Living My Life : Volume 2, Chapter 54
(1869 - 1940) ~ Russian-American Mother of Anarcho-Communism : She is an Anarchist, pure and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of violence. (From : Hippolyte Havel Bio.)
• "The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more to do with it." (From : "Anarchism: What It Really Stands For," by Emma Go....)
• "The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit with age." (From : "Minorities Versus Majorities," by Emma Goldman.)
• "Each child responds differently to his environment. Some become rebels, refusing to be dazzled by social superstitions. They are outraged by every injustice perpetrated upon them or upon others. They grow ever more sensitive to the suffering round them and the restriction registering every convention and taboo imposed upon them." (From : "Was My Life Worth Living?" by Emma Goldman, secti....)
Volume 2, Chapter 54
AT THE GERMAN BORDER I FELL RIGHT INTO THE LOVING ARMS of two stalwart Prussian officials whose Kaiser Wilhelm mustaches had lost nothing of pride by the ignominious retreat of their namesake. Quickly they led me into a private office. I was confronted with a dossier comprising all the events of my life, almost from my cradle days, whereupon they began grilling me for an hour. I congratulated them on their German thoroughness in having kept such a complete record that there was nothing I could add. What were my intentions in Germany? Honorable, of course: to find a millionaire old bachelor in search of a handsome young wife. At the expiration of my visa I would proceed to Czechoslovakia on the same quest. "Ein verflixtes Frauenzimmer" they roared, and after a further exchange of compliments I was escorted back to the train.
Five months after our comrades had begun the campaign to enable me to enter Germany, I landed in Berlin, with no more hope that I should be more successful than they in securing a longer stay. I accepted Czechoslovakia as a last resort --- a place of exile. I had no connections or friends there; the comrade who had helped to secure my visa was about to leave the country. I knew I should be cut off from everybody I cared about. Moreover, the cost of living was high. But in Germany I was on familiar ground: its language was my mother tongue. Whatever schooling I had received was in that country, and my early influences were German. Most important, there was a strong anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movement in which I might take root. My friends Milly and Rudolf Rocker and many other dear comrades were also in Berlin. I would try my luck there, and, should I have to leave, it would not be without a fight!
Much to everybody's surprise, the Foreign Office made no difficulties about granting me a month's stay. At its expiration I was informed that two more months had been secured for me, and that I was to call at the Foreign Office. I found the Secretary engaged with a man who looked like a Russian. The latter was evidently leaving for his native land; the Secretary was seeing him to the door and impressing upon his visitor not to forget to bring back caviar and ein Pelz. Then the official turned on me with good old Prussian politeness. What did I mean by coming back, he shouted, after he had told me I should have to leave at the end of the month? My time would be up tomorrow, he said, and I'd have to go or I should be forcibly put across the border. His changed manner made me think that Moscow and its Berlin satraps were again at my heels. The man who had just left was probably a Chekist.
However, I could not afford to lose my temper. I explained in as ladylike a tone as I could under the circumstances that another two months had been granted me and that I came to have my passport stamped for that. He knew nothing about it and he would not give me the extension if he did know, he declared. I had better leave the country quietly or be kicked out. In that case, I replied, he would have to send several men to carry me out. I left him confounded by my Frechheit and went to the Reichstag in search of my sponsors. They kept me waiting three hours, too busy with affairs of State to see me. I was in a disturbed state of mind, but soon I forgot my troubles in watching the antics of what Johann Most used to call "the House of Marionettes."
Judging by the continuous stream of deputies to the refreshment rooms, the latter seemed to be the real seat of the august body. There, amid quantities of Stullen, Seidels of beer, and gusts of cigar-smoke, the weal and woe of the German masses was being decided. In the legislative hall someone was talking against time, no doubt to hold the fort till his political group should have recouped themselves sufficiently to knock the other on the head. It was an entertainment I should have been sorry to miss.
The day's hard work over, my sponsors turned to me. After listening to my account of the interview at the Foreign Office, they took up the telephone. A rather warm argument followed, in the course of which the party at the other end was told that he would be reported to his chief for "suppressing the extension issued to Frau E. G. Kerschner." The threat seemed to be effective as indicated by "Well, then --- we knew you'd be sensible." The following morning my passport was stamped for another two months' stay.
With this respite, I decided on a little apartment. I had been driven about so much that I felt bruised in every bone and I was in need of a rest under my own roof. I wanted some peace to collect my thoughts before beginning my book on Russia. I longed for my flaxen-haired, blue-eyed Swedish boy, whose tender devotion had been my mainstay in the three and a half months of my existence in Stockholm. I'd send for him and have two months of personal life in a lifetime that had never been my own. Vain hope I I realized it the moment I met my friend at the station. His fine eyes had not lost their friendliness, but the glow that had rekindled my soul was no longer there. They had come to see what I had known from the start, yet did not wish to realize --- that he was twenty-nine and I fifty-three.
Would that the adventure had ended at its height, a golden memory on my thorny road! But his eagerness to rejoin me, and my own heart-hunger had been hard to resist. "Berlin soon!" had been our parting word. Only four weeks had passed since, and his flame had burned out. I was too staggered by the unexpected blow to think clearly and I clung to the straw that I might reawaken the love that had been mine.
