
absolute truth and utters truth and creates." In other words, the
individual instinct is the thing of value in the world. It is the
true soul that sees and creates the truth alive, out of which is to
come a still greater truth, the re-born social soul.
Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have
held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces
for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity,
Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so
far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social
instincts, the individual and society.
Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of
human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent
the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails.
Religion! How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades
his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out
of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical,
so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and
blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man to
rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says
Anarchism to man, for not until you think and judge for yourself will
you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all
Property, the dominion of man's needs, the denial of the right to
satisfy his needs. Time was when property claimed a divine right,
when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion,
"Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!" The spirit of Anarchism has lifted
man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face
toward the light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring,
devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike the
"Property is robbery," said the great French Anarchist, Proudhon.
Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber. Monopolizing the
accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his
birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast.
Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create
enough to satisfy all needs. The A B C student of economics knows
that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far
exceeds normal demand a hundredfold. But what are normal demands to
an abnormal institution? The only demand that property recognizes is
its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means
power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to
enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly boastful of
her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what
avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are
wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with
hope and joy gone, a homeless, soilless army of human prey.
It is generally conceded that unless the returns of any business
venture exceed the cost, bankruptcy is inevitable. But those engaged
in the business of producing wealth have not yet learned even this
simple lesson. Every year the cost of production in human life is
growing larger (50,000 killed, 100,000 wounded in America last year);
the returns to the masses, who help to create wealth, are ever
getting smaller. Yet America continues to be blind to the inevitable
bankruptcy of our business of production. Nor is this the only crime
of the latter. Still more fatal is the crime of turning the producer
into a mere particle of a machine, with less will and decision than
his master of steel and iron. Man is being robbed not merely of the
products of his labor, but of the power of free initiative, of
originality, and the interest in, or desire for, the things he is
Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that
help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to
live in. But if man is doomed to wind cotton around a spool, or dig
coal, or build roads for thirty years of his life, there can be no
talk of wealth. What he gives to the world is only gray and hideous
things, reflecting a dull and hideous existence,--too weak to live,
too cowardly to die. Strange to say, there are people who extol this
deadening method of centralized production as the proudest
achievement of our age. They fail utterly to realize that if we are
to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete
than was our bondage to the King. They do not want to know that
centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of
health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in
a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.
Anarchism cannot but repudiate such a method of production: its goal
is the freest possible expression of all the latent powers of the
individual. Oscar Wilde defines a perfect personality as "one who
develops under perfect conditions, who is not wounded, maimed, or in
danger." A perfect personality, then, is only possible in a state of
society where man is free to choose the mode of work, the conditions
of work, and the freedom to work. One to whom the making of a table,
the building of a house, or the tilling of the soil, is what the
painting is to the artist and the discovery to the scientist,--the
result of inspiration, of intense longing, and deep interest in work
as a creative force. That being the ideal of Anarchism, its economic
arrangements must consist of voluntary productive and distributive
associations, gradually developing into free communism, as the best
means of producing with the least waste of human energy. Anarchism,
however, also recognizes the right of the individual, or numbers of
individuals, to arrange at all times for other forms of work, in
harmony with their tastes and desires.
Such free display of human energy being possible only under complete
individual and social freedom, Anarchism directs its forces against
the third and greatest foe of all social equality; namely, the State,
organized authority, or statutory law,--the dominion of human
Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the
monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man's needs, so has the
State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. "All
government in essence," says Emerson, "is tyranny." It matters not
whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every
instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.
Referring to the American government, the greatest American
Anarchist, David Thoreau, said: "Government, what is it but a
tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself
unimpaired to posterity, but each instance losing its integrity; it
has not the vitality and force of a single living man. Law never
made man a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even
the well disposed are daily made agents of injustice."
Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance
and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments
ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses,
while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the
annihilation of individual liberty. Thus Ouida is right when she
maintains that "the State only aims at instilling those qualities in
its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is
filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to
clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate
liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably
dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which
there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit,
and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving
humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two
Yet even a flock of sheep would resist the chicanery of the State, if
it were not for the corruptive, tyrannical, and oppressive methods it
employs to serve its purposes. Therefore Bakunin repudiates the
State as synonymous with the surrender of the liberty of the
individual or small minorities,--the destruction of social
relationship, the curtailment, or complete denial even, of life
itself, for its own aggrandizement. The State is the altar of
political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for
the purpose of human sacrifice.
In fact, there is hardly a modern thinker who does not agree that
government, organized authority, or the State, is necessary ONLY to
maintain or protect property and monopoly. It has proven efficient
in that function only.
Even George Bernard Shaw, who hopes for the miraculous from the State
under Fabianism, nevertheless admits that "it is at present a huge
machine for robbing and slave-driving of the poor by brute force."
This being the case, it is hard to see why the clever prefacer wishes
to uphold the State after poverty shall have ceased to exist.
Unfortunately there are still a number of people who continue in the
fatal belief that government rests on natural laws, that it maintains
social order and harmony, that it diminishes crime, and that it
prevents the lazy man from fleecing his fellows. I shall therefore
examine these contentions.
A natural law is that factor in man which asserts itself freely and
spontaneously without any external force, in harmony with the
requirements of nature. For instance, the demand for nutrition, for
sex gratification, for light, air, and exercise, is a natural law.
But its expression needs not the machinery of government, needs not
the club, the gun, the handcuff, or the prison. To obey such laws,
if we may call it obedience, requires only spontaneity and free
opportunity. That governments do not maintain themselves through
such harmonious factors is proven by the terrible array of violence,
force, and coercion all governments use in order to live. Thus
Blackstone is right when he says, "Human laws are invalid, because
they are contrary to the laws of nature."
Unless it be the order of Warsaw after the slaughter of thousands of
people, it is difficult to ascribe to governments any capacity for
order or social harmony. Order derived through submission and
maintained by terror is not much of a safe guaranty; yet that is the
only "order" that governments have ever maintained. True social
harmony grows naturally out of solidarity of interests. In a society
where those who always work never have anything, while those who
never work enjoy everything, solidarity of interests is non-existent;
hence social harmony is but a myth. The only way organized authority
meets this grave situation is by extending still greater privileges
to those who have already monopolized the earth, and by still further
enslaving the disinherited masses. Thus the entire arsenal of
government--laws, police, soldiers, the courts, legislatures,
prisons,--is strenuously engaged in "harmonizing" the most
antagonistic elements in society.
The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to
diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the
greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing
in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital
punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with
crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the
horrible scourge of its own creation.
Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution
of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to
misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people
are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they
loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the
statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does
society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the
poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass
on its way to crime and degradation. Who that knows this terrible
process can fail to see the truth in these words of Peter Kropotkin:
"Those who will hold the balance between the benefits thus attributed
to law and punishment and the degrading effect of the latter on
humanity; those who will estimate the torrent of depravity poured
abroad in human society by the informer, favored by the Judge even,
and paid for in clinking cash by governments, under the pretext of
aiding to unmask crime; those who will go within prison walls and
there see what human beings become when deprived of liberty, when
subjected to the care of brutal keepers, to coarse, cruel words, to a
thousand stinging, piercing humiliations, will agree with us that the
entire apparatus of prison and punishment is an abomination which
ought to be brought to an end."
The deterrent influence of law on the lazy man is too absurd to merit
consideration. If society were only relieved of the waste and
expense of keeping a lazy class, and the equally great expense of the
paraphernalia of protection this lazy class requires, the social
tables would contain an abundance for all, including even the
occasional lazy individual. Besides, it is well to consider that
laziness results either from special privileges, or physical and
mental abnormalities. Our present insane system of production
fosters both, and the most astounding phenomenon is that people
should want to work at all now. Anarchism aims to strip labor of its
deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom and compulsion. It aims to
make work an instrument of joy, of strength, of color, of real
harmony, so that the poorest sort of a man should find in work both
recreation and hope.
To achieve such an arrangement of life, government, with its unjust,
arbitrary, repressive measures, must be done away with. At best it
has but imposed one single mode of life upon all, without regard to
individual and social variations and needs. In destroying government
and statutory laws, Anarchism proposes to rescue the self-respect and
independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by
authority. Only in freedom can man grow to his full stature. Only
in freedom will he learn to think and move, and give the very best in
him. Only in freedom will he realize the true force of the social
bonds which knit men together, and which are the true foundation of a
normal social life.
But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it
endure under Anarchism?
Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy
name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson
to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak
authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan,
the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of
human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every
soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?
John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in
captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits,
their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from
their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow
space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its
Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose,
alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all
its wonderful possibilities.
Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind
from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from
the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint
of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free
grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social
wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access
to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according
to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
This is not a wild fancy or an aberration of the mind. It is the
conclusion arrived at by hosts of intellectual men and women the
world over; a conclusion resulting from the close and studious
observation of the tendencies of modern society: individual liberty
and economic equality, the twin forces for the birth of what is fine
and true in man.
As to methods. Anarchism is not, as some may suppose, a theory of
the future to be realized through divine inspiration. It is a living
force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions.
The methods of Anarchism therefore do not comprise an iron-clad
program to be carried out under all circumstances. Methods must grow
out of the economic needs of each place and clime, and of the
intellectual and temperamental requirements of the individual. The
serene, calm character of a Tolstoy will wish different methods for
social reconstruction than the intense, overflowing personality of a
Michael Bakunin or a Peter Kropotkin. Equally so it must be apparent
that the economic and political needs of Russia will dictate more
drastic measures than would England or America. Anarchism does not
stand for military drill and uniformity; it does, however, stand for
the spirit of revolt, in whatever form, against everything that
hinders human growth. All Anarchists agree in that, as they also
agree in their opposition to the political machinery as a means of
bringing about the great social change.
"All voting," says Thoreau, "is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or
backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never
exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing
nothing for it. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of
chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority."
A close examination of the machinery of politics and its achievements
will bear out the logic of Thoreau.
What does the history of parliamentarism show? Nothing but failure
and defeat, not even a single reform to ameliorate the economic and
social stress of the people. Laws have been passed and enactments
made for the improvement and protection of labor. Thus it was proven
only last year that Illinois, with the most rigid laws for mine
protection, had the greatest mine disasters. In States where child
labor laws prevail, child exploitation is at its highest, and though
with us the workers enjoy full political opportunities, capitalism
has reached the most brazen zenith.
Even were the workers able to have their own representatives, for
which our good Socialist politicians are clamoring, what chances are
there for their honesty and good faith? One has but to bear in mind
the process of politics to realize that its path of good intentions
is full of pitfalls: wire-pulling, intriguing, flattering, lying,
cheating; in fact, chicanery of every description, whereby the
political aspirant can achieve success. Added to that is a complete
demoralization of character and conviction, until nothing is left
that would make one hope for anything from such a human derelict.
Time and time again the people were foolish enough to trust, believe,
and support with their last farthing aspiring politicians, only to
find themselves betrayed and cheated.
It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in
the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but such men would be
absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of
labor, as indeed has been shown in numerous instances. The State is
the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be,
would either remain true to their political faith and lose their
economic support, or they would cling to their economic master and be
utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves
one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.
The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and
minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more
to do with it. Instead, they believe with Stirner that man has as
much liberty as he is willing to take. Anarchism therefore stands
for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws
and restrictions, economic, social, and moral. But defiance and
resistance are illegal. Therein lies the salvation of man.
Everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance, and
courage. In short, it calls for free, independent spirits, for "men
who are men, and who have a bone in their backs which you cannot pass
your hand through."
Universal suffrage itself owes its existence to direct action. If
not for the spirit of rebellion, of the defiance on the part of the
American revolutionary fathers, their posterity would still wear the
King's coat. If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his
comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man.
True, the trade in white flesh is still going on; but that, too, will
have to be abolished by direct action. Trade-unionism, the economic
arena of the modern gladiator, owes its existence to direct action.
It is but recently that law and government have attempted to crush
the trade-union movement, and condemned the exponents of man's right
to organize to prison as conspirators. Had they sought to assert
their cause through begging, pleading, and compromise, trade-unionism
would today be a negligible quantity. In France, in Spain, in Italy,
in Russia, nay even in England (witness the growing rebellion of
English labor unions) direct, revolutionary, economic action has
become so strong a force in the battle for industrial liberty as to
make the world realize the tremendous importance of labor's power.
The General Strike, the supreme expression of the economic
consciousness of the workers, was ridiculed in America but a short
time ago. Today every great strike, in order to win, must realize
the importance of the solidaric general protest.
Direct action, having proven effective along economic lines, is
equally potent in the environment of the individual. There a hundred
forces encroach upon his being, and only persistent resistance to
them will finally set him free. Direct action against the authority
in the shop, direct action against the authority of the law, direct
action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code,
is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism.
Will it not lead to a revolution? Indeed, it will. No real social
change has ever come about without a revolution. People are either
not familiar with their history, or they have not yet learned that
revolution is but thought carried into action.
Anarchism, the great leaven of thought, is today permeating every
phase of human endeavor. Science, art, literature, the drama, the
effort for economic betterment, in fact every individual and social
opposition to the existing disorder of things, is illumined by the
spiritual light of Anarchism. It is the philosophy of the
sovereignty of the individual. It is the theory of social harmony.
It is the great, surging, living truth that is reconstructing the
world, and that will usher in the Dawn.
MINORITIES VERSUS MAJORITIES
If I were to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would
say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit, dominates everywhere,
destroying quality. Our entire life--production, politics, and
education--rests on quantity, on numbers. The worker who once took
pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced
by brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous
quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and generally
injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding
to life's comforts and peace, has merely increased man's burden.
In politics, naught but quantity counts. In proportion to its
increase, however, principles, ideals, justice, and uprightness are
completely swamped by the array of numbers. In the struggle for
supremacy the various political parties outdo each other in trickery,
deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who
succeeds is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is
the only god,--Success. As to what expense, what terrible cost to
character, is of no moment. We have not far to go in search of proof
to verify this sad fact.
Never before did the corruption, the complete rottenness of our
government stand so thoroughly exposed; never before were the
American people brought face to face with the Judas nature of that
political body, which has claimed for years to be absolutely beyond
reproach, as the mainstay of our institutions, the true protector of
the rights and liberties of the people.
Yet when the crimes of that party became so brazen that even the
blind could see them, it needed but to muster up its minions, and its
supremacy was assured. Thus the very victims, duped, betrayed,
outraged a hundred times, decided, not against, but in favor of the
victor. Bewildered, the few asked how could the majority betray the
traditions of American liberty? Where was its judgment, its
reasoning capacity? That is just it, the majority cannot reason; it
has no judgment. Lacking utterly in originality and moral courage,
the majority has always placed its destiny in the hands of others.
Incapable of standing responsibilities, it has followed its leaders
even unto destruction. Dr. Stockman was right: "The most dangerous
enemies of truth and justice in our midst are the compact majorities,
the damned compact majority." Without ambition or initiative, the
compact mass hates nothing so much as innovation. It has always
opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new
The oft repeated slogan of our time is, among all politicians, the
Socialists included, that ours is an era of individualism, of the
minority. Only those who do not probe beneath the surface might be
led to entertain this view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth
of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the
situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but
to the inertia, the cravenness, the utter submission of the mass.
The latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As
to individualism, at no time in human history did it have less chance
of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, healthy
The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or
writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the
non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the
wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit
Educators of Ferrer's type are nowhere tolerated, while the
dietitians of predigested food, a la Professors Eliot and Butler, are
the successful perpetuators of an age of nonentities, of automatons.
In the literary and dramatic world, the Humphrey Wards and Clyde
Fitches are the idols of the mass, while but few know or appreciate
the beauty and genius of an Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman; an Ibsen, a
Hauptmann, a Butler Yeats, or a Stephen Phillips. They are like
solitary stars, far beyond the horizon of the multitude.
Publishers, theatrical managers, and critics ask not for the quality
inherent in creative art, but will it meet with a good sale, will it
suit the palate of the people? Alas, this palate is like a dumping
ground; it relishes anything that needs no mental mastication. As a
result, the mediocre, the ordinary, the commonplace represents the
chief literary output.
Need I say that in art we are confronted with the same sad facts?
One has but to inspect our parks and thoroughfares to realize the
hideousness and vulgarity of the art manufacture. Certainly, none
but a majority taste would tolerate such an outrage on art. False in
conception and barbarous in execution, the statuary that infests
American cities has as much relation to true art, as a totem to a
Michael Angelo. Yet that is the only art that succeeds. The true
artistic genius, who will not cater to accepted notions, who
exercises originality, and strives to be true to life, leads an
obscure and wretched existence. His work may some day become the fad
of the mob, but not until his heart's blood had been exhausted; not
until the pathfinder has ceased to be, and a throng of an idealless
and visionless mob has done to death the heritage of the master.
It is said that the artist of today cannot create because
Prometheus-like he is bound to the rock of economic necessity.
This, however, is true of art in all ages. Michael Angelo was
dependent on his patron saint, no less than the sculptor or painter
of today, except that the art connoisseurs of those days were far
away from the madding crowd. They felt honored to be permitted to
worship at the shrine of the master.
The art protector of our time knows but one criterion, one
value,--the dollar. He is not concerned about the quality of any
great work, but in the quantity of dollars his purchase implies.
Thus the financier in Mirbeau's LES AFFAIRES SONT LES AFFAIRES points
to some blurred arrangement in colors, saying "See how great it is;
it cost 50,000 francs." Just like our own parvenues. The fabulous
figures paid for their great art discoveries must make up for the
poverty of their taste.
The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought.
That this should be so terribly apparent in a country whose symbol is
democracy, is very significant of the tremendous power of the
Wendell Phillips said fifty years ago: "In our country of absolute
democratic equality, public opinion is not only omnipotent, it is
omnipresent. There is no refuge from its tyranny, there is no hiding
from its reach, and the result is that if you take the old Greek
lantern and go about to seek among a hundred, you will not find a
single American who has not, or who does not fancy at least he has,
something to gain or lose in his ambition, his social life, or
business, from the good opinion and the votes of those around him.
And the consequence is that instead of being a mass of individuals,
each one fearlessly blurting out his own conviction, as a nation
compared to other nations we are a mass of cowards. More than any
other people we are afraid of each other." Evidently we have not
advanced very far from the condition that confronted Wendell
Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as
then, the majority represents a mass of cowards, willing to accept
him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty. That accounts for the
unprecedented rise of a man like Roosevelt. He embodies the very
worst element of mob psychology. A politician, he knows that the
majority cares little for ideals or integrity. What it craves is
display. It matters not whether that be a dog show, a prize fight,
the lynching of a "nigger," the rounding up of some petty offender,
the marriage exposition of an heiress, or the acrobatic stunts of an
ex-president. The more hideous the mental contortions, the greater
the delight and bravos of the mass. Thus, poor in ideals and vulgar
of soul, Roosevelt continues to be the man of the hour.
On the other hand, men towering high above such political pygmies,
men of refinement, of culture, of ability, are jeered into silence as
mollycoddles. It is absurd to claim that ours is the era of
individualism. Ours is merely a more poignant repetition of the
phenomenon of all history: every effort for progress, for
enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic
liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass. Today,
as ever, the few are misunderstood, hounded, imprisoned, tortured,
The principle of brotherhood expounded by the agitator of Nazareth
preserved the germ of life, of truth and justice, so long as it was
the beacon light of the few. The moment the majority seized upon it,
that great principle became a shibboleth and harbinger of blood and
fire, spreading suffering and disaster. The attack on the
omnipotence of Rome was like a sunrise amid the darkness of the
night, only so long as it was made by the colossal figures of a Huss,
a Calvin, or a Luther. Yet when the mass joined in the procession
against the Catholic monster, it was no less cruel, no less
bloodthirsty than its enemy. Woe to the heretics, to the minority,
who would not bow to its dicta. After infinite zeal, endurance, and
sacrifice, the human mind is at last free from the religious phantom;
the minority has gone on in pursuit of new conquests, and the
majority is lagging behind, handicapped by truth grown false with
Politically the human race would still be in the most absolute
slavery, were it not for the John Balls, the Wat Tylers, the Tells,
the innumerable individual giants who fought inch by inch against the
power of kings and tyrants. But for individual pioneers the world
would have never been shaken to its very roots by that tremendous
wave, the French Revolution. Great events are usually preceded by
apparently small things. Thus the eloquence and fire of Camille
Desmoulins was like the trumpet before Jericho, razing to the ground
that emblem of torture, of abuse, of horror, the Bastille.
Always, at every period, the few were the banner bearers of a great
idea, of liberating effort. Not so the mass, the leaden weight of
which does not let it move. The truth of this is borne out in Russia
with greater force than elsewhere. Thousands of lives have already
been consumed by that bloody regime, yet the monster on the throne is
not appeased. How is such a thing possible when ideas, culture,
literature, when the deepest and finest emotions groan under the iron
yoke? The majority, that compact, immobile, drowsy mass, the Russian
peasant, after a century of struggle, of sacrifice, of untold misery,
still believes that the rope which strangles "the man with the white
hands"* brings luck.
* The intellectuals.
In the American struggle for liberty, the majority was no less of a
stumbling block. Until this very day the ideas of Jefferson, of
Patrick Henry, of Thomas Paine, are denied and sold by their
posterity. The mass wants none of them. The greatness and courage
worshipped in Lincoln have been forgotten in the men who created the
background for the panorama of that time. The true patron saints of
the black men were represented in that handful of fighters in Boston,
Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and
Theodore Parker, whose great courage and sturdiness culminated in
that somber giant, John Brown. Their untiring zeal, their eloquence
and perseverance undermined the stronghold of the Southern lords.
Lincoln and his minions followed only when abolition had become a
practical issue, recognized as such by all.
About fifty years ago, a meteor-like idea made its appearance on the
social horizon of the world, an idea so far-reaching, so
revolutionary, so all-embracing as to spread terror in the hearts of
tyrants everywhere. On the other hand, that idea was a harbinger of
joy, of cheer, of hope to the millions. The pioneers knew the
difficulties in their way, they knew the opposition, the persecution,
the hardships that would meet them, but proud and unafraid they
started on their march onward, ever onward. Now that idea has become
a popular slogan. Almost everyone is a Socialist today: the rich
man, as well as his poor victim; the upholders of law and authority,
as well as their unfortunate culprits; the freethinker, as well as
the perpetuator of religious falsehoods; the fashionable lady, as
well as the shirtwaist girl. Why not? Now that the truth of fifty
years ago has become a lie, now that it has been clipped of all its
youthful imagination, and been robbed of its vigor, its strength, its
revolutionary ideal--why not? Now that it is no longer a beautiful
vision, but a "practical, workable scheme," resting on the will of
the majority, why not? With the same political cunning and
shrewdness the mass is petted, pampered, cheated daily. Its praise
is being sung in many keys: the poor majority, the outraged, the
abused, the giant majority, if only it would follow us.
Who has not heard this litany before? Who does not know this
never-varying refrain of all politicians? That the mass bleeds, that
it is being robbed and exploited, I know as well as our vote-baiters.
But I insist that not the handful of parasites, but the mass itself
is responsible for this horrible state of affairs. It clings to its
masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify! the moment
a protesting voice is raised against the sacredness of capitalistic
authority or any other decayed institution. Yet how long would
authority and private property exist, if not for the willingness of
the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen. The
Socialist demagogues know that as well as I, but they maintain the
myth of the virtues of the majority, because their very scheme of
life means the perpetuation of power. And how could the latter be
acquired without numbers? Yes, power, authority, coercion, and
dependence rest on the mass, but never freedom, never the free
unfoldment of the individual, never the birth of a free society.
Not because I do not feel with the oppressed, the disinherited of the
earth; not because I do not know the shame, the horror, the indignity
of the lives the people lead, do I repudiate the majority as a
creative force for good. Oh, no, no! But because I know so well
that as a compact mass it has never stood for justice or equality.
It has suppressed the human voice, subdued the human spirit, chained
the human body. As a mass its aim has always been to make life
uniform, gray, and monotonous as the desert. As a mass it will
always be the annihilator of individuality, of free initiative, of
originality. I therefore believe with Emerson that "the masses are
crude, lame, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not
to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede anything
to them, but to drill, divide, and break them up, and draw
individuals out of them. Masses! The calamity are the masses. I do
not wish any mass at all, but honest men only, lovely, sweet,
accomplished women only."
In other words, the living, vital truth of social and economic
well-being will become a reality only through the zeal, courage, the
non-compromising determination of intelligent minorities, and not
through the mass.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
To analyze the psychology of political violence is not only extremely
difficult, but also very dangerous. If such acts are treated with
understanding, one is immediately accused of eulogizing them. If, on
the other hand, human sympathy is expressed with the ATTENTATER,* one
risks being considered a possible accomplice. Yet it is only
intelligence and sympathy that can bring us closer to the source of
human suffering, and teach us the ultimate way out of it.
* A revolutionist committing an act of political violence.
The primitive man, ignorant of natural forces, dreaded their
approach, hiding from the perils they threatened. As man learned to
understand Nature's phenomena, he realized that though these may
destroy life and cause great loss, they also bring relief. To the
earnest student it must be apparent that the accumulated forces in
our social and economic life, culminating in a political act of
violence, are similar to the terrors of the atmosphere, manifested in
storm and lightning.
To thoroughly appreciate the truth of this view, one must feel
intensely the indignity of our social wrongs; one's very being must
throb with the pain, the sorrow, the despair millions of people are
daily made to endure. Indeed, unless we have become a part of
humanity, we cannot even faintly understand the just indignation that
accumulates in a human soul, the burning, surging passion that makes
the storm inevitable.
The ignorant mass looks upon the man who makes a violent protest
against our social and economic iniquities as upon a wild beast, a
cruel, heartless monster, whose joy it is to destroy life and bathe
in blood; or at best, as upon an irresponsible lunatic. Yet nothing
is further from the truth. As a matter of fact, those who have
studied the character and personality of these men, or who have come
in close contact with them, are agreed that it is their
super-sensitiveness to the wrong and injustice surrounding them which
compels them to pay the toll of our social crimes. The most noted
writers and poets, discussing the psychology of political offenders,
have paid them the highest tribute. Could anyone assume that these
men had advised violence, or even approved of the acts? Certainly
not. Theirs was the attitude of the social student, of the man who
knows that beyond every violent act there is a vital cause.
Bjornstjerne Bjornson, in the second part of BEYOND HUMAN POWER,
emphasizes the fact that it is among the Anarchists that we must look
for the modern martyrs who pay for their faith with their blood, and
who welcome death with a smile, because they believe, as truly as
Christ did, that their martyrdom will redeem humanity.
Francois Coppee, the French novelist, thus expresses himself
regarding the psychology of the ATTENTATER:
"The reading of the details of Vaillant's execution left me in a
thoughtful mood. I imagined him expanding his chest under the ropes,
marching with firm step, stiffening his will, concentrating all his
energy, and, with eyes fixed upon the knife, hurling finally at
society his cry of malediction. And, in spite of me, another
spectacle rose suddenly before my mind. I saw a group of men and
women pressing against each other in the middle of the oblong arena
of the circus, under the gaze of thousands of eyes, while from all
the steps of the immense amphitheatre went up the terrible cry, AD
LEONES! and, below, the opening cages of the wild beasts.
"I did not believe the execution would take place. In the first
place, no victim had been struck with death, and it had long been the
custom not to punish an abortive crime with the last degree of
severity. Then, this crime, however terrible in intention, was
disinterested, born of an abstract idea. The man's past, his
abandoned childhood, his life of hardship, pleaded also in his favor.
In the independent press generous voices were raised in his behalf,
very loud and eloquent. 'A purely literary current of opinion' some
have said, with no little scorn. IT IS, ON THE CONTRARY, AN HONOR TO
THE MEN OF ART AND THOUGHT TO HAVE EXPRESSED ONCE MORE THEIR DISGUST
AT THE SCAFFOLD."
Again Zola, in GERMINAL and PARIS, describes the tenderness and
kindness, the deep sympathy with human suffering, of these men who
close the chapter of their lives with a violent outbreak against our
Last, but not least, the man who probably better than anyone else
understands the psychology of the ATTENTATER is M. Hamon, the author
of the brilliant work, UNE PSYCHOLOGIE DU MILITAIRE PROFESSIONEL, who
has arrived at these suggestive conclusions:
"The positive method confirmed by the rational method enables us to
establish an ideal type of Anarchist, whose mentality is the
aggregate of common psychic characteristics. Every Anarchist
partakes sufficiently of this ideal type to make it possible to
differentiate him from other men. The typical Anarchist, then, may
be defined as follows: A man perceptible by the spirit of revolt
under one or more of its forms,--opposition, investigation,
criticism, innovation,--endowed with a strong love of liberty,
egoistic or individualistic, and possessed of great curiosity, a keen
desire to know. These traits are supplemented by an ardent love of
others, a highly developed moral sensitiveness, a profound sentiment
of justice, and imbued with missionary zeal."
To the above characteristics, says Alvin F. Sanborn, must be added
these sterling qualities: a rare love of animals, surpassing
sweetness in all the ordinary relations of life, exceptional sobriety
of demeanor, frugality and regularity, austerity, even, of living,
and courage beyond compare.*
* PARIS AND THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION.
"There is a truism that the man in the street seems always to forget,
when he is abusing the Anarchists, or whatever party happens to be
his BETE NOIRE for the moment, as the cause of some outrage just
perpetrated. This indisputable fact is that homicidal outrages have,
from time immemorial, been the reply of goaded and desperate classes,
and goaded and desperate individuals, to wrongs from their fellowmen,
which they felt to be intolerable. Such acts are the violent recoil
from violence, whether aggressive or repressive; they are the last
desperate struggle of outraged and exasperated human nature for
breathing space and life. And their cause lies not in any special
conviction, but in the depths of that human nature itself. The whole
course of history, political and social, is strewn with evidence of
this fact. To go no further, take the three most notorious examples
of political parties goaded into violence during the last fifty
years: the Mazzinians in Italy, the Fenians in Ireland, and the
Terrorists in Russia. Were these people Anarchists? No. Did they
all three even hold the same political opinions? No. The Mazzinians
were Republicans, the Fenians political separatists, the Russians
Social Democrats or Constitutionalists. But all were driven by
desperate circumstances into this terrible form of revolt. And when
we turn from parties to individuals who have acted in like manner, we
stand appalled by the number of human beings goaded and driven by
sheer desperation into conduct obviously violently opposed to their
"Now that Anarchism has become a living force in society, such deeds
have been sometimes committed by Anarchists, as well as by others.
For no new faith, even the most essentially peaceable and humane the
mind of man has yet accepted, but at its first coming has brought
upon earth not peace, but a sword; not because of anything violent or
anti-social in the doctrine itself; simply because of the ferment any
new and creative idea excites in men's minds, whether they accept or
reject it. And a conception of Anarchism, which, on one hand,
threatens every vested interest, and, on the other, holds out a
vision of a free and noble life to be won by a struggle against
existing wrongs, is certain to rouse the fiercest opposition, and
bring the whole repressive force of ancient evil into violent contact
with the tumultuous outburst of a new hope.
