Living My Life : Volume 1, Chapter 31
(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.)
• "...slavery of any kind, compulsion under any form, must break down, and from which freedom, full and unlimited freedom, for all and from all must come." (From : "Anarchy Defended By Anarchists," by Emma Goldman ....)
• "It is the private dominion over things that condemns millions of people to be mere nonentities, living corpses without originality or power of initiative, human machines of flesh and blood, who pile up mountains of wealth for others and pay for it with a gray, dull and wretched existence for themselves." (From : "What I Believe," by Emma Goldman, New York World,....)
• "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....)
Volume 1, Chapter 31
OUR HEARINGS ON THE CHARGE OF CRIMINAL ANARCHY WERE repeatedly postponed and finally dropped altogether. That set me free to start on my projected tour to the Coast, the first since 1897. Before I had gone very far, my meetings were stopped by the police in three cities--Columbus, Toledo, and Detroit.
The action of the authorities in Toledo was especially reprehensible because the Mayor, Brand Whitlock, was supposed to be a man of advanced ideas, known as a Tolstoyan and "philosophical" anarchist. I had met a number of American individualists who called themselves philosophical anarchists. On closer acquaintance they invariably proved neither philosophers nor anarchists, and their belief in free speech always had a "but" to it.
Mayor Whitlock, however, was also a single-taxer, a member of a group of Americans who stood out as the most valiant champions of free speech and press. In fact, the single-taxers had always been the first to support me in my fights against police interference. I was therefore greatly surprised to find a single-tax mayor guilty of the same arbitrary attitude as any ordinary city official. I asked some of his admirers how they could explain such behavior on the part of a man like Whitlock. Much to my astonishment, they informed me that he was under the impression that I had come to Toledo for the express purpose of fomenting trouble among the automobile-workers then on strike. He was trying to bring about a settlement between the bosses and their employes, and he thought it best not to permit me to speak.
"Evidently your Mayor knows that his settlement is likely to benefit the owners and not the strikers," I remarked, "else he would not fear what I might say."
I informed them that until I arrived in Toledo, I had not even known about the strike. I had come to lecture on the "Misconceptions of Anarchism." I cheerfully admitted, however, that if the strikers asked me to speak, I should tell them to steer clear of politicians, who are the worst meddlers and who help to break the backbone of every economic struggle. This was reported to a group of American liberals, who at once set to work to arrange a special meeting for me.
The most spirited among them was a venerable old woman, Mrs. Kate B. Sherwood. In abolition times she had helped many a fugitive slave to safety, and she did not change with the years. She was a fervent feminist, a great libertarian in economic and educational fields, as well as a lovable personality. The dear lady must have read the Riot Act to the Mayor, because there was no further interference in Toledo with my lectures.
In Minneapolis I had an amusing experience. I was invited to address an organization of professional men known as the Spook Club. I was told that no woman had ever before been admitted into the holy presence of the Spookers, but that I had been made an exception. Not believing in special privileges, I wrote to the club that in my capacity as nurse I had never known nervousness when I had to lay out the dead. But to face living corpses alone would prove disconcerting to me. I would brave the task of preparing the Spookers for burial if I could have a few husky members of my own sex to assist me. The poor Spook Club was flabbergasted. To consent to my request involved the danger of a female invasion.To refuse was to expose themselves to public ridicule. Male conceit conquered its lily-white purity. "Bring your regiment along, Emma Goldman," the Spookers replied, "and take the consequences." My women friends and I created almost a revolution in the club. Alas, not in the heads, but only in the hearts of the Spookers. We made them conscious that there is nothing duller in all the world than exclusive gatherings of men or of women, who are yet never able to eliminate each other from their minds. On this occasion everybody felt relief from sex obsession, natural and at ease. The evening was very interesting. Indeed, I was assured that it was considered the most stimulating intellectual treat in the club's history, and the most hilarious besides.
