Alexander Berkman's Last Days
(1869 - 1940) ~ Russian-American Mother of Anarcho-Communism : She is an Anarchist, pure and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah Warren, 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. (From : Hippolyte Havel Bio.)
• "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." (From : "Anarchism: What It Really Stands For," by Emma Go....)
• "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 with age." (From : "Minorities Versus Majorities," by Emma Goldman.)
• "Man's greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges." (From : "The Place of the Individual in Society," by Emma ....)
Alexander Berkman's Last Days
It is only two weeks since our beloved comrade
Alexander Berkman passed away. Yet it seems an eternity to me.
The blow his untimely death has struck me has left me completely
shattered. I find it difficult to collect my thoughts. But I feel
sure you will want to know all about Sasha's end. For have you
not loved him all through the years?
Sasha left a note which we found after we
returned from his last resting place. It reads: "I don't
want to live a sick man. Dependent. Forgive me Emmie darling.
And you too Emma. Love to All. Help Emmie." signed, Sasha.
I have two letters from comrade Berkman
dated June 24th and 26th. He wrote while he did not feel strong
enough to come to St. Tropez the 27th, my sixty-seventh birthday,
his condition was not serious and not to worry. On the 27th in
the afternoon Berkman called me up from Nice to give his well
wishes for the day. He said he was feeling better. Comrade Michael
Cohn, his family and a very devoted English friend were with me.
And my thoughts were far away from any danger to my own old pal.
At 2 A. M. Sunday, just two weeks ago I was awakened by a telephone
call from Nice to come at once. I knew at once that our comrade
was at the end. But not what kind of an end.
On arriving in Sasha's apartment we found Emmie, his companion for fourteen years, in a collapse hardly able to tell us what had happened. We finally learned that Sasha had suffered a violent relapse and while Emmie was trying desperately to get a doctor Sasha had shot himself in the chest. This Emmie learned only after Sasha had been rushed to a hospital and she had been dragged off by the police as having killed Sasha. So great was the fortitude of our brave comrade that he did not let Emmie know he had ended his life. Actually she found him in bed covered up with blankets so she should not notice his wound. Getting a doctor in a small town in France is another indication of the backwardness of the country. It took Emmie several hours before the miserable man arrived. He came too late. But when he found the revolver he notified the police and the hospital, and Sasha was taken away in an ambulance.
We rushed to the hospital. We found Sasha
fully conscious but in terrific pain so that he could not speak.
He did, however, fully recognize us. Michael Cohn and I remained
with him until the early afternoon. When we returned at four o'clock
Sasha was in a coma. He no longer knew us. And I hope fervently
he no longer felt his pain. I stayed with him until 8.30 P. M.
planning to return at 11 and remain with him for the night. But
we were notified that he died at 10 o'clock Sunday, June 28th.
Comrade Berkman had always maintained that
if ever he should be stricken with suffering beyond endurance
he will go out of life by his own hand. Perhaps he might not have
done it on the fatal evening of the 28th had I or anyone else
of our friends been near to help him. But Emmie was desperately
trying to get a doctor. And there was no one near she could have
left with Sasha. She most likely did not even realize the gravity
of the moment.
It had always been our comrade's wish to
be cremated. This was also my wish and Emmie's. But there is no
crematorium in Nice. The next place was Marseilles. And the cost
I was told 8000 francs. Sasha left the "munificent"
sum of $80 which the very government, that had hounded him from
pillar to post, blocked as soon as Sasha's death became known.
No one could get it. I myself have not been blessed with worldly
goods, certainly not since I am living in exile. I could therefore,
not carry out the cherished wish of my old pal and comrade. In
point of fact he would have been opposed to such a thing as spending
8000 francs for cremation. He would have said "the living
need this money more than the dead." But it is so characteristic
of our damnable system to fleece the living as well as the dead.
No one will ever know the humiliation and suffering our comrade
went through in France. Four times expelled. Then granted a pittance
of three months. Then six months. And irony of ironies just two
weeks before the end he was given an extension of a year. Just
when he might have enjoyed some peace Alexander Berkman was too
harassed by pain and too spent from his operations to live.
Death had robbed me of the chance to be
with my life-long friend until he breathed his last. But it could
not prevent me from a few precious moments with him alone in the
Dead House, moments of serene peace, and silence in contemplation
of our friendship that had never wavered, our struggle and work
for the ideal for which Sasha had suffered so much and to which
he had dedicated his whole life. These moments will remain for
me until I myself will breathe the last. And these moments in
the House of the Dead will spur me on to continue the work Sasha
and I had begun August 15, 1889.
I know how you all feel about our wonderful
Sasha. The many cables, wires and letters I have already received
are proof of your devotion and your love. I know you will not
deny our dead the respect for the method he employed to end his
Our sorrow is all-embracing, our loss beyond
mere words. Let us gather strength to remain true to the flaming
spirit of Alexander Berkman. Let us continue the struggle for
a new and beautiful world. Let us work for the ultimate triumph
of Anarchism--the ideal Sasha loved passionately and in which
he believed with every fiber of his being. In this way alone can
we honor the memory of one of the grandest and bravest comrades
in our ranks--ALEXANDER BERKMAN.
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