One of the BIG THREE
(and my favorite)
...of far-left activism, more or less, anarchism, in the United States
And they were all women no less and no doubt
But let's start with the most famous but my least favorite and then end with "Voltie"
I am actually kind of starting to feel like this whole endeavor (this particular article) is kind of lame, because while these three women may have been an inspiration to me in my early youth, they are like dried out leaves by now, and i barely think about them
But I am always interested in the past, i practically live in it, and I find it more and more instructive as my experience and wisdom ripens with the passing years, and the information of the past and past lived experiences continue curing and yielding new information
I really liked Emma Goldman at first. She is like everyone's training wheel anarchist, because she has that famous quote about dancing, ("If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution") and she's just more famous ( for whatever reason, I have a theory, which I will mention later
The things I do appreciate about her, is that she was critical of the suffragettes and voting in general, basically of her stance of it's being totally useless, which it is, and her notion that fighting against capitalism shouldn't be boring and dry and pedantic, like many people want to make it. She wanted it to be a celebration, to be fun, and I took that to heart, concluding that capitalism is what takes the fun out of everything, and to have fun is therefore to fight capitalism
And while she seemed like a benign inspiration at the time, little did I know that she would not only be an inspiration for many future anarchists, but she would be the motherfucking template, as lots of young women sought to emulate her activist-y leadership-y ways
And her obnoxious, overbearing behavior
Many years ago, when I was devouring books about political activists, I read a passage that I thought astonishing, but today I can't remember from which book I read it ( I believe it probably was from Paul Avrich's account but I could be wrong)
Astonishing because Emma Goldman is so regularly praised and hardly a harsh word uttered against her
But if I can recall correctly, she used to stay at people's houses and pretty much demand they wait on her hand and foot; and she helped herself to people's stuff
Just like her intellectual progeny of today
You better believe I know this to be true, because the essence of the anarchist is that they don't want to work for the man, and they believe that if you have more than them, you should be willing to just give them your stuff, even if it is against your will, and even if it means swindling you, or taking advantage of you in some way
It also means that if they use and ruin your stuff, you can't complain because how dare you be so materialistic?
The seeds of patterns are sewn so far in the past, if we don't take the time to examine them, we will never find out where something very interesting comes from
At one point, I thought shop lifting was fine, as long as you helped yourself to stolen goods from a Walmart.
But unfortunately for pathological shoplifters, thieves in general really, lying, and helping themselves to pretty much ANYONE's stuff, is what actually ends up happening. And this happened to me in spades, as my former anarchist housemates instituted a "swap pile" where amazingly, things I never recalled putting there ended up in my housemate's hands because they claimed they had found them there ( I can tell you now I never ONCE put any item I owned on the swap pile )
Another housemate didn't even bother with that excuse, and just took my shit, which I later discovered in her parent's house. Another stole books, and another never gave back borrowed clothes or books. Another destroyed household appliances AND MY CAR because they were "above all that stuff"
Other housemates said they believed it was important to engage in something called "radical honesty", but unfortunately this only applied to other people; no one could criticize them about anything. They were also big on another thing called "consensus" and then proceeded to bully me and others and to make important household decisions without me
I would say that these individuals were acting in a more "capitalistic" capacity, and you better believe that their behavior needed to be examined in an "anarchist critique"
I also met women who were unbearably bossy and disrespectful to me, violating my personal space, touching me inappropriately and mocking my concerns regarding material possessions ( like once ruining a beloved souvenir I had acquired during a trip to Spain and then laughing at me when I complained about it). One fucking nightmare woman in particular who although most people found themselves uncomfortable around her, felt compelled to participate in a huge "intervention" about a man she claimed had sexually violated her; I had nothing to do with that circus, and of course, was criticized for being a hypocrite. A bossy, overbearing Zionist woman who for as much as she talked and tried to dominate discussions and activities in general, would fall strangely silent in discussions of activism regarding Palestine
So at any rate, I came to the conclusion that Emma Goldman was a massive and insufferable egotist, and since I had begun knowing actual living breathing individuals of her ilk, their existences flashing mirror reflections at me of her but decades later, she went super down in my estimation, to where she is now floating nowhere AT ALL; she is a small footnote in my intellectual experiences
To be honest, I didn't know much about Lucy ( and gosh , Emma is taking over everything AGAIN, like she did in life)
I could be accused of racism here, since she is the only non-white member of this elite group, but I think it was her husband who was more famous (Albert Parsons)
And while she also did rabble-rousing ( which is all these people did, they didn't fight physical blood-and-gore battles, they just went around giving speeches but because this was even too sensitive for the Deep State of the time that they also spent most of their days evading the law), I guess maybe, according to the Wikipedia article, she wasn't "right-thinking" ( this is a problem in the proto-fascist anarchist community - when you don't tow the line, you are targeted for greater scrutiny, cause you don't "think right" ); she didn't preach the "correct version" of anarchism ( which we know today, and since the early 2000's, is anarcho-syndicalism, Emma Goldman's shtick)
Yeah, I didn't know much about her. I think when I tried to, I kept hitting the wall of her husband, a fellow who was a suspect at the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in 1886
But damn, is this article going to be about Emma Goldman? I didn't remember a feud between her and Lucy Parsons, but I did remember that she thought she was better than everyone else
but voltairine de cleyre's story made me cry...
What I remember about Voltairine de Cleyre is reading about how there was a point in her life where she was so low, felt so hopeless, I started crying at the description of her despair, and I remember thinking "WOW, I can actually be moved by a literary description of someone else's pain"
I felt she was a much more sincere anarchist laborer than Emma Goldman; she was pure and industrious, always working, writing, and teaching poor people how to read; in this sense she actually was a laborer, whereas Emma Goldman was more like a "rock star"
Voltairine de Cleyre had tough principles and lived in poverty and without luxury, total opposite of Goldman. who wanted pretty dresses ( and there's nothing wrong with that, but it can lend itself to temptation and corruption, which is fine, whatever)
Voltairine de Cleyre is discussed, and is not invisible in anarchist discussion circles, but she is as not considered as important or is as well-known; you also know ( and I thought this too), that I was a serious political student ( I never considered myself an anarchist, even then I knew that was mega-lame) because I sought out the truly esoteric players in American anarchism, she being an example of one
It could be because she was American, and Europeans are more exotic ( they were also more dynamic in general, as most of the people who struggled for labor improvements in this country were immigrants and not "native Americans" ; and Americans can be kind of bland )
The Wikipedia article on her speculates that it is because she died relatively young, but I think it was because she wasn't flashy enough. Compared to Goldman, she's boring. She also didn't espouse the "correct form of anarchism", having started as an advocate of "anarchism without adjectives" (which sounds suspiciously like "lifestyle anarchism" to me... and take it from me, that's a big no-no)
Josefina Fermin will never live down her days as the token South American girl in a now-defunct anarchist collective