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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF EMMA GOLDMAN
A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students

Glossary


Anarchism: Anarchism is the political philosophy of those who believe that a society based on shared ownership and voluntary agreements among individuals and groups is possible and that without each person's consent and involvement in the social order all established forms of government essentially rest upon the threat of force. As a result, some anarchists believed in the use of violence to bring about change. Emma Goldman, however, believed that social change would occur only when people's beliefs and attitudes changed, and hence her lectures were intended to educate and to inspire her audiences with a vision of social harmony. She identified with the anti-authoritarian tradition of writers Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Leo Tolstoy as well as prominent anarchist political theorists like Peter Kropotkin and Michael Bakunin.

Bolsheviks: Led by V. I. Lenin, the Bolsheviks were a centralized, disciplined party of professional revolutionaries. They dedicated themselves to overthrowing the Czar--the emperor of Russia--and to the establishment of a classless society. After their successful revolution in November 1917, however, the Bolsheviks were often ruthless toward those they considered enemies of the revolution, including many groups who had fought for decades against Czarist rule and in support of a revolution. Emma Goldman, an early supporter of the revolution, was especially troubled by the Bolsheviks' suppression of free speech and the political activities of the Russian anarchists.

Conscription: Conscription is a government-initiated system for requiring men to serve in the military. Since ancient times governments have conscripted men when they needed an army. During World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the U.S. government used a form of conscription called the draft, which excused some individuals from military service if, for example, they were employed in war-related industries or engaged in higher education or were "conscientious objectors"--opposed to war on a moral level and willing to participate in alternative service. The draft has often been a source of controversy in the United States. When the federal government began registering men for the draft during the Civil War, four days of rioting in New York City claimed the lives of over one hundred people. Those opposed to the Vietnam War often expressed their opposition by refusing to register for the draft or by burning their draft cards. Goldman and thousands of other liberals and radicals opposed conscription during World War I. Goldman was charged with conspiracy to obstruct the draft because she believed that it violated an individual's right to choose whether or not to fight. She was found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail. Since 1973 the American military has been a volunteer force, though all males are required to register for a standby draft when they reach the age of eighteen.

Comstock Law: In 1873 Anthony Comstock, organizer of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, successfully lobbied Congress for passage of a law to bar "obscene, lewd or lascivious" material from the mails, specifically contraceptives and birth control information. In 1900, after attending a conference in Paris on how to prevent pregnancy, Goldman smuggled contraceptive devices and birth control literature into the United States. Demands for birth control became stronger in the second decade of the century as growing numbers of women and men began to write and lecture on the topic and distribute literature. Margaret Sanger, the most prominent advocate of birth control, was prosecuted under the Comstock law in 1914 when her journal, Woman Rebel, addressed the issue of birth control. The Comstock law continued to be used in federal courts as late as the 1950s to prosecute obscenity cases.

Czarist Russia: Before the 1917 revolution, Russia was a monarchy under the rule of the czar, or tsar--the title used by the emperors of Russia. The first ruler to adopt the title was Ivan the Terrible in 1547. The last czar was Nicholas II (1868-1918). Goldman grew up under czarist rule and rebelled against its oppressive nature.

Direct Action: Those who believe that conventional methods to achieve social and political change are slow and inadequate often rely on direct action, a political tactic of confrontation and sometimes illegal disruption intended to attract and arouse public awareness and action. Goldman used the tactic of direct action, for example, when she risked arrest by speaking on birth control before a public gathering. A more recent example of the use of direct action is the civil rights movement in the South in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, for example, African Americans refused to ride buses for over a year in Montgomery, Alabama, in a successful effort to have the seating desegregated. And in numerous southern towns and cities African-American college students staged successful "sit ins" to desegregate lunch counters where previously they had been refused service.

Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917-1918: President Woodrow Wilson's decision to take the United States into World War I was not welcomed by everybody in this country. Pacifists, isolationists, socialists and other radicals were politically opposed to U.S. entry into the war, and considerable numbers of German Americans and Irish Americans also opposed U.S. involvement, though for different reasons. German Americans did not want the United States at war with their homeland and Irish Americans opposed the U.S. allying with Great Britain, which held their homeland in colonial bondage. The Espionage Act of June 1917 imposed fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of up to twenty years on anyone found guilty of interfering with the nation's war effort, obstructing recruitment, or promoting disloyalty. Under another provision of the Act the postmaster general was allowed to prohibit the use of the mails for any material "advocating or urging treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States." The Act was directed at opponents of the war rather than those who actually intended to engage in "espionage." Even though the Act violated First Amendment rights of freedom of expression, the government argued that the prohibited activity presented a "clear and present danger" to a nation at war. The Justice Department convicted over a thousand individuals under its provisions, including the leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist party leader, Eugene Debs. Another law, the Sedition Act of May 1918 gave the government more power over expressions of dissent. It prohibited "uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language . . . [about] . . . the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution, or the flag" or urging slowdown of production of anything necessary to the war effort.

Haymarket Incident: On May 3, 1886, during a strike at the McCormick Reaper Works, the police shot at random at the strikers who were demanding an eight-hour work day. A mass meeting was called by a Chicago anarchist group for the following evening to protest the police shooting. As the peaceful meeting in Haymarket Square was drawing to a close, police began to break up the gathering. At that point a bomb was thrown at the police, who, in turn, opened fire. Seven police officers and several civilians were killed. The police and the newspapers blamed Chicago's anarchist leaders for the incident, and eight of them were arrested. In a climate of unusual fear of radicals a jury found them guilty of murder. Of the eight convicted, four were executed, one committed suicide, and three were sentenced to long prison terms but were later pardoned. Emma Goldman, who was seventeen years old at the time, closely followed the fate of the Haymarket anarchists. She was deeply moved by their commitment to their cause and the injustice done to them. When they were executed she determined to devote her life to their ideal and memory, recalling later that "their death was my spiritual birth."

