Kropotkin: Class Warrior

This is a write-up of the notes of a talk made at the 2014 London Anarchist bookfair. I have made a few slight changes/additions. On the day I skipped the section of “small-scale” production (“Kropotkin the Medievalist?) and covered the differences between communist-anarchism and syndicalism in the discussion period. It is based, of course, on the work I did for Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology. A newly translated article by Kropotkin from May 1890 (“The action of the masses and the individual”) is appended.

Kropotkin: Class Warrior

We think that we all know Kropotkin. It is best shown by a recent book entitled The Prince of Co-operation and can be found in many other works. For example, Carolyn Ashbaugh in her book Lucy Parsons: American Revolutionary proclaimed him the “gentle anarchist theoretician of non-violence”.

The reality is very different.

He was not a Tolstoy-like visionary dreaming of a new Middle Ages but rather a Russian prince who rejected his privileges to become a class warrior for the people, for the working masses: a committed and realistic revolutionary communist-anarchist.

Which raises an obvious question: How did we get this false picture of Kropotkin?

Perhaps it was Kropotkin’s own fault. After all, he had a jovial personality as well as a very bushy beard, he wanted the free distribution of goods and always preferred red to black flag. Yes, that is right – he comes across as the Anarchist Santa!

Champions and Legacies

However, to be serious any thinker’s legacy is determined by what texts are easily available and who champions you after your death. The “conventional wisdom” about the person is what results.

Take Proudhon, for example. Out of the over 20 volumes of the works he published during his life until recently very little was available in English: three complete books, three partial book translations and a few articles from the period of the 1848 revolution. It would be fair to say that he is better known via Marx and Engels than his own works – but, unfortunately, some forget that those two were not disinterested, accurate commentators!

In English-speaking world, he was championed after his death by Benjamin Tucker, the American Individualist Anarchist. There is some overlap but ultimately they held distinctly different ideas, most obviously Tucker had no critique of wage-labour nor understanding that exploitation occurred in production and so, unlike Proudhon, had no vision of workers’ self-management as a necessary part of anarchism.

These two facts mean that the conventional wisdom on Proudhon is mostly wrong but I hope that my anthology Property is Theft! is challenging that to some degree.

The Conventional Wisdom on Kropotkin

The same can be said of Kropotkin. The most easily available works by him are very general and theoretical introductions to anarchism, not those on the concrete political and strategic issues facing the movement. He was championed in the post-war period by the overtly “reformist” elements in British movement who, like Tucker and Proudhon, ignored most of his ideas.

I have quoted Carolyn Ashbaugh’s terrible book about Lucy Parsons as an example of how Kropotkin is misunderstood. So what is the picture of Kropotkin you get from such works? The clichés are well known: that he viewed nature and society through rose-tinted glasses; that he was utopian and backward looking; that he was utterly impractical and had no vision of how revolution would occur; that he saw libertarian communism being achieved more-or-less overnight as part of a fundamentally easy transformation.

Sadly for those who peddle such nonsense, none of this is true.

The Princess Bride syndrome

In the film the Princess Bride (an excellent book and film, by the way) a character repeatedly says “inconceivable” to which one of his compatriots finally replies:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

This applies to anarchism, with writers on the subject repeatedly showing they simply do not understand what the word they are using means. Ashbaugh, for example, argues that Lucy Parsons and the Chicago anarchists were not anarchists. The “Chicago leaders, as early as 1883, were syndicalists” she asserted because “they had given up political work for work in the unions which they believed would provide the social organisation of the future”.

Here is Kropotkin from 1891:

“Were not our Chicago Comrades right in despising politics, and saying the struggle against robbery must be carried on in the workshop and the street, by deeds not words?”

And again from a year later:

“No one can underrate the importance of this labour movement for the coming revolution. It will be those agglomerations of wealth producers which will have to reorganise production on new social bases. They will have to organise the life of the nation… They – the labourers, grouped together – not the politicians.”

