Mollie Steimer

Russian anarchist (1897-1980)

Mollie Steimer (Ukrainian: Моллі Штаймер; November 21, 1897 – July 23, 1980) was a Ukrainian Jewish anarchist activist. After settling in New York City, she quickly became involved in the local anarchist movement and was caught up in the case of Abrams v. United States. Charged with sedition, she was eventually deported to Soviet Russia, where she met her lifelong partner Senya Fleshin and agitated for the rights of anarchist political prisoners in the country. For her activities, she and Fleshin were again deported to western Europe, where they spent time organising aid for exiles and political prisoners, and took part in the debates of the international anarchist movement. Following the rise of the Nazis in Europe, she and Fleshin fled to Mexico, where they spent the rest of their lives working as photographers.

Mollie Steimer

Quotes edit

  • Anarchism is a new social order where no group shall be governed by another group of people. Individual freedom shall prevail in the full sense of the word. Private ownership shall be abolished. Every person shall have an equal opportunity to develop himself well, both mentally and physically. We shall not have to struggle for our daily existence as we do now. No one shall live on the product of others. Every person shall produce as much as he can, and enjoy as much as he needs – receive according to his need. Instead of striving to get money, we shall strive towards education, towards knowledge. While at present the people of the world are divided into various groups, calling themselves nations, while one nation defies another – in most cases considers the others as competitive – we, the workers of the world, shall stretch out our hands towards each other with brotherly love. To the fulfilment of this idea I shall devote all my energy, and, if necessary, render my life for it.
  • Among other things it has been stated in the American press that I was very happy to leave Russia, and that I preferred exile in Germany to freedom in Russia. This statement attributed to me, is a deliberate lie! It is true that the hypocrisy, intolerance, and the treachery of the Bolsheviks arouse in me a, feeling of indignation and revolt, but, as an Anarchist, I have no admiration nor defence for any government of any land, and the statement that I prefer exile in Germany rather than freedom in Russia is ridiculous and false. I made it very clear to the press correspondent with whom I spoke that in spite of all the difficulties with which I had to put up with in Russia, I was deeply grieved when I was forced to leave that country. This was not true when I left America. Although I have my entire family, good comrades and many dear friends in the U.S.A. Yet, when I was deported from there by the capitalist government, my heart was light. It was not so in the case of Russia. Never have I felt so depressed as since I have been sentenced to exile from Russia. My love for Russia and its people is too deep for me to rejoice that I am an exile, especially at a time when they are undergoing extreme suffering and most severe persecution. On the contrary, I would prefer to be there, and together with the workers and peasants, search for a way to loosen the chains of Bolshevik tyranny...No, I am NOT happy to be out of Russia. I would rather be there helping the workers combat the tyrannical deeds of the hypocritical Communists

Statement (September 1923) edit

  • Russia of today is a great prison where every individual who is known not to be in full agreement with the Communists is spied upon and booked by the “GPU” (Tcheka) as an enemy of the government. No one can receive books, newspapers, or even a plain letter from his relatives without control of the censor. This institution which keeps the people in absolute ignorance of all news detrimental to the interests of the Bolshevists is now better organized and more strict than was the famous Black Cabinet under Czar Nicholas II. The prisons and concentration camps of Moscow, Petrograd, Kharkov, Odessa, Tashkent, Vologda, Archangel, Solovki, and Siberia are filled with revolutionaries who do not agree with the tyrannical regime enforced by the Bolsheviks. The inhuman treatment that those people receive at the hands of their jailers can have only one purpose: that is, to wear them out physically and mentally so that their lives may become a mere burden to them.
  • I left her with a heavy heart. While the Communists are issuing long protests against the persecution of political prisoners (they mean only Communists) in “capitalist” countries, they themselves are imposing savage sentences upon their opponents and are forcing many of our best comrades to die slowly in the jails and concentration camps, and hundreds of others to suffer the bitter pangs of hunger and the unbearable cold of northern Russia and Siberia. The real revolutionaries of Russia today are exiled and cut off from the entire world, forbidden the right of communication with any loving person except the damnable spies who are forever shadowing their footsteps.s

With Jack Abrams: "Imprisonment and Deportation" (March 1930) edit

  • All our members sincerely believed that the Revolution was around the corner. Events were taking place very rapidly. In Russia a Revolution had broken out which filled us with great enthusiasm. It was then that our discussions began. Should we give up our stand against war and take the side of the allies, or side with the German militarists? Bernard Sernaker wrote an article for Our paper supporting Peter Kropotkin and the famous sixteen in favor of the allied side against the German Government, to safeguard the libertarian traditions of the French revolutionary movement. After exhaustive discussions we did not accept Sernaker’s article for our paper. We decided to continue our call to the world against war and to stop the bloodbath. But we were not able to continue our agitation much longer because of the Espionage and Sedition Act of October, 1917. We could no longer work openly and freely. All criticism of the government was prohibited. The printshops refused to print our leaflets and our paper. We were compelled to operate underground, illegally.
  • In July, 1918, we learned that President Wilson had sent ten thousand American troops to Vladivostock to intervene militarily against the Russian Revolution. At that time we were all very much in sympathy with the Russian Revolution. We sent out a call for a mass protest meeting against intervention and sent it to the American press. Samuel Lipman attended the mass meeting even though he considered himself a Marxian Socialist and we were glad to have him.
  • The well-known liberal periodical, The Nation, printed an editorial challenging the legality of the proceedings and raising embarrassing questions for the government to answer. The policy of military intervention in the Russian Revolution was abandoned. We won, in spite of the fact that Abrams, Lachowsky and Sam Lipman were sentenced to twenty years imprisonment, and I to fifteen years.
  • In October, 1919, I was illegally sentenced to six months imprisonment in Blackwell Island Prison where I was placed in solitary confinement, entirely separated from the outside world, wt without mail, without visitors. Even my mother was not allowed to visit with me. One day, in January, 1920, a slip of paper was smuggled into my cell informing me that Abrams, Lachowsky; and Lipman were caught while trying to flee to Mexico. That same day a newspaper clipping giving the history of our group a was thrown into my cell.
  • We were informed that the exchange with Russian prisoners of war would take effect on the 23rd of November, 1921. We were all deported to Russia.

