Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist : Part 1, Chapter 6 : The Jail
(1870 - 1936) ~ Globe-Trotting Anarchist, Journalist, and Exposer of Bolshevik Tyranny : He was a well-known anarchist leader in the United States and life-long friend of Emma Goldman, a young Russian immigrant whom he met on her first day in New York City. The two became lovers and moved in together, remaining close friends for the rest of Berkman's life. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "It must always be remembered - and remembered well - that revolution does not mean destruction only. It means destruction plus construction, with the greatest emphasis on the plus." (From : "The Russian Tragedy," by Alexander Berkman, The R....)
• "Or will the workers at last learn the great lesson Of the Russian Revolution that every government, whatever its fine name and nice promises is by its inherent nature, as a government, destructive of the very purposes of the social revolution? It is the mission of government to govern, to subject, to strenghten and perpetuate itself. It is high time the workers learn that only their own organized, creative efforts, free from Political and State interference, can make their age-long struggle for emancipation a lasting success." (From : "The Russian Tragedy," by Alexander Berkman, The R....)
• "But the 'triumph' of the Bolsheviki over Kronstadt held within itself the defeat of Bolshevism. It exposes the true character of the Communist dictatorship. The Communists proved themselves willing to sacrifice Communism, to make almost any compromise with international capitalism, yet refused the just demands of their own people -- demands that voiced the October slogans of the Bolsheviki themselves: Soviets elected by direct and secret ballot, according to the Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R.; and freedom of speech and press for the revolutionary parties." (From : "The Kronstadt Rebellion," by Alexander Berkman, 1....)
Part 1, Chapter 6
THE DAYS RING with noisy clamor. There is constant going and coming. The clatter of levers, the slamming of iron doors, continually reverberates through the corridors. The dull thud of a footfall in the cell above hammers on my head with maddening regularity. In my ears is the yelling and shouting of coarse voices.
"Cell num-ber ee-e-lev-ven! To court! Right a-way!"
A prisoner hurriedly passes my door. His step is nervous, in his look expectant fear.
"Hurry, there! To court!"
"Good luck, Jimmie."
The man flushes and averts his face, as he passes a group of visitors clustered about an overseer.
"Who is that, Officer?" One of the ladies advances, lorgnette in hand, and stares boldly at the prisoner. Suddenly she shrinks back. A man is being led past by the guards. His face is bleeding from a deep gash, his head swathed in bandages. The officers thrust him violently into a cell. He falls heavily against the bed. "Oh, don't! For Jesus' sake, don't!" The shutting of the heavy door drowns his cries.
The visitors crowd about the cell.
"What did he do? He can't come out now, Officer?"
"No, ma'am. He's safe."
The lady's laugh rings clear and silvery. She steps closer to the bars, eagerly peering into the darkness. A smile of exciting security plays about her mouth.
"What has he done, Officer?"
"Stole some clothes, ma'am."
Disdainful disappointment is on the lady's face. "Where is that man who-er-we read in the papers yesterday? You know- the newspaper artist who killed-er-that girl in such a brutal manner."
"Oh, Jack Tarlin. Murderers' Row, this way, ladies."
The sun is slowly nearing the blue patch of sky, visible from my cell in the western wing of the jail. I stand close to the bars to catch the cheering rays. They glide across my face with tender, soft caress, and I feel something melt within me. Closer I press to the door. I long for the precious embrace to surround me, to envelop me, to pour its soft balm into my aching soul. The last rays are fading away, and something out of my heart is departing with them.... But the lengthening shadows on the gray flagstones spread quiet. Gradually the clamor ceases, the sounds die out. I hear the creaking of rusty hinges, there is the click of a lock, and all is hushed and dark.
The silence grows gloomy, oppressive. It fills me with mysterious awe. It lives. It pulsates with slow, measured breathing, as of some monster. It rises and falls; approaches, recedes. It is Misery asleep. Now it presses heavily against my door. I hear its quickened breathing. Oh, it is the guard! Is it the death watch? His outline is lost in the semi-darkness, but I see the whites of his eyes. They stare at me, they watch and follow me. I feel their gaze upon me, as I nervously pace the floor. Unconsciously my step quickens, but I cannot escape that glint of steel. It grimaces and mocks me. It dances before me: it is here and there, all around me. Now it flits up and down; it doubles, trebles. The fearful eyes stare at me from a hundred depressions in the wall. On every side they surround me, and bar my way.
I bury my head in the pillow. My sleep is restless and broken. Ever the terrible gaze is upon me, watching, watching, the white eyeballs turning with my every movement.
The line of prisoners files by my cell. They walk in twos, conversing in subdued tones. It is a motley crowd from the ends of the world. The native of the western part of the State, the "Pennsylvania Dutchman," of stolid mien, passes slowly, in silence. The son of southern Italy, stocky and black-eyed, alert suspicion on his face, walks with quick, nervous step. The tall, slender Spaniard, swarthy and of classic feature, looks about him with suppressed disdain. Each, in passing, casts a furtive glance into my cell. The last in the line is a young negro, walking alone. He nods and smiles broadly at me, exposing teeth of dazzling whiteness. The guard brings up the rear. He pauses at my door, his sharp eye measuring me severely, critically.
"You may fall in."
The cell is unlocked, and I join the line. The negro is at my side. He loses no time in engaging me in conversation. He is very glad, he assures me, that they have at last permitted me to "fall in." It was a shame to deprive me of exercise for four days. Now they will "call de night-dog off. Must been afeared o' soocide," he explains.
His flow of speech is incessant; he seems not a whit disconcerted by my evident disinclination to talk. Would I have a cigarette? May smoke in the cell. One can buy "de weed" here, if he has "de dough"; buy anything 'cept booze. He is full of the prison gossip. That tall man there is Jack Tinford, of Homesteadsure to swing-threw dynamite at the Pinkertons. That little "dago" will keep Jack company-cut his wife's throat. The "Dutchy" there is "bugs"-choked his son in sleep. Presently my talkative companion volunteers the information that he also is waiting for trial. Nothing worse than second degree murder, though. Can't hang him, he laughs gleefully. "His" man didn't "croak" till after the ninth day. He lightly waves aside my remark concerning the ninth-day superstition. He is convinced they won't hang him. "Can't do't," he reiterates, with a happy grin. Suddenly he changes the subject. "Wat am yo doin' heah? Only murdah cases on dis ah gal'ry. Yuh man didn' croak!" Evidently he expects no answer, immediately assuring me that I am "all right." "Guess dey b'lieve it am mo' safe foah yo. But can't hang yo, can't hang yo." He grows excited over the recital of his case. Minutely he describes the details. "Dat big niggah, guess 'e t'ot I's afeared of 'm. He know bettah now," he chuckles. "Dis ah chili am afeared of none ov'm. Ah ain't. 'Gwan 'way, niggah,' Ah says to 'm; 'yo bettah leab mah gahl be.' An' dat big black niggah grab de cleaveh,— we's in d'otel kitchen, yo see. 'Niggah, drop dat,' Ah halloos, an' he come at me. Den dis ah coon pull his trusty li'lle brodeh," he taps his pocket significantly, "an' Ah lets de ornery niggah hab it, Plum'in de belly, yassah, Ah does, an'he drop his cleaveh an' Ah pulls mah knife out, two inches, 'bout, an' den Ah gives it half twist like, an' shoves it in 'gen." He illustrates the ghastly motion. "Dat bad niggah neveh botheb me 'gen, noh nobody else, Ah guess. But dey can't hang me, no sah, dey can't, 'cause mah man croak two weeks later. Ah's lucky, yassah, Ah is." His face is wreathed in a broad grin, his teeth shimmer white. Suddenly he grows serious. "Yo am strikeh? No-o-o? Not a steel-woikeh?" with utter amazement. "What yo wan' teh shoot Frick foah?" He does not attempt to disguise his impatient incredulity, as I essay an explanation. "Afeared t' tell. Yo am deep all right, Ahlick-dat am yuh name? But yo am right, yassah, yo am right, Doan' tell nobody. Dey's mos'ly crooks, dat dey am, an' dey need watchin' sho'. Yo jes' membuh dat."
