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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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again the vibration of his voice which always made a peculiar impression. By and by his voice became stronger and his pauses more regular. He was seized with strong feeling, and this was communicated to the thousands who listened with bated breath and followed his words with silent veneration. His speech was a flaming accusation of the bloody régime of the Russian henchmen. Every word came from the depth of his heart and had the pressure of a hundred-weight. The expression of mildness which made his face so very attractive, had quite left it; his eyes were flaming, and the gray beard trembled violently as if swayed by the tremendous impetus of his sweeping accusations. Every sentence was inspired by the spirit of deepest truth and met an impressive echo in the hearts of the audience under his spell. When he had finished, his face was unusually pale, and his entire body trembled with inward excitement. I am convinced that the strong impression of his words on that occasion remained unforgotten by all those who heard him.

Kropotkin also took a lively interest in the great economic struggles of the Jewish working-men. In 1911 the great tailors' strike began at the East End, first as a mere strike of solidarity to help the West End tailors, and gradually growing to be a gigantic struggle against the hellish sweating system which was actually crushed by it. I visited Kropotkin soon after the end of this strike; he had followed its phases with the greatest attention. I acquainted him with all the details in which I had an active part from beginning to end. I related to him the situation at the beginning of the strike. The various organizations then had almost no funds at hand, but it was necessary to keep faith with the fighting English and German comrades of the West End, and wavering was out of place. It was a famine strike in the worst sense of the word, for even the splendid solidarity of the other Jewish trades could not guarantee even a bare pittance to the strikers and their families. From twelve to fourteen thousand workers were out on strike, and hardly three or four shillings a week could be given as strike pay. Feverish activity set in on the East End to alleviate the misery in some degree. Community kitchens were created in most of the workers' clubs. The Jewish Bakers' Union baked bread for the strikers; all the Jewish trades-unions raised special levies which were gladly paid by the members. All means of action were used in this struggle, and many workers were arrested and sent to prison. The struggle lasted six weeks when that memorable midnight meeting which was to decide on the continuation of the strike was held at the Pavilion Theatre. The Theatre was crowded, and many hundreds who could not be admitted stood waiting in the street. Many strikers had brought their wives with them who nearly all had stood up splendidly during these hard times. I shall never forget this picture, —the monster meeting at midnight with all those pale faces marked by toil and care!

When at last the audience was asked to decide whether the strike should come to an end, and the moderate concessions of the employers remain all that resulted of it, a storm swept the audience, and a powerful "No! No! No!" sounded all over the wide hall. They did not want to have undergone all this sacrifice to no purpose! This broke the spell. The "Masters' Association" split, and the struggle ended in a complete victory for the workers.

All this I told Kropotkin, who listened attentively and took many notes. When I told him further that the same Jewish workers, quite exhausted by this strenuous struggle, had at once undertaken a new act of solidarity by boarding about three hundred children of the striking dockers in their families, to help their English comrades in their hard struggle against Lord Davenport, Kropotkin's eyes became moist, and he pressed my hand in silence. —"This is a good contribution to the chapter of Mutual Aid," I said. — "Certainly certainly," he replied with deep emotion. "As long as such forces operate within the masses there is no reason to despair of the future." When, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, a splendid meeting was held at the Pavilion Theatre (East End), addressed by Socialists, and radicals of all shades. Bernard Shaw in his address made the significant remark : "I am persuaded that of all manifestations of these days to express love and sympathy to him, Kropotkin will be touched by none so deeply and moved so joyfully, as by this greeting of the proletarians of the Fast End." I know not whether Shaw knew of the in-timate relation which always existed between Kropotkin and the Jewish Workers' Movement, but in any case he hit upon the simple truth by his observation.


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