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Similarities Between Goldman And Du Bois: Comparative Essay

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Both Goldman and Du Bois have been notorious in transforming political assumptions as well as being pivotal figures in shaping history and tradition. With the same goal of emancipation, it is evident that Goldman and Du Bois identify issues in society that continue to persist as major concerns in the emerging new world order. This essay will argue that there are many similarities between Goldman and Du Bois that corroborate their ideas, but the means of enacting this complicates their relationship. While the two are not often read together, there are evident parallels in their recognition of the importance of emancipation to achieve the full development of human capacity and political agency. As well as this, the importance of education and the representation of the minority is a clear focus of mutual concern. However, it is apparent that their methods of achieving emancipation are paradoxical. Whilst Goldman argues for revolutionary means through violence and action, Du Bois contends that through reform and devotion to faith, society will learn to work together to progress and achieve social justice.

Speaking out during the height of paramount events in American history, both Goldman and Du Bois emphasise the severity of inequality in society. The events of the 1886 Haymarket affair fuelled Goldman’s development as an activist, where she became a prominent voice for the minority (Ferguson, 2011: 98). This protest to defend the rights of workers led to a violent clash between the police and protesters resulting in the police responding with open gunfire (Ferguson, 2011: 98). The aftermath of Haymarket meant that the working-class struggle was discredited which led to an increase in oppression. Similarly, the unethical nature and immorality towards people of colour as a result of slavery had a significant impact on Du Bois commitment towards eradicating racism (Du Bois, 1913: 129). The injustice witnessed by Du Bois and Goldman impelled both activists to speak out against inequality. Du Bois concept of double consciousness and the veil is similar to Goldman’s notion of ‘The Tragedy of a Woman’s Emancipation’ in revealing how inequality has led to internal conflict and a state of duality (Dickson, 1992: 300). Du Bois argues how the veil produces a “second-sight” where black people are forced to view themselves through the hostile perspective of a white America (2008: 11). Goldman in her “Tragedy of a Woman’s Emancipation” argues how women are faced with the problem of a double burden (1910: 71). More women in the workforce has just replaced the lack of freedom from the home to the workplace. Women are not equipped to compete with men and so emancipation is never attainable (Hemmings, 2013: 340). Goldman and Du Bois through these concepts convey how society attempts to foster a physical demarcation between the minority and majority which results in inequality.

Further similarities emerge between Du Bois and Goldman through their contending views of the importance of the status of women, and the role they have in achieving emancipation. Du Bois uncovers the female disenchanted view of male elites who are “corrupted by domestic or colonialist politics” (Bell, 2014: 6). Women especially are affected by what Du Bois referred to as the problem of the “Colour-line,” where minorities are treated differently to their white counterparts (Bell, 2014: 1). Du Bois ideas link to those of Rousseau who argued that “man is born free yet everywhere he is in chains.” Du Bois focus thus lies with creating a society based on “real democracy, social and economic justice and respect for women which is not confined to women of one privileged class” (1913: 129). It is evident that Goldman’s arguments are almost identical to that of Du Bois. In “The Tragedy of Woman’s Emancipation,” Goldman argues that emancipation would allow for a woman “to be human in the truest sense” (1910: 70). She contends the view that society restricts freedom of expression and fosters a social antagonism between men and women resulting in competition and conflicting interests (Goldman, 1910: 70). Therefore, through this common focus on the inequality faced by women in society, it is evident that there is resemblance in both Du Bois and Goldman’s ideas.

Educating the masses was a key method used by Goldman and Du Bois as a means of achieving enlightenment. Taking on a duty to educate citizens, these two radicals spoke to large gatherings of people, publicising racial ideals. Education, for both Goldman and Du Bois, was at the forefront of their actions where it was important to give a voice to the minority. Goldman’s attempts to report and expose the poor conditions faced by workers led to her to arrest. Her violent acts of defiance meant that she was viewed as more dangerous than ever: “Emma Goldman [was] a woman of great ability… and her persuasive powers are such to [make] her an exceedingly dangerous woman” (Caffey 1917, cited in Ferguson, 2011: 29). For Du Bois, however, education was a means of restoring the loss of an individual’s self, as a result of slavery (1913: 127). Du Bois, unlike Goldman, argued that the use of reason was enough to enlighten society without violent methods (Du Bois, 1913: 127). As a result, he dedicated his life to challenging the government and institutionalised white supremacist attitudes to accept people of colour as equals (Du Bois, 1913: 129). Thus, it is evident that whilst these two activists agree on the importance of education as a means of emancipation, Goldman’s methods were much more violent and extreme compared Du Bois.

