“Every good person deep down is an anarchist,” said Paul Avrich, who died in 2006 after spending his academic life at Queens College and writing 10 books on anarchism that included The Haymarket Tragedy,Sacco and Vanzetti, and two oral histories – Anarchist Portraits andAnarchist Voices. Shortly before he died, Avrich requested that his daughter, the author and editor Karen Avrich, complete a manuscript that he had been working on for many, many years. Their collaboration is the book Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. True to the title, the book portrays the journey of the Berkman-Goldman friendship – their relationships with each other and with friends and comrades. Relationships I might add that included both the Red and Black. Sasha and Emma both began life in Lithuania. They met in New York and the odyssey included their lives as individuals and partners in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Germany, and France before Emma Goldman ultimately moved to Canada after Sasha’s death.
Sasha and Emma is multi-layered and thus teaches us a great deal about the people, anarchism in the United States and throughout the World, oppression in both the capitalist west and the Soviet Union, and the economic, social, and political conflicts that are still very much with us today. For the novice, the book provides a great introduction to the breadth of anarchism through the lives of Berkman and Goldman. For all of us there is much to learn about Sasha, but for people who have read Living My Life, Emma’s memoir, or Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, or Candace Falk’s fine biography, Love, Anarchy, and Emma Goldman, there is less new stuff to ponder.
While both Goldman and Berkman were clearly politicized before they arrived in the United States, both people were greatly affected by what Paul Avrich called The Haymarket Tragedy. An event that occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, three months before Sasha arrived in the United States. Anarchists met at the Square to protest police brutality and when police invaded the protest, a bomb was thrown killing one person and injuring others. Police responded by firing into the crowd and civilians as well as police were injured and killed. While the bomber was never caught, eight anarchists were tried and four, Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer were hung. Sasha, wrote two books that you might want to read along with Emma’s books mentioned above, Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist and Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism. In the latter he addressed the Haymarket Tragedy. READ MORE