David Shub’s essay on the relationship between Lenin and Kropotkin was was written shortly after the author’s biography of Lenin in 1948 and draws a striking contrast between the two famous Russian revolutionaries. While initially deferential to the gentle and polite Kropotkin – at the time far more famous and influential both inside and outside Russia than the Bolshevik leader – Lenin quickly came to despise Kropotkin and his constant criticism of Bolshevism. The anarchist proclaimed Lenin’s government would be the “burial of the Russian Revolution”. Kropotkin’s predictions of the horrors of the Bolshevik State (“a Soviet Union only in name”) came true even before his death in 1921, and foretold the horrors of the Stalinist regime to come. This pamphlet is a brief illustration of their strained relationship and history.
“Even if the dictatorship of the party were an appropriate means to bring about a blow to the capitalist system (which I strongly doubt), it is nevertheless harmful for the creation of a new socialist system. What are necessary and needed are local institutions, local forces; but there are none, anywhere.”
Recently I have been reading criticisms of Kropotkin’s claims that Proudhon advocated the use of labour notes, accompanied by the suggestion that he had only a superficial understanding of Proudhon’s ideas. While he may have been wrong (as were many others) to attribute the advocacy of labour notes to Proudhon, he was not ignorant of Proudhon’s work. In his last book, Ethics: Origin and Development, where he analyzed ethical conceptions from a naturalist, evolutionary point of view, he devoted the following section to Proudhon’s theory of justice, showing the connections between Proudhon’s conception of justice and Kropotkin’s own ideas regarding mutual aid and morality. Several selections by Proudhon and Kropotkin can be found in Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, including excerpts from Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid and “Anarchist Morality.”
Peter Kropotkin about the Trade Union Congress and the social democrats.
Peter Kropotkin devoted a major part of his prolific anarchist writings to two related themes: examining the actual workings of capitalist economies and developing the broad outlines of an anarchist-communist society. Kropotkin was not satisfied to merely assert that’ a free society was possible, he sought to show how such a society could be constructed from the materials at hand-realizing that a revolutionary movement that failed to consider the problems of production and distribution would quickly collapse. This installment outlines Kropotkin’s critique of capitalist political economy; next issue will turn to his positive economic program. This distinction, however, is somewhat arbitrary, as Kropotkin always preferred to illustrate what might be by pointing to what already was.
The newly released Modern Science and Anarchy from AK Press brings together previously unpublished content in English as well as other writings previously only released as pamphlets and articles. Of course, a critical portion of the book which is as relevant as ever is devoted to Kropotkin’s study of the nature and origins of the State and which includes this brief excerpt as part of a larger critique of the state.
Today it’s the birthday of Peter Kropotkin. Happy Birthday!
“Peter Kropotkin…was recognized by friend and foe as one of the greatest minds…of the nineteenth century… The lucidity and brilliance of his mind combined with his warm-heartedness into the harmonious whole of a fascinating and gracious personality. ” -Emma Goldman
The following excerpts are taken from an article by Kropotkin, “The Action of the Masses and the Individual,” in which he responds to a letter regarding increased strike activity among the workers in conjunction with May Day demonstrations.
The Conquest of Bread is Peter Kropotkin’s most extensive study of human needs and his outline of the most rational and equi-table means of satisfying them. A combination of detailed historical analysis and far-reaching utopian vision, this is a step-by-step guide to social revolution: the concrete means of achieving it, and the world that humanity’s “constructive genius” is capable of creating.