"Under miserable conditions of life, any vision of the possibility of
better things makes the present misery more intolerable, and spurs
those who suffer to the most energetic struggles to improve their
lot, and if these struggles only immediately result in sharper
misery, the outcome is sheer desperation. In our present society,
for instance, an exploited wage worker, who catches a glimpse of what
work and life might and ought to be, finds the toilsome routine and
the squalor of his existence almost intolerable; and even when he has
the resolution and courage to continue steadily working his best, and
waiting until new ideas have so permeated society as to pave the way
for better times, the mere fact that he has such ideas and tries to
spread them, brings him into difficulties with his employers. How
many thousands of Socialists, and above all Anarchists, have lost
work and even the chance of work, solely on the ground of their
opinions. It is only the specially gifted craftsman, who, if he be a
zealous propagandist, can hope to retain permanent employment. And
what happens to a man with his brain working actively with a ferment
of new ideas, with a vision before his eyes of a new hope dawning for
toiling and agonizing men, with the knowledge that his suffering and
that of his fellows in misery is not caused by the cruelty of fate,
but by the injustice of other human beings,--what happens to such a
man when he sees those dear to him starving, when he himself is
starved? Some natures in such a plight, and those by no means the
least social or the least sensitive, will become violent, and will
even feel that their violence is social and not anti-social, that in
striking when and how they can, they are striking, not for
themselves, but for human nature, outraged and despoiled in their
persons and in those of their fellow sufferers. And are we, who
ourselves are not in this horrible predicament, to stand by and
coldly condemn these piteous victims of the Furies and Fates? Are we
to decry as miscreants these human beings who act with heroic
self-devotion, sacrificing their lives in protest, where less social
and less energetic natures would lie down and grovel in abject
submission to injustice and wrong? Are we to join the ignorant and
brutal outcry which stigmatizes such men as monsters of wickedness,
gratuitously running amuck in a harmonious and innocently peaceful
society? No! We hate murder with a hatred that may seem absurdly
exaggerated to apologists for Matabele massacres, to callous
acquiescers in hangings and bombardments, but we decline in such
cases of homicide, or attempted homicide, as those of which we are
treating, to be guilty of the cruel injustice of flinging the whole
responsibility of the deed upon the immediate perpetrator. The guilt
of these homicides lies upon every man and woman who, intentionally
or by cold indifference, helps to keep up social conditions that
drive human beings to despair. The man who flings his whole life
into the attempt, at the cost of his own life, to protest against the
wrongs of his fellow men, is a saint compared to the active and
passive upholders of cruelty and injustice, even if his protest
destroy other lives besides his own. Let him who is without sin in
society cast the first stone at such an one."*
* From a pamphlet issued by the Freedom Group of London.
That every act of political violence should nowadays be attributed to
Anarchists is not at all surprising. Yet it is a fact known to
almost everyone familiar with the Anarchist movement that a great
number of acts, for which Anarchists had to suffer, either originated
with the capitalist press or were instigated, if not directly
perpetrated, by the police.
For a number of years acts of violence had been committed in Spain,
for which the Anarchists were held responsible, hounded like wild
beasts, and thrown into prison. Later it was disclosed that the
perpetrators of these acts were not Anarchists, but members of the
police department. The scandal became so widespread that the
conservative Spanish papers demanded the apprehension and punishment
of the gang-leader, Juan Rull, who was subsequently condemned to
death and executed. The sensational evidence, brought to light
during the trial, forced Police Inspector Momento to exonerate
completely the Anarchists from any connection with the acts committed
during a long period. This resulted in the dismissal of a number of
police officials, among them Inspector Tressols, who, in revenge,
disclosed the fact that behind the gang of police bomb throwers were
others of far higher position, who provided them with funds and
This is one of the many striking examples of how Anarchist
conspiracies are manufactured.
That the American police can perjure themselves with the same ease,
that they are just as merciless, just as brutal and cunning as their
European colleagues, has been proven on more than one occasion. We
need only recall the tragedy of the eleventh of November, 1887, known
as the Haymarket Riot.
No one who is at all familiar with the case can possibly doubt that
the Anarchists, judicially murdered in Chicago, died as victims of a
lying, bloodthirsty press and of a cruel police conspiracy. Has not
Judge Gary himself said: "Not because you have caused the Haymarket
bomb, but because you are Anarchists, you are on trial."
The impartial and thorough analysis by Governor Altgeld of that
blotch on the American escutcheon verified the brutal frankness of
Judge Gary. It was this that induced Altgeld to pardon the three
Anarchists, thereby earning the lasting esteem of every liberty
loving man and woman in the world.
When we approach the tragedy of September sixth, 1901, we are
confronted by one of the most striking examples of how little social
theories are responsible for an act of political violence. "Leon
Czolgosz, an Anarchist, incited to commit the act by Emma Goldman."
To be sure, has she not incited violence even before her birth, and
will she not continue to do so beyond death? Everything is possible
with the Anarchists.
Today, even, nine years after the tragedy, after it was proven a
hundred times that Emma Goldman had nothing to do with the event,
that no evidence whatsoever exists to indicate that Czolgosz ever
called himself an Anarchist, we are confronted with the same lie,
fabricated by the police and perpetuated by the press. No living
soul ever heard Czolgosz make that statement, nor is there a single
written word to prove that the boy ever breathed the accusation.
Nothing but ignorance and insane hysteria, which have never yet been
able to solve the simplest problem of cause and effect.
The President of a free Republic killed! What else can be the cause,
except that the ATTENTATER must have been insane, or that he was
incited to the act.
A free Republic! How a myth will maintain itself, how it will
continue to deceive, to dupe, and blind even the comparatively
intelligent to its monstrous absurdities. A free Republic! And yet
within a little over thirty years a small band of parasites have
successfully robbed the American people, and trampled upon the
fundamental principles, laid down by the fathers of this country,
guaranteeing to every man, woman, and child "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness." For thirty years they have been increasing
their wealth and power at the expense of the vast mass of workers,
thereby enlarging the army of the unemployed, the hungry, homeless,
and friendless portion of humanity, who are tramping the country from
east to west, from north to south, in a vain search for work. For
many years the home has been left to the care of the little ones,
while the parents are exhausting their life and strength for a mere
pittance. For thirty years the sturdy sons of America have been
sacrificed on the battlefield of industrial war, and the daughters
outraged in corrupt factory surroundings. For long and weary years
this process of undermining the nation's health, vigor, and pride,
without much protest from the disinherited and oppressed, has been
going on. Maddened by success and victory, the money powers of this
"free land of ours" became more and more audacious in their
heartless, cruel efforts to compete with the rotten and decayed
European tyrannies for supremacy of power.
In vain did a lying press repudiate Leon Czolgosz as a foreigner.
The boy was a product of our own free American soil, that lulled him
to sleep with,
My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty.
Who can tell how many times this American child had gloried in the
celebration of the Fourth of July, or of Decoration Day, when he
faithfully honored the Nation's dead? Who knows but that he, too,
was willing to "fight for his country and die for her liberty," until
it dawned upon him that those he belonged to have no country, because
they have been robbed of all that they have produced; until he
realized that the liberty and independence of his youthful dreams
were but a farce. Poor Leon Czolgosz, your crime consisted of too
sensitive a social consciousness. Unlike your idealless and
brainless American brothers, your ideals soared above the belly and
the bank account. No wonder you impressed the one human being among
all the infuriated mob at your trial--a newspaper woman--as a
visionary, totally oblivious to your surroundings. Your large,
dreamy eyes must have beheld a new and glorious dawn.
Now, to a recent instance of police-manufactured Anarchist plots.
In that bloodstained city, Chicago, the life of Chief of Police
Shippy was attempted by a young man named Averbuch. Immediately the
cry was sent to the four corners of the world that Averbuch was an
Anarchist, and that Anarchists were responsible for the act.
Everyone who was at all known to entertain Anarchist ideas was
closely watched, a number of people arrested, the library of an
Anarchist group confiscated, and all meetings made impossible. It
goes without saying that, as on various previous occasions, I must
needs be held responsible for the act. Evidently the American police
credit me with occult powers. I did not know Averbuch; in fact, had
never before heard his name, and the only way I could have possibly
"conspired" with him was in my astral body. But, then, the police
are not concerned with logic or justice. What they seek is a target,
to mask their absolute ignorance of the cause, of the psychology of a
political act. Was Averbuch an Anarchist? There is no positive
proof of it. He had been but three months in the country, did not
know the language, and, as far as I could ascertain, was quite
unknown to the Anarchists of Chicago.
What led to his act? Averbuch, like most young Russian immigrants,
undoubtedly believed in the mythical liberty of America. He received
his first baptism by the policeman's club during the brutal
dispersement of the unemployed parade. He further experienced
American equality and opportunity in the vain efforts to find an
economic master. In short, a three months' sojourn in the glorious
land brought him face to face with the fact that the disinherited are
in the same position the world over. In his native land he probably
learned that necessity knows no law--there was no difference between
a Russian and an American policeman.
The question to the intelligent social student is not whether the
acts of Czolgosz or Averbuch were practical, any more than whether
the thunderstorm is practical. The thing that will inevitably
impress itself on the thinking and feeling man and woman is that the
sight of brutal clubbing of innocent victims in a so-called free
Republic, and the degrading, soul-destroying economic struggle,
furnish the spark that kindles the dynamic force in the overwrought,
outraged souls of men like Czolgosz or Averbuch. No amount of
persecution, of hounding, of repression, can stay this social
But, it is often asked, have not acknowledged Anarchists committed
acts of violence? Certainly they have, always however ready to
shoulder the responsibility. My contention is that they were
impelled, not by the teachings of Anarchism, but by the tremendous
pressure of conditions, making life unbearable to their sensitive
natures. Obviously, Anarchism, or any other social theory, making
man a conscious social unit, will act as a leaven for rebellion.
This is not a mere assertion, but a fact verified by all experience.
A close examination of the circumstances bearing upon this question
will further clarify my position.
Let us consider some of the most important Anarchist acts within the
last two decades. Strange as it may seem, one of the most
significant deeds of political violence occurred here in America, in
connection with the Homestead strike of 1892.
During that memorable time the Carnegie Steel Company organized a
conspiracy to crush the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel
Workers. Henry Clay Frick, then Chairman of the Company, was
intrusted with that democratic task. He lost no time in carrying out
the policy of breaking the Union, the policy which he had so
successfully practiced during his reign of terror in the coke
regions. Secretly, and while peace negotiations were being purposely
prolonged, Frick supervised the military preparations, the
fortification of the Homestead Steel Works, the erection of a high
board fence, capped with barbed wire and provided with loopholes for
sharpshooters. And then, in the dead of night, he attempted to
smuggle his army of hired Pinkerton thugs into Homestead, which act
precipitated the terrible carnage of the steel workers. Not content
with the death of eleven victims, killed in the Pinkerton skirmish,
Henry Clay Frick, good Christian and free American, straightway began
the hounding down of the helpless wives and orphans, by ordering them
out of the wretched Company houses.
The whole country was aroused over these inhuman outrages. Hundreds
of voices were raised in protest, calling on Frick to desist, not to
go too far. Yes, hundreds of people protested,--as one objects to
annoying flies. Only one there was who actively responded to the
outrage at Homestead,--Alexander Berkman. Yes, he was an Anarchist.
He gloried in that fact, because it was the only force that made the
discord between his spiritual longing and the world without at all
bearable. Yet not Anarchism, as such, but the brutal slaughter of
the eleven steel workers was the urge for Alexander Berkman's act,
his attempt on the life of Henry Clay Frick.
The record of European acts of political violence affords numerous
and striking instances of the influence of environment upon sensitive
The court speech of Vaillant, who, in 1894, exploded a bomb in the
Paris Chamber of Deputies, strikes the true keynote of the psychology
of such acts:
"Gentlemen, in a few minutes you are to deal your blow, but in
receiving your verdict I shall have at least the satisfaction of
having wounded the existing society, that cursed society in which one
may see a single man spending, uselessly, enough to feed thousands of
families; an infamous society which permits a few individuals to
monopolize all the social wealth, while there are hundreds of
thousands of unfortunates who have not even the bread that is not
refused to dogs, and while entire families are committing suicide for
want of the necessities of life.
"Ah, gentlemen, if the governing classes could go down among the
unfortunates! But no, they prefer to remain deaf to their appeals.
It seems that a fatality impels them, like the royalty of the
eighteenth century, toward the precipice which will engulf them, for
woe be to those who remain deaf to the cries of the starving, woe to
those who, believing themselves of superior essence, assume the right
to exploit those beneath them! There comes a time when the people no
longer reason; they rise like a hurricane, and pass away like a
torrent. Then we see bleeding heads impaled on pikes.
"Among the exploited, gentlemen, there are two classes of
individuals: Those of one class, not realizing what they are and what
they might be, take life as it comes, believe that they are born to
be slaves, and content themselves with the little that is given them
in exchange for their labor. But there are others, on the contrary,
who think, who study, and who, looking about them, discover social
iniquities. Is it their fault if they see clearly and suffer at
seeing others suffer? Then they throw themselves into the struggle,
and make themselves the bearers of the popular claims.
"Gentlemen, I am one of these last. Wherever I have gone, I have
seen unfortunates bent beneath the yoke of capital. Everywhere I
have seen the same wounds causing tears of blood to flow, even in the
remoter parts of the inhabited districts of South America, where I
had the right to believe that he who was weary of the pains of
civilization might rest in the shade of the palm trees and there
study nature. Well, there even, more than elsewhere, I have seen
capital come, like a vampire, to suck the last drop of blood of the
"Then I came back to France, where it was reserved for me to see my
family suffer atrociously. This was the last drop in the cup of my
sorrow. Tired of leading this life of suffering and cowardice, I
carried this bomb to those who are primarily responsible for social
"I am reproached with the wounds of those who were hit by my
projectiles. Permit me to point out in passing that, if the
bourgeois had not massacred or caused massacres during the
Revolution, it is probable that they would still be under the yoke of
the nobility. On the other hand, figure up the dead and wounded on
Tonquin, Madagascar, Dahomey, adding thereto the thousands, yes,
millions of unfortunates who die in the factories, the mines, and
wherever the grinding power of capital is felt. Add also those who
die of hunger, and all this with the assent of our Deputies. Beside
all this, of how little weight are the reproaches now brought against
"It is true that one does not efface the other; but, after all, are
we not acting on the defensive when we respond to the blows which we
receive from above? I know very well that I shall be told that I
ought to have confined myself to speech for the vindication of the
people's claims. But what can you expect! It takes a loud voice to
make the deaf hear. Too long have they answered our voices by
imprisonment, the rope, rifle volleys. Make no mistake; the
explosion of my bomb is not only the cry of the rebel Vaillant, but
the cry of an entire class which vindicates its rights, and which
will soon add acts to words. For, be sure of it, in vain will they
pass laws. The ideas of the thinkers will not halt; just as, in the
last century, all the governmental forces could not prevent the
Diderots and the Voltaires from spreading emancipating ideas among
the people, so all the existing governmental forces will not prevent
the Reclus, the Darwins, the Spencers, the Ibsens, the Mirbeaus, from
spreading the ideas of justice and liberty which will annihilate the
prejudices that hold the mass in ignorance. And these ideas,
welcomed by the unfortunate, will flower in acts of revolt as they
have done in me, until the day when the disappearance of authority
shall permit all men to organize freely according to their choice,
when we shall each be able to enjoy the product of his labor, and
when those moral maladies called prejudices shall vanish, permitting
human beings to live in harmony, having no other desire than to study
the sciences and love their fellows.
"I conclude, gentlemen, by saying that a society in which one sees
such social inequalities as we see all about us, in which we see
every day suicides caused by poverty, prostitution flaring at every
street corner,--a society whose principal monuments are barracks and
prisons,--such a society must be transformed as soon as possible, on
pain of being eliminated, and that speedily, from the human race.
Hail to him who labors, by no matter what means, for this
transformation! It is this idea that has guided me in my duel with
authority, but as in this duel I have only wounded my adversary, it
is now its turn to strike me.
"Now, gentlemen, to me it matters little what penalty you may
inflict, for, looking at this assembly with the eyes of reason, I can
not help smiling to see you, atoms lost in matter, and reasoning only
because you possess a prolongation of the spinal marrow, assume the
right to judge one of your fellows.
"Ah! gentlemen, how little a thing is your assembly and your verdict
in the history of humanity; and human history, in its turn, is
likewise a very little thing in the whirlwind which bears it through
immensity, and which is destined to disappear, or at least to be
transformed, in order to begin again the same history and the same
facts, a veritably perpetual play of cosmic forces renewing and
transferring themselves forever."
Will anyone say that Vaillant was an ignorant, vicious man, or a
lunatic? Was not his mind singularly clear, analytic? No wonder
that the best intellectual forces of France spoke in his behalf, and
signed the petition to President Carnot, asking him to commute
Vaillant's death sentence.
Carnot would listen to no entreaty; he insisted on more than a pound
of flesh, he wanted Vaillant's life, and then--the inevitable
happened: President Carnot was killed. On the handle of the stiletto
used by the ATTENTATER was engraved, significantly,
Santa Caserio was an Anarchist. He could have gotten away, saved
himself; but he remained, he stood the consequences.
His reasons for the act are set forth in so simple, dignified, and
childlike manner that one is reminded of the touching tribute paid
Caserio by his teacher of the little village school, Ada Negri, the
Italian poet, who spoke of him as a sweet, tender plant, of too fine
and sensitive texture to stand the cruel strain of the world.
"Gentlemen of the Jury! I do not propose to make a defense, but only
an explanation of my deed.
"Since my early youth I began to learn that present society is badly
organized, so badly that every day many wretched men commit suicide,
leaving women and children in the most terrible distress. Workers,
by thousands, seek for work and can not find it. Poor families beg
for food and shiver with cold; they suffer the greatest misery; the
little ones ask their miserable mothers for food, and the mothers
can not give them, because they have nothing. The few things
which the home contained have already been sold or pawned. All they
can do is beg alms; often they are arrested as vagabonds.
"I went away from my native place because I was frequently moved to
tears at seeing little girls of eight or ten years obliged to work
fifteen hours a day for the paltry pay of twenty centimes. Young
women of eighteen or twenty also work fifteen hours daily, for a
mockery of remuneration. And that happens not only to my fellow
countrymen, but to all the workers, who sweat the whole day long for
a crust of bread, while their labor produces wealth in abundance.
The workers are obliged to live under the most wretched conditions,
and their food consists of a little bread, a few spoonfuls of rice,
and water; so by the time they are thirty or forty years old, they
are exhausted, and go to die in the hospitals. Besides, in
consequence of bad food and overwork, these unhappy creatures are, by
hundreds, devoured by pellagra--a disease that, in my country,
attacks, as the physicians say, those who are badly fed and lead a
life of toil and privation.
"I have observed that there are a great many people who are hungry,
and many children who suffer, whilst bread and clothes abound in the
towns. I saw many and large shops full of clothing and woolen
stuffs, and I also saw warehouses full of wheat and Indian corn,
suitable for those who are in want. And, on the other hand, I saw
thousands of people who do not work, who produce nothing and live on
the labor of others; who spend every day thousands of francs for
their amusement; who debauch the daughters of the workers; who own
dwellings of forty or fifty rooms; twenty or thirty horses, many
servants; in a word, all the pleasures of life.
"I believed in God; but when I saw so great an inequality between
men, I acknowledged that it was not God who created man, but man who
created God. And I discovered that those who want their property to
be respected, have an interest in preaching the existence of paradise
and hell, and in keeping the people in ignorance.
"Not long ago, Vaillant threw a bomb in the Chamber of Deputies, to
protest against the present system of society. He killed no one,
only wounded some persons; yet bourgeois justice sentenced him to
death. And not satisfied with the condemnation of the guilty man,
they began to pursue the Anarchists, and arrest not only those who
had known Vaillant, but even those who had merely been present at any
"The government did not think of their wives and children. It did
not consider that the men kept in prison were not the only ones who
suffered, and that their little ones cried for bread. Bourgeois
justice did not trouble itself about these innocent ones, who do not
yet know what society is. It is no fault of theirs that their
fathers are in prison; they only want to eat.
"The government went on searching private houses, opening private
letters, forbidding lectures and meetings, and practicing the most
infamous oppressions against us. Even now, hundreds of Anarchists
are arrested for having written an article in a newspaper, or for
having expressed an opinion in public.
"Gentlemen of the Jury, you are representatives of bourgeois society.
If you want my head, take it; but do not believe that in so doing you
will stop the Anarchist propaganda. Take care, for men reap what
they have sown."
During a religious procession in 1896, at Barcelona, a bomb was
thrown. Immediately three hundred men and women were arrested.
Some were Anarchists, but the majority were trade unionists and
Socialists. They were thrown into that terrible bastille, Montjuich,
and subjected to most horrible tortures. After a number had been
killed, or had gone insane, their cases were taken up by the liberal
press of Europe, resulting in the release of a few survivors.
The man primarily responsible for this revival of the Inquisition was
Canovas del Castillo, Prime Minister of Spain. It was he who ordered
the torturing of the victims, their flesh burned, their bones
crushed, their tongues cut out. Practiced in the art of brutality
during his regime in Cuba, Canovas remained absolutely deaf to the
appeals and protests of the awakened civilized conscience.
In 1897 Canovas del Castillo was shot to death by a young Italian,
Angiolillo. The latter was an editor in his native land, and his
bold utterances soon attracted the attention of the authorities.
Persecution began, and Angiolillo fled from Italy to Spain, thence to
France and Belgium, finally settling in England. While there he
found employment as a compositor, and immediately became the friend
of all his colleagues. One of the latter thus described Angiolillo:
"His appearance suggested the journalist rather than the disciple of
Guttenberg. His delicate hands, moreover, betrayed the fact that he
had not grown up at the 'case.' With his handsome frank face, his
soft dark hair, his alert expression, he looked the very type of the
vivacious Southerner. Angiolillo spoke Italian, Spanish, and French,
but no English; the little French I knew was not sufficient to carry
on a prolonged conversation. However, Angiolillo soon began to
acquire the English idiom; he learned rapidly, playfully, and it was
not long until he became very popular with his fellow compositors.
His distinguished and yet modest manner, and his consideration
towards his colleagues, won him the hearts of all the boys."
Angiolillo soon became familiar with the detailed accounts in the
press. He read of the great wave of human sympathy with the helpless
victims at Montjuich. On Trafalgar Square he saw with his own eyes
the results of those atrocities, when the few Spaniards, who escaped
Castillo's clutches, came to seek asylum in England. There, at the
great meeting, these men opened their shirts and showed the horrible
scars of burned flesh. Angiolillo saw, and the effect surpassed a
thousand theories; the impetus was beyond words, beyond arguments,
beyond himself even.
Senor Antonio Canovas del Castillo, Prime Minister of Spain,
sojourned at Santa Agueda. As usual in such cases, all strangers
were kept away from his exalted presence. One exception was made,
however, in the case of a distinguished looking, elegantly dressed
Italian--the representative, it was understood, of an important
journal. The distinguished gentleman was--Angiolillo.
Senor Canovas, about to leave his house, stepped on the veranda.
Suddenly Angiolillo confronted him. A shot rang out, and Canovas was
The wife of the Prime Minister rushed upon the scene. "Murderer!
Murderer!" she cried, pointing at Angiolillo. The latter bowed.
"Pardon, Madame," he said, "I respect you as a lady, but I regret
that you were the wife of that man."
Calmly Angiolillo faced death. Death in its most terrible form--for
the man whose soul was as a child's.
He was garroted. His body lay, sun-kissed, till the day hid in
twilight. And the people came, and pointing the finger of terror and
fear, they said: "There--the criminal--the cruel murderer."
How stupid, how cruel is ignorance! It misunderstands always,
A remarkable parallel to the case of Angiolillo is to be found in the
act of Gaetano Bresci, whose ATTENTAT upon King Umberto made an
American city famous.
Bresci came to this country, this land of opportunity, where one has
but to try to meet with golden success. Yes, he too would try to
succeed. He would work hard and faithfully. Work had no terrors
for him, if it would only help him to independence, manhood,
Thus full of hope and enthusiasm he settled in Paterson, New Jersey,
and there found a lucrative job at six dollars per week in one of the
weaving mills of the town. Six whole dollars per week was, no doubt,
a fortune for Italy, but not enough to breathe on in the new country.
He loved his little home. He was a good husband and devoted father
to his BAMBINA, Bianca, whom he adored. He worked and worked for a
number of years. He actually managed to save one hundred dollars out
of his six dollars per week.
Bresci had an ideal. Foolish, I know, for a workingman to have an
ideal,--the Anarchist paper published in Paterson, LA QUESTIONE
Every week, though tired from work, he would help to set up the
paper. Until later hours he would assist, and when the little
pioneer had exhausted all resources and his comrades were in despair,
Bresci brought cheer and hope, one hundred dollars, the entire
savings of years. That would keep the paper afloat.
In his native land people were starving. The crops had been poor,
and the peasants saw themselves face to face with famine. They
appealed to their good King Umberto; he would help. And he did.
The wives of the peasants who had gone to the palace of the King,
held up in mute silence their emaciated infants. Surely that would
move him. And then the soldiers fired and killed those poor fools.
Bresci, at work in the weaving mill at Paterson, read of the horrible
massacre. His mental eye beheld the defenceless women and innocent
infants of his native land, slaughtered right before the good King.
His soul recoiled in horror. At night he heard the groans of the
wounded. Some may have been his comrades, his own flesh. Why, why
these foul murders?
The little meeting of the Italian Anarchist group in Paterson ended
almost in a fight. Bresci had demanded his hundred dollars. His
comrades begged, implored him to give them a respite. The paper
would go down if they were to return him his loan. But Bresci
insisted on its return.
How cruel and stupid is ignorance. Bresci got the money, but lost
the good will, the confidence of his comrades. They would have
nothing more to do with one whose greed was greater than his ideals.
On the twenty-ninth of July, 1900, King Umberto was shot at Monzo.
The young Italian weaver of Paterson, Gaetano Bresci, had taken the
life of the good King.
Paterson was placed under police surveillance, everyone known as an
Anarchist hounded and persecuted, and the act of Bresci ascribed to
the teachings of Anarchism. As if the teachings of Anarchism in its
extremest form could equal the force of those slain women and
infants, who had pilgrimed to the King for aid. As if any spoken
word, ever so eloquent, could burn into a human soul with such white
heat as the life blood trickling drop by drop from those dying forms.
The ordinary man is rarely moved either by word or deed; and those
whose social kinship is the greatest living force need no appeal to
respond--even as does steel to the magnet--to the wrongs and horrors
If a social theory is a strong factor inducing acts of political
violence, how are we to account for the recent violent outbreaks in
India, where Anarchism has hardly been born. More than any other old
philosophy, Hindu teachings have exalted passive resistance, the
drifting of life, the Nirvana, as the highest spiritual ideal. Yet
the social unrest in India is daily growing, and has only recently
resulted in an act of political violence, the killing of Sir Curzon
Wyllie by the Hindu, Madar Sol Dhingra.
If such a phenomenon can occur in a country socially and individually
permeated for centuries with the spirit of passivity, can one
question the tremendous, revolutionizing effect on human character
exerted by great social iniquities? Can one doubt the logic, the
justice of these words:
"Repression, tyranny, and indiscriminate punishment of innocent men
have been the watchwords of the government of the alien domination in
India ever since we began the commercial boycott of English goods.
The tiger qualities of the British are much in evidence now in India.
They think that by the strength of the sword they will keep down
India! It is this arrogance that has brought about the bomb, and the
more they tyrannize over a helpless and unarmed people, the more
terrorism will grow. We may deprecate terrorism as outlandish and
foreign to our culture, but it is inevitable as long as this tyranny
continues, for it is not the terrorists that are to be blamed, but
the tyrants who are responsible for it. It is the only resource for
a helpless and unarmed people when brought to the verge of despair.
It is never criminal on their part. The crime lies with the
* THE FREE HINDUSTAN.
Even conservative scientists are beginning to realize that heredity
is not the sole factor moulding human character. Climate, food,
occupation; nay, color, light, and sound must be considered in the
study of human psychology.
If that be true, how much more correct is the contention that great
social abuses will and must influence different minds and
temperaments in a different way. And how utterly fallacious the
stereotyped notion that the teachings of Anarchism, or certain
exponents of these teachings, are responsible for the acts of
Anarchism, more than any other social theory, values human life above
things. All Anarchists agree with Tolstoy in this fundamental truth:
if the production of any commodity necessitates the sacrifice of
human life, society should do without that commodity, but it can not
do without that life. That, however, nowise indicates that Anarchism
teaches submission. How can it, when it knows that all suffering,
all misery, all ills, result from the evil of submission?
Has not some American ancestor said, many years ago, that resistance
to tyranny is obedience to God? And he was not an Anarchist even.
I would say that resistance to tyranny is man's highest ideal. So
long as tyranny exists, in whatever form, man's deepest aspiration
must resist it as inevitably as man must breathe.
Compared with the wholesale violence of capital and government,
political acts of violence are but a drop in the ocean. That so few
resist is the strongest proof how terrible must be the conflict
between their souls and unbearable social iniquities.
High strung, like a violin string, they weep and moan for life, so
relentless, so cruel, so terribly inhuman. In a desperate moment the
string breaks. Untuned ears hear nothing but discord. But those who
feel the agonized cry understand its harmony; they hear in it the
fulfillment of the most compelling moment of human nature.
Such is the psychology of political violence.
PRISONS: A SOCIAL CRIME AND FAILURE
In 1849, Feodor Dostoyevsky wrote on the wall of his prison cell the
following story of THE PRIEST AND THE DEVIL:
"'Hello, you little fat father!' the devil said to the priest.
'What made you lie so to those poor, misled people? What tortures of
hell did you depict? Don't you know they are already suffering the
tortures of hell in their earthly lives? Don't you know that you and
the authorities of the State are my representatives on earth? It is
you that make them suffer the pains of hell with which you threaten
them. Don't you know this? Well, then, come with me!'
"The devil grabbed the priest by the collar, lifted him high in the
air, and carried him to a factory, to an iron foundry. He saw the
workmen there running and hurrying to and fro, and toiling in the
scorching heat. Very soon the thick, heavy air and the heat are too
much for the priest. With tears in his eyes, he pleads with the
devil: 'Let me go! Let me leave this hell!'
"'Oh, my dear friend, I must show you many more places.' The devil
gets hold of him again and drags him off to a farm. There he sees
workmen threshing the grain. The dust and heat are insufferable.
The overseer carries a knout, and unmercifully beats anyone who falls
to the ground overcome by hard toil or hunger.
"Next the priest is taken to the huts where these same workers live
with their families--dirty, cold, smoky, ill-smelling holes. The
devil grins. He points out the poverty and hardships which are at
"'Well, isn't this enough?' he asks. And it seems as if even he, the
devil, pities the people. The pious servant of God can hardly bear
it. With uplifted hands he begs: 'Let me go away from here. Yes,
yes! This is hell on earth!'
"'Well, then, you see. And you still promise them another hell.
