Volume 1, Chapter 21

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Volume 1, Chapter 21

Living My Life

by Emma Goldman

Volume One

New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1931.

Chapter 21

THE WAR MADNESS IN ENGLAND WAS SO GREAT, SOME OF THE comrades informed me, that it would be almost impossible to deliver my lectures as had been planned. Harry Kelley was of the same opinion. "Why not hold anti-war mass meetings?" I suggested. I referred to the splendid gatherings we had in America during the Spanish War. Now and then there had been attempts at interference, and several lectures had to be given up, but on the whole we had been able to carry through our campaign. Harry thought, however, that it would be impossible in England. His description of violent attacks on speakers (the jingo spirit being at its height) and of meetings being broken up by patriotic mobs sounded discouraging. He was sure it would be even more dangerous for me, a foreigner, to speak on the war. I was in favor of trying it, anyhow. I simply could not be in England and keep silent on the matter. Did not Great Britain believe in free speech? "Mind you," he warned me, "it is not the authorities who interfere with meetings, as in America; it is the mob itself, both rich and poor." I insisted, nevertheless, on making an attempt. Harry promised to consult the other comrades about it.

    At the invitation of the Kropotkins I went out with Mary Issac to Bromley. This time Mrs. Kropotkin and her little daughter, Sasha, were at home. Both Peter and Sophia Grigorevna received us with affectionate cordiality. We discussed America, our movement there, and conditions in England. Peter had visited the States in 1898, but I was at the time on the Coast and unable to attend his lectures. I knew, however, that his tour had been very successful and that he had left a most gratifying impression. The proceeds of his meetings had helped to revive Solidarity and inject new life into our movement. Peter was particularly interested in my tours through the Middle West and California. "It must be a splendid field," he remarked, "if you can cover the same ground three times in succession." I assure him that it was, and that much of the credit for my success in California had been due to Free Society. "The paper is doing splendid work," he warmly agreed, "but it would do more if it would not waste so much space discussing sex." I disagreed, and we became involved in a heated argument about the place of the sex problem in anarchist propaganda. Peter's view was that woman's equality with man had nothing to do with sex; it was a matter of brains. "When she is his equal intellectually and shares in his social ideals," he said, "she will be as free as he." We both got somewhat excited, and our voices must have sounded as if we were quarreling. Sophia, quietly sewing a dress for her daughter, tried several times to direct our talk into less vociferous channels, but in vain. Peter and I paced the room in growing agitation, each strenuously upholding his side of the question. At last I paused with the remark: "All right, dear comrade, when I have reached your age, the sex question may no longer be of importance to me. But it is now, and it is a tremendous factor for thousands, millions even, of young people." Peter stopped short, an amused smile lighting up his kindly face. "Fancy, I didn't think of that," he replied. "Perhaps you are right, after all." He beamed affectionately upon me, with a humorous twinkle in his eye.

    During dinner I broached the plan for the anti-war meetings. Peter was even more emphatic than Harry had been. It was out of the question, he thought; it would endanger my life; moreover, because I was a Russian, my stand on the war would unfavorably affect the status of the Russian refugees. "I'm not here as a Russian, but as an American," I protested. "Moreover, what do these considerations matter when such a vital issue as war is involved?" Peter pointed out that it mattered very much to people who had death or Siberia staring them in the face. He insisted, nevertheless, that England was still the only asylum in Europe for political refugees and that its hospitality should not be forfeited by meetings.

    My first public appearance in London, in the Atheneum Hall, was a dismal failure. I had caught a severe cold that affected my throat so that my speaking was painful not only to myself but to the audience as well. I could hardly be heard. No less distressing was my nervousness when I learned that the most distinguished Russian refugees and some noted Englishmen had come to hear me. The names of those Russians had always symbolized to me all that was heroic in the struggle against the czars. The thought of their presence filled me with awe. What could I say to such men, and how say it?

