Speaking at the end of her trial in 1917, anarchist Emma Goldman reminded the jury that she was not born in America. She said she loved America, “but with the same passionate emotion we hate her superficiality, her cant, her corruption, her mad, unscrupulous worship at the alter of the Golden Calf.”
She called police the “brutal gangsters in uniform,” and claimed that America was not a democracy and terrorism was excusable. “You and I and all of us who remain indifferent to the crimes of poverty, of war, of human degradation, are equally responsible for the act committed by the political offender.”
Her defense and excuse of violence, bombings, assassinations and killings, against the state could be easily be taken from a speech by any of the hundreds of Islamist preachers in Europe and elsewhere who support terrorism. Her anger at the corrupt society and hatred of it reminds us of the anger many members of al-qaida and Islamic State who chose to engage in mass murder and terror in Europe have towards their host society. They hate the very society they have often chosen to migrate to. The Tunisian who drove into a Christmas market in Berlin is not so perplexing to understand when we look to our own history.
The forerunner of Emma Goldman was a man named Johann Most. Born in Germany in 1846, he became a socialist revolutionary in the vein of Wilhelm Liebknecht, urging the “overturn of the present state” be replaced with a new radical socialist caliphate.
In Germany he became a low-level politician and writer, advocating violence to achieve his extremism.
Bombings and assassinations, such as the one which killed a Russian tsar, were the preferred method.
Eventually Germany expelled him.
Moving to France, he eventually emigrated to the United States in 1882. Instead of embracing his new country, he preached the murder of its people.
He supported the Haymarket bombing which killed seven police. In New York he was imprisoned several times. In his newspaper Freiheit, he supported the assassination of US president William McKinley.
America was “stupid, corrupt and prejudiced,” he wrote. Then why did he emigrate there and take advantage of its freedoms to publish hate and urge its destruction? “The existing system will be quickest and most radically overthrown by the annihilation of its exponents,” he wrote. Another fatwa noted: “Massacres of the enemies of the people must be set in motion.”
He even authored manuals on how to make bombs, before dying in Ohio in 1906.
One of those influenced by Johann Most was Alexander Berkman. Born in 1870 in Vilna, Lithuania, he emigrated to the US in 1888. He joined a Jewish anarchist group called Pioneers of Liberty and supported the men accused of the Haymarket bombing.
The young extremist set his eyes on assassinating industrialist Henry Clay Frick. He hoped that the high-profile assassination would lead the working classes to revolt, much as ISIS thinks its bombings will drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims and encourage strife.
Moving among networks of anarchists with roots in eastern and central Europe, much as the Belgian Islamist terrorists moved within migrant circles of extremists, Berkman attempted making bombs but eventually settled on killing Frick with a pistol. After failing in his attempt he was sentenced to 21 years, but was released in 1906. Seven years later he was busy building bombs again, this time to strike at the Rockefellers. One of his bombs exploded prematurely, killing co-conspirators Charles Berg, Arthur Caron and Carl Hanson.
Finally in 1919, Berkman was deported and ended up in Russia. Enthusiastic for Bolshevism, the kind of upheaval he wished for America, he found the reality of the Soviets bleak. Watching protesters gunned down, he suddenly saw that things were not so bad in the Great Satan of America. So he left Russia and moved to Berlin, and then to France, where he died in Nice in 1936. Not a bad life for an attempted murderer and frequent bomb maker, traveling like a terror tourist from one country to another supporting mass murder. His life reads like that of any Islamist-extremist bigot, like the Berlin killer, moving from Italy to Germany, abusing societies that host them.
Emma Goldman, whose life dovetailed with Berkman’s, was born in Kovno in what is now Lithuania, and moved to New York at the age of sixteen in 1885.
Her parents and family fled antisemitism to come to the United States. What better way to show gratitude for a country taking you in as a refugee, than to plot to murder and kill that country’s people? Much like the numerous Islamists who sought refuge in Europe after their own countries fell apart, Goldman started plotting murders within six years of arriving in the United States. In American history, the deportation of Goldman and Berkman in 1919 is often portrayed as an injustice and she is seen as an advocate of freedom of speech.
UK hate preacher Anjem Choudary, convicted in August of supporting ISIS, also poses as supporting free speech. Goldman and Berkmen were the ISIS of their time, seeking to overthrow the system and unleash the extremes that led to Stalinism. We coddle them today just the way some Muslim countries have education systems that coddle Islamist extremism.
IN 1901 GOLDMAN supported Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of president McKinley. Like Berkman, she was deported and ended up in the Soviet Union, which she initially admired. An advocate of free speech in the US, she found that in the Communist utopia there was no free speech.