The liberal attitude of the Spookers towards me was only part of the general change which had taken place in the past six years in regard to anarchism. The tone of the press was no longer so vindictive. The papers in Toledo, Cincinnati, Toronto, Minneapolis, and Winnipeg were extraordinarily decent in their reports of my meetings. In a long editorial one Winnipeg paper said:
After my coast-to-coast lecture tour I returned to New York at the end of June with a net result of a considerable number of subscribers to Mother Earth and a substantial surplus from the sale of literature to sustain the magazine during the inactive summer months.
In the early spring our European comrades had issued a call for an anarchist congress to be held in Amsterdam, Holland, in August. Some of the groups in the cities I had visited had requested me to attend the gathering as their delegate. It was gratifying to have the confidence of my comrades, and Europe always had its lure for me. But there was Sasha, only one year out of prison, and I had already been away from him for months. I longed to see him again and to try to bridge the gap which his imprisonment had created between us.
Sasha had done splendidly on Mother Earth while I was away. He had surprised everybody by the vigor of his style and the clarity of his thoughts. It was an amazing achievement for a man who had gone into prison ignorant of the English language and who had never written for publication before. His letters to me during my four months on tour were free from depression, and he showed much interest in the magazine and my work. I was proud of Sasha and his efforts, and I was full of hope that we might yet dispel the clouds that had been hanging in our sky since he had reentered the outside world. These considerations made me hesitate to go to Amsterdam. I would decide when I reached New York, I told my comrades.
On my return I found Sasha as I had left him--in the same mental turmoil, in torturing conflict between the vision that had inspired his deed and the reality that confronted him now. He continued to dwell in the past, in the mirage he had created for himself during his living death. Everything in the present was alien to him, made him wince and avoid it. It was bitter irony that I, of all Sasha's friends, should cause him the deepest disappointment and pain--I who had never had him out of my mind in all the cruel years, or out of my heart, no matter who else had been there, not even Ed, whom I had loved more deeply and intensely than anyone else. Yet it was I who most roused Sasha's impatience and resentment; not in a personal sense, but because of the changes I had undergone in my attitude to life, to people, and to our movement. We did not seem to have a single thought in common. Yet I felt bound to Sasha, bound for ever by the tears and blood of fourteen years.
Often, when I could no longer bear up under his censure and condemnation, I would fight back with harsh and bitter words, then run to my room and cry out in pain against the differences that were tearing us apart. Yet I would always come back to Sasha, feeling that whatever he had said or done was nothing in the light of what he had endured. I knew that would ever weigh heaviest in the balance with me and bring me to his side at every moment of his need. Just now it seemed that I was of little help. Sasha appeared to feel more at ease when I was away.
I decided to comply with the request of my Western comrades to represent them at the anarchist congress. Sasha said he would continue on the magazine until my return, but that his heart was not in Mother Earth. He wanted a weekly propaganda paper that would reach the workers. He had already discussed the project with Voltairine de Cleyre, Harry Kelly, and other friends. They had agreed with him that such a paper was needed and had promised to sign an appeal for the necessary funds. They had been worried, however, that I might misunderstand, that I might consider the new publication a competitor of Mother Earth. "What a ridiculous notion," I protested; "I claim no monopoly of the movement. By all means try to get out a weekly paper. I will add my name to the call." Sasha was quite moved, embraced me tenderly, and sat down to write the appeal. My poor boy! If only I could have had the assurance that his project would bring him peace, help him back to life and to the work his mastery of language and his pen should enable him to do!
More and more I was beginning to see that there was an inner resentment in Sasha, perhaps not even conscious, against being part of the activities I had created for myself. He longed for something of his own making, something that would express his own self. I hoped fervently that the weekly paper would prove the means of his release and that it might succeed.