Both these quotes are from speeches commemorating the deaths of the Chicago Martyrs so I guess Peter can join Lucy in not knowing what anarchism “really” is!

It could be argued that Kropotkin was speaking after the hanging of the Martyrs and so perhaps he had revised his ideas in light of their activities. Well, here is Kropotkin from “as early” as 1881:

“We have to organise the workers’ forces - not to make them into a fourth party in Parliament, but in order to make them a formidable MACHINE OF STRUGGLE AGAINST CAPITAL. We have to group workers of all trades under this single purpose: “War on capitalist exploitation!” And we must prosecute that war relentlessly, day by day, by the strike, by agitation, by every revolutionary means.”

Was that not what the “Chicago leaders” had concluded in 1883? Little wonder, then, that Albert Parsons – Lucy’s husband and one of the Martyrs – included two of Kropotkin’s articles on communist-anarchism in his book Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis!

Not even wrong…

Let me now turn to a more recent writer, Pat Stack of the British SWP. According to him, we anarchists “dismiss . . . the importance of the collective nature of change” as anarchism “downplays the centrality of the working class”, argues that this class “is not the key to change” and “despises the collectivity”. For anarchists, “revolutions were not about . . . collective struggle or advance”. He went on to assert that Kropotkin “far from seeing class conflict as the dynamic for social change as Marx did, saw co-operation being at the root of the social process” and it “follows that if class conflict is not the motor of change, the working class is not the agent and collective struggle not the means.”

Someone should have told Kropotkin:

“In order to be able to make revolution, the mass of workers must organise themselves, and resistance and the strike are excellent means by which workers can organise… What is required is to build resistance associations for each trade… and fight against the exploiters, to unify the workers’ organisations… to federate across borders… workers’ solidarity must become … a daily reality”

Ironically for Stack, Kropotkin opposed the Marxism of his day (social democracy) because it had “moved away from a pure labour movement, in the sense of a direct struggle against capitalists by means of strikes, unions, and so forth” into a vote-gathering machine. These awkward facts did not stop Stack smugly proclaiming that the syndicalists’ “huge advantage… over other anarchists [like Kropotkin] was their understanding of the power of the working class, the centrality of the point of production (the workplace) and the need for collective action”!

Perhaps this is unfair, because Direct Struggle Against Capital was not available? However, Caroline Cahm’s excellent Kropotkin and the rise of revolutionary anarchism, 1872-1886 has been available since 1989 and this is essential reading if you are going to write about Kropotkin. Or – and here is a radical notion! – read him. You do not need to delve into rare pamphlets or journals resting in archives to discover Kropotkin’s position: he summarised it well in his justly famous 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica article on anarchism:

“the anarchists… do not seek to constitute, and invite the working men not to constitute, political parties in the parliaments. Accordingly, since the foundation of the International Working Men’s Association… they have endeavoured to promote their ideas directly amongst the labour organisations and to induce those unions to a direct struggle against capital…”

Okay, it is the SWP so what can you expect?

It is “A Factor of Evolution” for a reason…

Yet even normally sensible libertarian socialists can write nonsense about Kropotkin. Maurice Brinton, for example, stated that Kropotkin’s “aim is to convince and reason with (rather than to overthrow) those who oppress the masses” and that he stood for “a co-operation that clearly transcended the barriers of class.”

This is false: even Mutual Aid discusses unions and strikes. Yet it is important to note that this classic is not an anarchist book (as such) but rather a work of popular science by an anarchist. To understand Kropotkin’s ideas on class struggle and anarchism you need, perhaps unsurprisingly enough, to look at his explicitly anarchist works: “What solidarity can exist between the capitalist and the worker he exploits?… Between the governing and the governed?” Those works – and not Mutual Aid – which discuss anarchist perspectives on need to wage the class struggle and the importance of a militant labour movement in both improving things now and for social revolution. To quote from a series of articles in Freedom which were subsequently published as a pamphlet:

“We prefer the ameliorations which have been imposed by the workers upon their masters in a direct struggle… concessions… have always been achieved by the action of the trade-unions - by strikes, by labour revolts, or by menaces of labour war.”

