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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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Page 13 Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

...As to Marx himself, let us pay to him homage that is his due-in recognition for his entering the International at all. He also deserves our gratitude for his "Capital"- an immense revolutionary pamphlet or tract, composed in a scientific jargon. He seems to have said to capitalists: "Think of it, I have taken your bourgeois political economy for a starting point and yet I succeeded in proving for all the world to see that you are robbing the working-man." But should Marx also claim that his writings had a scientific worth as well, then, mark it, I must say 'No.'"

Now, from this passage, filled to the brim with true love of suffering humanity and with fine humor, we first of all see that to Peter Kropotkin's mind the Jewish race as such was in no way responsible for either the theory or practice of the social-democratic movement-a fallacy to which, most probably, Guillaume in his mature age fell victim. In the second place, the underlying cause of Kropotkin's opposition to Marxism, as a pseudo-science, can, by a not too heavily veiled implication, be discovered. On both these points let us dwell here only briefly, yet in quite definite and well documented statements.

Allusions to a peculiar Jewish mentality, inclined to a certain kind of a dialectic or system-building, can be found in two later articles by Kropotkin: "The Nationality Problem" and "Anarchism and Zionism", published by him in 1906 and 1907, respectively, in his London (Russian) periodical, "Litsky-Khleb i Volia" (Leaves-Bread and Freedom). But previously, about the time the long letter to Guillaume was written, Kropotkin had a chance to express himself, at much greater length, about the proneness of the Jewish workers to undertake revolutionary activity. This was done in a letter written, in March of 1904, to a group of Jewish work which probably was composed under the freshers in London who had published in Yiddish a translation of his "Memoirs."

We invite the reader's attention to just the concluding part of this remarkable letter, impression of the fallacious aspersions on the Jews contained on a misguided friend's letter referred to above:

..."The Jewish workers took a prominent part in the great movement which began in Russia during these last years...And not only have the young heroes stepped forth bravely, unafraid of death and annihilation in lonely prison cells, in the snows of frozen Siberia, but also a great number of Jewish working-men in the large and small towns have not feared to rise bravely and vigorously against the hundred years' oppression, declaring frankly and freely before the entire world their demands and hopes for the final liberation of the hundred-year-old slavery. I heartily wish that my "Memoirs" may help the Jewish youth to read the divers problems of the present movement against the all-destroying power of existent capitalism and authority. I will consider myself fortunate if one of the downtrodden of Capitalism and Authority, wafted to one of the distant nooks of Russia, will find upon reading those lines that he does not stand quite alone on the battlefield. May he know that, on going into battle for liberation of those who create all wealth and recieve as reward nothing but poverty, he becomes, by this alone, a participant of the great cause- of the great struggle which is conducted everywhere for the freedom and hapiness of all mankind, that he enters into the family of the workers of the entire world who are united in one great confraternity demanding freedom and equality for all."


Peter Kropotkin

Now, to return to the second point, raised above in analyzing the important letter to James Guillaume. Kropotkin ascribed the Jewish workers' adoration of Karl Marx to the following cause: presumably they saw in Marx the author of the concepts of justice and equality to all creeds and races, as expressed in the Constitution of the International Workingmen's Association (First International). Now, at the time Kropotkin wrote his letter to Guillaume (November, 1903) there had not yet been published the extensive correspondence between Marx and Engels.

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