KROPOTKIN AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR
By Dr. Marc Pierrot
Kropotkin's attitude toward the War was in complete accord with his character. As ever, he looked to the future of humanity and embraced the most noble cause.
I may add that his attitude was in harmony with his ideas. Those who have known Kropotkin do not doubt it, but many revolutionists have never come to understand.
It is the absolute of principles and the abuse of reasoning that often border upon fanaticism. Fanatics do not observe; they have never observed. Possessing the primary verities, they draw from them inflexible conclusions without bothering about the complexity of problems. Severity of reasoning gives an appearance of solidity to their doctrines but it is only a doctrine and life mocks at it.
The scientific pretentions of the social-democrats are but founded upon deductive reasoning applied to a narrow materialism, to simple, economic facts. But being unable to include in their mathematical argument either the sentiment or problems of liberty, these pseudoscientists simply and purely suppress the moral facts.
The true syndicalists also see nothing but the economic aspects of facts, and so as long as they remain on their province of professional interests, they are on a firm foundation. But they render themselves puerile and ridiculous by affirming with the social-democrats that "capitalism" is sufficient to explain all social phenomena. They fall into meanness and impotence by shutting themselves up in their class-egoism.
The Tolstoyans only occupy themselves with the moral without taking into account the material and economic life. They only succeed in getting utterly beyond reality.
A great many Anarchists are only individualists. From this viewpoint they are naturally all defeatists.
There is an abyss between these people and Kropotkin. In his ideal Kropotkin knows how to keep in view an ensemble of the aspirations and needs of all humanity and to reckon with the realities. Far from sharing the absolutism of revolutionists as to system he has on the contrary, recommended applying to the study of social facts the method of the natural sci-ences that is to say, observation. (See, for example, "Modern Science and Anarchism.")
To observe: That would mean to seek the truth without preconceived opinions; to strive to comprehend all the complexity of phenomena without abstractions, and to distrust deductive reasoning. This is the only means of honestly serving the ideal.
Ignorance permits itself to be enclosed within a deductive and absolute system. Kropotkin had the most extensive culture and the knowledge of the true historian.
One may be against war apriori and we are all against war. Kropotkin was against war. We have all made anti-militarist propaganda in the hope of achieving disarmament, international understanding, internationalism. The War broke out before we were able to succeed. How many times have human gropings toward the ideal thus been beaten off by catastrophies! But these catastrophies, which are nothing but accidents in the history of humanity, do not prevent mankind from marching toward his aspirations.
We are against war, but war have we suffered. We have accepted the War because we were forced to do so. What could our attitude have been?
Kropotkin thought it was impossible to re-main indifferent to the conflict. To tell the truth, how could one remain neutral or indifferent?
However, there is the indifference of the poor, the ignorant, of those who do not take account of the weight of a strong oppression, or of those for whom political liberty is without importance. Thus may be explained the anti-patriotism of the early Christians. Thus can one readily understand why the Mujiks should have deserted en masse from the front after the Revolution of 1917.
There is also the indifference of the Kienthaliens enclosed in their narrow class-egoism who scorned the questions of moral order. They were afraid of being dupes as other revolutionists of the same ilk were afraid at the time of the Dreyfuss affair. Such a shabbiness of sentiment could bring no result from the social point of view. One must know how to give oneself without reserve arid see more than material results.
The idealism of Kropotkin was full of nobility and optimism, Nnthout rancor and