Freedom of Criticism and Opinion
Under the "Trading With the Enemy Act," the Postmaster General has become the absolute dictator over the press. Not only is it impossible now for any publication with character to be circulated through the mails, but every other channel, such as express, freight, newstands, and even distribution has been stopped. As MOTHER EARTH will not comply with these regulations and will not appear in an emasculated form, it prefers to take a long needed rest until the world has regained its sanity.
The MOTHER EARTH BULLETIN has been decided upon largely as a means of keeping in touch with our friends and subscribers, and for the purpose of keeping them posted about our movements and activities.
This is the wee Babe of Mother Earth. It was conceived during the greatest human crisis -born into a tragic, disintegrating world. To give it life, Mother Earth had to choose death, yet out of Death must come Life again. The Babe is frail of body, but it comes with a heritage of strength, determination and idealism to be worthy of her who gave it birth.
To bring a child into the world these days is almost an unpardonable luxury. But the child of Mother Earth comes to you for a share of the beautiful love and devotion you gave its mother. Assured of that, it will make a brave effort to Live and to Do. -E.G.
"Mother Earth" has been suppressed, but how strikingly its position and ideas have been vindicated!
In two particulars, especially, has our propaganda been justified by the events.
First, our insistence on free expression is the foundation of all progress. "Mother Earth" was a voice in the wilderness when it first raised the cry for the imperative need of a determined and for free speech and free press. From the very beginning of our publication -now over ten years ago -and ever since we have persistently emphasized, over and over again, how imperative it was for all radicals to resist every encroachment upon the liberty of assembly and press, whoever the victim.
But as long as only Anarchist meetings were stopped, or Anarchist publications suppressed, no one cared much except the Anarchists. Yet repeatedly we warned the liberal elements at large that the most fundamental principle was at stake, and that the suppression of Anarchists was but the entering wedge.
Now the whole block is split, or almost so. Only the blind can fail to see that it is but a matter of weeks or days before the last critical word will be stilled by the hand that has gained practice as well as arrogant assurance through our lack of vigilance and co-operation in the past.
Nor is the evil temporary only. Some rules and laws may disappear with the war, but the tendencies no dominant, and the habits acquired, will persist long after their immediate stimuli have ceased to operate.
Similarly has the Anarchist opposition to forcible authority and centralization of power been vindicated by recent history.
The essence of authority is invasion, the impostion of a superior will -generally superior only in point of physical force. The menace of man-made authority is not in its potential abuse. That may be guarded against. The fundamental evil of authority is its use. The more paternal its character or the more humanistic its symbols and mottoes, the greater its danger. No slavery so deep-rooted and stable than the subtle hypnotism of Democracy's phraseology. It is mesmerizing to watch the girations of a balloon labelled "Liberty." The required optical intensity only too often lulls to forgetfulness even those vaguely conscious that the proudly soaring balloon holds nothing but gas -a child's toy with no substance.
The democratic authority of majority rule is the last pillar of tyranny. The last, but the strongest. It is at the base of this pillar that the Anarchist ax has been hewing. The autocracy of the minority is too patent an imposition to promise long life in modern days. The temple of Romanoff falls like a house of cards at the touch of a will-full Samson. But the despotism that is invisible because not personified, shears Samson of his passion and leaves him will-less.
Woe to the people where the citizen is a sovereign whose power is in the hands of his masters! It is a nation of willing slaves.
San Francisco's Sixth Victim
When Governor Stephens, of California, signed the requisition papers for Alexander Berkman (although he had solemnly promised a delegation of labor men and a body of women from the Civic League of San Francisco to give them a hearing before signing the papers), District Attorney Fickert rushed into print with the following statement: "Weinberg's case will now be postponed and we will try Berkman at once; he is more important."