You torment them, torture them to death mentally when they are
already all but dead physically! Come on! I will show you one more
hell--one more, the very worst.'
"He took him to a prison and showed him a dungeon, with its foul air
and the many human forms, robbed of all health and energy, lying on
the floor, covered with vermin that were devouring their poor, naked,
"'Take off your silken clothes,' said the devil to the priest, 'put
on your ankles heavy chains such as these unfortunates wear; lie down
on the cold and filthy floor--and then talk to them about a hell that
still awaits them!'
"'No, no!' answered the priest, 'I cannot think of anything more
dreadful than this. I entreat you, let me go away from here!'
"'Yes, this is hell. There can be no worse hell than this. Did you
not know it? Did you not know that these men and women whom you are
frightening with the picture of a hell hereafter--did you not know
that they are in hell right here, before they die?'"
This was written fifty years ago in dark Russia, on the wall of one
of the most horrible prisons. Yet who can deny that the same applies
with equal force to the present time, even to American prisons?
With all our boasted reforms, our great social changes, and our
far-reaching discoveries, human beings continue to be sent to the
worst of hells, wherein they are outraged, degraded, and tortured,
that society may be "protected" from the phantoms of its own making.
Prison, a social protection? What monstrous mind ever conceived such
an idea? Just as well say that health can be promoted by a
After eighteen months of horror in an English prison, Oscar Wilde
gave to the world his great masterpiece, THE BALLAD OF READING GOAL:
The vilest deeds, like poison weeds,
Bloom well in prison air;
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there.
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.
Society goes on perpetuating this poisonous air, not realizing that
out of it can come naught but the most poisonous results.
We are spending at the present $3,500,000 per day, $1,000,095,000 per
year, to maintain prison institutions, and that in a democratic
country,--a sum almost as large as the combined output of wheat,
valued at $750,000,000, and the output of coal, valued at
$350,000,000. Professor Bushnell of Washington, D.C., estimates the
cost of prisons at $6,000,000,000 annually, and Dr. G. Frank Lydston,
an eminent American writer on crime, gives $5,000,000,000 annually as
a reasonable figure. Such unheard-of expenditure for the purpose of
maintaining vast armies of human beings caged up like wild beasts!*
* CRIME AND CRIMINALS. W. C. Owen.
Yet crimes are on the increase. Thus we learn that in America there
are four and a half times as many crimes to every million population
today as there were twenty years ago.
The most horrible aspect is that our national crime is murder, not
robbery, embezzlement, or rape, as in the South. London is five
times as large as Chicago, yet there are one hundred and eighteen
murders annually in the latter city, while only twenty in London.
Nor is Chicago the leading city in crime, since it is only seventh on
the list, which is headed by four Southern cities, and San Francisco
and Los Angeles. In view of such a terrible condition of affairs, it
seems ridiculous to prate of the protection society derives from its
The average mind is slow in grasping a truth, but when the most
thoroughly organized, centralized institution, maintained at an
excessive national expense, has proven a complete social failure, the
dullest must begin to question its right to exist. The time is past
when we can be content with our social fabric merely because it is
"ordained by divine right," or by the majesty of the law.
The widespread prison investigations, agitation, and education during
the last few years are conclusive proof that men are learning to dig
deep into the very bottom of society, down to the causes of the
terrible discrepancy between social and individual life.
Why, then, are prisons a social crime and a failure? To answer this
vital question it behooves us to seek the nature and cause of crimes,
the methods employed in coping with them, and the effects these
methods produce in ridding society of the curse and horror of crimes.
First, as to the NATURE of crime:
Havelock Ellis divides crime into four phases, the political, the
passional, the insane, and the occasional. He says that the
political criminal is the victim of an attempt of a more or less
despotic government to preserve its own stability. He is not
necessarily guilty of an unsocial offense; he simply tries to
overturn a certain political order which may itself be anti-social.
This truth is recognized all over the world, except in America where
the foolish notion still prevails that in a Democracy there is no
place for political criminals. Yet John Brown was a political
criminal; so were the Chicago Anarchists; so is every striker.
Consequently, says Havelock Ellis, the political criminal of our time
or place may be the hero, martyr, saint of another age. Lombroso
calls the political criminal the true precursor of the progressive
movement of humanity.
"The criminal by passion is usually a man of wholesome birth and
honest life, who under the stress of some great, unmerited wrong has
wrought justice for himself."*
* THE CRIMINAL, Havelock Ellis.
Mr. Hugh C. Weir, in THE MENACE OF THE POLICE, cites the case of Jim
Flaherty, a criminal by passion, who, instead of being saved by
society, is turned into a drunkard and a recidivist, with a ruined
and poverty-stricken family as the result.
A more pathetic type is Archie, the victim in Brand Whitlock's novel,
THE TURN OF THE BALANCE, the greatest American expose of crime in the
making. Archie, even more than Flaherty, was driven to crime and
death by the cruel inhumanity of his surroundings, and by the
unscrupulous hounding of the machinery of the law. Archie and
Flaherty are but the types of many thousands, demonstrating how the
legal aspects of crime, and the methods of dealing with it, help to
create the disease which is undermining our entire social life.
"The insane criminal really can no more be considered a criminal than
a child, since he is mentally in the same condition as an infant or
* THE CRIMINAL.
The law already recognizes that, but only in rare cases of a very
flagrant nature, or when the culprit's wealth permits the luxury of
criminal insanity. It has become quite fashionable to be the victim
of paranoia. But on the whole the "sovereignty of justice" still
continues to punish criminally insane with the whole severity of its
power. Thus Mr. Ellis quotes from Dr. Richter's statistics showing
that in Germany, one hundred and six madmen, out of one hundred and
forty-four criminal insane, were condemned to severe punishment.
The occasional criminal "represents by far the largest class of our
prison population, hence is the greatest menace to social
well-being." What is the cause that compels a vast army of the human
family to take to crime, to prefer the hideous life within prison
walls to the life outside? Certainly that cause must be an iron
master, who leaves its victims no avenue of escape, for the most
depraved human being loves liberty.
This terrific force is conditioned in our cruel social and economic
arrangement. I do not mean to deny the biologic, physiologic, or
psychologic factors in creating crime; but there is hardly an
advanced criminologist who will not concede that the social and
economic influences are the most relentless, the most poisonous germs
of crime. Granted even that there are innate criminal tendencies, it
is none the less true that these tendencies find rich nutrition in
our social environment.
There is close relation, says Havelock Ellis, between crimes against
the person and the price of alcohol, between crimes against property
and the price of wheat. He quotes Quetelet and Lacassagne, the
former looking upon society as the preparer of crime, and the
criminals as instruments that execute them. The latter find that
"the social environment is the cultivation medium of criminality;
that the criminal is the microbe, an element which only becomes
important when it finds the medium which causes it to ferment; EVERY
SOCIETY HAS THE CRIMINALS IT DESERVES."*
* THE CRIMINAL.
The most "prosperous" industrial period makes it impossible for the
worker to earn enough to keep up health and vigor. And as prosperity
is, at best, an imaginary condition, thousands of people are
constantly added to the host of the unemployed. From East to West,
from South to North, this vast army tramps in search of work or food,
and all they find is the workhouse or the slums. Those who have a
spark of self-respect left, prefer open defiance, prefer crime to the
emaciated, degraded position of poverty.
Edward Carpenter estimates that five-sixths of indictable crimes
consist in some violation of property rights; but that is too low a
figure. A thorough investigation would prove that nine crimes out of
ten could be traced, directly or indirectly, to our economic and
social iniquities, to our system of remorseless exploitation and
robbery. There is no criminal so stupid but recognizes this terrible
fact, though he may not be able to account for it.
A collection of criminal philosophy, which Havelock Ellis, Lombroso,
and other eminent men have compiled, shows that the criminal feels
only too keenly that it is society that drives him to crime. A
Milanese thief said to Lombroso: "I do not rob, I merely take from
the rich their superfluities; besides, do not advocates and merchants
rob?" A murderer wrote: "Knowing that three-fourths of the social
virtues are cowardly vices, I thought an open assault on a rich man
would be less ignoble than the cautious combination of fraud."
Another wrote: "I am imprisoned for stealing a half dozen eggs.
Ministers who rob millions are honored. Poor Italy!" An educated
convict said to Mr. Davitt: "The laws of society are framed for the
purpose of securing the wealth of the world to power and calculation,
thereby depriving the larger portion of mankind of its rights and
chances. Why should they punish me for taking by somewhat similar
means from those who have taken more than they had a right to?" The
same man added: "Religion robs the soul of its independence;
patriotism is the stupid worship of the world for which the
well-being and the peace of the inhabitants were sacrificed by those
who profit by it, while the laws of the land, in restraining natural
desires, were waging war on the manifest spirit of the law of our
beings. Compared with this," he concluded, "thieving is an honorable
* THE CRIMINAL.
Verily, there is greater truth in this philosophy than in all the
law-and-moral books of society.
The economic, political, moral, and physical factors being the
microbes of crime, how does society meet the situation?
The methods of coping with crime have no doubt undergone several
changes, but mainly in a theoretic sense. In practice, society has
retained the primitive motive in dealing with the offender; that is,
revenge. It has also adopted the theologic idea; namely, punishment;
while the legal and "civilized" methods consist of deterrence or
terror, and reform. We shall presently see that all four modes have
failed utterly, and that we are today no nearer a solution than in
the dark ages.
The natural impulse of the primitive man to strike back, to avenge a
wrong, is out of date. Instead, the civilized man, stripped of
courage and daring, has delegated to an organized machinery the duty
of avenging his wrongs, in the foolish belief that the State is
justified in doing what he no longer has the manhood or consistency
to do. The majesty-of-the-law is a reasoning thing; it would not
stoop to primitive instincts. Its mission is of a "higher" nature.
True, it is still steeped in the theologic muddle, which proclaims
punishment as a means of purification, or the vicarious atonement of
sin. But legally and socially the statute exercises punishment, not
merely as an infliction of pain upon the offender, but also for its
terrifying effect upon others.
What is the real basis of punishment, however? The notion of a free
will, the idea that man is at all times a free agent for good or
evil; if he chooses the latter, he must be made to pay the price.
Although this theory has long been exploded, and thrown upon the
dustheap, it continues to be applied daily by the entire machinery of
government, turning it into the most cruel and brutal tormentor of
human life. The only reason for its continuance is the still more
cruel notion that the greater the terror punishment spreads, the more
certain its preventative effect.
Society is using the most drastic methods in dealing with the social
offender. Why do they not deter? Although in America a man is
supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty, the
instruments of law, the police, carry on a reign of terror, making
indiscriminate arrests, beating, clubbing, bullying people, using the
barbarous method of the "third degree," subjecting their unfortunate
victims to the foul air of the station house, and the still fouler
language of its guardians. Yet crimes are rapidly multiplying, and
society is paying the price. On the other hand, it is an open secret
that when the unfortunate citizen has been given the full "mercy" of
the law, and for the sake of safety is hidden in the worst of hells,
his real Calvary begins. Robbed of his rights as a human being,
degraded to a mere automaton without will or feeling, dependent
entirely upon the mercy of brutal keepers, he daily goes through a
process of dehumanization, compared with which savage revenge was
mere child's play.
There is not a single penal institution or reformatory in the United
States where men are not tortured "to be made good," by means of the
blackjack, the club, the straightjacket, the water-cure, the "humming
bird" (an electrical contrivance run along the human body), the
solitary, the bullring, and starvation diet. In these institutions
his will is broken, his soul degraded, his spirit subdued by the
deadly monotony and routine of prison life. In Ohio, Illinois,
Pennsylvania, Missouri, and in the South, these horrors have become
so flagrant as to reach the outside world, while in most other
prisons the same Christian methods still prevail. But prison walls
rarely allow the agonized shrieks of the victims to escape--prison
walls are thick, they dull the sound. Society might with greater
immunity abolish all prisons at once, than to hope for protection
from these twentieth century chambers of horrors.
Year after year the gates of prison hells return to the world an
emaciated, deformed, willless, ship-wrecked crew of humanity, with
the Cain mark on their foreheads, their hopes crushed, all their
natural inclinations thwarted. With nothing but hunger and
inhumanity to greet them, these victims soon sink back into crime as
the only possibility of existence. It is not at all an unusual thing
to find men and women who have spent half their lives--nay, almost
their entire existence--in prison. I know a woman on Blackwell's
Island, who had been in and out thirty-eight times; and through a
friend I learn that a young boy of seventeen, whom he had nursed and
cared for in the Pittsburg penitentiary, had never known the meaning
of liberty. From the reformatory to the penitentiary had been the
path of this boy's life, until, broken in body, he died a victim of
social revenge. These personal experiences are substantiated by
extensive data giving overwhelming proof of the utter futility of
prisons as a means of deterrence or reform.
Well-meaning persons are now working for a new departure in the
prison question,--reclamation, to restore once more to the prisoner
the possibility of becoming a human being. Commendable as this is, I
fear it is impossible to hope for good results from pouring good wine
into a musty bottle. Nothing short of a complete reconstruction of
society will deliver mankind from the cancer of crime. Still, if the
dull edge of our social conscience would be sharpened, the penal
institutions might be given a new coat of varnish. But the first
step to be taken is the renovation of the social consciousness, which
is in a rather dilapidated condition. It is sadly in need to be
awakened to the fact that crime is a question of degree, that we all
have the rudiments of crime in us, more or less, according to our
mental, physical, and social environment; and that the individual
criminal is merely a reflex of the tendencies of the aggregate.
With the social consciousness awakened, the average individual may
learn to refuse the "honor" of being the bloodhound of the law. He
may cease to persecute, despise, and mistrust the social offender,
and give him a chance to live and breathe among his fellows.
Institutions are, of course, harder to reach. They are cold,
impenetrable, and cruel; still, with the social consciousness
quickened, it might be possible to free the prison victims from the
brutality of prison officials, guards, and keepers. Public opinion
is a powerful weapon; keepers of human prey, even, are afraid of it.
They may be taught a little humanity, especially if they realize that
their jobs depend upon it.
But the most important step is to demand for the prisoner the right
to work while in prison, with some monetary recompense that would
enable him to lay aside a little for the day of his release, the
beginning of a new life.
It is almost ridiculous to hope much from present society when we
consider that workingmen, wage slaves themselves, object to convict
labor. I shall not go into the cruelty of this objection, but merely
consider the impracticability of it. To begin with, the opposition
so far raised by organized labor has been directed against windmills.
Prisoners have always worked; only the State has been their
exploiter, even as the individual employer has been the robber of
organized labor. The States have either set the convicts to work for
the government, or they have farmed convict labor to private
individuals. Twenty-nine of the States pursue the latter plan. The
Federal government and seventeen States have discarded it, as have
the leading nations of Europe, since it leads to hideous overworking
and abuse of prisoners, and to endless graft.
Rhode Island, the State dominated by Aldrich, offers perhaps the
worst example. Under a five-year contract, dated July 7th, 1906, and
renewable for five years more at the option of private contractors,
the labor of the inmates of the Rhode Island Penitentiary and the
Providence County Jail is sold to the Reliance-Sterling Mfg. Co. at
the rate of a trifle less than 25 cents a day per man. This Company
is really a gigantic Prison Labor Trust, for it also leases the
convict labor of Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, and South
Dakota penitentiaries, and the reformatories of New Jersey, Indiana,
Illinois, and Wisconsin, eleven establishments in all.
The enormity of the graft under the Rhode Island contract may be
estimated from the fact that this same Company pays 62 1/2 cents a
day in Nebraska for the convict's labor, and that Tennessee, for
example, gets $1.10 a day for a convict's work from the Gray-Dudley
Hardware Co.; Missouri gets 70 cents a day from the Star Overall Mfg.
Co.; West Virginia 65 cents a day from the Kraft Mfg. Co., and
Maryland 55 cents a day from Oppenheim, Oberndorf & Co., shirt
manufacturers. The very difference in prices points to enormous
graft. For example, the Reliance-Sterling Mfg. Co. manufactures
shirts, the cost of free labor being not less than $1.20 per dozen,
while it pays Rhode Island thirty cents a dozen. Furthermore, the
State charges this Trust no rent for the use of its huge factory,
charges nothing for power, heat, light, or even drainage, and exacts
no taxes. What graft!
It is estimated that more than twelve million dollars' worth of
workingmen's shirts and overalls is produced annually in this country
by prison labor. It is a woman's industry, and the first reflection
that arises is that an immense amount of free female labor is thus
displaced. The second consideration is that male convicts, who
should be learning trades that would give them some chance of being
self-supporting after their release, are kept at this work at which
they can not possibly make a dollar. This is the more serious when
we consider that much of this labor is done in reformatories, which
so loudly profess to be training their inmates to become useful
The third, and most important, consideration is that the enormous
profits thus wrung from convict labor are a constant incentive to the
contractors to exact from their unhappy victims tasks altogether
beyond their strength, and to punish them cruelly when their work
does not come up to the excessive demands made.
Another word on the condemnation of convicts to tasks at which they
cannot hope to make a living after release. Indiana, for example, is
a State that has made a great splurge over being in the front rank of
modern penological improvements. Yet, according to the report
rendered in 1908 by the training school of its "reformatory," 135
were engaged in the manufacture of chains, 207 in that of shirts, and
255 in the foundry--a total of 597 in three occupations. But at this
so-called reformatory 59 occupations were represented by the inmates,
39 of which were connected with country pursuits. Indiana, like
other States, professes to be training the inmates of her reformatory
to occupations by which they will be able to make their living when
released. She actually sets them to work making chains, shirts, and
brooms, the latter for the benefit of the Louisville Fancy Grocery
Co. Broom making is a trade largely monopolized by the blind, shirt
making is done by women, and there is only one free chain factory in
the State, and at that a released convict can not hope to get
employment. The whole thing is a cruel farce.
If, then, the States can be instrumental in robbing their helpless
victims of such tremendous profits, is it not high time for organized
labor to stop its idle howl, and to insist on decent remuneration for
the convict, even as labor organizations claim for themselves? In
that way workingmen would kill the germ which makes of the prisoner
an enemy to the interests of labor. I have said elsewhere that
thousands of convicts, incompetent and without a trade, without means
of subsistence, are yearly turned back into the social fold. These
men and women must live, for even an ex-convict has needs. Prison
life has made them anti-social beings, and the rigidly closed doors
that meet them on their release are not likely to decrease their
bitterness. The inevitable result is that they form a favorable
nucleus out of which scabs, blacklegs, detectives, and policemen are
drawn, only too willing to do the master's bidding. Thus organized
labor, by its foolish opposition to work in prison, defeats its own
ends. It helps to create poisonous fumes that stifle every attempt
for economic betterment. If the workingman wants to avoid these
effects, he should INSIST on the right of the convict to work, he
should meet him as a brother, take him into his organization, and
WITH HIS AID TURN AGAINST THE SYSTEM WHICH GRINDS THEM BOTH.
Last, but not least, is the growing realization of the barbarity and
the inadequacy of the definite sentence. Those who believe in, and
earnestly aim at, a change are fast coming to the conclusion that man
must be given an opportunity to make good. And how is he to do it
with ten, fifteen, or twenty years' imprisonment before him? The
hope of liberty and of opportunity is the only incentive to life,
especially the prisoner's life. Society has sinned so long against
him--it ought at least to leave him that. I am not very sanguine
that it will, or that any real change in that direction can take
place until the conditions that breed both the prisoner and the
jailer will be forever abolished.
Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way
Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
Bloomed in the great Pope's sight.
PATRIOTISM: A MENACE TO LIBERTY
What is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of
childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it
the place where, in childlike naivety, we would watch the fleeting
clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not run so swiftly? The place
where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken
lest each one "an eye should be," piercing the very depths of our
little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of
the birds, and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant
lands? Or the place where we would sit at mother's knee, enraptured
by wonderful tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it
love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious
recollections of a happy, joyous, and playful childhood?
If that were patriotism, few American men of today could be called
upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into
factory, mill, and mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have
replaced the music of the birds. Nor can we longer hear the tales of
great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of
sorrow, tears, and grief.
What, then, is patriotism? "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of
scoundrels," said Dr. Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest
anti-patriot of our times, defines patriotism as the principle that
will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that
requires better equipment for the exercise of man-killing than the
making of such necessities of life as shoes, clothing, and houses; a
trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of
the average workingman.
Gustave Herve, another great anti-patriot, justly calls patriotism a
superstition--one far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than
religion. The superstition of religion originated in man's inability
to explain natural phenomena. That is, when primitive man heard
thunder or saw the lightning, he could not account for either, and
therefore concluded that back of them must be a force greater than
himself. Similarly he saw a supernatural force in the rain, and in
the various other changes in nature. Patriotism, on the other hand,
is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a
network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his
self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.
Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of
patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is
divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate.
Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot,
consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than
the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the
duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die
in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.
The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course,
with the result that, from early infancy, the mind of the child is
poisoned with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French,
the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood, he
is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord
himself to defend HIS country against the attack or invasion of any
foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a
greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition. It is for
that purpose that America has within a short time spent four hundred
million dollars. Just think of it--four hundred million dollars
taken from the produce of the PEOPLE. For surely it is not the rich
who contribute to patriotism. They are cosmopolitans, perfectly at
home in every land. We in America know well the truth of this. Are
not our rich Americans Frenchmen in France, Germans in Germany, or
Englishmen in England? And do they not squander with cosmopolitan
grace fortunes coined by American factory children and cotton slaves?
Yes, theirs is the patriotism that will make it possible to send
messages of condolence to a despot like the Russian Tsar, when any
mishap befalls him, as President Roosevelt did in the name of HIS
people, when Sergius was punished by the Russian revolutionists.
It is a patriotism that will assist the arch-murderer, Diaz, in
destroying thousands of lives in Mexico, or that will even aid in
arresting Mexican revolutionists on American soil and keep them
incarcerated in American prisons, without the slightest cause or
But, then, patriotism is not for those who represent wealth and
power. It is good enough for the people. It reminds one of the
historic wisdom of Frederic the Great, the bosom friend of Voltaire,
who said: "Religion is a fraud, but it must be maintained for the
That patriotism is rather a costly institution, no one will doubt
after considering the following statistics. The progressive increase
of the expenditures for the leading armies and navies of the world
during the last quarter of a century is a fact of such gravity as to
startle every thoughtful student of economic problems. It may be
briefly indicated by dividing the time from 1881 to 1905 into
five-year periods, and noting the disbursements of several great
nations for army and navy purposes during the first and last of those
periods. From the first to the last of the periods noted the
expenditures of Great Britain increased from $2,101,848,936 to
$4,143,226,885, those of France from $3,324,500,000 to
$3,455,109,900, those of Germany from $725,000,200 to $2,700,375,600,
those of the United States from $1,275,500,750 to $2,650,900,450,
those of Russia from $1,900,975,500 to $5,250,445,100, those of Italy
from $1,600,975,750 to $1,755,500,100, and those of Japan from
$182,900,500 to $700,925,475.
The military expenditures of each of the nations mentioned increased
in each of the five-year periods under review. During the entire
interval from 1881 to 1905 Great Britain's outlay for her army
increased fourfold, that of the United States was tripled, Russia's
was doubled, that of Germany increased 35 per cent., that of France
about 15 per cent., and that of Japan nearly 500 per cent. If we
compare the expenditures of these nations upon their armies with
their total expenditures for all the twenty-five years ending with
1905, the proportion rose as follows:
In Great Britain from 20 per cent. to 37; in the United States from
15 to 23; in France from 16 to 18; in Italy from 12 to 15; in Japan
from 12 to 14. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the
proportion in Germany decreased from about 58 per cent. to 25, the
decrease being due to the enormous increase in the imperial
expenditures for other purposes, the fact being that the army
expenditures for the period of 1901-5 were higher than for any
five-year period preceding. Statistics show that the countries in
which army expenditures are greatest, in proportion to the total
national revenues, are Great Britain, the United States, Japan,
France, and Italy, in the order named.
The showing as to the cost of great navies is equally impressive.
During the twenty-five years ending with 1905 naval expenditures
increased approximately as follows: Great Britain, 300 per cent.;
France 60 per cent.; Germany 600 per cent.; the United States 525 per
cent.; Russia 300 per cent.; Italy 250 per cent.; and Japan, 700 per
cent. With the exception of Great Britain, the United States spends
more for naval purposes than any other nation, and this expenditure
bears also a larger proportion to the entire national disbursements
than that of any other power. In the period 1881-5, the expenditure
for the United States navy was $6.20 out of each $100 appropriated
for all national purposes; the amount rose to $6.60 for the next
five-year period, to $8.10 for the next, to $11.70 for the next, and
to $16.40 for 1901-5. It is morally certain that the outlay for the
current period of five years will show a still further increase.
The rising cost of militarism may be still further illustrated by
computing it as a per capita tax on population. From the first to
the last of the five-year periods taken as the basis for the
comparisons here given, it has risen as follows: In Great Britain,
from $18.47 to $52.50; in France, from $19.66 to $23.62; in Germany,
from $10.17 to $15.51; in the United States, from $5.62 to $13.64; in
Russia, from $6.14 to $8.37; in Italy, from $9.59 to $11.24, and in
Japan from 86 cents to $3.11.
It is in connection with this rough estimate of cost per capita that
the economic burden of militarism is most appreciable. The
irresistible conclusion from available data is that the increase of
expenditure for army and navy purposes is rapidly surpassing the
growth of population in each of the countries considered in the
present calculation. In other words, a continuation of the increased
demands of militarism threatens each of those nations with a
progressive exhaustion both of men and resources.
The awful waste that patriotism necessitates ought to be sufficient
to cure the man of even average intelligence from this disease. Yet
patriotism demands still more. The people are urged to be patriotic
and for that luxury they pay, not only by supporting their
"defenders," but even by sacrificing their own children. Patriotism
requires allegiance to the flag, which means obedience and readiness
to kill father, mother, brother, sister.
The usual contention is that we need a standing army to protect the
country from foreign invasion. Every intelligent man and woman
knows, however, that this is a myth maintained to frighten and coerce
the foolish. The governments of the world, knowing each other's
interests, do not invade each other. They have learned that they can
gain much more by international arbitration of disputes than by war
and conquest. Indeed, as Carlyle said, "War is a quarrel between two
thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take
boys from one village and another village; stick them into uniforms,
equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against
It does not require much wisdom to trace every war back to a similar
cause. Let us take our own Spanish-American war, supposedly a great
and patriotic event in the history of the United States. How our
hearts burned with indignation against the atrocious Spaniards!
True, our indignation did not flare up spontaneously. It was
nurtured by months of newspaper agitation, and long after Butcher
Weyler had killed off many noble Cubans and outraged many Cuban
women. Still, in justice to the American Nation be it said, it did
grow indignant and was willing to fight, and that it fought bravely.
But when the smoke was over, the dead buried, and the cost of the war
came back to the people in an increase in the price of commodities
and rent--that is, when we sobered up from our patriotic spree--it
suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American war was
the consideration of the price of sugar; or, to be more explicit,
that the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to
protect the interests of American capitalists, which were threatened
by the Spanish government. That this is not an exaggeration, but is
based on absolute facts and figures, is best proven by the attitude
of the American government to Cuban labor. When Cuba was firmly in
the clutches of the United States, the very soldiers sent to liberate
Cuba were ordered to shoot Cuban workingmen during the great
cigarmakers' strike, which took place shortly after the war.
Nor do we stand alone in waging war for such causes. The curtain is
beginning to be lifted on the motives of the terrible Russo-Japanese
war, which cost so much blood and tears. And we see again that back
of the fierce Moloch of war stands the still fiercer god of
Commercialism. Kuropatkin, the Russian Minister of War during the
Russo-Japanese struggle, has revealed the true secret behind the
latter. The Tsar and his Grand Dukes, having invested money in
Corean concessions, the war was forced for the sole purpose of
speedily accumulating large fortunes.
The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of
peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen
is he who goes about heavily armed. The experience of every-day life
fully proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try
his strength. The same is historically true of governments. Really
peaceful countries do not waste life and energy in war preparations,
with the result that peace is maintained.
However, the clamor for an increased army and navy is not due to any
foreign danger. It is owing to the dread of the growing discontent
of the masses and of the international spirit among the workers. It
is to meet the internal enemy that the Powers of various countries
are preparing themselves; an enemy, who, once awakened to
consciousness, will prove more dangerous than any foreign invader.
The powers that have for centuries been engaged in enslaving the
masses have made a thorough study of their psychology. They know
that the people at large are like children whose despair, sorrow, and
tears can be turned into joy with a little toy. And the more
gorgeously the toy is dressed, the louder the colors, the more it
will appeal to the million-headed child.
An army and navy represents the people's toys. To make them more
attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are
being spent for the display of these toys. That was the purpose of
the American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the
Pacific coast, that every American citizen should be made to feel the
pride and glory of the United States. The city of San Francisco
spent one hundred thousand dollars for the entertainment of the
fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and Tacoma, about one
hundred thousand. To entertain the fleet, did I say? To dine and
wine a few superior officers, while the "brave boys" had to mutiny to
get sufficient food. Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars
were spent on fireworks, theatre parties, and revelries, at a time
when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the
country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed
were ready to sell their labor at any price.
Two hundred and sixty thousand dollars! What could not have been
accomplished with such an enormous sum? But instead of bread and
shelter, the children of those cities were taken to see the fleet,
that it may remain, as one of the newspapers said, "a lasting memory
for the child."
A wonderful thing to remember, is it not? The implements of
civilized slaughter. If the mind of the child is to be poisoned with
such memories, what hope is there for a true realization of human
We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed;
we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the
possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon
helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch
anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the
attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell
with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful
nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on
the necks of all other nations.
Such is the logic of patriotism.
Considering the evil results that patriotism is fraught with for the
average man, it is as nothing compared with the insult and injury
that patriotism heaps upon the soldier himself,--that poor, deluded
victim of superstition and ignorance. He, the savior of his country,
the protector of his nation,--what has patriotism in store for him?
A life of slavish submission, vice, and perversion, during peace; a
life of danger, exposure, and death, during war.
While on a recent lecture tour in San Francisco, I visited the
Presidio, the most beautiful spot overlooking the Bay and Golden Gate
Park. Its purpose should have been playgrounds for children, gardens
and music for the recreation of the weary. Instead it is made ugly,
dull, and gray by barracks,--barracks wherein the rich would not
allow their dogs to dwell. In these miserable shanties soldiers are
herded like cattle; here they waste their young days, polishing the
boots and brass buttons of their superior officers. Here, too, I saw
the distinction of classes: sturdy sons of a free Republic, drawn up
in line like convicts, saluting every passing shrimp of a lieutenant.
American equality, degrading manhood and elevating the uniform!
Barrack life further tends to develop tendencies of sexual
perversion. It is gradually producing along this line results
similar to European military conditions. Havelock Ellis, the noted
writer on sex psychology, has made a thorough study of the subject.
