Randolph Bourne : American Anarchist and Early Activist in the Disabled Movement

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(1886 - 1918)


Randolph Bourne, who was to die in the flu epidemic shortly after the Armistice, cried out alone against the betrayal of the values of civilization by his fellow writers.

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From : Ogilby Commentary


"...war can be called almost an upper-class sport.War is the Health of the State"

From : War is the Health of the State

"It is States that make wars and not nations, and the very thought and almost necessity of war is bound up with the ideal of the State."

From : War is the Health of the State

"If the State's chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction."

From : War is the Health of the State


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About Randolph Bourne

 Randolph Bourne

Randolph Bourne

On December 19, a brilliant and impoverished young writer, formerly a frequent contributor to The New Republic but then bitterly at odds with it, was bothered by a cold, and moved into the apartment of the woman he was soon to marry, on the third floor of 18 West 8th Street, New York. Three days later, gasping for breath, balking at the oxygen, he asked for an eggnog. When it was brought to him, he deliberately praised its pale yellow color; and a few minutes later he died. Not all that many years ago, if one had told that story in any reasonably literate circle, everyone would have known who it was. Randolph Bourne, dead at 32.

The bare facts of his life, although remarkable, may be given quickly. He was born in 1886. It was, as he said, "a terribly messy birth." His face was badly deformed by a bungled forceps delivery. The umbilical cord was coiled round his left ear, leaving it permanently damaged and misshapen. As if this were not enough, he contracted spinal tuberculosis at the age of four, which dwarfed him, and made him look like a "grotesque hunchback." Ellery Sedgwick, then the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, said of their first meeting in 1911 that in appearance Bourne was "without a redeeming feature," and that "I could not bring myself to ask him to stay to lunch." Writing to Mary Messer in 1913, Bourne described himself as a man

cruelly blasted by the powers that brought him into the world, in a way that makes him both impossible to be desired and yet--cruel irony that wise Montaigne knew about--doubly endowed with desire.

Due to the improvidence and, it seems, the indifference of his father, he had to make his own way to the university, and he did not go to Columbia until, at the age of twenty-three, he received a scholarship. His academic performance was so good that he graduated a year early, and Columbia then awarded him the Gilder Fellowship for a year's travel in Europe. He had already made something of a name for himself, as a writer and as a spokesman of his generation, by his numerous contributions to The Atlantic. When he returned from Europe--he was there when the war began--The New Republic was just beginning. It was to be his main source of income for the next two-and-a-half years--he wrote seventy-five essays for it in that time--until he broke sharply with it on the issue of America's entry into the war. From 1916 until his death two years later, he also contributed thirty-two essays to The Dial; and during its brief life, seven important essays to Seven Arts. Given the range and length, quality and substance, of most of the pieces, it was an astonishing performance--in only four years.

From : Anarchy Archives


This person has authored 10 documents, with 52,389 words or 319,068 characters.

