"Direct Action Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology" now published

First, the good news: Direct Action Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology is now published and has arrived at both AK Press in Scotland and America. If you do decide to buy it (and I do think it is worth buying!) then please do so via AK Press or a radical bookshop.

As indicated, I do think it is worth buying -- it is bigger than I thought it would be and is pretty comprehensive. It is the book I have been waiting for since 1988 when I read Caroline Cahm's excellent Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism, 1872-1886 (this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the real Kropotkin rather than the caricature beloved by both Marxists and Liberals). I hope that the new anthology -- and its introduction -- will help reclaim Kropotkin for the revolutionary class struggle anarchist movement (the movement he was a key part of!). I discussed why I did the book here: Kropotkin Anthology Q & A

Below are the final contents of the book (a pdf of the book's contents page can be found here). When I recieved a copy from AK Press, I read a lot of it -- it was nice to read it in book form and without a red-pen in my hand, looking for issues. I'm pleased to say that while there are a few issues, they are minor. So a big thanks to everyone involved -- translators, proof-editors, layout people, etc. It has a simply wonderful cover.

First, the introduction. It follows the introduction of my Proudhon anthology Property is Theft! -- and, like that, Direct Struggle Against Capital is a direct quote from Kropotkin (picked because it sums up a key aspect of his ideas and the aim of the book). The section On National Liberation was posted in a previous blog while Kropotkin: A Biographical Sketch is based on Kropotkin: The Anarchist Formally Known as Prince (but with some material moved to the main part of the introduction).

Direct Action Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology

Introduction: Bread and Liberty

Anarchism before Kropotkin

  • The Birth of Anarchism: Proudhon and Mutualism
  • Libertarians in the First International
  • Bakunin and Revolutionary Anarchism

Kropotkin's ideas

  • On Capitalism and the State
  • On State Socialism
  • On the Workers' Movement
  • On Syndicalism and Revolutionary Minorities
  • On National Liberation
  • On Mutual Aid and Ethics
  • On Revolution
  • On Anarchy and Communism


Kropotkin: A Biographical Sketch

Further Reading


A Note on the Texts


Now, the Kropotkin texts. These are not ordered chronologically, as in Property is Theft!, rather they are grouped together in themes and, with one exception, organised chronologically in terms of publication within each section (although some sections are prefaced with extracts from Kropotkin's memoirs). The one exception is the section Revolutions which, because it covers previous revolutions, is organised in chronological order of when the revolutions took place.

There are 68 items in total, 66 distinct items (there are three extracts from Kropotkin's Memoirs). There are 17 new translations and 21 which appear for the first time in print (so 25.8% and 31.8% of the total number of 66 items). So, 38 of the 66 items are, so to speak, "new" (57.6%, in other words). Three are new translations of items previously translated. So it is, I hope, a significant addition to the scholarship on Kropotkin and worth the money. So here are the texts included, plus whether they are newly translated, etc.

Anarchism and Anarchists

From Memoirs of a Revolutionist

  • St. Petersburg – First Journey to Western Europe
  • Western Europe

The Lyon anarchist trial of 1883 (Freedom, first time in book)

  • From Kropotkin's Defence Speech
  • Defence Declaration

The Place of Anarchism in Socialist Evolution (pamphlet, first time in book)

Preface to Bakunin's The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State (Newly translated)

Letter to Maria Isidine Goldsmith (Newly translated)

Letter to Max Nettlau (New translation, different translation in Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution)

Anarchism (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets)

  • The Historical Development of Anarchism
  • Anarchism in the International Working Men's Association

From Modern Science and Anarchism (Environment and Evolution, Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets)

  • The Origin of Anarchism
  • The Anarchist Ideal and the Preceding Revolutions
  • Anarchism
  • A Few Conclusions of Anarchism
  • The Means of Action

The Anarchist Principle (Newly translated)

A Few Thoughts about the Essence of Anarchism (Freedom, first time in book)

Letter to the Bakunin Centenary Celebration (Freedom, first time in book)

From Ethics: Origin and Development

Capitalism and the State

From Representative Government (New translation, Words of a Rebel)

Our Riches (Conquest of Bread)

The Division of Labour (Conquest of Bread)

Economic Expedients (Newly translated)

From The State: Its Historic Role (pamphlet)

Prisons: Universities of Crime (Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth)

From The Modern State (Freedom, first time in book)

  • I. The Essential Principle of Modern Society
  • II. Serfs of the State
  • III. Taxation as a Means of Increasing the Power of the State
  • IV. Taxation a Means of Enriching the Rich
  • V. The Monopolies
  • VI. The Monopolies in the Nineteenth Century

The Workers Movement and Class Struggle

From Memoirs of a Revolutionist

Enemies of the People (Newly translated)