I quote: "Some of the barracks are great centers of male
prostitution. . . . The number of soldiers who prostitute themselves
is greater than we are willing to believe. It is no exaggeration to
say that in certain regiments the presumption is in favor of the
venality of the majority of the men. . . . On summer evenings Hyde
Park and the neighborhood of Albert Gate are full of guardsmen and
others plying a lively trade, and with little disguise, in uniform or
out. . . . In most cases the proceeds form a comfortable addition to
Tommy Atkins' pocket money."
To what extent this perversion has eaten its way into the army and
navy can best be judged from the fact that special houses exist for
this form of prostitution. The practice is not limited to England;
it is universal. "Soldiers are no less sought after in France than
in England or in Germany, and special houses for military
prostitution exist both in Paris and the garrison towns."
Had Mr. Havelock Ellis included America in his investigation of sex
perversion, he would have found that the same conditions prevail in
our army and navy as in those of other countries. The growth of the
standing army inevitably adds to the spread of sex perversion; the
barracks are the incubators.
Aside from the sexual effects of barrack life, it also tends to unfit
the soldier for useful labor after leaving the army. Men, skilled in
a trade, seldom enter the army or navy, but even they, after a
military experience, find themselves totally unfitted for their
former occupations. Having acquired habits of idleness and a taste
for excitement and adventure, no peaceful pursuit can content them.
Released from the army, they can turn to no useful work. But it is
usually the social riff-raff, discharged prisoners and the like, whom
either the struggle for life or their own inclination drives into the
ranks. These, their military term over, again turn to their former
life of crime, more brutalized and degraded than before. It is a
well-known fact that in our prisons there is a goodly number of
ex-soldiers; while on the other hand, the army and navy are to a
great extent supplied with ex-convicts.
Of all the evil results, I have just described, none seems to me so
detrimental to human integrity as the spirit patriotism has produced
in the case of Private William Buwalda. Because he foolishly
believed that one can be a soldier and exercise his rights as a man
at the same time, the military authorities punished him severely.
True, he had served his country fifteen years, during which time his
record was unimpeachable. According to Gen. Funston, who reduced
Buwalda's sentence to three years, "the first duty of an officer or
an enlisted man is unquestioned obedience and loyalty to the
government, and it makes no difference whether he approves of that
government or not." Thus Funston stamps the true character of
allegiance. According to him, entrance into the army abrogates the
principles of the Declaration of Independence.
What a strange development of patriotism that turns a thinking being
into a loyal machine!
In justification of this most outrageous sentence of Buwalda, Gen.
Funston tells the American people that the soldier's action was a
"serious crime equal to treason." Now, what did this "terrible
crime" really consist of? Simply in this: William Buwalda was one of
fifteen hundred people who attended a public meeting in San
Francisco; and, oh, horrors, he shook hands with the speaker, Emma
Goldman. A terrible crime, indeed, which the General calls "a great
military offense, infinitely worse than desertion."
Can there be a greater indictment against patriotism than that it
will thus brand a man a criminal, throw him into prison, and rob him
of the results of fifteen years of faithful service?
Buwalda gave to his country the best years of his life and his very
manhood. But all that was as nothing. Patriotism is inexorable and,
like all insatiable monsters, demands all or nothing. It does not
admit that a soldier is also a human being, who has a right to his
own feelings and opinions, his own inclinations and ideas. No,
patriotism can not admit of that. That is the lesson which Buwalda
was made to learn; made to learn at a rather costly, though not at a
useless, price. When he returned to freedom, he had lost his
position in the army, but he regained his self-respect. After all,
that is worth three years of imprisonment.
A writer on the military conditions of America, in a recent article,
commented on the power of the military man over the civilian in
Germany. He said, among other things, that if our Republic had no
other meaning than to guarantee all citizens equal rights, it would
have just cause for existence. I am convinced that the writer was
not in Colorado during the patriotic regime of General Bell. He
probably would have changed his mind had he seen how, in the name of
patriotism and the Republic, men were thrown into bull-pens, dragged
about, driven across the border, and subjected to all kinds of
indignities. Nor is that Colorado incident the only one in the
growth of military power in the United States. There is hardly a
strike where troops and militia do not come to the rescue of those in
power, and where they do not act as arrogantly and brutally as do the
men wearing the Kaiser's uniform. Then, too, we have the Dick
military law. Had the writer forgotten that?
A great misfortune with most of our writers is that they are
absolutely ignorant on current events, or that, lacking honesty, they
will not speak of these matters. And so it has come to pass that the
Dick military law was rushed through Congress with little discussion
and still less publicity,--a law which gives the President the power
to turn a peaceful citizen into a bloodthirsty man-killer, supposedly
for the defense of the country, in reality for the protection of the
interests of that particular party whose mouthpiece the President
happens to be.
Our writer claims that militarism can never become such a power in
America as abroad, since it is voluntary with us, while compulsory in
the Old World. Two very important facts, however, the gentleman
forgets to consider. First, that conscription has created in Europe
a deep-seated hatred of militarism among all classes of society.
Thousands of young recruits enlist under protest and, once in the
army, they will use every possible means to desert. Second, that it
is the compulsory feature of militarism which has created a
tremendous anti-militarist movement, feared by European Powers far
more than anything else. After all, the greatest bulwark of
capitalism is militarism. The very moment the latter is undermined,
capitalism will totter. True, we have no conscription; that is, men
are not usually forced to enlist in the army, but we have developed a
far more exacting and rigid force--necessity. Is it not a fact that
during industrial depressions there is a tremendous increase in the
number of enlistments? The trade of militarism may not be either
lucrative or honorable, but it is better than tramping the country in
search of work, standing in the bread line, or sleeping in municipal
lodging houses. After all, it means thirteen dollars per month,
three meals a day, and a place to sleep. Yet even necessity is not
sufficiently strong a factor to bring into the army an element of
character and manhood. No wonder our military authorities complain
of the "poor material" enlisting in the army and navy. This
admission is a very encouraging sign. It proves that there is still
enough of the spirit of independence and love of liberty left in the
average American to risk starvation rather than don the uniform.
Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that
patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the
necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought
into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed
nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony
of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers
abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot;
a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing
all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, "Go
and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you."
This solidarity is awakening the consciousness of even the soldiers,
they, too, being flesh of the flesh of the great human family. A
solidarity that has proven infallible more than once during past
struggles, and which has been the impetus inducing the Parisian
soldiers, during the Commune of 1871, to refuse to obey when ordered
to shoot their brothers. It has given courage to the men who
mutinied on Russian warships during recent years. It will eventually
bring about the uprising of all the oppressed and downtrodden against
their international exploiters.
The proletariat of Europe has realized the great force of that
solidarity and has, as a result, inaugurated a war against patriotism
and its bloody spectre, militarism. Thousands of men fill the
prisons of France, Germany, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries,
because they dared to defy the ancient superstition. Nor is the
movement limited to the working class; it has embraced
representatives in all stations of life, its chief exponents being
men and women prominent in art, science, and letters.
America will have to follow suit. The spirit of militarism has
already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that
militarism is growing a greater danger here than anywhere else,
because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it
wishes to destroy.
The beginning has already been made in the schools. Evidently the
government holds to the Jesuitical conception, "Give me the child
mind, and I will mould the man." Children are trained in military
tactics, the glory of military achievements extolled in the
curriculum, and the youthful minds perverted to suit the government.
Further, the youth of the country is appealed to in glaring posters
to join the army and navy. "A fine chance to see the world!" cries
the governmental huckster. Thus innocent boys are morally shanghaied
into patriotism, and the military Moloch strides conquering through
The American workingman has suffered so much at the hands of the
soldier, State, and Federal, that he is quite justified in his
disgust with, and his opposition to, the uniformed parasite.
However, mere denunciation will not solve this great problem. What
we need is a propaganda of education for the soldier: anti-patriotic
literature that will enlighten him as to the real horrors of his
trade, and that will awaken his consciousness to his true relation to
the man to whose labor he owes his very existence.
It is precisely this that the authorities fear most. It is already
high treason for a soldier to attend a radical meeting. No doubt
they will also stamp it high treason for a soldier to read a radical
pamphlet. But then, has not authority from time immemorial stamped
every step of progress as treasonable? Those, however, who earnestly
strive for social reconstruction can well afford to face all that;
for it is probably even more important to carry the truth into the
barracks than into the factory. When we have undermined the
patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path for that great
structure wherein all nationalities shall be united into a universal
brotherhood,--a truly FREE SOCIETY.
FRANCISCO FERRER AND THE MODERN SCHOOL
Experience has come to be considered the best school of life. The
man or woman who does not learn some vital lesson in that school is
looked upon as a dunce indeed. Yet strange to say, that though
organized institutions continue perpetrating errors, though they
learn nothing from experience, we acquiesce, as a matter of course.
There lived and worked in Barcelona a man by the name of Francisco
Ferrer. A teacher of children he was, known and loved by his people.
Outside of Spain only the cultured few knew of Francisco Ferrer's
work. To the world at large this teacher was non-existent.
On the first of September, 1909, the Spanish government--at the
behest of the Catholic Church--arrested Francisco Ferrer. On the
thirteenth of October, after a mock trial, he was placed in the ditch
at Montjuich prison, against the hideous wall of many sighs, and shot
dead. Instantly Ferrer, the obscure teacher, became a universal
figure, blazing forth the indignation and wrath of the whole
civilized world against the wanton murder.
The killing of Francisco Ferrer was not the first crime committed by
the Spanish government and the Catholic Church. The history of these
institutions is one long stream of fire and blood. Still they have
not learned through experience, nor yet come to realize that every
frail being slain by Church and State grows and grows into a mighty
giant, who will some day free humanity from their perilous hold.
Francisco Ferrer was born in 1859, of humble parents. They were
Catholics, and therefore hoped to raise their son in the same faith.
They did not know that the boy was to become the harbinger of a great
truth, that his mind would refuse to travel in the old path. At an
early age Ferrer began to question the faith of his fathers. He
demanded to know how it is that the God who spoke to him of goodness
and love would mar the sleep of the innocent child with dread and awe
of tortures, of suffering, of hell. Alert and of a vivid and
investigating mind, it did not take him long to discover the
hideousness of that black monster, the Catholic Church. He would
have none of it.
Francisco Ferrer was not only a doubter, a searcher for truth; he was
also a rebel. His spirit would rise in just indignation against the
iron regime of his country, and when a band of rebels, led by the
brave patriot, General Villacampa, under the banner of the Republican
ideal, made an onslaught on that regime, none was more ardent a
fighter than young Francisco Ferrer. The Republican ideal,--I hope
no one will confound it with the Republicanism of this country.
Whatever objection I, as an Anarchist, have to the Republicans of
Latin countries, I know they tower high above the corrupt and
reactionary party which, in America, is destroying every vestige of
liberty and justice. One has but to think of the Mazzinis, the
Garibaldis, the scores of others, to realize that their efforts were
directed, not merely towards the overthrow of despotism, but
particularly against the Catholic Church, which from its very
inception has been the enemy of all progress and liberalism.
In America it is just the reverse. Republicanism stands for vested
rights, for imperialism, for graft, for the annihilation of every
semblance of liberty. Its ideal is the oily, creepy respectability
of a McKinley, and the brutal arrogance of a Roosevelt.
The Spanish republican rebels were subdued. It takes more than one
brave effort to split the rock of ages, to cut off the head of that
hydra monster, the Catholic Church and the Spanish throne. Arrest,
persecution, and punishment followed the heroic attempt of the little
band. Those who could escape the bloodhounds had to flee for safety
to foreign shores. Francisco Ferrer was among the latter. He went
How his soul must have expanded in the new land! France, the cradle
of liberty, of ideas, of action. Paris, the ever young, intense
Paris, with her pulsating life, after the gloom of his own belated
country,--how she must have inspired him. What opportunities, what a
glorious chance for a young idealist.
Francisco Ferrer lost no time. Like one famished he threw himself
into the various liberal movements, met all kinds of people, learned,
absorbed, and grew. While there, he also saw in operation the Modern
School, which was to play such an important and fatal part in his
The Modern School in France was founded long before Ferrer's time.
Its originator, though on a small scale, was that sweet spirit,
Louise Michel. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our own great
Louise felt long ago that the future belongs to the young generation;
that unless the young be rescued from that mind and soul destroying
institution, the bourgeois school, social evils will continue to
exist. Perhaps she thought, with Ibsen, that the atmosphere is
saturated with ghosts, that the adult man and woman have so many
superstitions to overcome. No sooner do they outgrow the deathlike
grip of one spook, lo! they find themselves in the thralldom of
ninety-nine other spooks. Thus but a few reach the mountain peak of
The child, however, has no traditions to overcome. Its mind is not
burdened with set ideas, its heart has not grown cold with class and
caste distinctions. The child is to the teacher what clay is to the
sculptor. Whether the world will receive a work of art or a wretched
imitation, depends to a large extent on the creative power of the
Louise Michel was pre-eminently qualified to meet the child's soul
cravings. Was she not herself of a childlike nature, so sweet and
tender, unsophisticated and generous. The soul of Louise burned
always at white heat over every social injustice. She was invariably
in the front ranks whenever the people of Paris rebelled against some
wrong. And as she was made to suffer imprisonment for her great
devotion to the oppressed, the little school on Montmartre was soon
no more. But the seed was planted, and has since borne fruit in many
cities of France.
The most important venture of a Modern School was that of the great,
young old man, Paul Robin. Together with a few friends he
established a large school at Cempuis, a beautiful place near Paris.
Paul Robin aimed at a higher ideal than merely modern ideas in
education. He wanted to demonstrate by actual facts that the
bourgeois conception of heredity is but a mere pretext to exempt
society from its terrible crimes against the young. The contention
that the child must suffer for the sins of the fathers, that it must
continue in poverty and filth, that it must grow up a drunkard or
criminal, just because its parents left it no other legacy, was too
preposterous to the beautiful spirit of Paul Robin. He believed that
whatever part heredity may play, there are other factors equally
great, if not greater, that may and will eradicate or minimize the
so-called first cause. Proper economic and social environment, the
breath and freedom of nature, healthy exercise, love and sympathy,
and, above all, a deep understanding for the needs of the
child--these would destroy the cruel, unjust, and criminal stigma
imposed on the innocent young.
Paul Robin did not select his children; he did not go to the
so-called best parents: he took his material wherever he could find
it. From the street, the hovels, the orphan and foundling asylums,
the reformatories, from all those gray and hideous places where a
benevolent society hides its victims in order to pacify its guilty
conscience. He gathered all the dirty, filthy, shivering little
waifs his place would hold, and brought them to Cempuis. There,
surrounded by nature's own glory, free and unrestrained, well fed,
clean kept, deeply loved and understood, the little human plants
began to grow, to blossom, to develop beyond even the expectations of
their friend and teacher, Paul Robin.
The children grew and developed into self-reliant, liberty loving men
and women. What greater danger to the institutions that make the
poor in order to perpetuate the poor. Cempuis was closed by the
French government on the charge of co-education, which is prohibited
in France. However, Cempuis had been in operation long enough to
prove to all advanced educators its tremendous possibilities, and to
serve as an impetus for modern methods of education, that are slowly
but inevitably undermining the present system.
Cempuis was followed by a great number of other educational
attempts,--among them, by Madelaine Vernet, a gifted writer and poet,
author of L'AMOUR LIBRE, and Sebastian Faure, with his LA RUCHE,*
which I visited while in Paris, in 1907.
* THE BEEHIVE.
Several years ago Comrade Faure bought the land on which he built his
LA RUCHE. In a comparatively short time he succeeded in transforming
the former wild, uncultivated country into a blooming spot, having
all the appearance of a well kept farm. A large, square court,
enclosed by three buildings, and a broad path leading to the garden
and orchards, greet the eye of the visitor. The garden, kept as only
a Frenchman knows how, furnishes a large variety of vegetables for LA
Sebastian Faure is of the opinion that if the child is subjected to
contradictory influences, its development suffers in consequence.
Only when the material needs, the hygiene of the home, and
intellectual environment are harmonious, can the child grow into a
healthy, free being.
Referring to his school, Sebastian Faure has this to say:
"I have taken twenty-four children of both sexes, mostly orphans, or
those whose parents are too poor to pay. They are clothed, housed,
and educated at my expense. Till their twelfth year they will
receive a sound, elementary education. Between the age of twelve and
fifteen--their studies still continuing--they are to be taught some
trade, in keeping with their individual disposition and abilities.
After that they are at liberty to leave LA RUCHE to begin life in the
outside world, with the assurance that they may at any time return to
LA RUCHE, where they will be received with open arms and welcomed as
parents do their beloved children. Then, if they wish to work at our
place, they may do so under the following conditions: One third of
the product to cover his or her expenses of maintenance, another
third to go towards the general fund set aside for accommodating new
children, and the last third to be devoted to the personal use of the
child, as he or she may see fit.
"The health of the children who are now in my care is perfect. Pure
air, nutritious food, physical exercise in the open, long walks,
observation of hygienic rules, the short and interesting method of
instruction, and, above all, our affectionate understanding and care
of the children, have produced admirable physical and mental results.
"It would be unjust to claim that our pupils have accomplished
wonders; yet, considering that they belong to the average, having had
no previous opportunities, the results are very gratifying indeed.
The most important thing they have acquired--a rare trait with
ordinary school children--is the love of study, the desire to know,
to be informed. They have learned a new method of work, one that
quickens the memory and stimulates the imagination. We make a
particular effort to awaken the child's interest in his surroundings,
to make him realize the importance of observation, investigation, and
reflection, so that when the children reach maturity, they would not
be deaf and blind to the things about them. Our children never
accept anything in blind faith, without inquiry as to why and
wherefore; nor do they feel satisfied until their questions are
thoroughly answered. Thus their minds are free from doubts and fear
resultant from incomplete or untruthful replies; it is the latter
which warp the growth of the child, and create a lack of confidence
in himself and those about him.
"It is surprising how frank and kind and affectionate our little ones
are to each other. The harmony between themselves and the adults at
LA RUCHE is highly encouraging. We should feel at fault if the
children were to fear or honor us merely because we are their elders.
We leave nothing undone to gain their confidence and love; that
accomplished, understanding will replace duty; confidence, fear; and
"No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness, and
generosity hidden in the soul of the child. The effort of every true
educator should be to unlock that treasure--to stimulate the child's
impulses, and call forth the best and noblest tendencies. What
greater reward can there be for one whose life-work is to watch over
the growth of the human plant, than to see its nature unfold its
petals, and to observe it develop into a true individuality. My
comrades at LA RUCHE look for no greater reward, and it is due to
them and their efforts, even more than to my own, that our human
garden promises to bear beautiful fruit."*
* MOTHER EARTH, 1907.
Regarding the subject of history and the prevailing old methods of
instruction, Sebastian Faure said:
"We explain to our children that true history is yet to be
written,--the story of those who have died, unknown, in the effort to
aid humanity to greater achievement."*
Francisco Ferrer could not escape this great wave of Modern School
attempts. He saw its possibilities, not merely in theoretic form,
but in their practical application to every-day needs. He must have
realized that Spain, more than any other country, stands in need of
just such schools, if it is ever to throw off the double yoke of
priest and soldier.
When we consider that the entire system of education in Spain is in
the hands of the Catholic Church, and when we further remember the
Catholic formula, "To inculcate Catholicism in the mind of the child
until it is nine years of age is to ruin it forever for any other
idea," we will understand the tremendous task of Ferrer in bringing
the new light to his people. Fate soon assisted him in realizing his
Mlle. Meunier, a pupil of Francisco Ferrer, and a lady of wealth,
became interested in the Modern School project. When she died, she
left Ferrer some valuable property and twelve thousand francs yearly
income for the School.
It is said that mean souls can conceive of naught but mean ideas.
If so, the contemptible methods of the Catholic Church to blackguard
Ferrer's character, in order to justify her own black crime, can
readily be explained. Thus the lie was spread in American Catholic
papers, that Ferrer used his intimacy with Mlle. Meunier to get
possession of her money.
Personally, I hold that the intimacy, of whatever nature, between a
man and a woman, is their own affair, their sacred own. I would
therefore not lose a word in referring to the matter, if it were not
one of the many dastardly lies circulated about Ferrer. Of course,
those who know the purity of the Catholic clergy will understand the
insinuation. Have the Catholic priests ever looked upon woman as
anything but a sex commodity? The historical data regarding the
discoveries in the cloisters and monasteries will bear me out in
that. How, then, are they to understand the co-operation of a man
and a woman, except on a sex basis?
As a matter of fact, Mlle. Meunier was considerably Ferrer's senior.
Having spent her childhood and girlhood with a miserly father and a
submissive mother, she could easily appreciate the necessity of love
and joy in child life. She must have seen that Francisco Ferrer was
a teacher, not college, machine, or diploma-made, but one endowed
with genius for that calling.
Equipped with knowledge, with experience, and with the necessary
means; above all, imbued with the divine fire of his mission, our
Comrade came back to Spain, and there began his life's work. On the
ninth of September, 1901, the first Modern School was opened. It was
enthusiastically received by the people of Barcelona, who pledged
their support. In a short address at the opening of the School,
Ferrer submitted his program to his friends. He said: "I am not a
speaker, not a propagandist, not a fighter. I am a teacher; I love
children above everything. I think I understand them. I want my
contribution to the cause of liberty to be a young generation ready
to meet a new era."
He was cautioned by his friends to be careful in his opposition to
the Catholic Church. They knew to what lengths she would go to
dispose of an enemy. Ferrer, too, knew. But, like Brand, he
believed in all or nothing. He would not erect the Modern School on
the same old lie. He would be frank and honest and open with the
Francisco Ferrer became a marked man. From the very first day of the
opening of the School, he was shadowed. The school building was
watched, his little home in Mangat was watched. He was followed
every step, even when he went to France or England to confer with his
colleagues. He was a marked man, and it was only a question of time
when the lurking enemy would tighten the noose.
It succeeded, almost, in 1906, when Ferrer was implicated in the
attempt on the life of Alfonso. The evidence exonerating him was too
strong even for the black crows;* they had to let him go--not for
good, however. They waited. Oh, they can wait, when they have set
themselves to trap a victim.
* Black crows: The Catholic clergy.
The moment came at last, during the anti-military uprising in Spain,
in July, 1909. One will have to search in vain the annals of
revolutionary history to find a more remarkable protest against
militarism. Having been soldier-ridden for centuries, the people of
Spain could stand the yoke no longer. They would refuse to
participate in useless slaughter. They saw no reason for aiding a
despotic government in subduing and oppressing a small people
fighting for their independence, as did the brave Riffs. No, they
would not bear arms against them.
For eighteen hundred years the Catholic Church has preached the
gospel of peace. Yet, when the people actually wanted to make this
gospel a living reality, she urged the authorities to force them to
bear arms. Thus the dynasty of Spain followed the murderous methods
of the Russian dynasty,--the people were forced to the battlefield.
Then, and not until then, was their power of endurance at an end.
Then, and not until then, did the workers of Spain turn against their
masters, against those who, like leeches, had drained their strength,
their very life-blood. Yes, they attacked the churches and the
priests, but if the latter had a thousand lives, they could not
possibly pay for the terrible outrages and crimes perpetrated upon
the Spanish people.
Francisco Ferrer was arrested on the first of September, 1909.
Until October first, his friends and comrades did not even know what
had become of him. On that day a letter was received by L'HUMANITE,
from which can be learned the whole mockery of the trial. And the
next day his companion, Soledad Villafranca, received the following
"No reason to worry; you know I am absolutely innocent. Today I am
particularly hopeful and joyous. It is the first time I can write to
you, and the first time since my arrest that I can bathe in the rays
of the sun, streaming generously through my cell window. You, too,
must be joyous."
How pathetic that Ferrer should have believed, as late as October
fourth, that he would not be condemned to death. Even more pathetic
that his friends and comrades should once more have made the blunder
in crediting the enemy with a sense of justice. Time and again they
had placed faith in the judicial powers, only to see their brothers
killed before their very eyes. They made no preparation to rescue
Ferrer, not even a protest of any extent; nothing. "Why, it is
impossible to condemn Ferrer; he is innocent." But everything is
possible with the Catholic Church. Is she not a practiced henchman,
whose trials of her enemies are the worst mockery of justice?
On October fourth Ferrer sent the following letter to L'HUMANITE:
The Prison Cell, Oct. 4, 1909.
My dear Friends--Notwithstanding most absolute innocence, the
prosecutor demands the death penalty, based on denunciations of
the police, representing me as the chief of the world's
Anarchists, directing the labor syndicates of France, and guilty
of conspiracies and insurrections everywhere, and declaring that
my voyages to London and Paris were undertaken with no other
With such infamous lies they are trying to kill me.
The messenger is about to depart and I have not time for more.
All the evidence presented to the investigating judge by the
police is nothing but a tissue of lies and calumnious
insinuations. But no proofs against me, having done nothing at
October thirteenth, 1909, Ferrer's heart, so brave, so staunch, so
loyal, was stilled. Poor fools! The last agonized throb of that
heart had barely died away when it began to beat a hundredfold in the
hearts of the civilized world, until it grew into terrific thunder,
hurling forth its malediction upon the instigators of the black
crime. Murderers of black garb and pious mien, to the bar of
Did Francisco Ferrer participate in the anti-military uprising?
According to the first indictment, which appeared in a Catholic paper
in Madrid, signed by the Bishop and all the prelates of Barcelona, he
was not even accused of participation. The indictment was to the
effect that Francisco Ferrer was guilty of having organized godless
schools, and having circulated godless literature. But in the
twentieth century men can not be burned merely for their godless
beliefs. Something else had to be devised; hence the charge of
instigating the uprising.
In no authentic source so far investigated could a single proof be
found to connect Ferrer with the uprising. But then, no proofs were
wanted, or accepted, by the authorities. There were seventy-two
witnesses, to be sure, but their testimony was taken on paper. They
never were confronted with Ferrer, or he with them.
Is it psychologically possible that Ferrer should have participated?
I do not believe it is, and here are my reasons. Francisco Ferrer
was not only a great teacher, but he was also undoubtedly a marvelous
organizer. In eight years, between 1901-1909, he had organized in
Spain one hundred and nine schools, besides inducing the liberal
element of his country to organize three hundred and eight other
schools. In connection with his own school work, Ferrer had equipped
a modern printing plant, organized a staff of translators, and spread
broadcast one hundred and fifty thousand copies of modern scientific
and sociologic works, not to forget the large quantity of rationalist
text books. Surely none but the most methodical and efficient
organizer could have accomplished such a feat.
On the other hand, it was absolutely proven that the anti-military
uprising was not at all organized; that it came as a surprise to the
people themselves, like a great many revolutionary waves on previous
occasions. The people of Barcelona, for instance, had the city in
their control for four days, and, according to the statement of
tourists, greater order and peace never prevailed. Of course, the
people were so little prepared that when the time came, they did not
know what to do. In this regard they were like the people of Paris
during the Commune of 1871. They, too, were unprepared. While they
were starving, they protected the warehouses, filled to the brim with
provisions. They placed sentinels to guard the Bank of France, where
the bourgeoisie kept the stolen money. The workers of Barcelona,
too, watched over the spoils of their masters.
How pathetic is the stupidity of the underdog; how terribly tragic!
But, then, have not his fetters been forged so deeply into his flesh,
that he would not, even if he could, break them? The awe of
authority, of law, of private property, hundredfold burned into his
soul,--how is he to throw it off unprepared, unexpectedly?
Can anyone assume for a moment that a man like Ferrer would affiliate
himself with such a spontaneous, unorganized effort? Would he not
have known that it would result in a defeat, a disastrous defeat for
the people? And is it not more likely that if he would have taken
part, he, the experienced ENTREPRENEUR, would have thoroughly
organized the attempt? If all other proofs were lacking, that one
factor would be sufficient to exonerate Francisco Ferrer. But there
are others equally convincing.
For the very date of the outbreak, July twenty-fifth, Ferrer had
called a conference of his teachers and members of the League of
Rational Education. It was to consider the autumn work, and
particularly the publication of Elisee Reclus' great book, L'HOMME ET
LA TERRE, and Peter Kropotkin's GREAT FRENCH REVOLUTION. Is it at
all likely, is it at all plausible that Ferrer, knowing of the
uprising, being a party to it, would in cold blood invite his friends
and colleagues to Barcelona for the day on which he realized their
lives would be endangered? Surely, only the criminal, vicious mind
of a Jesuit could credit such deliberate murder.
Francisco Ferrer had his life-work mapped out; he had everything to
lose and nothing to gain, except ruin and disaster, were he to lend
assistance to the outbreak. Not that he doubted the justice of the
people's wrath; but his work, his hope, his very nature was directed
toward another goal.
In vain are the frantic efforts of the Catholic Church, her lies,
falsehoods, calumnies. She stands condemned by the awakened human
conscience of having once more repeated the foul crimes of the past.
Francisco Ferrer is accused of teaching the children the most
blood-curdling ideas,--to hate God, for instance. Horrors!
Francisco Ferrer did not believe in the existence of a God. Why
teach the child to hate something which does not exist? Is it not
more likely that he took the children out into the open, that he
showed them the splendor of the sunset, the brilliancy of the starry
heavens, the awe-inspiring wonder of the mountains and seas; that he
explained to them in his simple, direct way the law of growth, of
development, of the interrelation of all life? In so doing he made
it forever impossible for the poisonous weeds of the Catholic Church
to take root in the child's mind.
It has been stated that Ferrer prepared the children to destroy the
rich. Ghost stories of old maids. Is it not more likely that he
prepared them to succor the poor? That he taught them the
humiliation, the degradation, the awfulness of poverty, which is a
vice and not a virtue; that he taught the dignity and importance of
all creative efforts, which alone sustain life and build character.
Is it not the best and most effective way of bringing into the proper
light the absolute uselessness and injury of parasitism?
Last, but not least, Ferrer is charged with undermining the army by
inculcating anti-military ideas. Indeed? He must have believed with
Tolstoy that war is legalized slaughter, that it perpetuates hatred
and arrogance, that it eats away the heart of nations, and turns them
into raving maniacs.
However, we have Ferrer's own word regarding his ideas of modern
"I would like to call the attention of my readers to this idea: All
the value of education rests in the respect for the physical,
intellectual, and moral will of the child. Just as in science no
demonstration is possible save by facts, just so there is no real
education save that which is exempt from all dogmatism, which leaves
to the child itself the direction of its effort, and confines itself
to the seconding of its effort. Now, there is nothing easier than to
alter this purpose, and nothing harder than to respect it.
Education is always imposing, violating, constraining; the real
educator is he who can best protect the child against his (the
teacher's) own ideas, his peculiar whims; he who can best appeal to
the child's own energies.
"We are convinced that the education of the future will be of an
entirely spontaneous nature; certainly we can not as yet realize it,
but the evolution of methods in the direction of a wider
comprehension of the phenomena of life, and the fact that all
advances toward perfection mean the overcoming of restraint,--all
this indicates that we are in the right when we hope for the
deliverance of the child through science.
"Let us not fear to say that we want men capable of evolving without
stopping, capable of destroying and renewing their environments
without cessation, of renewing themselves also; men, whose
intellectual independence will be their greatest force, who will
attach themselves to nothing, always ready to accept what is best,
happy in the triumph of new ideas, aspiring to live multiple lives in
one life. Society fears such men; we therefore must not hope that it
will ever want an education able to give them to us.