    Harry Kelly acted as chairman, straightway proceeding to tell the audience that his comrade Emma Goldman, who had faced squadrons of police in America, had just confided to him that she was panicky before this assembly. The latter thought it a good joke and laughed heartily. Inwardly I raged at Harry, but the good humor of the audience and its evident desire to put me at my ease somewhat relieved my nervous tension. I plodded through my lecture, aware all the time that I was delivering a rotten speech. The questions that followed, however, gave me back my self-possession. I felt more in my element, and I did not care any more who was present. I regained my ordinary determined and aggressive manner.

     My meetings in the East End offered no difficulties. There I was among my people; I knew their lives, hard and barren everywhere, but more so in London. I was able to find the right words to reach them; I was my own self in their midst. My nearer comrades were a warm and genial lot. The moving spirit of the work in the East End was Rudolph Rocker, a young German, who presented the peculiar phenomenon of a Gentile editor of a Yiddish paper. He had not associated much with Jews until he came to England. In order to fit himself the better for his activities in the ghetto, he had lived among the Jews and mastered their language. As editor of the Arbeiter Freund and by his brilliant lectures Rudolph Rocker was doing more for the education and revolutionizing of the Jews in England than the ablest members of their own race.

     The same good-fellowship which prevailed among my Jewish comrades was evident also in the English anarchist circles, especially in the group that published Freedom. That monthly had gathered about it a coterie of able contributors and workers who co-operated most harmoniously. It was a joy to find things going so well, to meet the dear old friends and make so many new ones.

     At a social evening at the Kropotkins', I met a number of illustrious people, among them Nikolai Tchaikovsky. He had been the genius of the revolutionary movement of the Russian youth in the seventies that crystallized in the famous circles bearing his name. It was a great event to meet the man who was to me the personification of everything that was inspiring in the emancipation movement of Russia. He was of magnificent physique and idealistic appearance, a personality that could easily appeal to young and eager souls. Tchaikovsky was surrounded by friends, but after a while he came over to the corner where I was sitting and engaged me in conversation. Peter had told him that I intended to study medicine. How did I propose to do it and go on with my activities at the same time, he wondered. I explained that I planned to come to England for lectures, during the summer, perhaps even go to America; in any case I did not think of giving up the movement altogether. "Unless you do that," he said, "you'll be a bad doctor; and if you are in earnest about your profession, you'll become a bad propagandist. You can't do both." He advised me to think it over before undertaking something that was sure to destroy my usefulness in the movement. His words disturbed me. I was confident that I could do both things if I was determined enough and continued with my social interests. But somehow he had succeeded in putting doubt into my mind. I began to question myself; did I really want to take five years out of my life to gain a doctor's degree?

    Before long, Harry Kelly came to inform me that some of the comrades had agreed to arrange an anti-war meeting and that steps would be taken to ensure security. Their plan was to bring a score of men from Canning Town, a suburb known for the fighting spirit and strength of its men. They would protect the platform and prevent a possible rush of the jingoes. Tom Mann, the labor man who had played a leading part in the recent dockers' strike, would be asked to preside. I should have to be smuggled into the hall before the patriots could have a chance to do anything, Harry explained. Tchaikovsky was to attend to that.

    On the appointed day, accompanied by my escort, I reached South Place Institute a few hours before the crowd began to gather. Very soon the hall was filled. When Tom Mann stepped on to the platform, there was loud booing, which drowned the applause of our friends. For a time the situation looked hopeless, but Tom was an experienced speaker, skilled in the handling of crowds. The audience soon subsided. When I made my appearance, however, the patriots got out of leash again. Several tried to get on the platform, but the Canning Town men held them back. I stood silent for some moments, not knowing just how to approach the infuriated Britishers. I was certain I could achieve nothing by the direct and blunt manner that had invariably succeeded with my American audiences. Something different was needed, something that would touch their pride. My visit in 1895 and my experiences this time had taught me to know the pride of Englishman in their traditions. "Men and women of England!" I shouted above the din, "I have come here in the firm belief that people whose history is surcharged with the spirit of rebellion and whose genius in every field is a shining star upon the firmament of the world can be naught but liberty- and justice-loving. Nay, more, the immortal works of Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, to mention only the greatest in the galaxy of poets and dreamers of your country, must needs have enlarged your vision and quickened your appreciation of what is the most precious heritage of a truly cultivated people; I mean the race of hospitality and a generous attitude towards the stranger in your midst."