I was getting ready for my trip abroad; Max was going, too, representing some German groups at the Amsterdam congress. We both needed to get away from our environment for a while. The farm had not turned out the roseate reality he had hoped for. A farm never does for city people who come to the land with romantic notions about nature and with no ability to cope with her hardships. Our place in Ossining had proved too primitive and the winter too harsh for Max's little daughter. Another reason was the isolation of Millie, which she was unable to bear. My friends had moved to the city and were trying desperately to make ends meet, Max by occasional articles for German papers and contributions to Mother Earth, Millie by sewing. The stress she had endured since the birth of her child had made her nervous and irritable, and Max shrank into his shell at the least disharmony. Like myself he longed to get away from conditions that were agonizing, yet of no one's making.
Sasha was much more alive now, thanks to his plan for a weekly paper. There was also another factor that helped to raise his spirits. He had gained many friends among our young comrades, and he was especially attracted by young Becky Edelson. I felt considerably relieved about him. Mother Earth also did not worry me; I left it secure until my return and I was certain of its quality, with Sasha as its editor, and John Coryell, Hippolyte Havel, and others as collaborators.
Hippolyte and I had long ago drifted apart in our old relation, but our friendship had remained as strong as before, as had also our common interest in the social struggle. His great historical knowledge and his feeling for events made him most valuable to our magazine.
In the middle of August 1907 Max and I waved our friends goodbye from the Holland-America pier. Besides our mission at the congress, we both looked upon our trip as a quest for something to fill our inner void. The calm sea and the ever-soothing companionship of Max helped me to relax from the tension of the months preceding and following Sasha's liberation. By the time we reached Amsterdam, I was again in full control of myself, eager with anticipation of the people I should meet, our congress, and the work to be done.
I had heard a great deal about the extreme cleanliness of the Dutch, but until I went for a walk in Amsterdam on the morning after our arrival, I did not know how uncomfortable Hollanders could make it for the passersby. I had gone out with Max to take a look at the quaint old town. We found every balcony adorned with buxom servants in colorful dress, arms and legs bare, furiously beating carpets and rugs. A pleasant picture indeed, but the whirlwind of dust and dirt they were lustily shaking on to our defenseless heads filled our throats and covered our clothes. Still we could have stood it if we had not been at the same time treated to a shower of cold water meant for the plants. The unexpected bath was more than the Dutch cleanliness we had bargained for.
The congress was my third attempt to attend an international anarchist gathering. In 1893 such a conclave had been planned, and it was to take place during that year's exposition in Chicago. I had been chosen to represent several New York groups, but my trial and imprisonment had prevented my attendance. At the eleventh hour the Chicago police had prohibited the congress, but it was held just the same--in the most unlikely place imaginable. A comrade, employed as clerk in one of the city departments, had smuggled a dozen delegates into a room in the City Hall.
The second time had been in Paris, in 1900, where I was closely connected with the preparatory work of our congress. The French police, too, had made open conferences impossible. The sessions held under cover, while exciting enough, had made constructive work impossible.
It was certainly a commentary on democratic America and republican France that an international anarchist congress, prohibited in both countries, should have the right to meet quite openly in monarchical Holland. Eighty men and women, most of them hounded and persecuted in their own countries, were here able to address large meetings, gather in daily session, and discuss openly such vital problems as revolution, syndicalism, mass insurrection, and individual acts of violence, without any interference from the authorities. We went about the city singly or in groups, had social gatherings in restaurants or cafés, talked, and sang revolutionary songs until early morning hours, yet we were not shadowed, spied upon, or in any way molested.
More remarkable still was the attitude of the Amsterdam press. Even the most conservative newspapers treated us, not as criminals or lunatics, but as a group of serious people who had come together for a serious purpose. Those papers were opposed to anarchism, yet they did not misrepresent us or distort anything said at our sessions.
One of the vital subjects discussed at length by the congress was the problem of organization. Some delegates deprecated Ibsen's idea, as presented by Dr. Stockmann in An Enemy of the People, to the effect that the strongest is he who stands alone. They preferred Peter Kropotkin's view, so brilliantly elucidated in all his books, that it is mutual aid and co-operation that secure the best results. Max and I, however, stressed the need of both. We held that anarchism does not involve a choice between Kropotkin and Ibsen; it embraces both. While Kropotkin had thoroughly analyzed the social conditions that lead to revolution, Ibsen had portrayed the psychologic struggle that culminates in the revolution of the human soul, the revolt of individuality. Nothing would prove more disastrous to our ideas, we contended, than to neglect the effect of the internal upon the external, of the psychologic motives and needs upon existing institutions.
