[copied from the IISH Berkman papers https://socialhistory.org/en/collections/yiddish-letters/alexander-berkman%5D
« I, too, must look for work, and not only look, but find a job. I can’t live on the movement. It sickens me to the very soul. The little money I borrowed is almost gone, and life is so dear in N.Y. The book may suffer, but the principle is with me—or is it just a feeling, an instinct—the supreme consideration. If I get money from the book, I must give a lot to the movement. Kind of restitution. » (1 Diary Oct 4 1910)
« Explained my dissatisfaction with the movement. The futile propaganda. I am as of old—I don’t and can’t justify living on the movement, at least not for myself. An editor etc., one constantly giving his whole time, may be justified, or forced to it. But I don’t give all my time. M[other] E[arth]. isn’t a daily, not even a weekly paper. I won’t do it. I was teaching all winter, and now I must find work. This book is very important, but this parasitism is a more weighty consideration. There can be sch a thing as parasitism within even the An[archist] movement. » ; « Tonight I began to translate H’s biogr[aphical] sketch of E[mma Goldman]. A good piece of work, from the purely literary standpoint. H seems tremendously proud of it. H is good ; but one thought kept pressing on my mind all during the translation ; it interfered with the work, too. I wondered why one can not be big enough to write his autobiography, or allow his biography to be written, in accordance with—well, I will say honesty. It isn’t the right word. One may be unconsciously dishonest, especially with himself, especially with herself, I mean. Would never try a biography of oe living, especially of a friend. The perspective is interfered with, by intimacy and proximity. Many characteristic things are missing in the biography (Bernstein, who probably was the first An[archist] she met). Many innuendos false. There is a great deal of hypocrisy among ourselves. It akes our great pretensions look very cheap to me, sometimes. » (1 Diary Oct 6 1910)
« Voltairine de Cleyre arrived, 2 P.m. Two lectures in N.Y. That on Literature the Mirror of Man was splendid. She read my 1st part of the book. She said that she preferred to write her criticism later on. But she indicated the line of attack. She thinks the average American reader, when through with first part, will decide I was crazy, bugs. I tried to suppress external signs of feeling, but I was rather saddened. It’s best not to be optimistic about the reception of my book. But to hell with it all : I’ll write as I feel. » (1 Diary Oct 7 1910)
« First time in Sunday School. Children very glad to see me. And I really felt happy with them. I gave them a talk on the genral course this season—I’ll take up the earth, food etc., show the important rôle of the eath and natural forces in our life, in all animal life. The evolutionary theory, in every day application, per vehicle of interesting stories. The Ferrer class is a very intelligent and interesting one. I want especially to develop emotional nature and critical ability. Dear kids. » (1 Diary Oct 9 1910) « But teachers get paid… Poor Ferrer, did he die for this ?»
« It was such a hot day I would not keep the children in the classroom. Took them to Bronx Park. I wish we had funds, to do it all the time. Now the poor kids have to go out in nature. Some of them have never been in the park before. We had about 50 out. It wa s a pleasure to watch their joyous faces. We got them lunch. Too bad I coould not stay with them. Had appointment with E. for 2 P.M. to look over her mss. » (1 Diary Oct 16 1910)
« No use wasting time in N.Y. I can’t work there on the book. And life is dear. Borrowed money again.
The fatality of disenssion. Argued with E., one thing and another. The futility of her propaganda, her bourgeois leanings. Both were in bad humor and we both exaggerated and hurt each other. How foolish it all is. I am fighting with everyone. » (Oct 20 1910)
Maeterlink Blus Bird (Oct 22)
Blackie’s Master passed. Told me Whitie was found poisoned at the grocer’s. Poor dog, I felt like crying as over the loss of a rare true friend. I loved that dog, he was such a proletarian, a veritable under dog. I could tell by the way he would watch me at mealtime.
« Not a single textbook is obtainable as to F schools in Spain. I’m afraid there was more smoke than fire. »
« Will have to give up my work on M.E. till I’m through with book. »
Oct 28 « Voltairine is disgusted with her lecture tour—bourgeois, rrespectable propaganda—we have gone wrong, she says. I agree with her. Emma disagreed. Thinks I have influenced Voltairine. Emma sees only prejudice, perhaps jealousy and envy, in this criticism. Back to the people, should be our motto. »
Nov 1st « The first of the month, and nothing written yet, for my book, since I came out to the farm Oct 20. Today I looked over my last chapter. It was written Sep. 25. How much time wasted, it’s criminal. Have in the meantime traslated H’s sketch, biographcal, for E.G. book and did a few other things, but nothing on the book. Tried to write today, but the prison atmosphere is lacking. I am at page 246, Chapter X, Second Part. I have been living the last month in a different world, but I must return to the prison. » « I didn’t seem to have any « ambition » for anything, especially in the pen and ink line » Nov 4 « What rat it is, this aristocracy of intellect. It is running nowadays to stupidity, narrow-mindedness and intolerance. « An intellectual man » ! Rats. Usually it means a vain ass, lacking all originality of thought and appearing « learned » because he has immersed his sponge brain in the printed stuff of olden days. I’d rather a man of little such pseudo-knowledge, but with the courage to think and speak unafraid an unconventional, unaccepted thought. »
« I have been trying to write, but no success whatever. I seem to forget what I have already said in Book II (I mean, Part II of Book) I have therefore made out a Table of Contents, chapter by chapter. Now, a glance informs me what incidents I have written about etc. But my task now is much more difficult. In Part I I have presented my first impressions of prison. But I cannot continue with mere impressions. The psychology will gradually be developed. But I want more in the book. I want to show the physical, moral, mental and sexual effects of prison life on a ) myself ; b ) on other prisoners ; c) on the guards, and finally, by reaction, d) on Society. And not merely the brutality of the officers I want to portray, but the unspeakable injustice, uselessness and evil of the whole system of Punishment, of the Idea, indeed. Writing mere impressions will not do. And it would require half a dozen volumes to give all the incidents etc—even only the typical ones—of a life of 14 years. I must therefore select, combine types and incidents into typical representation. I must, so to speak, first correctly imagine my plot, then adequately describe it. I must guard there should be proper distinctiveness and vitality in the execution as well as in the conception. So far, I think Part II is distinctive and vital in the expression, the reprsentation. Conception did not much enter there, as it is mostly personal psychology ? But now I must formulate more clearly my conception as to the total ensemble and purpose, so to speak. Only then can I begin the execution. And that’s why I find it difficult to proceed with the writing. I am iin danger of being swamped by my wealth of material. I must be selctive. I have given much thought to the matter this week. May be I can soon begin to do the work. It’s high time. The book I figured to be completed by end of October. I’ve lost precious time, no end of it. And it grows ever harder to « come back ». It’s already the 4th of November. Yet I feel within me the confidence to accomplish my work. It presses for expression. It rages, and it is perhaps because of that very rage that I can’t work. I must put my soul house in order, as it were. » « and now the matter of the Japanese Anarchists. We will not change the death sentence, but a strong protest should be made. Wouldn’t be bad to smash the windows of Japanese Consulate ; but not as H. suggested by one or two men. Should be done after the meeting, in corpore. Otherwise no moral effect. » « I think she’s almost more anxious to see the book out than I am. Naturally, it’s part of her own life, so to speak. She speaks of my book as « the baby soon to be born ». Well, they say giving birth to a first child is very painful, and my literary accouchement is certainly a difficult matter. Is it because my intellectual womb is virgin ? » « I wonder how E’s meeting is tonight. It’s just 9 P.M. Must have begun. And the « Outcast Meeting »—Ben’s idea. Pretty good only the question is where do the real outcasts come in, at 25 cent per admission. » Tolstoy dead. Bohemian Anarchist Almanach. Mexican revolution and Magonists. Lillian Brown. Misogyny and Schopenhauer. Preface by Shaw to Doctor’s Dilemma/Brieux’s dramas. E writes to pregnant Becky. Sinclair’s Love’s pilgrimage. Becky’s abortion. Becky and Ben. « I am glad he was here, I wanted his opinion on my book. I was working in the little room upstairs and he sat at the long table outside opposite my window, reading my mss. I felt like a schoolboy full of trepidation for the impression it would make on him. When he put the manuscript away, I felt like rushing down for the verdict, but I controlled the impulse. I think he likes it ; he said it was very good, interesting and dramatic and very realistic. He offered to translate it into German, to be published in Germany. That pleased me more than his words—it is an indication he thinks it worth while. He is so weakly-poken in such things. But E. says he is enthusiastic about my book… Well, after all, I know myself its good and weak points. But neither Max nor H. seem to have a eye for the poetic. H. cares nothing at all for prose-poetry. » Incresed wants, against neo-malthusianism. « Last night I have been troubled about the title. The Autobiography of an Anarchist is a good title, but not for my book. I am opposed to autobiographies ; they should not be published till at least 25 years after the uthor’s death. Otherwise they can be neither consciously nor unconsciously sincere. And besides, I’m not intending an autobiography. I am writing of my prison life, with only an occasional look backward to illumine my prison life. It’s essentially the story of my prison experiences—the title should be comprehensive, not misleading. » Poe and Becky. « The faces at 21O the night of the ball reflected the condition of the movement, as influenced by E & B. Usually we’d have the boys who help at the bar etc come up to the house after the ball, for a cup of coffee. They work very hard, the poor devils. But though they worked as hard as usual, this time only the « intellectuals » were invited to 210 after the ball. There was not a single proletarian among them, except Haywood. None of the boys who really helped and worked