As Kropotkin continually stressed, Mutual Aid was “one-sided”, it was “a book on the law of Mutual Aid, viewed at as one of the chief factors of evolution – not of all factors of evolution and their respective values.” If its critics had bothered to consult its sub-title (“A Factor of Evolution”) then the most obviously wrong claims would have been averted.

Kropotkin the Medievalist?

Another popular myth is that Kropotkin (to quote Stack) “looked backwards for change. He believed the ideal society would be based on small autonomous communities, devoted to small scale production.” This must be true because Marx had proclaimed this of Proudhon based on a book by the Frenchman – System of Economic Contradictions – that explicitly stated the opposite!

What of Kropotkin? After extensively studying the advanced Western economies of his time, he argued for appropriate scale technology:

“if we analyse the modern industries, we soon discover that for some of them the co-operation of hundred, even thousands, of workers gathered at the same spot is really necessary. The great iron works and mining enterprises decidedly belong to that category; oceanic steamers cannot be built in village factories.”

For Kropotkin, then, the scale of industry would be driven by objective technological facts rather than an ideologically-driven commitment to “small scale” production.

Moreover, he was well aware that the structure of industry today influenced by class: “the benefits which the owners of land or capital… can derive… from the under-paid work of the wage-labourer, or from the inferior position of one class of the community toward another class”. As a free society would not be using the same criteria as a capitalist one this meant that while it will inherit an industrial structure that has to be just the starting point for “Socialism implies… a transformation of industry so that it may be adapted to the needs of the customer, not those of the profit-maker.”

Sadly, Kropotkin’s common sense is lost on Leninists and their “big is beautiful” dogma – and it must be stressed that Bolshevik utilisation of inherited capitalist structures in 1917 and 1918 just created state capitalism in Russia, not socialism.

The curse of Paul Avrich

Brinton’s and Stack’s comments are based on Paul Avrich’s book The Russian Anarchists. Much of this book is correct and important, with ground-breaking accounts of the factory committee movement in 1917 and the role of anarchists in the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917. However, its many positive reviews hide the awkward fact that it gets many things wrong (at best, incomplete), most obviously the ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin.

Indeed, all the clichés we associate with Kropotkin are there: his “benign optimism”, how “nostalgic yearning for a simpler but fuller life led him to idealise the autonomous social units of bygone years”, that he “looked backward”, thought there would be a “spontaneous” and “speedy” revolution, that “co-operation rather than conflict lay at the root of human progress” and that he gave only “qualified support” to syndicalism.

Yet if you read closely enough Avrich presents enough actual facts to refute the impression given. For example, he proclaims that syndicalism was inspired by Marx’s “doctrine of class struggle” yet on the same page writes how “the followers of Proudhon and Bakunin in the First International were proposing the formation of workers’ councils designed both as a weapon of class struggle against capitalists and as the structural basis of the future libertarian society”. Avrich suggests that “nor [for Kropotkin] could the trade unions become the nuclei of the anarchist commonwealth” after quoting him on unions being “natural organs for the direct struggle with capitalism and for the composition of the future order”. Avrich also quotes Kropotkin on the general strike being “a powerful weapon of struggle” but fails to mention that Engels caricatured and mocked the idea when it was raised by Bakunin and his followers in the First International (words used, incidentally, by orthodox social democrats in the Second International against both syndicalism and their more radical fellows).

Worse, Avrich also often presents a selective account of texts to support his clichés. He argued that “the partisans of syndicalism went beyond Kropotkin by reconciling the principle of mutual assistance with the Marxian doctrine of class struggle. For the syndicalists, mutual aid did not embrace humanity as a whole, but existed only within the ranks of a single class, the proletariat, enhancing its solidarity in the battle with the manufacturers”. Yet reading his anarchist works you quickly see that Kropotkin embraced the “doctrine of class struggle”.