The Workers' Movement in Spain (Newly translated)

Workers Organisation (Newly translated)

The Use of the Strike (Freedom, first time in book)

Strikes (Newly translated)

1st May 1891 (Newly translated)

The Death of the New International (Newly translated)

Commemoration of the Chicago Martyrs (Freedom, first time in book)

The Workers' Congress of 1896 (Newly translated)

The Development of Trade-Unionism (Freedom, first time in book)

Letter to French and British Trade Union Delegates (Freedom, first time in book)

From Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

  • Mutual Aid Amongst Ourselves
  • Conclusion

Politics and Socialism (Freedom and pamphlet, first time in book)

Trade Unionism and Parliamentarism (Newly translated)

Letter to The Voice of Labour (The Voice of Labour, first time in book)

Anarchists and Trade Unions (Freedom, first time in book)

1886-1907: Glimpses into the Labour Movement in this Country (Act for Yourselves)

Letter to Alexander Berkman (first time in book)

Syndicalism and Anarchism (Freedom, first time in book)


From The Great French Revolution

  • Action
  • The "Districts" and the "Sections" of Paris
  • The Sections of Paris under the New Municipal Law

1848-1871 (Freedom, first time in book)

The Paris Commune (Fighting the Revolution volume 2; first time in book)

  • The theory of the State and the practice of the Commune
  • Popular aspirations and popular prejudices in the Commune
  • From the Paris Commune to anarchist communism

Commune of Paris (Freedom, first time in book)

The Revolution in Russia (Freedom, first time in book)

The Russian Revolution and Anarchism (Newly translated)

  • Political and economic revolution
  • Our relation with peasants and workers' unions
  • Conclusions of the conference

Enough of Illusions! (Freedom, first time in book)

A Letter to the Workers of the West (Freedom, original English language version; translated from French in Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets)

Social Revolution

From Memoirs of a Revolutionist

The Anarchist Idea from the Point Of View of its Practical Realisation (Freedom, first time in book; another translation appears in No Gods, No Masters)

Revolutionary Government (Words of a Rebel; translation from No Gods, No Masters)

From Expropriation (pamphlet; Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution and revised for Conquest of Bread)

What Revolution Means (Act for Yourselves)

Act For Yourselves (Act for Yourselves)

Local Action (Act for Yourselves)

Preface to Words of a Rebel (1904) (Newly translated, first time in book)

Insurrections and Revolution (Newly translated)

Preface to How We Shall Bring About the Revolution

Anarchist Action in the Revolution (Newly translated)

Postscript to Words of a Rebel (1919) (Newly translated, first time in book; extracts from a different translation in Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets)


The Commune (Words of a Rebel; translation from No Gods, No Masters)

From In Russian and French Prisons

Are We Good Enough? (Act for Yourselves)

The Permanence of Society after the Revolution (Act for Yourselves)

The Wage System (Conquest of Bread)

  • I. Representative Government and Wages
  • II. The Collectivist Wage System
  • III. Unequal Remuneration
  • IV. Equal Wages versus Communism

Communism and Anarchy (Freedom, first time in book)

The Reformed School (Freedom, first time in book)

From Fields, Factories and Workshops

  • Preface to the Second Edition (1913)
  • Preface to the First Edition (1898)
  • The Decentralisation of Industries
  • The Possibilities of Agriculture
  • Small Industries and Industrial Villages
  • Brain Work and Manual Work
  • Conclusion


Mutual Aid: An Important Factor in Evolution (Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth)


Some of the "new" material is on-line. Insurrections and Revolution is available in pdf format on the AK Press webpage while Robert Graham was kind enough to put Letter to the Bakunin Centenary Celebration on his (excellent) webpage. Previously, he made both parts of Kropotkin's important essay Workers Organisation (Part 1 and Part 2) on-line -- please note, these are the unrevised versions, so the published version is slightly different. The article The Use of the Strike was printed in Black Flag (see the end of this article). Finally, Kropotkin's letter to The Voice of Labour was included in a previous blog on the book but I have decided to include it below.

My incomplete bibliography of Kropotkin's work is not included but has been revised and is being published in the spring 2014 edition of Anarchist Studies (volume 22, number 1) as part of an article entitled Sages and Movements: An Incomplete Peter Kropotkin Bibliography. I will post that here, shortly. I think this (incomplete) bibliography will help others get a feel for how productive Kropotkin was and how little has actually been translated into English and how many articles published in Freedom are not known.

