Alexander Berkman (1870 – 1936) was an anarchist known for his political activism and writing. He was a leading member of the anarchist movement in the early 20th century.
Berkman was born in Vilnius in the Russian Empire and immigrated to the United States in 1888. He lived in New York City, where he became involved in the anarchist movement. He was the lover and lifelong friend of anarchist Emma Goldman. In 1892, Berkman attempted to assassinate businessman Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Though Frick survived the attempt on his life, Berkman served 14 years in prison. His experience in prison was the basis for his first book, Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist.
After his release from prison, Berkman served as editor of Goldman’s anarchist journal, Mother Earth, and he established his own journal, The Blast. In 1917, Berkman and Goldman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiracy against the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country’s Bolshevik revolution, Berkman quickly voiced his opposition to the Soviet use of violence and the repression of independent voices. In 1925, he published a book about his experiences, The Bolshevik Myth.
While living in France, Berkman continued his work in support of the anarchist movement, producing the classic exposition of anarchist principles, Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism. Suffering from ill health, Berkman committed suicide in 1936.