This can seen from the pamphlet Avrich quotes Kropotkin on unions and the general strike which also argued that a working class movement was needed which “wages a direct, unmediated battle of labour against capital - not through parliament but directly by means that are generally available to all workers and only the workers”. Anarchists had “to awaken in the workers and peasants an understanding of their own power, of their determining voice in the revolution and of what they can accomplish in their own interests.” Clearly “the partisans of syndicalism” and Kropotkin shared the same perspective. It was also Bakunin’s position and, indeed, Avrich writes of Bakunin’s “all-encompassing class war”.

So there is nothing specifically “Marxian” about advocating class struggle. It is annoying when an otherwise useful book makes mistakes like that…

Not anti-syndicalist but syndicalism-plus

Unsurprisingly, given this, Avrich presents a chronology that reflected and reinforced the conventional wisdom on anarchism and syndicalism, suggesting that the failure of propaganda by deed in the “early [eighteen-]nineties… created widespread disillusionment… causing large numbers of French anarchists to enter workers’ unions”.

Yet Kropotkin was advocating “syndicalism” (anarchist involvement in the labour movement and unmediated class struggle on the economic arena) in Russia in the early 1870s before being arrested and imprisoned in 1874, in France after escaping from his Tsarist prison and before being arrested and imprisoned in 1882 and, finally, in France and Britain from 1889 onwards.

These facts contradict the standard narrative on anarchism and syndicalism. The successful return to syndicalism dates from the 1889 London Dock Strike with Kropotkin talking of the General Strike starting the revolution in 1889 and 1890, as did Malatesta and other leading communist-anarchists. This was simply returning to ideas raised by the likes of Bakunin in the 1860s and 1870s in the First International.

What, then, are the differences between communist-anarchism and syndicalism?

For communist-anarchists, while important in the class struggle and anarchist activity trade unions were not automatically revolutionary. As Kropotkin summarised in a letter:

“The syndicate is absolutely necessary. It is the only form of worker’s association which allows the direct struggle against capital to be carried on without a plunge into parliamentarianism. But, evidently, it does not achieve this goal automatically… There is need of the other element which Malatesta speaks of and which Bakunin always professed”

There was, then, a need for anarchists to organise as anarchists and so Kropotkin thought that “the formation of an anarchist party… far from being prejudicial to the common revolutionary cause, is desirable and useful to the greatest degree”.

Similarly, the General Strike was an excellent means of starting a revolution and “a good method of struggle, [but] it does not free the people that use it from the necessity of an armed struggle against the dominating order”. Syndicalists, moreover, “considerably attenuated the resistance that the Social Revolution will probably meet with on its way”.

Finally, unions were just one aspect of a free society. Kropotkin agreed that workers must become “the managers of production” in “federations of Trade Unions for the organisation of men in accordance with their different functions” but also there was the need for “independent Communes for the territorial organisation” as well as “thousands upon thousands of free combines and societies growing up everywhere for the satisfaction of all possible and imaginable needs.”

The Real Kropotkin

As you can see, based on this critique of the “conventional wisdom” you see the real Kropotkin. This is, I must stress, not the “unknown” Kropotkin as this information was there, if you could be bothered to do the research. It was also there in his “high-level” works, if you bothered to pay attention. As noted, even Mutual Aid is not silent on the class struggle, unions, strikes and so on.

So there is a reason Direct Struggle Against Capital is so entitled – class war was a core aspect of Kropotkin’s ideas from the start. This is hardly surprising, as he joined the so-called “Bakuninist” wing of the First International with its union based organisation and struggle, its vision of social revolution rooted in the general strike, insurrection and workers’ councils as well as its advocacy of workers’ self-management of their own organisations, struggles and – in the future – workplaces and communities.

There is no fundamental difference between the politics of Kropotkin and Bakunin: the problem is simply that Bakunin’s ideas are not well known (but that is for another time!).