Fickert reminds one of the milkmaid who, with the pail of milk balanced on her head, became so enthused over the prospective profits from it, that she began dancing with glee, and spilled the milk. Mr. Fickert, too, jumped with glee at the prospect of getting Berkman into his clutches. Had he not tried hard for a whole year to involve Alexander Berkman in the San Francisco frame-up? First, during the Billings trial; then again, during the farce of Tom Mooney's trial; finally, when Rena Mooney battled for her life. Each time District Attorney Fickert impressed it upon the jurors that Alexander Berkman was the principal villain in the play; each time this faithful servant of the Chamber of Commerce came nearer to the point where he felt sure of roping Berkman into his noose. And when the indictment was finally handed down, Fickert felt near his goal.
In his imagination he already saw Berkman tried, convicted, sentenced and executed. But lo and behold, down came the pail of milk with all of Fickert's calculations.
Having played fast and loose with his victims in San Francisco, Fickert could not imagine the difficulties that would confront him when he called for the indictment of Alexander Berkman. How was a man of Fickert's mentality to know Berkman's position among the workers of the East, and especially in New York City? How was he to know the love, esteem and devotion Berkman has gained during the twenty-seven years of his activity in behalf of the masses? Much less could Fickert realize Berkman's importance as an international figure in the revolutionary movement, and the protest and indignation his indictment would arouse!
Well, Mr. Fickert did not have to wait long. First of all came the enthusiastic response of the United Hebrew Trades and other radical organizations. The delegation that went to Albany to argue before Governor Whitman against the extradition of A.B., was a significant tribute to the man who had for twenty-seven years unreservedly given his ability and devotion to the cause of humanity. It certainly must have impressed the Governor or he would not have held up his signature to the extradition.
Then came President Wilson's order for a Federal investigation into the San Francisco frame-up, and right on its heels the glorious demonstration in Petrograd for Alexander Berkman. All this because of the indictment against a mere Anarchist! Who ever heard of such a thing? Fickert was frantic, but to save his face he wired Governor Whitman that Berkman's extradition "would not be pressed for the present." How magnanimous of the man who has all along used the vilest means to dispose of his victims!
Needless to say, we are not foolish enough to believe that Governor Whitman will not in the end sign Berkman's extradition. Nor do we bank too much on the outcome of the Federal Investigation. There is no doubt but that the Commission will have to brand as criminals the Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco and its District Attorney. But what of this? Washington is not likely to declare war upon California because of the American lives endangered there and the frightfulness committed by District Attorney Fickert and his Huns. There are only two forces which will effectually put Fickert out of his criminal business: first, the continued protest in Russia; secondly, the solid front labor in this country must make. Already hundreds of organizations have come to the fore, morally and financially. But more is needed; we must awaken all of labor. Nothing must be left undone to stay the murderous hand ready to slay six innocent victims.
Thursday, October 11, Alexander Berkman could have walked out a free man; the legal extradition limit of thirty days had expired. The warden of the Tombs prison was not only ready but anxious to let Berkman go; he knew he had no legal power to hold him. But it takes a revolutionist to live up to his promise, even if made by his attorneys. So Alexander Berkman signed himself back into the Tombs prison for another thirty days. However, an attempt is now being made to get A.B. out on bail. He is entitled to it, especially in view of the fact that he is already under $25,000 bail on the Federal conviction.
Whatever the ultimate outcome of it all, District Attorney Fickert is likely to spend many sleepless nights and restless moons before he can get Alexander Berkman, and even if he does get him in the end, Fickert's troubles will only then begin. To set the background for that momentous event, we need the help of all our friends and all those who have been aroused to the scandal, the shame and the outrage of the San Francisco frame-up. For that purpose defense councils must be organized in every city, mass meetings arranged, and the whole case given the widest possible publicity for which, of course, a substantial campaign capital is indispensible. Radical labor and the friends of Alexander Berkman have already come to the rescue most generously, but we must ask for further aid, which we know the friends of Mother Earth will not withhold.
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws -it is in the soul; it can not be varied by status any more than love, pride, the attraction of gravity can. -Walt Whitman.