There is a mistaken notion in some quarters, we argued, 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 the formation of the complete organism, so does the individuality, by co-operative effort with other individualities, attain its 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. 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 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.
There were many interesting and vital personalities in the group of delegates, among them Dr. Friedberg, once member of the Social Democratic Party and Alderman of Berlin, who had become a brilliant exponent of the general strike and anti-militarism. Notwithstanding an indictment for high treason hanging over him, he took a most active part in the proceedings of the congress, oblivious of the danger awaiting him on his return home. There were also Luigi Fabbri, one of the ablest contributors to the educational Italian magazine Università Populare; Rudolph Rocker, who was doing splendid work among the Jewish population of London as lecturer and editor of the Yiddish Arbeiter Freind; Christian Cornelissen, one of the keenest intellects in our movement in Holland; Rudolph Grossmann, publisher of an anarchist paper in Austria; Alexander Schapiro, active among revolutionary trade unions in England; Thomas H. Keell, one of our most devoted workers on the London Freedom; and other capable and energetic comrades.
The French, Swiss, Belgian, Austrian, Bohemian, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Dutch delegates were all men of spirit and ability, but the most outstanding personality among them was Enrico Malatesta. Of fine and sensitive nature, Malatesta had already in his youth embraced revolutionary ideals. Later he met Bakunin, in whose circle he was the youngest, affectionately called "Benjamin." He wrote a number of popular pamphlets that found wide distribution, particularly in Italy and Spain, and he was editor of various anarchist publications. But his literary activities did not prevent him from participating also in the actual daily struggles of the workers. He had played an important rôle, together with the celebrated Carlo Cafiero and the famous Russian revolutionist Sergius "Stepniak" (Kravtchinsky), in the uprising in Benevento, Italy, in 1877. His interest in popular rebellion runs like a red thread throughout his life. Whether he happened to be in Switzerland, France, England, or the Argentine, an uprising in his native country always brought him to the aid of the people. In 1897 he had again taken an active part in the rebellion in southern Italy. His entire life was one of storm and stress, his energies and exceptional abilities devoted to the service of the anarchist cause. But whatever his work in the movement, he always insisted on remaining materially independent of it, earning his living by manual labor, which was a principle of his life. The considerable inheritance from his father, consisting of land and houses in Italy, he had deeded without any remuneration to the workers who occupied them, himself continuing to exist most frugally on the earnings of his own hands. His name was one of the best-known and best-beloved in Latin countries.
I had met this grand old anarchist fighter in London in 1895, for a few brief moments. On my second visit, in 1899, I discovered that Enrico Malatesta had gone to the States to lecture and edit the Italian anarchist paper La Questione Sociale. While there, he was shot by a deluded Italian patriot, but Enrico, true anarchist that he was, refused to prosecute his assailant. In Amsterdam I had the first real chance to come into daily contact with him. Max and I quickly fell under the spell of Malatesta. We loved his capacity to throw off the weight of the world and give himself to play in his leisure. Every moment spent with him was a joy, whether he exulted over the sight of the sea or frolicked in a public garden.
The most important constructive result of our congress was the formation of an International Bureau. Its secretariate consisted of Malatesta, Rocker, and Schapiro. The purpose of the bureau, the headquarters of which were in London, was to bring into closer contact the anarchist groups and organizations of the various countries, to make a thorough and painstaking study of the labor struggle in every land, and to supply data and material concerning it to the anarchist press. The bureau was also to begin immediate preparations for another congress, to be held in the near future in London.
