Generally, Emma Goldman is referred to as an American Anarchist. However, as a young girl growing up in Russia, it was Russian socialist Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1826-1889) who first asked Emma the perspicacious question, what is to be done?
Chernyshevsky was a Russian socialist during the 19th century. A notable radical journalist known for criticizing liberals, he believed liberalism only benefitted the wealthy upper-class. After his arrest in July of 1862 for criticizing Russian government, Chernyshevsky wrote the revolutionary classic novel What Is to Be Done? while in prison. The manuscript was smuggled out of jail, and the controversial novel approved by the Tsar censors to be published. It was later, that Chernyshevsky received an extended prison sentence for the publication of the novel.
"What Is to Be Done" is a fictional story based upon a lover's triangle, with socialist undertones. The two main characters are a man and a woman.
Vera Pavlovna was a young activist "unencumbered by the restrictions of her sex" (Chernyshevsky 173). She was a strong character, and renounced the gender roles of patriarchy. Vera sought to demolish her countries politics and culture, to rebuild a better society of equality and free-love. The novel follows her around as she marries one man (Lopukhov), and leaves him for his best friend (Kirsanov). Though she stands extremely committed to politics and activism, love still serves as a personal fulfillment to her. A main part of her dialogue revolves around debating with her lovers about free-love. Vera likes the idea of being able to love who she wants, instead of limiting herself to one man her entire life. As a young woman, Vera uses a fake marriage as an escape route from her oppressive life. After escaping her former life, she wanted to get rid of the oppressed role of...