Jun 052014

This article is abridged from a talk by the author to the Cambridge branch of DAM/IWA on 8 August 1985


The Storming of the Bastille, July 14 1789

‘…you ask me what I seek in life. I wish neither to dominate nor be dominated. I wish neither to dissimulate nor deceive; nor do I wish to exert myself to acquire what I am told is necessary, but of which I do not feel the need.’ — N. G. Chernyshevsky, What Is To Be Done? (1863)

REVOLUTION is a much used term but rarely is it discussed in a way that sheds any light on what the process actually involves. Revolutionaries themselves more often than not refer to it only in passing, or in terms of some historical myth dictated by whatever their particular ideology happens to be. The actual historical events of revolutions are either overlooked or tailored to fit a prefabricated political dogma. So let us get away from this habit and look at what we mean when we talk about revolution.

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Feb 172014

Berkman1abALEXANDER BERKMAN, ANARCHIST — Life, Work, Ideas, Bill Nowlin ISBN 978-1-873976-69-2 (Kindle edition). First published by ChristieBooks in 2014 —  Check out all Kindle editions of ChristieBooks titles  — £3.08/€3.76/$5.50  READ INSIDE!  ¡LEER EL INTERIOR! LIMITED PRINT EDITION (25 copies) ALSO AVAILABLE — £25.00 (+ £5.00 p+p)

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As a young student in Russia, Alexander Berkman claims to have heard the bomb explode which killed Tsar Alexander II in 1881. He emigrated to America and, inspired by the Haymarket martyrs, became active in Jewish anarchist circles. When Henry Clay Frick of Carnegie Steel sent in armed Pinkertons who killed strikers at Homestead Steel, Berkman traveled to Pittsburg and shot Frick in an assassination attempt of his own, hoping to inspire a workers’ revolt. He spent 14 years in prison, then rejoined his comrade Emma Goldman and was active in the free speech movement, in setting up free schools, in the beginnings of the birth control movement, and in defending numerous activists charged by prosecutors. He and Goldman organized against military conscription during World War I and were deported to Russia, arriving shortly after the Revolution. There, as anarchists, they also ran afoul of the Communist Party authorities who were intent on consolidating political power. They had to leave Russia as well, and then to leave Germany, finally landing in exile in France. Throughout, Berkman was a skilled organizer and both edited and wrote numerous publications. His life, his work, and his ideas are explored in this book.  The way Berkman lived his life, maturing in his thought but remaining true to his principles, has been an inspiration to those who have known of him.

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Mar 272013
Give me your tired, your poor.
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
From Emma Lazarus’s poem The New Colossus, inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty

SS Buford (“The Soviet Ark”)

Shortly before dawn on a chill overcast December morning, one year after the end of the war, a carefully guarded transport vessel lying in the shadow of the guns of Fort Wadsworth lifted anchor and slipped out of New York Harbor under extremely strange and mysterious circumstances. Not even the captain knew where the ship was bound; he was sailing under sealed orders, to remain unopened until he was twenty-four hours at sea. The only persons aware of the ship’s destination were a few highly placed officials of the United States Government.

Radicals Awaiting Deportation

Radicals awaiting deportation

Through the long tense hours of the night a cordon of heavily armed soldiers had stood on guard at the pier. Aboard ship, other soldiers with fixed bayonets patrolled the decks. A special detachment of marines, several agents of the Department of Justice and a top-ranking member of the Military Intelligence Section of the Army General Staff sailed with the vessel. Shortly before departure, revolvers were distributed among the crew . . .

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Jan 052013
Alexander Berkman in his study in Paris

Alexander Berkman in his study in Paris

BerkmanCoverTHE RUSSIAN TRAGEDY, Alexander Berkman. ISBN 978-0-904564-11-2. Edited, introduced and compiled by William G. Nowlin Jnr. First published as three separate pamphlets in 1922 by Der Syndikalist, Berlin. Compilation first published 1976 by Cienfuegos Press Ltd., Over The Water, Sanday, Orkney. Cover illustration by Flavio Costantini and cover design by Simon Stern. This (Kindle) e-Book edition published 2013 by ChristieBooks, PO Box 35, Hastings, TN341ZS.

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THE THREE PAMPHLETS, ISSUED HERE in book form for the first time (‘The Russian Tragedy’, ‘The Russian Revolution and the Communist Party’, and ‘The Kronstadt Rebellion‘), are Alexander Berkman’s first writings after leaving Russia in December of 1921. He had entered Russia just two years earlier, filled with devotion to the ideals of the Russian revolution and anxious to contribute his share to the revolutionary process. It was a return home for him, as he had lived his first 17 years in Russia and had grown up among the revolutionaries of that era. Now he was welcomed back as an important revolutionary exile from his adopted United States.

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