Homestead Strike: In 1892, the union contract between skilled workers at the Homestead (Pennsylvania) Works and the Carnegie Steel Company was due to expire. Henry Clay Frick, the superintendent at Homestead and an outspoken anti-union man, proposed a new pay scale that cut workers' wages by 20 percent. On June 29, the workers called for a strike to protest Frick's proposal. Before they began the strike, however, Frick locked them out, imported a force of three hundred Pinkerton detectives, and began recruiting replacement workers. A violent battle between the locked-out workers and Pinkerton agents left three detectives and nine strikers dead. The Governor of Pennsylvania ordered in the National Guard. Into this conflict came Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman's comrade, who saw himself as the self-appointed avenger of the dead workers and the wrongs suffered by all the workers. On July 23 he entered Frick's office and shot and stabbed him several times. Frick survived the attack; Berkman, seized on the spot, was tried and found guilty by a jury and spent fourteen years in jail. Ironically, the Homestead workers actually condemned Berkman's act as ineffective; Goldman, who had helped plan the attempt on Frick's life, stood by her friend during his long imprisonment. Later, Goldman rejected violence as a tactic but refused to condemn those like Berkman who risked their lives for their ideal. Ultimately, Goldman believed that the violence done to individuals by the economic and political system was more destructive than such individual acts of violence.

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW): Emma Goldman had close ties to the leaders of the IWW. Founded in 1905, the IWW (or Wobblies, as they were known) tried to organize all workers, regardless of their craft or level of skill, into one large union. This approach put the IWW in direct conflict with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). AFL unions restricted membership to skilled workers such as carpenters, typographers, glassblowers, and boilermakers. The IWW's goals and tactics were also different: the IWW wanted its members to seize control of the factories and mines and often employed the tactics of direct action, while the AFL fought mainly for better wages and working conditions for its members within the system of industrial capitalism. The IWW kept its dues low as part of a strategy to recruit the broadest range of unskilled immigrants, women, nonwhites, and migrant workers. Its newspapers were lively and included publications in numerous foreign languages and its songs and pictures have become legendary. Where local authorities prevented Wobblies from recruiting members the IWW often had to wage "free speech fights," calling members across the nation to descend on a city where they had been denied the right to speak on the streets and distribute literature. No matter how many Wobblies were arrested, there were more to take their places, and eventually the local authorities had to give up. But the IWW's most dramatic confrontations came in the strikes it organized, such as the textile workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1912) and the Paterson silk strike (1913). Later, many Wobblies were vocal opponents of WWI and conscription. They fell victim to wartime anti-radical hysteria in September 1917 Justice Department agents raided IWW offices across the country, arresting virtually all of its leadership. Over one hundred of them were found guilty of violating the Espionage Act, and many were sentenced to long jail terms. The IWW never recovered from this blow.

Jingoism: The term is generally negative and applies to extreme patriotism used especially to persuade public opinion in support of war.

McKinley Assassination: William McKinley (Republican), elected president of the United States in 1896 and 1900, was shot by an assassin while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901. Eight days later McKinley died from his wounds. His assassin, Leon Czolgosz, a twenty-eight-year-old unemployed laborer and anarchist, was apprehended at the scene. The nation's newspapers were filled with detailed reports of the crime, and many implicated Emma Goldman in the act. Some reported that Czolgosz had heard Goldman speak; others claimed a copy of a Goldman lecture was found in his pocket when the police searched him. The authorities interrogated Goldman, but no evidence was uncovered to prove that she had any connection to the crime, though she was forever associated in the public mind with McKinley's assassination.

Palmer Raids: In the United States, World War I created a climate of intolerance and suspicion of radicals and war resisters that continued even after the war ended. The success of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia only served to increase the fear of radicalism and suspicion of foreigners. The Palmer raids--part of the postwar "Red Scare"--specifically targeted foreign-born radicals. Beginning in January 1920, under the direction of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, agents of the Justice Department raided offices and homes, arresting thousands of people often without warrants destroying property, and conducting unlawful searches. These violations of constitutional guarantees alarmed many Americans, who worried that the wholesale trampling of civil liberties set a disturbing example. It is no coincidence that the American Civil Liberties Union was founded in the same year as the Palmer raids occurred.

Preparedness: From the beginning of World War I some prominent Americans, including former President Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, were eager to join the war against Germany. They pressured President Woodrow Wilson to enlarge and improve America's armed forces. But Wilson initially sought to avoid U.S. involvement in the war, attempting instead to find peace terms acceptable to both sides. After his attempts to promote peace were rejected the president began a campaign of preparedness that involved enlargement of the army, navy, and marines. Wilson campaigned for reelection in 1916 on the slogan, "He kept us out of war," but many Americans believed that his preparedness program would inevitably lead to U.S. entry into the war. Emma Goldman and others denounced this military build-up. After the United States entered the war in April 1917, they encouraged Americans to oppose the war by refusing forced conscription (involuntary drafting of young men) into the military.

Radicals: "Radical" is from the Latin word "radix," which means root. Radicals are activists who look for the roots of the social, economic, and political wrongs in society and demand immediate and sweeping changes to remedy them.


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