    Complete silence in the hall.

    "Your behavior tonight hardly sustains my belief in the superior culture and breeding of your country," I went on; "or is it that the fury of war has so easily destroyed what it has taken centuries to build up? If that is so, it should be enough to repudiate war. Who is there who would supinely sit by when what is best and highest in a people is being throttled before his very eyes? Certainly not your Shelley, whose song was of liberty and revolt. Certainly not your Byron, whose soul could find no peace when the greatness of Greece was endangered. Not they, not they! And you, are you so forgetful of your past, is there no echo in your soul of your poets' songs, your dreamers' dreams, your rebels' calls?"

    Silence continued, my hearers apparently bewildered by the unexpected turn of my speech, dumbfounded by the high-sounding words and compelling gestures. The audience became absorbed in my talk, carried to a pitch of enthusiasm which finally broke forth in loud applause. After that it was easy sailing. I delivered my lecture on War and Patriotism as I had given it all through the United States, merely changing the parts that had dealt with the causes of the Spanish-American hostilities to those behind the Anglo-Boer War. I concluded with the gist of Carlyle's idea of war as a quarrel between two thieves, themselves too cowardly to fight, compelling boys of one village and another into uniforms with guns in their hands and then letting them loose like ferocious beasts against each other.

    The house went wild. Men and women waved their hats and shouted themselves hoarse in approval. Our resolution, a powerful protest against the war, was read by the Chair and adopted with only one dissenting voice, I bowed in the direction of the objector and said "There is what I call a brave man who deserves our admiration. It requires great courage to stand alone, even if one is mistaken. Let us all join in hearty applause for our daring opponent."

    Even our guard from Canning Town could no longer hold back the surging crowd. But there was no danger any more. The audience had turned from fierce antagonism to equally burning devotion, ready to protect me to the last drop of its blood. In the committee room Tchaikovsky, who had joined in enthusiastic demonstration, waving his hat like an excited youngster, embraced me, praising my mastery of the situation. "I am afraid I was somewhat of a hypocrite," I remarked. "All diplomats are," he replied, "but diplomacy is necessary at times."

    My first mail from America contained letters from Yegor, Ed, and Eric Morton. My brother wrote that Ed had sought him out the day after my departure and had begged him to come back to the house, as he could not bear the loneliness. "You know, my dear Chavele, I always liked Ed," his letter read; "I simply couldn't refuse, and so I went back. Two weeks later Ed brought some woman into the apartment and she has been there ever since. It made me sick to see her among your things, in the atmosphere you had created. That's why I moved out again." Ed had asked Yegor to take the furniture, books, and other things that belonged to me, but he could not do it: he felt too unhappy over the whole matter. Ed had consoled himself quickly, I reflected. Well, why not? I wondered who the woman was.

    Ed's letter contained no mention of the new relationship in his life. He merely inquired what he should do with my things. He was planning to move up-town, he wrote, and he did not want to take what he had always considered mine. I cabled him that I wanted nothing but my books and asked him to pack them in a box and store it with Justus.

    Eric wrote in his usual jovial way. All was well with our plans. A house had been rented, and he was going to move into it with his friend K. They were expecting a strenuous ordeal, because K "was preparing for her forthcoming concert." They had already hired a piano so she could practice, and he would be busy with his invention. The money I had left him would cover the trip of himself and K to Pittsburgh and keep them going for a time. "As to our engineer, T, he seems to suffer from self-importance, but he will do. Everything else when we meet in Paris to celebrate my invention."

    I was amused at the manner in which Eric had worded his letter, with a view to safety, of course. But even I was puzzled by some of its contents. K was no doubt Kinsella, his friend, whom I had met in Chicago. But what on earth did he mean by a concert and a piano? I knew the woman had a good voice and was also a trained pianist, but what would she do with these talents in the house from which the tunnel was to be dug? The "engineer" was apparently "Tony." Evidently he had shown up at last, but it was obvious that Eric did not like him. I hoped that they could get along until the project was completed. I must write dear Eric, I decided, to be very, very patient.

