100 Quotes by Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman was a prominent anarchist and feminist activist, known for her passionate advocacy of workers' rights, women's rights, and free speech. A charismatic speaker and writer, she was a strong critic of capitalism, inequality, and government authority. Goldman's activism spanned a wide range of issues, from labor rights to birth control, and her speeches and writings encouraged individuals to question authority and challenge societal norms.

Despite facing opposition and even imprisonment for her beliefs, she remained dedicated to her principles and continued to be a driving force in the early 20th-century American radical movement. Goldman's legacy as a fierce advocate for social justice and individual autonomy continues to inspire modern activists and thinkers who strive for a more just and equitable society.

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Emma Goldman Quotes


The most violent element in society is ignorance.

People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.

I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood.

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism... Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.

To the moralist prostitution does not consist so much in the fact that the woman sells her body, but rather that she sells it out of wedlock.

I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.

The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.

If love does not know how to give and take without restrictions, it is not love, but a transaction that never fails to lay stress on a plus and a minus.

There's never been a good government.

Civilization has been a continuous struggle of the individual or of groups of individuals against the State and even against "society," that is, against the majority subdued and hypnotized by the State and State worship.

Men and women do you not realize that the State is the worst enemy you have? It is a machine that crushes you in order to sustain the ruling class, your masters. Like naïve children you put your trust in your political leaders. You make it possible for them to creep into your confidence, only to have them betray you to the first bidder. But even where there is no direct betrayal, the labour politicians make common cause with your enemies to keep you in leash, to prevent your direct action. The State is the pillar of capitalism, and it is ridiculous to expect any redress from it.

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A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.

The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man's right to his body, or woman's right to her soul.

What a strange development of patriotism that turns a thinking being into a loyal machine!

Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals.

Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.

Politicians promise you heaven before election and give you hell after

Ask for work. If they don't give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.

The majority cannot reason; it has no judgement. It has always placed its destiny in the hands of others; it has followed its leaders even into destruction. The mass has always opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new truth.

No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.

Political violence is organized violence on the top which creates individual violence at the bottom.

Merely external emancipation has made of the modern woman an artificial being. Now, woman is confronted with the necessity of emancipating herself from emancipation, if she really desires to be free.

The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.

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I want freedom, the right to self-expression , everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.

Religion. How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began.

Wealth means power: the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade.

The State is the altar of political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.

No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time.

Art is a part of the rebellion against the realities of its unfulfilled desire.

Life without an ideal is spiritual death.

Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman.

The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.

Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.

Rugged individualism' has meant all the 'individualism' for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking 'supermen.' America is perhaps the best representative of this kind of individualism, in whose name political tyranny and social oppression are defended and held up as virtues; while every aspiration and attempt of man to gain freedom and social opportunity to live is denounced as 'un-American' and evil in the name of that same individuality.

The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought.

Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.

I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made.

Every society has the criminals it deserves.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion.

The spirit of militarism has already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy.

How long would authority exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen.

Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labeled Utopian.

Revolution is indeed a violent process. But if it is to result only in a change of dictatorship, in a shifting of names and political personalities, then it is hardly worth while.

Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails.

If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man.

Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism.

The most vital right is the right to love and be loved.

I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent.

Democracy must first be safe for America before it can be safe for the world.

No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution... revolution is but thought carried into action.

Lack of fairness to an opponent is essentially a sign of weakness.

The people are urged to be patriotic by sacrificing their own children. Patriotism requires allegiance to the flag, which means obedience and readiness to kill father, mother, brother, sister.

John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?

True emancipation will have to do away with the absurd notion of the dualism of the sexes, or that man and woman represent two antagonistic worlds.

It is organized violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom. It is the accumulated indignation against organized wrong, organized crime, organized injustice, which drives the political offender to act.

In modern capitalism economic exploitation rather than political oppression is the real enemy of the people.

The individual is the true reality of life. A cosmos in himself, he does not exist for the State, nor for that abstraction called "society," or the "nation," which is only a collection of individuals.

The soldier's business is to take life. For that he is paid by the State, eulogized by political charlatans and upheld by public hysteria. But woman's function is to give life, yet neither the State nor politicians nor public opinion have ever made the slightest provision in return for the life woman has given.

Patriotism is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.

A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to, and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish.

Public school - where the human mind is drilled and manipulated into submission to various social and moral spooks, and thus fitted to continue our system of exploitation and oppression.

Jealousy is the very reverse of understanding, of sympathy, and of generous feeling. Never has jealousy added to character, never does it make the individual big and fine.

Nothing satisfies the craving of most women so much as scandal.

Prostitution, although hounded, imprisoned, and chained, is nevertheless the greatest triumph of Puritanism.

Some people never seem to learn from experience. No matter how often they had seen the lion devour the lamb, they continued to cling to the hope that the nature of the beast might change. If only the lion could get to know the lamb better, they argued, or talk matters over.

The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is he who goes about heavily armed.

Revolution is but thought carried into action.

Imagine, capitalist America also divides the anarchists into two categories, philosophic and criminal. The first are accepted in highest circles; one of them is even high in the councils of the Wilson Administration. The second category, to which we have the honor of belonging, is persecuted and often imprisoned. Yours also seems to be a distinction without a difference. Don't you think so?

Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony.

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name!

Idealists foolish enough to throw caution to the winds have advanced mankind and have enriched the world.

The triumph of the philosophy of Atheism is to free man from the nightmare of gods; it means the dissolution of the phantoms of the beyond.

Give us what belongs to us in peace, and if you don't give it to us in peace, we will take it by force.

True, we have no conscription; that is, men are not usually forced to enlist in the army, but we have developed a far more exacting and rigid force-necessity.

