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(en) Emma Goldman: A New Declaration of Independence

From Benny Rizzo <bennyrizzo@bennyrizzo.8m.com>
Date Tue, 4 Jul 2000 03:38:07 -0400

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

A New Declaration of Independence
by Emma Goldman
[Published in Mother Earth, Vol. IV, no. 5, July 1909.]

When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove
inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and
oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and
overthrow, these institutions.

The mere fact that these forces--inimical to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness--are legalized by statute laws, sanctified by divine rights,
and enforced by political power, in no way justifies their continued

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all human beings,
irrespective of race, color, or sex, are born with the equal right to share
at the table of life; that to secure this right, there must be established
among men economic, social, and political freedom; we hold further that
government exists but to
maintain special privilege and property rights; that it coerces man into
submission and therefore robs him of dignity, self-respect, and life.

The history of the American kings of capital and authority is the history
of repeated crimes, injustice, oppression, outrage, and abuse, all aiming
at the suppression of individual liberties and the exploitation of the
people. A vast country, rich enough to supply all her children with all
possible comforts, and insure well-being to all, is in the hands of a few,
while the nameless millions are at the mercy of ruthless wealth gatherers,
unscrupulous lawmakers, and corrupt politicians. Sturdy sons of America are
forced to tramp the country in a fruitless search for bread, and many of
her daughters are driven into the street, while thousands of tender
children are daily sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. The reign of these
kings is holding mankind in slavery, perpetuating poverty and disease,
maintaining crime and corruption; it is fettering the spirit of liberty,
throttling the voice of justice, and degrading and
oppressing humanity. It is engaged in continual war and slaughter,
devastating the country and destroying the best and finest qualities of
man; it nurtures superstition and ignorance, sows prejudice and strife, and
turns the human family into a camp of Ishmaelites.

We, therefore, the liberty-loving men and women, realizing the great
injustice and brutality of this state of affairs, earnestly and boldly do
hereby declare, That each and every individual is and ought to be free to
own himself and to enjoy the full fruit of his labor; that man is absolved
from all allegiance to
the kings of authority and capital; that he has, by the very fact of his
being, free access to the land and all means of production, and entire
liberty of disposing of the fruits of his efforts; that each and every
individual has the unquestionable and unabridgeable right of free and
voluntary association
with other equally sovereign individuals for economic, political, social,
and all other purposes, and that to achieve this end man must emancipate
himself from the sacredness of property, the respect for man-made law, the
fear of the Church, the cowardice of public opinion, the stupid arrogance
of national, racial, religious, and sex superiority, and from the narrow
puritanical conception of human life. And for the support of this
Declaration, and with a firm reliance on the harmonious blending of man's
social and individual tendencies, the lovers of liberty joyfully consecrate
their uncompromising devotion, their energy and intelligence, their
solidarity and their lives.

This `Declaration' was written at the request of a certain newspaper, which
subsequently refused to publish it, though the article was already in

Emma Goldman: 1869-1940

Emma Goldman grew up in a petit-bourgeois Jewish family in the Baltic
region of Russia. (Her
birthplace is today part of Lithuania.) After emigrating to the United
States at age 16, she worked in a Rochester garment factory before settling
in New York City in 1889. Already influenced in her youth by the radical
culture of St. Petersburg, she soon joined the anarchist movement and met
lifelong comrade Alexander Berkman. In these early years, she advocated
violence and helped Berkman plot to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay
Frick. As her thinking evolved, she later rejected terrorism in favor of
tireless political organizing. Over the next three decades, Goldman threw
her energies into lecturing, editing and mobilizing protests. She fought
countless battles for free speech and civil liberties. Though expressing
little interest in the suffrage cause,she critiqued the social and economic
subordination of women and was an early advocate of birth control.

The U.S. government targeted "Red Emma" for her radical activities, jailing
her on several occasions and stripping her citizenship in 1908. In 1917,
Goldman and Berkman were imprisoned again for protesting military
conscription. During the post-WWI anti-Bolshevik fervor, the government
deported both to Russia. After two years, however, Goldman fled the new
Soviet Union, profoundly disillusioned with the authoritarian state and its
disregard for civil liberties. She spent the last two decades of her life
travelling between France, England and Canada, still actively promoting her
humanist brand of anarchism. Summing up her lifelong struggle, one
historian writes, "Offering an invaluable counterstatement to the pragmatic
faith of progressives and socialists in the omnicompetent state, she fought
for the spiritual freedom of the individual at a time when the
organizational walls were closing in."

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