So what were Kropotkin’s real politics?

He was a realistic, practical revolutionary anarchist engaged in the issues of the day and committed to anarchist involvement in mass movements, particularly – but not exclusively – the labour movement. He argued from the early 1870s to his death for “direct struggle against capital”, for labour organisations to fight and replace capitalism – we needed to “build up a force capable of imposing better working conditions on the bosses, but also… to create among the working classes the union structures that might some day replace the bosses and take into their own hands the production and management of every industry.”

He was against electioneering as it was reformist and undermined the socialist movement as political parties are “continually driven by the force of circumstances to become tools of the ruling classes in keeping things as they are.” Given the fate of the Marxism of his day, he raised the obvious question:

“Are we going to abandon the terrain of the economic struggle, of the worker against the capitalist, in order to become compliant tools in the hands of the politicians?”

Kropotkin saw the growing mass movement as the link between now and socialism, urging libertarians to get involved in mass movements to influence and radicalise them. For example, he was a keen advocate of the campaign to mark May Day by demonstrations and strikes. This participation in popular movements was needed and urged anarchists “not [to] wait for the revolution to fall upon us unsolicited, like manna from heaven”, always remember that “without the masses, no revolution” and that “the man of action’s place is where the masses are”. Popular movements and struggles, like strikes, would produce a social revolution because “[t]hanks to government intervention, the factory rebel becomes a rebel against the State.”

Contrary to the myths, Kropotkin saw the revolution as a long and difficult process that took time:

“we know that an uprising can overthrow and change a government in one day, while a revolution needs three or four years of revolutionary convulsion to arrive at tangible results… if we should expect the revolution, from its earliest insurrections, to have a communist character, we would have to relinquish the possibility of a revolution”

He was explicitly against the notion of one-day revolutions and argued that libertarians “do not believe… the Revolution will be accomplished at a stroke, in the twinkling of an eye, as some socialists dream.” He was well aware a revolutionary people would be facing economic crisis and disruption as well as counter-revolution, recognising – for he was no pacifist – that the working class is that class “which, alone, will take arms and make the revolution” and a “people that will itself be the armed strength of the country and which will have afforded armed citizens the requisite cohesion and concerted action, will no longer be susceptible to being ordered around.”

Simply put, anarchism was best not because revolution was easy but because it was difficult. It needed mass participation to overcome its many problems and because the change needed was “so immense and so profound” that it is “impossible for one or any individual to elaborate the different social forms which must spring up in the society of the future. This elaboration of new social forms can only be made by the collective work of the masses”. He pointed to the Paris Commune as evidence that “[a]ny authority external to [the people] will only be an obstacle” and freely federated communities and workplaces as the alternative.

Needless to say, his predictions about the problems that the social revolution would face were confirmed by the Russian Revolution – as were his warnings over statist “solutions” to them.

Conclusion

So you can see why this talk is entitled Kropotkin: Class Warrior and why Direct Struggle Against Capital has that title. His message is still valid:

“The enemy on whom we declare war is capital, and it is against capital that we will direct all our efforts, taking care not to become distracted from our goal by the phony campaigns and arguments of the political parties. The great struggle that we are preparing for is essentially economic, and so it is on the economic terrain that we should focus our activities.”

On issue after issue he was proven right. Libertarians today must recognise the wealth of ideas he left us in his articles and books and rescue his legacy from the false pictures painted of it by, at best, well-meaning but uncomprehending liberals or, at worst, malicious Marxists seeking to rescue the Bolshevik Myth by distorting the ideas of anarchist thinkers.

Yet there is no point reading Kropotkin without also thinking about our struggles and problems and how we apply and develop what is best and valid in his ideas today.

Let us discuss how to do that – it would be what Kropotkin would have wished.

The action of the masses and the individual

Peter Kropotkin

La Révolte

24th of May 1890

Translation by N.C.