There is a peculiar movement in the marching line. I notice a prisoner leave his place. He casts an anxious glance around, and disappears in the niche of the cell door. The line continues on its march, and, as I near the man's hiding place, I hear him whisper, "Fall back, Aleck." Surprised at being addressed in such familiar manner, I slow down my pace. The man is at my side,
"Say, Berk, you don't want to be seen walking with that 'dinge.",
The sound of my shortened name grates harshly on my ear. I feel the impulse to resent the mutilation. The man's manner suggests a lack Of respect, offensive to my dignity as a revolutionist.
"Why?" I ask, turning to look at him.
He is short and stocky. The thin lips and pointed chin of the elongated face suggest the fox. He meets my gaze with a sharp look from above his smoked-glass spectacles. His voice is husky, his tone unpleasantly confidential. It is bad for a white man to be seen with a "nigger," he informs me. It will make feeling against me. He himself is a Pittsburgh man for the last twenty years, but he was "born and raised" in the South, in Atlanta. They have no use for "niggers" down there, he assures me. They must be taught to keep their place, and they are no good, anyway. I had better take his advice, for he is friendly disposed toward me. I must be very careful of appearances before the trial. My inexperience is quite evident, but he "knows the ropes." I must not give "them" an opportunity to say anything against me. My behavior in jail will weigh with the judge in determining my sentence. He himself expects to "get off easy." He knows some of the judges. Mostly good men. He ought to know: helped to elect one of them; voted three times for him at the last election. He closes the left eye, and playfully pokes me with his elbow. He hopes he'll "get before that judge." He will, if he is lucky, he assures me. He had always had pretty good luck. Last time he got off with three years, though he nearly killed "his" man. But it was in self-defense. Have I got a chew of tobacco about me? Don't use the weed? Well, it'll be easier in the "pen." What's the pen? Why, don't I know? The penitentiary, of course. I should have no fear. Frick ain't going to die. But what did I want to kill the man for? I ain't no Pittsburgh man, that he could see plain. What did I want to "nose in" for? Help the strikers? I must be crazy to talk that way. Why, it was none of my "cheese." Didn't I come from New York? Yes? Well, then, how could the strike concern me? I must have some personal grudge against Frick. Ever had dealings with him? No? Sure? Then it's plain "bughouse," no use talking. But it's different with his case. It was his partner in business. He knew the skunk meant to cheat him out of money, and they quarreled. Did I notice the dark glasses he wears? Well, his eyes are bad. He only meant to scare the man. But, damn him, he croaked. Curse such luck. His third offense, too. Do I think the judge will have pity on him? Why, he is almost blind. How did he manage to "get his man"? Why, just an accidental shot. He didn't mean to
The gong intones its deep, full bass.
The line breaks. There is a simultaneous clatter of many doors, and I am in the cell again.
Within, on the narrow stool, I find a tin pan filled with a dark-brown mixture. It is the noon meal, but the "dinner" does not look inviting: the pan is old and rusty; the smell of the soup excites suspicion. The greasy surface, dotted here and there with specks of vegetable, resembles a pool of stagnant water covered with green slime. The first taste nauseates me, and I decide to "dine" on the remnants of my breakfast-a piece of bread.
I pace the floor in agitation over the conversation with my fellow-prisoners. Why can't they understand the motives that prompted my act? Their manner of pitying condescension is aggravating. My attempted explanation they evidently considered a waste of effort. Not a striker myself, I could and should have had no interest in the struggle,-the opinion seemed final with both the negro and the white man. In the purpose of the act they refused to see any significance,-nothing beyond the mere physical effect. It would have been a good thing if Frick had died, because "he was bad." But it is "lucky" for me that he didn't die, they thought, for now "they" can't hang me. My remark that the probable consequences to myself are not to be weighed in the scale against the welfare of the People, they had met with a smile of derision, suggestive of doubt as to my sanity. It is, of course, consoling to reflect that neither of those men can properly be said to represent the People. The negro is a very inferior type of laborer; and the other-he is a bourgeois I "in business." He is not worth while. Besides, he confessed that it is his third offense. He is a common criminal, not an honest producer. But that tall man-the Homestead steel- worker whom the negro pointed out to me-oh, he will un- derstand: he is of the real People. My heart wells up in admiration of the man, as I think of his participation in the memorable struggle of Homestead. He fought the Pinkertons, the myrmidons of Capital. Perhaps he helped to dynamite the barges and drive those Hessians out of town. He is tall and broad-shouldered, his face strong and determined, his body manly and powerful. He is of the true spirit; the embodiment of the great, noble People: the giant of labor grown to his full stature, conscious of his strength. Fearless, strong, and proud, he will conquer all obstacles; he will break his chains and lib- erate mankind.
Next morning, during exercise hour, I watch with beating heart for an opportunity to converse with the Homestead steelworker. I shall explain to him the motives and purpose of my attempt on Frick. He will understand me; he will himself enlighten his fellow-strikers. It is very important they should comprehend my act quite clearly, and he is the very man to do this great service to humanity. He is the rebel-worker; his heroism during the struggle bears witness. I hope the People will not allow the enemy to hang him. He defended the rights of the Homestead workers, the cause of the whole working class. No, the People will never allow such a sacrifice. How well he carries himself! Erect, head high, the look of conscious dignity and strength
"Cell num-b-ber fi-i-ve!"
The prisoner with the smoked glasses leaves the line, and advances in response to the guard's call. Quickly I pass along the gallery, and fall into the vacant place, alongside of the steel-worker.
"A happy chance," I address him. I should like to speak to you about something important. You are one of the Homestead strikers, are you not?"
"Jack Tinford," he introduces himself. "What's your name?"
He is visibly startled by my answer. "The man who shot Frick?" he asks.
An expression of deep anxiety crosses his face. His eye wanders to the gate. Through the wire network I observe visitors approaching from the Warden's office.
"They'd better not see us together," he says, impatiently. "Fall in back of me. Then we'll talk."
Pained at his manner, yet not fully realizing its significance, I slowly fall back. His tall, broad figure completely hides me from view. He speaks to me in monosyllables, unwillingly. At the mention of Homestead he grows more communicative, talking in an undertone, as if conversing with his neighbor, the Sicilian, who does not understand a syllable of English. I strain my ear to catch his words. The steel-workers merely defended themselves against armed invaders, I hear him say. They are not on strike: they've been locked out by Frick, because he wants to non-unionize the works. That's why he broke the contract with the Amalgamated, and hired the damned Pinkertons two months before, when all was peace. They shot many workers from the barges before the millmen "got after them." They deserved roasting alive for their unprovoked murders. Well, the men "fixed them all right." Some were killed, others committed suicide on the burning barges, and the rest were forced to surrender like whipped curs. A grand victory all right, if that coward of a sheriff hadn't got the Governor to send the militia to Homestead. But it was a victory, you bet, for the boys to get the best of three hundred armed Pinkertons. He himself, though, had nothing to do with the fight. He was sick at the time. They're trying to get the Pinkertons to swear his life away. One of the hounds has already made an affidavit that he saw him, Jack Tinford, throw dynamite at the barges, before the Pinkertons landed. But never mind, he is not afraid. No Pittsburgh jury will believe those lying murderers. He was in his sweetheart's house, sick abed. The girl and her mother will prove an alibi for him. And the Advisory Committee of the Amalgamated, too. They know he wasn't on the shore. They'll swear to it in court, anyhow.
Abruptly he ceases, a look of fear on his face. For a moment he is lost in thought. Then he gives me a searching look, and smiles at me. As we turn the corner of the walk, he whispers: "Too bad you didn't kill him. Some business misunderstanding, eh?" he adds, aloud.