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The importance of a community is a further similarity between Goldman and Du Bois. Their principles foster the innate good within human nature. Du Bois emphasised the importance of a strong sense of community within African Americans. He argued that if America immersed itself into the culture and shared values of black people, there would be a vast improvement in society (Du Bois, 2008: 23). Racial unity according to Du Bois is “necessary for progress … because every race has something to learn from, and to teach, every other race” (Bell, 2014: 4). Taking inspiration from other Anarchist philosophers such as Proudhon and Kropotkin, Goldman viewed society as a ‘beautiful ideal’ to emphasise the potential of the individual (Ferguson, 2011: 28). For Goldman however, the root of the problem is the state. Adopting the Marxist philosophy that man is caught up on the drudgery of work, Goldman argues that the government is the inherent force that fosters an oppressive environment where its sole concern is furthering its own potential (1910: 16). “The individual and society have waged a relentless and bloody battle for ages, each striving for supremacy, because each was blind to the value and importance of the other” (Goldman, 1910: 18). By putting individual life over society, according to Goldman is a path for destruction (1910: 18). Therefore, Goldman argues for Anarchism as a solution to unite the individual and society (Goldman, 1910: 17). Every individual has the potential to contribute to a society that will inevitably flourish. This unlimited freedom is key to a cooperative society, to reveal the true capabilities of the individual. Therefore, it is evident that Goldman and Du Bois agree that the individual has a lot to offer society and this can only be done through strong communities. However, what differentiates Goldman from Du Bois, is that she argues for anarchism as the solution, a philosophy that Du Bois contests.

Whilst Goldman and Du Bois agree that education is a paramount factor in achieving emancipation, their views on what an ideal society looks like differentiate vastly. Goldman’s view that the state is inherently corrupt reinforces her ideal of Anarchism. Anarchism, according to Goldman would create “a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law” (1910: 17). Goldman argues that the state creates an environment that indoctrinates people to go against their potential, interests, and desires. Anarchism, alternatively, would create a society which would fuel desire to be used constructively (Goldman, 1910: 19). Whilst Goldman was an ardent advocate of Anarchism, Du Bois’ commitment to communism was tentative. Instead, he advocated a society based around Pan-Africanism (Bell, 2014: 10). Du Bois argued that a commitment to Pan-Africanism would “eradicate racism, colonialism, and all structures of exploitation” (Bell, 2014: 10). This movement would benefit everyone in society to ensure “democracy, equality, and social justice” (Bell, 2014: 12). Du Bois, unlike Goldman, did not believe in removing government. He argued that through reason, individual mind-sets could be revised where people of colour would eventually be given the same rights as their white counterparts. Whilst on the surface it may seem that Pan-Africanism and Anarchism contradict one another, there are significant similarities between the two. Goldman and Du Bois share the same purpose of eradicating the exploitation faced by the minority. As well as this, both concepts argue that people are able to effectively rule themselves. And so, it is evident that these two concepts are more similar than different in terms of their beliefs on how society should be structured.

One significant difference between Goldman and Du Bois is their method of how an ideal society will emerge. Goldman argues that the shackles that constrain society must be eliminated through revolution (Waldstreicher, 1990: 79). For Goldman, defiance, direct action and political violence is used as a means of achieving Anarchism. It is only through removing the corruption and injustice of revolutionary practices (state, religion and property) that society can be truly emancipated (Waldstreicher, 1990: 78). The state, religion, and property, according to Goldman is a form of power that is restrictive and despotic, preventing individual development and growth (Waldstreicher, 1990: 78). On the other hand, Du Bois argues for social justice to emerge, a more empirical approach is required. Social conscience cannot be achieved by “sheer expansion” (Du Bois, 1905: 53) rather there has to be a balance between research and activism (Williams, 1960: 44). Instead of the use of violence, Du Bois form of personal sacrifice consisted of inspiring college educated students to fulfil their duty in the support for freedom and equality (Williams, 1960: 48). For Du Bois, research and activism was a means of “pursuing the goal of a just society through normative values and ideas” (Williams, 1960: 44). However, he argues for a “just society” to transpire, one needs to recognise themselves “in the image of one’s neighbour” (Du Bois, 1905: 53). Correspondingly, Du Bois argues that religion is the intrinsic link in binding society together. It is only through intimately understanding one another can true emancipation and social conscience begin to materialise (1905: 54). Thus, it is evident that this debate between reform versus revolution uncovers the disparities between Du Bois and Goldman. Whilst Du Bois focused on attempting to change the mentality and beliefs of the elite, Goldman argued that a revolution was the only means to ensure that a change in the political system was inevitable.

Du Bois and Goldman whilst on the surface are not often paired side by side, it is evident that these two activists have much more in common than acknowledged. Now 100 years since Goldman published “Anarchism and other essays” and 150 years since the birth of Du Bois, the relevance of their thinking still significant. Speaking out about how women are underrepresented in society, Goldman argues “are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena?’ (1910: 84). 2017 statistics revealed only 52 out of 650 MPs are BAME and only 32% of MPs are female (Guardian, 2017). This reveals how issues of underrepresentation and white supremacist institutions continue to discriminate the minority. Similarly, Du Bois’ concept of the “colour line” is still relevant where statistics revealed a 12.8% pay gap between white and black workers (Guardian, 2017). Therefore, it is evident that both activists have been prolific in shaping history and thought, and continue to do so over 100 years later. Therefore, more similarities link them together than differences, where for both thinkers the role of the individual is crucial towards achieving emancipation.

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