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

ing of the actualities of social and economic life. Democracy to him meant that the phrases of freedom must be translated into the concrete things of life — into houses, food, clothes and mental improvement for all the people. Otherwise the rose of democracy would smell as rank as the stink-weed of despotism. No one can read Kropotkin's French Revolution without seeing that he looked far beyond the horizon of the men of that day. With all due credit to them for their good intentions we see now that they failed to accomplish as much as they might had they been wiser. Merely to kill a king is not a revolution. Merely to change names and keep old wrongs is not a revolution.

Our libertarian philosophy is untrue and unsound unless it rests upon the facts of science, upon the laws of life and growth. There is a biological basis for freedom. Nature herself demands that men be free. Otherwise they cannot grow. Kropotkin was a scientist and understood this significant fact. He knew that sound growth comes to men only through doing things themselves and hence he sought to educate the common people along these lines. It may seem a small matter to many, but to me it is not without significance that Kropotkin gave much time and study to agriculture and to teaching the Russian peasants better methods of planting and cultivation. The land is under the people. He had little faith in governments of any kind that rest upon force and coercion but he had great confidence in mutually established cooperative endeavors of the people themselves. "As little government as possible," he said. "That government is best which governs least," said Jefferson. Democrats both, with views quite in contrast from the views held by many democrats today who talk in fair terms of freedom but make no actual move to uproot old wrongs and robberies. Most of our politicians today remind us of Walt Whitman's remark in his old age: "The saddest sight I have seen in my life is false leaders of the people who themselves have no confidence in the people." Kropotkin really believed in the people. His life and his work were dominated by that belief.

When we look about us today at the horrible welter of blood and violence in the world, when we see the ignorance and arrogance among rulers and the ignorance and subservience among the masses, when we see the confusion of thought even among those who might be supposed to have learned the lessons of history, we are tempted to yield to despair and give up the struggle. Here emerges the VALUE OF THE LIFE AND EXAMPLE OF KROPOTKIN. No doubt he wondered in moments of weariness and discouragement if his ideals would ever be realized, but he never lost sight of his essential belief in the people, in their potential capacity to learn and their courage to act upon that knowledge. He counted upon them to become self-governing. Therein lay his hope of the future. He might have quoted Saint Paul: "If this hope be vain, then indeed we are of all men most miserable."

The world picture today is not encouraging. Force and violence and coercion are on the increase and the ability of men to be self-governing appears to be rapidly on the decline. We must use a long yard-stick for our measurements or we shall grow weary. But still our hope for the future must lie, as it did with Kropotkin, in the capacity and courage of the people. For what is left to me of that hope I pay tribute to him and in gratitude I remember that his example and his writings played no small part in actuating me throughout my life in doing what I could to democratize knowledge and to stimulate courage to act upon it.


By Romain Rolland

I would have liked to evoke the saintly face of Kropotkin more contemplatively. I would have liked to express all that his book. "Autour d'une Vie" has meant for me and the radiant glow it has left in my heart. Always I think of it with filial gratitude.

You know that I have loved Tolstoy very much. But I have always had the impression that Kropotkin has been what Tolstoy has written. Simply, naturally, has he realized in his own life the ideal of moral purity, of serene abnegation, of perfect love of humanity that the tormented genius of Tolstoy desired all his life, only achieving it in his art (save during happy and rare moments, by flights, powerful and broken).

I join with pious affection in the homage you render to your great friend.


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