The Slow Burning Fuse

an atheisitic anarchistic scorcher

today in anarchist history

9 May 1866: Birth of David Edelstadt, poet and anarchist


“A great poet and one of the finest types of Anarchist that ever lived.”
- Emma Goldman.

“That Is Anarchy” by David Edelstat

A world where no one shall govern

over another’s labor and toil

Every heart and mind shall be free

That is anarchy


A world where freedom will bring fortune for all,

the weak, the strong, the ‘he’, the ‘she’.

Where “yours” and “mine” will oppress none.

That is anarchy

In 1882 at the age of 15, Edelstadt immigrated to New York after escaping the Kiev pogrom of 8 May 1881.  He participated in the first Jewish anarchist group in New York, The Pioneers of Liberty, created after the arrest of anarchists after the Chicago Haymarket Bomb.

The group held meetings, sponsored rallies and raised funds to help the Chicago anarchists, and began to spread anarchist propaganda among the Jewish immigrants, who were arriving in the States in increasing numbers. They set up a club-room, and brought out literature in Yiddish, including a pamphlet on the Haymarket case.

The group’s influence led to the creation of similar groups across the USA.  They were also in close contact with Jewish anarchist organisations in London, and Edelstadt was a regular contributor to the English Anarchist paper Arbeiter Fraynd (Workers’ Friend).

He was also one of the editors of the American Anarchist paper, Freie Arbeiter Stimme (Free Voice of Labour), to which he contributed a number of poems including tributes to the Haymarket anarchists.  Around this time his poems were being set to music and sung at workers’ picnics and rallies, and are still sung today.


In 1891 he had to quit his post after contracting TB.  Although he moved to Denver for the good of his health he passed away shortly after on 17 October 1892 aged just 26.

             From Vakht oyf! (Awake!)

 How long will you remain slaves

And wear degrading chains?

How long will you produce riches

For those who rob you of your bread?


How long will you stand with backs bent,

Humiliated, homeless and weak?

It’s daybreak, awake, open your eyes,

And see your own strength!

The Freie Arbeiter Stimme mourned his passing with a tribute that said “”David Edelstadt, a fine idealistic nature, a spiritual petrel whose songs of revolt were beloved by every Yiddish-speaking radical.”

An Edelstadt Singing Society was founded in New York. In Argentina many years later, Jewish anarchists named their cultural circle in Buenos Aires after him.

At Strife

Hated are we, and driven from our homes,
Tortured and persecuted, even to blood;
And wherefore? ‘Tis because we love the poor,
The masses of mankind, who starve for food.

We are shot down, and on the gallows hanged,
Robbed of our lives and freedom without ruth,
Because for the enslaved and for the poor
We are demanding liberty and truth.

But we will not be frightened from our path
By darksome prisons or by tyranny;
We must awake humanity from sleep,
Yea, we must make our brothers glad and free.

Secure us fast with fetters made of iron,
Tear us like beasts of blood till life departs,
‘Tis but our bodies that you will destroy,
Never the sacred spirit in our hearts.

You cannot kill it, tyrants of the earth!
Our spirit is a plant immortal, fair;
Its petals, sweet of scent and rich of hue,
Are scattered wide, are blooming everywhere.

In thinking men and women now they bloom,
In souls that love the light and righteousness.
As they strive on toward duty’s sacred goal,
Nature herself doth their endeavor bless—

To liberate the poor and the enslaved
Who suffer now from cold and hunger’s blight,
And to create for all humanity
A world that shall be free, that shall be bright;

A world where tears no longer shall be shed,
A world where guiltless blood no more shall flow,
And men and women, like clear-shining stars,
With courage and with love shall be aglow.

You may destroy us, tyrants! ‘Twill be vain.
Time will bring on new fighters strong as we;
For we shall battle ever, on and on,
Nor cease to strive till all the world is free!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on May 8, 2013 by in anarchy, history and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: