“Anarchism and Other Essays” is a fascinating book. As Emma Goldman painted it, Anarchism is the ultimate in Western freedom, but at its core it is humanist and not a sociopathic cult of individual advantage (Ayn Rand comes to mind) – and certainly not the cult of terror as it was commonly portrayed. Yet Goldman and her comrades never succeeded in making Anarchism attractive to the public. This was due to constant character assassination by the corporate press, infighting, and whispers that Goldman was somehow associated with several high-profile assassinations, including President McKinley’s. The Anarchists themselves were passionate orators who spoke in generalities, fond of using literary references, and they were not shy about stating that the public they were courting could sometimes be nothing more than a stupid mob. And they were arguing against nationalism and populism at a time these were quite popular. Anarchists were feared and reviled as ISIS is today, and J. Edgar Hoover’s modern FBI was created largely out of this fear.
Anarchism and Communism were both finished off by the corporate press, intense government surveillance, zealous prosecutions, show trials, executions, Congressional hearings, and the suppression of their ideas by legal edict. In the United States we have always had freedom of the press and expression – as long as any ideas expressed are in line with capitalism and nationalist fever.
Anarchism may be dead, but Goldman’s social and political criticism is as relevant as ever. In fact, reading this volume of individual essays written almost exactly a century ago is to realize how little has changed in this nation. Is our militarism, police brutality, neglect of the poor, social inequality, gun fever, our culture of violence, or the massive prison industry anything new? Read this book and weep. It has always been thus so.