hard was there. The house was full of middle class « intelectuals », pure bourgeois, without much intellect either. » E.’s lecture on Mary Wollstonecraft : « I feel sickened with it. The thing will go on as before : sensationalism, high admission, double prices, and the rest of it. Yet these scenes between E and Ben will grow more frequent and he will now realize more than ever the power he exerts over E. Poor girl, the worst of it is, with all her revolutionary spirit and clinging to our old traditions, she is blind to having gotten away from her moorings. Kropotkin is right, after all—no movement is worth the effort, except it be rooted in the masses » 1911 « Beck is with me, typewriting my mss. » « Several publishers returned the manuscript. I guess it’s too radical for them ; the name also is not respectable. We’ll have to publish it ourselves. The reading of my mss by E. at Poe’s was successful. Those present liked as much as was read—I part. Jack London is asking for more mss. » 1911 « Dear Ch.. contributed to publication of book $200.00. The same old devoted friend. »
April 27th, 1916
« May 1st Last evening Social and Dance for The Blast. Good cosmopolitan, international bunch. Good crowd. Tonight mass meeting arranged by Italian-Spanish I.W.W., where I speak with Tresca, who is here from N.Y. lecturing. »
April 27 1916
« Letter from E.G. Doing 15 days prison (…) The act of writing to her to prison was what resurrected the diary. It feels queer for me to do so—it used to be the reverse. »
Nov 10 (Monday) 1918
Loose page Prison visits, Katherine Davis. « Reading « A German Deserter’s War Experience », translated by J. Koettgen. E. said the traslation is bad. I think it rather good. » « Quite a change to the « Arabian Nights », edited by Andrew Lang. At first interesting, though I’ve read them before. It grows monotonous. Lang’s comparison of these tales to the sagas and folklore of other races is quite inadequate. Gods and deities are non-existent in the « Nights ». It’s all the good or evil genii. And the eternal moral is, of course, that the path of virtue is a thorny one, but it’s sure to be rewardedin the end. It lacks entirely the spirit of Slavic folklore ; the social consciousness. The racial essence, entirely lacking. Only one story in all the « Nights » might be interpreted as somewhat tinged with social sense. « The Two envious Sisters »–the two brothers and their good sister seeking the Talking Bird and Golden Water etc on top of the mountain, harassed on their way by abuse and threats—to turn around means death—the way leads over thousands of black stones, their predecessors thus punished for their daring and lack of perseverance in their quest. »
Theater. Funds. Jewish Nationalist Convention.
Wednesday Oct 31
Complains about neighbour « an ignorant Austrian Jew of the Vienna café type.—A cheap swindler. » « Colored fellow got 20 to life—a damn shame. He killed a man in self-defense. A fellow gauged out his eye and was about to strike him with a hatchet. He took the hatchet away ; there was a scuffle and he killed his attacker.
And young Winslow, the pious Sunday School teacher, who took a street girl up to a hotel, bound and gagged her and killed her in cold blood—he was sent to Elmira, where he can be released in 13 months. But he isn’t a friendless n***** and his father has money.
Justice is not blind. » Other prisoners’ stories. « Fremder » and speech about Nationalist Convention again.
Thursday Nov 8. 4.30 P.M.
« Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah ! Kerensky Deposed ! Bolsheviki in control ! Land to be returned to the people, Armistice and peace !
I am wild with joy. I never before have known such a happy moment. Indeed, this is the happiest moment of my life. Never have I experienced something like this before ! I have no words. I have been shouting and calling to the prisoners. Am just boiling over—bubbling over—with uncontrollable bliss. Ah, to be in Russia now. Well, may be—may be soon.
I could have hugged the prisoner that showed me the « World » and pointed to the big headlines : Bolsheviki in Control of Petrograd !
Ah, for a few friends and champagne to celebrate this great, this wonderful, blessed news.
Telegram just to hand « Rejoicing over Russia. Let us go now. Long live the Social Revolution » 87PCL
Great, wonderfully thoughtful of them to send me this wire. I at once dispatched the telegraph boy to them with a message. Oh, the glorious news. Just to be out tonight in the midst of my people.
Good for Trotzky and Lenine. Let them hold Francis (?) and demand my delivering to Russia. And E’s etc.
I hope the Soviets inland will not start a counter-revolution. No—I don’t want to think of it tonight. My joy is unconfined. Hurrah, hurrah once more and again !!!
[copied from the IISH Berkman papers https://socialhistory.org/en/collections/yiddish-letters/alexander-berkman ]
Anarchist Aid Society for Political Prisoners
New York July 15, 1925
Your letter of June 20 received. You will please pardon the long delay in answering it. Due to some reasons it was impossible to get the comrades together any sooner.
Regarding the question of sending money through you or direct to the prisoners has been discussed several times before. Our group is still with the opinion that we make as many direct connections as we possibly can. We shall continue sending money through your channels and direct addressees. This matter will however be under consideration again when we make our final decision on the form of orgaization.
Your second proposition, the amalgamation of the four wings into one, was taken up and discussed from all angles. We considered it from a principle point of view as well as from a practical. We have a definite division of opinion on this matter. Some maintain that combining forces with other factions means diminishing our activity. It will divide more than unite us. Our group is very well known in the labor circles. It is very well known that we have struggled through great difficulties and yet maintain our work alone. The small amounts we are able to collect is of greater value in my own opinion. It makes it much more pleasant to work with our own forces than lean upon the shoulders of others. The money we collect comes from entertainments and other great efforts. It is made quite clear for what the money is collected. Some of the Comrades were with the same opinion as you.
We have taken no definitive action for the time being. Several of our active comrades are away for a short time and since the difference of opinion is wide therefore we decided to postpone our final decision for about a month. We have meanwhile appointed a committee to get in touch with the other groups if there are any or individuals to find out what they are doing and how.
