the declaration of war by William II? Allow the invasion of Belgium in order to work for general freedom later on?
Strange way of helping revolutionary propaganda, that of first advising the submission to brute force and the resignation to the militaristic and police-infested régime that defeatism would have meant for us.
Or bring about revolution? We were powerless to do so. Kropotkin ironically emphasises that impotence in the fragment of the following letter:
"What have we done of practical import during the two years of the War? What have we said that should be well for us? That it is not necessary to desert to the enemy's camp; that it was necessary to prevent the War by a revolution although as Malatesta avowed we had not the force for that." (July 24, 1916.)
Resistance to the German invasion did not imply, for Kropotkin, any change in his ideal. He protested against the subjection of all peoples, against colonial conquests as well as European wars. He foresaw, moreover, the Nationalist ambitions of the Allies and their particularity.
"No one," he wrote in a letter dated February 17, 1915, "has the least notion of our European National progress."
He was not the dupe of governmental promises. But their very statements — these solemn declarations — already show cognizance of the rights of the people and the aspirations of liberty. They may be denied again but the pledge remains ; the moral effect is produced and nothing can alter it. Look at Ireland and Egypt. Others will follow.
The liberal promises made to their people in 1813 by the allied autocrats against the imperialism of Napoleon were not kept. They were, however, the point of departure for the democratic emancipation and the stirrings of revolt that were propagated in all Europe principally between 1820 and 1850.
One must be optimistic! Pessimism and distrust lead nowhere. Kropotkin is far above parties and classes, their politics and vile maneuvers by his vision of the future, his optimism, and his generosity!
PETER KROPOTKIN -- EVOLUTIONIST AND HUMANIST
By Georg Brandes, Famous Danish Writer and Critic
He is the man of whose friendship I am proud. I know no man whose disinterestedness is so great, no one who possesses such a store of varied knowledge, and no one whose love of mankind is up to the standard of his.
He has the genius of the heart, and where his originality is greatest as in "Mutual Aid," it is his heart which has guided his intellect. The passion for liberty which is quenched in other men when they have attained the liberty they wanted for themselves, is inextinguishable in his breast.
His confidence in men gives evidence of the nobility of his soul, even if he had perhaps given the work of his life a firmer foundation, having received a deeper impression of the slowness of evolution.
But it is impossible not to admire him when we see him preserving his enthusiasm in spite of bitter experience and numerous deceptions. A character like his is an inspiration and an example.
In 1906, the Danes of London desired my arrival in England in order to deliver an address at the annual fete in celebrating our Constitution; and they begged me to let them know of some friends whose presence would be agreeable to me on that occasion. I named but one friend.
Since Kropotkin understood everything, even a little of the Scandinavian language, I caused him to be invited to the Banquet. He sent a polite refusal to the Committee under some pretext or other. When I asked the real reason of him, he responded : "I cannot come. Doubtlessly they will toast the King of England. In conformity with my convictions I could not rise and this would scandalize the assembly. A month ago I was invited to a Banquet of the Geographical Society of London. The chairman proposed, The King! Everybody arose and I alone remained seated. It was a painful moment. And I was thunder-struck when immediately afterward the same, chairman cried, 'Long live Prince Kropotkin!' And everybody, without exception, arose."
The members of the Geographical Society were men of mind and soul. They have set the example. In good society, no matter where, one only needs to say "Peter Kropotkin," and regardless of political or social convictions, everybody will arise, moved.
Copenhagen, February, 1921.