MY FIRST MEETING WITH KROPOTKIN
By Tom Bell, Author:
—Edward Carpenter, The English Toistoi
—Oscar Wilde Without Whitewash
If, after you read this article, you declare that there is nothing to it, that it is made up of chatter and frivolity, an old man's garrulity about times long past, don't blame me! Jump on your Editor — who wanted it; and upon his minion, H. Yaffe, whose mission it was to hold my nose down till I dictated an article or what he thought to be an article.
Yes, I suppose I can speak of having known Kropotkin longer than anybody else in this Country. I should say rather, properly spea-ing, that I made his acquaintance, a long time ago; though I was then too young, and too new to the Movement to have any real understanding of his talk.
I was then a member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, in Edinburgh, Scotland. It must have been in the very early Eighties I guess in 1883. The Scottish Land and Labour League was the first body in Scotland to take up the "New" Socialism, that is to say, it was the first to study Marx. Das Kapital had not yet been translated into English; we studied it from the French translation. We had affiliated ourselves with the Socialist League in London. The old Democratic Federation had been split into two two bodies,---one the Social Democratic Federation (Marxist Reformists) headed by H. M. Hyndrnan, and the other the Socialist League (Non-Parliamentarian) headed by William Morris. Not Anti-Parliamentarian, notice; not distinctly Anarchist, but skeptical of the Parliamentarian method.
Edinburgh was a University town and a City with a high reputation for scholarship and culture. We had some very distinguished members: Leon Melliet, who had been Maire of an Arrondissement in Paris during the Commune and had escaped "by the skin of his teeth" from the butcheries of the suppression. The Communards you know, who escaped, carried revolutionary doctrines all the world over, and Melliet was an exceptionally brilliant man. We had Andreas Scheu, formerly of Vienna, who, with his brother, had helped materially to establish Marxism in England ; Patrick Geddes, considered in his later life one of the four of five "brainiest" men in Great Britain ; Sidney Mayor who had a distinguished career in Canadian Universities and is well known through the "History of Russia," which he wrote. We had Tuke; Garay ; J. H. Smith (you will find his books on Socialist Economics in the Public Libraries) ; we had Howie, as clever a man as Bernard Shaw, but tied down to his job; John Ferguson, the Mason, a man of the strongest intelligence; and we had old John Smith, another Mason, who later was my partner in the Aranchist Propaganda of our City.
I was the Librarian for the Branch. It sounds quite a dignified position, I know: but then so did that title I always received in every Colony I joined, of Sanitary Officer, in which I officiated with a shovel and a suit of clothes which was to be changed before I sat down with the other people. I was Librarian, and