Thursday, 22 December 2016

Emma Golman in Edinburgh

 Edinburgh was a treat after Glasgow, spacious, clean, and attractive, with poverty not so obvious. It was there I first met Tom Bell, of whose propagandistic zeal and daring we had heard much in America. Among his exploits was a free-speech experiment he had made while in Paris. He had urged the French anarchists to make a stand for open-air meetings, on the English plan, but the Paris comrades considered such an attempt impossible. Tom decided to demonstrate that it was feasible to speak in the open regardless of the police

 Tom Bell agreed with his friend to help in the reception of the Tsar. McCabe had a shriveled hand and arm, but he was as game as Tom. Together they laid their plans. They were in Edinburgh at the time, and when they reached Leith, they found an enormous number of police at the dock, including British, Russian, and French secret-service men. The streets were barricaded and lined all the way by soldiers and bobbies, with detectives swarming everywhere. Behind the barricade was a row of Highlanders; behind them territorials, these again supported by infantry. The situation looked hopeless -- no chance for any action. Tom Bell and McCabe decided to separate; "each knew that the other would do his damnedest," as Tom afterwards said. He heard a faint cheer from the school-children as the pretty uniforms went by. Then came the carriages. The Tsar's was easily distinguished. Tom made out the Russian autocrat sitting in the back seat, the Prince of Wales facing him. It seemed impossible to do anything, up to the last moment, and it was possible only at that moment and at no other. The guards had been alert and vigilant till --- just as the Tsar's carriage came level with them. In an instant Tom dived right through them, under the barricade and to the side of the carriage, shouting into the Tsar's face: "Down with the Russian tyrant! To hell with all the empires!" Just at that moment he became conscious of his friend Mac, who had also got through, also shouting close by.
    The British authorities did not dare bring Bell and McCabe before a Scottish jury. Most probably they feared that prosecution would mean more publicity. Not one word appeared in the papers about the incident. "The Tsar appeared pale," they wrote. No doubt. He cut his visit short, going home again, not through Leith or any other Scottish seaport, but from an obscure fishing-village, whence he was taken to his yacht by boat.

-Living My Life.

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