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Anarchy in the U.S.A. ‘Sasha and Emma,’ by Paul Avrich and Karen Avrich

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The “first terrorist act in America,” as its perpetrator described it, occurred on July 23, 1892. Alexander Berkman, known as Sasha, a 20-year-old Russian immigrant outraged at the brutal suppression of the strike at Carnegie Steel’s Homestead plant, burst into the office of Henry Clay Frick, the plant’s manager, shot him twice, then tried to stab him. The attempted assassination, or attentat, was meant to inspire workers at Homestead and elsewhere to move beyond their fight for better wages into full revolt against the capitalist system: it was “an act of liberation,” Berkman said.

Anarchy in the U.S.A. ‘Sasha and Emma,’ by Paul Avrich and Karen Avrich

By ELSA DIXLER
New York Times
December 7, 2012

The “first terrorist act in America,” as its perpetrator described it, occurred on July 23, 1892. Alexander Berkman, known as Sasha, a 20-year-old Russian immigrant outraged at the brutal suppression of the strike at Carnegie Steel’s Homestead plant, burst into the office of Henry Clay Frick, the plant’s manager, shot him twice, then tried to stab him. The attempted assassination, or attentat, was meant to inspire workers at Homestead and elsewhere to move beyond their fight for better wages into full revolt against the capitalist system: it was “an act of liberation,” Berkman said.

But Frick lived. And in jail, Berkman encountered a furious member of the Homestead strike committee who told him that the workers did not believe in violence and that their struggle was none of Berkman’s business. Another union leader complained that “the bullet from Berkman’s pistol . . . went straight through the heart of the Homestead strike.” Public sympathy, which had tended to oppose the treatment of the steelworkers, shifted in Frick’s favor. Even the anarchist community in which the young radical had found an American home was torn. Berkman’s most constant supporter was his lover, Emma Goldman, who was just beginning to realize her enormous talent as a speaker and agitator. Goldman organized a relief fund and attempted to justify Berkman’s act in numerous articles and interviews. When he was sentenced to 22 years in prison, she corresponded with him frequently and visited as often as she was allowed to. Except for a brief period after Berkman’s release 14 years later, their sexual relationship ended, but they remained friends and comrades and maintained their — one can only call it love — for the rest of their lives.

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