A few months ago, I announced that I was starting to work on an anthology of Kropotkin’s works for AK Press (A Peter Kropotkin Anthology). This is an update – and as well as an update, I’m including a rare letter from Kropotkin to the British syndicalist paper The Voice of Labour as a taster.
Before discussing the current contents, I should mention the title. After thinking about “Well-Being for all!” as a title (rejected because it sounds like a self-help book), the name is still planned to be:
Direct Struggle Against Capital: Peter Kropotkin on Anarchism, the Workers Movement and Social Revolution
My contact at AK Press has expressed concerns about the title – it is not necessarily the most sellable title. However, I like its “it does what it says on tin” approach and it is a quote from Kropotkin – one which is appears in a great many of his works and an aspect of his ideas which is often overlooked. Given how many people peddle the false notion that Kropotkin ignored the class war or that anarchism rejects collective working class organisation and struggle, I consider it best to stress that this is not the case. How better than in the title?
However, I’m willing to convinced otherwise – what do you think of the title?
Now, onto the really important information – what is in it? Well, the work is broken up eight sections: “Anarchism”; “Capitalism and the State”; “Science, Mutual Aid and Ethics”; “The Workers Movement and Class Struggle”; “Revolutions”; “Social Revolution”; and “Anarchy.” Each section will have a short preface summarising Kropotkin’s views on the subject. There may also be an appendix on “Anarchism and War” for the “International Anarchist Manifesto on the War” to show the anarchist approach to war, in contrast to Kropotkin’s crazy pro-Allied position.
Here is the list of articles as it stands this month (June 2012):
The Lyons anarchist trial of 1883 (First time in book form)
The Place of Anarchism in Socialist Evolution (First time in book form)
Letter to Maria Isidine Goldsmit (newly translated)
Letter to Max Nettleau (new translation)
From “Modern Science and Anarchism”
The Anarchist Principle (newly translated)
A Few Thought about the Essence of Anarchism (First time in book form)
Letter to the Bakunin Centenary Celebration (First time in book form)
From “Representative Government” (new translation)
The Division of Labour
Economic Expedients (newly translated)
The State: Its Historic Role
The Function of Law in Society
Prisons: Universities of Crime
From “Memoirs of a Revolutionist”
From “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution”
The Reformed School (First time in book form)
Mutual Aid: An Important Factor in Evolution
From “Ethics: Origin and Development”
From “Memoirs of a Revolutionist”
The Use of the Strike (First time in book form)
Letter to French and British Trade Union Delegates (First time in book form)
Commemoration of the Chicago Martyrs (First time in book form)
The Development of Trade-Unionism (First time in book form)
Politics and Socialism (First time in book form)
Letter to “The Voice of Labour” (First time in book form)
Anarchists and Trade Unions (First time in book form)
1886-1907: Glimpses into the Labour Movement in this Country
Letter to Alexander Berkman (First time in book form)
Syndicalism and Anarchism (Original version and first time in book form)
From “The Great French Revolution”
1848–1871 (First time in book form)
The Paris Commune
Commune of Paris (First time in book form)
The Revolution in Russia (First time in book form)
Enough of Illusions! (First time in book form)
A Letter to the Workers of Western Europe (Original version)
From “Memoirs of a Revolutionist”
The Anarchist Idea from the Point Of View of its Practical Realisation (First time in book form)
What Revolution Means
Act For Yourselves
Past and Future (First time in book form)
Preface to “Words of a Rebel” (1904) (new translation)
Preface to “Syndicalism and the Co-operative Commonwealth”
Anarchist Action in the Revolution (newly translated)
Postscript to “Words of a Rebel” (1919) (new translation)
Are We Good Enough?
The Permanence of Society after the Revolution
From “The Wages System”
From “Fields, Factories and Workshops”
Communism and Anarchy First time in book form)
I should also note that the “Peter Kropotkin” and “Periodicals” sections of the Anarchy Archives and Robert Graham’s Anarchism blog have been very helpful in getting some of these articles – I would recommend you visit these excellent resources.
As can be seen there are eight sections. Each section will contain relevant articles, pamphlets or book chapters in order of publication. The only exception will be “Revolutions” which will list the extracts in order of when the Revolutions started – starting with the Great French Revolution, through 1848 to the Paris Commune and the two Russian Revolutions (1905 and 1917).
There is a lot of material which is appearing in book form for the first time or has been newly translated for this anthology. A lot of this is from Freedom and some is from French electronic sources. Sad to say, Kropotkin is not as well served are Proudhon is in terms of electronic versions of his works. There is no French “Collected Works” in either print nor on-line – unlike Proudhon! Black Rose did a series on Kropotkin about twenty years back which it called the “Collected Works” but it is nowhere near complete – the articles collected in Freedom Press’s Act for Yourselves were missing, for example, not to mention a host of articles in Freedom and the French papers Le Révolté, La Révolte and Les Temps Nouveaux!
So this anthology shows that there is still a lot of work required to give Kropotkin the treatment he deserves. I’m planning an extensive, but by necessity incomplete, bibliography. There does not seem to be a complete listing of Kropotkin’s articles and while I’m not going to be able to do it in this work, I’m hoping to include a comprehensive listing (indicating when it has been translated into English). Miller’s biography of Kropotkin references a great many articles and I will aim to get them listed in chronological order.