There were various reasons why I could not tell him to go. He had avoided conscription and he had aroused the suspicion of the Stockholm police because of his attempt to help Sasha with some papers. He had no means and he would not be permitted to work in Germany. I felt I could not send him away. What if his love had died? Our friendship would still be sweet --- my affection for him strong enough to be content with that, I reasoned. The rest and joy I had hoped for were turned into eight months of purgatory.
My misery was increased by Sasha's lack of sympathy with my struggle, the more surprising because he had been kind and solicitous when I fought against the growing infatuation for my friend. He had ridiculed the silly conventions regarding difference in age, and advised me to follow my desire for the youth who had come into my life. Sasha was fond of the boy, and as for the latter, he worshiped my old chum. But my young Swede's arrival in Berlin and his presence in the same apartment somehow changed their former fine comradeship into silent antagonism. I knew they did not mean to hurt me, and yet in their male short-sightedness they did nothing else.
I was in no state of mind for writing a book on Russia. The thought of that unfortunate country and of its political martyrs was ever present with me and I felt I was betraying their trust. I was doing nothing to make their condition and the even more poignant drama of "October" known. I tried to salve my conscience by a contribution I made from the sums earned by my articles and from the brochure the London group had published at my expense. Sasha was doing splendid work, writing articles and issuing pamphlets on The Russian Tragedy, The Communist Party, Kronstadt, and related subjects. Our Taganka deportees were now also in Germany and they were making themselves heard in the anarchist press and on the platform regarding the Soviet reality. And even before our voices were raised, our able comrades Rudolf Rocker and Augustin Souchy had been enlightening the German workers on the true conditions in Russia.
Through Herbert Swope, of the New York World, and Albert Boni, Clinton P. Brainard, then president of Harper's, became interested in my planned work on Russia. He proved a jovial old man, a breezy Westerner, expansive in manner and conversation; but he did not seem to have the slightest idea of books and their relation to their authors. "Six months for a book on the Soviets!" he exclaimed. "Nonsense! You ought to be able to dictate it right off the bat in a month." "Your name and the subject will make the book, not its literary quality," he asserted. He would bet anything that a volume by Emma Goldman on the Bolsheviki, with an introduction by Herbert Hoover, would prove the greatest thriller of the day. "Why, it means a fortune for you! Did you ever expect that, E.G.?" "No, never in all my life," I admitted, wondering whether he was joking or so incredibly ignorant of my life, my ideas, the importance of Russia to me, or why I wanted to write about it. I felt that Mr. Brainard was so naïve, so like the average American mind, that I could not take offense at his suggestion of Mr. Hoover, another perfect average American, to introduce my poor book to the world.
I expressed surprise to Albert Boni that anyone so limited as the president of Harper's should be at the head of a publishing house of quality and reputation. He explained that Mr. Brainard's domain was business and not the literary department, which was some relief.
I had had no experience with publishers, our books in America having always been issued by ourselves through the Mother Earth Publishing Association. Albert Boni, representing Brainard and the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, did not find it necessary to enlighten me on their commercial methods. The result was that I sold to Mr. Brainard the world rights to my book on Russia for $1,750 advance against the usual royalties and fifty per cent for the serial rights. It seemed a very satisfactory arrangement to me, the most gratifying provision in the agreement being that nothing could be changed in my manuscript without my knowledge and consent.
My visa was renewed for another two months and the hope held out that I could have further extensions. My living-expenses were now also secured. I could proceed with my book. I had lived with it since Kronstadt and had worked it out in all its aspects. But when I came to write it, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of my subject. The Russian Revolution, greater and more profound than the French, as Peter had rightly said --- could I do it justice in one volume and in the limited time set? Years were needed for such a work, and a far abler pen than mine to make the story as vivid and moving as its reality. Had I gained the necessary perspective and detachment to write without personal grievance or rancor against the men at the helm of the dictatorship? These doubts assailed me at my desk, gaining momentum the more I tried to concentrate on my task.
My immediate surroundings were anything but helpful. My young friend had got into the same slough as I. He had not the strength to leave, nor I to send him away. Loneliness, the yearning to be cared for in an intimate sense, made me cling to the boy. He admired me as a rebel and as a fighter; as a friend and companion I had awakened his spirit and had opened to him a new world of ideas, books, music, art. He did not want to live away from me and he needed the fellowship and understanding that he found in our relationship, he said. But the difference, the ever present difference of twenty-four years, he could not forget.
My friends Rudolf and Milly Rocker sensed the physical and mental stress I was going through. I had not seen them since 1907, when we had known each other only as comrades. During my stay in Berlin I came to appreciate and love their beautiful spirit. Rudolf was very much like my old companion Max, as understanding, tender, and generous, and not given so much to paralyzing introspection. Intellectually brilliant and with a prodigious capacity for work, he was a force in the German anarchist movement and an inspiration to everyone who came in contact with him. Milly was also sensitively attuned to human suffering and unstinted in her sympathy and affection. They were a soothing help in the battle I was fighting to get control of myself. I desperately needed to begin my book.
The arrival of my beloved Stella and Ian, my baby almost as much as hers, somewhat dulled my gnawing pain. I had not seen them for three years and I had longed for their coming. One week went by in sweet harmony with my own, in reminiscences of the past, with all its joy and travail, of what is admirable and what is hateful in my adopted land.