Could he be serious, I wonder. Does he only pretend? He faces straight ahead, and I am unable to see his expression. I begin the careful explanation I had prepared:
"Jack, it was for you, for your people that I-"
Impatiently, angrily he interrupts me. I'd better be careful not to talk that way in court, he warns me. If Frick should die, I'd hang myself with such "gab." And it would only harm the steel-workers. They don't believe in killing; they respect the law. Of course, they had a right to defend their homes and families against unlawful invaders. But they welcomed the militia to Homestead. They showed their respect for authority. To be sure, Frick deserves to die. He is a murderer. But the mill- workers will have nothing to do with Anarchists. What did I want to kill him for, anyhow? I did not belong to the Homestead men. It was none of my business. I had better not say anything about it in court, or-
The gong tolls.
I pass a sleepless night. The events of the day have stirred me to the very depths. Bitterness and anger against the Homestead striker fill my heart. My hero of yesterday, the hero of the glorious struggle of the People,-how contemptible he has proved himself, how cravenly small! No consciousness of the great mission of his class, no proud realization of the part he himself had acted in the noble struggle. A cowardly, overgrown boy, terrified at to-morrow's punishment for the prank he has played! Meanly concerned only with his own safety, and willing to resort to lying, in order to escape responsibility.
The very thought is appalling. It is a sacrilege, an insult to the holy Cause, to the People. To myself, too. Not that lying is to be condemned, provided it is in the interest of the Cause. All means are justified in the war of humanity against its enemies. Indeed, the more repugnant the means, the stronger the test of one's nobility and devotion. All great revolutionists have proved that. There is no more striking example in the annals of the Russian movement than that peerless Nihilistwhat was his name? Why, how peculiar that it should escape me just now! I knew it so well. He undermined the Winter Palace, beneath the very dining-room of the Czar. What debasement, what terrible indignities he had to endure in the role of the servile, simple-minded peasant carpenter. How his proud spirit must have suffered, for weeks and months,-all for the sake of his great purpose. Wonderful man! To be worthy of your comradeship.... But this Homestead worker, what a pygmy by comparison. He is absorbed in the single thought of saving himself, the traitor. A veritable Judas, preparing to forswear his people and their cause, willing to lie and deny his participation. How proud I should be in his place: to have fought on the barricades, as he did! And then to die for it,-ah, could there be a more glorious fate for a man, a real man? To serve even as the least stone in the foundation of a free society, or as a plank in the bridge across which the triumphant People shall finally pass into the land of promise?
A plank in the bridge... In the most.' What a significant name! How it impressed me the first time I heard it! No, I saw it in print, I remember quite clearly. Mother had just died. I was dreaming of the New World, the Land of Freedom. Eagerly I read every line of "American news." One day, in the little Kovno library-how distinctly it all comes back to me-I can see myself sitting there, perusing the papers. Must get acquainted with the country. What is this? "Anarchists hanged in Chicago." There are many names-one is "Most." "What is an Anarchist?" I whisper to the student near by. He is from Peter,' he will know. "S-sh! Same as Nihilists." "In free America?" I wondered.
How little I knew of America then! A free country, indeed, that hangs its noblest men. And the misery, the exploitation,it's terrible. I must mention all this in court, in my defense. No, not defense-some fitter word. Explanation! Yes, my explanation. I need no defense: I don't consider myself guilty. What did the Warden mean? Fool for a client, he said, when I told him that I would refuse legal aid. He thinks I am a fool. Well, he's a bourgeois, he can't understand. I'll tell him to leave me alone. He belongs to the enemy. The lawyers, too. They are all in the capitalist camp. I need no lawyers. They couldn't explain my case. I shall not talk to the reporters, either. They are a lying pack, those Journalistic hounds Of capitalism. They always misrepresent us. And they know better, too. They wrote columns Of interviews with Most when he went to prison. All lies. I saw him off myself; he didn't say a word to them. They are our worst enemies. The Warden said that they'll come to see me to-morrow. I'll have nothing to Say to them. They're Sure to twist MY Words, and thus impair the effect of my act. It is not complete without my explanation. I shall prepare it very carefully. Of course, the jury won't understand. They, too, belong to the capitalist class. But I must use the trial to talk to the People. To be sure, an Attentat on a Frick is in itself splendid propaganda. It combines the value of example with terroristic effect. But very much depends upon my explanation. It offers me a rare opportunity for a broader agitation of our ideas. The comrades outside will also use my act for propaganda. The People misunderstand us: they have been prejudiced by the capitalist press. They must be enlightened; that is out glorious task. Very difficult and Slow Work, it is true; but they will learn. Their patience will break, and then-the good People, they have always been too kind to their enemies. And brave, even in their suffering. Yes, very brave. Not like that fellow, the steel-worker. He is a disgrace to Homestead, the traitor....
I pace the cell in agitation. The Judas-striker is not fit to live. Perhaps it would be best they should hang him. His death would help to open the eyes of the People to the real character of legal justice. Legal justice-what a travesty! They ale mutually exclusive terms. Yes, indeed, it would be best he should be hanged. The Pinkerton will testify against him. He saw lack throw dynamite. Very good. Perhaps others will also swear to it. The judge will believe the Pinkertons. Yes, they will hang him.
The thought somewhat soothes my perturbation. At least the cause, of the People will benefit to some extent. The man himself is not to be considered. He has ceased to exist: his interests are exclusively personal; he can be of no further benefit to the People. Only his death can aid the Cause. It is best for him to end his career in the service of humanity. I hope he will act like a man on the scaffold. The enemy should not gloat over his fear, his craven terror. They'll see in him the spirit of the People. Of course, he is not worthy of it. But he must die like a rebel-worker, bravely, defiantly. I must speak to him about it.
The deep bass of the gong dispels my reverie.
There is a distinct sense of freedom in the solitude of the night. The day's atmosphere is surcharged with noisome anxiety, the hours laden with impending terrors. But the night is soothing. For the first time I feel alone, unobserved. The "nightdog has been called off." How refinedly brutal is this constant care lest the hangman be robbed of his prey! A simple precaution against suicide, the Warden told me. I felt the naive stupidity of the suggestion like the thrust of a dagger. What a tremendous chasm in our mental attitudes! His mind cannot grasp the impossibility of suicide before I have explained to the People the motive and purpose of my act. Suicide? As if the mere death of Frick was my object! The very thought is impossible, insulting. it outrages me that even a bourgeois should so meanly misjudge the aspirations of an active revolutionist. The insignificant reptile, Frick,-as if the mere man were worth a terroristic effort! I aimed at the many-headed hydra whose visible representative was Frick. The Homestead developments had given him temporary prominence, thrown this particular hydra-head into bold relief, so to speak. That alone made him worthy of the revolutionist's attention. Primarily, as an object lesson; it would strike terror into the soul of his class. They are craven-hearted, their conscience weighted with guilt,-and life is dear to them. Their strangling hold on labor might be loosened. Only for a while, no doubt. But that much would be gained, due to the act of the Attentater. The People could not fail to realize the depth of a love that will give its own life for their cause. To give a young life, full of health and vitality, to give all, without a thought of self; to give all, voluntarily, cheerfully; nay, enthusiastically-could any one fail to understand such a love?