The listing above is incomplete in terms of the final goal. There are some articles which I’m awaiting to get translated or the pdf files for (which will then have to be translated). The French articles are:
“Les Enemis du peuple”, Le Révolté, 5th February 1881
“Le Mouvement Ouvrièr en Espagne”, Le Révolté, 12th November, 1881
“L’Organisation ouvrière”, Le Révolté, 10th December 10, 1881
“L’Organisation ouvrière”, Le Révolté, 24th December, 1881
“Le Premier Mai”, La Révolte, 1st November, 1890
“La Mort de la nouvelle Internationale”, La Révolte, 17th October, 1891
“Le Congrès Ouvrier de 1896,” Les Temps Nouveaux, August 3–9, 1895,
“Syndicalisme et parlementairisme”, Les Temps Nouveaux, 13th October, 1906
“Insurrection et révolution”, Les Temps Nouveaux, 6th August, 1910
There are also parts of a Russian pamphlet published in 1907 entitled Russkaia revoliutsiia i anarkhizm which Kropotkin contributed three chapters – the introduction, “Revoliutsiia politicheskaia i konomicheskaia” and “Nashe otnoshenie k krestianskim i rabochim soiuzam.” Given this is related to the 1905 Revolution, it should make interesting reading!
The listing above may change, depending on word limits and new material. Some of it may be dropped and replaced by more interesting material. Or, if space allows, other articles may be included. For example, I will soon have “Co-operation: A reply to Herbert Spencer” (Freedom, Dec 1896 and Jan 1897), “Bakunin” (Freedom, June/July 1905) and extracts from “The Modern State” (Freedom, Nov-Dec 1913 and Jan-Sept 1914) in electronic format. The last article is interesting, as it is an incomplete translation of a French article and the final published part has “to be continued” at the end. Due to Kropotkin’s position on the war, and Freedom’s principled anarchist position on it, that was never finished. It appears in the 1913 (expanded) French edition of Modern Science and Anarchism, but I’ve not managed to get my hands on that yet (if you know of an on-line version, let me know!).
Then there are articles from Freedom, such as (yet another!) speech on “The Paris Commune” (Freedom, April 1887), a speech bidding farewell to Lucy Parsons entitled “Before the Storm” (Freedom, December 1881) and the 1914 pamphlet Wars and Capitalism (included in the 1913 edition of La Science Moderne et l’Anarchie but serialised in Freedom the same year). Not to mention his articles on his scientific expertise, namely “What Geography Ought to Be” (The Nineteenth Century, 1885) and “On The Teaching Of Physiography” (The Geographical Journal, Oct., 1893).
It will be a question of looking at what is available, how much space I have and deciding what is essential and what is nice to have! Suffice to say, I will be concentrating on the works related to the labour movement and focusing on those referenced in biographies and histories of anarchism. I should also mention that I have decided to stay with the original (dated) language (i.e., leaving workmen, etc. as is) not to mention his use of the word England to describe the whole of Britain (and English for British).
And then there is the introduction, which is not started yet in any meaningful way. It will be similar to Property is Theft! with a main introduction, separate biographical sketch and notes. The main introduction will be broken into sub-sections on specific issues (“On Syndicalism”; “On Revolution”; etc) and a section on “Anarchism before Kropotkin” as well as his legacy for modern anarchism. Suffice to say, this introduction should be smaller and less work as Kropotkin is nowhere near as misrepresented as Proudhon (although Marxists do try their best!). Still, what comes out from the archives is a picture of a practical revolutionary socialist who is miles from the gentile, bearded, co-operation guru that some have presented.
In terms of discussing anarchism before Kropotkin, I will follow Kropotkin in stressing that modern, revolutionary, anarchism was born in the First International but I will note that, Kropotkin notwithstanding, Godwin really had no impact on the development of the movement – unlike Proudhon. And talking of which, in terms of my previous project, Property is Theft!, I’ve noticed that Kropotkin mentions Proudhon in a favourable light on many an occasion. Except for the two articles written explicitly on Bakunin, Proudhon seems to be mentioned more (perhaps because Kropotkin became a socialist after reading his System of Economic Contradictions as a young rebel aristocrat?). That was unexpected, I must admit.
So hopefully this update will give you an idea of what progress has been made (not as much as I would have liked) and a taste of what will be in the final book. Hopefully, you will be as excited as I am about the material which has been rediscovered. There is still a bit to do – while the translations are out of my hands, I do need to sit down and make a serious attempt on a first draft of the introduction. As with the Proudhon anthology, I’ll start by going through An Anarchist FAQ for relevant material on and quotes by Kropotkin. Luckily, my pamphlet Mutual Aid: An Introduction and Evaluation has been published by AK Press (old version) so I can just summarise that aspect of his ideas and reference the pamphlet. Unfortunately, given the general ignorance (and deliberate distortion by some), the section of Kropotkin’s views on the labour movement and syndicalism may be long…
That is it. That is where the anthology is as of the end of June, 2012. A lot of progress has been made in terms of gathering desired articles but some key ones still to go and the introduction to get started. And then there is the pressing need for a decent Malatesta anthology (Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas is good, but too fragmented) not to mention Bakunin (something Shawn Wilber is working on, please contact him if you want to help), Rocker, Goldman and a host of others. But that is way in the future, best to get Kropotkin done!
And, finally, as promised right at the start an extract from the book. This letter to the syndicalist paper The Voice of Labour has not see the light of day since it was published on February 9th, 1907. It sees Kropotkin stressing the importance of a revolutionary labour movement. He places developments in Britain into both an international and historical context. As with other texts, he links syndicalism with the libertarian wing of the First International.
In other words, he presents the thesis of Black Flame 100 years before that book was published (or I wrote section H.2.8 of An Anarchist FAQ). While it great that Black Flame exists, it is a shame in a way that it had to be written. It states the bloody obvious (and states it well and with an impressive research on display). It would also have been nice to have these Kropotkin articles when I did my reply to Darlington in Anarchist Studies (and not to mention my review of his book)
Until I blog again, be seeing you…
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 Trades’ Union of Robert Owen, in “the 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.
Bromley, Kent Feb.1
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