Bloody Brilliant! This pamphlet does a remarkable job in summarising the basic ideas of Bakunin, the founder of revolutionary anarchism. It covers his analysis of modern class society, the state, bourgeois democracy and Marxism. On every count, Bakunin has been vindicated.
May 1st is a day of special significance for the labour movement. While it has been hijacked in the past by the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the labour movement festival of May Day is a day of world-wide solidarity. A time to remember past struggles and demonstrate our hope for a better future. A day to remember that an injury to one is an injury to all.
Our account of past struggles is not simply a history lesson. Nor is it an attempt to mire the current struggle and movement in past controversies. Rather it is an attempt to contribute to a movement which must look to the future. To do so, we must understand the past in order to avoid repeating previous mistakes and dead-ends. To move forward we must reject those ideologies which failed in the past but which linger on like the undead in our midst.
Some will dismiss our leaflet by saying that it is "old news," that "lessons have been learned" and so on. This does not stop them praising the Bolshevik revolution and urging us to repeat it! Nor does it stop them justifying and rationalising Bolshevik actions, so creating the atmosphere in which such actions will be repeated. Nor does it stop them using the same slogans as before, such as "nationalisation under workers' control," a "workers' government" and so on.
Kropotkin argued that every "new economic phase demands a new political phase." This meant "if we want the social revolution, we must seek a form of political organisation that will correspond to the new method of economic organisation. . . . The future belongs to the free groupings of interests and not to governmental centralisation; it belongs to freedom and not to authority." 1
These are exciting but dangerous times. On the one hand, a vigorous new movement seems to be emerging which combines politics with a sense of imagination, one which is often explicitly anti-capitalist. On the other, the forces of reaction appear to be making in roads across Europe. Capitalism in its most naked form, neo-liberalism, is rampant [This was originally written in 2001, how times have changed!]
The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci once wrote that "to tell the truth is a communist and revolutionary act." If we apply this maxim to most of the left, we would draw the obvious conclusion that it is neither communist nor revolutionary.
The Socialist Workers Party is a classic example of this mentality, rewriting history to suit the recruitment needs of the organisation. One of the ironies of history is that the Trotskyists who spent so much time combating the "Stalin school of falsification" have created their own.
This work, volume 11 of The Collected Works of Peter Kropotkin, is in two parts. The first part is Kropotkin's classic book "Modern Science and Anarchism." The second part is concerned with his thoughts on the latest theories and experiments in biology and evolutionary thought. As will become clear, the combining of these two very different works is not as contradictory as it first seems.
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