A dissonant note soon disturbed our idyll. Stella had always kept me on a pedestal. She could not bear to see my feet of clay. She had suffered through my relation to Ben, and now again my dear one resented that her adored Tante should "throw herself away." My young Swede was quick to sense the disdain of my niece. He became more contrary and went out of his way to be particularly disagreeable to her.
Ian, a beautiful youngster of six, wild and unbridled as a young colt, found our apartment too small for his energies. He knew no German and he could not understand why everybody should walk as on glass because "granny's" nerves were on edge. There was wisdom from the mouth of a child. Even our baby had learned to go by years, and, fool that I was, I still felt young, reaching out hungrily for the fire of youth. Fortunately my sense of the ridiculous had not entirely forsaken me. I could still laugh at my own folly. But I could not write, or do as my Swede --- run away!
He would go to the seashore for a few days, so that Stella and I could be with each other undisturbed, he said. I did not protest; I felt rather relieved. The two days lengthened into a week without a word to reassure me that all was well with him. My anxiety grew into an obsession that he had taken or lost his life. To escape the torturing thought I tried once more to start my book. As if by magic the load I had carried for months was lifted; the harrowing shadows disappeared together with the boy and my frustrations. I myself became dissolved into the picture that was taking form on the paper before me.
A storm began in the late afternoon and continued throughout the night. Thunder and lightning, followed by wind and rain, beat against the windows of my room. I wrote on, oblivious of everything except the storm in my own soul. I found release at last.
The storm outside had stopped. The air was still, the sun slowly rising and spreading its red and gold over the sky in greeting of the new day. I wept, conscious of the eternal rebirth in nature, in the dreams of man, in his quest for freedom and beauty, in the struggle of humanity to greater heights. I felt the rebirth of my own life, to blend once more with the universal, of which I was but an infinitesimal part.
The Swede returned hale and sound. He had not written because he was trying to muster up courage to go his own way. He failed. He was drawn back by his need of me. Would I accept him again? I did, certain that he could not consume me as before. I was back in Russia now, in her triumph and defeat, my every fiber intent on recreating the tremendous panorama I had witnessed for twenty-one months.
My dear old pal Sasha, though rarely sympathetic with my affairs of the heart, never failed me in our common activities or in his cooperation with my literary efforts. Just as soon as he saw me working in earnest, he came back with his old eagerness to help. I should have made considerable progress now but for a new disturbance.
Young people are rarely generous to each other, nor have they patience with each other's shortcomings. My secretary, an intelligent and efficient Jewish-American girl, and my young Swede could apparently not get on. They argued violently and quarreled over every trivial matter. The strain was aggravated when the girl moved into our apartment. It was large enough, and each of us had his own room. But the two young things glared and fumed at each other every moment they were together.
Soon I discovered the truth of the German saying: Was liebt sich, das neckt sich. The two young people had fallen in love with each other and were fighting to distract my attention from their real feelings. They were too unsophisticated to be guilty of deliberate deception. They simply lacked the courage to speak and were perhaps afraid to hurt me. As if their frankness could have been more lacerating than my realization that their show of indifference was only a shield! At heart I had not ceased to believe that my love would rekindle his affection, so rich and abundant during our months in Stockholm.
I could not endure the silly hide-and-go-seek going on before my eyes. I assured them that nothing would change my affection for them, and that I wanted the girl to continue with me until the manuscript was typed, but I would ask them to find quarters of their own. It would be less wearing for the three of us.
They moved out. The girl continued to do my secretarial work, but her attitude towards me had changed. The young Swede kept coming to see me, generally in the evening, when his sweetheart was not present. She could not bear to see him with me, he said, or to be made to feel that I was his inspiration. I would always remain that, he reiterated. It was something of a consolation; still, it would be best if he stayed away altogether, I told him. I was past minding. Their love was young, and it was unkind to cause it pain. He took my advice and he did not come again until shortly before he left with the girl for America, and then only to say good-bye.
I still had the hardest part of my book to do --- an Afterword that was to set forth the lessons of the Russian Revolution which our comrades and the militant masses will have to learn if future revolutions are not to be failures. I had come to realize that with all the Bolshevik mania for power they could never have so completely terrorized the Russian people if it were not inherent in mass psychology to be easily swayed. I was also convinced that the conception of revolution in our own ranks was too romantic, and that miracles cannot be expected even after capitalism shall have been abolished and the bourgeoisie eliminated. I knew better now and I wanted to help my comrades to a clearer understanding.
I felt that for an adequate treatment of the constructive side of revolution I myself had to get away from the phantom of the Communist State far enough for objective writing. I did not want my book to go out into the world without some definite conclusions. Yet in my state of mind I found it impossible to go into the complex problems of the subject. After weeks of conflict I decided to jot down a few thoughts, some fragments that might serve as a sketch for a larger work on the vital subject. Sasha agreed that in the light of the Russian events a thorough revision of the old conception of revolution had become imperative. He or I or both of us might undertake it later. There was no need to fret about the matter now. A book of impressions, such as mine, was no place for an analysis of theories and ideas. Rudolf also held this view. As a result of the advice of my two friends, whose judgment in such questions rarely erred, and because of my own feeling about it, I wrote a closing chapter suggesting in general outline the practical, constructive efforts during revolution.
