Skip to Main Content

Life of an Anarchist


The Alexander Berkman Reader with a foreword by Howard Zinn, edited by Gene Fellner.

2 in stock

SKU: AD-771 Category:


A failed assassin, anarchist, lover of Emma Goldman and clear-eyed critic of the Russian revolution, Alexander Berkman (1870-1936) immersed himself in the political passions of his time, and this rich collection of his writings revives his witness. During the Homestead Strike of 1892, Berkman attempted to assassinate industrialist Henry Frick; excerpts from his somewhat melodramatic prison memoirs show Berkman’s lofty idealism matured during his 14-year term. Selections from his magazine, The Blast, argue urgently against war and for birth control, worker unity and free speech. Most valuable are Berkman’s accounts of Russia, where he was deported in 1919, and which he left two years later. His initial optimism was quickly tempered by glimpses of an autocratic regime, especially the repression of workers at Kronstadt. Also included are Berkman’s naively faithful primer The ABC of Anarchism, and several letters to and from Goldman. In one exchange, they debate the value of violence; in another, Goldman calls Berkman “the greatest force in my life.” Fellner, an activist and artist who edits the GLF Occasional , has selected and annotated the entries well.


A paperback reissue featuring a new introduction by Howard Zinn. Alexander Berkman was a 20th 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 15 years in a federal penitentiary. Upon his release, he became an effective agitator against conscription, was again imprisoned and eventually deported to Russia, where he saw firsthand the early days of Bolshevism. Berkman’s writings remain a lasting and impassioned record of intense political transformation.

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 20th century. Also included are a selection of letters between Berkman and his life-long companion Emma Goldman, and a generous sampling from Berkman’s other publications.

Jailed for 14 years in a federal prison for attempting to assassinate steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, Alexander Berkman became a famous and effective agitator in America. Eventually he was deported to Russia where he saw first-hand the early days of Bolshevism. Gene Fellner is an activist and artist living in Jersey City, New Jersey. Howard Zinn is the author of the million-selling A People’s History of the United States.

Additional information

Weight 0.522000 kg