Our comrades are perfectly right to say [in their letter] that the May strikes are a consequence of general economic conditions. If the return of work to the mines and in the iron industry, and if dreadful poverty in the other trades did not exist, there wouldn’t have been any strikes at all, as there weren’t any on such a large scale ten years ago. But what our comrades ignore is that, outside all socialist organisations, right now, within the workers of all nationalities, an immense work to press on to a general strike is taking place. Democrats, trade unionists, socialists, anarchists, have absolutely nothing to do with it. – “We are overwhelmed by this movement” we were told, two years ago, by a Belgian socialist. In England, in a big city, at least socialists took hold of this movement. They were well received at first; but when people realised that they wanted to enlist it to an electoral aim, they threw them overboard.[1]

Whether it is enough to say that this international movement comes from America;[2] that it is taking form outside all [existing] organisation; and that we find ourselves faced with one of these facts that have always characterised the great popular movements – tacit understanding that becomes established outside newspapers, committees, agitators. A word put out in a workshop is enough and they tell each other: “So be it, see you on the 1st of May!” Then a worker goes from England to Austria, or from Austria to England, and expresses the same idea, and the idea – since it results from an economic necessity – is accepted straightaway.

Every strike of the last two years, in Belgium, in England, in Moravia[3], etc., etc., are due to this spontaneous spreading of the idea. If ever there was a movement anarchist by its essence and a propaganda essentially anarchist in its processes, it is this one. Because there is no secret – it is a tacit agreement that becomes established.

Our comrades from Geneva are mistaken to attribute the 1st May to the Paris Congress.[4] It was made absolutely outside of the Congress, against the will of the social-democrats, against the will of trade-union committees and despite indifference of socialists, anarchists and authoritarians. It is precisely for that reason that we attach significance to it.

In a Congress where Liebknecht[5] enjoyed royal rights, an unknown coming from Australia makes the proposal. The flabbergasted chiefs do not dare to renounce it, because the worker delegates – the unknowns – acclaim it unanimously. Then, the proposal is forgotten. The watchword of the socialist press is to not breathe a word of it. Socialists and anarchists treat it as a joke. Democrats oppose it. And meanwhile the workers spread the call [for a general strike] amongst each other: see you on the 1st of May. And fifteen days before the 1st of May the trade unionist, socialist and democrat leaders learn with dread that the working people will be on the street on that day. So they put on a brave face at this bad news, then they try to curb the demonstration and they end up joining it. But still, they expect a demonstration of no significance – and there is the whole of working London coming out of its hovels, a third of Vienna going to the Prater[6], the whole of Hamburg on its feet, and a general uprising of miners starts in Moravia, in the Basque provinces, etc.

In fact, we are persuaded that what the popular initiators of the movement wanted for the 1st of May was the general strike – as they had wanted it, a few years ago, in America. And we are persuaded that the idea of a general strike has only been postponed and that popular agreement will find in a year or two another date, unforeseen by those in power, to start the general strike.

* * *

We think that these facts are generally unknown and are the best reply to our comrades’ letter and for that very reason we had to set them out at length

“Individual initiative?” – Damn it! Let us practice it as much as possible! Let us not talk: let us act! But when we face a spontaneous movement of the masses – in front of an individual initiative of millions of workers – let us not put a spanner in the wheels of what is being done without us in the name of individual initiative, which will be excellent when it is taken but which, on its own, will not make the revolution. The strong point of individual initiative is to awake the spirit of revolt in the masses – because without the masses, no revolution. But once the masses awaken, once they move and descend onto the street, at the risk of sleeping that night on the barricades (it was the idea in Vienna), where does individual initiative have to go?

The answer is obvious – Where the masses are! And on the very day when the masses arrange to meet up! For us, it is absolutely obvious that in Moravia, in the Basque provinces, in Barcelona, in Valencia and elsewhere, those amongst the workers who really have some individual initiative and who wait for the watchword from the anarchists no more than from the democrats, told themselves: “While the troops are in Vienna or in Madrid, we will start the revolution here, in Moravia, in Barcelona or in Bilbao. And we will do it precisely on the 1st of May (or rather on the 2nd of May) whilst the troops are still in Vienna or in Madrid, and not on the 15th of May or on the 15th of June, when they will be back in our provinces”.