Upon the closing of our sessions we attended the anti-militarist congress, arranged by the Dutch pacifist anarchists, among whom Domela Nieuwenhuis was the most prominent. Domela's origin had certainly not forecast his becoming an enemy of authority. His ancestors were nearly all ministers of the Church. He himself had been a preacher of the Lutheran faith, but his progressive spirit lifted him out of the narrow path of theology. Domela joined the Social Democratic Party, became its foremost representative in Holland, and was elected the first Socialist member of Parliament. But he did not remain there very long. Like Johann Most and the great French anarchist Pierre Proudhon, Nieuwenhuis soon realized that nothing vital could come for liberty from parliamentary activities. He resigned his post, declaring himself an anarchist.
Since then he had devoted all his time and large private fortune to our movement, especially to the propaganda of anti-militarism. Domela was of striking and winning appearance--tall and straight, with expressive features, large blue eyes, flowing white hair and beard. He radiated kindness and sympathy and was the embodiment of the ideal he fought for. One of his characteristic traits was a broad tolerance. He was for years a vegetarian and teetotaler, yet meat and wine never left his table. "Why should my family or guests be deprived of anything that I do not care for?" he once said as he poured out the wine for us at dinner.
Before we left for France, I had occasion to address a gathering of Dutch transport workers. Once more I saw the difference between the independence of the Dutch workers, in spite of their monarchy, and democratic United States, where most of the people know precious little of independence. Several detectives had sneaked into the meeting. They were discovered by the committee, however, and were unceremoniously put out. I could not help comparing this show of spirit to the lack of it in American trade unions, so infested with the Pinkerton detective pest.
At last we were back in Paris, her lure again upon me, her reckless youth in my veins. I grew younger and more eager for all that my beloved city on the Seine could give. There was much more to learn and to absorb than in previous years.
There was also my own Stella, whom I had not seen for many months. She and dear old Victor Dave awaited us at the station and carried us off to a café. Stella was already quite Parisienne, proud of her French and her familiarity with restaurants where the cuisine was good and prices reasonable. Victor, his hair whiter, still preserved his youthful gait and his former capacity for fun. We joked and laughed more during our first dinner in Paris than I had laughed in months. The particular cause for our merriment was Stella's unsuspecting boss, no less a personage than the American Consul, whose secretary she was. Emma Goldman's devoted niece, and still the Consulate had not been blown up!
While we were yet in Holland, news had come that Peter Kropotkin had at last been readmitted to France. Peter loved the country and its people. To him France signified the cradle of liberty, the French Revolution the symbol of all that the world had of social idealism. To be sure, France was very short of the glory my great teacher had invested her with; his own eighteen months' incarceration in a French prison and subsequent expulsion had demonstrated it. Yet by some peculiar partiality Peter hailed France as the banner-bearer of freedom and the most cultured country in the world. We knew that nothing he had personally suffered had changed his feeling about the French people, and we rejoiced that he was now able to satisfy his longing to return.
Peter was already in Paris when we arrived, living but a few doors from my hotel, on Boulevard Saint-Michel. I found him in higher spirits than I had ever seen him before; he looked more vigorous and vivacious. Pretending not to know the reason, I inquired what had brought about the happy change. "Paris, Paris, my dear!" he cried. "Is there any other city in the world that gets into one's blood like Paris?" We discussed the movement in France and the work of the local groups. His favorite child was Temps Nouveaux, the paper he had helped to establish, yet his sense of the rights of other groups, even if they disagreed with him, was too great and his love of justice too strong to discourage the opposing elements. There was something large and beautiful about him. No one could be in his presence very long without feeling inspired by him.
Though he was busy with many things, especially the revision of his manuscript of The Great French Revolution, Peter would not let me go until I had told him everything about our congress. He was particularly pleased with our stand on organization and our insistence on the right of individual as well as collective revolt.
