letter from Alexander Berkman to Emma Goldman

Tombs Prison, N.Y.Oct. 1. 1917

My dear, dear Sailor –It's 1 P.M., and my fate is now probably being decided in Albany. At this very moment our friends of Labor are probably addressing the Governor [Charles S. Whitman]. Well, let me tellyou frankly, dear, Somehow I do not feel that the Gov. will belie his whole reactionarypast. You know his antagonistic labor record. He will probably take 24 or 48 hours beforeannouncing his decision – to give the impression that the matter received his thoughtful attention.

But as a matter of fact, I'm sure that his mind bas been made up from the very beginning, and ofcourse, in favor of extradition.

There are only two consideration [sic] that will influence the Gov. He has his eye on the WhiteHouse, and he will balance the influence of Labor that is appealing in my behalf, as against the impression his refusal to extradite me would create in the country. And there, I believe, he willcater to the popular prejudice against Anarchists.

The other consideration will be the Federal attitude. If Baker really sent word to him opposingmy extradition, he will very likely hold the matter up for some time, to find out what is back of the Federal motives.

But whatever happens in Albany, I am prepared. Should the Gov. decide against me, the writs should be used, though I must say I expect no success there. But if we gain time, that is something.

Dearest, you'll understand that I have not been in the last few days just in the right mood to writearticles. I may try tonight, if I hear something from Alb. The uncertainty is not conducive to peace of mind or literary effort.

I am a bit exasperated at my correspondents. I had 2 wires yest., but no report what happened at conference. That funny girl Minna L. sends me a special this morn. And I leave my bed at 6 a.m. to read it. She begins "I have just returned from the Conference,["] and then she goes on for 8 pages, and not another word about the Conference any more.

So that up to now I don't know what happened there.

Of course you were not there & F. was too busy. Did she send me that unsigned telegram? Onewas from Bagley.

I am sending per Boy F's Traveling bag and some things I don't need. I must keep myself readynow for any emergency.

Your special rec'd this morn. at 10 A.M.

Dearest Sailor girl, you & I have gone through many storms in life. Wherever the winds havetossed us, there we did our work – and it is a great consolation to feel that now at perhaps themost critical moment of our lives, we are again together, in spirit & purpose, and workingharmoniously with our old devotion to each other & to our ideals.

Our friendship & comradeship of a lifetime has been to me the most beautiful & inspiring factor in my whole life.And after all, it is given to but few mortals to live as you & I have lived. Notwithstanding all our hardships & sorrows, all persecution & imprisonment – perhaps because of it all – we have lived the lives of our choice. What more can one expect of life!

And now – with all the terrible things that are going on in this country, with the worse than Czar-like autocracy sweeping away the last remnants of the American spirit & traditions, life here is really becoming too hideous, too impossible a nightmare for such as you & I. If I were reallyfree now, I do not see how I could go on living in this country under the present conditions of theWhite Terror from Washington.

I wish I were in R[ussia]. I wish you & I both could throw ourselves heart & soul in the great reconstruction needed there. But the avenues seem to be closed now –

Dear Girl mine, under such conditions I do not feel it at all a misfortune to go to S.F. My fate there is a foregone conclusion. Well, dear – and why not? After all, it is the most fitting close to the book of my life.

I don't know when I shall be able to write to you in this mood again. So let me bid you farewellnow, my dear, beloved friend & comrade. You have been my mate & my comrade in arms, – mylife's mate in the biggest sense, and your wonderful spirit & devotion have always been an inspiration to me, as I'm sure your life will prove an inspiration to others long after both you & Ihave gone to everlasting rest.

Let me take you once more by your hand, my dear Sailor Girl. I know that whatever happens, you will remain the immutable in the strength of your spirit, in your passionate love of liberty &human welfare.

And don't morn [sic] for me – the world must and will grow some in time, and our work has notbeen in vain. How little the martyrs of Schluesselburg & of the Siberian Katorga – in the days of my Russian youth – could foresee the glorious, aye, the speedy – flowering of their hopes. And America, the benighted, shall not prove immune.

I take you in my arms, my beloved Sonya.


[From the Eva Langbord Papers, Labadie Collection, University of Michigan]

I post this after an morning of grading student papers in which one student wrote that she looks forward to being her husband's property and another student wrote that homosexuality was wrong and then quoted the Bible to support her claim. Both students were significantly off topic and I continue to contemplate what compelled them. I imagine short-circuiting spasams in their programing, I imagine the assigned readings demanded that they bring out the armed guard, I imagine that they may never feel any different. Above, a 93-year-old exception is my "response" to what I hope are also exceptions from college students of today.

I have been meaning to post this letter for awhile. As I am sure is clear to those who know me, I am particularly fond of the italicized portion.

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