To the Postmaster
EXCERPTS FROM A LETTER
September 22, 1917
Third Assistant Postmaster General,
Outside of the technical ground which you may have for removing the second class mail privileges of "Mother Earth," I suppose we are justified in assuming that the only real reason you have for denying us the use of these privileges is that "Mother Earth" is an Anarchist magazine, Emma Goldman its publisher, and that "Mother Earth" has always maintained a vigorous anti-war attitude. I don't suppose it is within the jurisdiction of your department, nor have you the time or the inclination, to argue on the merits of the war, or the meaning of free press. But I do hope that you have the time and the interest to get our point of view.
A certain section of the American people, whose numbers are growing daily (whether for good or for evil), are anxious, desirous and determined to read radical literature, such as is contained in our magazine. It is too late to change their taste for such reading matter. "Mother Earth," "The Masses," "The Jeffersonian," "The Rebel," "The Free Press," "The International Socialist Review," and other papers that the Government is attempting to suppress, have become the Bible for millions of people living in America. These magazines are not only the favorite literature of these citizens, but their gospel as well. They are determined to have them and, if I know anything about history, it looks to me as though they would get them one way or another.
You are aware, of course, that censorship of the press is not new -is more than one hundred years old. I think it is as old as the printing press. Rigid Germany, autocratic Russia, temperamental France and our favorite ally England, have suppressed thousands of publications, but they still exist in large numbers. The law of suppression may be formulated as follows: The more a government suppresses a paper that the people really want, the more it is read with reverance, and the more powerful the paper becomes in its influence in the community. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that suppressed publications were one of the largest factors in the recent Russian Social Revolution.
I trust you will realize the importance of this issue to our mighty Government. I know full well the Government's power and its ability to jail or hang anyone who attempts to thwart its desire. I simply wish to call your attention to an undisputed historical and psychological fact, and remind you that in Belgium, where the Iron Hand of Germany rules, the determined Belgians are getting out their own papers in spite of the Kaiser's censors. In Russia, prior to the revolution, there was a despotism and a censorship of publication such as the world never before witnessed, yet millions of copies of papers and leaflets found their way into the hands and hearts of the workers and soldiers. It is not news to you, I am sure, that even in the trenches of Europe suppressed papers are being published. Please don't think that we are attempting to intimidate or bluff you when we say that if you do not permit "Mother Earth" and other publications to continue their mission in the open, someone will find a way of continuing the work and getting out the message of liberty to the American people. I suppose you are aware, through the newspapers or from the Secret Service Department, that dozens of underground presses have already been established, and with widespread education and the printing facilities which can be found in any city, hamlet and village in these great United States, there is every reason to believe that for each publication you suppress, underground presses will be established, and as fast as they are discovered and stopped, still others will take their place. For another great law of history reads: Thinking men and women who have a greievance or a message for the world will find a way to get their ideas to the people, and suppressing, jailing and hanging won't stop it. Five thousand years of history back this statement.
Does this mean that we want the right to be treasonable? No! We ask for our constitutionally guaranteed right to voice our grievances and to help build a world without tyranny, injustice and exploitation. Some of the radicals want to change the laws; others believe that governments are wrong, harmful and unnecessary, and that we can live and carry on production and distribution and do the right thing by our fellowmen and have a very beautiful world, without any laws or governments. Now we want to do propaganda in the open. We are willing to abide by the Constitution, provided that the authorities will obey the law and respect human rights, and that no judge or post office official will take it upon himself to decide what is or is not free press. In other words, if the Post Office really takes President Wilson seriously and wants to make the world safe for democracy, we are willing to cooperate, and I feel we will bring much intelligence and genuine interest for a democracy, such as Paine, Jefferson and the framers of the Constitution hoped for.
I understand that these are trying times, and the Government is in no mood to temporize with radicals and theorists. But unless America and the Post Office department, especially, respect the rights and needs of millions of her inhabitants who are feeling, thinking, struggling and desirous of maintaining constitutional democracy in a way which may be a little different from that desired by a small group of senators, legislators or officials -then America may have to pass through the experiences that we are now witnessing in Russia.