With the help of Monatte I was able to make a study of syndicalism in action at the Confédération du Travail. The leaders were nearly all anarchists, men of a much sturdier and more interesting type than one usually meets in Paris. Not only were Pouget, Pataud, Delasalle, Grueffulhieus, and Monatte brilliant exponents of new labor theories; they also had practical knowledge and experience in the daily struggle of the workers. Together with their colleagues they had converted the Bourse du Travail into a beehive of activity. Every union had its office there; many published their papers in the common printing shop, La Voix du Peuple, the weekly organ of the C. G. T., being perhaps the most instructive and ably edited labor paper in the world. There were night classes where the workers were taught every aspect of the intricate industrial system. Lectures were given on scientific and economic subjects, and a well-equipped dispensary and crèche were maintained by the workers themselves. The institution represented a practical effort to teach the masses how to make the coming revolution and how to help the new social life to birth.
Observation and study at the very source of syndicalism convinced me that it represented the economic arena where Labor could match its strength against the organized forces of its capitalist foe.
To these experiences were added others, no less enlightening, with the group of modern artists who by pen and brush were voicing the social protest, with Steinlen and Grandjuan doing the most forceful work. I did not find Steinlen, but Grandjuan proved to be a simple, kindly soul, a born rebel, the artist and idealist in the truest sense. He was at work on a set of drawings depicting phases of proletarian life. His idea was to portray Labor, pathetic in dumb helplessness, slowly awakening to the consciousness of germinating strength. He expressed his belief that the mission of art is to inspire the vision of a new dawn. "In this respect all our artists are revolutionaries," Grandjuan assured me. "Steinlen and the others are doing for art what Zola, Mirbeau, Richepin, and Rictus have done for letters. They are bringing art in rapport with the currents of life, the great human struggle for the right to know and live life."
I spoke to Grandjuan about Mother Earth and what it had been trying to do in America. He at once offered to make a cover-design for it, and before I left Paris, he sent it to me. It was significant in conception and expressive in its design.
The trial of nine anti-militarists and a splendid educational experiment at Rambouillet, near Paris, by Sébastien Faure, were among my other important experiences during this visit to France. The group involved in the trial consisted of one girl and eight boys, the oldest not more than twenty-three years of age. They had distributed a manifesto among soldiers urging them to use their arms against their superiors instead of against their brother working-men--certainly a very grave offense from the standpoint of military interests. In an American court those youths would have been browbeaten, terrorized, and railroaded to prison for a long term. In Paris they became the accusers, thundering anathema against the State, patriotism, militarism, and war. Far from being interfered with, the defiant denunciation of the young prisoners was listened to with attention and respect. The bold plaidoirie of the counsel for the defense, the distinguished persons who came to testify to the idealism of the accused, and the entire atmosphere of the court combined to make the anti-militarist trial one of the most dramatic events I had witnessed.
True, the prisoners were found guilty and sentenced to small terms, the longest being three years. Since it was France, the girl was set free altogether. In my adopted country their punishment would have been incomparably more severe and they would have undoubtedly been held also for contempt of court because of their frank avowal of their opinions and acts and the ridicule they heaped on the judge and the prosecuting attorney.
It struck me that behind the difference between American and French legal procedure was a fundamental difference in attitude to social revolt. Frenchmen had gained from their Revolution the understanding that institutions are neither sacred nor unalterable, and that social conditions are subject to change. Rebels are therefore considered in France the precursors of coming upheavals.
In America the ideals of the Revolution are dead--mummies that must not be touched. Hence the hatred and condemnation which meet the social and political rebel in the United States.
Long before I came to Paris, I had read in our French press of a unique educational experiment by the anarchist Sébastien Faure. I had heard him speak in 1900 and was carried away by his truly great eloquence. Moreover, Sébastien Faure's unusual personal history made me feel that the modern school organized by him must be of more than ordinary interest.
Beginning life as a priest, Faure had broken the shackles of Catholicism and become its formidable foe. In 1897, during the Dreyfus affair, he had joined the campaign led by Emile Zola, Anatole France, Bernard Lazare, and Octave Mirbeau against the reactionary forces in France. Faure became a fervent spokesman of Dreyfus, lecturing throughout the country, exposing the military clique that had railroaded an innocent man to Devil's Island to cover its own corruption. After that, Faure completely emancipated himself from belief in authority, whether in heaven or upon earth. Anarchism became his goal, the work for its achievement his passionate endeavor.