But this is the first terrorist act in America. The People may fail to comprehend it thoroughly. Yet they will know that an Anarchist committed the deed. I will talk to them from the courtroom. And my comrades at liberty will use the opportunity to the utmost to shed light on the questions involved. Such a deed must draw the attention of the world. This first act of voluntary Anarchist sacrifice will make the workingmen think deeply. Perhaps even more so th an the Chicago martyrdom. The latter was preeminently a lesson in capitalist justice. The culmination of a plutocratic conspiracy, the tragedy of 1887 lacked the element of voluntary Anarchist self - sacrifice in the interests of the People. In that distinctive quality my act is initial. Perhaps it will prove the entering wedge. The leaven of growing oppression is at work. It is for us, the Anarchists, to educate labor to its great mission. Let the world learn of the misery of Homestead. The sudden thunderclap gives warning that beyond the calm horizon the storm is gathering. The lightning of social protest
"Quick, Ahlick! Plant it." Something white flutters between the bars. Hastily I read the newspaper clipping. Glorious! Who would have expected it? A soldier in one of the regiments stationed at Homestead called upon the line to give "three cheers for the man who shot Frick." My soul overflows with beautiful hopes. Such a wonderful spirit among the militia; perhaps the soldiers will fraternize with the strikers. It is by no means an impossibility: such things have happened before. After all, they are of the People, mostly workingmen. Their interests are identical with those of the strikers, and surely they hate Frick, who is universally condemned for his brutality, his arrogance. This soldier-what is his name? lams, W. L. lams-he typifies the best feeling of the regiment. The others probably lack his courage. They feared to respond to his cheers, especially because of the Colonel's presence. But undoubtedly most of them feel as lams does. It would be dangerous for the enemy to rely upon the Tenth Pennsylvania. And in the other Homestead regiments, there must also be such noble lamses. They will not permit their comrade to be court- martialed, as the Colonel threatens. lams is not merely a militia man. He is a citizen, a native. He has the right to express his opinion regarding my deed. if he had condemned it, he would not be punished. May he not, then, voice a favorable sentiment? No, they can't punish him. And he is surely very popular among the soldiers. How manfully he behaved as the Colonel raged before the regiment, and demanded to know who cheered for "the assassin of Mr. Frick," as the imbecile put it. lams stepped out of the ranks, and boldly avowed his act. He could have remained silent, or denied it. But he is evidently not like that cowardly steel-worker. He even refused the Colonel's offer to apologize.
Brave boy! He is the right material for a revolutionist. Such a man has no business to belong to the militia. He should know for what purpose it is intended: a tool of capitalism in the enslavement of labor. After all, it will benefit him to be court-martialed. it will enlighten him. I must follow the case. Perhaps the negro will give me more clippings. It was very generous of him to risk this act of friendship. The Warden has expressly interdicted the passing of newspapers to me, though the other prisoners are permitted to buy them. He discriminates against me in every possible way. A rank ignoramus: he cannot even pronounce "Anarchist." Yesterday he said to me: "The Anachrists are no good. What do they want, anyhow?" I replied, angrily: "First you say they are no good, then you ask what they want." He flushed. "Got no use for them, anyway." Such an imbecile! Not the least sense of justice- he condemns without knowing. I believe he is aiding the detectives. Why does he insist I should plead guilty? I have repeatedly told him that, though I do not deny the act, I am innocent. The stupid laughed outright. "Better plead guilty, you'll get off easier. You did it, so better plead guilty." In vain I strove to explain to him: "I don't believe in your laws, I don't acknowledge the authority of your courts. I am innocent, morally." The aggravating smile of condescending wisdom kept playing about his lips. "Plead guilty. Take my advice, plead guilty."
Instinctively I sense some presence at the door. The small, cunning eyes of the Warden peer intently through the bars. I feel him an enemy. Well, he may have the clipping now if he wishes. But no torture shall draw from me an admission incriminating the negro. The name Rakhmetov flits through my mind. I shall be true to that memory.
"A gentleman in my office wishes to see you," the Warden informs me.
"Who is he?"
"A friend of yours, from Pittsburgh."
"I know no one in Pittsburgh. I don't care to see the man."
The Warden's suave insistence arouses my suspicions. Why should he be so much interested in my seeing a Stranger? Visits are privileges, I have been told. I decline the privilege. But the Warden insists. I refuse. Finally he Orders me out of the cell. Two guards lead me into the hallway. They halt me at the head of a line of a dozen men. Six are counted off, and I am assigned to the seventh place. I notice that I am the only one in the line wearing glasses. The Warden enters from an inner office, accompanied by three Visitors. They pass down the row, scrutinizing each face. They return, their gaze fixed on the men. One of the strangers makes a motion as if to put his hand on the shoulder of the man on my left. The Warden hastily calls the visitors aside. They converse in whispers, then walk up the line, and pass slowly back, till they are alongside of me. The tall stranger puts his hand familiarly on my shoulder, exclaiming:
"Don't you recognize me, Mr. Berkman? I met you on Fifth Avenue, right in front of the Telegraph building."'
"I never saw you before in my life."
"Oh, yes! You remember I spoke to you-"
"No, you did not," I interrupt, impatiently.
"Take him back," the Warden commands.
I protest against the perfidious proceeding. "A positive identification," the Warden asserts. The detective had seen me "in the company of two friends, inspecting the office of Mr. Frick." Indignantly I deny the false statement, charging him with abetting the conspiracy to involve my comrades. He grows livid with rage, and orders me deprived of exercise that afternoon.
The Warden's role in the police plot is now apparent to me. I realize him in his true colors. Ignorant though he is, familiarity with police methods has developed in him a certain shrewdness: the low cunning of the fox seeking its prey. The good-natured smile masks a depth of malice, his crude vanity glorying in the successful abuse of his wardenship over unfortunate human beings.
This new appreciation of his character clarifies various incidents heretofore puzzling to me. My mail is being detained at the office, I am sure. It is impossible that my New York comrades should have neglected me so long: it is now over a week since my arrest. As a matter of due precaution, they would not communicate with me at once. But two or three days would be sufficient to perfect a Deckadresse. Yet not a line has reached me from them. It is evident that my mail is being detained.
My reflections rouse bitter hatred of the Warden. His infamy fills me with rage. The negro's warning against the occupant of the next cell assumes a new aspect. Undoubtedly the man is a spy; placed there by the Warden, evidently. Little incidents, insignificant in themselves, add strong proof to justify the suspicion. It grows to conviction as I review various circumstances concerning my neighbor. The questions I deemed foolish, prompted by mere curiosity, I now see in the light of the Warden's role as volunteer detective. The young negro was sent to the dungeon for warning me against the spy in the next cell. But the latter is never reported, notwithstanding his continual knocking and talking. Specially privileged, evidently. And the Warden, too, is hand-in-glove with the police. I am convinced he himself caused the writing of those letters he gave me yesterday. They were postmarked Homestead, from a pretended striker. They want to blow up the mills, the letter said; good bombs are needed. I should send them the addresses of my friends who know how to make effective explosives. What a stupid trap! One of the epistles sought to involve some of the strike leaders in my act. In another, John Most was mentioned. Well, I am not to be caught with such chaff. But I must be on my guard. it is best I should decline to accept mail. They withhold the letters of my friends, anyhow. Yes, I'll refuse all mail.
I feel myself surrounded by enemies, open and secret. Not a single being here I may call friend; except the negro, who, I know, wishes me well. I hope he will give me more clippings, - perhaps there will be news of my comrades. I'll try to "fall in" with him at exercise to-morrow.... Oh! they are handing out tracts. Tomorrow is Sunday,-no exercise!
The Lord's day is honored by depriving the prisoners of dinner. A scanty allowance of bread, with a tincupful of black, unsweetened coffee, constitutes breakfast. Supper is a repetition of the morning meal, except that the coffee looks thinner, the tincup more rusty. I force myself to swallow a mouthful by shutting my eyes. It tastes like greasy dishwater, with a bitter suggestion of burnt bread.
Exercise is also abolished on the sacred day. The atmosphere is pervaded with the gloom of unbroken silence. In the afternoon, I hear the creaking of the inner gate. There is much swishing of dresses: the good ladies of the tracts are being seated. The doors on Murderers' Row are opened partly, at a fif - teen-degree angle. The prisoners remain in their cells, with the guards stationed at the gallery entrances.
All is silent. I can hear the beating of my heart in the oppressive quiet. A faint shadow crosses the darksome floor; now it oscillates on the bars. I hear the muffled fall of felt-soled steps. Silently the turnkey passes the cell, like a flitting mystery casting its shadow, athwart a troubled soul. I catch the glint of a revolver protruding from his pocket.
Suddenly the sweet strains of a violin resound in the corridor. Female voices swell the melody, "Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee." Slowly the volume expands; it rises, grows more resonant in contact with the gallery floor, and echoes in my cell, "Nearer to Thee, to Thee."