    During my London stay I also spoke at a German meeting arranged by comrades of the Autonomie Club. In the discussion I was attacked by a young German. "What does Emma Goldman know about the life of the workers, anyway?" my opponent demanded; "she never worked in a factory and she's just like the other agitators, having a good time, traveling round and enjoying herself. We, the proletarians, we of the blue blouse, are the only ones who have a right to talk about the suffering of the masses." It was obvious that the boy knew nothing about me, nor did I find it necessary to enlighten him on my work in factories and my knowledge of the lives of the people. But I was intrigued by his reference to the blue blouse. What could that signify, I wondered.

    After the meeting two men of about my own age came up to see me. They begged me not to hold all the comrades responsible for the stupid attack of the youth. They knew him well; he was doing nothing in the movement except boast of his proletarian trade mark, the blue blouse. In the early period of the movement, the men explained, the German intelligentsia began to wear the blue blouse of the workers, partly in protest against conventional and formal attire, but more especially to be able to approach the masses more easily. Since then some charlatans in the social movement had used that mode of dressing as a sign of their adherence to strict revolutionary principles. "And also because they haven't a white shirt," the dark-looking man put in, "or because they don't have to wash their necks so often." I laughed heartily and asked him why he was so vindictive. "Because I can't bear sham!" the man replied almost gruffly. The two introduced themselves as Hippolyte Havel and X, the former a Czech, the latter a German. X soon excused himself, and Havel asked me to take dinner with him.

    My escort was of small stature, very dark, with large eyes gleaming in his pale face. He was dressed fastidiously, even to the point of gloves, which no men in our ranks wore. It struck me as dandyish, especially in a revolutionist. In the restaurant I noticed that Havel took off only one glove, keeping the other on all through the meal. I was on the point of asking him the reason, but he seemed so self-conscious that I did not wish to embarrass him. After a few glasses of wine he became more animated, talking in nervous staccato sentences. He had come to London from Zurich, he told me, and though not long in the city, he knew it well and would be happy to take me about. It would have to be Sunday afternoon, or late in the evening, his only free time.

    Hippolyte Havel proved to be a veritable encyclopedia. He knew everybody and everything in the movement of the various European countries. I detected bitterness in his tone when he spoke of certain comrades in the Autonomie Club. It affected me unpleasantly, but on the whole he was exceedingly entertaining. It was already too late to catch a bus, and Havel hailed a cab to take me home. When I offered to pay the driver, he became incensed. "Just like an American, flaunting your money! I'm working, and I can afford to pay!" he protested. I ventured to suggest that for an anarchist he was strangely conventional to object to a woman's right to pay. Havel smiled for the first time during the whole evening, and I could not help noticing that he had beautiful white teeth. When I shook his hand, still encased in the glove, he gave a suppressed groan. "What is it?" I asked. "Oh, nothing," he replied, "but for a little lady you do have a strong grip."

    There was something strange and exotic about the man. He was evidently very nervous and ungenerous in his estimate of people, Still, he was fascinating, even disturbing.