"La Ruche" (the Beehive), as Faure's school was called, was situated on the outskirts of Rambouillet, an ancient French village. With only a few people to help him, Faure had turned a wild, uncultivated stretch of land into a flourishing farm growing fruit and vegetables. He had taken twenty-four orphan children and those of parents too poor to pay and was housing, feeding, and clothing them at his own expense. He had created an atmosphere at La Ruche that released the life of the child from discipline and coercion of any sort. He had discarded the old methods of education and in their place he established understanding for the needs of the child, confidence and trust in its possibilities, and respect for its personality.
Not even at Cempuis, the school of the venerable libertarian Paul Robin, which I had visited in 1900, was the spirit of comradeship and co-operation between pupils and teachers so complete as at La Ruche. Robin, too, felt the need of a new approach to the child, but he still remained somewhat tied to the old text-books on education. La Ruche had freed itself also from them. The hand-painted wall-paper in the dormitory and class-rooms, picturing the life of plants, flowers, birds, and animals, had a more quickening effect on the imagination of the children than any "regular" lessons. The free grouping of the children around their teachers, listening to some story or seeking explanation for puzzling thoughts, amply made up for lack of old-fashioned instruction. In discussing problems of the education of the young, Faure showed an exceptional grasp of child psychology. The results accomplished by his school within two years were highly gratifying. "It is surprising how frank, kind, and affectionate the children are to each other," he said. "The harmony between themselves and the adults at La Ruche is highly encouraging. We should feel at fault were the children 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 affection, sternness." 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 it unfold its petals and to observe it develop into a true individuality?
My visit to La Ruche was a valuable experience that made me realize how much could be done, even under the present system, in the way of libertarian education. To build the man and woman of the future, to unshackle the soul of the child--what grander task for those who, like Sébastien Faure, are pedagogues, not by the mere grace of a college degree, but innately, born with the gift to create, as the poet or the artist is?
Paris, always enriching one with new impressions, made it difficult for me to leave. Many friends had also endeared themselves to me, among them Max Nettlau, whom I had first met in London in 1900 and who had introduced me there to the museums and other British art treasures. In Paris I saw much of Nettlau. He was one of the most intellectual men of our movement, a scientist and historian. At the time he was collecting additional material for his monumental work on Michael Bakunin.
A few days before we left Paris, there arrived Jo Davidson, the young American sculptor. I had known him in New York and was interested in his work. He had found a studio, he told us, but there was not much in it. I had quite an outfit in my ménage --- dishes, pots, kettles, a coffee-percolator, and an alcohol lamp on which I had often prepared feasts for a dozen visitors. In triumphal procession we carried the swag through the streets, Jo with a large bundle on his back, Max on one side of him, frying-pan and kettle slung over his shoulders, I on the other with the coffee-pot. When everything had been safely deposited in Jo's studio, we retired to a café to celebrate the inauguration of a budding artist in real Bohemian life.
Amid brilliant sunshine Max and I left Paris. It was bleak and penetrating when we reached London, with no change in the weather during our stay of two weeks. The first thing to greet us on our arrival were press dispatches from America reporting that the Federal authorities were planning to keep me out of the country under the provisions of the Anti-Anarchist Law. I paid no attention to the matter at first, believing it to be a newspaper fabrication. I was a citizen by my marriage to Kershner. Before long, letters from several attorney friends in the United States confirmed the rumors. They informed me that Washington was determined to refuse me readmission, and they urged me to sail back as quickly and quietly as possible.
Meetings for me had already been arranged in Scotland and I felt I ought not to disappoint my comrades. I decided to go on with my work, but soon I was made to realize that I should not be able to leave England without the United States Government's being apprized of my movements.