I had reasons for a double celebration. I had regained my emotional sanity and I had completed the manuscript of "My Two Years in Russia." Sasha also had cause to be exceedingly glad. The precious diary he had kept in Russia, which had escaped the Chekists who ransacked his room because I had it hidden in mine, had been lost after it was smuggled out of Russia. While Sasha was in Minsk, a friend had taken his note-books to Germany, promising to deliver them to the Rockers. Great was our shock on learning that our Berlin friends had failed to receive the precious package. Nothing could replace the day-by-day record Sasha had kept of every incident and event during our stay in Russia. Luckily the priceless diary was discovered after many an anxious week.
Months passed after my manuscript had been mailed to the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, but no word came about its receipt. I wrote with every sailing and spent a little fortune on cables, but there was no reply. Stella and Fitzi, whom I had asked to see Brainard about it, reported that they had been told that the man had not appeared in his office since his return from Germany, and no one at the Syndicate knew anything about my manuscript. I then cabled Mr. Swope, of the New York World, begging him to go after the president of Harper's. I saw Garet Garrett, of the Tribune, while he was in Berlin and asked him to help me locate the manuscript. I gave Albert Boni no peace. All these frantic efforts brought no results. Unable to endure the worry about my book any longer, I turned the matter over to my old friend and counselor Harry Weinberger. I was confident he would succeed in making the McClure people or Brainard give me an account.
In addition to this anxiety came the news of the frightful calamity that had happened to my Stella. She had lost the sight of her right eye. Specialists who had treated her nearly brought her to the grave by their experiments. One of them dismissed her case as a detached retina that could not be cured, and hinted at complete blindness. Germany is famous for its eye specialists and I was entirely free now to devote myself to my niece. I urged her to come to me at once. She came, a shadow of the radiant girl that had visited me the previous year. A specialist diagnosed her case as tuberculosis of the eyes and held out no hope for recovery.
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, whom I knew for his pioneer work in sex psychology, came to our rescue. He suggested Dr. Count Wiser, of Bad Liebenstein, in Thuringen. He was a remarkable man, Dr. Hirschfeld said, a great diagnostician and an innovator in the treatment of eye affections. The doctor added that I should be particularly interested in Wiser because he had been proscribed and persecuted by the profession, as I had been in the political field and he himself in his humanitarian and social prophylactic work. I smiled at the idea that an aristocrat should meet with the same opposition as a social rebel or even as Dr. Hirschfeld, a Jew working to clear away the sexual prejudices of the German Michel. However, we were willing to try Count Wiser.
Though we had been informed about the attitude of the medical profession towards Dr. Wiser, we were rather dismayed by the circular handed us in his office when we arrived for a consultation. It was an appeal to the Medical Department of the War Ministry to have Dr. Graf Wiser suppressed on grounds of professional incompetence, quackery, and dishonesty, and it was signed by twenty-two of the foremost eye specialists of Germany. For a moment the thought came to me that there must be something wrong with Dr. Wiser to have called forth the enmity of his illustrious colleagues. Our unpleasant impression was somewhat mitigated by the fact that Wiser did not hesitate to let his patients know the professional attitude against him. He could not undertake to treat any person, he stated in a foot-note, unless assured of confidence in his method. This raised him considerably in my estimation and respect.
My first personal meeting with the proscribed doctor freed me entirely from the last doubt raised by the circular. His entire demeanor belied the accusation against him. His simplicity and sincerity were evident in every word. Though he had a line of people waiting, he took an hour and a half to examine Stella and then declined to form a definite opinion about her condition. He was certain, however, that she had neither a detached retina nor tuberculosis. He expressed the view that probable overstrain had resulted in excessive blood-pressure, causing a hemorrhage that formed a blood clot over the optic nerve. He hoped he could treat it in such a manner that it would be absorbed in her system. Time and care would tell. Much would depend on the patient herself. His treatment was rather rigorous, and "The patience of an angel is required to keep it up," the doctor remarked, with a smile that lit up his fine features. Six hours or more of daily exercises with various lenses was a strenuous process that called for complete rest and relaxation after the ordeal. His charm and human interest convinced me that there was a beautiful personality beneath the physician who loved his profession. Every day strengthened my first impression of Dr. Wiser.
Our presence in Liebenstein brought to us many of our friends from America. Fitzi and Paula, whom we had not seen since our deportation, came for a stay. Ellen Kennan, our old Denver friend, Michael Cohn and his new wife, Henry Alsberg, Rudolf and Milly Rocker, Agnes Smedley, Chatto and comrades from England. My life had not been so replete with friendship and affection in many years. Joy over Stella's improvement filled my cup of happiness to the brim. "Queen E.G. and her court," teased Henry at the lovely surprise party my family arranged for my fifty-fourth birthday. This much, life had given me: friends whose love neither faltered nor changed with the years, a treasure few possess.
Among the many birthday gifts and messages I received was also one from my faithful friend and counselor, Harry Weinberger. It brought the good news that my manuscript had been sold by Brainard to Doubleday, Page and Company and that the book would be out in October of that year (1923). I cabled that page proofs be sent to me. The publishers replied that it would delay the issue of my book and assured me that they would keep strictly to the manuscript.
After three months' treatment by Dr. Wiser, Stella regained partial sight of her blind eye. Nor was that the only achievement of "our Graf," as we began to call him. Every day in his private clinic I had occasion to study various cases, afflictions similar to Stella's, that had been given up as hopeless and that Dr. Wiser succeeded in curing, partially or completely. I thought it incredible that anyone so skilled and eager to give relief should have been put in the pillory.
