This will of necessity be a short posting. Life, as always these days, seems far too busy! Email and article/review writing has suffered, so apologies if you are expecting a reply or wondering why I’ve not posted any pieces here for a while. Just now I’m working on my Kropotkin anthology and two talks for this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair on October 27th at Queen Mary, University of London (Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS). Luckily the talks feed into the work I’ve been doing on the anthology – the one on anarchism and syndicalism will be used in its introduction.
First off, as noted before there is no Black Flag this bookfair and no stall. This, we hope, will be temporary and a new issue will be out in the new year (if you want to make sure that happens, get involved!). Which means that, unusually, I’ll be able to get to a few meetings other than my own. And talking of which, I’m working on two talks – one on syndicalism and anarchism, the other on anarchist economics. Here are the details:
“Direct Struggle Against Capital”, or Syndicalism and Anarchism
1pm – 2pm
What is the relation between anarchism and syndicalism? According to Leninists, there is none as anarchism is petit-bourgeois individualism which rejects class organisation and struggle. In reality, revolutionary anarchism has class struggle at its heart. Join me as I explore the anarchist roots of syndicalism – or the “Direct struggle Against Capital”, a quote from Kropotkin used as the title of my new anthology of his writings due out next year from AK Press.
Organised by: Iain Mckay and AK Distribution (www.akuk.com)
I aim to sketch the rise of syndicalistic ideas from the birth of anarchism in 1840 to Bakunin and the First International and then to Kropotkin. I won’t be saying anything that unfamiliar to people who know anything about revolutionary anarchism (i.e., not your typical Leninist!), although the influence of Proudhon and the debates in the First International are not that well known. It will be covering some of the ground of my Anarchist Studies reply to Leninist Ralph Darlington, but with added Proudhon and Kropotkin…
And as an aside, it is quite obvious that Proudhon had a massive impact on Kropotkin – the Russian clearly takes numerous themes raised by the French anarchist and uses and develops them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Proudhon’s System of Economic Contradictions was the first socialist book Kropotkin read.
Mason Lecture Theatre
4.30pm – 6.30pm
Even amidst economic crisis, experts and politicians tell us that, 'there is no alternative'. When the Left proposes an alternative it is invariably the Marxist one of nationalisation and often just seems a mirror-image of capitalism as usual. Anarchists by contrast have explored and experimented with economic alternatives for 172 years. At this meeting a panel of speakers will discuss some of these experiments. We hope this will evolve into an open discussion taking up at least half of the available time.
Organised by AK Press & Distribution (www.akuk.com)
Speakers include: David Graeber, Iain McKay and others
As far as the latter goes, as well as my talk on the economics of libertarian communism I need a crib-sheet on the (obvious) flaws in Parecon for when this gets raised in the discussion part… Suffice to say, I’ll be using my work on the Proudhon anthology (Property is Theft!) to critique detailed visions of the future as well as the problems in the opposite extreme, namely (like Marx) making a few scattered comments on planning. I aim to stress the importance of decentralisation and free agreement and how we build the structures of a libertarian economy in our struggles against capitalism (see my Economics of Anarchy article). Ultimately, an anarchist economics can only be developed in creation and running of an anarchist society – all we can do, as Proudhon and Kropotkin both noted, is sketch the tendencies now which point to the future and learn the lessons of previous revolutions (the disasters of Lenin’s regime spring to mind – see section H.6.2 of An Anarchist FAQ).
Both of these are at their early stages and time considerations may mean that some of what I wish to cover gets dropped, still I hope that the talks will be comprehensive and of interest to attendees. I will aim, as with my talk last year (Anarchist Theory – Use it or Lose it!), to write both up and post them here (they will probably end up in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review as well). How quickly I manage to do that will depend on how the Kropotkin anthology goes, particularly its introduction (which is what I aim to do next).
And talking of which, here is an update on progress. The contents are now finalised – at least until AK Press have a look at them (the book is somewhat over the agreed initial word count – what a surprise!). The title will definitely be “Direct Struggle Against Capital: Peter Kropotkin on Anarchism, the Workers Movement and Social Revolution” for obvious reasons when you see the contents – the bulk of the new translations are there. Suffice to say, the material here presents the Kropotkin who was making contributions to debates within the anarchist movement, in the anarchist press, rather than the one we are more familiar with – the arguer for the goal of communist-anarchism (Words of a Rebel and The Conquest of Bread) and the writer of books to the general public (Mutual Aid and Fields, Factories and Workshops). The nearest equivalent is, I would say, Act for Yourselves! which collected pieces from Freedom, although mostly of the same kind as in The Conquest of Bread (which is unsurprising, as Kropotkin was aiming to do the same task with the articles).