Mr. Mencken gives the impression of an able mind so harried and irritated by the philistinism of American life that it has not been able to attain its full power. These more carefully worked-over critical essays are, on the whole, less interesting and provocative than the irresponsible comment he gives us in his magazine. How is it that so robust a hater of uplift and puritanism becomes so fanatical a crusader himself? One is forced to call Mr. Mencken a moralist, for with him appraisement has constantly to stop while he tilts against philistine critics and outrageous puritans. In order to show how good a writer is, he must first show how deplorably fatuous, malicious or ignorant are all those who dislike him. Such a proof is undo... (From : fair-use.org.)
First published anonymously as "The Handicapped -- By One of Them" in The Atlantic Monthly, 1911; revised and collected in Youth and Life, 1913. It would not perhaps be thought, ordinarily, that the man whom physical disabilities have made so helpless that he is unable to move around among his fellows can bear his lot more happily, even though he suffer pain, and face life with a more cheerful and contented spirit, than can the man whose deformities are merely enough to mark him out from the rest of his fellows without preventing him from entering with them into most of their common affairs and experiences. But the fact is that the former's very helplessness makes him content to rest and not to strive. I know a young man so helplessl... (From : RaggedEdgemagazine.com.)
Masses (March 1912). Reprinted in The Radical Will, 352–354. No incident of recent years has served to bring out so much crude thinking among supposedly educated men as the now happily ended McNamara case. A wave of hysterical passion for law and order seems suddenly to have swept over the land, a passion which one would like to believe is entirely sincere and ready to carry itself through to logical conclusions. It looks a little too much like a sudden scare, a purely physical timidity on the part of the comfortable classes, to be quite convincing. The gallant and well-worn phrase, law and order, has been worked overtime to conceal a very real fear on the part of the dominant classes for their lives and property. The law an... (From : fair-use.org.)
The Pillar of Fire, by Seymour Deming. Boston: Small, Maynard and Co. $1.00 net. Mr. Seymour Deming follows his eloquent Message to the Middle Class with an assault upon the colleges. His book he calls a profane baccalaureate, and it rips along as from one who is overturning the altars of Baal. No one has a style quite like this, with its mixture of Greek classicism and Broadway slang, with its cheap sardonic kicks and its sudden flashes of insight. Mr. Deming moves you, but he leaves you in the end more entertained than persuaded. His prophetic fire is so much fire and so little light. The first part of the book is devoted to picturesque denunciation of the colleges for not training a man to make a living. The second glorified the radic... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
Randolph Bourne left an unfinished, unpaginated draft of The State when he died during the flu pandemic of 1918. The draft was published posthumously, with some material incorrectly ordered, in Untimely Papers (1919). This edition follows the corrected ordering used in most printed editions of Bourne’s work. I. To most Americans of the classes which consider themselves significant the war brought a sense of the sanctity of the State which, if they had had time to think about it, would have seemed a sudden and surprising alteration in their habits of thought. In times of peace, we usually ignore the State in favor of partizan political controversies, or personal struggles for office, or the pursuit of party policies. It is the Go... (From : fair-use.org.)
No reverberatory effect of the great war has caused American public opinion more solicitude than the failure of the 'melting- pot.' The discovery of diverse nationalistic feelings among our great alien population has come to most people as an intense shock. It has brought out the unpleasant inconsistencies of our traditional beliefs We have had to watch hard- hearted old Brahmins virtuously indignant at the spectacle of the immigrant refusing to be melted, while they jeer at patriots like Mary Antin who write about 'our forefathers.' We have had to listen to publicists who express themselves as stunned by the evidence of vigorous nationalistic and cultural movements in this country among Germans, Scandinavians, Bohemians, and Poles, while i... (From : TheAtlantic.com.)
Randolph Bourne -- from Seven Arts, 1917 To those of us who still retain an irreconcilable animus against war, it has been a bitter experience to see the unanimity with which the American intellectuals have thrown their support to the use of war-technique in the crisis in which America found herself. Socialists, college professors, publicists, new-republicans, practitioners of literature, have vied with each other in confirming with their intellectual faith the collapse of neutrality and the riveting of the war-mind on a hundred million more of the world's people. And the intellectuals are not content with confirming our belligerent gesture. They are now complacently asserting that it was they who effectively willed it, agains... (From : BigEye.com.)
I. Time brings a better adjustment to the war. There had been so many times when, to those who had energetically resisted its coming, it seemed the last intolerable outrage. In one’s wilder moments one expected revolt against the impressment of unwilling men and the suppression of unorthodox opinion. One conceived the war as breaking down through a kind of intellectual sabotage diffused through the country. But as one talks to people outside the cities and away from ruling currents of opinion, one finds the prevailing apathy shot everywhere with acquiescence. The war is a bad business, which somehow got fastened on us. They won’t want to go, but they’ve got to go. One decides that nothing generally obstructive ... (From : fair-use.org.)
To most Americans of the classes which consider themselves significant the war [World War I] brought a sense of the sanctity of the State which, if they had had time to think about it, would have seemed a sudden and surprising alteration in their habits of thought. In times of peace, we usually ignore the State in favor of partizan political controversies, or personal struggles for office, or the pursuit of party policies. It is the Government rather than the State with which the politically minded are concerned. The State is reduced to a shadowy emblem which comes to consciousness only on occasions of patriotic holiday. Government is obviously composed of common and unsanctified men, and is thus a legitimate object of criticism... (From : bopsecrets.org.)
The New Republic (November 4, 1916). 12–14. My western friend who runs a prosperous stove-factory has been finding fault with my insistent use of the word exploitation. My outlook on life is not sufficiently cheerful, and I am inclined to see malevolence where everything is, as they say at college, healthy, hearty, and happy. Our quarrel rose over the Mesaba strike, and my acceptance of an I. W. W. pamphlet as a plausible account of what was going on there. The accounts of the insecurity of pay, the petty robberies, the reeking houses, the bigoted opposition to labor organization, seemed to me to smell of truth, because I had read the maddening tales of Colorado and West Virginia, and seen with my own eyes in Scranton and Gary and ... (From : fair-use.org.)


May 30, 1886 :
Birth Day.

December 22, 1918 :
Death Day.

November 15, 2016 ; 5:04:46 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

April 21, 2019 ; 4:57:19 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.


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