We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens.

Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world, the mottos of which are: 'To take is more blessed than to give'; 'buy cheap and sell dear'; 'one soiled hand washes the other.

Love is it's own protection.

Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty...

Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses, while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the annihilation of individual liberty.

Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and clearer future.

Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world.

Direct action is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism.

The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.

The higher mental development of woman, the less possible it is for her to meet a congenial male who will see in her, not only sex, but also the human being, the friend, the comrade and strong individuality, who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her character.

In the struggle for supremacy the various political parties outdo each other in trickery, deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who succeeds is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is the only god--Success. As to what expense, what terrible cost to character, is of no moment.

Out of the chaos, the future emerges in harmony and beauty.

Everywhere and always, since its very inception, Christianity has turned the earth into a vale of tears; always it has made of life a weak, diseased thing, always it has instilled fear in man, turning him into a dual being, whose life energies are spent in the struggle between body and soul. In decrying the body as something evil, the flesh as the tempter to everything that is sinful, man has mutilated his being in the vain attempt to keep his soul pure, while his body rotted away from the injuries and tortures inflicted upon it.

Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with hope and joy gone, a homeless, soulless army of human prey.

All claims of education notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind craves.

Anarchism aims to strip labor of its deadening, dulling aspect, of its gloom and compulsion. It aims to make work an instrument of joy, of strength, of color, of real harmony, so that the poorest sort of a man should find in work both recreation and hope.

religion and morality are a much better whip to keep people in submission than even the club and the gun.

No, it is not because woman is lacking in responsibility, but because she has too much of the latter that she demands to know how to prevent conception.

Patriotism is a menace to liberty.

Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime.

One cannot be too extreme in dealing with social ills; the extreme thing is generally the true thing.

You cannot build up a standing army and then throw it back into a box like tin soldiers. Armies equipped to the teeth with weapons, with highly developed instruments of murder and backed by their military interests, have their own dynamic functions.

No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution - Revolution is but thought carried into action. Every effort for progress, for enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass.

all government, whatever its forms or pretenses, is a dead weight that paralyzes the free spirit and activities of the masses.

The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.

Woman, essentially a purist, is naturally bigoted and relentless in her effort to make others as good as she thinks they ought to be.

When in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.

Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man's lot since gods began.

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature.

Perhaps even more than constituted authority, it is social uniformity and sameness that harass the individual most. His very "uniqueness," "separateness" and "differentiation" make him an alien, not only in his native place, but even in his own home. Often more so than the foreign born who generally falls in with the established.

They do not want to know that centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.

The benefits brought to the Russian people by Bolshevism exist only on paper painted in glowing colors by Bolshevist propaganda.

"All government in essence," says Emerson, "is tyranny." It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.

Resistance to tyranny is man's highest ideal.

When we can't dream any longer we die.

The State is a term for the legislative and administrative machinery whereby certain business of the people is transacted, and badly so.

Perhaps even more than constituted authority, it is social uniformity and sameness that harass the individual most.

Revolution that divests itself of ethical values thereby lays the foundation of injustice, deceit, and oppression for the future society.

Atheism in its negation of gods is at the same time the strongest affirmation of man, and through man, the eternal yea to life, purpose, and beauty.

The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet how can anyone speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?... With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?

The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime.

If elections really changed anything, they would be outlawed.

"What would you do with the lazy ones, who would not work?" "No one is lazy. They grow hopeless from the misery of their present existence, and give up. Under our order of things, every man would do the work he liked, and would have as much as his neighbor, so could not be unhappy and discouraged."

We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America. How else is the world to take America seriously, when democracy at home is daily being outraged, free speech suppressed, peaceable assemblies broken up by overbearing and brutal gangsters in uniform; when free press is curtailed and every independent opinion gagged? Verily, poor as we are in democracy, how can we give of it to the world?

There is no hope even that woman, with her right to vote, will ever purify politics.

I don't care if a man's theory for tomorrow is correct, I care if his spirit of today is correct.

True emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in the courts. It begins in woman's soul.

Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to live in.

The State has no more existence than gods and devils have. They are equally the reflex and creation of man, for man, the individual, is the only reality. The State is but the shadow of man, the shadow of his opaqueness, of his ignorance and fear.

The custom of procuring abortions has reached such appalling proportions in America as to be beyond belief... So great is the misery of the working classes that seventeen abortions are committed in every one hundred pregnancies.

The Christian religion and morality extols the glory of the Hereafter, and therefore remains indifferent to the horrors of the earth. Indeed, the idea of self-denial and of all that makes for pain and sorrow is its test of human worth, its passport to the entry into heaven.

Have not all theists painted their Deity as the god of love and goodness? Yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race. Confucius cares not for the poverty, squalor and misery of the people of China. Buddha remains undisturbed in his philosophical indifference to the famine and starvation of outraged Hindoos; Jahve continues deaf to the bitter cry of Israel; while Jesus refuses to rise from the dead against his Christians who are butchering each other.

The average mind is easily content with inherited and acquired things, or with the dicta of parents and teachers, because it is much easier to imitate than to create.

More pernicious than the power of a dictator is that of a class; the most terrible - the tyranny of a majority.

Have not all theists painted their Deity as the god of love and goodness? Yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race.

Religion is a superstition that originated in man`s mental inability to solve natural phenomena. The Church is an orgainized institution that has always been stumbling to block progress.

The God idea is growing more impersonal and nebulous in proportion as the human mind is learning to understand natural phenomena and in the degree that science progressively correlates human and social events.

The import is not the kind of work woman does, but rather the quality of the work she furnishes.

― Emma Goldman Quotes

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Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

 
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