Emma Goldman and Anarchism
The late 1800’s and early 1900’s in the United States was a time of seemingly never ending change and reform. As some may put it, America was feeling growing pains. The Civil War had ended and civil rights for African-Americans had become a highly controversial issue. Another issue in the nation included the status of immigrants and deportation. This issue hovered over the heads of a number of foreign communities, but none more so than the Chinese. With the ever expanding industrialism and exploitation of labor, workers rights also became a significant issue. All of these issues and more were taken into account when Emma Goldsmith became an activist and proponent of anarchism.
What is anarchism? A formal definition of it nowadays would probably state that anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful. Anarchism promotes a stateless society opposing authority in the conduct of human relations. Emma Goldman was a self-pronounced anarchist and in her 1933 speech, “An Anarchist Looks at Life,” we get a glimpse of her ideology. In 1987, author Martha Solomon wrote what is credited as the first detailed study of Goldman to focus on her achievements as a rhetorician rather than on her involvement in particular causes. Solomon's goal "is to evaluate her in a spirit she would have preferred: appreciating her creative contributions and acknowledging her limitations (Solomon 149).” Solomon thoroughly examines a number of Goldman’s essays on a wide range of topics as well as her role as writer and publisher of her magazine, “Mother Earth.” As Solomon analyzes Goldman’s literary theory, she accuses her of being too vague in her description of anarchism and is convinced that her beliefs are contradictory. In her “An Anarchist Looks at Life” speech, Emma Goldman starts off talking about “America, with its huge factories [and] the pedaling of a machine for ten hours a day at two dollars...
Bibliography: Martha Solomon, Emma Goldman, Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1987.
Emma Goldsmith (1933, March), An Anarchist Looks at Life, speech presented at the Foyles Twenty-ninth Literary Luncheon
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