The sounds die away. A deep male voice utters, "Let us pray." Its metallic hardness rings like a command. The guards stand with lowered heads. Their lips mumble after the invisible speaker, "Our Father who art in Heaven, give us this day our daily bread.... Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us-"
"Like hell you do!" some one shouts from the upper gallery. There is suppressed giggling in the cells. Pellmell the officers rush up the stairs. The uproar increases. "Order!" Yells and catcalls drown the Warden's voice. Doors are violently opened and shut. The thunder of rattling iron is deafening. Suddenly all is quiet: the guards have reached the galleries. Only hasty tiptoeing is heard.
The offender cannot be found. The gong rings the supper hour. The prisoners stand at the doors, cup in hand, ready to receive the coffee.
"Give the s- of b- no supper! No supper!" roars the Warden.
The levers are pulled, and we are locked in for the night.
In agitation I pace the cell. Frick didn't die! He has almost recovered. I have positive information: the "blind" prisoner gave me the clipping during exercise. "You're a poor shot," he teased me.
The poignancy of the disappointment pierces my heart. I feel it with the intensity of a catastrophe. My imprisonment, the vexations of jail life, the future-all is submerged in the flood of misery at the realization of my failure. Bitter thoughts crowd my mind; self-accusation overwhelms me. I failed! Failed! ... It might have been different, had I gone to Frick's residence. It was my original intention, too. But the house in the East End was guarded. Besides, I had no time to wait: that very morning the papers had announced Frick's intended visit to New York. I was determined he should not escape me. I resolved to act at once. It was mainly his cowardice that saved him-he hid under the chair! Played dead! And now he lives, the vampire.... And Homestead? How will it affect conditions there? If Frick had died, Carnegie would have hastened to settle with the strikers. The shrewd Scot only made use of Frick to destroy the hated union. He himself was absent, he could not be held accountable. The author of "Triumphant Democracy" is sensitive to adverse criticism. With the elimination of Frick, responsibility for Homestead conditions would rest with Carnegie. To support his role as the friend of labor, he must needs terminate the sanguinary struggle. Such a development of affairs would have greatly advanced the Anarchist propaganda. However some may condemn my act, the workers could not be blind to the actual situation, and the practical effects of Frick's death. But his recovery....
Yet, who can tell? It may perhaps have the same results. If not, the strike was virtually lost when the steel-workers permitted the militia to take possession of Homestead. It afforded the Company an opportunity to fill the mills with scabs. But even if the strike be lost,-our propaganda is the chief consideration. The Homestead workers are but a very small part of the American working class. Important as this great struggle is, the cause of the whole People is supreme. And their true cause is Anarchism. All other issues are merged in it; it alone will solve the labor problem. No other consideration deserves attention. The suffering of individuals, of large masses, indeed, is unavoidable under capitalist conditions. Poverty and wretchedness must constantly increase; it is inevitable. A revolutionist cannot be influenced by mere sentimentality. We bleed for the People, we suffer for them, but we know the real source of their misery. Our whole civilization, false to the core as it is, must be destroyed, to be born anew. Only with the abolition of exploitation will labor gain justice. Anarchism alone can save the world.
These reflections somewhat soothe me. My failure to accomplish the desired result is grievously exasperating, and I feel deeply humiliated. But I shall be the sole sufferer. Properly viewed, the merely physical result of my act cannot affect its propagandistic value; and that is, always, the supreme consideration. The chief purpose of my Attentat was to call attention to our social iniquities; to arouse a vital interest in the sufferings of the People by an act of self-sacrifice; to stimulate discussion regarding the cause and purpose of the act, and thus bring the teachings of Anarchism be-fore the world. The Homestead situation offered the psychologic social moment. What matter the personal consequences to Frick? the merely physical results of my Attentat? The conditions necessary for propaganda aye there: the act is accomplished.
As to myself-my disappointment is bitter, indeed. I wanted to die for the Cause. But now they will send me to prisonthey will bury me alive....
Involuntarily my hand Teaches for the lapel of my coat, when suddenly I remember my great loss. In agony, I live through again the scene in the police station, on the third day after my arrest.... Rough hands seize my arms, and I am forced into a chair. My head is thrust violently backward, and I face the Chief. He clutches me by the throat.
"Open your mouth! Damn you, open your mouth!"
Everything is whirling before me, the desk is circling the room, the bloodshot eyes of the Chief gaze at me from the floor, his feet flung high in the air, and everything is whirling, whirling....
"Now, Doc, quick!"
There is a sharp sting in my tongue, my jaws are gripped as by a vise, and my mouth is torn open.
"What d'ye think of that, eh?"
The Chief stands before me, in his hand the dynamite cartridge.
"What's this?" he demands, with an oath.
"Candy," I reply, defiantly.
How full of anxiety these two weeks have been! Still no news of my comrades. The Warden is not offering me any more mail; he evidently regards my last refusal as final. But I am now permitted to purchase papers; they may contain something about my friends. If I could only learn what propaganda is being made out of my act, and what the Girl and Fedya are doing! I long to know what is happening with them. But my interest is merely that of the revolutionist. They are so far away,-I do not count among the living. On the outside, everything seems to continue as usual, as if nothing had happened. Frick is quite well now; at his desk again, the press reports. Nothing else of importance. The police seem to have given up their hunt. How ridiculous the Chief has made himself by kidnapping my friend Mollock, the New York baker! The impudence of the authorities, to decoy an unsuspecting workingman across the State line, and then arrest him as my accomplice! I suppose he is the only Anarchist the stupid Chief could find. My negro friend informed me of the kidnapping last week. But I felt no anxiety: I knew the "silent baker" would prove deaf and dumb. Not a word could they draw from him. Mollock's discharge by the magistrate put the Chief in a very ludicrous position. Now he is thirsting for revenge, and probably seeking a victim nearer home, in Allegheny. But if the comrades preserve silence, all will be well, for I was careful to leave no clue. I had told them that my destination was Chicago, where I expected to secure a position. I can depend an Bauer and Nold. But that man E., whom I found living in the same house with Nold, impressed me as rather unreliable. I thought there was something of the hang-dog look about him. I should certainly not trust him, and I'm afraid he might compromise the others. Why are they friendly, I wonder. He is probably not even a comrade. The Allegheny Anarchists should have nothing in common with him. It is not well for us to associate with the bourgeois-minded.
My meditation is interrupted by a guard, who informs me that I am "wanted at the office." There is a letter for me, but some postage is due on it. Would I pay?
"A trap," it flits through my mind, as I accompany the overseer. I shall persist in my refusal to accept decoy mail.
"More letters from Homestead?" I turn to the Warden.
He quickly suppresses a smile. "No, it is post-marked, Brooklyn, N.Y."
I glance at the envelope. The writing is apparently a woman's, but the chirography is smaller than the Girl's. I yearn for news of her. The letter is from Brooklyn-perhaps a Deckadresse!
"I'll take the letter, Warden."
"All right. You will open it here."
"Then I don't want it."
I start from the office, when the Warden detains me:
"Take the letter along, but within ten minutes you must return it to me. You may go now."
I hasten to the cell. If there is anything important in the letter, I shall destroy it: I owe the enemy no obligations. As with trembling hand I tear open the envelope, a paper dollar flutters to the floor. I glance at the signature, but the name is unfamiliar. Anxiously I scan the lines. An unknown sympathizer sends greetings, in the name of humanity. "I am not an Anarchist," I read, "but I wish you well. My sympathy, however, is with the man, not with the act. I cannot justify your attempt. Life, human life, especially, is sacred. None has the right to take what he cannot give."
I pass a troubled night. My mind struggles with the problem presented so unexpectedly. Can any one understanding my motives, doubt the justification of the Attentat? The legal aspect aside, can the morality of the act be questioned? It is impossible to confound law with right; they are opposites. The law is immoral: it is the conspiracy of rulers and priests against the workers, to continue their subjection. To be lawabiding means to acquiesce, if not directly participate, in that conspiracy. A revolutionist is the truly moral man: to him the interests of humanity are supreme; to advance them, his sole aim in life. Government, with its laws, is the common enemy. All weapons are justifiable in the noble struggle of the People against this terrible curse. The Law! It is the arch-crime of the centuries. The path of Man is soaked with the blood it has shed. Can this great criminal determine Right? Is a revolutionist to respect such a travesty? It would mean the perpetuation of human slavery.