"We shall follow the labors of the scientists who study the child
with the greatest attention, and we shall eagerly seek for means of
applying their experience to the education which we want to build up,
in the direction of an ever fuller liberation of the individual.
But how can we attain our end? Shall it not be by putting ourselves
directly to the work favoring the foundation of new schools, which
shall be ruled as much as possible by this spirit of liberty, which
we forefeel will dominate the entire work of education in the future?
"A trial has been made, which, for the present, has already given
excellent results. We can destroy all which in the present school
answers to the organization of constraint, the artificial
surroundings by which children are separated from nature and life,
the intellectual and moral discipline made use of to impose
ready-made ideas upon them, beliefs which deprave and annihilate
natural bent. Without fear of deceiving ourselves, we can restore
the child to the environment which entices it, the environment of
nature in which he will be in contact with all that he loves, and in
which impressions of life will replace fastidious book-learning. If
we did no more than that, we should already have prepared in great
part the deliverance of the child.
"In such conditions we might already freely apply the data of science
and labor most fruitfully.
"I know very well we could not thus realize all our hopes, that we
should often be forced, for lack of knowledge, to employ undesirable
methods; but a certitude would sustain us in our efforts--namely,
that even without reaching our aim completely we should do more and
better in our still imperfect work than the present school
accomplishes. I like the free spontaneity of a child who knows
nothing, better than the world-knowledge and intellectual deformity
of a child who has been subjected to our present education."*
* MOTHER EARTH, December, 1909.
Had Ferrer actually organized the riots, had he fought on the
barricades, had he hurled a hundred bombs, he could not have been so
dangerous to the Catholic Church and to despotism, as with his
opposition to discipline and restraint. Discipline and
restraint--are they not back of all the evils in the world?
Slavery, submission, poverty, all misery, all social iniquities
result from discipline and restraint. Indeed, Ferrer was dangerous.
Therefore he had to die, October thirteenth, 1909, in the ditch of
Montjuich. Yet who dare say his death was in vain? In view of the
tempestuous rise of universal indignation: Italy naming streets in
memory of Francisco Ferrer, Belgium inaugurating a movement to erect
a memorial; France calling to the front her most illustrious men to
resume the heritage of the martyr; England being the first to issue a
biography:--all countries uniting in perpetuating the great work of
Francisco Ferrer; America, even, tardy always in progressive ideas,
giving birth to a Francisco Ferrer Association, its aim being to
publish a complete life of Ferrer and to organize Modern Schools all
over the country; in the face of this international revolutionary
wave, who is there to say Ferrer died in vain?
That death at Montjuich,--how wonderful, how dramatic it was, how it
stirs the human soul. Proud and erect, the inner eye turned toward
the light, Francisco Ferrer needed no lying priests to give him
courage, nor did he upbraid a phantom for forsaking him. The
consciousness that his executioners represented a dying age, and that
his was the living truth, sustained him in the last heroic moments.
A dying age and a living truth,
The living burying the dead.
THE HYPOCRISY OF PURITANISM
Speaking of Puritanism in relation to American art, Mr. Gutzen
Burglum said: "Puritanism has made us self-centered and hypocritical
for so long, that sincerity and reverence for what is natural in our
impulses have been fairly bred out of us, with the result that there
can be neither truth nor individuality in our art."
Mr. Burglum might have added that Puritanism has made life itself
impossible. More than art, more than estheticism, life represents
beauty in a thousand variations; it is, indeed, a gigantic panorama
of eternal change. Puritanism, on the other hand, rests on a fixed
and immovable conception of life; it is based on the Calvinistic idea
that life is a curse, imposed upon man by the wrath of God. In order
to redeem himself man must do constant penance, must repudiate every
natural and healthy impulse, and turn his back on joy and beauty.
Puritanism celebrated its reign of terror in England during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, destroying and crushing every
manifestation of art and culture. It was the spirit of Puritanism
which robbed Shelley of his children, because he would not bow to the
dicta of religion. It was the same narrow spirit which alienated
Byron from his native land, because that great genius rebelled
against the monotony, dullness, and pettiness of his country. It was
Puritanism, too, that forced some of England's freest women into the
conventional lie of marriage: Mary Wollstonecraft and, later, George
Eliot. And recently Puritanism has demanded another toll--the life
of Oscar Wilde. In fact, Puritanism has never ceased to be the most
pernicious factor in the domain of John Bull, acting as censor of the
artistic expression of his people, and stamping its approval only on
the dullness of middle-class respectability.
It is therefore sheer British jingoism which points to America as the
country of Puritanic provincialism. It is quite true that our life
is stunted by Puritanism, and that the latter is killing what is
natural and healthy in our impulses. But it is equally true that it
is to England that we are indebted for transplanting this spirit on
American soil. It was bequeathed to us by the Pilgrim fathers.
Fleeing from persecution and oppression, the Pilgrims of Mayflower
fame established in the New World a reign of Puritanic tyranny and
crime. The history of New England, and especially of Massachusetts,
is full of the horrors that have turned life into gloom, joy into
despair, naturalness into disease, honesty and truth into hideous
lies and hypocrisies. The ducking-stool and whipping post, as well
as numerous other devices of torture, were the favorite English
methods for American purification.
Boston, the city of culture, has gone down in the annals of
Puritanism as the "Bloody Town." It rivaled Salem, even, in her
cruel persecution of unauthorized religious opinions. On the now
famous Common a half-naked woman, with a baby in her arms, was
publicly whipped for the crime of free speech; and on the same spot
Mary Dyer, another Quaker woman, was hanged in 1659. In fact, Boston
has been the scene of more than one wanton crime committed by
Puritanism. Salem, in the summer of 1692, killed eighteen people for
witchcraft. Nor was Massachusetts alone in driving out the devil by
fire and brimstone. As Canning justly said: "The Pilgrim fathers
infested the New World to redress the balance of the Old." The
horrors of that period have found their most supreme expression in
the American classic, THE SCARLET LETTER.
Puritanism no longer employs the thumbscrew and lash; but it still
has a most pernicious hold on the minds and feelings of the American
people. Naught else can explain the power of a Comstock. Like the
Torquemadas of ante-bellum days, Anthony Comstock is the autocrat of
American morals; he dictates the standards of good and evil, of
purity and vice. Like a thief in the night he sneaks into the
private lives of the people, into their most intimate relations.
The system of espionage established by this man Comstock puts to
shame the infamous Third Division of the Russian secret police. Why
does the public tolerate such an outrage on its liberties? Simply
because Comstock is but the loud expression of the Puritanism bred in
the Anglo-Saxon blood, and from whose thraldom even liberals have not
succeeded in fully emancipating themselves. The visionless and
leaden elements of the old Young Men's and Women's Christian
Temperance Unions, Purity Leagues, American Sabbath Unions, and the
Prohibition Party, with Anthony Comstock as their patron saint, are
the grave diggers of American art and culture.
Europe can at least boast of a bold art and literature which delve
deeply into the social and sexual problems of our time, exercising a
severe critique of all our shams. As with a surgeon's knife every
Puritanic carcass is dissected, and the way thus cleared for man's
liberation from the dead weights of the past. But with Puritanism as
the constant check upon American life, neither truth nor sincerity is
possible. Nothing but gloom and mediocrity to dictate human conduct,
curtail natural expression, and stifle our best impulses.
Puritanism in this the twentieth century is as much the enemy of
freedom and beauty as it was when it landed on Plymouth Rock. It
repudiates, as something vile and sinful, our deepest feelings; but
being absolutely ignorant as to the real functions of human emotions,
Puritanism is itself the creator of the most unspeakable vices.
The entire history of asceticism proves this to be only too true.
The Church, as well as Puritanism, has fought the flesh as something
evil; it had to be subdued and hidden at all cost. The result of
this vicious attitude is only now beginning to be recognized by
modern thinkers and educators. They realize that "nakedness has a
hygienic value as well as a spiritual significance, far beyond its
influences in allaying the natural inquisitiveness of the young or
acting as a preventative of morbid emotion. It is an inspiration to
adults who have long outgrown any youthful curiosities. The vision
of the essential and eternal human form, the nearest thing to us in
all the world, with its vigor and its beauty and its grace, is one of
the prime tonics of life."* But the spirit of purism has so perverted
the human mind that it has lost the power to appreciate the beauty of
nudity, forcing us to hide the natural form under the plea of
chastity. Yet chastity itself is but an artificial imposition upon
nature, expressive of a false shame of the human form. The modern
idea of chastity, especially in reference to woman, its greatest
victim, is but the sensuous exaggeration of our natural impulses.
"Chastity varies with the amount of clothing," and hence Christians
and purists forever hasten to cover the "heathen" with tatters, and
thus convert him to goodness and chastity.
* THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX. Havelock Ellis.
Puritanism, with its perversion of the significance and functions of
the human body, especially in regard to woman, has condemned her to
celibacy, or to the indiscriminate breeding of a diseased race, or to
prostitution. The enormity of this crime against humanity is
apparent when we consider the results. Absolute sexual continence is
imposed upon the unmarried woman, under pain of being considered
immoral or fallen, with the result of producing neurasthenia,
impotence, depression, and a great variety of nervous complaints
involving diminished power of work, limited enjoyment of life,
sleeplessness, and preoccupation with sexual desires and imaginings.
The arbitrary and pernicious dictum of total continence probably also
explains the mental inequality of the sexes. Thus Freud believes
that the intellectual inferiority of so many women is due to the
inhibition of thought imposed upon them for the purpose of sexual
repression. Having thus suppressed the natural sex desires of the
unmarried woman, Puritanism, on the other hand, blesses her married
sister for incontinent fruitfulness in wedlock. Indeed, not merely
blesses her, but forces the woman, oversexed by previous repression,
to bear children, irrespective of weakened physical condition or
economic inability to rear a large family. Prevention, even by
scientifically determined safe methods, is absolutely prohibited;
nay, the very mention of the subject is considered criminal.
Thanks to this Puritanic tyranny, the majority of women soon find
themselves at the ebb of their physical resources. Ill and worn,
they are utterly unable to give their children even elementary care.
That, added to economic pressure, forces many women to risk utmost
danger rather than continue to bring forth life. The custom of
procuring abortions has reached such vast proportions in America as
to be almost beyond belief. According to recent investigations along
this line, seventeen abortions are committed in every hundred
pregnancies. This fearful percentage represents only cases which
come to the knowledge of physicians. Considering the secrecy in
which this practice is necessarily shrouded, and the consequent
professional inefficiency and neglect, Puritanism continuously exacts
thousands of victims to its own stupidity and hypocrisy.
Prostitution, although hounded, imprisoned, and chained, is
nevertheless the greatest triumph of Puritanism. It is its most
cherished child, all hypocritical sanctimoniousness notwithstanding.
The prostitute is the fury of our century, sweeping across the
"civilized" countries like a hurricane, and leaving a trail of
disease and disaster. The only remedy Puritanism offers for this
ill-begotten child is greater repression and more merciless
persecution. The latest outrage is represented by the Page Law,
which imposes upon New York the terrible failure and crime of Europe;
namely, registration and segregation of the unfortunate victims of
Puritanism. In equally stupid manner purism seeks to check the
terrible scourge of its own creation--venereal diseases. Most
disheartening it is that this spirit of obtuse narrow-mindedness has
poisoned even our so-called liberals, and has blinded them into
joining the crusade against the very things born of the hypocrisy of
Puritanism--prostitution and its results. In wilful blindness
Puritanism refuses to see that the true method of prevention is the
one which makes it clear to all that "venereal diseases are not a
mysterious or terrible thing, the penalty of the sin of the flesh, a
sort of shameful evil branded by purist malediction, but an ordinary
disease which may be treated and cured." By its methods of
obscurity, disguise, and concealment, Puritanism has furnished
favorable conditions for the growth and spread of these diseases.
Its bigotry is again most strikingly demonstrated by the senseless
attitude in regard to the great discovery of Prof. Ehrlich, hypocrisy
veiling the important cure for syphilis with vague allusions to a
remedy for "a certain poison."
The almost limitless capacity of Puritanism for evil is due to its
intrenchment behind the State and the law. Pretending to safeguard
the people against "immorality," it has impregnated the machinery of
government and added to its usurpation of moral guardianship the
legal censorship of our views, feelings, and even of our conduct.
Art, literature, the drama, the privacy of the mails, in fact, our
most intimate tastes, are at the mercy of this inexorable tyrant.
Anthony Comstock, or some other equally ignorant policeman, has been
given power to desecrate genius, to soil and mutilate the sublimest
creation of nature--the human form. Books dealing with the most
vital issues of our lives, and seeking to shed light upon dangerously
obscured problems, are legally treated as criminal offenses, and their
helpless authors thrown into prison or driven to destruction and
Not even in the domain of the Tsar is personal liberty daily outraged
to the extent it is in America, the stronghold of the Puritanic
eunuchs. Here the only day of recreation left to the masses, Sunday,
has been made hideous and utterly impossible. All writers on
primitive customs and ancient civilization agree that the Sabbath was
a day of festivities, free from care and duties, a day of general
rejoicing and merry-making. In every European country this tradition
continues to bring some relief from the humdrum and stupidity of our
Christian era. Everywhere concert halls, theaters, museums, and
gardens are filled with men, women, and children, particularly
workers with their families, full of life and joy, forgetful of the
ordinary rules and conventions of their every-day existence. It is
on that day that the masses demonstrate what life might really mean
in a sane society, with work stripped of its profit-making,
Puritanism has robbed the people even of that one day. Naturally,
only the workers are affected: our millionaires have their luxurious
homes and elaborate clubs. The poor, however, are condemned to the
monotony and dullness of the American Sunday. The sociability and
fun of European outdoor life is here exchanged for the gloom of the
church, the stuffy, germ-saturated country parlor, or the brutalizing
atmosphere of the back-room saloon. In Prohibition States the people
lack even the latter, unless they can invest their meager earnings in
quantities of adulterated liquor. As to Prohibition, every one knows
what a farce it really is. Like all other achievements of Puritanism
it, too, has but driven the "devil" deeper into the human system.
Nowhere else does one meet so many drunkards as in our Prohibition
towns. But so long as one can use scented candy to abate the foul
breath of hypocrisy, Puritanism is triumphant. Ostensibly
Prohibition is opposed to liquor for reasons of health and economy,
but the very spirit of Prohibition being itself abnormal, it succeeds
but in creating an abnormal life.
Every stimulus which quickens the imagination and raises the spirits,
is as necessary to our life as air. It invigorates the body, and
deepens our vision of human fellowship. Without stimuli, in one form
or another, creative work is impossible, nor indeed the spirit of
kindliness and generosity. The fact that some great geniuses have
seen their reflection in the goblet too frequently, does not justify
Puritanism in attempting to fetter the whole gamut of human emotions.
A Byron and a Poe have stirred humanity deeper than all the Puritans
can ever hope to do. The former have given to life meaning and
color; the latter are turning red blood into water, beauty into
ugliness, variety into uniformity and decay. Puritanism, in whatever
expression, is a poisonous germ. On the surface everything may look
strong and vigorous; yet the poison works its way persistently, until
the entire fabric is doomed. With Hippolyte Taine, every truly free
spirit has come to realize that "Puritanism is the death of culture,
philosophy, humor, and good fellowship; its characteristics are
dullness, monotony, and gloom."
THE TRAFFIC IN WOMEN
Our reformers have suddenly made a great discovery--the white slave
traffic. The papers are full of these "unheard of conditions," and
lawmakers are already planning a new set of laws to check the horror.
It is significant that whenever the public mind is to be diverted
from a great social wrong, a crusade is inaugurated against
indecency, gambling, saloons, etc. And what is the result of such
crusades? Gambling is increasing, saloons are doing a lively
business through back entrances, prostitution is at its height, and
the system of pimps and cadets is but aggravated.
How is it that an institution, known almost to every child, should
have been discovered so suddenly? How is it that this evil, known to
all sociologists, should now be made such an important issue?
To assume that the recent investigation of the white slave traffic
(and, by the way, a very superficial investigation) has discovered
anything new, is, to say the least, very foolish. Prostitution has
been, and is, a widespread evil, yet mankind goes on its business,
perfectly indifferent to the sufferings and distress of the victims
of prostitution. As indifferent, indeed, as mankind has remained to
our industrial system, or to economic prostitution.
Only when human sorrows are turned into a toy with glaring colors
will baby people become interested--for a while at least. The people
are a very fickle baby that must have new toys every day. The
"righteous" cry against the white slave traffic is such a toy. It
serves to amuse the people for a little while, and it will help to
create a few more fat political jobs--parasites who stalk about the
world as inspectors, investigators, detectives, and so forth.
What is really the cause of the trade in women? Not merely white
women, but yellow and black women as well. Exploitation, of course;
the merciless Moloch of capitalism that fattens on underpaid labor,
thus driving thousands of women and girls into prostitution. With
Mrs. Warren these girls feel, "Why waste your life working for a few
shillings a week in a scullery, eighteen hours a day?"
Naturally our reformers say nothing about this cause. They know it
well enough, but it doesn't pay to say anything about it. It is much
more profitable to play the Pharisee, to pretend an outraged
morality, than to go to the bottom of things.
However, there is one commendable exception among the young writers:
Reginald Wright Kauffman, whose work, THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE, is the
first earnest attempt to treat the social evil, not from a
sentimental Philistine viewpoint. A journalist of wide experience,
Mr. Kauffman proves that our industrial system leaves most women no
alternative except prostitution. The women portrayed in THE HOUSE OF
BONDAGE belong to the working class. Had the author portrayed the
life of women in other spheres, he would have been confronted with
the same state of affairs.
Nowhere is woman treated according to the merit of her work, but
rather as a sex. It is therefore almost inevitable that she should
pay for her right to exist, to keep a position in whatever line, with
sex favors. Thus it is merely a question of degree whether she sells
herself to one man, in or out of marriage, or to many men. Whether
our reformers admit it or not, the economic and social inferiority of
woman is responsible for prostitution.
Just at present our good people are shocked by the disclosures that
in New York City alone, one out of every ten women works in a
factory, that the average wage received by women is six dollars per
week for forty-eight to sixty hours of work, and that the majority of
female wage workers face many months of idleness which leaves the
average wage about $280 a year. In view of these economic horrors,
is it to be wondered at that prostitution and the white slave trade
have become such dominant factors?
Lest the preceding figures be considered an exaggeration, it is well
to examine what some authorities on prostitution have to say:
"A prolific cause of female depravity can be found in the several
tables, showing the description of the employment pursued, and the
wages received, by the women previous to their fall, and it will be a
question for the political economist to decide how far mere business
consideration should be an apology on the part of employers for a
reduction in their rates of remuneration, and whether the savings of
a small percentage on wages is not more than counter-balanced by the
enormous amount of taxation enforced on the public at large to defray
the expenses incurred on account of a system of vice, WHICH IS THE
DIRECT RESULT, IN MANY CASES, OF INSUFFICIENT COMPENSATION OF HONEST
* Dr. Sanger, THE HISTORY OF PROSTITUTION.
Our present-day reformers would do well to look into Dr. Sanger's
book. There they will find that out of 2,000 cases under his
observation, but few came from the middle classes, from well-ordered
conditions, or pleasant homes. By far the largest majority were
working girls and working women; some driven into prostitution
through sheer want, others because of a cruel, wretched life at home,
others again because of thwarted and crippled physical natures (of
which I shall speak later on). Also it will do the maintainers of
purity and morality good to learn that out of two thousand cases, 490
were married women, women who lived with their husbands. Evidently
there was not much of a guaranty for their "safety and purity" in the
sanctity of marriage.*
* It is a significant fact that Dr. Sanger's book has been excluded
from the U. S. mails. Evidently the authorities are not anxious that
the public be informed as to the true cause of prostitution.
Dr. Alfred Blaschko, in PROSTITUTION IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, is
even more emphatic in characterizing economic conditions as one of
the most vital factors of prostitution.
"Although prostitution has existed in all ages, it was left to the
nineteenth century to develop it into a gigantic social institution.
The development of industry with vast masses of people in the
competitive market, the growth and congestion of large cities, the
insecurity and uncertainty of employment, has given prostitution an
impetus never dreamed of at any period in human history."
And again Havelock Ellis, while not so absolute in dealing with the
economic cause, is nevertheless compelled to admit that it is
indirectly and directly the main cause. Thus he finds that a large
percentage of prostitutes is recruited from the servant class,
although the latter have less care and greater security. On the
other hand, Mr. Ellis does not deny that the daily routine, the
drudgery, the monotony of the servant girl's lot, and especially the
fact that she may never partake of the companionship and joy of a
home, is no mean factor in forcing her to seek recreation and
forgetfulness in the gaiety and glimmer of prostitution. In other
words, the servant girl, being treated as a drudge, never having the
right to herself, and worn out by the caprices of her mistress, can
find an outlet, like the factory or shopgirl, only in prostitution.
The most amusing side of the question now before the public is the
indignation of our "good, respectable people," especially the various
Christian gentlemen, who are always to be found in the front ranks of
every crusade. Is it that they are absolutely ignorant of the
history of religion, and especially of the Christian religion? Or is
it that they hope to blind the present generation to the part played
in the past by the Church in relation to prostitution? Whatever
their reason, they should be the last to cry out against the
unfortunate victims of today, since it is known to every intelligent
student that prostitution is of religious origin, maintained and
fostered for many centuries, not as a shame but as a virtue, hailed
as such by the Gods themselves.
"It would seem that the origin of prostitution is to be found
primarily in a religious custom, religion, the great conserver of
social tradition, preserving in a transformed shape a primitive
freedom that was passing out of the general social life. The typical
example is that recorded by Herodotus, in the fifth century before
Christ, at the Temple of Mylitta, the Babylonian Venus, where every
woman, once in her life, had to come and give herself to the first
stranger, who threw a coin in her lap, to worship the goddess. Very
similar customs existed in other parts of Western Asia, in North
Africa, in Cyprus, and other islands of the Eastern Mediterranean,
and also in Greece, where the temple of Aphrodite on the fort at
Corinth possessed over a thousand hierodules, dedicated to the
service of the goddess.
"The theory that religious prostitution developed, as a general rule,
out of the belief that the generative activity of human beings
possessed a mysterious and sacred influence in promoting the
fertility of Nature, is maintained by all authoritative writers on
the subject. Gradually, however, and when prostitution became an
organized institution under priestly influence, religious
prostitution developed utilitarian sides, thus helping to increase
"The rise of Christianity to political power produced little change
in policy. The leading fathers of the Church tolerated prostitution.
Brothels under municipal protection are found in the thirteenth
century. They constituted a sort of public service, the directors of
them being considered almost as public servants."*
* Havelock Ellis, SEX AND SOCIETY.
To this must be added the following from Dr. Sanger's work:
"Pope Clement II. issued a bull that prostitutes would be tolerated
if they pay a certain amount of their earnings to the Church.
"Pope Sixtus IV. was more practical; from one single brothel, which
he himself had built, he received an income of 20,000 ducats."
In modern times the Church is a little more careful in that
direction. At least she does not openly demand tribute from
prostitutes. She finds it much more profitable to go in for real
estate, like Trinity Church, for instance, to rent out death traps at
an exorbitant price to those who live off and by prostitution.
Much as I should like to, my space will not admit speaking of
prostitution in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and during the Middle Ages. The
conditions in the latter period are particularly interesting,
inasmuch as prostitution was organized into guilds, presided over by
a brothel Queen. These guilds employed strikes as a medium of
improving their condition and keeping a standard price. Certainly
that is more practical a method than the one used by the modern wage
slave in society.
It would be one-sided and extremely superficial to maintain that the
economic factor is the only cause of prostitution. There are others
no less important and vital. That, too, our reformers know, but dare
discuss even less than the institution that saps the very life out of
both men and women. I refer to the sex question, the very mention of
which causes most people moral spasms.
It is a conceded fact that woman is being reared as a sex commodity,
and yet she is kept in absolute ignorance of the meaning and
importance of sex. Everything dealing with the subject is
suppressed, and persons who attempt to bring light into this terrible
darkness are persecuted and thrown into prison. Yet it is
nevertheless true that so long as a girl is not to know how to take
care of herself, not to know the function of the most important part
of her life, we need not be surprised if she becomes an easy prey to
prostitution, or to any other form of a relationship which degrades
her to the position of an object for mere sex gratification.
It is due to this ignorance that the entire life and nature of the
girl is thwarted and crippled. We have long ago taken it as a
self-evident fact that the boy may follow the call of the wild; that
is to say, that the boy may, as soon has his sex nature asserts
itself, satisfy that nature; but our moralists are scandalized at the
very thought that the nature of a girl should assert itself. To the
moralist prostitution does not consist so much in the fact that the
woman sells her body, but rather that she sells it out of wedlock.
That this is no mere statement is proved by the fact that marriage
for monetary considerations is perfectly legitimate, sanctified by
law and public opinion, while any other union is condemned and
repudiated. Yet a prostitute, if properly defined, means nothing
else than "any person for whom sexual relationships are subordinated
* Guyot, LA PROSTITUTION.
"Those women are prostitutes who sell their bodies for the exercise
of the sexual act and make of this a profession."*
* Banger, CRIMINALITE ET CONDITION ECONOMIQUE.
In fact, Banger goes further; he maintains that the act of
prostitution is "intrinsically equal to that of a man or woman who
contracts a marriage for economic reasons."
Of course, marriage is the goal of every girl, but as thousands of
girls cannot marry, our stupid social customs condemn them either to
a life of celibacy or prostitution. Human nature asserts itself
regardless of all laws, nor is there any plausible reason why nature
should adapt itself to a perverted conception of morality.
Society considers the sex experiences of a man as attributes of his
general development, while similar experiences in the life of a woman
are looked upon as a terrible calamity, a loss of honor and of all
that is good and noble in a human being. This double standard of
morality has played no little part in the creation and perpetuation
of prostitution. It involves the keeping of the young in absolute
ignorance on sex matters, which alleged "innocence," together with an
overwrought and stifled sex nature, helps to bring about a state of
affairs that our Puritans are so anxious to avoid or prevent.
Not that the gratification of sex must needs lead to prostitution; it
is the cruel, heartless, criminal persecution of those who dare
divert from the beaten paths, which is responsible for it.
Girls, mere children, work in crowded, over-heated rooms ten to
twelve hours daily at a machine, which tends to keep them in a
constant over-excited sex state. Many of these girls have no home or
comforts of any kind; therefore the street or some place of cheap
amusement is the only means of forgetting their daily routine. This
naturally brings them into close proximity with the other sex. It is
hard to say which of the two factors brings the girl's over-sexed
condition to a climax, but it is certainly the most natural thing
that a climax should result. That is the first step toward
prostitution. Nor is the girl to be held responsible for it. On the
contrary, it is altogether the fault of society, the fault of our
lack of understanding, of our lack of appreciation of life in the
making; especially is it the criminal fault of our moralists, who
condemn a girl for all eternity, because she has gone from the "path
of virtue"; that is, because her first sex experience has taken place
without the sanction of the Church.
The girl feels herself a complete outcast, with the doors of home and
society closed in her face. Her entire training and tradition is
such that the girl herself feels depraved and fallen, and therefore
has no ground to stand upon, or any hold that will lift her up,
instead of dragging her down. Thus society creates the victims that
it afterwards vainly attempts to get rid of. The meanest, most
depraved and decrepit man still considers himself too good to take as
his wife the woman whose grace he was quite willing to buy, even
though he might thereby save her from a life of horror. Nor can she
turn to her own sister for help. In her stupidity the latter deems
herself too pure and chaste, not realizing that her own position is
in many respects even more deplorable than her sister's of the
"The wife who married for money, compared with the prostitute," says
Havelock Ellis, "is the true scab. She is paid less, gives much more
in return in labor and care, and is absolutely bound to her master.
The prostitute never signs away the right over her own person, she
retains her freedom and personal rights, nor is she always compelled
to submit to a man's embrace."
Nor does the better-than-thou woman realize the apologist claim of
Lecky that "though she may be the supreme type of vice, she is also
the most efficient guardian of virtue. But for her, happy homes
would be polluted, unnatural and harmful practice would abound."
Moralists are ever ready to sacrifice one-half of the human race for
the sake of some miserable institution which they can not outgrow.
As a matter of fact, prostitution is no more a safeguard for the
purity of the home than rigid laws are a safeguard against
prostitution. Fully fifty per cent. of married men are patrons of
brothels. It is through this virtuous element that the married
women--nay, even the children--are infected with venereal diseases.
Yet society has not a word of condemnation for the man, while no law
is too monstrous to be set in motion against the helpless victim.
She is not only preyed upon by those who use her. but she is also
absolutely at the mercy of every policeman and miserable detective on
the beat, the officials at the station house, the authorities in
In a recent book by a woman who was for twelve years the mistress of
a "house," are to be found the following figures: "The authorities
compelled me to pay every month fines between $14.70 to $29.70, the
girls would pay from $5.70 to $9.70 to the police." Considering that
the writer did her business in a small city, that the amounts she
gives do not include extra bribes and fines, one can readily see the
tremendous revenue the police department derives from the blood money
of its victims, whom it will not even protect. Woe to those who
refuse to pay their toll; they would be rounded up like cattle, "if
only to make a favorable impression upon the good citizens of the
city, or if the powers needed extra money on the side. For the
warped mind who believes that a fallen woman is incapable of human
emotion it would be impossible to realize the grief, the disgrace,
the tears, the wounded pride that was ours every time we were pulled
Strange, isn't it, that a woman who has a kept a "house" should be
able to feel that way? But stranger still that a good Christian
world should bleed and fleece such women, and give them nothing in
return except obloquy and persecution. Oh, for the charity of a
Much stress is laid on white slaves being imported into America. How
would America ever retain her virtue if Europe did not help her out?
I will not deny that this may be the case in some instances, any more
than I will deny that there are emissaries of Germany and other
countries luring economic slaves into America; but I absolutely deny
that prostitution is recruited to any appreciable extent from Europe.
It may be true that the majority of prostitutes in New York City are
foreigners, but that is because the majority of the population is
foreign. The moment we go to any other American city, to Chicago or
the Middle West, we shall find that the number of foreign
prostitutes is by far a minority.
Equally exaggerated is the belief that the majority of street girls
in this city were engaged in this business before they came to
America. Most of the girls speak excellent English, are Americanized
in habits and appearance,--a thing absolutely impossible unless they
had lived in this country many years. That is, they were driven into
prostitution by American conditions, by the thoroughly American
custom for excessive display of finery and clothes, which, of course,
necessitates money,--money that cannot be earned in shops or
In other words, there is no reason to believe that any set of men
would go to the risk and expense of getting foreign products, when
American conditions are overflooding the market with thousands of
girls. On the other hand, there is sufficient evidence to prove that
the export of American girls for the purpose of prostitution is by no
means a small factor.
Thus Clifford G. Roe, ex-Assistant State Attorney of Cook County,
Ill., makes the open charge that New England girls are shipped to
Panama for the express use of men in the employ of Uncle Sam. Mr.