    My Czech comrade came frequently, sometimes with his friend, but usually alone. He was far from gay company; in fact, he rather depressed me. Unless he had drunk a little, it was difficult to get him to converse; at other times he seemed tongue-tied. Gradually I learned that he had come into the movement when only eighteen and that he had been in prison several times, once for a term of eighteen months. On the last occasion he had been sent to the psychopathic ward, on where he might have remained had he not aroused the interest of Professor Krafft-Ebing, who declared him sane and helped him back to freedom. He had been active in Vienna and expelled from there, after which he had tramped through Germany, lecturing and writing for anarchist publications. He had visited Paris, but was not allowed to remain there long, being expelled. Finally he had gone to Zürich and thence to London. As he had no trade, he was compelled to accept any kind of job. At the time, he was working in an English boarding-house as an all-round man. His duties began at five in the morning and consisted in lighting the fires, cleaning the boots of the guests, washing dishes, and doing other kinds of "degrading and humiliating work." "But why degrading? Labor is never degrading" I protested. "Labor, as it is now, is always degrading!" he insisted vehemently; "in an English boarding-house it is even worse; it is an outrage on all human sensibilities, besides the drudgery it involves. Look at my hands!" With a nervous jerk he tore off his glove and the bandage underneath. His hand, red and swollen, was a mass of blisters. "How did it happen, and how can you keep on working?" I asked. "I got it from cleaning filthy boots in the early morning chill and carrying coals and wood to keep the fires going. What else can I do without a trade in a foreign country? I might starve, sink into the gutter, or end in the Thames," he added. "But I'm not just ready for it. Besides, I'm only one of the many thousands; why fuss about it? Let's talk about more cheerful things." He continued conversing, but I hardly heard what he said. I took his poor blistered hand, conscious of an irresistible desire to put it to my lips, in infinite sympathy and tenderness.

    We went about together a good deal, visiting the poor quarters, Whitechapel and similar districts. On week-days the streets were littered with foul rubbish, and the smell of fried fish was nauseating. On Saturday nights the spectacle was even more harrowing. I had seen drunken women on the Bowery, old social dregs, their scraggy hair loose, their incongruous hats tilted to one side and skirts sweeping the sidewalk. "Bummerkes," the Jewish children called them. It used to make me furious to see the thoughtless youngsters taunt and chase those poor derelicts. But nothing compared in brutality and degradation with the sights I witnessed in the East End of London: drunken women lurching out of the public houses, using the vilest language and fighting until they would literally tear the clothes off one another. Small boys and girls hanging round the drinking-places in sleet and cold, infants in dilapidated carriages in a stupor from the whiskey-soaked "suckers," the elder children keeping watch and greedily drinking the ale their parents would bring out to them from time to time. Too often I saw such pictures, more terrible than any conceived by Dante. Every time, filled with rage, disgust, and shame, I would promise myself never to go back to the East End, yet I would invariably return. When I broached the situation to some of my comrades, they thought me overwrought. Such conditions existed in every large city, they claimed; it was capitalism with its resultant sordidness. Why should I feel more disturbed in London than anywhere else?

    Gradually I began to realize that the pleasure I found in Havel's company was due to more than ordinary comradeship. Love was making its claims again, daily more insistent. I was afraid of it, afraid of the new pain, the new disappointments in store. Yet my need of it in the dismal surroundings was stronger than my apprehensions. Havel, too, cared for me. He had grown more timid, more restless and fidgety. He had been in the habit of coming to see me alone, but one evening he visited me with his friend, who remained for hours and showed no intention of leaving. I suspected that Havel had brought him because he did not trust himself to be alone with me, and that only increased my yearning. Finally, long after midnight, his friend left. No sooner was he gone than we found ourselves, hardly conscious how, in each other's embrace. London receded, the cry of the East End was far away. Only the call of love sounded in our hearts, and we listened and yielded to it.

    I felt reborn with the new joy in my life. We would go together to Paris and later to Switzerland, we decided. Hippolyte also wanted to study and we planned to live very frugally on thirty dollars a month, ten out of my forty going to my brother. Hippolyte thought he could earn a little with articles, but we would not mind if we should have to forgo some comforts. We had each other and our love. But it was first necessary to induce my sweetheart to give up his dreadful job. I wanted him to have a month's rest from his boarding-house grind. It took considerable argument to persuade him, but two weeks away from cleaning filthy boots raised his spirits so much that he seemed a different being.

    One afternoon we called on the Kropotkins. Hippolyte was a great admirer of the Genossenschafts-Bewegung, a co-operative movement more advanced, as he believed, than the British. He soon got into heated discussion with Peter, who did not see any particular merit in the German experiment. I had noticed on previous occasions that Hippolyte could not hold his own in an argument. He would grow irritable and frequently become personal. He tried to avoid it with Peter, but, the discussion presently getting beyond his control, he broke off suddenly and became oppressively silent. Kropotkin was unpleasantly impressed, and, on the pretext of having work to do, I made haste to leave. On the street he began to abuse Peter, denouncing him as the "pope of the anarchist movement," who could not tolerate a dissenting opinion. I felt outraged and we exchanged hot words. By the time we reached my room we realized how childish it was to allow our tempers to becloud our young love.

