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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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The Meaning of Peter Kropotkin to the United States and the World

By Dr. Frederick W. Roman

For the world outside of the United States, the name Kropotkin will be a symbol of a struggle against tyranny and a cultural effort to rise by means of contributions in the field of literature and inspiration to radical groups and growing restlessness; for populations in prison and also in many cases for those forced to suffer the penalty of death. We have in mind the rebellious groups in Russia itself during the days of the Czar; and also, the striving for real political freedom even after the Soviets came to power. Kropotkin served as a stimulating ideal for the freedom-loving patriots in Spain and throughout the Balkans, and his example was emulated by untiring lovers of liberty in Germany; and it seems that even in countries such as India, the example of a sacrifice inspired a never-dying hope. With all the defects that people are accustomed to heap upon England, the record of many generations shows how tolerant England has been. Her government has been strong enough to allow these free spirits to be harbored and to give them a certain latitude of expression that was not obtainable in other parts. She did this for Karl Marx and for Victor Hugo, and for the exiles of those who once occupied the throne in France, Spain, Albania, Ethiopia; and even now is the home of the exiles from all parts of the world.

For the United States, Kropotkin was not so much an emblem of an escape from prison as he was a genuine stimulant for our literary groups by virtue of his contribution to sociological thought, in terms of "Mutual Aid," and also by virtue of his extended studies in geology. It was the literary man, Kropotkin, that extended his brightest rays. Over here we have not bothered too much about the prisoners of Europe; they have not meant too much to us! Whatever have been our shortcomings we have not been in prison over here very much by means of political oppression, and therefore we have not understood that which we have not suffered. However, we have been intrigued by virtue of the literary capacity and the ingenuity of the ideas of Kropotkin. Whether the average American scholar agrees in full or in part with the contributions of Kropotkin, there is no denial but that his achievements in his chosen fields have left a permanent influence on American thought and attitude toward the potential solution of the social and political problems of the world.

"Mutual Aid" has offered a challenge, a mode of procedure that in this hour of careful searching for a new plan to readjust the coming world order, will not be disregarded. There is being brought to the attention of an increasing number of our students and savants that you can hardly be classed amongst those who know unless you know Kropotkin!


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