Yours very sincerely,
BEN L. REITMAN.
The highest form of despotism, falsehood and violence is the establishment by some people of a law which must not be discussed by the other people and which must be accepted by them. -Tolstoy.
Russia and Elsewhere
The Russian Revolution is now affording every journalistic ignoramus the fertile opportunity of displaying -at so much per line -the depth of his socio-political wisdom and the fullness of his historical erudition.
Not a newspaper or a magazine in America but that has compared the Russian upheaval with the French Revolution and learnedly pointed to the "striking analogies" and drew the "inevitable" conclusions of débacle with that Karma finality that but illy hid the smirk of bourgeois satisfaction.
Vain fools! As if their penny minds could even conceive of the primal cosmic forces that have broken the bondage of centuries and are about to change the very course of the whole gamut of human experience.
For Russia is not going through a mere revolution. Comparisons with historical analogies, the tracing of superficial evolutionary "laws" are the veriest lilliputian efforts in the face of the titanic elements commanding untrammeled expression.
Never since the dawn of time has the world been pregnant with the mighty spirit that is now rocking Russia in the throes of a new birth -a new life, a new humanity, a new earth. It is the Messiah come, the Social Revolution.
The most tragic part of Russia's rebirth is the pity dished out to her by American editors. No doubt in many instances their ill-humored attitude merely cloaks the haunting fear that "the dictatorship of the proletariat" might indeed become a fact -and such things are terribly catching! What if the will of the proletariat should march across the borders of Russia and sweep the rest of the world in its compelling desire! Woe to all that's well established, parasites and all.
Hence the mad ravings against the Bolsheviki, the real pioneers of the Social Revolution. If journalistic assassination at long distance were effective, the Bolsheviki would all be dead by now. They are persistently misrepresented in the American press as the scum of the earth, criminals, Anarchists, a mere handful of malcontents who should be given the shortest shrift. It never enters the solid pate of the good American "news"-eater to inquire how it is possible for a handful of malcontents to keep such a vast country like Russia "in an uproar," and to influence a nation of almost two hundred million population.
Informed people know that the Bolsheviki are the majority elements in both the Social Revolutionary and the Social Democratic parties. "Bolshe," in Russian, means "more." Hence, Bolsheviki -the majority. And though the Bolsheviki of the Social Revolutionists in various matters disagree with the Social Democratic Bolsheviki, yet the plain truth of the Russian situation is that the overwhelming majority of the Russian people, the industrial and agrarian population, stand solidly behind the Bolsheviki, the true revolutionists who will not permit the Revolution to be exploited into a victory of the bourgeoisie. That is the fundamental difference between the Social Revolution in Russia and the French Revolution. The past martyrdom of Russia shall not be used as a stepping stone to capitalist domination. Russia must be free -from industrial despotism no less than from the tyranny of Tsardom.
On December 10th, the Supreme Court of the United States will decide the fate of three men and one woman, who took an active stand against the war -Alexander Berkman, Louis Kramer, Morris Becker and Emma Goldman.
By the first of the new year, unless a miracle happens and the judges of the Supreme Court can conquer the war hysteria with reason and justice, Emma Goldman will find herself back in the confines of the Jefferson City prison; Berkman will be behind the iron bars of the Federal Penitentiary at Atlanta, and Kramer and Becker will remain in that institution where they are at the present time. The sentence is two years and a fine of $10,000 and deportation to Russia in the cases of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and Louis Kramer. The latter is also to serve one year in the Mercer County, N.J., Prison. The sentence of Morris Becker is twenty months in Atlanta.
Ordinarily a case taken to the highest judicial tribunal in the United States must wait at least a year before it is argued before that body. But now the newspaper clamor for immediate condemnation of everyone opposed to war is responsible for the anti-draft cases being among the first to be presented at the first session of the Federal Supreme Court.