I suppose you have already received the $50 sent two weeks ago. We shall send you some more very soon. We have arranged a concert and dance for next month which I hope will bring us in some funds. It will be held in Coney Island where many idlers spend valuable time. It is there where people find themselves in hot summer days.
As you already notice that our secretary is away, I shall correspond with you until she gets back.
With comradely greetings,
Anna L. Sasnovsky
[copied from the IISH Berkman papers https://socialhistory.org/en/collections/yiddish-letters/alexander-berkman%5D
How are you? How the prospects to remain? How is your health and that of Emmie?
I have had a letter from my sister Rose just now in which she tells me that she has collected thirty signatures of mps which will be sent to the French consulate: with your permission of course. She handed them to Paris.
She also says that whenever you desire to go to England, she will gladly and happily do her very best to get you a permit as long as the present government is in power. She has the necessary connections and will use them to the best of her abilities.
Think it over and let us know.
From us there isn’t much to relate. The general situation is too bad for words, and is getting worse daily, it is a hell of a state.
My own health is better but far from good. Fermin is in the S. again, but quite fed up with it. He would come back if only he could have the faintest hope of getting work, but where get it?
Rudolf is working hard, is pulled to pieces and don’t get time to work at his book. Next week he has to go to Holland again for a few days, it is a rotten business. If only his book was finished.
This for the present, love to both of you from both of us and best wishes of success in your efforts
504 Grand St N.Y.C.
Your letter of the 19th of Feb. just arrived, also your other two letters arrived, we di not answer them yet, for Rudolf is working hard to get the second part ready, and I don’t feel well lately. You will hear from Rudolf as soon as he gets a minute’s rest, meanwhile these short lines:
It will be very good of you Sashe dear to send one copy of the manuscript right to this address, it will save Goldman work and we will get it much sooner.
Rudolf will send you out three quarters of the second part next week, you shall not have to wait for him then.
Please get on with the preparations of the index, it is very good of you to do it, it will be a great help to Rudolf.
About the name of the translator we need not to bother yet. We shall consider the matter later on. It is very noble of you to insist that his name should not be yours.
We shall certainly wait until you can tell us how long it will take you to do the whole translation, that is understood.
We are happy to hear that you are getting on so fast with the revisions. It is very wonderful. We hope and trust that yours and Emmie’s health will keep in good condition and you will be able to work on.
But by no means you should work too hard, and thereby ruin your health. Your health is more important than any book in the world.
Well yes, you have the complete first part of the manuscript dear Sasha, Rudolf is working the second part you will have it all within two weeks says Rudolf, but he will send you the three parts which he has ready one of these days.
You are happy you write that we can stay here for a while, we don’t even know if we can dear. We have no definitive answer frm the authorities and are still hanging on. Needless to tell you how it feels.
Well dearest this in the hurry, you will hear more details from Rudolf.
You say that you have not heard from Goldman a long time, also we don’t hear from him lately, and we don’t know the reason, I hope there is nothing wrong.
The two other copies send to him as usual, for he actually handles the matter.
With much love and best wishes from us both also from Fermin to both of you, devotedly yours
Please forgive the terrible scribble, it is abominable to write as bad as that.
Your letter and the manuscript arrived safely. R. is not at home, will return Monday the 5th and will answer you in detail, presumably.
He was in Chicago and had a talk with Goldman. They agreed that the book should be published next fall, and in one volume. They find that it will be best not to divide the book. He will write you all about it. You are right the biographical sketches it is not necessary, also R. agrees to that.
Love and best wishes to you both from Fermin and myself
My dearest Sasha,
Your letter of the 15th of March and the 10 chapters of the manuscript arrived. We know and trust that you are in possession of Rudolf’s registered letters and the revised manuscript which was also sent registered by now.
All what you send in the future address to our place, it is the best and quickest way. I would also send these lines registered, since it seems to be best for you, but I cannot do it, as it is Sunday today.
Rudolf is working on the last few chapters, he hopes to get through with them by the end of the next week, it is quite certain that you will not have to wait for him.
As soon as he is finished with this work he will go out for a short trip, only as far as Chicago, as the time for lecturing will soon expire, on account of the warm weather. You probably know by now from Emma that we have got another 6 months stay. The winter season was spoiled for us any way, for while waiting for the extension Rudolf could not go out on a trip of course.
However we have to take things as they come, since we are not the masters over our own fate.
Yes dear Sasha I really think that you have done the revision quickly, considering the circumstances under which you poor dears are working lately. It breaks my heart to hear how terrible hard you have to struggle for your bare existence, it is cruel! The worst of it is that we are all so helpless. What good is it to dear friends if one feels with you and sympathise with you heart and soul? One cannot get fed on that. It is a cursed state of things. Just the best people in this rotten world have to suffer most, suffer constantly: indeed it is but time that the whole thing is smashed to pieces!
Now about the chief items of your letter dear: Rudolf agrees with your suggestion how the index sould be.
The same thing refers to Kant refers to Hegel: the “dialectical method”, his “conception of the state” etc.
The same way you will treat all the rest of the persons mentioned. Rudolf’s book is a scientific work to an extent, isn’t it?
It was suggested that short biographies should be given of the people mentioned but I am trying to convince Rudolf that it is not necessary: that is my opinion. What do you think of it?