No, the revolutionist owes no duty to capitalist morality. He is the soldier of humanity. He has consecrated his life to the People in their great struggle. It is a bitter war. The revolutionist cannot shrink from the service it imposes upon him. Aye, even the duty of death. Cheerfully and joyfully he would die a thousand times to hasten the triumph of liberty. His life belongs to the People. He has no right to live or enjoy while others suffer.
How often we had discussed this, Fedya and 1. He was somewhat inclined to sybaritism; not quite emancipated from the tendencies of his bourgeois youth:- Once in New York-I shall never forget-at the time when our circle had just begun the publication of the first Jewish Anarchist paper in America, we came to blows. We, the most intimate friends; yes, actually came to blows. Nobody would have believed it. They used to call us the Twins. If I happened to appear anywhere alone, they would inquire, anxiously, "What is the matter? Is your chum sick? " It was so unusual; we were each other's shadow. But one day I struck him. He had outraged my most sacred feelings: to spend twenty cents for a meal! It was not mere extravagance; it was positively a crime, incredible in a revolutionist. I could not forgive him for months. Even now,-two years have passed,-yet a certain feeling of resentment still remains with me. What right had a revolutionist to such self-indulgence? The movement needed aid; every cent was valuable. To spend twenty cents for a single meal! He was a traitor to the Cause. True, it was his first meal in two days, and we were economizing on rent by sleeping in the parks. He had worked hard, too, to earn the money. But he should have known that he had no right to his earnings while the movement stood in such need of funds. His defense was unspeakably aggravating: he had earned ten dollars that week-he had given seven into the paper's treasury-he needed three dollars for his week's expenses-his shoes were torn, too. I had no patience with such arguments. They merely proved his bourgeois predilections. Personal comforts could not be of any consideration to a true revolutionist. It was a question of the movement; its needs, the first issue. Every penny spent for ourselves was so much taken from the Cause. True, the revolutionist must live. But luxury is a crime; worse, a weakness. One could exist on five cents a day. Twenty cents for a single meal! Incredible. It was robbery.
Poor Twin! He was deeply grieved, but he knew that I was merely just. The revolutionist has no personal right to anything. Everything he has or earns belongs to the Cause. Everything, even his affections. Indeed, these especially. He must not become too much attached to anything He should guard against strong love or passion. The People should be his only great love, his supreme passion. Mere human sentiment is unworthy of the real revolutionist: he lives for humanity, and he must ever be ready to respond to its call. The soldier of Revolution must not be lured from the field of battle by the siren song of love. Great danger lurks in such weakness. The Russian tyrant has frequently attempted to bait his prey with a beautiful woman. Our comrades there are careful not to associate with any woman, except of proved revolutionary character. Aye, her mere passive interest in the Cause is not sufficient. Love may transform her into a Delilah to shear one's strength. Only with a woman consecrated to active participation may the revolutionist associate. Their perfect comradeship would prove a mutual inspiration, a source of increased strength. Equals, thoroughly solidaric, they would the more successfully serve the Cause of the People. Countless Russian women bear witness-Sophia Perovskaya, Vera Figner, Zassulitch, and many other heroic martyrs, tortured in the casemates of Schlusselburg, buried alive in the Petropavlovka. What devotion, what fortitude! Perfect comrades they were, often stronger than the men. Brave, noble women that fill the prisons and etapes, tramp the toilsome road....
The Siberian steppe rises before me. Its broad expanse shimmers in the sun's rays, and blinds the eye with white brilliancy. The endless monotony agonizes the sight, and stupefies the brain. It breathes the chill of death into the heart, and grips the soul with the terror of madness. In vain the eye seeks relief from the white Monster that slowly tightens his embrace, and threatens to swallow you in his frozen depth.... There, in the distance, where the blue meets the white, a heavy line of crimson dyes the surface. It winds along the virgin bosom, grows redder and deeper, and ascends the mountain in a dark ribbon, twining and wreathing its course in lengthening pain, now disappearing in the hollow, and again rising on the height. Behold a man and a woman, hand in hand, their heads bent, on their shoulders a heavy cross, slowly toiling the upward way, and behind them others, men and women, young and old, all weary with the heavy task, trudging along the dismal desert, amid death and silence, save for the mournful clank, clank of the chains....
"Get out now. Exercise!"
As in a dream I walk along the gallery. The voice of my exercise mate sounds dully in my ears. I do not understand what he is saying. Does he know about the Nihilists, I wonder?
"Billy, have you ever read anything about Nihilists?"
"Sure, Berk. When I done my last bit in the dump below, a guy lent me a book. A corker, too, it was. Let's see, what you call 'em again?"
"Yes, sure. About some Nihirists. The book's called Aivan Strodjoff."
"What was the name?
"Somethin' like that. Aivan Strodjoff or Strogoff."
"Oh, you mean Ivan Strogov, don't you?"
"That's it. Funny names them foreigners have. A fellow needs a cast-iron jaw to say it every day. But the story was a corker all right. About a Rooshan patriot or something. He was hot stuff, I tell you. Overheard a plot to kill th' king by them fellows-er-what's you call 'em?
"Yep. Nihilist plot, you know. Well, they wants to kill his Nibs and all the dookes, to make one of their own crowd king. See? Foxy fellows, you bet. But Aivan was too much for 'em. He plays detective. Gets in all kinds of scrapes, and some one burns his eyes out. But he's game. I don't remember how it all ends, but-"
"I know the story. It's trash. It doesn't tell the truth about-" "Oh, t'hell with it! Say, Berk, d'ye think they'll hang me? Won't the judge sympathize with a blind man? Look at me eyes. Pretty near blind, swear to God, I am. Won't hang a blind man, will they?"
The pitiful appeal goes to my heart, and I assure him they will not hang a blind man. His eyes brighten, his face grows radiant with hope.
Why does he love life so, I wonder. Of what value is it without a high purpose, uninspired by revolutionary ideals? He is small and cowardly: he lies to save his neck. There is nothing at all wrong with his eyes. But why should I lie for his sake?
My conscience smites me for the moment of weakness. I should not allow inane sentimentality to influence me: it is beneath the revolutionist.
"Billy," I say with some asperity, "many innocent people have been hanged. The Nihilists, for instance-"
"Oh, damn 'em! What do I care about 'em! Will they hang me, that's what I want to know."
"May be they will," I reply, irritated at the profanation of my ideal. A look of terror spreads over his face. His eyes are fastened upon me, his lips parted. "Yes," I continue, "perhaps they will hang you. Many innocent men have suffered such a fate. I don't think you are innocent, either; nor blind. You don't need those glasses; there is nothing the matter with your eyes. Now understand, Billy, I don't want them to hang you. I don't believe in hanging. But I must tell you the truth, and you'd better be ready for the worst."
Gradually the look of fear fades from his face. Rage suffuses his cheeks with spots of dark red.
"You're crazy! What's the use talkin' to you, anyhow? You are a damn Anarchist. I'm a good Catholic, I want you to know that! I haven't always did right, but the good father confessed me last week. I'm no damn murderer like you, see? It was an accident. I'm pretty near blind, and this is a Christian country, thank God! They won't hang a blind man. Don't you ever talk to me again!"
The days and weeks pass in wearying monotony, broken only by my anxiety about the approaching trial. It is part of the designed cruelty to keep me ignorant of the precise date. "Hold yourself ready. You may be called any time," the Warden had said. But the shadows are lengthening, the days come and go, and still my name has not appeared on the court calendar. Why this torture? Let me have over with it. My mission is almost accomplished,-the explanation in court, and then my life is done. I shall never again have an opportunity to work for the Cause. I may therefore leave the world. I should die content, but for the partial failure of my plans. The bitterness of disappointment is gnawing at my heart. Yet why? The physical results of my act cannot affect its propagandistic value. Why, then, these regrets? I should rise above them. But the gibes of officers and prisoners wound me. "Bad shot, ain't you?" They do not dream how keen their thoughtless thrusts. I smile and try to appear indifferent, while my heart bleeds. Why should 1, the revolutionist, be moved by such remarks? It is weakness. They are so far beneath me; they live in the swamp of their narrow personal interests; they cannot understand. And yet the croaking of the frogs may reach the eagle's aerie, and disturb the peace of the heights.
