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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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Page 14 Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

If its contents had been known to Kropotkin, his opinions of Marx would have become much lower indeed. In a letter, addressed to Engels November 4, 1864, in which Marx describes his part in shaping the final text of the preamble to the International's Constitution, he makes it very plain that the words "rights" and "duties" (mentioned twice) and the phrases about "truth, ethics, and justice" were inserted later-and not by him.

Another question remains open, to-wit: who wrote the words about "no discrimination as to color, creed and nationality"? On this point, Dr Max Nettlau, who edited this recent and too little known collection of Kropotkin correspondence for many years, has this to say: "As words voicing the general feeling (at that time) of protest against the negro slavery, religious intolerance and national hatreds, these expressions simply were the products of a sentiment peculiar at the time to all people of good-will anywhere; and it is altogether beside the point whether Marx or anyone else of the the subcommittee, editing the document (Marx, Lelubet and Weston), authorized these few words, which, to Kropotkin's way of thinking, might have carried a particularly compelling appeal to the mass of Jewish revolutionary working men."

On the other hand, with the publication of the four large volumes of Marx-Engels correspondence, which took place a few years before the World War No 1, Kropotkin's censorious opinion of Engels, referred to in the beginning of this inquiry, more especially of Engels' influence upon Marx, is clearly in need of revision. We quote from Nettlau's comments on the before-mentioned article by Brupbacher (published together with the article in the Ishill Memorial Volume, issued in 1923) as follows: "These four large volumes contain such abundant intimate material on the real relations between Marx and Engels that opinions expressed before cannot be considered definite." (p. 93).

One outstanding deduction follows from this rather casual attempt at delving into an intriguing subject, deserving of a much more comprehensive inquiry: With all his methodical, scientific mind, Kropotkin, deliberately and openly, invested ethical and moral principles with the utmost objective, even absolute value, and with sociological significance. He did not consider Marxism a true scientific system; and one, and perhaps not the least, of the reasons for Kropotkin's reflection upon the Gargantuan product of Marxian thought might have been just this unfortunate disregard by Marx of all the higher, nobler human aspirations- the true hallmark of humanity. Of the big two, Kropotkin and not Marx was perhaps the greater, the truer realist, as regards human nature. For as scholar and humanist, Kropotkin, following in the footsteps of his great teacher Proudhon, knew too well that only by welding science and conscience will mankind be able to achieve the proper basis for material, mental and spiritual progress.

New York, November, 1942.


by S. Alexander

We thought it might be of some interest to our readers to give a few short excepts of such judgements under the pen of Peter Kropotkin's contemporaries.

Rodolfo Mondolfo writes thus in the "Encyclopaedia of Social Scences" (New York, 1935):

"...While his system is often ingenious, K leaves many philosophical and practical questions unanswered and frequently contradicts himself...K. never explained how the rise of the oppressive tendency which along with cooperation he saw as the offspring of social life, could be avoided in an anarchist regime; how the multitude which, he held, has no clear program and consequently tends ti follow a party of action and to be governed by it, could avoid this fate under anarchism; how everything would be organized without organs of government; how communal, regional, national and international groups and federations of production and consumption would function without delegated and representative authority. The incompleteness of the anarchist program became especially clear after the fall of the czar, when K. had no plan for 'the people' to follow except that of supporting the Kerensky government.

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