While Direct Struggle Against Capital helps retify this situation, there is still a lot of work to do -- particularly the writings in France between 1889 and 1892 in which Kropotkin argues for what would now be called a syndicalist strategy long before most people (including Academics) think anarchists turned to the unions (i.e., around 1895 after the failure of "propaganda by the deed" in the early 1890s). As a narrative, it is simply wrong -- as both Cahm's book and Direct Struggle Against Capital show, Kropotkin (as a good "Bakuninist") was advocating syndicalism from the start of his career between 1872 and 1882 before returning to this theme in 1889 (the gap being explained by his arrest, imprisonment and exile from France). Significantly, he urged the same path to the Russian Anarchist movement during and after the 1905 revolution (as the newly translated material proves).


So this anthology will show Kropotkin for what he was -- a practical anarchist militant who urged active participation in the labour movement as the means of spreading libertarian ideas and achieving a social revolution. He differed from syndicalists only in-so-far as he refused to limit anarchist activitism to just economic struggles and recognised that unions were not automatically revolutionary. He saw the need for specifically anarchist groups to spread the anarchist message within and outwith the trade unions. In terms of social revolution, he was equally as realistic and saw it as a long and difficult process -- no over-night revolutions for him. As such, the notion sometimes suggested (usually by Marxists) that anarchists think a fully classless (libertarian) communist society would be produced instantly is alien to his (and our!) ideas.

Finally, I should mention that I have updated (at long last!) An Anarchist FAQ -- it is now at version 15.0. This is the first update for many-a-year and the first revision since getting it ready for publication. It significantly revises an appendix on a particularly terrible SWP/ISO pamphlet on anarchism by David McNally. As I show, nearly everything he claims about anarchism (and Proudhon and Bakunin) is simply wrong. I should note I tracked down a couple of quotes by Proudhon and discovered that they have been quoted completely out-of-context. This, in one case, turned a pro-democratic comment into an anti-democratic one (and no surprises that Schapiro was almost certainly the original source for it as I doubt McNally even looked at a cover of an anarchist work before writing about it!). Talking of Proudhon, I'm currently writing a reply to an article in the next Anarchist Studies which claims Proudhon was not in favour of social ownership of the means of production. He was and the article indicates both where he argued this and why. I will, of course, post it here once it is ready.

Until I blog again, be seeing you...

Letter to The Voice of Labour

Dear Friends,

To my great regret I am again in bed and cannot be present tomorrow at the Voice of Labour meeting. I am the more sorry for it, as I wanted to tell you why my warmest greetings and hopes go to the new paper, founded by our English comrades.

The free organisation of Labour, independent of all Parliamentary parties, and aiming at the DIRECT solution ― by the working men themselves, and through their own Unions ― of the immense social problem which now stands before civilised mankind, such a Labour organisation, wide and powerful, has become the necessity of the moment.

This is why the same idea which prevailed in 1830 at the foundation of the Great [Grand National Consolidated] Trades’ Union of Robert Owen, in “the [International] Working Men’s Association” of the sixties, has again been revived in France, in Switzerland, in Spain (where it survived all prosecutions), and now it grows even in Germany. The working men realise the great mistake they committed when they substituted Parliamentary politics for the Direct Action of the Labour organisations in enforcing their demands upon the land and capital owning classes. And the working men of all these countries return once more to that type of Labour organisation which was formed for a direct pressure in the Socialist direction upon landlordism and capitalism in these isles at three different periods during the last hundred years. Labour returns to it, after having lost forty years in trying to use in its service the various forms of advanced parties in Parliament, and ascertained that this was a failure. They don’t turn their backs on Radicalism, but while they see in it a weapon to oppose Toryism in politics, they will have their own weapon to fight capitalism.

The English Voice of Labour is thus a sign of movement which is going on all over Europe, and our English paper will take its place by the side of the series of French, Swiss, and Spanish Syndicalist and Labour papers, bearing the same, or very similar names.

A fortnight ago I saw in Paris several of the active members of the great Labour movement, and on all sides I saw the greatest hopes being based on that new force which is known as the Revolutionary Syndicalist movement.

All the active energies of the young generation go to it. This movement has certainly its dangers, but one thing is certain. If such a movement had attained a serious development at the time when the Chartist agitation began in this country, or when the Revolution of 1848 broke out in France, both movements would not have ended as fruitlessly as they did ― in France, in fantastical “National workshops” which drove the Paris proletarians to despair and ended in the June massacres; and in this country in the supremacy of the middle classes and the postponement of social reforms for generations to come.

The whole history of Europe would have taken a different turn if the proletarians had come then to the definite idea of a direct action through their own Unions for the solution of the great problem of labour and supply.

Let us greet, then, this new movement which permits the workers to work out themselves the main lines upon which the emancipation of Labour will have to be accomplished.

Let us hope, also, that the Voice of Labour, finding an echo amongst the British working men, will accomplish its part of the great work that devolves upon us.

Yours fraternally,

P. Kropotkin

Bromley, Kent Feb.1


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