Miracles happened frequently in earlier days, so the Bible tells us. But they occur very rarely in these times, and so we cannot imagine that the Supreme Court will declare the draft-law unconstitutional. Indeed, if that should happen the whole war policy would be shattered. We can only have a faint hope -and it is a very faint one -that the decision of the lower court in the anti-draft cases will be reversed on the grounds of error. And although there were enough errors in the trials, men are blind and afraid to see justice when they are stricken with the war mania.
But unfortunately for the human race, no matter how many publications the censors may suppress, or how many agitators and propagandists may be lynched, hanged or jailed, the struggle for Liberty will go on. And "Mother Earth" activities will continue as far as possible. We need your assistance more than ever. So far the arrest and trial of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and the anti-draft cases, have already cost over $5,000. The printing of the briefs and minutes alone cost more than half of this amount. Our attorney, Harry Weinberger, has been working night and day, and has accomplished almost the impossible. If we are to make a favorable showing when the case comes up, December 10, we will have to have more funds for publicity and other expenses involved in the fight.
So great is the number of radicals in jail to-day that one almost has to offer an apology when he is at liberty. And although most of the cases of revolutionists in jail or undergoing trial for anti-war propaganda offer scant hope for victory on the side of justice and light, it is encouraging to know that in the case of Louis C. Fraina and Ralph Cheney one point of victory has at least been scored.
The two men were charged with conspiracy and with interfereing with the draft. Louis D. Boudin, attorney for the defendants was successful, however, in emphasizing to Judge Robert T. Ervin in the United States District Court that the indictment was false. Motion of the dismissal was made by Boudin on the ground that the section of the act refers to incitement, to insurrection or insubordination among those already in the armed forces of the government, and not one of those who attended the meeting on September 27, at the labor Temple, was in the Government's military service.
Long prison terms await these two comrades, nevertheless. They are still to be tried on the charge of conspiracy.
Shall 1887 Be Repeated?
It is nearly forty years since the Knights of Labor began their agitation for a national eight-hour day. Ridiculed at first, they next caused alarm among the employers, and this alarm soon developed into an active campaign of oppression and suppression.
The strike against the McCormick Harvester Co. was projected into the situation in the spring of 1886. Members of the Knights of Labor took an active part in the organization of the strikers and gave active support and counsel in their fight against what was then one of the greatest industrial concerns of the West.
Then came the Haymarket tragedy, the exact responsibility for which has not yet been placed. A bomb was thrown among a platoon of policemen which killed and wounded some of them. At once the cry was raised that the Knights of Labor was directly responsible for the affair, and a hunt was begun for the leaders. The charge was so flimsy and so absolutely without foundation that those in Chicago, who had been active in the councils of the strikers, thought there would be no difficulty in proving their innocence, and they walked boldly into the courts. But they reckoned without the power of blood money, as was proven on November 11, 1887.
At the time the veneration of the American people for judicial pronouncements was so great that, after the hanging of the so-called Anarchists on that fatal November day, the Knights of Labor rapidly declined in number and influence, and it has taken a generation for the workers of America to overcome the effects of that crime against them.
For twelve years the Industrial Workers of the World has carried a message of improved conditions on the jobs for all workers, of which the eight-hour day is but one of the demands. Ignored at first, then ridiculed, they soon caused alarm among the employing class, and this alarm has resulted in a campaign of oppression and suppression that is almost unbelievable in extent. It has been reliably reported that a campaign fund of several million dollars was subscribed by the employers to crush the I.W.W., and that amount of money can purchase oppression almost beyond belief.
The arrest of hundreds of members of the I.W.W., in all parts of the United States, and the cruel treatment that has been meted out to them can hardly be looked upon as disconnected events. They must be viewed, in the light of their similarity, and widely separated points, as parts of one comprehensive campaign that is directed with a definite purpose in view. Also the recent indictments against 166 members of the I.W.W. must be viewed in the same light.