Well my dearest ones keep well both of you and let us hope that better times will come, for us all.
With fondest love and best wishes from us three to both of you. Yours as ever
N.Y. 21/9 35
Your letter of July 30th and the copy of the one to Joe Goldman of August the 5th Rudolf received, we are both ever so happy that the matter is closed now, and that you have settled down to some creative work of your own: best of luck dear boy!
You will be glad to hear Sasha dear that also Rudolf has started to work, at last: he actually begun to write his memoirs, while we were in Tawanda at my sister’s place. You hardly realise what it means to me dearest. Rudolf felt so bad before we went to Tawanda, that I was quite worried.
Never before he was in such a state of spirit and how happy I am to see him in his present state. He is so absorbed by his work that I cannot get him away from the desk. A new spirit came over him, living through once more every phase of his youth. He has only done two chapters by now, but you can tell already that it is going to be a very interesting work, and I hope a valuable document.
Our old friend Nettlau will be very happy when he will get to know that Rudolf has at last taken up this work. He begged him ever so long that he should write his memoirs, assuring him the importance of it.
Another bit of ‘good news’ I have for you: we have got another extension, for six more months. The authorities were more decent this time, letting us know about it three weeks before the expiration of our extension. That way we have a better chance to make use of the time. Rudolf will undertake a tour, and meantime meet the people who are interested in the publication of his book, may be that something will turn out of it.
Why do you make special reference to the fact that you have made the proposition long before Emma to repay the money, if need be, Sasha dear? Indeed you have. It was a mistake of Rudolf not to mention it in his letter. That’s all. But would it not be wise old friend to drop the subject entirely? Since the problem is solved to everyone’s satisfaction.
I hope that you will forgive Rudolf for not writing you know old pal, he is working so intensively as I have mentioned already that he cannot tear himself away, it will not keep on in the same speed of course. He shall have to stop soon to attend to some of the correspondence which has accumulated, then you will hear from him of course. Meantime, take these lines as a substitute.
I have spoken quite a lot about ourselves, now how are you? How is your health? Why don’t we hear from dear Emma? It is quite unusual that she should not write as long as that. I hope though that she is well, and that there is no special cause for her silence. We have heard from Rose Pesotta that Emma is intending to come back to C(hicago) for the winter, that would be splendid. We would certainly go over to see her this time, under all circumstances. The comrades will be delighted with her return, they need her there very much.
Much love to you from the three of us and best wishes for successful work.
Love to dear Emma also from us three and let her write soon.
Affectionate as ever yours,
PS Emma back from Nice: we have had a very little letter from her.
N.Y. 28/9 35
I have written you last week and you may be in possession of my letters by now.
The purpose of these lines is to ask you to be so kind and send the revised copy of the manuscript to the enclosed address. The German copy of course. You will do us a great favour if you could send it off as soon as you will get these lines.
Comrade S. is very anxious to publish the book in Spanish, he is of the opinion that it will be a very good work of propaganda against Fascism and the national pest which is also growing fast in Spain and the other Spanish speaking countries.
How are you dear fellow in health and otherwise? How goes it with the work? Why don’t we hear from our Emma? I hope that there is nothing the matter with the dear friend.
We have had a lovely letter from Stella this morning, she wants us to come to her for a week or so, we have decided to go there next week, and spend with the dear family a couple of days. It will be a wonderful thing to see the dear folks again, in their summer house.
A pathetic letter I have had from London the other day, my sister Polly telling me about the remarkable incident which happened to Shapiro and his mother.
Sanya has arranged with his mother, Nastya Shapiro, who is 73 and has not seen him over 12 years, to meet in Boulogne and spend a day together. One day the old lady and my sister went to meet Sanya but to their greatest disappointment the mother was not permitted to Boulogne, as she only had her “Identity Card” and no regular passport. Polly could pass of course, as she is “British”. My sister describes what a pitiful situation it was, it is simply heart-breaking. The only thing they could do was that Polly stayed the day with Sonya and his girl and then went back at least with a personal message froom the son to the mother. Isn’t it a rotten world we live in?
N.Y. 9/11 35
Thank you very much for sending the manuscript to Spain. I should have answered you before, but I was so busy before Rudolf left that I could not manage, which I hope that you will forgive.
How do you and Emmie feel in health? Emma has told me in her letter that you look very fine Sasha dear, I hope that you also feel fine and Emmie the same.
My health is just like a barometer, it goes up and down, according to my worries. I try not to, I really do my very best not to worry, but I am not always successful.
My very worst worries are Rudolf’s tours, they are killing us both. If only we could get along without lecture-tours we would both be happy. But alas, how should we exist?
I don’t know how it was at your time here, now lecture tours are physical and mainly mental torture. Rudolf simply loaths it and he is the most miserable man in the world when he is on route. He never enjoyed speaking, but worst of all when he has to lecture in Yiddish or English.
The tour begun very miserably, his mood is simply terrible. He was happy at his work, he lived in it, got young once more, and it was a pleasue to see him at his desk. Now he had to put it aside and take up work which instead of being a pleasure is a physical and mental torture, so you can imagine how he must feel.
