Mother Earth 1905-1915
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By Harry Kelly.
NINE years have slipped over the divide since a half dozen of the faithful gathered at the office of Dr. Solotaroff, on East Broadway, to discuss ways and means of launching a new publication based upon libertarian principles. Several meetings were held, and then, as always, an individual took the initative and the publication Mother Earth appeared.
The original intention was to make a magazine similar to L'Humanite Nouvelle, that brilliant and scholarly publication issued at Brussels, but time quickly changed all that In our opinion the general or average standard of intelligence is higher in America than it is in Europe, but as for a real intellectual class it is so small as to be almost negligible. People familiar with the revolutionary movement in this country know how scornful and disgusted the European idealist becomes after a short stay here. The idealism of Russia, the revolutionary spirit of the Latin worker and the sturdy independence of the Teuton and Anglo-Saxon are talked about and compared to the disadvantage of Americans with their crass materialism and greed for money. The real facts are that the idealism and revolutionary spirit of the European countries are the same as here—limited to a mere handful of people who in no wise represent the masses. The absence of an intellectual class here made the publication of such a magazine as L'Humanite Nouvelle impossible at that time, and it is more than doubtful if it could be done now.
We ventured the opinion nine years ago that writers for a magazine published by Emma Goldman would be classified as Anarchists and that it would be straight Anarchist, not merely liberal. This happened before the second number appeared. Upon the appearance of the first number the newspapers promptly called it an Anarchist magazine and two of the contributors hastily disassociated themselves from it and asked for the return of manuscript sent in for publication. From time to time Mother Earth has had a contributor who was not an Anarchist but from the second number it has been a straight out-and-out Anarchist publication.
A ten-cent publication without advertisements can not properly be called an organ of the working-class. Mother Earth has, however, advocated libertarian principles and fought the fight of the disinherited of the earth to the best of its ability. Anarchists recognize clearly—more clearly, perhaps, than any school of thought—that in the reconstruction of society all classes must be influenced and all classes contribute. Denunciation of the workingclass for submitting to exploitation is as futile as pious appeals to the capitalists to get off their backs. Some men are touched by an appeal to self-interest, others to a spirit of solidarity; so the exploiter, who because of this feeling of solidarity, gets off the backs of workingmen and takes his place in the revolutionary movement contributes his share to the breakdown of capitalism with the conscious revolutionary worker. The ratio may be unequal but it is there and must not be disregarded. It is impossible to liberalize one part of society without doing it to the rest.
Every question of moment that has arisen during die last nine years has been considered and every movement of revolt against constituted authority has been supported by Mother Earth. The rise of the Syndicalist Movement, the assassination of Francisco Ferrer by the Catholic Church and the government of Spain, of Denjiro Kotoku and his comrades by the Japanese government, the unemployed movement here, the Free Speech fights of San Diego, Spokane and other places, together with protests against the European war have all found support and such encouragement as it was possible to give them. Anarchism, is after all more a fluent dynamic force than a definite social state. It destroys old forms and in so far as it does it prepares the way for a new society and is therefore properly speaking a constructive force. The social rebel appears everywhere; in all lands, in many guises. To-day, in the labor movement; tomorrow, in education; the day after, sapping the foundations of the political state; in art, the drama and in all forms of life. Linked with an invisible bond that expresses itself in a spiritual rather than a material form, the Pougets and Patauds of the labor movement, Ferrer in education, Anatole France in literature, Ibsen in the drama and the countless young artists all work to a common end—a new time where men and women will be really and truly free.
Mother Earth has tried to interpret the ideals, hopes and aspirations of these pioneers, of these dreamers of dreams. It has tried to make articulate the cry of the downtrodden and exploited masses struggling for the means of life, and that of the artist for soul expression, for the two are but different manifestations of the same spirit. It has blundered in some things and has not always shown a tolerance to others. This is natural enough; for revolutionists are people of strong convictions, intense in all they do, and this very quality often makes them dogmatic and intolerant toward those with whom they differ. It has been brave and strong; and when crises like the McNamara earthquake struck the labor movement and so many white feathers were shown, Mother Earth was there strong and smiling at the finish. Again, in the case of the Lexington Avenue explosion of last year it never faltered, never doubted itself. Flamboyant and theatrical, its methods were different from what ours might have been, but it was bold and uncompromising, and none can deny its sincerity.
The past decade has been a stormy period and the struggle Mother Earth has had to maintain itself epitomizes, in a sense, the larger struggle going on throughout the world. It is more than doubtful if the struggle will be moderated as time goes on; on the contrary, it will probably be intensified. To be ahead of the times is the crime of crimes; and Mother Earth will have to struggle to exist. It has fought a good fight against heavy odds and has deserved more than it has received. May it grow and develop, and the flame of liberty lighted nine years ago be kept burning, that it may unite with other flames that will in time illumine the world.
Harry Kelly, “Mother Earth 1905-1915,” Mother Earth 10, no. 1 (March 1915): 408-410.