    Accompanied by Hippolyte, I attended the Russian New Year vetcherinka, which proved a great event for me. There I met some of the outstanding personalities of the Russian colony, among them I. Goldenberg, with whom I had worked in New York in the campaign against the Russian-American Extradition Treaty; E. Serebriakov, well known for his revolutionary activities; V. Tcherkesoff, a prominent theoretician of anarchism, as well as Tchaikovsky and Kropotkin. Almost everyone present had a record of heroic effort, of years of prison and exile. Among those present was also Michael Hambourg, with his sons Mark, Boris, and Jan, already promising musicians.

    The affair was more sedate than similar gatherings in New York. Serious problems were discussed, only the younger people caring to dance. Later in the evening Peter entertained us at the piano, while Tcherkesoff swung twelve-year-old Sasha Kropotkin round the floor, their example followed by some of the others. Tchaikovsky, towering high above me, bowed comically when he asked me to dance. It was a memorable evening

    In Glasgow, the first stop on my Scottish tour, the meetings had been arranged by our good comrade Blair Smith, who was also my host. Everybody was very kind and friendly to me, but the city itself proved a nightmare, in some respects even worse than London. On a Saturday night, returning home on the tramway, I counted seven children on the street, dirty and undernourished, staggering along with their mothers, all under the influence of drink.

    Edinburgh was a treat after Glasgow, spacious, clean, and attractive, with poverty not so obvious. It was there I first met Tom Bell, of whose propagandistic zeal and daring we had heard much in America. Among his exploits was a free-speech experiment he had made while in Paris. He had urged the French anarchists to make a stand for open-air meetings, on the English plan, but the Paris comrades considered such an attempt impossible. Tom decided to demonstrate that it was feasible to speak in the open regardless of the police.

    He distributed handbills announcing that on the following Sunday afternoon he would, on his own responsibility, hold an open-air meeting at the Place de la République, one of the busy centers of Paris. When he reached the square at the appointed time, there was a great crowd waiting. As he made his way to the center of the Place, several police agents approached him. Not sure whether he was the announced speaker, they hesitated a moment. Tom had picked out his lamp-post, one with a big ornamental base half-way up and a cross-piece at the top. Just as the police stepped up to him, he sprang up the post. His feet were firm on the base, and in a second his wrist was chained to the cross-piece. He had secured by a padlock a strong steel chain round his wrist, and now he quickly whipped the two ends round the cross-piece and fastened them by another padlock that locked automatically. The police got after him at once, but they could do nothing; the man was securely chained. They sent for a file. Meanwhile the crowd kept increasing and Tom went on nonchalantly talking to them. The officers raged, but he continued his speech till his voice gave out. Then he produced the key, opened the padlock and coolly came down. The police threatened him with terrible things "for insults to the Army and the law," but all Paris laughed at them and held them up to ridicule. The authorities thought it best to hush up the matter, and Tom was not prosecuted. After a fortnight in jail he was expelled as "too dangerous a man to be allowed loose in France."

    Another of Tom Bell's exploits took place on the occasion of the visit of Czar Nicholas II to England. The Queen was at Balmoral at the time. The royal schedule was to have the Czar land at Leith, where he would be met by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) subsequently he was to come to Windsor and London.