Yes, it must be terrible in Europe now. You speak about the League. Why, what can we expect from that quarters? As a matter of fact we never did. How can we expect anything worthwhile from a League, no matter what great phrases it may use, which is put together of people with quite different interests? It was never nothing more than a farce and it will never be otherwise: liars, thieves and rogues they are all. They all know it and therefore never trusted each other. The tragedy is that those who should know better and have a say in the matter after the lesson we could learn from the previous war, the workers, the socialists, they are ready to join their enemies as if it would be the most natural thing in the world to do.
German militarism they were going to do away with in the last war, fascism they are going to fight this time: and of course defend Soviet Russia.
And we poor souls are utterly helpless, this time more than ever before.
I read in a letter from S.F.(?) to Holms(?) that she is going to do her bit in England against war. Let us hope she will, but I am afraid not for very long. If it should actually come to a war the English authorities are making a very hard ….. They intern you “for your own safety”. That’s all. They do it very gracefully, without any fuss at all. Anyway we must do something against such pest at least as long as there is any chance at all.
Max and Milly Baginsky were at our place before Rudolf left. He doesn’t look quite as bad, but the poor soul is shrinking to nothing. You have never seen such dried up human being I am sure. Mentally, they feel very miserable, just pitiful.
Love to you both from Firmin and your devoted old friend
Tawanda 24/12 35
Dearest Sasha and Emmie,
You hardly realise how delighted I was with your letter. Indeed Sasha, you deserve a lot more than Rudolf said in his article. I can safely say it, for I know that you are not one of those who can easily get spoiled. You, Malatesta and also our dear Rudolf belong to those who are never to get spoiled, which is the finest part about you.
I liked the article, and all who have read it liked it ever so much. The best part in it is the genuineness, the heartfelt spirit with which it was written, but nothing too good for you dear pal.
From Emma I have not heard since she is in England, but my sister Polly writes me that she is in miserable spirit, and that her lectures were not much of a success, at least not at all financially.
When my sister wrote me, E. was in London, I am very much afraid that if London was so bad we cannot expect much of the province. What may be the reason for it? I suppose many of the English people are so occupied and worried about their “Empire” being in danger that they have no interest for anything else in this world. The English workers, who in normal times keep on telling to each other that their Empire consists of a flower-pot.
Yes dear friend, we have lived up to a most remarkable state of instability. I am afraid that we have put to much stress upon the wonderful part the masses play in history. When we thoroughly investigate the fact we must come to the conclusion that we have idealised them above their deserts.
The mass is a tremendous giant with a very loyal brain ad without initiative Sasha. Give that giant the possibility to stuff his stomach, no matter with what, and a roof over his head, and just leave him in peace and he will not bother at all. Yes he can also under given circumstances be lashed into doing things, but no matter what you can use him for good, you can for evil. You can have him for Czarism, for Bolsehvism, for Hitlerism and for Fascism.
That’s why war is inevitable Sasha. He will be ordered to fight his “enemy” and he will fight that fool.
Yes, he also makes revolutions, if he is driven to it, but just make and leave it to the others to rip the fruit. You may think that I am pessimistic dear friend, but I am not, I just see things as they are, and by realising the bitter reality, I assure myself how much there is to do in order to turn that lazy giant to an active individual, a thinking giant, instead of being always a means to an end, to all those who are determined to use that dynamic of force. I am convinced that we will succeed in our efforts one day, but there is a tremendous task indeed in front of us. We are the only group of people who keep on telling the lazy giant that he has to begin to think for himself using his brain or he will never achieve anything worthwhile, and therefore we have so few to follow us.
All the other parties or schools make it easy for him, by telling him: you just follow us and we the thinking part of humanity will do all there is to be done to bring you all the happiness you desire. They all try to make it easy for him but we.
Rudolf is in Los Angeles now, and will remain there about 4 weeks altogether. Then he will be about a week or ten days in San Francisco and will return to N.Y. for we shall find out what we are to do, whether they are going to grant us another extention or not.
His tour is a great moral success, but also financially better than we have expected. As a matter of fact, we have expected very little.
The most important thing for me is that he should come back in good health and spirit everything else is of minor importance. From his short tour last year he came back quite a wreck. I have sent your letters to Rudolf and if he has any time at all I am sure that you will hear from him.
Fermin and myself are here in this beautiful little place Tawanda, at my sister’s. She has a wonderful family, all real good people and most splendid personalities. There is no better place I can think of to spend Christmas. Rudolf would give anything to be with us. They all wished to be remembered to you.
Much love to you both, hearty greetings and best wishes for a healthy and happy new year from Fermin and myself. Ever yours affectionate,
N.Y. March 26
Dearest Sasha and Emmy,
How are you? We know of your operation Sasha dear. We have been told of it by our friends. Dan…(?) told us that he has seen you in the hospital and assured us that you looked very lovely, and were in good spirit. That was very good news. But soon afterwards our friends told us that the operation was not successful and that you may need another one. Is it true? I hope not. We are feeling very unhappy about this last news, and we would be very thankful if either of you would tell us the real state of your health dear fellow.
I am terrible (sic) ashamed of myself dearest mine, that I did not answer you till now and I do not dare to excuse myself at all. I assure you though dear friends that in our hearts and minds we were with you all the time, and I am sure that you know it.