"Tribute to Alexander Berkman" (1966) edit

  • Alexander Berkman, “Sasha” to his friends, was a rebel from early childhood. He protested against injustice wherever he saw it...After Berkman was released from prison he continued to devote his life to the revolutionary cause, a convinced anarchist. He worked with all his energies and dedication for the movement, for freedom, and wound up a political refugee in the various countries where he was permitted to live. He was one of the finest, most generous people I ever knew. Although he had very few material possessions, he was always ready to give everything away to others and had to be reminded not to deny himself his urgent personal needs. Berkman made every possible effort to understand and help people...He radiated warmth and comfort, like the rays of the sun.
  • I first met Berkman in New York City in the late Fall, 1919, at the home of Stella Ballantine, Emma Goldman’s niece. We discussed the Russian Revolution and the need to expose the atrocities of the Bolsheviks against the anarchists, socialists and all who dared to criticize their new dictatorial regime in Moscow...Sasha argued that the Bolsheviks should be given a chance, that it was too early to start an organized opposition because the revolution was surrounded by enemies...Our second meeting with Sasha and Emma took place in Berlin four years later, November, 1923, where they had been living for two years, since January, 1922. They had left Soviet Russia greatly disillusioned with the Bolshevik regime. Sasha and Emma were each writing about their experiences in Russia. In addition, Sasha was active organizing help for the anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists and other political Opponents held in prison by the Bolsheviks. He appealed for funds, issued a bulletin in English, translated the letters from men and women prisoners in Russia. He assembled and translated all the material that was published in the book, Letters From Russian Prisons.
  • Life was difficult for everyone in Germany after World War I and particularly so for the political refugees. Many of us felt that we had to leave Germany. A number of us went to France, including Sasha and Emma.
  • His name will live as long as there are and will continue to be rebels who struggle for genuine, true liberty.

Quotes about Mollie Steimer edit

  • "Alas," wrote Mollie in November 1927, "the entire spirit of the 'platform' is penetrated with the idea that the masses MUST BE POLITICALLY LED during the revolution. There is where the evil starts, all the rest ... is mainly based on this line. It stands for an Anarchist Communist Workers' Party, for an army ... for a system of defense of the revolution which will inevitably lead to the creation of a spying system, investigators, prisons and judges, consequently a TCHEKA."
  • During these years of exile in the - 1920s and 1930s, Senya and Mollie received a steady stream of visitors-Harry Kelly, Rose Pesotta, Rudolf and Milly Rocker, among others-some of whom recorded their impressions of their old friends. Kelly, for example, found Mollie "as childlike in appearance as ever, and as idealistic too." Goldman, however, thought her "narrow and fanatical," while Senya was always "ill and broken." Emma again compared Mollie to Alexander Berkman as a young militant and "a fanatic to the highest degree. Mollie is a repetition in skirts. She is terribly sectarian, set in her notions, and has an iron will. No ten horses could drag her from anything she is for or against. But with it all she is one of the most genuinely devoted souls living with the fire of our ideal."
  • To the end, her revolutionary passion had burned with an undiminished flame.
  • Mollie Steimer and Emma Goldman were deported to Russia. Many of these women, if not all, are now dead. But in a great crisis they stood staunch and true in defense of peace and democracy.

Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 by Margaret S Marsh (1981) edit

  • There is a sharp contrast between Marie Ganz's brief and flamboyant career in the anarchist movement and the sustained dedication of Mollie Steimer (1897-1980). Steimer emigrated with her family from the Ukraine in 1912. One of six children, she described her life in a New York ghetto as typical of "most poor Jewish immigrants." Her father was a laborer, her mother took in boarders, and she worked in various factories. Her formal schooling having been limited by her poverty, Steimer, like Ganz and numerous others, received her education in the radical youth groups where literature and philosophy received almost as much attention as ideas for the creation of the new world. Inspired by Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread, she joined the anarchist group Freedom in 1917. She could not have chosen a more unpropitious time to become an anarchist. The United States, having recently entered World War I, was increasingly intolerant of radicals.
  • Mollie Steimer was sentenced to fifteen years for proclaiming: "The tyrants of the world fight each other until they see a common enemy-WORKING CLASS ENLIGHTENMENT. As soon as they find a common enemy they combine to crush it."
  • It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by Mollie Steimer's fidelity to principle throughout decades of persecution. Whether such constancy is a virtue or a flaw may be argued; nevertheless, despite an almost identical sociocultural background to Marie Ganz, Steimer was inspired by intellectual, social, and psychological forces that profoundly distinguished her from the more changeable Ganz. Steimer's conversion to anarchism derived less from an emotional response to a crisis situation than from her acceptance of the basic tenets of anarchist ideology. As a disciple of Kropotkin, Steimer possessed an intellectual and moral vision of the future.
  • Steimer remained convinced that constitutional safeguards of freedom were a sham.
  • Mollie Steimer, who was harassed, imprisoned, and finally deported for her support of the Bolshevik Revolution, believed at the time that only through revolution could capitalism be overthrown. She later supported the equally direct, but less overtly violent, concept of the general strike as the most effective revolutionary tool.

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