anarchy archives


About Us

Contact Us

Other Links

Critics Corner


The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets
  Music and Anarchy

Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

<--Previous  Up  Next-->

High Resolution Image

proletarians, led hundreds of good comrades from London to France, Belgium, Germany, Egypt, South Africa, and to North and South America; most of whom maintained their contact with the London Movement and worked untiringly in their new spheres of life, until yonder also groups of Libertarians were formed among the Jewish immigrants. They did not forget the financial support of the London mother movement to render possible the publication of the weekly paper and that of further libertarian literature.

But Kropotkin not only influenced this Movement by his writings, he was also in very intimate personal contact with it and took a lively interest in all its struggles and undertakings. After coming to England in 1886, when released from the prison of Clairvaux, he often visited the "Berner Street Club," the then intellectual centre of the Jewish labor movement. In later years, when chronic heart disease made his participation in public meetings always more difficult or impossible, his East End visits became rarer, but the intellectual contact always remained and took again quite regular forms, when the Libertarian Movement in Russia began to have a larger development. During the first years of the present century quite a number of good comrades returned from London to Russia where they worked in the underground movement to spread their libertarian ideas. Some of them died on the gallows, and many were buried for long years in the prisons of Russia and Siberia. Secret means of communication between London and Russia were created and kept up by correspondence and secret emissaries. A very great quantity of Russian and Yiddish literature was smuggled from England into Russia to help the comrades there at their ceaseless task. It was at that time that Kropotkin and his friends in England and France founded the paper Chleb i-Volya (Bread and Freedom) which he edited until it was transferred to Geneva.

In England itself, the Libertarian Movement of the Jewish workers reached its highest development before and after the Russian Revolution of 1905. Labor Unions, in which the Libertarians unceasingly took part, flourished; great strike movements stirred up the immigrants' quarter to the utmost as never before. At that time the "old man," as the Jewish workers used to call Kropotkin, came oftener to the East End and spoke even at meetings, whilst strictly forbidden to do so by medical orders. I remember especially a meeting held at our Club in Jubilee Street in December, 1905, on the anniversary day of the revolt of the Decabrists (1825) : Kropotkin was one of the speakers. To prevent overcrowding, the meeting was not publicly announced, since Kropotkin's wife urgently appealed to us to take care of the "old man." Nevertheless, the news spread like lightning, and in the evening the great hall and the gallery were overcrowded, and hundreds could not be admitted and had to turn back. His voice faltered slightly at the beginning of his speech. An invisible charm seemed to issue from this man and enter into the inmost hearts of the audience. I had heard him speak many times, but only once before this had I noticed such a tremendous impression as that evening. Kropotkin was no orator of rhetorical gifts; sometimes even, his words were uttered with some hesitation; but the manner of his speaking, this undertone of deepest conviction underlying each word penetrated the minds of the audience with elementary force and put them completely under his spell. But Kropotkin, also, was mightily impressed by this audience which listened to his words with breathless attention, and when he had returned home, he suffered from a grave heart attack which put his life in danger and tied him down for several weeks to a sick-bed.

I had a similar impression at a great demonstration in Hyde Park held in protest against the massacre of the Jewish inhabitants of Kishineff instigated by the Czar's Government. The inhuman cruelties of this gruesome tragedy created the greatest excitement in the East End. Organizations of all shades of opinion and parties met in conference which led to the Hyde Park meeting. Many thousands of Jewish workers marched from Mile End Gate to the Park, one of the strangest demonstrations which Lond on ever saw. Many prominent men of all parties addressed the masses gathered round their platform, raising a lust protest in vehement words against the atrocious policy of blood, of Plehve's system.

When Kropotkin arrived at the Park entrance, a large crowd of workers received him enthusiastically, took the dear "old man'' in their midst, and led him to the meeting place. Here he was carefully lifted above the heads of the crowd up to the car which served as a platform When he began to speak I noticed


[Home]               [About Us]               [Contact Us]               [Other Links]               [Critics Corner]