Rudolf came home from his tour absolutely exhausted. He has overdone it this time, no doubt, but could not help it. However, it tolls on him badly, and to the very day he has not quite recuperated. The worst of it is that he …… take a real rest, but is banned to work an(?)
Also my health is not very excellent but I too have to do my share, we just have to.
The worst of it is this beastly business about our stay or go. We have another 6 months stay, and each time it gets more difficult to obtain one. We feel so sick of it that if only we knew where to go, we would not bother any more. But as it is we only have to try again and again and that wears one out mentally.
We have therefore decided to go to C.O. (?) for a short trip. Rudolf is invited to lecture and while we will be there we shall make an attempt to get an emigrants visa.
We doubt very much it will succeed, but we shall try anyway, as we have nothing to lose.
Angelica Balabanoff paid us a visit last week, and brought us personal greetings from Emma. The poor soul changed a lot since I have seen her in Berlin last: she looks so old! But not only physical (sic) she has changed, she seems to be so pessimistic and depressed.
Her lectures are not very successful we are told, and if not for the Italians it would be worse still. She is envying Emma that she can be active in England, just the country where she would love to be. And Emma enrages her that she is in the states: that how it is, nobody can have ones choice, even not in the most elementary and simplest things these days, it is a miserable state of things.
From Emme we have not herd quite a long time. It is true that ……. her a letter but she again owes one to Rudolf. In her last letter she bitterly complained about the coldness of the comrades, specially about the indifference of the Jewish comrades.
It hurts badly to her, what it became of people who were so active, so willing to do things, and made such sacrifices for the movement, some years ago. It must be terrible hard for the dear girl to work, under such circumstances, specially at her age. Yet I feel sure that she will succeed to gather around her a sufficient group of people, specially English-speaking, who will take the task upon them to create a movement. It will not be crowds to begin with, we have to learn to be modest, and never forget that we have more obstacles in our way to clear away than ever before.
Our worst enemy is not Fascism or even Hitlerism but the so called communism. It is not so terrible difficult to convince honest thinking people of the danger and the …. of other dictatorships but very different indeed to make people see any danger at all in the Russian despotism in Bolshevist dictatorship.
Communism became a fad also here and people are taking to it very much because it is getting more and more respectable and is going into fashion.
The petty middle class and the intellectuals are looking up to communism as their only salvation from their present plight and the workers most natural are hoping that all their troubles will be solved by communism.
I am not pessimistic in spite of all that, I am convinced that out time will and must come. Yet we must look facts in the face, and admit, whether we like it or not that, the dictatorship over, the masses will not vanish with the vanishing of Hitler and Mussolini. The so called dictatorship of the “proletariat” will keep the world in captivity for quite a long time after Hitler and Mussolini will vanish and be forgotten.
We shall therefore have to work, patiently and unceasingly, till people begin to see clear, and think and act for themselves:
This letter I started three days ago, have been constantly interrupted so I shall better close it now, else it may take many more days.
I have mentioned that we are going to make an effort to get a permanent visa, now we have found out that we shall need so many documents: which we cannot produce as you may realise that it took me two days already only to look up people and find out what there is to be done. But that is just a beginning of course. We may then have to drop the matter after all.
Fond love to you both from us all in hope that these lines will find you both in improved health and that we shall hear from you soon I am as ever devotedly yours,
The “Productor” & the Chicago Conference
[Supplement to Freedom, September 1893]
A series of articles has been appearing of late in our Spanish Comrade “El Productor”, under the title “Puritanism and exaggeration. They have been written in answer to a criticism by some Valencia comrades of an article which appeared in the “Productor” concerning the Chicago conferences, called “Shoulders to the wheel. As the Chicago conference is so near at hand it may be interesting to English comrades to hear what the opinion of Spanish Anarchists on the question of conference is.
In the disputed article, the “Productor” proposes that all Anarchists who agreed with the desirability of the Chicago Conference, should send in a voluntary subscription, accompanied by the name of the delegate whom they thought best suited to represent the Spanish Anarchists at the Conference; when these votes had all come in, they were to be collected, counted up and verified, and the men whose names had most supporters was to be sent to Chicago, with the money obtained by the subscriptions, there to give voice to the opinions and wishes of the Spanish groups, and to bring back to them an account of the proceedings and the conclusions arrived at.
To these propositions six Valencia comrades answered by a declaration, in which they state that while they fully realize the importance and undeniable advantage to be derived from the Chicago conference, they are completely opposed to the program put forward by the ‘Productor,’ which they denounce as opposed to the Anarchist principle, which denies the possibility of one man representing another, under any circumstances. Especially do they object to a subscription being required as an accompaniment to a vote, declaring that even the Bourgeois governments are seeing the absurdity of a money qualification. To these objections the ‘Productor’ replies by saying that it does not consider that the question of the best way for the Spanish Anarchists to take part in a conference is in any sense a matter of principle, which it defines as a fundamental basis, but a matter of convenience. It states that it does not consider the idea of representation to be opposed to Anarchy; that it is only so when applied as it is by our existing Bourgeoise society, and it asks if any one would maintain that it would be contrary to Anarchist principles if, after the revolution, several groups wishing to confer together on points of common interest, and it being impossible for all the members of the said group to meet together to discuss, they should each choose delegates to set forth the opinions of their comrades, and afterwards announce the result of the conference so that the different groups might come to some common understanding, provided the delegates received no authority to enforce their decisions. As to the money qualification, the ‘Productor’ says, that as they made the subscription entirely voluntary, that is to say that it might consist of 1 centime or 50frs., it did not think that it would be an obstacle to any one’s voting; but, of course, it says, if any one should be found in so destitute a condition as not to be able to afford eve a centime, he would be allowed to give his vote without a subscription.