    Tom Bell agreed with his friend to help in the reception of the Czar. McCabe had a shriveled hand and arm, but he was as game as Tom. Together they laid their plans. They were in Edinburgh at the time, and when they reached Leith, they found an enormous number of police at the dock, including British, Russian, and French secret-service men. The streets were barricaded and lined all the way by soldiers and bobbies, with detectives swarming everywhere. Behind the barricade was a row of Highlanders; behind them territorials, these again supported by infantry. The situation looked hopeless -- no chance for any action. Tom Bell and McCabe decided to separate; "each knew that the other would do his damnedest," as Tom afterwards said. He heard a faint cheer from the school-children as the pretty uniforms went by. Then came the carriages. The Czar's was easily distinguished. Tom made out the Russian autocrat sitting in the back seat, the Prince of Wales facing him. It seemed impossible to do anything, up to the last moment, and it was possible only at that moment and at no other. The guards had been alert and vigilant till --- just as the Czar's carriage came level with them. In an instant Tom dived right through them, under the barricade and to the side of the carriage, shouting into the Czar's face: "Down with the Russian tyrant! To hell with all the empires!" Just at that moment he became conscious of his friend Mac, who had also got through, also shouting close by.

    The British authorities did not dare bring Bell and McCabe before a Scottish jury. Most probably they feared that prosecution would mean more publicity. Not one word appeared in the papers about the incident. "The Czar appeared pale," they wrote. No doubt. He cut his visit short, going home again, not through Leith or any other Scottish seaport, but from an obscure fishing-village, whence he was taken to his yacht by boat.

    I was naturally eager to meet the adventurous comrade. I found him living with John Turner's sister Lizzie, the lovely girl I had met in London in 1895. Tom was a very sick man, suffering from asthma, but he was picturesque --- tall, with red hair and beard, just the type capable of unusual performances. I departed from England for Paris, together with Hippolyte, arriving in that city on a drizzling January morning and stopping in a hotel on Boulevard Saint-Michel. Four years previously, in 1896, I had visited the city on my way from Vienna. That experience had been a great disappointment. The people I then stopped with, German anarchists, lived in a suburb, worked hard during the day, and were too tired to go out at night, and my French was not sufficient to enable me to go about alone. On the only free Sunday, friends had taken me to the Bois de Boulogne. Outside of that I had seen practically nothing of Paris, which I had longed so much to know, but I had promised myself that some day I would return to enjoy the delights of the wonderful city.

    Now the opportunity was at hand at last, made more wonderful the rebirth of love in my life. Hippolyte had been in Paris before and knew its charms; he made a perfect companion. For a month we were completely engrossed in the wonders of the city and in each other. Every street, every stone almost, had its revolutionary story, every district its heroic legend. The beauty of Paris, her reckless youth, her thirst for joy and ever-changing moods, held us in their sway. The Mur des Fédérés at Pére Lachaise revived the memory of the high hopes and the black despair of the last days of the Commune. It was there that the rebels had made their last heroic stand, finally to be slain by order of Thiers and Galliffet. Place de la Bastille, once the dreaded tomb of the living dead, razed to the ground by the accumulated wrath of the people of Paris, brought back to us the unspeakable pain and suffering that glowed into regenerating hope in the days of the great revolution, whose history had so much influenced our own lives.

    Our cares and worries were forgotten in the world of beauty, in the treasures of architecture and art, created by the genius of man. The days were passing like a dream from which one feared to awaken. But I had come to Paris also for another purpose. It was time to begin the preparatory work for our congress.

    France had been the cradle of anarchism, fathered for a long time by some of her most brilliant sons, of whom Proudhon was the greatest. The battle for their ideal had been strenuous, involving persecution, imprisonment, and often even the sacrifice of life. But it had not been in vain. Thanks to them anarchism and its exponents had come to be regarded in France as a social factor to be reckoned with. No doubt the French bourgeoisie continued to dread anarchism and to persecute it through the machinery of the State. I had occasion to witness the brutal manner in which the French police handled radical crowds, as well as proceedings in the French courts when dealing with social offenders. Still, there was a vast difference in the approach and methods used by the French in dealing with anarchists from the American way. It was the difference between a people seasoned in revolutionary traditions and one which had merely skimmed the surface of a struggle for independence. That difference was everywhere apparent, strikingly so in the anarchist movement itself. In the various groups I did not meet a single comrade who used the high-sounding term "philosophic" to mask his anarchism, as many did in America, because they thought it more respectable.