From my talks with Dr. Wiser's patients, some of whom had known him for years, I learned of the most amazing conspiracy I had ever heard of in the professional world. The statement sent to the War Ministry by the group of eye specialists was only a minor part of the dossier manufactured against the Graf. They had even gone to the extent of sending one of their worthies to spy on him. Among the accusations against him was that he was mercenary. I never knew anyone less concerned with money than Wiser. When the value of the mark was going down five times a day, he never asked a pfennig from his patients until they had finished their treatment. This involved losses that caused him to close his public clinic, where the poorest were given the same treatment and attention as those who could afford to pay. Sixty-three years of age, in delicate health, Dr. Wiser worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and though he had scores of patients, he and his wife lived in the utmost frugality. At the same time he freely helped everybody who came to him, not only professionally, but from his limited means as well.
Dr. Wiser's greatest offense in the eyes of his detractors, apart from the fact that he achieved results where they had failed, was his reluctance to return soldiers to the front who had had their sight impaired. In one of the many interviews I had with him, he remarked: "I know nothing about politics and I care little about it. I only know suffering humanity, the flower of the land shot to pieces by senseless hate. My aim, my sole interest, is to help them and instill in them new faith in life."
Stella, having begun to show signs of strain from the three months of daily application, Dr. Wiser ordered her to take a complete rest. It was part of his general system to have his patients recuperate from time to time before continuing the treatment. She was planning to visit Munich for the approaching Wagner-Strauss festival, with the latter conducting his own operas. Sasha, Fitzi, Paula, and Ellen were also going and they all urged me to join them.
Bavaria being the stronghold of German jingoism, I was dubious about the suggestion, but the girls insisted and I accompanied them. Forty-eight hours after reaching Munich came again the familiar knock on my door. Three men invited me to accompany them to the Polizei Presidium. They were not nearly so polite as my early callers in Berlin, but they consented to wait long enough to enable me to apprize my friends of my arrest.
The dossier in the Munich rogues' gallery was as complete as the one on the German border. It contained material dating back to 1892 --- nearly everything I had ever written or said --- all about Sasha's activities and mine, and a complete collection of photographs. The most surprising exhibit was a picture taken in New York by my uncle, a photographer, in 1889. My vanity flattered at seeing myself so young and attractive, I offered to buy a copy. The police grew quite angry at such "flightiness" in the face of my arrest and certain deportation. After several hours inquisition I was permitted to return to my hotel for lunch on condition that I come back again. I was grateful for the hour with my family. My one regret was that I had heard only Tristan and Isolde and Electra, and that my subscription to the rest of the cycle would be lost.
Among the charges against me was that I had been in Bavaria in the Fall of 1893 on a secret mission. I denied the allegation because I had then been "otherwise engaged." "What was it?" they demanded. "I was taking a rest-cure at Blackwell's Island Penitentiary in New York." And I had the effrontery to admit it? Why not? I had not been there for stealing silver spoons or silk handkerchiefs. I was there for my social ideas, for the very ones for which they were about to expel me. "We know those ideas," they roared, "plotting conspiracies, bombs, killing of rulers." Were they still afraid of such trifles after the world slaughter they and their Government had helped to launch? Oh, that was for the protection of the Fatherland, but I could not be expected to understand such holy motives. I cheerfully admitted my limitations.
In the late afternoon I was sent back to the hotel with a body-guard and ordered to leave on the evening train. How to get Sasha away was my main problem. My young police escort unwittingly suggested a way. He complained that he had been on duty since early morning and now he would be unable to get back to his wife and child until he saw me leave Munich. I remarked that he could just as well turn me over to the hotel porter, who would take me to the station. He hesitated only long enough to see me pull out a five-dollar bill. The matter could be arranged, he said, if I would promise not to jump out of the train after it left the station. Reassured that I had no intention of committing suicide, he went his way.
In the hotel I held a hurried conference with the members of our party. We agreed that Sasha must get out of Munich at once, for it was certain that the police would find him if he remained another day. Fitzi, looking very ladylike in spite of her many "plots" while she had been with us in America, saw Sasha to the station. We met on the train when it was well out of Bavaria.
The police returned to the hotel the next morning in search of Alexander Berkman, and the same day Stella was expelled from the country because she was the niece of Emma Goldman. They did not bother the other girls, but the latter decided that they had had enough of Bavarian hospitality.
Stella went back to Wiser and I remained in Berlin till Fitzi's sailing. I planned to join my niece as soon as dear Fitzi should have departed. It became unnecessary, because Stella could not longer stand the separation from her son and his father. Moreover, Dr. Wiser felt anxious about her because of the threatening political situation in Germany. He knew the temper of the reactionaries in his country and he would not expose his foreign patients to it. He advised Stella to return to America, impressing upon her the necessity of the utmost precaution against exposing her sick eye. He also mapped out a system of treatment that she could continue herself until the spring, when he expected her to come back. I fought against her leaving. I dreaded some mishap --- a cold, something unforeseen, that might throw her back. But there was no holding Stella any longer, and the reassurance of our Graf quieted my fears.