We think of the EU’s open borders today as something unique. But Goldman moved freely from the USSR to Lativa, then Berlin and the UK. None of these host countries were to her liking and she went to Canada and then Spain during the Civil War. Even close to death in 1940 she refused to support war against Nazism, claiming that “as much as I loathe Hitler,” the western democracies were “fascist in disguise.”
She died as she had lived, hating the societies that gave her freedom.
These late 19th and early 20th century anarchists and extreme socialists had much in common with today’s terrorists. They were not only zealous in excusing murder as a means to an end and seeing in terror a glorious deed to shock and transform society, they also abused the rights and freedoms provided by host societies. Women like Louise Berger were born in Latvia but came to America and immediately supported bomb making. After Berger’s colleagues were killed in a “work accident,” she moved to Russia in 1917. Why didn’t she just stay in Latvia? Why did people like anarchist Modest Stein leave Lithuania to come to the US, which they loathed so much? Why move half way around the world to murder people? Why did Josef Peukert move to America to support assassinations, rather than stay home in Germany and do it? The same could be said of those today plotting attacks in the West.
The reason some migrants despise their host societies often relates to not having to work to be members of their new society. We don’t find middle-aged terrorists who strived years to obtain citizenship and economic success. We find young listless people who have contempt for their new society. They have contempt because nothing is demanded of them by that society. It took the US thirty years to deport Berkman and Goldman who had sought to murder a US citizen within years of coming to the country. Why were they allowed to remain? Their new society tolerated their intolerance and taught them that this new country provided such unfettered freedom that it should be destroyed. The Tunisian terrorist in Berlin had started his life in Europe as a violent arsonist and then “asylum seeker.”
Nowhere in the 19th-century writings of these refugees from Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, or Germany can be found one “thank you” to America for letting them come. Only hatred. Goldman applauds those who don’t stand for the national anthem, which is unsurprising since her fellow travelers had no reverence for the national anthem. It wasn’t their anthem, the Lithuanian or German anthem was.
Some of my ancestors came to the US with the same wave of immigrants that produced Goldman and Berkman. They came from Ukraine. They too settled in New York. But they liked America. They wanted to work hard and succeed and they appreciated the freedoms their new society gave them. Instead of admiring the USSR and hoping to see blood flowing in American streets, they sought to improve their society in small ways where it needed correction, such as fighting antisemitism or segregation, but they didn’t want to destroy it. They wanted to be part of it.
Terrorism is a form of privileged arrogance. It says “I decide who dies.” It is a form of colonialism and imperialism whose master is murder and whose empire is death. Those today plotting attacks in the US, Australia, Europe and everywhere in the world, seek to impose their death penalty on others. They have contempt because they feel entitled. To reduce their feelings of entitlement, societies should not be afraid to deport or imprison indefinitely anyone who supports murder.
Goldman said in 1917 that advocating violence was acceptable. “The mere belief in a thing or even the announcement that you would carry out that belief cannot possibly constitute a crime.”
But it should constitute a crime, and people like Emma shouldn’t be allowed to come to our countries and support murdering us.
Go back to Lithuania. Go back to Tunisia. We shouldn’t feel afraid to say that. Welcome the millions who don’t love violence. Send the others back.
The terrorist does not get to dictate a new way of life to our society, to make us fear and live with burdensome security, it is the terrorist who should fear. It’s time to stop coddling terror. We coddled it in the 1890s and the 1990s, and we still coddle it today.
The 1890s’ lesson is instructive because it explains how terrorists are able to dehumanize their victims.
As foreigners, those like Goldman could see potential bombing victims as non-human, infidels, deserving of death, collateral damage in the wider economic social-justice Jihad.
Islamists “other” their victims by describing them as non-believers, and even if the terrorists themselves are not particularly pious, the framework of extremist faith gives them the cover and justification to murder. In the same way, Johann Most’s belief in the “deed” as a necessary murder to encourage the masses relied on dehumanizing the victim. Frick was an industrialist to be annihilated, part of the evil “class.”
Foreign jihadists find it particularly easy to murder people because those people are not their hometown neighbors, and they face no repercussions in their home society.
What better a place to murder faceless others than in a new country? The 5,000 ISIS volunteers from Europe found murdering people in Iraq and Syria so easy because they had convinced themselves that these victims, such as Yazidis, Shia and Kurds were subhumans. This understanding of 19th century anarchism’s crimes is key to understanding terrorism today.
We pretend that these anarchists were intellectuals supporting symbolic murder. In much the same way, Osama Bin Laden saw his killings as part of a wider crusade. But people have a right not to be murdered, rather than be symbols in the hate-filled dreams of others.Follow the author @Sfrantzman