It was after a lecture in Holborn Town Hall in London that I became aware that I was being watched by Scotland Yard. A score of detectives dogged my heels from the moment I left the meeting-place. Rudolph Rocker, Milly, his wife, Max, and several other friends were with me at the time. We zigzagged London for hours, now and then stopping at restaurants and saloons, but our "shadows" kept close by and would not relinquish their prey. Finally the Rockers suggested that we go to their flat in the East End; we must lead the detectives to believe that we were going to spend the night at their home, which would be our only chance to get away unobserved early in the morning. The lights in the house were turned out and we sat in the dark, conspiring how to delude Scotland Yard. At dawn Milly went down to reconnoiter. No one was in sight. Friends in another part of the city were awaiting us. We were taken to a suburb, to the house of our horticulturist comrade Bernard Kampfmayer. He and his wife were not active in the movement at the time and therefore not under surveillance by the authorities. I hated to disappoint our Scottish comrades, but I could not afford to risk being held up on my arrival in America and forced into a legal fight. I therefore resolved to return home. After three days with our hosts, Max and I left for Liverpool, sailing from there to New York via Montreal.
The Canadian immigration authorities proved less inquisitive than the American and we experienced no trouble whatever getting into Canada. On the way from Montreal to New York the Pullman porter took our tickets, together with a generous tip, and he did not show up again until we were safely in New York. It was two weeks later, at my first public appearance, that the newspapers learned of my being back in the States. They tried frantically to find out how I had managed to get in and I suggested that they inquire of the immigration authorities.
On my return I found Mother Earth in a deplorable condition financially. Very little had come in during my absence, and the monthly expenses had far exceeded the amount I had left for the maintenance of the magazine. Something had to be done at once, and, being the only one who could raise funds, I lost no time in arranging various affairs to secure aid for the publication and also decided upon an immediate tour.
Sasha's critical attitude to me had not changed; if anything, it had become more pronounced. At the same time his interest in young Becky had grown. I became aware that they were very close to each other, and it hurt me that Sasha did not feel the need of confiding in me. I knew that he was not communicative by nature, yet something within me felt both offended and injured at his apparent lack of trust. I had realized even before I left for Europe that my physical attraction for Sasha had died with his prison years. I had clung to the hope that when he learned to understand my life, to know that my having loved others had not changed my love for him, his old passion would flame up again. It was painful to see that the new love that had come to Sasha completely excluded me. My heart rebelled against the cruel thing, but I knew that I had no right to complain. While I had experienced life in all its heights and depths, Sasha had been denied it. For fourteen years he had been starved for what youth and love could give. Now it had come to him from Becky, ardent and worshipful as only an eager girl of fifteen can be. Sasha was two years younger than I, thirty-six, but he had not lived for fourteen years, and in regard to women he had remained as young and naïve as he had been at twenty-one. It was natural that he should be attracted to Becky rather than to a woman of thirty-eight who had lived more intensely and variedly than other women double her age. I saw it all clearly enough, yet at the same time I felt sad that he should seek in a child what maturity and experience could give a hundredfold.
Barely five weeks after my return from Europe I was again on a tramp through Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the State of New York. Then came Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D. C., and Pittsburgh. The Chief of Police in Washington at first announced that he would not let me speak. When some prominent liberals called his attention to the fact that he had no business to interfere with the right of free speech, he told my committee that they could go ahead with my meetings. At the same time he revoked the license of the hallkeeper. When the owner threatened a legal fight, the Chief issued a temporary license permitting entertainments and meetings "not objectionable to the district authorities." My meetings did not take place.
Pittsburgh brought back many memories--Sasha's martyrdom and the pilgrimages I used to make to the prison, the hopes I had cherished and that had not been fulfilled. Yet gladness was in my soul: Sasha had escaped his prison grave and I had had a large share in bringing it about. No one could take that consolation away from me.
From : Anarchy Archives
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Living My Life
Current Work in Living My Life
Volume 1, Chapter 31
Next Work in Living My Life >>
All Nearby Works in Living My Life