Stella had hardly left when I received a blow that staggered me. A copy of my book arrived with the last twelve chapters missing and with an entirely wrong title. As printed, the volume was an unfinished work, because the last chapters and particularly my Afterword, which represented the culminating essence of the whole, were left out. The unauthorized name was fearfully misleading: My Disillusionment in Russia was sure to convey to the reader that it was the Revolution that had disillusioned me rather than the pseudo-revolutionary methods of the Communist State. The title I had given my work was simply "My Two Years in Russia." The spurious title was a veritable misfit. I wrote a statement for the press, which I sent to Stella, explaining that my manuscript had been amputated, and I cabled Harry Weinberger to demand of the publishers an explanation. I wanted the sales stopped till the matter should be straightened out.
In reply, Doubleday, Page and Company cabled that they had bought from the McClure Syndicate the world rights to the twenty four chapters in the belief that they comprised my complete story. They had also been authorized to use their own title. They had known nothing about the existence of the other chapters.
Energetic Harry Weinberger would not give up. He succeeded in inducing Doubleday, Page and Company to publish the missing chapters in a separate volume, the cost of printing to be guaranteed by us. I appealed to our comrade Michael A. Cohn to extend the loan, which he did without delay.
Meanwhile Stella had suffered a relapse. In crossing the Atlantic she had done the very thing the Graf had warned her against. She remained on deck during a storm without the prescribed bandage to protect her eye. On landing she was caught in the vortex of family worries, which helped to aggravate her condition. She regretted bitterly not having remained in Wiser's care, and I reproached myself for permitting her to leave when she was making such progress.
I had written a story on Wiser's work and planned to send it to the New York World. But it was out of the question now. My readers could not be expected to take my word that Dr. Wiser was not responsible for Stella's relapse. I decided to withhold my article until she could again come under his care. However, the story appeared after all, in the New Review, a magazine published in Calcutta in the English language. Agnes Smedley and Chatto, the latter having also been treated by the Graf, believed in the success of his new method and they wanted to make him known in India. Its publication resulted in a number of Hindus' coming to Dr. Wiser as patients. It was the only comfort in my grief over Stella's condition.
The reviews of My Disillusionment in Russia showed as much discernment as the representative of Doubleday, Page and Company who had bought three-quarters of a manuscript as a complete work. Among the scores of reviewers only one guessed that the book was an abortion. It was a Buffalo librarian, who pointed out in the Journal that Emma Goldman's narrative ended with Kiev, 1920, while in her Preface she stated that she had left Russia in December 1921. Had nothing happened in all the intervening time to impress the author? The man's perspicacity strikingly reflected on the dullness of the "critics" who presume to pass literary judgment in the United States.
The Communist response to my volume on Russia could have been foreseen, of course. William Z. Foster's "review" was to the effect that everybody in Moscow was aware that Emma Goldman was receiving support from the American Secret Service Department. Mr. Foster knew that I should not have lasted a day in Russia if the Cheka had believed such a thing. Other Communists, who wrote as kindly as Mr. Foster, also knew that I had not been bought. There was only one who had the courage to say so: Rene Marchand, of the French group in Moscow, who stated in his review that, though he regretted my misguided judgment, he could not believe that my stand against Soviet Russia was motivated by material reasons. I appreciated his giving me credit for my revolutionary integrity, and I wished he were brave enough to admit that he was unable to reconcile himself to some of the methods the Bolsheviki practiced in the name of the Revolution. Commandeered to work in the Cheka, Rene Marchand had seen enough to plead for his removal, as otherwise he would be compelled to leave the Communist Party. Like many other sincere Communists he did not understand the Revolution in terms of the Cheka.
Not so Bill Haywood. As Sasha had foreseen, he easily took the Bolshevik bait. Three weeks after his arrival in Russia he wrote to America that the workers were in full control and that prostitution and drunkenness had been abolished. Lending himself to such obvious falsehoods, why should Bill not also credit me with motives he knew were absurd? "Emma Goldman did not get the soft jobs she was looking for; that was why she wrote against the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." Poor Bill! He began rolling down the precipice when he ran away to save himself from the burning house of the I.W.W. He could not stop himself in his fall.
My Communist accusers were not the only ones to cry "Crucify!" There were also some anarchist voices in the chorus. They were the very people who had fought me on Ellis Island, on the Buford, and the first year in Russia because I had refused to condemn the Bolsheviki before I had a chance to test their scheme.
Daily the news from Russia about the continued political persecution strengthened every fact I had described in my articles and in my book. It was understandable that Communists should close their eyes to the reality, but it was reprehensible on the part of people who called themselves anarchists to do so, especially after the treatment Mollie Steimer had received in Russia after having valiantly fought in America for the Soviet régime.
For her activities in behalf of Soviet Russia and against intervention Mollie Steimer had been railroaded by an American court to fifteen years in prison. Before she had begun her sentence in the Missouri State Prison, she had endured incredible cruelty for six months in the New York workhouse. After eighteen months in the Jefferson City Penitentiary Mollie, together with three other members of her group, had been released to be deported to Russia. Surely these young people deserved well of the Communist State. The boys, more adaptable to the new wrongs, managed to move safely among the cliffs of the dictatorship. Not so Mollie, who was of different fiber. She found the Soviet jails filled with her comrades, and, while she could not make her protest heard as she had against the crimes in the United States, she undertook to raise funds to supply food to the incarcerated anarchists in the Petrograd jails. Such counter-revolutionary work could not be tolerated on Soviet soil.