Roe adds that "there seems to be an underground railroad between
Boston and Washington which many girls travel." Is it not
significant that the railroad should lead to the very seat of Federal
authority? That Mr. Roe said more than was desired in certain
quarters is proved by the fact that he lost his position. It is not
practical for men in office to tell tales from school.
The excuse given for the conditions in Panama is that there are no
brothels in the Canal Zone. That is the usual avenue of escape for a
hypocritical world that dares not face the truth. Not in the Canal
Zone, not in the city limits,--therefore prostitution does not exist.
Next to Mr. Roe, there is James Bronson Reynolds, who has made a
thorough study of the white slave traffic in Asia. As a staunch
American citizen and friend of the future Napoleon of America,
Theodore Roosevelt, he is surely the last to discredit the virtue of
his country. Yet we are informed by him that in Hong Kong, Shanghai,
and Yokohama, the Augean stables of American vice are located. There
American prostitutes have made themselves so conspicuous that in the
Orient "American girl" is synonymous with prostitute. Mr. Reynolds
reminds his countrymen that while Americans in China are under the
protection of our consular representatives, the Chinese in America
have no protection at all. Every one who knows the brutal and
barbarous persecution Chinese and Japanese endure on the Pacific
Coast, will agree with Mr. Reynolds.
In view of the above facts it is rather absurd to point to Europe as
the swamp whence come all the social diseases of America. Just as
absurd is it to proclaim the myth that the Jews furnish the largest
contingent of willing prey. I am sure that no one will accuse me of
nationalistic tendencies. I am glad to say that I have developed out
of them, as out of many other prejudices. If, therefore, I resent
the statement that Jewish prostitutes are imported, it is not because
of any Judaistic sympathies, but because of the facts inherent in the
lives of these people. No one but the most superficial will claim
that Jewish girls migrate to strange lands, unless they have some tie
or relation that brings them there. The Jewish girl is not
adventurous. Until recent years she had never left home, not even so
far as the next village or town, except it were to visit some
relative. Is it then credible that Jewish girls would leave their
parents or families, travel thousands of miles to strange lands,
through the influence and promises of strange forces? Go to any of
the large incoming steamers and see for yourself if these girls do
not come either with their parents, brothers, aunts, or other
kinsfolk. There may be exceptions, of course, but to state that
large numbers of Jewish girls are imported for prostitution, or any
other purpose, is simply not to know Jewish psychology.
Those who sit in a glass house do wrong to throw stones about them;
besides, the American glass house is rather thin, it will break
easily, and the interior is anything but a gainly sight.
To ascribe the increase in prostitution to alleged importation, to
the growth of the cadet system, or similar causes, is highly
superficial. I have already referred to the former. As to the cadet
system, abhorrent as it is, we must not ignore the fact that it is
essentially a phase of modern prostitution,--a phase accentuated by
suppression and graft, resulting from sporadic crusades against the
The procurer is no doubt a poor specimen of the human family, but in
what manner is he more despicable than the policeman who takes the
last cent from the street walker, and then locks her up in the
station house? Why is the cadet more criminal, or a greater menace
to society, than the owners of department stores and factories, who
grow fat on the sweat of their victims, only to drive them to the
streets? I make no plea for the cadet, but I fail to see why he
should be mercilessly hounded, while the real perpetrators of all
social iniquity enjoy immunity and respect. Then, too, it is well to
remember that it is not the cadet who makes the prostitute. It is
our sham and hypocrisy that create both the prostitute and the cadet.
Until 1894 very little was known in America of the procurer. Then we
were attacked by an epidemic of virtue. Vice was to be abolished,
the country purified at all cost. The social cancer was therefore
driven out of sight, but deeper into the body. Keepers of brothels,
as well as their unfortunate victims, were turned over to the tender
mercies of the police. The inevitable consequence of exorbitant
bribes, and the penitentiary, followed.
While comparatively protected in the brothels, where they represented
a certain monetary value, the girls now found themselves on the
street, absolutely at the mercy of the graft-greedy police.
Desperate, needing protection and longing for affection, these girls
naturally proved an easy prey for cadets, themselves the result of
the spirit of our commercial age. Thus the cadet system was the
direct outgrowth of police persecution, graft, and attempted
suppression of prostitution. It were sheer folly to confound this
modern phase of the social evil with the causes of the latter.
Mere suppression and barbaric enactments can serve but to embitter,
and further degrade, the unfortunate victims of ignorance and
stupidity. The latter has reached its highest expression in the
proposed law to make humane treatment of prostitutes a crime,
punishing any one sheltering a prostitute with five years'
imprisonment and $10,000 fine. Such an attitude merely exposes the
terrible lack of understanding of the true causes of prostitution, as
a social factor, as well as manifesting the Puritanic spirit of the
Scarlet Letter days.
There is not a single modern writer on the subject who does not refer
to the utter futility of legislative methods in coping with the
issue. Thus Dr. Blaschko finds that governmental suppression and
moral crusades accomplish nothing save driving the evil into secret
channels, multiplying its dangers to society. Havelock Ellis, the
most thorough and humane student of prostitution, proves by a wealth
of data that the more stringent the methods of persecution the worse
the condition becomes. Among other data we learn that in France, "in
1560, Charles IX. abolished brothels through an edict, but the
numbers of prostitutes were only increased, while many new brothels
appeared in unsuspected shapes, and were more dangerous. In spite of
all such legislation, OR BECAUSE OF IT, there has been no country in
which prostitution has played a more conspicuous part."*
* SEX AND SOCIETY.
An educated public opinion, freed from the legal and moral hounding
of the prostitute, can alone help to ameliorate present conditions.
Wilful shutting of eyes and ignoring of the evil as a social factor
of modern life, can but aggravate matters. We must rise above our
foolish notions of "better than thou," and learn to recognize in the
prostitute a product of social conditions. Such a realization will
sweep away the attitude of hypocrisy, and insure a greater
understanding and more humane treatment. As to a thorough
eradication of prostitution, nothing can accomplish that save a
complete transvaluation of all accepted values--especially the moral
ones--coupled with the abolition of industrial slavery.
We boast of the age of advancement, of science, and progress. Is it
not strange, then, that we still believe in fetich worship? True,
our fetiches have different form and substance, yet in their power
over the human mind they are still as disastrous as were those of
Our modern fetich is universal suffrage. Those who have not yet
achieved that goal fight bloody revolutions to obtain it, and those
who have enjoyed its reign bring heavy sacrifice to the altar of this
omnipotent deity. Woe to the heretic who dare question that
Woman, even more than man, is a fetich worshipper, and though her
idols may change, she is ever on her knees, ever holding up her
hands, ever blind to the fact that her god has feet of clay. Thus
woman has been the greatest supporter of all deities from time
immemorial. Thus, too, she has had to pay the price that only gods
can exact,--her freedom, her heart's blood, her very life.
Nietzsche's memorable maxim, "When you go to woman, take the whip
along," is considered very brutal, yet Nietzsche expressed in one
sentence the attitude of woman towards her gods.
Religion, especially the Christian religion, has condemned woman to
the life of an inferior, a slave. It has thwarted her nature and
fettered her soul, yet the Christian religion has no greater
supporter, none more devout, than woman. Indeed, it is safe to say
that religion would have long ceased to be a factor in the lives of
the people, if it were not for the support it receives from woman.
The most ardent churchworkers, the most tireless missionaries the
world over, are women, always sacrificing on the altar of the gods
that have chained her spirit and enslaved her body.
The insatiable monster, war, robs woman of all that is dear and
precious to her. It exacts her brothers, lovers, sons, and in return
gives her a life of loneliness and despair. Yet the greatest
supporter and worshiper of war is woman. She it is who instills the
love of conquest and power into her children; she it is who whispers
the glories of war into the ears of her little ones, and who rocks
her baby to sleep with the tunes of trumpets and the noise of guns.
It is woman, too, who crowns the victor on his return from the
battlefield. Yes, it is woman who pays the highest price to that
insatiable monster, war.
Then there is the home. What a terrible fetich it is! How it saps
the very life-energy of woman,--this modern prison with golden bars.
Its shining aspect blinds woman to the price she would have to pay as
wife, mother, and housekeeper. Yet woman clings tenaciously to the
home, to the power that holds her in bondage.
It may be said that because woman recognizes the awful toll she is
made to pay to the Church, State, and the home, she wants suffrage to
set herself free. That may be true of the few; the majority of
suffragists repudiate utterly such blasphemy. On the contrary, they
insist always that it is woman suffrage which will make her a better
Christian and homekeeper, a staunch citizen of the State. Thus
suffrage is only a means of strengthening the omnipotence of the very
Gods that woman has served from time immemorial.
What wonder, then, that she should be just as devout, just as
zealous, just as prostrate before the new idol, woman suffrage. As
of old, she endures persecution, imprisonment, torture, and all forms
of condemnation, with a smile on her face. As of old, the most
enlightened, even, hope for a miracle from the twentieth century
deity,--suffrage. Life, happiness, joy, freedom, independence,--all
that, and more, is to spring from suffrage. In her blind devotion
woman does not see what people of intellect perceived fifty years
ago: that suffrage is an evil, that it has only helped to enslave
people, that it has but closed their eyes that they may not see how
craftily they were made to submit.
Woman's demand for equal suffrage is based largely on the contention
that woman must have the equal right in all affairs of society. No
one could, possibly, refute that, if suffrage were a right. Alas,
for the ignorance of the human mind, which can see a right in an
imposition. Or is it not the most brutal imposition for one set of
people to make laws that another set is coerced by force to obey?
Yet woman clamors for that "golden opportunity" that has wrought so
much misery in the world, and robbed man of his integrity and
self-reliance; an imposition which has thoroughly corrupted the
people, and made them absolute prey in the hands of unscrupulous
The poor, stupid, free American citizen! Free to starve, free to
tramp the highways of this great country, he enjoys universal
suffrage, and, by that right, he has forged chains about his limbs.
The reward that he receives is stringent labor laws prohibiting the
right of boycott, of picketing, in fact, of everything, except the
right to be robbed of the fruits of his labor. Yet all these
disastrous results of the twentieth century fetich have taught woman
nothing. But, then, woman will purify politics, we are assured.
Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the
conventional ground that she is not equal to it. I see neither
physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have
the equal right to vote with man. But that can not possibly blind me
to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has
failed. If she would not make things worse, she certainly could not
make them better. To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in
purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to
credit her with supernatural powers. Since woman's greatest
misfortune has been that she was looked upon as either angel or
devil, her true salvation lies in being placed on earth; namely, in
being considered human, and therefore subject to all human follies
and mistakes. Are we, then, to believe that two errors will make a
right? Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics
will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The
most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly.
As a matter of fact, the most advanced students of universal suffrage
have come to realize that all existing systems of political power are
absurd, and are completely inadequate to meet the pressing issues of
life. This view is also borne out by a statement of one who is
herself an ardent believer in woman suffrage, Dr. Helen L. Sumner.
In her able work on EQUAL SUFFRAGE, she says: "In Colorado, we find
that equal suffrage serves to show in the most striking way the
essential rottenness and degrading character of the existing system."
Of course, Dr. Sumner has in mind a particular system of voting, but
the same applies with equal force to the entire machinery of the
representative system. With such a basis, it is difficult to
understand how woman, as a political factor, would benefit either
herself or the rest of mankind.
But, say our suffrage devotees, look at the countries and States
where female suffrage exists. See what woman has accomplished--in
Australia, New Zealand, Finland, the Scandinavian countries, and in
our own four States, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Distance
lends enchantment--or, to quote a Polish formula--"it is well where
we are not." Thus one would assume that those countries and States
are unlike other countries or States, that they have greater
freedom, greater social and economic equality, a finer appreciation
of human life, deeper understanding of the great social struggle,
with all the vital questions it involves for the human race.
The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote, and help make the
laws. Are the labor conditions better there than they are in
England, where the suffragettes are making such a heroic struggle?
Does there exist a greater motherhood, happier and freer children
than in England? Is woman there no longer considered a mere sex
commodity? Has she emancipated herself from the Puritanical double
standard of morality for men and women? Certainly none but the
ordinary female stump politician will dare answer these questions in
the affirmative. If that be so, it seems ridiculous to point to
Australia and New Zealand as the Mecca of equal suffrage
On the other hand, it is a fact to those who know the real political
conditions in Australia, that politics have gagged labor by enacting
the most stringent labor laws, making strikes without the sanction of
an arbitration committee a crime equal to treason.
Not for a moment do I mean to imply that woman suffrage is
responsible for this state of affairs. I do mean, however, that
there is no reason to point to Australia as a wonder-worker of
woman's accomplishment, since her influence has been unable to free
labor from the thralldom of political bossism.
Finland has given woman equal suffrage; nay, even the right to sit in
Parliament. Has that helped to develop a greater heroism, an
intenser zeal than that of the women of Russia? Finland, like
Russia, smarts under the terrible whip of the bloody Tsar. Where are
the Finnish Perovskaias, Spiridonovas, Figners, Breshkovskaias?
Where are the countless numbers of Finnish young girls who cheerfully
go to Siberia for their cause? Finland is sadly in need of heroic
liberators. Why has the ballot not created them? The only Finnish
avenger of his people was a man, not a woman, and he used a more
effective weapon than the ballot.
As to our own States where women vote, and which are constantly being
pointed out as examples of marvels, what has been accomplished there
through the ballot that women do not to a large extent enjoy in other
States; or that they could not achieve through energetic efforts
without the ballot?
True, in the suffrage States women are guaranteed equal rights to
property; but of what avail is that right to the mass of women
without property, the thousands of wage workers, who live from hand
to mouth? That equal suffrage did not, and cannot, affect their
condition is admitted even by Dr. Sumner, who certainly is in a
position to know. As an ardent suffragist, and having been sent to
Colorado by the Collegiate Equal Suffrage League of New York State to
collect material in favor of suffrage, she would be the last to say
anything derogatory; yet we are informed that "equal suffrage has but
slightly affected the economic conditions of women. That women do
not receive equal pay for equal work, and that, though woman in
Colorado has enjoyed school suffrage since 1876, women teachers are
paid less than in California." On the other hand, Miss Sumner fails
to account for the fact that although women have had school suffrage
for thirty-four years, and equal suffrage since 1894, the census in
Denver alone a few months ago disclosed the fact of fifteen thousand
defective school children. And that, too, with mostly women in the
educational department, and also notwithstanding that women in
Colorado have passed the "most stringent laws for child and animal
protection." The women of Colorado "have taken great interest in the
State institutions for the care of dependent, defective, and
delinquent children." What a horrible indictment against woman's
care and interest, if one city has fifteen thousand defective
children. What about the glory of woman suffrage, since it has
failed utterly in the most important social issue, the child? And
where is the superior sense of justice that woman was to bring into
the political field? Where was it in 1903, when the mine owners
waged a guerilla war against the Western Miners' Union; when General
Bell established a reign of terror, pulling men out of beds at night,
kidnapping them across the border line, throwing them into bull pens,
declaring "to hell with the Constitution, the club is the
Constitution"? Where were the women politicians then, and why did
they not exercise the power of their vote? But they did. They
helped to defeat the most fair-minded and liberal man, Governor
Waite. The latter had to make way for the tool of the mine kings,
Governor Peabody, the enemy of labor, the Tsar of Colorado.
"Certainly male suffrage could have done nothing worse." Granted.
Wherein, then, are the advantages to woman and society from woman
suffrage? The oft-repeated assertion that woman will purify politics
is also but a myth. It is not borne out by the people who know the
political conditions of Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
Woman, essentially a purist, is naturally bigotted and relentless in
her effort to make others as good as she thinks they ought to be.
Thus, in Idaho, she has disfranchised her sister of the street, and
declared all women of "lewd character" unfit to vote. "Lewd" not
being interpreted, of course, as prostitution IN marriage. It goes
without saying that illegal prostitution and gambling have been
prohibited. In this regard the law must needs be of feminine nature:
it always prohibits. Therein all laws are wonderful. They go no
further, but their very tendencies open all the floodgates of hell.
Prostitution and gambling have never done a more flourishing business
than since the law has been set against them.
In Colorado, the Puritanism of woman has expressed itself in a more
drastic form. "Men of notoriously unclean lives, and men connected
with saloons, have been dropped from politics since women have the
vote."* Could brother Comstock do more? Could all the Puritan
fathers have done more? I wonder how many women realize the gravity
of this would-be feat. I wonder if they understand that it is the
very thing which, instead of elevating woman, has made her a
political spy, a contemptible pry into the private affairs of people,
not so much for the good of the cause, but because, as a Colorado
woman said, "they like to get into houses they have never been in,
and find out all they can, politically and otherwise."** Yes, and
into the human soul and its minutest nooks and corners. For nothing
satisfies the craving of most women so much as scandal. And when did
she ever enjoy such opportunities as are hers, the politician's?
* EQUAL SUFFRAGE. Dr. Helen Sumner.
** EQUAL SUFFRAGE.
"Notoriously unclean lives, and men connected with the saloons."
Certainly, the lady vote gatherers can not be accused of much sense
of proportion. Granting even that these busybodies can decide whose
lives are clean enough for that eminently clean atmosphere, politics,
must it follow that saloon-keepers belong to the same category?
Unless it be American hypocrisy and bigotry, so manifest in the
principle of Prohibition, which sanctions the spread of drunkenness
among men and women of the rich class, yet keeps vigilant watch on
the only place left to the poor man. If no other reason, woman's
narrow and purist attitude toward life makes her a greater danger to
liberty wherever she has political power. Man has long overcome the
superstitions that still engulf woman. In the economic competitive
field, man has been compelled to exercise efficiency, judgment,
ability, competency. He therefore had neither time nor inclination
to measure everyone's morality with a Puritanic yardstick. In his
political activities, too, he has not gone about blindfolded. He
knows that quantity and not quality is the material for the political
grinding mill, and, unless he is a sentimental reformer or an old
fossil, he knows that politics can never be anything but a swamp.
Women who are at all conversant with the process of politics, know
the nature of the beast, but in their self-sufficiency and egotism
they make themselves believe that they have but to pet the beast, and
he will become as gentle as a lamb, sweet and pure. As if women have
not sold their votes, as if women politicians can not be bought! If
her body can be bought in return for material consideration, why not
her vote? That it is being done in Colorado and in other States, is
not denied even by those in favor of woman suffrage.
As I have said before, woman's narrow view of human affairs is not
the only argument against her as a politician superior to man. There
are others. Her life-long economic parasitism has utterly blurred
her conception of the meaning of equality. She clamors for equal
rights with men, yet we learn that "few women care to canvas in
undesirable districts."* How little equality means to them compared
with the Russian women, who face hell itself for their ideal!
* Dr. Helen A. Sumner.
Woman demands the same rights as man, yet she is indignant that her
presence does not strike him dead: he smokes, keeps his hat on, and
does not jump from his seat like a flunkey. These may be trivial
things, but they are nevertheless the key to the nature of American
suffragists. To be sure, their English sisters have outgrown these
silly notions. They have shown themselves equal to the greatest
demands on their character and power of endurance. All honor to the
heroism and sturdiness of the English suffragettes. Thanks to their
energetic, aggressive methods, they have proved an inspiration to some
of our own lifeless and spineless ladies. But after all, the
suffragettes, too, are still lacking in appreciation of real
equality. Else how is one to account for the tremendous, truly
gigantic effort set in motion by those valiant fighters for a
wretched little bill which will benefit a handful of propertied
ladies, with absolutely no provision for the vast mass of
workingwomen? True, as politicians they must be opportunists, must
take half measures if they can not get all. But as intelligent and
liberal women they ought to realize that if the ballot is a weapon,
the disinherited need it more than the economically superior class,
and that the latter already enjoy too much power by virtue of their
The brilliant leader of the English suffragettes, Mrs. Emmeline
Pankhurst, herself admitted, when on her American lecture tour, that
there can be no equality between political superiors and inferiors.
If so, how will the workingwoman of England, already inferior
economically to the ladies who are benefited by the Shackleton bill,*
be able to work with their political superiors, should the bill pass?
Is it not probable that the class of Annie Keeney, so full of zeal,
devotion, and martyrdom, will be compelled to carry on their backs
their female political bosses, even as they are carrying their
economic masters. They would still have to do it, were universal
suffrage for men and women established in England. No matter what
the workers do, they are made to pay, always. Still, those who
believe in the power of the vote show little sense of justice when
they concern themselves not at all with those whom, as they claim, it
might serve most.
* Mr. Shackleton was a labor leader. It is therefore self-evident
that he should introduce a bill excluding his own constituents. The
English Parliament is full of such Judases.
The American suffrage movement has been, until very recently,
altogether a parlor affair, absolutely detached from the economic
needs of the people. Thus Susan B. Anthony, no doubt an exceptional
type of woman, was not only indifferent but antagonistic to labor;
nor did she hesitate to manifest her antagonism when, in 1869, she
advised women to take the places of striking printers in New York.*
I do not know whether her attitude had changed before her death.
* EQUAL SUFFRAGE. Dr. Helen A. Sumner.
There are, of course, some suffragists who are affiliated with
workingwomen--the Women's Trade Union League, for instance; but they
are a small minority, and their activities are essentially economic.
The rest look upon toil as a just provision of Providence. What
would become of the rich, if not for the poor? What would become of
these idle, parasitic ladies, who squander more in a week than their
victims earn in a year, if not for the eighty million wage workers?
Equality, who ever heard of such a thing?
Few countries have produced such arrogance and snobbishness as
America. Particularly this is true of the American woman of the
middle class. She not only considers herself the equal of man, but
his superior, especially in her purity, goodness, and morality.
Small wonder that the American suffragist claims for her vote the
most miraculous powers. In her exalted conceit she does not see how
truly enslaved she is, not so much by man, as by her own silly
notions and traditions. Suffrage can not ameliorate that sad fact;
it can only accentuate it, as indeed it does.
One of the great American women leaders claims that woman is entitled
not only to equal pay, but that she ought to be legally entitled even
to the pay of her husband. Failing to support her, he should be put
in convict stripes, and his earnings in prison be collected by his
equal wife. Does not another brilliant exponent of the cause claim
for woman that her vote will abolish the social evil, which has been
fought in vain by the collective efforts of the most illustrious
minds the world over? It is indeed to be regretted that the alleged
creator of the universe has already presented us with his wonderful
scheme of things, else woman suffrage would surely enable woman to
outdo him completely.
Nothing is so dangerous as the dissection of a fetich. If we have
outlived the time when such heresy was punishable at the stake, we
have not outlived the narrow spirit of condemnation of those who dare
differ with accepted notions. Therefore I shall probably be put down
as an opponent of woman. But that can not deter me from looking the
question squarely in the face. I repeat what I have said in the
beginning: I do not believe that woman will make politics worse; nor
can I believe that she could make it better. If, then, she cannot
improve on man's mistakes, why perpetuate the latter?
History may be a compilation of lies; nevertheless, it contains a few
truths, and they are the only guide we have for the future. The
history of the political activities of men proves that they have
given him absolutely nothing that he could not have achieved in a
more direct, less costly, and more lasting manner. As a matter of
fact, every inch of ground he has gained has been through a constant
fight, a ceaseless struggle for self-assertion, and not through
suffrage. There is no reason whatever to assume that woman, in her
climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot.
In the darkest of all countries, Russia, with her absolute despotism,
woman has become man's equal, not through the ballot, but by her will
to be and to do. Not only has she conquered for herself every avenue
of learning and vocation, but she has won man's esteem, his respect,
his comradeship; aye, even more than that: she has gained the
admiration, the respect of the whole world. That, too, not through
suffrage, but by her wonderful heroism, her fortitude, her ability,
will power, and her endurance in the struggle for liberty. Where are
the women in any suffrage country or State that can lay claim to such
a victory? When we consider the accomplishments of woman in America,
we find also that something deeper and more powerful than suffrage
has helped her in the march to emancipation.
It is just sixty-two years ago since a handful of women at the Seneca
Falls Convention set forth a few demands for their right to equal
education with men, and access to the various professions, trades,
etc. What wonderful accomplishment, what wonderful triumphs! Who
but the most ignorant dare speak of woman as a mere domestic drudge?
Who dare suggest that this or that profession should not be open to
her? For over sixty years she has molded a new atmosphere and a new
life for herself. She has become a world power in every domain of
human thought and activity. And all that without suffrage, without
the right to make laws, without the "privilege" of becoming a judge,
a jailer, or an executioner.
Yes, I may be considered an enemy of woman; but if I can help her see
the light, I shall not complain.
The misfortune of woman is not that she is unable to do the work of
man, but that she is wasting her life force to outdo him, with a
tradition of centuries which has left her physically incapable of
keeping pace with him. Oh, I know some have succeeded, but at what
cost, at what terrific cost! The import is not the kind of work
woman does, but rather the quality of the work she furnishes. She
can give suffrage or the ballot no new quality, nor can she receive
anything from it that will enhance her own quality. Her development,
her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself.
First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex
commodity. Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by
refusing to bear children, unless she wants them; by refusing to be a
servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc.; by
making her life simpler, but deeper and richer. That is, by trying
to learn the meaning and substance of life in all its complexities,
by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public
condemnation. Only that, and not the ballot, will set woman free,
will make her a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real
love, for peace, for harmony; a force of divine fire, of life giving;
a creator of free men and women.
THE TRAGEDY OF WOMAN'S EMANCIPATION
I begin with an admission: Regardless of all political and economic
theories, treating of the fundamental differences between various
groups within the human race, regardless of class and race
distinctions, regardless of all artificial boundary lines between
woman's rights and man's rights, I hold that there is a point where
these differentiations may meet and grow into one perfect whole.
With this I do not mean to propose a peace treaty. The general
social antagonism which has taken hold of our entire public life
today, brought about through the force of opposing and contradictory
interests, will crumble to pieces when the reorganization of our
social life, based upon the principles of economic justice, shall
have become a reality.
Peace or harmony between the sexes and individuals does not
necessarily depend on a superficial equalization of human beings; nor
does it call for the elimination of individual traits and
peculiarities. The problem that confronts us today, and which the
nearest future is to solve, is how to be one's self and yet in
oneness with others, to feel deeply with all human beings and still
retain one's own characteristic qualities. This seems to me to be
the basis upon which the mass and the individual, the true democrat
and the true individuality, man and woman, can meet without
antagonism and opposition. The motto should not be: Forgive one
another; rather, Understand one another. The oft-quoted sentence of
Madame de Stael: "To understand everything means to forgive
everything," has never particularly appealed to me; it has the odor
of the confessional; to forgive one's fellow-being conveys the idea
of pharisaical superiority. To understand one's fellow-being
suffices. The admission partly represents the fundamental aspect of
my views on the emancipation of woman and its effect upon the entire
Emancipation should make it possible for woman to be human in the
truest sense. Everything within her that craves assertion and
activity should reach its fullest expression; all artificial barriers
should be broken, and the road towards greater freedom cleared of
every trace of centuries of submission and slavery.
This was the original aim of the movement for woman's emancipation.
But the results so far achieved have isolated woman and have robbed
her of the fountain springs of that happiness which is so essential
to her. Merely external emancipation has made of the modern woman an
artificial being, who reminds one of the products of French
arboriculture with its arabesque trees and shrubs, pyramids, wheels,
and wreaths; anything, except the forms which would be reached by the
expression of her own inner qualities. Such artificially grown
plants of the female sex are to be found in large numbers, especially
in the so-called intellectual sphere of our life.
Liberty and equality for woman! What hopes and aspirations these
words awakened when they were first uttered by some of the noblest
and bravest souls of those days. The sun in all his light and glory
was to rise upon a new world; in this world woman was to be free to
direct her own destiny--an aim certainly worthy of the great
enthusiasm, courage, perseverance, and ceaseless effort of the
tremendous host of pioneer men and women, who staked everything
against a world of prejudice and ignorance.
My hopes also move towards that goal, but I hold that the
emancipation of woman, as interpreted and practically applied today,
has failed to reach that great end. Now, woman is confronted with
the necessity of emancipating herself from emancipation, if she
really desires to be free. This may sound paradoxical, but is,
nevertheless, only too true.
What has she achieved through her emancipation? Equal suffrage in a
few States. Has that purified our political life, as many
well-meaning advocates predicted? Certainly not. Incidentally, it
is really time that persons with plain, sound judgment should cease
to talk about corruption in politics in a boarding-school tone.
Corruption of politics has nothing to do with the morals, or the
laxity of morals, of various political personalities. Its cause is
altogether a material one. Politics is the reflex of the business
and industrial world, the mottos of which are: "To take is more
blessed than to give"; "buy cheap and sell dear"; "one soiled hand
washes the other." There is no hope even that woman, with her right
to vote, will ever purify politics.
Emancipation has brought woman economic equality with man; that is,
she can choose her own profession and trade; but as her past and
present physical training has not equipped her with the necessary
strength to compete with man, she is often compelled to exhaust all
her energy, use up her vitality, and strain every nerve in order to
reach the market value. Very few ever succeed, for it is a fact that
women teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, and engineers are
neither met with the same confidence as their male colleagues, nor
receive equal remuneration. And those that do reach that enticing
equality, generally do so at the expense of their physical and
psychical well-being. As to the great mass of working girls and
women, how much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of
freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of
freedom of the factory, sweat-shop, department store, or office? In
addition is the burden which is laid on many women of looking after a
"home, sweet home"--cold, dreary, disorderly, uninviting--after a
day's hard work. Glorious independence! No wonder that hundreds of
girls are willing to accept the first offer of marriage, sick and
tired of their "independence" behind the counter, at the sewing or
typewriting machine. They are just as ready to marry as girls of the
middle class, who long to throw off the yoke of parental supremacy.
A so-called independence which leads only to earning the merest
subsistence is not so enticing, not so ideal, that one could expect
woman to sacrifice everything for it. Our highly praised
independence is, after all, but a slow process of dulling and
stifling woman's nature, her love instinct, and her mother instinct.
Nevertheless, the position of the working girl is far more natural
and human than that of her seemingly more fortunate sister in the
more cultured professional walks of life--teachers, physicians,
lawyers, engineers, etc., who have to make a dignified, proper
appearance, while the inner life is growing empty and dead.
The narrowness of the existing conception of woman's independence and
emancipation; the dread of love for a man who is not her social
equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and
independence; the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only
hinder her in the full exercise of her profession--all these together
make of the emancipated modern woman a compulsory vestal, before whom
life, with its great clarifying sorrows and its deep, entrancing
joys, rolls on without touching or gripping her soul.
Emancipation, as understood by the majority of its adherents and
exponents, is of too narrow a scope to permit the boundless love and
ecstasy contained in the deep emotion of the true woman, sweetheart,
mother, in freedom.
The tragedy of the self-supporting or economically free woman does
not lie in too many but in too few experiences. True, she surpasses
her sister of past generations in knowledge of the world and human
nature; it is just because of this that she feels deeply the lack of
life's essence, which alone can enrich the human soul, and without
which the majority of women have become mere professional automatons.
