Alexander Berkman was a twentieth-century American revolutionary. Like the abolitionist John Brown before him, Berkman was hugely idealistic, ready to go to the furthest extreme of self-sacrifice and violence on behalf of justice and civil rights. He decided to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick after reading in the newspaper that Pinkertons hired by Frick had opened fire on the Homestead strikers, killing men, women, and children. Berkman’s bungled attempt cost him fifteen years in a federal penitentiary. Upon his release, he became an effective agitator against conscription and was again imprisoned and eventually deported to Russia, where he saw at first hand the early days of Bolshevism. Berkman’s writings remain a lasting and impassioned record of intense political transformation. Featuring a new introduction by Howard Zinn, Life of an Anarchist contains Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, Berkman’s account of his years in prison; The Bolshevik Myth, his eyewitness account of the early days of the Russian Revolution; and The ABC of Anarchism, the classic text on the nature of anarchism in the twentieth century. Also included are a selection of letters between Berkman and his lifelong companion Emma Goldman, and a generous sampling from Berkman’s other publications.
HOWARD ZINN’s (1922–2010) great subject isn’t war, but peace. After his experience as a bombardier in World War II, he became convinced that there could be no such thing as a “just war,” as the vast majority of modern warfare’s victims are made up of innocent civilians. In his books, including A People’s History of the United States and its companion volume, Voices of a People’s History of the United States, Zinn affirms the power of the masses to influence major events. Through a lifetime of pointed scholarship and principled civil disobedience, he has led and continues to lead generations in the ways of peace.
Life of an Anarchist by Alexander Berkman; edited by Gene Fellner; with a foreword by Howard Zinn