Happy May Day: ‘To hell with the government’

One of my favorite editorials published in The Blast — the anarchist newspaper based in San Francisco, not Wyndham Lewis’s vorticist magazine — on May Day, 98 years ago. Taken from the AK Press anthology, which is very good:

Three successive issues of THE BLAST have been vetoed by the Post Office censorship. The determination of the Washington authorities to suppress this publication is obvious. But the high muck-a-mucks of the government are too cowardly and hypocritical to inform us to that effect, honestly and frankly. That would not befit a “proud government.” By the way, who was it that said that a government always represents the lowest social level? Evidently he knew. The methods used by the Federal government, the chambermaid of the money paunches, to suppress THE BLAST are beneath contempt. We were first informed by the local post office officials that issues 9 and 10 of our paper were prohibited to pass through the mail by order from Washington. When No. 11 of THE BLAST appeared, it was again held up and we were informed that the Postmaster General had wired a SPECIAL ORDER to hold up EVERY issue of THE BLAST, and that our paper would not be permitted to pass through the mails until a copy of each issue had been forwarded to Washington, there to be passed upon its “fitness” to be circulated in this good and pious country. Accordingly, the first assistant Postmaster of this city, William Burke, informed us that he immediately forwarded a copy of No. 11 to Washington, and that he requested a reply by wire.

It would take five days, we were told, to receive the decision of the Postmaster General. At the end of that time we again got in touch with Mr. Burke. He expressed surprise that no reply had been received from Washington and promised to look into the matter. We waited a few more days and again sought information from the local postal officials. No reply had been received, we were informed, but Mr. Burke assured us that he would immediately telegraph to Washington to request the decision by wire. 

We waited another week, two weeks. Still no reply from Washington. In the absence of further instructions, the local postal authorities continued to apply the previous order excluding THE BLAST from the mails.

THE BLAST must have hit ’em pretty hard to make them so mad. But we are tired of awaiting the pleasure of His Majesty, Postmaster General Burleson, and his Comstockian censorship. Who the hell is Burleson, anyhow, to presume to dictate what is or is not “fit” to be read by the American public? As our friends, Douglas B. and Annie Bruce Carr Sterrett, of Washington D.C., so well put it in their protest to Burleson, “The Post Office was supposed to be mechanically efficient, and nothing beyond that. That it should now dictate on ethical questions is as absurd as if the railroads and street car companies were legally empowered to refuse to accept passengers whose ideas they did not like.”

To the filthy mind, all things are filthy. The Postmaster General is evidently suffering from this Comstockian disease, but we have reason to believe that the suppression of THE BLAST is not so much due to the unfortunate mental condition of Burleson, as to pressure from other quarters that have found our frank criticism “too strong” for their digestion, and very unpalatable to the powers that be. But whatever the reason or forces behind the suppression of THE BLAST, we are tired of the whole pestiferous gang and of the postal tyranny. We hereby declare our independence from the Autocrat of the Post Office and of his governmental and plutocratic chiefs. We are heartily sick of the whole canaille. We know that THE BLAST is a thorn in their side. We defy them to do their worst. We will continue to publish THE BLAST as long as we can find friends to support our resistance to this postal despotism. Rebels and liberty lovers, it is up to you to show if you are really sincere in your protestations. Help us to keep up THE BLAST. There is no greater menace to progress than the suppression of the radical press.

And let the overlords and their hirelings be warned that their craven and sneaky methods of stifling unpopular thought will but serve to drive our propaganda underground, sub rosa — as in Russia, for instance — and force it to assume more aggressive expression. In vain is the hope of the American governmental Black Hundred to suppress the Spirit of Revolt. In vain! For

Ye fools! Do I not live where ye have tried to pierce in vain?
Rests not a nook for me to dwell in every heart and every brain?
In every workshop breeding woe? In every hut that harbors grief?
Ha! Am I not the Breath of Life, that pants and struggles for relief?

‘Tis therefor I will be — and lead the people yet your hosts to meet,
And on your necks, your heads, your crowns, will plant my strong, resistless feet!
It is no boast — it is no threat — thus history’s iron law decree —
The day grows hot, O Babylon! ‘Tis cool beneath thy willow trees!

ALEXANDER BERKMAN

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