The "trusty" passes along the gallery. He walks slowly, dusting the iron railing, then turns to give my door a few light strokes with the cat-o'-many-tails. Leaning against the outer wall, he stoops low, pretending to wipe the doorsill,-there is a quick movement of his hand, and a little roll of white is shot between the lower bars, falling at my feet. "A stiff," he whispers.
Indifferently I pick up the note. I know no one in the jail; it is probably some poor fellow asking for cigarettes. Placing the roll between the pages of a newspaper, I am surprised to find it in German. From whom can it be? I turn to the signature. Carl Nold? It's impossible; it's a trap! No, but that handwriting,-I could not mistake it: the small, clear chirography is undoubtedly Nold's. But how did he smuggle in this note? I feel the blood rush to my head as my eye flits over the penciled lines: Bauer and he are arrested; they are in the jail now, charged with conspiracy to kill Frick; detectives swore they met them in my company, in front of the Frick office building. They have engaged a lawyer, the note runs on. Would I accept his services? I probably have no money, and I shouldn't expect any from New York, because Most-what's this?-because Most has repudiated the act
The gong tolls the exercise hour. With difficulty I walk to the gallery. I feel feverish: my feet drag heavily, and I stumble against the railing.
"Is yo sick, Ahlick? " It must be the negro's voice. My throat is dry; my lips refuse to move. Hazily I see the guard approach. He walks me to the cell, and lowers the berth. "You may lie down." The lock clicks, and I'm alone.
The line marches past, up and down, up and down. The regular footfall beats against my brain like hammer strokes. When will they stop? My head aches dreadfully-I am glad I don't have to walk-it was good of the negro to call the guard-I felt so sick. What was it? Oh, the note! Where is it?
The possibility of loss dismays me. Hastily I pick the newspaper up from the floor. With trembling hands I turn the leaves. Ah, it's here' If I had not found it, I vaguely wonder, were the thing mere fancy?
The sight of the crumpled paper fills me with dread. Nold and Bauer here! Perhaps-if they act discreetly-all will be well. They are innocent; they can prove it. But Most! How can it be possible? Of course, he was displeased when I began to associate with the autonomists. But how can that make any difference? At such a time! What matter personal likes and dislikes to a revolutionist, to a Most-the hero of my first years in America, the name that stirred my soul in that little library in Kovno-Most, the Bridge of Liberty! My teacher-the author of the Kriegswissenschaft-the ideal revolutionist-he to denounce me, to repudiate propaganda by deed?
It's incredible! I cannot believe it. The Girl will not fail to write to me about it. I'll wait till I hear from her. But, then, Nold is himself a great admirer of Most; he would not say anything derogatory, unless fully convinced that it is true. Yet-it is barely conceivable. How to explain such a change in Most? To forswear his whole past, his glorious past! He was always so proud of it, and of his extreme revolutionism. Some tremendous motive must be back of such apostasy. It has no parallel in Anarchist annals. But what can it be? How boldly he acted during the Haymarket tragedy-publicly advised the use of violence to avenge the capitalist conspiracy. He must have realized the danger of the speech for which he was later doomed to Blackwell's Island. I remember his defiant manner on the way to prison. How I admired his strong spirit, as I accompanied him on the last ride! That was only a little over a year ago, and he is just out a few months. Perhaps-is it possible? A coward? Has that prison experience influenced his present attitude? Why, it is terrible to think of. Most-a coward? He who has devoted his entire life to the Cause, sacrificed his seat in the Reichstag because of uncompromising honesty, stood in the forefront all his life, faced peril and danger,-he a coward? Yet, it is impossible that he should have suddenly altered the views of a lifetime. What could have prompted his denunciation of my act? Personal dislike? No, that was a matter of petty jealousy. His confidence in me, as a revolutionist, was unbounded. Did he not issue a secret circular letter to aid my plans concerning Russia? That was proof of absolute faith. One could not change his opinion so suddenly. Moreover, it can have no bearing on his repudiation of a terrorist act. I can find no explanation, unless-can it be?-fear of personal consequences. Afraid he might be held responsible, perhaps. Such a possibility is not excluded, surely. The enemy hates him bitterly, and would welcome an opportunity, would even conspire, to hang him. But that is the price one pays for his love of humanity. Every revolutionist is exposed to this danger. Most especially; his whole career has been a duel with tyranny. But he was never before influenced by such considerations. Is he not prepared to take the responsibility for his terrorist propaganda, the work of his whole life? Why has he suddenly been stricken with fear? Can it be? Can it be? ...
My soul is in the throes of agonizing doubt. Despair grips my heart, as I hesitatingly admit to myself the probable truth. But it cannot be; Nold has made a mistake. May be the letter is a trap; it was not written by Carl. But I know his hand so well. It is his, his! Perhaps I'll have a letter in the morning. The Girl-she is the only one I can trust-she'll tell me
My head feels heavy. Wearily I lie on the bed. Perhaps tomorrow ... a letter ...
"Your pards are here. Do you want to see them?" the Warden asks.
"Your partners, Bauer and Nold."
"My comrades, you mean. I have no partners."
"Same thing. Want to see them? Their lawyers are here."
"Yes, I'll see them."
Of course, I myself need no defense. I will conduct my own case, and explain my act. But I shall be glad to meet my comrades. I wonder how they feel about their arrest,-perhaps they are inclined to blame me. And what is their attitude toward my deed? If they side with Most
My senses are on the alert as the guard accompanies me into the hall. Near the wall, seated at a small table, I behold Nold and Bauer. Two other men are with them; their attorneys, I suppose. All eyes scrutinize me curiously, searchingly. Nold advances toward me. His manner is somewhat nervous, a look of intense seriousness in his heavy-browed eyes. He grasps my hand. The pressure is warm, intimate, as if he yearns to pour boundless confidence into my heart. For a moment a wave of thankfulness overwhelms me: I long to embrace him. But curious eyes bore into me. I glance at Bauer. There is a cheerful smile on the good-natured, ruddy face. The guard pushes a chair toward the table, and leans against the railing. His presence constrains me: he will report to the Warden everything said.
I am introduced to the lawyers. The contrast in their appearance suggests a lifetime of legal wrangling. The younger man, evidently a recent graduate, is quick, alert, and talkative. There is an air of anxious expectancy about him, with a look of Semitic shrewdness in the long, narrow face. He enlarges upon the kind consent of his distinguished colleague to take charge of my case. His demeanor toward the elder lawyer is deeply respectful, almost reverential. The latter looks bored, and is silent.
"Do you wish to say something, Colonel?" the young lawyer suggests.
He ejects the monosyllable sharply, brusquely. His colleague looks abashed, like a schoolboy caught in a naughty act.
"You, Mr. Berkman?" he asks. I thank them for their interest in my case. But I need no defense, I explain, since I do not consider myself guilty. I am exclusively concerned in making a public statement in the courtroom. If I am represented by an attorney, I should be deprived of the opportunity. Yet it is most vital to clarify to the People the purpose of my act, the circumstances
The heavy breathing opposite distracts me. I glance at the Colonel. His eyes are closed, and from the parted lips there issues the regular respiration of sound sleep. A look of mild dismay crosses the young lawyer's face. He rises with an apologetic smile.
"You are tired, Colonel. It's awfully close here."
"Let us go," the Colonel replies.
