Emma Goldman Documentary…

Just a quick post flagging up an amazing documentary on Emma Goldman, which is only available to watch at this link until the 29th of April. One of the most amazing women, and people, to have existed in the history of revolutionary politics. Watch if you can.

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8 thoughts on “Emma Goldman Documentary…

  1. Thanks for flagging this video up – it’s very good, quite depressing, particularly towards the end when her and her lover realise that their work was for nothing (though that’s not strictly true), and of course the deaths; but overall it was very informative and allowed me a decent insight into Goldman’s life.

    My favourite line in the film has to be “[Emma Goldman spoke about] sex to lumberjacks in Eureka”. I can only dream of doing such things.

  2. Hey,

    no problem – I am glad you watched and enjoyed it. I also found it quite depressing, but Goldman and Berckman’s relationship was also rather fascinating. I would agree with your view that their work wasn’t for nothing, they have influenced so many people indirectly and directly, and their ideas were so powerful and amazing especially for the time they were fighting in. My particular love for anarchism relates to its strong historical connections with feminist theory, and its promotion of equality between sexes/gender.

  3. True, but isn’t part of Goldman’s feminist ideals part of the rub: Goldman tried hard to turn the other cheek regarding Berckman’s affairs, but realised she couldn’t. In deed she was for free love, emotionally she was for this one man, who eventually shot himself in the chest.

    The really interesting part for me, also, was her eventual dismissal, and alienation towards, the Bolsheviks. If there is one historical precedent for the growth of anarchism, or better yet council communism, it was the inability of the Bolsheviks to win over Russia’s hearts and minds. Of course this resulted in Kronstadt which was a tragedy, but more than anything, her eventual dislike of Lenin showed the world that Bolshevism, rather than being the sigh of the oppressed, was a replacement set of hegemonic, totalitarian ideals which suppressed people,not empowered them.

    Their influence, like many people, necessitated their death first (like Marx and Engels one could say), which is always a shame, but there is no doubt her “free-spiritedness” – as one commentator put it – had a profound effect on radical politics today.

  4. Yes, true – but I think noone lives by what they politically argue 100% of the time. Free love has to be viewed in its context. It was at a time of serious oppression, where women would die because of having too many children. Free love rather than promoting promiscuous behaviour was about allowing women to have control over their bodies. That is simply amazing.

    I totally agree with your analysis of Bolsheviks and anarchism. Well said.

  5. No you’re quite right, and that’s fine. We, as idealists, can advance political theories we don’t live 100% ourselves because we are trying to solve problems of the world, not just ourselves, and we are part of the world and thus come with some of its caveats.

    You’re also right to say context is necessary; as the doc noted this was a time where even talking about contraception in public was illegal – this should tell us how far we’ve come. But the constant reminder that Goldman felt the US was as bad as Tsarist Russia should warn us not to relativise, and show us how far we still have to go.

    I’m a fuzzy romantic myself, but in principle I’m behind Goldman’s free love idealism, but only because idealism, like hope, is important for our sanity and forward thinking.

    As regards free love against simple promiscuousness, if this is an argument about feminist semantics, Dale Spender’s masculine language and how the body is a site of liberation for women, then I’m with you.

  6. Exactly, totally agree. I think it is important, however, to work with an end ideal in mind – even if that ideal may never be fulfilled entirely. Murray Bookchin (not sure if you have heard of him, but my favourite anarchist ever) has some good stuff on this re dialectical naturalism.

    And yes, US is a joke. They always have been, they just kid themselves they are better than the rest, when they are one of the worst going.

    I agree re free love. Can’t say I would ever do it myself, but I think it’s important to have the option to do so.

    I haven’t read Dale Spender, but there are many in the feminist movement (essentially the radicals) who criticise the free love movement for being a promotion of male power; historical context escapes them, I feel.

  7. We both agree that ideals are important, though never entirely fulfilled, more than goldman – if the documentary is anything to go by. The doc made it sound that Burckman wanted results within 40 years – which is a long time, but a big ask.

    Bookchin I remember for communalism, but past that I don’t know too much.

    Dale spender is referred to mainly in sociological circles, she suggested that language and speech was geared towards a hegemonic masculinity and so in order for women to be able to take charge of their bodies and their speech, they were to re-examine language to steer it from its masculinist origins. In the context of free love, as a subversion to masculinist perceptions of a women’s body as somehow not theirs but in the domain of the male it seems justified in an idealist way. As a protest it’s fine, but clearly it’s not sustainable, as Goldman found out herself.

    There are better ways of subverting male dominance, a pitchfork or a blunt pair of scissors comes to mind.

  8. Sorry for late reply.

    I suppose context is important again. They were fighting in a time where their ideas were seen as totally absurd, where they could be imprisoned or even killed for holding such views. Given that, they had to maintain conviction to the point of arrogance.

    Ah, communalism is a good aspect of his work – the dialectical naturalism relates but is different, as well. Useful to look at if you can.

    That sounds really interesting – thanks for sharing, will look up more when have the chance.

    And are you advocating violence haha?;)

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