At present there are nearly one hundred of those indicted who are under arrest, and the charges against them are so absolutely silly that many people are making light of the arrests. It is just this flimsy nature of the charges, and the perfect confidence of the accused in their innocence, that constitute the great danger in the present cases. We must take into consideration the power of the prosecution and the ferocity of those behind the prosecution. These cases must be tried by an aroused and enlightened public opinion.
If we are to prevent a repetition of the tragic crime of 1887, we must act vigorously and at once. It is not the charges that are placed against those who are indicted that constitute their menace, it is the gigantic slush fund that has been raised by the various employers' association throughout the country for the purpose of crushing all effective labor organization, that we must combat. And the way in which it must be met is by an aroused public sentiment. Organized labor dare not let the crime of 1887 be repeated. -Solidarity.
Send funds for the General Defense to I.W.W. Headquarters, 1001 West Madison Street, Chicago, Ill. And funds for The Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Arturo Giovannitti, Carlo Tresca Defense, who are fighting extradition, to Helen Marot, 206 West 13th Street, New York City
Chicago, Ill., Oct. 14, 1917.
I am in receipt of your letter and am very glad to hear from you. Friend, talking about reaction these days is absolutely unnecessary, for we all know what's going on nearly every day in every city of this free America and land of democracy.
I think you are well acquainted with the happening in Milwaukee on the ninth of September. While our Italian comrades were coming out of their clubroom, walking toward their homes, on the corner of Bishop and Patters Avenues, they met a preacher by the name of A. Juliani, holding a revival meeting. He had organized a scheme, together with the policemen, to provoke trouble and land our comrades in jail. And he did. As soon as they were discovered the snake told those criminals, under policemen's uniform, that the Anarchists were coming. Nothing else -our comrades were attacked.
Of course they tried to defend themselves. You can imagine the result. Tony Fornasieri lived only a few minutes. August Maimelli died after five days' of agony, and Bortholo Testolini received a wound on one of his shoulders from the back. The others were all arrested -about twelve of them. While this was going on, one of the fanatic followers of the preacher tore the American flag and that made it harder for our comrades. I think you can conceive the struggle we are going through.
There is another big job on hand. The lawyer wants $3,000 to take up their defense, $1,500 before the trial and the remainder afterwards. To tell the truth I have lost faith even in the lawyer, for I have found out it is just as bad to trust him as it is to trust bankers, in fact the lawyers are nothing by blood-suckers.
The war not only means that, among many others, the "Mother Earth" Magazine has been silenced, but also that Emma Goldman has been gagged. That cut off one of the most important avenues of resources. Although it is almost a certainty that Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman will have to return Jefferson and to Atlanta respectively, not for one minute must the fight lag. We must not for one instant lay down our arms and allow free speech to be utterly wiped out in the United States. Free press is practically in its grave, but the voice of Liberty must not be strangled. You, comrades, are the only ones who can win our rights to express our opinions and to blaze the trail toward a free society where men and women and children can live and love and be happy together, a world without war, without exploitation, without tyranny and hatred.
Although "Mother Earth" has been suppressed, our activities will be continued and our new publication, "Mother Earth" Bulletin, will appear every month and will contain important news vital to the movement, as well as a report of proceedings of the various trials in the draft propaganda. "Mother Earth" Bulletin ought to have a large circulation. If your former subscription to "Mother Earth" has run out, won't renew at once? If possible order some extra copies to give away. For $1.00 we will send you twenty copies.
If you want to be of genuine aid to us and to the struggle we are making, help us circulate our literature. We have just issued a new edition of Emma Goldman's "Anarchism and Other Essays," containing a biographical sketch of the author together with twelve propaganda lectures on Anarchism, labor, sex and other vital problems. The book sells for $1.00. We will send you six copies for $5.00.
In order to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the now famous Emma Goldman-Alexander Berkman draft case, we urge you to read their remarkable speeches made in court. We have issued "Trial and Speeches" in a paper edition at 40 cents; three copies for $1.00. We also have a handsome leather bound edition for $1.00. These speeches will live long after their authors. You cannot afford to be without them.