Depressed I return to the cell. The old lawyer,-how little my explanation interested him! He fell asleep! Why, it is a matter of life and death, an issue that involves the welfare of the world! I was so happy at the opportunity to elucidate my motives to intelligent Americans,-and he was sleeping! The young lawyer, too, is disgusting, with his air of condescending pity toward one who "will have a fool for a client," as he characterized my decision to conduct my own case. He may think such a course suicidal. Perhaps it is, in regard to consequences. But the length of the sentence is a matter of indifference to me: I'll die soon, anyway. The only thing of importance now is my explanation. And that man fell asleep! Perhaps he considers me a criminal. But what can I expect of a lawyer, when even the steel-worker could not understand my act? Most himself-
With the name, I recollect the letters the guard had given me during the interview. There are three of them; one from the Girl! At last! Why did she not write before? They must have kept the letter in the office. Yes, the postmark is a week old. She'll tell me about Most,-but what is the use? I'm sure of it now; I read it plainly in Nold's eyes. It's all true. But I must see what she writes.
How every line breathes her devotion to the Cause! She is the real Russian woman revolutionist. Her letter is full of bitterness against the attitude of Most and his lieutenants in the German and Jewish Anarchist circles, but she writes words of cheer and encouragement in my imprisonment. She refers to the financial difficulties of the little commune consisting of Fedya, herself, and one or two other comrades, and closes with the remark that, fortunately, I need no money for legal defense or attorneys.
The staunch Girl! She and Fedya are, after all, the only true revolutionists I know in our ranks. The others all possess some weakness. I could not rely on them. The German comrades,-they are heavy, phlegmatic; they lack the enthusiasm of Russia. I wonder how they ever produced a Reinsdorf. Well, he is the exception. There is nothing to be expected rom the German movement, excepting perhaps the autonomists. But they are a mere handful, quite insignificant, kept alive mainly by the Most and Peukert feud. Peukert, too, the life of their circle, is chiefly concerned with his personal rehabilitation. Quite natural, of course. A terrible injustice has been done him., It is remarkable that the false accusations have not driven him into obscurity. There is great perseverance, aye, moral courage of no mean order, in his survival in the movement. It was that which first awakened my interest in him. Most's explanation, full of bitter invective, suggested hostile personal feeling. What a tremendous sensation I created at the first Jewish Anarchist Conference by demanding that the charges against Peukert be investigated! The result entirely failed to substantiate the accusations. But the Mostianer were not convinced, blinded by the vituperative eloquence of Most. And now ... now, again, they will follow, as blindly. To be sure, they will not dare take open stand against my act; not the Jewish comrades, at least. After all, the fire of Russia still smolders in their hearts. But Most's attitude toward me will influence them: it will dampen their enthusiasm, and thus react on the propaganda. The burden of making agitation through my act will fall on the Girl's shoulders. She will stand a lone soldier in the field. She will exert her utmost efforts, I am convinced. But she will stand alone. Fedya will also remain loyal. But what can he do? He is not a speaker. Nor the rest of the commune circle. And Most? We had all been so intimate.... It's his cursed jealousy, and cowardice, too. Yes, mostly cowardice-he can't be jealous of me now! He recently left prison,-it must have terrorized him. The weakling! He will minimize the effect of my act, perhaps paralyze its propagandistic influence altogether.... Now I stand alone -except for the Girl-quite alone. It is always so. Was not "he" alone, my beloved, "unknown" Grinevitzky, isolated, scorned by his comrades? But his bomb ... how it thundered....
I was just a boy then. Let me see,-it was in 1881. 1 was about eleven years old. The class was assembling after the noon recess. I had barely settled in my seat, when the teacher called me forward. His long pointer was dancing a fanciful figure on the gigantic map of Russia.
"What province is that?" he demanded.
"Mention its chief products."
Products? The name Chernishevsky flitted through my mind. He was in Astrakhan,-I heard Maxim tell mother so at dinner.
"Nihilists," I burst out.
The boys tittered; some laughed aloud. The teacher grew purple. He struck the pointer violently on the floor, shivering the tapering end. Suddenly there broke a roll of thunder. Onetwo- With a terrific crash, the window panes fell upon the desks; the floor shook beneath our feet. The room was hushed. Deathly pale, the teacher took a step toward the window, but hastily turned, and dashed from the room. The pupils rushed after him. I wondered at the air of fear and suspicion on the streets. At home every one spoke in subdued tones. Father looked at mother severely, reproachfully, and Maxim was unusually silent, but his face seemed radiant, an unwonted brilliancy in his eye. At night, alone with me in the dormitory, he rushed to my bed, knelt at my side, and threw his arms around me and kissed me, and cried, and kissed me. His wildness frightened me. "What is it, Maximotchka?" I breathed softly. He ran up and down the room, kissing me and murmuring, "Glorious, glorious! Victory!"
Between sobs, solemnly pledging me to secrecy, he whispered mysterious, awe-inspiring words: Will of the Peopletyrant removed-Free Russia....
The nights overwhelm me with the sense of solitude. Life is so remote, so appallingly far away-it has abandoned me in this desert of silence. The distant puffing of fire engines, the shrieking of river sirens, accentuate my loneliness. Yet it feels so near, this monster Life, huge, palpitating with vitality, intent upon its wonted course. How unmindful of myself, flung into the darkness,-like a furnace spark belched forth amid fire and smoke into the blackness of night.
The monster! Its eyes are implacable; they watch every gate of life. Every approach they guard, lest I enter back-I and the others here. Poor unfortunates, how irritated and nervous they are growing as their trial day draws near! There is a hunted look in their eyes; their faces are haggard and anxious. They walk weakly, haltingly, worn with the long days of waiting. Only "Blackie," the young negro, remains cheerful. But I often miss the broad smile on the kindly face. I am sure his eyes were moist when the three Italians returned from court this morning. They had been sentenced to death. Joe, a boy of eighteen, walked to the cell with a firm step. His brother Pasquale passed us with both hands over his face, weeping silently. But the old man, their father-as he was crossing the hallway, we saw him suddenly stop. For a moment he swayed, then lurched forward, his head striking the iron railing, his body falling limp to the floor. By the arms the guards dragged him up the stairway, his legs hitting the stone with a dull thud, the fresh crimson spreading over his white hair, a glassy torpor in his eyes. Suddenly he stood upright. His head thrown back, his arms upraised, he cried hoarsely, anguished, "0 Santa Maria! Sio innocente, inno-"
The guard swung his club. The old man reeled and fell.
"Ready! Deathwatch! " shouted the Warden.
"In-no-cente! Deathwatch!" mocked the echo under the roof.
The old man haunts my days. I hear the agonized cry; its black despair chills my marrow. Exercise hour has become insupportable. The prisoners irritate me: each is absorbed in his own case. The deadening monotony of the jail routine grows unbearable. The constant cruelty and brutality is harrowing. I wish it were all over. The uncertainty of my trial day is a ceaseless torture. I have been waiting now almost two months. My court speech is prepared. I could die now, but they would suppress my explanation, and the People thus remain ignorant of my aim and purpose. I owe it to the Cause-and to the true comrades-to stay on the scene till after the trial. There is nothing more to bind me to life. With the speech, my opportunities for propaganda will be exhausted. Death, suicide, is the only logical, the sole possible, conclusion. Yes, that is selfevident. If I only knew the date of my trial,-that day will be my last. The poor old Italian,-he and his sons, they at least know when they are to die. They count each day; every hour brings them closer to the end. They will be hanged here, in the jail yard. Perhaps they killed under great provocation, in the heat of passion. But the sheriff will murder them in cold blood. The law of peace and order!
I shall not be hanged-yet I feel as if I were dead. My life is done; only the last rite remains to be performed. After thatwell, I'll find a way. When the trial is over, they'll return me to my cell. The spoon is of tin: I shall put a sharp edge on it-on the stone floor-very quietly, at night
"Number six, to court! Num-ber six!"
Did the turnkey call "six"? Who is in cell six? Why, it's my cell! I feel the cold perspiration running down my back. My heart beats violently, my hands tremble, as I hastily pick up the newspaper. Nervously I turn the pages. There must be some mistake: my name didn't appear yet in the court calendar column. The list is published every Monday-why, this is Saturday's paper-yesterday we had service-it must be Monday to-day. Oh, shame! They didn't give me the paper today, and it's Monday-yes, it's Monday
The shadow falls across my door. The lock clicks.
"Hurry. To court!"
From : Anarchy Archives
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