    We were soon carried into the tide of the varied activities that went on in the anarchist ranks. The revolutionary-syndicalist movement, given new impetus by the fertile mind of Pelloutier, was permeated with anarchist tendencies. Nearly all the leading men of the organization were outspoken anarchists. The new educational efforts, known as the Université Populaire, were backed almost exclusively by anarchists. They had succeeded in enlisting the support and co-operation of university men in every field of learning, giving popular lectures on various branches of science before large classes of workers. Neither were the arts neglected. The volumes of Zola, Richepin, Mirbeau, and Brieux and the splendid plays produced in the Thêatre Antoine were a part of anarchist literature similar to the writings of Kropotkin, while the works of Meunier, Rodin, Steinlen, and Grandjouan were discussed and appreciated in revolutionary ranks to a greater extent than by the bourgeois elements that lay claim to being the sponsors of art. It was inspiring to visit the anarchist groups, watch their efforts, and observe the growth of our ideas on French soil.

    My studies of the movement, however, did not allay my personal interest in people, always stronger with me than theories. Hippolyte was quite the reverse; he disliked meeting people and he was diffident in their presence. After a short while I knew nearly every one of the leading personalities in our movement in France, as well as those connected with other social work in Paris. Among the latter was the circle of L'Humanité Nouvelle, which published a magazine of the same name. Its able editor, Auguste Hamon, author of La Psychologie du Militaire, as also its contributors, belonged to a group of young artists and writers keenly alive to their time and its needs.

    Of the people I met I was most impressed by Victor Dave. He was an old comrade who during forty years had participated in anarchist activities in various European countries. He had been a member of the first International, a coworker of Michael Bakunin, and the teacher of Johann Most. He had begun a brilliant career as a student of history and philosophy, but later he chose to dedicate himself to his social ideal. I had learned much of Dave's history from Johann Most, who greatly admired him. I also knew the part he had played in the events that led to the accusations against Peukert in connection with the arrest and conviction of John Neve. Dave was still certain of Peukert's guilt, yet there was no trace of personal animosity in him. He was kindly and jovial. Though sixty, he was as alert in mind and spirit as in his student days. Eking out a meager existence as contributor to anarchist and other publications, he yet retained the buoyancy and humor of youth. I spent much time with him and his lifelong companion, Marie, an invalid for many years, but still interested in public affairs. Victor was a great linguist and as such invaluable in helping me to arrange the material I had brought for the congress and in making translations into different languages.

     The most fascinating thing about Victor Dave was his innate feeling for life and the ready enjoyment of fun. He was the freest and gayest comrades I met in Paris, a companion after my own good humor was often marred by Hippolyte's fits of extreme depression. From the very first he had taken a strong dislike to Victor. He would refuse to join us on our outings, yet peevishly resent having been left behind. Ordinarily his feeling would express itself in mute reproach, but the least quantity of liquor would incite him to abuse Victor. At first I took his outbreaks lightly, but gradually they began to affect me, making me uneasy when I was away from him. I loved the boy; I knew his unhappy past had left wounds in his soul that made him morbidly self-conscious and suspicious. I wanted to help him to a better understanding of himself and a broader approach to others. I hoped that my affection would soften his virulence. When sober, he regretted his attacks on Victor, and at such moments he would be all tenderness, clinging to our love. It led me to hope that he might out-grow his acrimonious moods. But the scenes kept recurring, and my apprehension increased.

     In the course of time I time I realized that Hippolyte's resentment was against Victor, but against every man of my acquaintance. Two Italians I had worked with in behalf of Cuban freedom, as well as during the Summit strike, arrived in Paris to attend the Exposition. They came to see me and invited me out to dinner. On my return I found Hippolyte in a ferment of wrathful indignation. Some time later my good friend Palavicini came over with his wife and child. Hippolyte immediately began to concoct impossible stories about the man. Life with Hippolyte was growing more distressing, yet I could not think of parting.

From : Anarchy Archives


January 23, 2017 16:05:38 :
Volume 1, Chapter 21 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

September 23, 2017 13:22:14 :
Volume 1, Chapter 21 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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