Dolgoff was born in the shtetl of Ostrovno in Vitebsk, Russia, moving as a child to New York City in 1905 or 1906, where he lived in the Bronx and in Manhattan’s Lower East Side where he died. His father was a house painter, and Dolgoff began house painting at the age of 11, a profession he remained in his entire life.
After being expelled from the Young People’s Socialist League, Sam joined the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1922 and remained an active member his entire life, playing an active role in the anarchist movement for much of the century. He was a co-founder of the Libertarian Labor Review magazine, which was later renamed Anarcho-Syndicalist Review to avoid confusion with America’s Libertarian Party.
Dolgoff was a member of the Chicago Free Society Group in the 1920s, Vanguard Group member and editor of its publication Vanguard: A Journal of Libertarian Communism in the 1930s, and co-founded the Libertarian League in New York in 1954. He wrote articles for anarchist magazines as well as books as the editor of highly-acclaimed anthologies, some of which are listed below. He was active in many causes, and attended groups like New York’s Libertarian Book Club regularly.
Dolgoff, and his wife Esther, served as a link to anarchism’s past to young anarchists of the 1960s and 1970s living in New York. He focused upon anarchism’s (specifically anarcho-syndicalism’s) roots in workers’ movements and served as a moderating counterbalance to the punk-era anarchists who tended towards ‘monkeywrenching’ and confrontations with the police. Although Dolgoff was friends with Murray Bookchin, a notable anarchist theorist of the period, he was opposed to Bookchin’s theory of Social Ecology, rooted as he was in the classical anarchist traditions of Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin.
Yes, it is possible to understand the fascination that many people, particularly the young, have with the man. But understanding a phenomenon is one thing, whether it presents a true picture of reality is another. For this, we must look behind the mystique.
Sam Dolgoff’s book offering a critical account of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 from anarchist perspective. His analysis of the Cuban Revolution, its development and significance, presents an historical perspective on Cuba that arrives at new insights into social and political change.