Eleven months after Mollie had come to Russia, she was arrested, charged with the heinous offense of feeding her imprisoned comrades and corresponding with Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. A protracted hunger-strike and the vigorous protest of the Anarcho-Syndicalist delegates to the Congress of the Red Trade Union International brought about Mollie's release, but not freedom of movement. She was forbidden to leave Petrograd, placed under Cheka surveillance, and ordered to report every forty-eight hours. Six months later Mollie's room was raided and she was again arrested. In the Cheka Mollie was grilled, kept in a filthy cell, and once more compelled to hunger-strike.
Finally Mollie was deported by the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic which she had so staunchly championed in America and for which she had willingly taken fifteen years' imprisonment. Could anything express more forcibly the degeneration of the Kremlin rulers, once revolutionists themselves? Yet some anarchists censured me because I had refused to handle the Bolshevik fetish with kid gloves. The case of Mollie and of her friend Fleshin, both of whom had gone through the same persecution and suffering, would have been enough for me to brand the Moscow outfit. They came straight to us in Berlin --- starved, ill, penniless, without a possibility of finding work in Germany or of being admitted to any other country. Yet their spirit was undaunted none the less. They had escaped the Bolshevik inferno. Not so thousands of other true rebels who remained in the Communist paradise. What mattered to me the condemnation and attacks of the zealots in comparison with my inability to help the Mollies and the thousands of others in prison and exile? I had done nothing for them since my arrival in Germany.
The German Revolution was only skin-deep, but it succeeded in establishing certain political liberties. Our comrades could publish their papers, issue books, and hold meetings. The Communists carried on their propaganda with little molestation, condemning in Germany the abuses they defended in Russia. The reactionary nationalist elements were also not interfered with. Their arrogance knew no bounds, equaling that of the militarists of the old Prussian regime. With two such I had an encounter in a subway train. They were railing against the verdammte Juden as idle vampires and the cause of the ruin of the Fatherland. I listened for a while and then remarked that they were talking nonsense. I had lived in a land where there were millions of Jewish workingmen, I told them, and many of them brave fighters for the betterment of humanity. "Where is that?" they demanded. "In America," I replied. It drew a volley of abuse from them. America had tricked Germany out of victory, they cried. As the train reached my station and I alighted, they shouted after me: "Wait till things change and we'll fix such as you just as we did Rosa Luxemburg."
Though in a desperate economic situation, Germany enjoyed considerable political freedom. That is to say, the natives. But I was not a German and consequently I had no right to express opinions. It was not a matter of mere arrest: it meant expulsion. There was apparently no other country willing to let me in, but I thought I might try Austria again. Like his tribe in other lands, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs signified his readiness to admit me, but on condition that I abstain from all political activity. Naturally I refused.
My friends Rudolf and Milly Rocker favored one of the two ways out of my dilemma: the legalization in Germany by marriage, or England. The first method had been a frequent practice among the Russian intelligentsia and revolutionists in the days when women had no political status apart from their husbands or fathers. In Germany Rosa Luxemburg had contracted such a nominal marriage to enable her to remain in the country and follow her work. Why couldn't I do the same? I, they said, should go through with the ridiculous ceremony and end my troubles. Such a step had long before been suggested in America. Several comrades had been willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause, among them my old friend Harry Kelly. It would have prevented the United States from deporting me, Milly reiterated. But I had been unable to do the ludicrous and inconsistent thing, having opposed the institution of marriage all my life. Moreover, there had been the lure of Russia, the glowing dream. That too was dead now, together with the notion that one could remain on earth without making compromises.
My difficulties in Sweden and other countries made me amenable to the suggestion of marriage in order to gain a foothold now in some corner of the world. Harry Kelly was still ready to keep his promise. On his visit to Sweden he had again offered to take me back to America as his bride. Good old scout! He had been unaware of the new law by which an American husband was no longer a protection for his foreign-born wife.
No such law existed in Germany, Rudolf informed me, and I might as well give some man a chance to make a "respectable woman" of me! If not that, then I should go to Great Britain. It was still politically the freest country. He himself would go back there if he could. He had deeper roots in England than in his native land, having lived and worked in that country nearly as long as Sasha and I had in America. He could understand why I felt alien everywhere and why I did not want to be bound to Germany. I would probably never be content anywhere, cut off from my old moorings. The next best was England.
I was dubious. It did not seem possible that Great Britain had escaped the reaction following upon the war any more than had other countries; still, it might be worth trying. My present position was insupportable. The only public meeting I had addressed in behalf of the Russian politicals brought me an official warning against expressing any further criticism of the Soviet Republic.
Another difficulty was how to earn my living by my pen. The German press was out of the question; too many native writers were starving. At the same time America's hatred of Germany was still strong. Two articles I had sent the New York World were refused. One treated of Gerhart Hauptmann in connection with his sixtieth anniversary, celebrated on a national scale. The World had cabled its consent to my going to Breslau, where the main festivities were taking place, but declined my article on the ground that it was "too high-brow." My second essay was on the Ruhr occupation, with its resulting bitterness and suffering. A third article, on the experimental new schools in Germany, and a fourth on the foremost women in German art, letters, and labor, were returned by a dozen magazines I had not the least chance of earning my salt by writing on German topics. From Brainard, who had broken our agreement and botched my book, there was no hope of any income.