This seems a dangerous method to establish, savouring rather of the method in vogue in Bourgeoise society of remedying present evils by charities in various forms. But, of course, it is true enough that people as a rule are very disinclined to produce money unless some pressure is supplied, and there would be very few cases in which it would be impossible to give a half-penny or a farthing; the other objections as to verifying votes, etc., disappear if we once invade the first two points.
The Valencia Anarchists say that their idea of what an Anarchist conference should be is that any Anarchist who feels inclined to go should go; that he should go on no one’s behalf and represent no one but himself; that the Anarchists thus assembled should discuss for their own benefit any subjects they feel inclined to, and by thus strengthening themselves individually, they would ultimately strengthen the cause, and they point to the Paris congress as a beau ideal of an Anarchist conference. The ‘Productor’ answers this by asking if a single object was attained, or result arrived at by the Paris congress, and replies in the negative. It therefore concludes that if the expense of going to Chicago is to be stood, it must be compensated by substantial results, and that this can only be the case if a plan something like the one they suggested be adopted.
It is to be regretted that the articles on both sides have been written in a spirit of active antagonism, most unfortunate among Anarchists when a mere point of tactics is under discussion. Surely Anarchists should be the first to respect free individual initiative in such matters, and if one set of comrades wish to send a delegate to a conference, others should surely not require them to retract on pain of declaring them not to be Anarchists and vice versa.
To overthrow our present society means that we have such a tremendous and varied work to do, that there is surely room for every description of method and propaganda, and no time should be wasted in trying to compel others to adopt one’s own special line.
We are Anarchists because we recognize that all men are different, and that it is desirable that they should be so; let us put this principle into practice, and no more waste our time in trying to lord it over some one else.
[Published in l’anarchie, n°13, July 6th 1905]
In his palace, hearing the news which reach him each day, the czar shivers in fear. Every hour brings its revolt, quite often childish, sometimes terrible… And from every corner of the vast empire hatreds arise, angers flare up.
Petersburg, Lodz, Warsaw, Kronstadt, Loben, Odessa, Riga, Kiel, Nijni-Novgord, Kischineff, Hapsal, etc., etc., the former doleful resignation is shaken; a wind of terror is blowing, disturbing the emperor, the nobility and the state employees in their blissful digestion.
Fatalistic peasants, workers made obedient by the knout have at last some quivers of anger. They are to be sent to Mandchuria. Thus, since they’re going to die anyway, they might as well get killed by shaking the tyranny which crushes them in gestures of madness.
Revolts, up until now, have been rather naive. A credulous people, grown children, walked with their hands up in supplication to get massacred willingly. An unconscious people who understood revolt in the same way as the old Tolstoy, an idiotic people of martyrs, who had so often bent their backs under the blows of the nagaikas that the only desire they can have is to get killed…
And they were killed, again and again… Corpses piled up, in Petersburg, Warsaw, Odessa, everywhere… The cosaques worked hard to restore calm for the “little father gone mad” with terror.
But after Platonicist and sterile insurrections, the rebels learned no longer to be martyrs. Everywhere effective revolts are flaring up.
Something even more terrible, o emperor of all Russias, your soldiers, your officers even, are leaving you, and join the rebels. And you shiver in your apartments where fear is keeping you prisoner, fear that your courtesans themselves kill, with you and your offspring, what you symbolise.
The crew of the Kniaz-Potemkin rebelled and you do not dare to go after them with the crews of the other warships. Their example has been followed: despite the banal ending to this epic tale — are the news accurate? — the fight is not over; it is only beginning…
Of course we don’t believe that people over there will only take reasoned and reasonable action. The inferior mentality of the Russian sheep does not allowus to believe that they will get rid of the idea of Czarism when they throw down the Czar. Their brains are way too used to obedience for them to be able to act as free men. Aren’t the revolutionary committees making proclamations demanding the respect of private property under fear of death. And the clergy and the army which are taking side with the rebels are elements of atrophy in the work started amid so much blood, so many tears.
Whatever! That the result does not answer our desires, that the Russian revolution remain unfinished, it will still be a step forward.
It will surely produce, without any doubt, an elite of men who won’t be satisfied by the acquired result, who will want to venture further, who will want to see the Russian people free not only of this Czarism, but of all Czarisms.
We can deplore that this task comes at such a price; but we can be but happy that it is being done.
[Supplement to Freedom, April 1898]
Down in the South of France stands an old fortress where a woman was imprisoned for 40 years, and in her prison cell is seen to this day, carved deeply into the stone wall, the single word–“Resist.”