Red Emma at the CZA

Surprisingly,  at the Central Zionist Archives, we found a letter written by Emma Goldman, one of the founders of the Anarchistic Movement of the beginning of the 20th century. Goldman refused to toe the line with contemporary revolutionaries and support the Communist Regime, especially when she witnessed its many human rights violations.

Eamma Goldman (Photo: Wikipedia)Emma Goldman (1869-1940), also known as "Red Emma", was a charismatic figure in the Anarchistic Movement in the first half of the 20th century. Goldman was born to a Jewish family in Kaunas, located at that time in the Russian Empire. She immigrated to the US with her sisters when she was sixteen and began working in the textile industry. After a brief marriage, Goldman moved to New York in 1887 and began her career as a political activist. She met Alexander Berkman (1870-1936), an author and an anarchist who became a linchpin in the development of the Anarchist Movement at the beginning of the 20th century. He had a significant influence on her. They were in love for a while and became good friends later on. Berkman convinced Goldman to lecture about Anarchism, work she did with great aptitude.

Goldman became a renowned speaker among the working class at the end of the 19th century. She traveled across the US and called for workers and the unemployed to stand up for their rights for food, work, and a life of dignity, and became a prominent political figure in the Anarchist Movement. Security forces defined her as a dangerous woman who distributes "Anarchist and Atheist ideas". She was imprisoned three times for inciting workers, advocating for contraception,  and speaking against the mandatory draft in the United States in World War I. Goldman was one of the founders of the Anarcho-Feminist Ideology that, unlike  the first Feminist wave, did not view  women's rights in the judicial and political system as the most crucial arena in the fight for women's rights. She professed that women should free themselves from prejudices that limit them to traditional female roles.

 Goldman denied religious principles, marriage, and conservative politics, and alleged that freeing humanity from these would free all humankind from despotism.   

"Our Comrades Who Languish in Russian Prisons"

Goldman was deported from the US back to Russia in 1919, as part of a wave of imprisonments and deportations of radical political activists, following the October revolution of 1917. She traveled across Russia and was abhorred by the repression, corruption, and oppression of free speech she saw everywhere she went. In 1921 she left for Europe and expressed her disappointment from the Communist Revolution in a series of essays and lectures she gave across Europe. These stances isolated her from revolutionary circles that expected her to support the Communist revolution.


A letter written in German to a "comrade" in the Zionist Socialist Party in 1925, kept in the Central Zionist Archives, reflects this era in her life and thought:

אמה גולדמן לציונים_F30.59.3.jpg

A letter from Emma Goldman to a comrade in the Social Zionist Party, June 1925 (F30/59). The letter, kept in the files of Arie Tzvi Tzantzifer, includes documents and photos of the beginning of the Zionist movement in Russia.

"Right now, I'm working on an essay about Russian Intelligence", Goldman wrote. Unfortunately, there is almost no place I can get essays on Russia. The workers' press tilts entirely towards Moscow. Other newspapers do not want to hear any criticism about the political situation in Russia. Therefore, our struggle for our friends languishing in state prisons is arduous. Nevertheless, we must not be discouraged!"

"I will be delighted to receive your brochure on a permanent basis. Please send me important articles from the Soviet press, because I'm very interested in all Soviet newspapers, as reliable sources are of good use to me. With solidarity, Emma Goldman."

The Socialist Zionist Party was founded in Kharkov in 1920 and evolved out of 'Tze'irey Tzion"- the National Zionist Movement of Russia, Poland, Serbia, and Galicia- after the Bolshevik Revolution.

A proclamation made by "Tze'iri Tzion" and the organized institution of "The Comrade" in Moscow after the Bolshevik revolution, 1917 (PHZPR\1252581) 


The chairman of the Social Zionist Party was Israel Edelson (Bar-Yehuda). He later became Minister of Interior and Minister of Transportation in the Government of Israel between 1955-1959 and 1962-1966.


The Social Zionist Party Committee, Kremchung, Ukraine, 1920-1930.


Although the party acted in accordance with state laws, the Russian Secret Police saw it as a security threat. They arrested many of its members between 1922 and 1924 in Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa. Among them was Bar-Yehuda himself. Since 1925, the party began adopting a more assertive line and even took a public stand against the Russian government's oppression of Judaism and national "bourgeois" groups. These actions caused the regime to intensify its persecution of party members, and many of them immigrated to Israel. In 1926 the party ceased to exist in Russia.​

​Published on 25.3.2022