That such a state of affairs was bound to come was foreseen by those
who realized that, in the domain of ethics, there still remained many
decaying ruins of the time of the undisputed superiority of man;
ruins that are still considered useful. And, what is more important,
a goodly number of the emancipated are unable to get along without
them. Every movement that aims at the destruction of existing
institutions and the replacement thereof with something more
advanced, more perfect, has followers who in theory stand for the
most radical ideas, but who, nevertheless, in their every-day
practice, are like the average Philistine, feigning respectability
and clamoring for the good opinion of their opponents. There are,
for example, Socialists, and even Anarchists, who stand for the idea
that property is robbery, yet who will grow indignant if anyone owe
them the value of a half-dozen pins.
The same Philistine can be found in the movement for woman's
emancipation. Yellow journalists and milk-and-water litterateurs
have painted pictures of the emancipated woman that make the hair of
the good citizen and his dull companion stand up on end. Every
member of the woman's rights movement was pictured as a George Sand
in her absolute disregard of morality. Nothing was sacred to her.
She had no respect for the ideal relation between man and woman. In
short, emancipation stood only for a reckless life of lust and sin;
regardless of society, religion, and morality. The exponents of
woman's rights were highly indignant at such representation, and,
lacking humor, they exerted all their energy to prove that they were
not at all as bad as they were painted, but the very reverse. Of
course, as long as woman was the slave of man, she could not be good
and pure, but now that she was free and independent she would prove
how good she could be and that her influence would have a purifying
effect on all institutions in society. True, the movement for
woman's rights has broken many old fetters, but it has also forged
new ones. The great movement of TRUE emancipation has not met with a
great race of women who could look liberty in the face. Their
narrow, Puritanical vision banished man, as a disturber and doubtful
character, out of their emotional life. Man was not to be tolerated
at any price, except perhaps as the father of a child, since a child
could not very well come to life without a father. Fortunately, the
most rigid Puritans never will be strong enough to kill the innate
craving for motherhood. But woman's freedom is closely allied with
man's freedom, and many of my so-called emancipated sisters seem to
overlook the fact that a child born in freedom needs the love and
devotion of each human being about him, man as well as woman.
Unfortunately, it is this narrow conception of human relations that
has brought about a great tragedy in the lives of the modern man and
About fifteen years ago appeared a work from the pen of the brilliant
Norwegian, Laura Marholm, called WOMAN, A CHARACTER STUDY. She was
one of the first to call attention to the emptiness and narrowness of
the existing conception of woman's emancipation, and its tragic
effect upon the inner life of woman. In her work Laura Marholm
speaks of the fate of several gifted women of international fame: the
genius, Eleonora Duse; the great mathematician and writer, Sonya
Kovalevskaia; the artist and poet-nature, Marie Bashkirtzeff, who
died so young. Through each description of the lives of these women
of such extraordinary mentality runs a marked trail of unsatisfied
craving for a full, rounded, complete, and beautiful life, and the
unrest and loneliness resulting from the lack of it. Through these
masterly psychological sketches, one cannot help but see that the
higher the mental development of woman, the less possible it is for
her to meet a congenial mate who will see in her, not only sex, but
also the human being, the friend, the comrade and strong
individuality, who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her
The average man with his self-sufficiency, his ridiculously superior
airs of patronage towards the female sex, is an impossibility for
woman as depicted in the CHARACTER STUDY by Laura Marholm. Equally
impossible for her is the man who can see in her nothing more than
her mentality and her genius, and who fails to awaken her woman
A rich intellect and a fine soul are usually considered necessary
attributes of a deep and beautiful personality. In the case of the
modern woman, these attributes serve as a hindrance to the complete
assertion of her being. For over a hundred years the old form of
marriage, based on the Bible, "till death doth part," has been
denounced as an institution that stands for the sovereignty of the
man over the woman, of her complete submission to his whims and
commands, and absolute dependence on his name and support. Time and
again it has been conclusively proved that the old matrimonial
relation restricted woman to the function of a man's servant and the
bearer of his children. And yet we find many emancipated women who
prefer marriage, with all its deficiencies, to the narrowness of an
unmarried life; narrow and unendurable because of the chains of moral
and social prejudice that cramp and bind her nature.
The explanation of such inconsistency on the part of many advanced
women is to be found in the fact that they never truly understood the
meaning of emancipation. They thought that all that was needed was
independence from external tyrannies; the internal tyrants, far more
harmful to life and growth--ethical and social conventions--were left
to take care of themselves; and they have taken care of themselves.
They seem to get along as beautifully in the heads and hearts of the
most active exponents of woman's emancipation, as in the heads and
hearts of our grandmothers.
These internal tyrants, whether they be in the form of public opinion
or what will mother say, or brother, father, aunt, or relative of any
sort; what will Mrs. Grundy, Mr. Comstock, the employer, the Board of
Education say? All these busybodies, moral detectives, jailers of
the human spirit, what will they say? Until woman has learned to
defy them all, to stand firmly on her own ground and to insist upon
her own unrestricted freedom, to listen to the voice of her nature,
whether it call for life's greatest treasure, love for a man, or her
most glorious privilege, the right to give birth to a child, she
cannot call herself emancipated. How many emancipated women are
brave enough to acknowledge that the voice of love is calling, wildly
beating against their breasts, demanding to be heard, to be
The French writer, Jean Reibrach, in one of his novels, NEW BEAUTY,
attempts to picture the ideal, beautiful, emancipated woman. This
ideal is embodied in a young girl, a physician. She talks very
cleverly and wisely of how to feed infants; she is kind, and
administers medicines free to poor mothers. She converses with a
young man of her acquaintance about the sanitary conditions of the
future, and how various bacilli and germs shall be exterminated by
the use of stone walls and floors, and by the doing away with rugs
and hangings. She is, of course, very plainly and practically
dressed, mostly in black. The young man, who, at their first
meeting, was overawed by the wisdom of his emancipated friend,
gradually learns to understand her, and recognizes one fine day that
he loves her. They are young, and she is kind and beautiful, and
though always in rigid attire, her appearance is softened by a
spotlessly clean white collar and cuffs. One would expect that he
would tell her of his love, but he is not one to commit romantic
absurdities. Poetry and the enthusiasm of love cover their blushing
faces before the pure beauty of the lady. He silences the voice of
his nature, and remains correct. She, too, is always exact, always
rational, always well behaved. I fear if they had formed a union,
the young man would have risked freezing to death. I must confess
that I can see nothing beautiful in this new beauty, who is as cold
as the stone walls and floors she dreams of. Rather would I have the
love songs of romantic ages, rather Don Juan and Madame Venus, rather
an elopement by ladder and rope on a moonlight night, followed by the
father's curse, mother's moans, and the moral comments of neighbors,
than correctness and propriety measured by yardsticks. If love does
not know how to give and take without restrictions, it is not love,
but a transaction that never fails to lay stress on a plus and a
The greatest shortcoming of the emancipation of the present day lies
in its artificial stiffness and its narrow respectabilities, which
produce an emptiness in woman's soul that will not let her drink from
the fountain of life. I once remarked that there seemed to be a
deeper relationship between the old-fashioned mother and hostess,
ever on the alert for the happiness of her little ones and the
comfort of those she loved, and the truly new woman, than between
the latter and her average emancipated sister. The disciples of
emancipation pure and simple declared me a heathen, fit only for the
stake. Their blind zeal did not let them see that my comparison
between the old and the new was merely to prove that a goodly number
of our grandmothers had more blood in their veins, far more humor and
wit, and certainly a greater amount of naturalness, kind-heartedness,
and simplicity, than the majority of our emancipated professional
women who fill the colleges, halls of learning, and various offices.
This does not mean a wish to return to the past, nor does it condemn
woman to her old sphere, the kitchen and the nursery.
Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and
clearer future. We are in need of unhampered growth out of old
traditions and habits. The movement for woman's emancipation has so
far made but the first step in that direction. It is to be hoped
that it will gather strength to make another. The right to vote, or
equal civil rights, may be good demands, but true emancipation begins
neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in woman's soul.
History tells us that every oppressed class gained true liberation
from its masters through its own efforts. It is necessary that woman
learn that lesson, that she realize that her freedom will reach as
far as her power to achieve her freedom reaches. It is, therefore,
far more important for her to begin with her inner regeneration, to
cut loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions, and customs.
The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and
fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and
be loved. Indeed, if partial emancipation is to become a complete
and true emancipation of woman, it will have to do away with the
ridiculous notion that to be loved, to be sweetheart and mother, is
synonymous with being slave or subordinate. It will have to do away
with the absurd notion of the dualism of the sexes, or that man and
woman represent two antagonistic worlds.
Pettiness separates; breadth unites. Let us be broad and big. Let
us not overlook vital things because of the bulk of trifles
confronting us. A true conception of the relation of the sexes will
not admit of conqueror and conquered; it knows of but one great
thing: to give of one's self boundlessly, in order to find one's self
richer, deeper, better. That alone can fill the emptiness, and
transform the tragedy of woman's emancipation into joy, limitless
MARRIAGE AND LOVE
The popular notion about marriage and love is that they are
synonymous, that they spring from the same motives, and cover the
same human needs. Like most popular notions this also rests not on
actual facts, but on superstition.
Marriage and love have nothing in common; they are as far apart as
the poles; are, in fact, antagonistic to each other. No doubt some
marriages have been the result of love. Not, however, because love
could assert itself only in marriage; much rather is it because few
people can completely outgrow a convention. There are today large
numbers of men and women to whom marriage is naught but a farce, but
who submit to it for the sake of public opinion. At any rate, while
it is true that some marriages are based on love, and while it is
equally true that in some cases love continues in married life, I
maintain that it does so regardless of marriage, and not because of
On the other hand, it is utterly false that love results from
marriage. On rare occasions one does hear of a miraculous case of a
married couple falling in love after marriage, but on close
examination it will be found that it is a mere adjustment to the
inevitable. Certainly the growing-used to each other is far away
from the spontaneity, the intensity, and beauty of love, without
which the intimacy of marriage must prove degrading to both the woman
and the man.
Marriage is primarily an economic arrangement, an insurance pact. It
differs from the ordinary life insurance agreement only in that it is
more binding, more exacting. Its returns are insignificantly small
compared with the investments. In taking out an insurance policy one
pays for it in dollars and cents, always at liberty to discontinue
payments. If, however, woman's premium is her husband, she pays for
it with her name, her privacy, her self-respect, her very life,
"until death doth part." Moreover, the marriage insurance condemns
her to life-long dependency, to parasitism, to complete uselessness,
individual as well as social. Man, too, pays his toll, but as his
sphere is wider, marriage does not limit him as much as woman. He
feels his chains more in an economic sense.
Thus Dante's motto over Inferno applies with equal force to marriage.
"Ye who enter here leave all hope behind."
That marriage is a failure none but the very stupid will deny. One
has but to glance over the statistics of divorce to realize how
bitter a failure marriage really is. Nor will the stereotyped
Philistine argument that the laxity of divorce laws and the growing
looseness of woman account for the fact that: first, every twelfth
marriage ends in divorce; second, that since 1870 divorces have
increased from 28 to 73 for every hundred thousand population; third,
that adultery, since 1867, as ground for divorce, has increased 270.8
per cent.; fourth, that desertion increased 369.8 per cent.
Added to these startling figures is a vast amount of material,
dramatic and literary, further elucidating this subject. Robert
Herrick, in TOGETHER; Pinero, in MID-CHANNEL; Eugene Walter, in PAID
IN FULL, and scores of other writers are discussing the barrenness,
the monotony, the sordidness, the inadequacy of marriage as a factor
for harmony and understanding.
The thoughtful social student will not content himself with the
popular superficial excuse for this phenomenon. He will have to dig
deeper into the very life of the sexes to know why marriage proves so
Edward Carpenter says that behind every marriage stands the life-long
environment of the two sexes; an environment so different from each
other that man and woman must remain strangers. Separated by an
insurmountable wall of superstition, custom, and habit, marriage has
not the potentiality of developing knowledge of, and respect for,
each other, without which every union is doomed to failure.
Henrik Ibsen, the hater of all social shams, was probably the first
to realize this great truth. Nora leaves her husband, not--as the
stupid critic would have it--because she is tired of her
responsibilities or feels the need of woman's rights, but because she
has come to know that for eight years she had lived with a stranger
and borne him children. Can there be anything more humiliating, more
degrading than a life-long proximity between two strangers? No need
for the woman to know anything of the man, save his income. As to
the knowledge of the woman--what is there to know except that she has
a pleasing appearance? We have not yet outgrown the theologic myth
that woman has no soul, that she is a mere appendix to man, made out
of his rib just for the convenience of the gentleman who was so
strong that he was afraid of his own shadow.
Perchance the poor quality of the material whence woman comes is
responsible for her inferiority. At any rate, woman has no
soul--what is there to know about her? Besides, the less soul a
woman has the greater her asset as a wife, the more readily will she
absorb herself in her husband. It is this slavish acquiescence to
man's superiority that has kept the marriage institution seemingly
intact for so long a period. Now that woman is coming into her own,
now that she is actually growing aware of herself as being outside
of the master's grace, the sacred institution of marriage is
gradually being undermined, and no amount of sentimental lamentation
can stay it.
From infancy, almost, the average girl is told that marriage is her
ultimate goal; therefore her training and education must be directed
towards that end. Like the mute beast fattened for slaughter, she is
prepared for that. Yet, strange to say, she is allowed to know much
less about her function as wife and mother than the ordinary artisan
of his trade. It is indecent and filthy for a respectable girl to
know anything of the marital relation. Oh, for the inconsistency of
respectability, that needs the marriage vow to turn something which
is filthy into the purest and most sacred arrangement that none dare
question or criticize. Yet that is exactly the attitude of the
average upholder of marriage. The prospective wife and mother is
kept in complete ignorance of her only asset in the competitive
field--sex. Thus she enters into life-long relations with a man only
to find herself shocked, repelled, outraged beyond measure by the
most natural and healthy instinct, sex. It is safe to say that a
large percentage of the unhappiness, misery, distress, and physical
suffering of matrimony is due to the criminal ignorance in sex
matters that is being extolled as a great virtue. Nor is it at all
an exaggeration when I say that more than one home has been broken up
because of this deplorable fact.
If, however, woman is free and big enough to learn the mystery of sex
without the sanction of State or Church, she will stand condemned as
utterly unfit to become the wife of a "good" man, his goodness
consisting of an empty brain and plenty of money. Can there be
anything more outrageous than the idea that a healthy, grown woman,
full of life and passion, must deny nature's demand, must subdue her
most intense craving, undermine her health and break her spirit, must
stunt her vision, abstain from the depth and glory of sex experience
until a "good" man comes along to take her unto himself as a wife?
That is precisely what marriage means. How can such an arrangement
end except in failure? This is one, though not the least important,
factor of marriage, which differentiates it from love.
Ours is a practical age. The time when Romeo and Juliet risked the
wrath of their fathers for love, when Gretchen exposed herself to the
gossip of her neighbors for love, is no more. If, on rare occasions,
young people allow themselves the luxury of romance, they are taken
in care by the elders, drilled and pounded until they become
The moral lesson instilled in the girl is not whether the man has
aroused her love, but rather is it, "How much?" The important and
only God of practical American life: Can the man make a living? can
he support a wife? That is the only thing that justifies marriage.
Gradually this saturates every thought of the girl; her dreams are
not of moonlight and kisses, of laughter and tears; she dreams of
shopping tours and bargain counters. This soul poverty and
sordidness are the elements inherent in the marriage institution.
The State and Church approve of no other ideal, simply because it is
the one that necessitates the State and Church control of men and
Doubtless there are people who continue to consider love above
dollars and cents. Particularly this is true of that class whom
economic necessity has forced to become self-supporting. The
tremendous change in woman's position, wrought by that mighty factor,
is indeed phenomenal when we reflect that it is but a short time
since she has entered the industrial arena. Six million women wage
workers; six million women, who have equal right with men to be
exploited, to be robbed, to go on strike; aye, to starve even.
Anything more, my lord? Yes, six million wage workers in every walk
of life, from the highest brain work to the mines and railroad
tracks; yes, even detectives and policemen. Surely the emancipation
Yet with all that, but a very small number of the vast army of women
wage workers look upon work as a permanent issue, in the same light
as does man. No matter how decrepit the latter, he has been taught
to be independent, self-supporting. Oh, I know that no one is really
independent in our economic treadmill; still, the poorest specimen of
a man hates to be a parasite; to be known as such, at any rate.
The woman considers her position as worker transitory, to be thrown
aside for the first bidder. That is why it is infinitely harder to
organize women than men. "Why should I join a union? I am going to
get married, to have a home." Has she not been taught from infancy
to look upon that as her ultimate calling? She learns soon enough
that the home, though not so large a prison as the factory, has more
solid doors and bars. It has a keeper so faithful that naught can
escape him. The most tragic part, however, is that the home no
longer frees her from wage slavery; it only increases her task.
According to the latest statistics submitted before a Committee "on
labor and wages, and congestion of population," ten per cent. of the
wage workers in New York City alone are married, yet they must
continue to work at the most poorly paid labor in the world. Add to
this horrible aspect the drudgery of housework, and what remains of
the protection and glory of the home? As a matter of fact, even the
middle-class girl in marriage can not speak of her home, since it is
the man who creates her sphere. It is not important whether the
husband is a brute or a darling. What I wish to prove is that
marriage guarantees woman a home only by the grace of her husband.
There she moves about in HIS home, year after year, until her aspect
of life and human affairs becomes as flat, narrow, and drab as her
surroundings. Small wonder if she becomes a nag, petty, quarrelsome,
gossipy, unbearable, thus driving the man from the house. She could
not go, if she wanted to; there is no place to go. Besides, a short
period of married life, of complete surrender of all faculties,
absolutely incapacitates the average woman for the outside world.
She becomes reckless in appearance, clumsy in her movements,
dependent in her decisions, cowardly in her judgment, a weight and a
bore, which most men grow to hate and despise. Wonderfully inspiring
atmosphere for the bearing of life, is it not?
But the child, how is it to be protected, if not for marriage? After
all, is not that the most important consideration? The sham, the
hypocrisy of it! Marriage protecting the child, yet thousands of
children destitute and homeless. Marriage protecting the child, yet
orphan asylums and reformatories overcrowded, the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children keeping busy in rescuing the little
victims from "loving" parents, to place them under more loving care,
the Gerry Society. Oh, the mockery of it!
Marriage may have the power to bring the horse to water, but has it
ever made him drink? The law will place the father under arrest, and
put him in convict's clothes; but has that ever stilled the hunger of
the child? If the parent has no work, or if he hides his identity,
what does marriage do then? It invokes the law to bring the man to
"justice," to put him safely behind closed doors; his labor, however,
goes not to the child, but to the State. The child receives but a
blighted memory of his father's stripes.
As to the protection of the woman,--therein lies the curse of
marriage. Not that it really protects her, but the very idea is so
revolting, such an outrage and insult on life, so degrading to human
dignity, as to forever condemn this parasitic institution.
It is like that other paternal arrangement--capitalism. It robs man
of his birthright, stunts his growth, poisons his body, keeps him in
ignorance, in poverty, and dependence, and then institutes charities
that thrive on the last vestige of man's self-respect.
The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an absolute
dependent. It incapacitates her for life's struggle, annihilates her
social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and then imposes its
gracious protection, which is in reality a snare, a travesty on human
If motherhood is the highest fulfillment of woman's nature, what
other protection does it need, save love and freedom? Marriage but
defiles, outrages, and corrupts her fulfillment. Does it not say to
woman, Only when you follow me shall you bring forth life? Does it
not condemn her to the block, does it not degrade and shame her if
she refuses to buy her right to motherhood by selling herself? Does
not marriage only sanction motherhood, even though conceived in
hatred, in compulsion? Yet, if motherhood be of free choice, of
love, of ecstasy, of defiant passion, does it not place a crown of
thorns upon an innocent head and carve in letters of blood the
hideous epithet, Bastard? Were marriage to contain all the virtues
claimed for it, its crimes against motherhood would exclude it
forever from the realm of love.
Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of
hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all
conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human
destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that
poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?
Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains,
but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has
subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue
love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not
conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has
been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the
splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate,
if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant
with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to
make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other
atmosphere. In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly,
completely. All the laws on the statutes, all the courts in the
universe, cannot tear it from the soil, once love has taken root.
If, however, the soil is sterile, how can marriage make it bear
fruit? It is like the last desperate struggle of fleeting life
Love needs no protection; it is its own protection. So long as love
begets life no child is deserted, or hungry, or famished for the want
of affection. I know this to be true. I know women who became
mothers in freedom by the men they loved. Few children in wedlock
enjoy the care, the protection, the devotion free motherhood is
capable of bestowing.
The defenders of authority dread the advent of a free motherhood,
lest it will rob them of their prey. Who would fight wars? Who
would create wealth? Who would make the policeman, the jailer, if
woman were to refuse the indiscriminate breeding of children? The
race, the race! shouts the king, the president, the capitalist, the
priest. The race must be preserved, though woman be degraded to a
mere machine,--and the marriage institution is our only safety valve
against the pernicious sex awakening of woman. But in vain these
frantic efforts to maintain a state of bondage. In vain, too, the
edicts of the Church, the mad attacks of rulers, in vain even the arm
of the law. Woman no longer wants to be a party to the production of
a race of sickly, feeble, decrepit, wretched human beings, who have
neither the strength nor moral courage to throw off the yoke of
poverty and slavery. Instead she desires fewer and better children,
begotten and reared in love and through free choice; not by
compulsion, as marriage imposes. Our pseudo-moralists have yet to
learn the deep sense of responsibility toward the child, that love in
freedom has awakened in the breast of woman. Rather would she forego
forever the glory of motherhood than bring forth life in an
atmosphere that breathes only destruction and death. And if she does
become a mother, it is to give to the child the deepest and best her
being can yield. To grow with the child is her motto; she knows that
in that manner alone can she help build true manhood and womanhood.
Ibsen must have had a vision of a free mother, when, with a master
stroke, he portrayed Mrs. Alving. She was the ideal mother because
she had outgrown marriage and all its horrors, because she had broken
her chains, and set her spirit free to soar until it returned a
personality, regenerated and strong. Alas, it was too late to rescue
her life's joy, her Oswald; but not too late to realize that love in
freedom is the only condition of a beautiful life. Those who, like
Mrs. Alving, have paid with blood and tears for their spiritual
awakening, repudiate marriage as an imposition, a shallow, empty
mockery. They know, whether love last but one brief span of time or
for eternity, it is the only creative, inspiring, elevating basis for
a new race, a new world.
In our present pygmy state love is indeed a stranger to most people.
Misunderstood and shunned, it rarely takes root; or if it does, it
soon withers and dies. Its delicate fiber can not endure the stress
and strain of the daily grind. Its soul is too complex to adjust
itself to the slimy woof of our social fabric. It weeps and moans
and suffers with those who have need of it, yet lack the capacity to
rise to love's summit.
Some day, some day men and women will rise, they will reach the
mountain peak, they will meet big and strong and free, ready to
receive, to partake, and to bask in the golden rays of love. What
fancy, what imagination, what poetic genius can foresee even
approximately the potentialities of such a force in the life of men
and women. If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship
and oneness, not marriage, but love will be the parent.
THE MODERN DRAMA: A POWERFUL DISSEMINATOR OF RADICAL THOUGHT
So long as discontent and unrest make themselves but dumbly felt
within a limited social class, the powers of reaction may often
succeed in suppressing such manifestations. But when the dumb unrest
grows into conscious expression and becomes almost universal, it
necessarily affects all phases of human thought and action, and seeks
its individual and social expression in the gradual transvaluation of
An adequate appreciation of the tremendous spread of the modern,
conscious social unrest cannot be gained from merely propagandistic
literature. Rather must we become conversant with the larger phases
of human expression manifest in art, literature, and, above all, the
modern drama--the strongest and most far-reaching interpreter of our
What a tremendous factor for the awakening of conscious discontent
are the simple canvasses of a Millet! The figures of his
peasants--what terrific indictment against our social wrongs; wrongs
that condemn the Man With the Hoe to hopeless drudgery, himself
excluded from Nature's bounty.
The vision of a Meunier conceives the growing solidarity and defiance
of labor in the group of miners carrying their maimed brother to
safety. His genius thus powerfully portrays the interrelation of the
seething unrest among those slaving in the bowels of the earth, and
the spiritual revolt that seeks artistic expression.
No less important is the factor for rebellious awakening in modern
literature--Turgeniev, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Andreiev, Gorki,
Whitman, Emerson, and scores of others embodying the spirit of
universal ferment and the longing for social change.
Still more far-reaching is the modern drama, as the leaven of radical
thought and the disseminator of new values.
It might seem an exaggeration to ascribe to the modern drama such an
important role. But a study of the development of modern ideas in
most countries will prove that the drama has succeeded in driving
home great social truths, truths generally ignored when presented in
other forms. No doubt there are exceptions, as Russia and France.
Russia, with its terrible political pressure, has made people think
and has awakened their social sympathies, because of the tremendous
contrast which exists between the intellectual life of the people and
the despotic regime that is trying to crush that life. Yet while the
great dramatic works of Tolstoy, Tchechov, Gorki, and Andreiev
closely mirror the life and the struggle, the hopes and aspirations
of the Russian people, they did not influence radical thought to the
extent the drama has done in other countries.
Who can deny, however, the tremendous influence exerted by THE POWER
OF DARKNESS or NIGHT LODGING. Tolstoy, the real, true Christian, is
yet the greatest enemy of organized Christianity. With a master hand
he portrays the destructive effects upon the human mind of the power
of darkness, the superstitions of the Christian Church.
What other medium could express, with such dramatic force, the
responsibility of the Church for crimes committed by its deluded
victims; what other medium could, in consequence, rouse the
indignation of man's conscience?
Similarly direct and powerful is the indictment contained in Gorki's
NIGHT LODGING. The social pariahs, forced into poverty and crime,
yet desperately clutch at the last vestiges of hope and aspiration.
Lost existences these, blighted and crushed by cruel, unsocial
France, on the other hand, with her continuous struggle for liberty,
is indeed the cradle of radical thought; as such she, too, did not
need the drama as a means of awakening. And yet the works of
Brieux--as ROBE ROUGE, portraying the terrible corruption of the
judiciary--and Mirbeau's LES AFFAIRES SONT LES AFFAIRES--picturing
the destructive influence of wealth on the human soul--have
undoubtedly reached wider circles than most of the articles and books
which have been written in France on the social question.
In countries like Germany, Scandinavia, England, and even in
America--though in a lesser degree--the drama is the vehicle which is
really making history, disseminating radical thought in ranks not
otherwise to be reached.
Let us take Germany, for instance. For nearly a quarter of a century
men of brains, of ideas, and of the greatest integrity, made it their
life-work to spread the truth of human brotherhood, of justice, among
the oppressed and downtrodden. Socialism, that tremendous
revolutionary wave, was to the victims of a merciless and inhumane
system like water to the parched lips of the desert traveler. Alas!
The cultured people remained absolutely indifferent; to them that
revolutionary tide was but the murmur of dissatisfied, discontented
men, dangerous, illiterate troublemakers, whose proper place was
behind prison bars.
Self-satisfied as the "cultured" usually are, they could not
understand why one should fuss about the fact that thousands of
people were starving, though they contributed towards the wealth of
the world. Surrounded by beauty and luxury, they could not believe
that side by side with them lived human beings degraded to a position
lower than a beast's, shelterless and ragged, without hope or
This condition of affairs was particularly pronounced in Germany
after the Franco-German war. Full to the bursting point with its
victory, Germany thrived on a sentimental, patriotic literature,
thereby poisoning the minds of the country's youth by the glory of
conquest and bloodshed.
Intellectual Germany had to take refuge in the literature of other
countries, in the works of Ibsen, Zola, Daudet, Maupassant, and
especially in the great works of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgeniev.
But as no country can long maintain a standard of culture without a
literature and drama related to its own soil, so Germany gradually
began to develop a drama reflecting the life and the struggles of its
Arno Holz, one of the youngest dramatists of that period, startled
the Philistines out of their ease and comfort with his FAMILIE
SELICKE. The play deals with society's refuse, men and women of the
alleys, whose only subsistence consists of what they can pick out of
the garbage barrels. A gruesome subject, is it not? And yet what
other method is there to break through the hard shell of the minds
and souls of people who have never known want, and who therefore
assume that all is well in the world?
Needless to say, the play aroused tremendous indignation. The truth
is bitter, and the people living on the Fifth Avenue of Berlin hated
to be confronted with the truth.
Not that FAMILIE SELICKE represented anything that had not been
written about for years without any seeming result. But the dramatic
genius of Holz, together with the powerful interpretation of the
play, necessarily made inroads into the widest circles, and forced
people to think about the terrible inequalities around them.
Sudermann's EHRE* and HEIMAT** deal with vital subjects. I have
already referred to the sentimental patriotism so completely turning
the head of the average German as to create a perverted conception of
honor. Duelling became an every-day affair, costing innumerable
lives. A great cry was raised against the fad by a number of leading
writers. But nothing acted as such a clarifier and exposer of that
national disease as the EHRE.
Not that the play merely deals with duelling; it analyzes the real
meaning of honor, proving that it is not a fixed, inborn feeling, but
that it varies with every people and every epoch, depending
particularly on one's economic and social station in life. We
realize from this play that the man in the brownstone mansion will
necessarily define honor differently from his victims.
The family Heinecke enjoys the charity of the millionaire Muhling,
being permitted to occupy a dilapidated shanty on his premises in the
absence of their son, Robert. The latter, as Muhling's
representative, is making a vast fortune for his employer in India.
On his return Robert discovers that his sister had been seduced by
young Muhling, whose father graciously offers to straighten matters
with a check for 40,000 marks. Robert, outraged and indignant,
resents the insult to his family's honor, and is forthwith dismissed
from his position for impudence. Robert finally throws this
accusation into the face of the philanthropist millionaire:
"We slave for you, we sacrifice our heart's blood for you, while you
seduce our daughters and sisters and kindly pay for their disgrace
with the gold we have earned for you. That is what you call honor."
An incidental side-light upon the conception of honor is given by
Count Trast, the principal character in the EHRE, a man widely
conversant with the customs of various climes, who relates that in
his many travels he chanced across a savage tribe whose honor he
mortally offended by refusing the hospitality which offered him the
charms of the chieftain's wife.
The theme of HEIMAT treats of the struggle between the old and the
young generations. It holds a permanent and important place in
Magda, the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Schwartz, has committed an
unpardonable sin: she refused the suitor selected by her father. For
daring to disobey the parental commands she is driven from home.
Magda, full of life and the spirit of liberty, goes out into the
world to return to her native town, twelve years later, a celebrated
singer. She consents to visit her parents on condition that they
respect the privacy of her past. But her martinet father immediately
begins to question her, insisting on his "paternal rights." Magda is
indignant, but gradually his persistence brings to light the tragedy
of her life. He learns that the respected Councillor Von Keller had
in his student days been Magda's lover, while she was battling for
her economic and social independence. The consequence of the
fleeting romance was a child, deserted by the man even before birth.