England did not appear very enticing. Still, it might afford me asylum with comparative political freedom, and perhaps also an opportunity to earn my livelihood through lectures and articles. Frank Harris was in Berlin, keeping open house. His interest and kindness, as when I was in the Missouri prison, had not changed. It would be quite easy to get me to England, he said. He knew almost everyone in the Labor Government and he would try for a visa for me. Soon after, Frank left for France, and several months passed before I heard from him again. He informed me that the Home Office had asked no questions about my political views or intentions. It had merely inquired whether I had means of support. Frank had replied that I was an able writer who earned my living by my pen. Moreover, he could name a dozen persons who would consider it a privilege to support his friend and he was one of them. Shortly afterwards I was notified by the British Consulate in Berlin that a visa had been granted me.
Except for the parting from Sasha and from the other friends who had endeared themselves to me, I had no regrets on leaving Germany. Vicissitudes of many kinds, not the least the death of my mother in America, had not brought me cheer and joy. Enforced inactivity embittered even the occasional hours of tranquility during my stay of twenty-seven months. Sasha had finished his The Bolshevik Myth; he was in good health, had acquired a circle of friends, and was devoting himself to the work of aid for the revolutionary politicals in prison and exile in Russia. For the rest, I was glad to get away. England might let me take root, offer an outlet for my energies, respond to an appeal for the doomed and damned in the Soviet land. That was worth going to England for; it was a new hope to cling to.
With this thought to give me courage, I left Germany on July 24, 1924, via Holland and France, for England.
My Dutch visa permitted a stay of only three days, yet long enough to address the twentieth anniversary celebration of the Anti-Militarist Society, organized by our grand champion of peace, our old comrade, Domela Nieuwenhuis. Dutch secret-service men watched the house of my host, de Ligt. They followed us to the station and waited until my train pulled out. At the same time the Dutch Government was entertaining another visitor, a Soviet representative. No limit was put on his stay, nor were his movements shadowed. When I expressed surprise that a reactionary government like that of Holland should offer hospitality to an emissary of the Communist State, my friends smiled. "Russia is a wheat-producing country and Rotterdam a good center for the distribution of her exports," they explained.
My French transit visa was for two weeks. The inspector at the border insisted that it did not permit me to stop and ordered me to connect immediately with the boat train for England. I refused to budge. After a long parley, greased by American cash, I was allowed to proceed.
The two weeks in Paris, the city I love best in Europe, were enjoyable in the company of friends from America. There were Paula, who had come from Berlin, Harry Weinberger, little Dorothy Miller, Frank and Nellie Harris, and many others, some of whom I had not seen in five years.
"Two weeks!" objected Weinberger; "I'll get you an extension for a month at least."
"How can you --- an unknown person here?" I retorted.
"Unknown --- me? And coming straight from the Lawyers' Congress, received by the King of England, and presented to the President of the French Republic?" Harry protested indignantly. "You wait and see."
Dressed in morning clothes, wearing a top hat, with ribbons on his coat, Harry presented himself with me at Quai d'Orsay. His client, Madame Kerschner, had come from Germany, he announced, to confer with him on important business matters that would take at least a month. One look at Harry's regalia, and the extension was granted.
"Unknown?" said Harry triumphantly. "Say it again if you dare." I was as meek as a lamb.
In appreciation I offered to chaperon him through Paris. In the same group with my friend were several of his colleagues. The one I liked best was Arthur Leonard Ross. He was of the rare type that one gets to consider in a short time as a good friend.
My dear old friends were thinning out. I had been more fortunate in my friendships than most people, and I gained new ones, among them Nellie Harris, Frank's wife. I had never met her before; it was love at first sight on my part, and Nellie seemed to like me also. Frank continued to be eternally young; at sixty-eight he could still run twelve blocks for exercise after an elaborate meal and enough drink to make most men unsteady. Wine only made him more witty and sparkling. What if he loomed largest in his own estimation? So do most people whose gifts are not nearly so brilliant as his. He was extremely entertaining with the stories of the people he had known in every clime and station in life, from bricklayers, cowboys, and statesmen to the geniuses of art and letters. Frank was an extremist in his loves and hates. If he cared for you, no praise was too generous; if he disliked you, he saw you all black. His enemies, real or imaginary, had no redeeming qualities. Often he was unfair and unjust and we gave and took many verbal blows from each other.
My stay in Paris served to increase my aversion to going to London. I dreaded its fogs, bleakness and chill. Frank urged me to delay no longer. He expected the Labor Government to be defeated in the coming elections; the Tories would probably ignore my visa. To encourage me he enlarged on the many interesting people I should meet there who would welcome me and help in my contemplated campaign in behalf of the Russian politicals, as well as in my lectures on the drama and literature.
Helpful as ever was Frank, but he could not make London's autumn and winter attractive to me. Perhaps if I could secure a return visa to France, I might find England less irksome. Harry Weinberger had sailed and most of the people I knew in Paris lacked the necessary connections to help me to a return visa.
My meeting with Ernest Hemingway held out some hope. It was at a party given by Ford Madox Ford. The affair might have been duller had not Hemingway been there. He reminded me of both Jack London and John Reed because of his simplicity and exuberance of spirit. He invited me to dinner together with a newspaper friend of his who, Hemingway believed, could secure a French visa for me. Ernest, in his rôle as proud father of a buxom baby, looked younger and was gayer in his home setting. His journalist friend did not impress me, nor could he do anything about a visa, though he had promised much. Instead he wrote a silly story about me, purporting to be an interview on Russia, not one word of which was true.
From : Anarchy Archives
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