They have not been supported, precisely because the initiative was lacking elsewhere.

As for the arrests of anarchists – it is time to anticipate them in advance. Every time there is agitation in the masses, wherever it is from, the government will arrest anarchists – if they do not take precautions. That will take place before the revolution, during the revolution and after the revolution. We need only to remember Marat[7] and so many others, less known, who were forced to live in cellars right in the middle of 1793, while aristocrats were guillotined by the dozens. Anarchists will be arrested because – sometimes wrongly, but most often rightly – governments will tell themselves this: “When the people are in the street and that individual initiative is lacking amongst these masses marching to storm society, it is from the anarchists that the initiative of a movement will be able to come, not from the legalists”.

And, let us note, that it will be absolutely the same thing during the revolution itself, as long as the revolution, in its development, has not reached the anarchist phase. Therefore, let us not speak of it.

* * *

Let us also add that if, on the day of a large popular demonstration, a movement in a big city hardly ever takes place, it is always a few days after such a demonstration that the movement starts. We counted ourselves, we understood its strength, we were offended by the brutality of the police, we were enraged by the blood shed at a peaceful demonstration: the soldiers themselves are furious at the leaders who made them shoot women and children; and then, on a call that, once more, is born spontaneously in the masses – we prepare another demonstration. But, before that day, the revolution already breaks out.

In short, let us turn the question over and over as much as we like, but we cannot reach another conclusion than this one: “whether we are the partisan of individual action or action of the masses – and it is obvious that both are necessary – the man of action’s place is where the masses are. If he carries out an individual act; if he responds to a policeman’s kick with a pistol shot; if he rebels against such iniquity; if he extinguishes the fire in some working factory, or if he breaks its windows (as was done in Moravia); if he goes to prison for spreading some propaganda amongst the troops or if he carries out quite another act of individual courage – his act will only have more impact, since it was done in the eyes of the masses, openly and publicly, while the press will talk about it in all details, while every worker will talk about it in the workshop”.

It is so simple, and we are so certain that all revolutionaries are of the same opinion, that there can only be debate on it by misunderstanding.

End Notes

[1] A reference to the 1889 London Dock Strike (see Kropotkin’s article “Ce que c’est qu’une gréve” [“What a Strike is”], La Révolte, 7th of September 1889. (translator)

[2] A reference to the 1886 eight-hour day movement in America that called upon workers to strike on the 1st of May. The Haymarket event in Chicago – a police attack on a strike meeting, a bomb being thrown and subsequent framing and hanging of five Anarchists, was a part of this strike wave. (translator)

[3] Moravia was a historical country in Central Europe in the east of the Czech Republic and one of the historical Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Czech Silesia. (translator)

[4] A reference to founding congress of the Second International held in Paris during July 1889. This congress designated the 1st of May as an international holiday for labour to be marked by demonstrations and parades. It was inspired by the American Eight-Hour movement of 1886. (translator)

[5] Wilhelm Martin Philipp Christian Ludwig Liebknecht (1826-1900) was a leading German social democrat. Under his leadership, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) grew from a tiny sect to become the country's largest political party. (translator)

[6] The Prater is a large public park in Vienna's 2nd district (Leopoldstadt). (translator)

[7] Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793) was one of the one of the most radical voices of the French Revolution. He was a vigorous defender of the sans-culottes and published the newspaper L’Ami du people (Friend of the People) which was renowned for its fierce tone and advocacy of political and economic rights for the working classes. He was Marat assassinated while taking a medicinal bath and became a revolutionary martyr for the Jacobins. Kropotkin quoted him favourably in his classic 1909 history, The Great French Revolution. (translator)

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Audio

Iain,

Do you happen to know if an audio file of this panel discussion is going to be made available at some point?

  


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