The rigid military father of Magda demands as retribution from
Councillor Von Keller that he legalize the love affair. In view of
Magda's social and professional success, Keller willingly consents,
but on condition that she forsake the stage, and place the child in
an institution. The struggle between the Old and the New culminates
in Magda's defiant words of the woman grown to conscious independence
of thought and action: ". . .I'll say what I think of you--of you
and your respectable society. Why should I be worse than you that I
must prolong my existence among you by a lie! Why should this gold
upon my body, and the lustre which surrounds my name, only increase
my infamy? Have I not worked early and late for ten long years?
Have I not woven this dress with sleepless nights? Have I not built
up my career step by step, like thousands of my kind? Why should I
blush before anyone? I am myself, and through myself I have become
what I am."
The general theme of HEIMAT was not original. It had been previously
treated by a master hand in FATHERS AND SONS. Partly because
Turgeniev's great work was typical rather of Russian than universal
conditions, and still more because it was in the form of fiction, the
influence of FATHERS AND SONS was limited to Russia. But HEIMAT,
especially because of its dramatic expression, became almost a world
The dramatist who not only disseminated radicalism, but literally
revolutionized the thoughtful Germans, is Gerhardt Hauptmann. His
first play VOR SONNENAUFGANG*, refused by every leading German
theatre and first performed in a wretched little playhouse behind a
beer garden, acted like a stroke of lightning, illuminating the
entire social horizon. Its subject matter deals with the life of an
extensive landowner, ignorant, illiterate, and brutalized, and his
economic slaves of the same mental calibre. The influence of wealth,
both on the victims who created it and the possessor thereof, is
shown in the most vivid colors, as resulting in drunkenness, idiocy,
and decay. But the most striking feature of VOR SONNENAUFGANG, the
one which brought a shower of abuse on Hauptmann's head, was the
question as to the indiscriminate breeding of children by unfit
* BEFORE SUNRISE.
During the second performance of the play a leading Berlin surgeon
almost caused a panic in the theatre by swinging a pair of forceps
over his head and screaming at the top of his voice: "The decency and
morality of Germany are at stake if childbirth is to be discussed
openly from the stage." The surgeon is forgotten, and Hauptmann
stands a colossal figure before the world.
When DIE WEBER* first saw the light, pandemonium broke out in the
land of thinkers and poets. "What," cried the moralists,
"workingmen, dirty, filthy slaves, to be put on the stage! Poverty
in all its horrors and ugliness to be dished out as an after-dinner
amusement? That is too much!"
* THE WEAVERS.
Indeed, it was too much for the fat and greasy bourgeoisie to be
brought face to face with the horrors of the weaver's existence. It
was too much because of the truth and reality that rang like thunder
in the deaf ears of self-satisfied society, J'ACCUSE!
Of course, it was generally known even before the appearance of this
drama that capital can not get fat unless it devours labor, that
wealth can not be hoarded except through the channels of poverty,
hunger, and cold; but such things are better kept in the dark, lest
the victims awaken to a realization of their position. But it is the
purpose of the modern drama to rouse the consciousness of the
oppressed; and that, indeed, was the purpose of Gerhardt Hauptmann in
depicting to the world the conditions of the weavers in Silesia.
Human beings working eighteen hours daily, yet not earning enough for
bread and fuel; human beings living in broken, wretched huts half
covered with snow, and nothing but tatters to protect them from the
cold; infants covered with scurvy from hunger and exposure; pregnant
women in the last stages of consumption. Victims of a benevolent
Christian era, without life, without hope, without warmth. Ah, yes,
it was too much!
Hauptmann's dramatic versatility deals with every stratum of social
life. Besides portraying the grinding effect of economic conditions,
he also treats of the struggle of the individual for his mental and
spiritual liberation from the slavery of convention and tradition.
Thus Heinrich, the bell-forger, in the dramatic prose-poem, DIE
VERSUNKENE GLOCKE*, fails to reach the mountain peaks of liberty
because, as Rautendelein said, he had lived in the valley too long.
Similarly Dr. Vockerath and Anna Maar remain lonely souls because
they, too, lack the strength to defy venerated traditions. Yet their
very failure must awaken the rebellious spirit against a world
forever hindering individual and social emancipation.
* THE SUNKEN BELL.
Max Halbe's JUGEND* and Wedekind's FRUHLING'S ERWACHEN** are dramas
which have disseminated radical thought in an altogether different
direction. They treat of the child and the dense ignorance and
narrow Puritanism that meet the awakening of nature. Particularly
this is true of FRUHLING'S ERWACHEN. Young boys and girls sacrificed
on the altar of false education and of our sickening morality that
prohibits the enlightenment of youth as to questions so imperative to
the health and well-being of society,--the origin of life, and its
functions. It shows how a mother--and a truly good mother, at
that--keeps her fourteen-year-old daughter in absolute ignorance as
to all matters of sex, and when finally the young girl falls a victim
to her own ignorance, the same mother sees her daughter killed by
quack medicines. The inscription on her grave states that she died
of anaemia, and morality is satisfied.
** THE AWAKENING OF SPRING.
The fatality of our Puritanic hypocrisy in these matters is
especially illumined by Wedekind in so far as our most promising
children fall victims to sex ignorance and the utter lack of
appreciation on the part of the teachers of the child's awakening.
Wendla, unusually developed and alert for her age, pleads with her
mother to explain the mystery of life:
"I have a sister who has been married for two and a half years. I
myself have been made an aunt for the third time, and I haven't the
least idea how it all comes about. . . . Don't be cross, Mother,
dear! Whom in the world should I ask but you? Don't scold me for
asking about it. Give me an answer.--How does it happen?--You cannot
really deceive yourself that I, who am fourteen years old, still
believe in the stork."
Were her mother herself not a victim of false notions of morality, an
affectionate and sensible explanation might have saved her daughter.
But the conventional mother seeks to hide her "moral" shame and
embarrassment in this evasive reply:
"In order to have a child--one must love--the man--to whom one is
married. . . . One must love him, Wendla, as you at your age are
still unable to love.--Now you know it!"
How much Wendla "knew" the mother realized too late. The pregnant
girl imagines herself ill with dropsy. And when her mother cries in
desperation, "You haven't the dropsy, you have a child, girl," the
agonized Wendla exclaims in bewilderment: "But it's not possible,
Mother, I am not married yet. . . . Oh, Mother, why didn't you tell
With equal stupidity the boy Morris is driven to suicide because he
fails in his school examinations. And Melchior, the youthful father
of Wendla's unborn child, is sent to the House of Correction, his
early sexual awakening stamping him a degenerate in the eyes of
teachers and parents.
For years thoughtful men and women in Germany had advocated the
compelling necessity of sex enlightenment. MUTTERSCHUTZ, a
publication specially devoted to frank and intelligent discussion of
the sex problem, has been carrying on its agitation for a
considerable time. But it remained for the dramatic genius of
Wedekind to influence radical thought to the extent of forcing the
introduction of sex physiology in many schools of Germany.
Scandinavia, like Germany, was advanced through the drama much more
than through any other channel. Long before Ibsen appeared on the
scene, Bjornson, the great essayist, thundered against the
inequalities and injustice prevalent in those countries. But his was
a voice in the wilderness, reaching but the few. Not so with Ibsen.
His BRAND, DOLL'S HOUSE, PILLARS OF SOCIETY, GHOSTS, and AN ENEMY OF
THE PEOPLE have considerably undermined the old conceptions, and
replaced them by a modern and real view of life. One has but to read
BRAND to realize the modern conception, let us say, of
religion,--religion, as an ideal to be achieved on earth; religion as
a principle of human brotherhood, of solidarity, and kindness.
Ibsen, the supreme hater of all social shams, has torn the veil of
hypocrisy from their faces. His greatest onslaught, however, is on
the four cardinal points supporting the flimsy network of society.
First, the lie upon which rests the life of today; second, the
futility of sacrifice as preached by our moral codes; third, petty
material consideration, which is the only god the majority worships;
and fourth, the deadening influence of provincialism. These four
recur as the LEITMOTIF in Ibsen's plays, but particularly in PILLARS
OF SOCIETY, DOLL'S HOUSE, GHOSTS, and AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.
Pillars of Society! What a tremendous indictment against the social
structure that rests on rotten and decayed pillars,--pillars nicely
gilded and apparently intact, yet merely hiding their true condition.
And what are these pillars?
Consul Bernick, at the very height of his social and financial
career, the benefactor of his town and the strongest pillar of the
community, has reached the summit through the channel of lies,
deception, and fraud. He has robbed his bosom friend, Johann, of his
good name, and has betrayed Lona Hessel, the woman he loved, to marry
her step-sister for the sake of her money. He has enriched himself
by shady transactions, under cover of "the community's good," and
finally even goes to the extent of endangering human life by
preparing the INDIAN GIRL, a rotten and dangerous vessel, to go to
But the return of Lona brings him the realization of the emptiness
and meanness of his narrow life. He seeks to placate the waking
conscience by the hope that he has cleared the ground for the better
life of his son, of the new generation. But even this last hope soon
falls to the ground, as he realizes that truth cannot be built on a
lie. At the very moment when the whole town is prepared to celebrate
the great benefactor of the community with banquet praise, he
himself, now grown to full spiritual manhood, confesses to the
"I have no right to this homage--. . .My fellow-citizens must know
me to the core. Then let everyone examine himself, and let us
realize the prediction that from this event we begin a new time. The
old, with its tinsel, its hypocrisy, its hollowness, its lying
propriety, and its pitiful cowardice, shall lie behind us like a
museum, open for instruction."
With A DOLL'S HOUSE Ibsen has paved the way for woman's emancipation.
Nora awakens from her doll's role to the realization of the injustice
done her by her father and her husband, Helmer Torvald.
"While I was at home with father, he used to tell me all his
opinions, and I held the same opinions. If I had others I concealed
them, because he would not have approved. He used to call me his
doll child, and play with me as I played with my dolls. Then I came
to live in your house. You settled everything according to your
taste, and I got the same taste as you, or I pretended to. When I
look back on it now, I seem to have been living like a beggar, from
hand to mouth. I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald, but
you would have it so. You and father have done me a great wrong."
In vain Helmer uses the old philistine arguments of wifely duty and
social obligations. Nora has grown out of her doll's dress into full
stature of conscious womanhood. She is determined to think and judge
for herself. She has realized that, before all else, she is a human
being, owing the first duty to herself. She is undaunted even by the
possibility of social ostracism. She has become sceptical of the
justice of the law, the wisdom of the constituted. Her rebelling
soul rises in protest against the existing. In her own words: "I
must make up my mind which is right, society or I."
In her childlike faith in her husband she had hoped for the great
miracle. But it was not the disappointed hope that opened her vision
to the falsehoods of marriage. It was rather the smug contentment of
Helmer with a safe lie--one that would remain hidden and not endanger
his social standing.
When Nora closed behind her the door of her gilded cage and went out
into the world a new, regenerated personality, she opened the gate of
freedom and truth for her own sex and the race to come.
More than any other play, GHOSTS has acted like a bomb explosion,
shaking the social structure to its very foundations.
In DOLL'S HOUSE the justification of the union between Nora and
Helmer rested at least on the husband's conception of integrity and
rigid adherence to our social morality. Indeed, he was the
conventional ideal husband and devoted father. Not so in GHOSTS.
Mrs. Alving married Captain Alving only to find that he was a
physical and mental wreck, and that life with him would mean utter
degradation and be fatal to possible offspring. In her despair she
turned to her youth's companion, young Pastor Manders who, as the
true savior of souls for heaven, must needs be indifferent to earthly
necessities. He sent her back to shame and degradation,--to her
duties to husband and home. Indeed, happiness--to him--was but the
unholy manifestation of a rebellious spirit, and a wife's duty was
not to judge, but "to bear with humility the cross which a higher
power had for your own good laid upon you."
Mrs. Alving bore the cross for twenty-six long years. Not for the
sake of the higher power, but for her little son Oswald, whom she
longed to save from the poisonous atmosphere of her husband's home.
It was also for the sake of the beloved son that she supported the
lie of his father's goodness, in superstitious awe of "duty and
decency." She learned, alas! too late, that the sacrifice of her
entire life had been in vain, and that her son Oswald was visited by
the sins of his father, that he was irrevocably doomed. This, too,
she learned, that "we are all of us ghosts. It is not only what we
have inherited from our father and mother that walks in us. It is
all sorts of dead ideas and lifeless old beliefs. They have no
vitality, but they cling to us all the same and we can't get rid of
them. . . . And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of
light. When you forced me under the yoke you called Duty and
Obligation; when you praised as right and proper what my whole soul
rebelled against as something loathsome; it was then that I began to
look into the seams of your doctrine. I only wished to pick at a
single knot, but when I had got that undone, the whole thing ravelled
out. And then I understood that it was all machine-sewn."
How could a society machine-sewn, fathom the seething depths whence
issued the great masterpiece of Henrik Ibsen? It could not
understand, and therefore it poured the vials of abuse and venom upon
its greatest benefactor. That Ibsen was not daunted he has proved by
his reply in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.
In that great drama Ibsen performs the last funeral rites over a
decaying and dying social system. Out of its ashes rises the
regenerated individual, the bold and daring rebel. Dr. Stockman, an
idealist, full of social sympathy and solidarity, is called to his
native town as the physician of the baths. He soon discovers that
the latter are built on a swamp, and that instead of finding relief
the patients, who flock to the place, are being poisoned.
An honest man, of strong convictions, the doctor considers it his
duty to make his discovery known. But he soon learns that dividends
and profits are concerned neither with health nor principles. Even
the reformers of the town, represented in the PEOPLE'S MESSENGER,
always ready to prate of their devotion to the people, withdraw their
support from the "reckless" idealist, the moment they learn that the
doctor's discovery may bring the town into disrepute, and thus injure
But Doctor Stockman continues in the faith he entertains for has
townsmen. They would hear him. But here, too, he soon finds himself
alone. He cannot even secure a place to proclaim his great truth.
And when he finally succeeds, he is overwhelmed by abuse and ridicule
as the enemy of the people. The doctor, so enthusiastic of his
townspeople's assistance to eradicate the evil, is soon driven to a
solitary position. The announcement of his discovery would result in
a pecuniary loss to the town, and that consideration induces the
officials, the good citizens, and soul reformers, to stifle the voice
of truth. He finds them all a compact majority, unscrupulous enough
to be willing to build up the prosperity of the town on a quagmire of
lies and fraud. He is accused of trying to ruin the community. But
to his mind "it does not matter if a lying community is ruined. It
must be levelled to the ground. All men who live upon lies must be
exterminated like vermin. You'll bring it to such a pass that the
whole country will deserve to perish."
Doctor Stockman is not a practical politician. A free man, he
thinks, must not behave like a blackguard. "He must not so act that
he would spit in his own face." For only cowards permit
"considerations" of pretended general welfare or of party to override
truth and ideals. "Party programmes wring the necks of all young,
living truths; and considerations of expediency turn morality and
righteousness upside down, until life is simply hideous."
These plays of Ibsen--THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY, A DOLL'S HOUSE, GHOSTS,
and AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE--constitute a dynamic force which is
gradually dissipating the ghosts walking the social burying ground
called civilization. Nay, more; Ibsen's destructive effects are at
the same time supremely constructive, for he not merely undermines
existing pillars; indeed, he builds with sure strokes the foundation
of a healthier, ideal future, based on the sovereignty of the
individual within a sympathetic social environment.
England with her great pioneers of radical thought, the intellectual
pilgrims like Godwin, Robert Owen, Darwin, Spencer, William Morris,
and scores of others; with her wonderful larks of liberty--Shelley,
Byron, Keats--is another example of the influence of dramatic art.
Within comparatively a few years, the dramatic works of Shaw, Pinero,
Galsworthy, Rann Kennedy, have carried radical thought to the ears
formerly deaf even to Great Britain's wondrous poets. Thus a public
which will remain indifferent reading an essay by Robert Owen, on
Poverty, or ignore Bernard Shaw's Socialistic tracts, was made to
think by MAJOR BARBARA, wherein poverty is described as the greatest
crime of Christian civilization. "Poverty makes people weak,
slavish, puny; poverty creates disease, crime, prostitution; in fine,
poverty is responsible for all the ills and evils of the world."
Poverty also necessitates dependency, charitable organizations,
institutions that thrive off the very thing they are trying to
destroy. The Salvation Army, for instance, as shown in MAJOR
BARBARA, fights drunkenness; yet one of its greatest contributors is
Badger, a whiskey distiller, who furnishes yearly thousands of pounds
to do away with the very source of his wealth. Bernard Shaw,
therefore, concludes that the only real benefactor of society is a
man like Undershaft, Barbara's father, a cannon manufacturer, whose
theory of life is that powder is stronger than words.
"The worst of crimes," says Undershaft, "is poverty. All the other
crimes are virtues beside it; all the other dishonors are chivalry
itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities; spreads horrible
pestilences; strikes dead the very soul of all who come within sight,
sound, or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing; a murder
here, a theft there, a blow now and a curse there: what do they
matter? They are only the accidents and illnesses of life; there are
not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are
millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill-fed,
ill-clothed people. They poison us morally and physically; they kill
the happiness of society; they force us to do away with our own
liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should
rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. . . . Poverty and
slavery have stood up for centuries to your sermons and leading
articles; they will not stand up to my machine guns. Don't preach at
them; don't reason with them. Kill them. . . . It is the final test
of conviction, the only lever strong enough to overturn a social
system. . . . Vote! Bah! When you vote, you only change the name
of the cabinet. When you shoot, you pull down governments,
inaugurate new epochs, abolish old orders, and set up new."
No wonder people cared little to read Mr. Shaw's Socialistic tracts.
In no other way but in the drama could he deliver such forcible,
historic truths. And therefore it is only through the drama that Mr.
Shaw is a revolutionary factor in the dissemination of radical ideas.
After Hauptmann's DIE WEBER, STRIFE, by Galsworthy, is the most
important labor drama.
The theme of STRIFE is a strike with two dominant factors: Anthony,
the president of the company, rigid, uncompromising, unwilling to
make the slightest concession, although the men held out for months
and are in a condition of semi-starvation; and David Roberts, an
uncompromising revolutionist, whose devotion to the workingman and
the cause of freedom is at white heat. Between them the strikers are
worn and weary with the terrible struggle, and are harassed and
driven by the awful sight of poverty and want in their families.
The most marvellous and brilliant piece of work in STRIFE is
Galsworthy's portrayal of the mob, its fickleness, and lack of
backbone. One moment they applaud old Thomas, who speaks of the
power of God and religion and admonishes the men against rebellion;
the next instant they are carried away by a walking delegate, who
pleads the cause of the union,--the union that always stands for
compromise, and which forsakes the workingmen whenever they dare to
strike for independent demands; again they are aglow with the
earnestness, the spirit, and the intensity of David Roberts--all
these people willing to go in whatever direction the wind blows. It
is the curse of the working class that they always follow like sheep
led to slaughter.
Consistency is the greatest crime of our commercial age. No matter
how intense the spirit or how important the man, the moment he will
not allow himself to be used or sell his principles, he is thrown on
the dustheap. Such was the fate of the president of the company,
Anthony, and of David Roberts. To be sure they represented opposite
poles--poles antagonistic to each other, poles divided by a terrible
gap that can never be bridged over. Yet they shared a common fate.
Anthony is the embodiment of conservatism, of old ideas, of iron
"I have been chairman of this company thirty-two years. I have
fought the men four times. I have never been defeated. It has been
said that times have changed. If they have, I have not changed with
them. It has been said that masters and men are equal. Cant. There
can be only one master in a house. It has been said that Capital and
Labor have the same interests. Cant. Their interests are as wide
asunder as the poles. There is only one way of treating men--with
the iron rod. Masters are masters. Men are men."
We may not like this adherence to old, reactionary notions, and yet
there is something admirable in the courage and consistency of this
man, nor is he half as dangerous to the interests of the oppressed,
as our sentimental and soft reformers who rob with nine fingers, and
give libraries with the tenth; who grind human beings like Russell
Sage, and then spend millions of dollars in social research work; who
turn beautiful young plants into faded old women, and then give them
a few paltry dollars or found a Home for Working Girls. Anthony is a
worthy foe; and to fight such a foe, one must learn to meet him in
David Roberts has all the mental and moral attributes of his
adversary, coupled with the spirit of revolt, and the depth of modern
ideas. He, too, is consistent, and wants nothing for his class short
of complete victory.
"It is not for this little moment of time we are fighting, not for
our own little bodies and their warmth; it is for all those who come
after, for all times. Oh, men, for the love of them don't turn up
another stone on their heads, don't help to blacken the sky. If we
can shake that white-faced monster with the bloody lips that has
sucked the lives out of ourselves, our wives, and children, since the
world began, if we have not the hearts of men to stand against it,
breast to breast and eye to eye, and force it backward till it cry
for mercy, it will go on sucking life, and we shall stay forever
where we are, less than the very dogs."
It is inevitable that compromise and petty interest should pass on
and leave two such giants behind. Inevitable, until the mass will
reach the stature of a David Roberts. Will it ever? Prophecy is not
the vocation of the dramatist, yet the moral lesson is evident. One
cannot help realizing that the workingmen will have to use methods
hitherto unfamiliar to them; that they will have to discard all those
elements in their midst that are forever ready to reconcile the
irreconcilable, namely Capital and Labor. They will have to learn
that characters like David Roberts are the very forces that have
revolutionized the world and thus paved the way for emancipation out
of the clutches of that "white-faced monster with bloody lips,"
towards a brighter horizon, a freer life, and a deeper recognition of
No subject of equal social import has received such extensive
consideration within the last few years as the question of prison and
Hardly any magazine of consequence that has not devoted its columns
to the discussion of this vital theme. A number of books by able
writers, both in America and abroad, have discussed this topic from
the historic, psychologic, and social standpoint, all agreeing that
present penal institutions and our mode of coping with crime have in
every respect proved inadequate as well as wasteful. One would
expect that something very radical should result from the cumulative
literary indictment of the social crimes perpetrated upon the
prisoner. Yet with the exception of a few minor and comparatively
insignificant reforms in some of our prisons, absolutely nothing has
been accomplished. But at last this grave social wrong has found
dramatic interpretation in Galworthy's JUSTICE.
The play opens in the office of James How and Sons, Solicitors. The
senior clerk, Robert Cokeson, discovers that a check he had issued
for nine pounds has been forged to ninety. By elimination, suspicion
falls upon William Falder, the junior office clerk. The latter is in
love with a married woman, the abused, ill-treated wife of a brutal
drunkard. Pressed by his employer, a severe yet not unkindly man,
Falder confesses the forgery, pleading the dire necessity of his
sweetheart, Ruth Honeywill, with whom he had planned to escape to
save her from the unbearable brutality of her husband.
Notwithstanding the entreaties of young Walter, who is touched by
modern ideas, his father, a moral and law-respecting citizen, turns
Falder over to the police.
The second act, in the court-room, shows Justice in the very process
of manufacture. The scene equals in dramatic power and psychologic
verity the great court scene in RESURRECTION. Young Falder, a
nervous and rather weakly youth of twenty-three, stands before the
bar. Ruth, his married sweetheart, full of love and devotion, burns
with anxiety to save the young man whose affection brought about his
present predicament. The young man is defended by Lawyer Frome,
whose speech to the jury is a masterpiece of deep social philosophy
wreathed with the tendrils of human understanding and sympathy. He
does not attempt to dispute the mere fact of Falder having altered
the check; and though he pleads temporary aberration in defense of
his client, that plea is based upon a social consciousness as deep
and all-embracing as the roots of our social ills--"the background of
life, that palpitating life which always lies behind the commission
of a crime." He shows Falder to have faced the alternative of seeing
the beloved woman murdered by her brutal husband, whom she cannot
divorce; or of taking the law into his own hands. The defence pleads
with the jury not to turn the weak young man into a criminal by
condemning him to prison, for "justice is a machine that, when
someone has given it a starting push, rolls on of itself. . . . Is
this young man to be ground to pieces under this machine for an act
which, at the worst, was one of weakness? Is he to become a member
of the luckless crews that man those dark, ill-starred ships called
prisons? . . . I urge you, gentlemen, do not ruin this young man.
For as a result of those four minutes, ruin, utter and irretrievable,
stares him in the face. . . . The rolling of the chariot wheels of
Justice over this boy began when it was decided to prosecute him."
But the chariot of Justice rolls mercilessly on, for--as the learned
Judge says--"the law is what it is--a majestic edifice, sheltering
all of us, each stone of which rests on another."
Falder is sentenced to three years' penal servitude.
In prison, the young, inexperienced convict soon finds himself the
victim of the terrible "system." The authorities admit that young
Falder is mentally and physically "in bad shape," but nothing can be
done in the matter: many others are in a similar position, and "the
quarters are inadequate."
The third scene of the third act is heart-gripping in its silent
force. The whole scene is a pantomime, taking place in Falder's
"In fast-falling daylight, Falder, in his stockings, is seen standing
motionless, with his head inclined towards the door, listening. He
moves a little closer to the door, his stockinged feet making no
noise. He stops at the door. He is trying harder and harder to hear
something, any little thing that is going on outside. He springs
suddenly upright--as if at a sound--and remains perfectly motionless.
Then, with a heavy sigh, he moves to his work, and stands looking at
it, with his head down; he does a stitch or two, having the air of a
man so lost in sadness that each stitch is, as it were, a coming to
life. Then, turning abruptly, he begins pacing his cell, moving his
head, like an animal pacing its cage. He stops again at the door,
listens, and, placing the palms of his hands against it with his
fingers spread out, leans his forehead against the iron. Turning
from it, presently, he moves slowly back towards the window, holding
his head, as if he felt that it were going to burst, and stops under
the window. But since he cannot see out of it he leaves off looking,
and, picking up the lid of one of the tins, peers into it, as if
trying to make a companion of his own face. It has grown very nearly
dark. Suddenly the lid falls out of his hand with a clatter--the
only sound that has broken the silence--and he stands staring
intently at the wall where the stuff of the shirt is hanging rather
white in the darkness--he seems to be seeing somebody or something
there. There is a sharp tap and click; the cell light behind the
glass screen has been turned up. The cell is brightly lighted.
Falder is seen gasping for breath.
A sound from far away, as of distant, dull beating on thick metal, is
suddenly audible. Falder shrinks back, not able to bear this sudden
clamor. But the sound grows, as though some great tumbril were
rolling towards the cell. And gradually it seems to hypnotize him.
He begins creeping inch by inch nearer to the door. The banging
sound, traveling from cell to cell, draws closer and closer; Falder's
hands are seen moving as if his spirit had already joined in this
beating, and the sound swells till it seems to have entered the very
cell. He suddenly raises his clenched fists. Panting violently, he
flings himself at his door, and beats on it."
Finally Falder leaves the prison, a broken ticket-of-leave man, the
stamp of the convict upon his brow, the iron of misery in his soul.
Thanks to Ruth's pleading, the firm of James How and Son is willing
to take Falder back in their employ, on condition that he give up
Ruth. It is then that Falder learns the awful news that the woman he
loves had been driven by the merciless economic Moloch to sell
herself. She "tried making skirts. . .cheap things. . . . I never
made more than ten shillings a week, buying my own cotton, and
working all day. I hardly ever got to bed till past twelve. . . .
And then. . .my employer happened--he's happened ever since." At
this terrible psychologic moment the police appear to drag him back
to prison for failing to report himself as ticket-of-leave man.
Completely overwhelmed by the inexorability of his environment, young
Falder seeks and finds peace, greater than human justice, by throwing
himself down to death, as the detectives are taking him back to
It would be impossible to estimate the effect produced by this play.
Perhaps some conception can be gained from the very unusual
circumstance that it had proved so powerful as to induce the Home
Secretary of Great Britain to undertake extensive prison reforms in
England. A very encouraging sign this, of the influence exerted by
the modern drama. It is to be hoped that the thundering indictment
of Mr. Galsworthy will not remain without similar effect upon the
public sentiment and prison conditions of America. At any rate, it
is certain that no other modern play has borne such direct and
immediate fruit in wakening the social conscience.
Another modern play, THE SERVANT IN THE HOUSE, strikes a vital key
in our social life. The hero of Mr. Kennedy's masterpiece is Robert,
a coarse, filthy drunkard, whom respectable society has repudiated.
Robert, the sewer cleaner, is the real hero of the play; nay, its
true and only savior. It is he who volunteers to go down into the
dangerous sewer, so that his comrades "can 'ave light and air."
After all, has he not sacrificed his life always, so that others may
have light and air?
The thought that labor is the redeemer of social well-being has been
cried from the housetops in every tongue and every clime. Yet the
simple words of Robert express the significance of labor and its
mission with far greater potency.
America is still in its dramatic infancy. Most of the attempts along
this line to mirror life, have been wretched failures. Still, there
are hopeful signs in the attitude of the intelligent public toward
modern plays, even if they be from foreign soil.
The only real drama America has so far produced is THE EASIEST WAY,
by Eugene Walter.
It is supposed to represent a "peculiar phase" of New York life. If
that were all, it would be of minor significance. That which gives
the play its real importance and value lies much deeper. It lies,
first, in the fundamental current of our social fabric which drives
us all, even stronger characters than Laura, into the easiest way--a
way so very destructive of integrity, truth, and justice. Secondly,
the cruel, senseless fatalism conditioned in Laura's sex. These two
features put the universal stamp upon the play, and characterize it
as one of the strongest dramatic indictments against society.
The criminal waste of human energy, in economic and social
conditions, drives Laura as it drives the average girl to marry any
man for a "home"; or as it drives men to endure the worst indignities
for a miserable pittance.
Then there is that other respectable institution, the fatalism of
Laura's sex. The inevitability of that force is summed up in the
following words: "Don't you know that we count no more in the life of
these men than tamed animals? It's a game, and if we don't play our
cards well, we lose." Woman in the battle with life has but one
weapon, one commodity--sex. That alone serves as a trump card in the
game of life.
This blind fatalism has made of woman a parasite, an inert thing.
Why then expect perseverance or energy of Laura? The easiest way is
the path mapped out for her from time immemorial. She could follow
A number of other plays could be quoted as characteristic of the
growing role of the drama as a disseminator of radical thought.
Suffice to mention THE THIRD DEGREE, by Charles Klein; THE FOURTH
ESTATE, by Medill Patterson; A MAN'S WORLD, by Ida Croutchers,--all
pointing to the dawn of dramatic art in America, an art which is
discovering to the people the terrible diseases of our social body.
It has been said of old, all roads lead to Rome. In paraphrased
application to the tendencies of our day, it may truly be said that
all roads lead to the great social reconstruction. The economic
awakening of the workingman, and his realization of the necessity for
concerted industrial action; the tendencies of modern education,
especially in their application to the free development of the child;
the spirit of growing unrest expressed through, and cultivated by,
art and literature, all pave the way to the Open Road. Above all,
the modern drama, operating through the double channel of dramatist
and interpreter, affecting as it does both mind and heart, is the
strongest force in developing social discontent, swelling the
powerful tide of unrest that sweeps onward and over the dam of
ignorance, prejudice, and superstition.