Women of Valor


Deportation & the Soviet Union

Emma Goldman, 1869 - 1940

Following World War I, high unemployment, labor unrest, and a growing distrust of immigrants and their "foreign" ideas heightened the American government's increasing intolerance of dissent. Released from prison on September 27, 1919, Goldman was immediately re-arrested on the order of the young J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the Justice Department's General Intelligence Division. Hoover persuaded the courts to deny Goldman's citizenship claims, thus making her eligible for deportation under the 1918 Alien Act, which allowed for the expulsion of any alien found to be an anarchist. On December 21, 1919, Goldman, Berkman, and 247 other foreign-born radicals were deported to the Soviet Union on the S.S. Buford.

Unlike many other anarchists, who opposed a socialist or communist government as much as a capitalist one, Goldman arrived in the Soviet Union with high hopes that the recent Russian Revolution had inaugurated the new, liberated society of which she had long dreamed. Instead, she was shocked by the ruthless authoritarianism of the Bolshevik regime, its severe repression of anarchists, and its disregard for individual freedom.

In a face-to-face meeting with Lenin in 1920, Goldman and Berkman questioned the Soviet leader on the lack of freedom of speech and the press and the persecution of anarchists in Soviet Russia. The inadequacy of Lenin's response, together with growing repression in Russia and the slaughter of the Kronstadt rebels in 1921, prompted the two anarchists to leave the Soviet Union after only 23 months in residence.

Although Goldman continued to defend the revolution, she distinguished it carefully from the subsequent Bolshevik regime. In 1923, she published My Disillusionment in Russia, in which she argued forcefully that the emergence of the Bolshevik party-state had crushed the true revolution. Notwithstanding the prescience of her critique, the persistence and energy of Goldman's anti-Bolshevism earned her the enmity of many European and American leftists.

  1. Information drawn from "War Resistance, Anti-Militarism, and Deportation, 1917-1919," "Emma Goldman in Exile," and "Biographical Essay on Emma Goldman" on the website of the Emma Goldman Papers, accessed March 18, 2002, available at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/goldman/Exhibition/deportation.html, http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/goldman/Exhibition/exile.html, and http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/goldman/Curricula/bioessay.html; and Alix Kates Shulman, ed., "Biographical Introduction," Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, 3rd edition (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, Inc. 1996).

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Emma Goldman - Deportation & the Soviet Union." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/goldman/deportation-soviet-union>.