Here are the contents. I've indicated whether it has been published before (and where) and if it is a new translation or not:
Peter Kropotkin on Anarchism, the Workers Movement and Social Revolution
From Memoirs of a Revolutionist
The Lyons anarchist trial of 1883
The Place of Anarchism in Socialist Evolution (first time in book)
Letter to Maria Isidine Goldsmit (translated for the first time)
Letter to Max Nettlau (Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution – new translation)
Anarchism (Encyclopedia Britannica and Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets)
From Modern Science and Anarchism (similar but not identical to the extracts in Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets)
The Anarchist Principle (translated for the first time)
A Few Thoughts about the Essence of Anarchism (first time in book)
Letter to the Bakunin Centenary Celebration (first time in book)
From Ethics: Origin and Development
From Representative Government (Words of a Rebel – new translation)
Our Riches (The Conquest of Bread)
The Division of Labour (The Conquest of Bread)
Economic Expedients (translated for the first time)
The State: Its Historic Role (Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution)
Prisons: Universities of Crime (Anarchy! An Anthology of Mother Earth)
From The Modern State (first time in book)
From Memoirs of a Revolutionist
Enemies of the People (translated for the first time)
The Workers’ Movement in Spain (translated for the first time)
Workers Organisation (translated for the first time)
The Use of the Strike (first time in book)
Strikes (translated for the first time)
1st May 1891 (translated for the first time)
Letter to French and British Trade Union Delegates (first time in book)
The Death of the New International (translated for the first time)
Commemoration of the Chicago Martyrs (first time in book)
The Workers’ Congress of 1896 (translated for the first time)
The Development of Trade-Unionism (first time in book)
From Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution
Politics and Socialism (Fighting the Revolution II – first time in book)
Trade Unionism and Parliamentarism (translated for the first time)
Letter to “The Voice of Labour” (first time in book)
Anarchists and Trade Unions (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 (original English Language version and first time in book)
From The Great French Revolution
1848 – 1871 (first time in book)
The Paris Commune (Fighting the Revolution II – first time in book)
Commune of Paris (first time in book)
The Revolution in Russia (first time in book)
The Russian Revolution and Anarchism (translated for the first time)
Enough of Illusions! (first time in book)
A Letter to the Workers of the West (original English Language version)
From Memoirs of a Revolutionist
The Anarchist Idea from the Point Of View of its Practical Realisation (different translation from No Gods, No Masters!)
Revolutionary Government (Words of a Rebel – translation from No Gods, No Masters!)
From Expropriation (The 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) (first time in book)
Insurrections and Revolution (translated for the first time)
Preface to Syndicalism and the Co-operative Commonwealth
Anarchist Action in the Revolution (translated for the first time)
Postscript to Words of a Rebel (1919) (first time in book)
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 (The Conquest of Bread)
Communism and Anarchy (first time in book)
The Reformed School (first time in book)
From Fields, Factories and Workshops
As can be seen, the proposed contents are a good mix of already available, first time in book format and freshly translated. There are a few changes since my initial contents post a few months back. I’ve got rid of the section on Science, Mutual Aid and Ethics as it did not seem to fit (I’ve put the relevant bits in other sections, like putting the extract on strikes from Mutual Aid into the section on The Workers Movement and Class Struggle). I also changed the appendix and will cover the anarchist response to Kropotkin’s pro-war position in 1914 in the biographical sketch.
The major addition is that I’ve got a few more pieces translated from the French as these relate to Kropotkin’s attempts to convince more French anarchists to participate in the labour movement in 1890 (reiterating more successfully his arguments from 1881). This predates by half a decade the more famous works of Fernand Pelloutier (such as the1895 article Anarchism and the workers' unions) which are sometimes pointed to as being responsible for the rise of syndicalism as a “new” tactic for anarchists (for example, the clueless trots of the AWL). In reality, of course, this was nothing new – Kropotkin had argued the same in 1881 and he was just following Bakunin’s arguments from 1868 onwards. This was pointed out by Malatesta at the 1907 International Anarchist Congress – and, as will be clear in Direct Struggle against Capital, repeatedly by Kropotkin.
I’m waiting for two translations – the polished version of The Russian Revolution and Anarchism (the rough translation from Russian was a joy to read, an important piece which I’m surprised has never been translated before) and an important two part 1881 article entitled Workers Organisation which Caroline Cahm rescued from obscurity in her excellent (and highly recommended!) Peter Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism, 1872-1886. Once these are in, I’ll get the footnotes and glossary finished and send the Kropotkin texts to AK Press for proof-reading. Then I’ll work on getting the introduction and related material finished by the end of January 2013, then publication later the same year. Hopefully AK Press will agree to a bigger book once they see what is in it (there is a lot of new and important material in it – even if I do say so myself!).
Still, as with my Proudhon anthology, I doubt that the easy availably of extensive works will stop Leninists the embarrassing themselves by expressing their ignorance of anarchism in public (just look at section H.2 of An Anarchist FAQ for how bad this can get). But it will make it easier to refute them (“Oh, Kropotkin did not support class struggle? Haven’t you read Direct Struggle against Capital?”). Anyways, this and more on the 27th of October – hopefully see you there!
Until I blog again, be seeing you…