This year (2017) marks the 170th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy, written in “reply” to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s System of Economic Contradictions published the year before. The book’s title is a play on the subtitle of Proudhon’s two volumes (“or, the Philosophy of Poverty”) and for Trotskyist Ernest Mandel “the prototype of that sort of implacable polemical writing which has often inspired the pens of Marx’s followers”.
This is an excellent work, recommended to both anarchist activists and those interested in the rise of modern, revolutionary, anarchism. Berthier, a veteran French anarcho-syndicalist activist, has produced a work which successfully challenges both the standard narrative on the First International (written, as usual, by the winners) and those who seek to deny the actual history of anarchism and its roots in the European labour movement. Somewhat surprisingly, given this, that number includes Berthier himself.
Monday saw an eviction without court order in Dublin involving Garda and private security / builders at Villa Park, Dublin 7. The house had been left abandoned for at least two years according to neighbours before being brought back into use last October by people who needed a home. One of them told us that it was a “Beautiful house that was to be demolished in order to make a new route to warehouse / bakery behind it but neighbours objected and planning permission was refused. The person claiming ownership seemed to be very wealthy and is listed as a director of over 28 companies.”
This year, 2015, marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of Proudhon’s seminal What is Property?. While opponents had hurled the label “anarchist” at those more radical than themselves during both the English and French revolutions, Proudhon was the first to embrace the name and proclaim themselves an anarchist.
My “Sages and Movements” attempted to fill a gap in our understanding of the contribution of Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) to the anarchist press. As well as discussing the importance of situating important thinkers (“sages”) within their wider movement, the article also included a bibliography of Kropotkin’s works. While incomplete, this bibliography showed that Kropotkin wrote far more than is usually assumed based on his works that are readily available in English.
The editor of Workers Unite! should be congratulated on his aim, namely to make the debates within the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) accessible for radicals active 150 years after it was founded in 1864. Yet while the book’s subtitle states “150 years later” the introduction is written as if those 150 years do not exist. This is explained by the editor being a Marxist and so unwilling to admit that Marx helped push the workers’ movement into a dead end.
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.
Anyone researching or studying a subject will quickly conclude that some authors are more reliable than others. However, even the best author makes mistakes and if these chime with the conventional wisdom on a subject then their groundbreaking work in one area can be used to justify repeating their mistakes in others.
This article appeared in Anarchist Studies (volume 22, number 1) in the spring of 2014
1. The Makhnovists are peasants and workers who rose as early as 1918 against the tyranny of the German-Magyar, Austrian and Hetmanite bourgeois power in the Ukraine. The Makhnovists are those toilers who raised the banner of combat against the rule of Denikin and all other forms of oppression, violence and lies, whatever their origin. The Makhnovists are those very toilers by whose labour the bourgeoisie in general, and now the Soviet bourgeoisie in particular, grew wealthy, fat and powerful.