Our Beloved Comrade and Teacher
OUR BELOVED COMRADE AND TEACHER
ALL over the world our Anarchist comrades have decided to celebrate the seventieth birthday of their beloved comrade and teacher Peter Kropotkin. If among the living authors and Socialists somebody deserves such a general demonstration of veneration and love, it is certainly Kropotkin, one of the greatest characters of our generation and the real glory of his native land, Russia.
In my long life as Socialist and revolutionist, I have had the chance to meet many gifted and exceptional people, excelling in knowledge or talent, and distinguished by greatness of character. I knew even heroic men and women, as well as people with the stamp of genius. . . . But Kropotkin stands as a most conspicuous, strongly denned character even in that gallery of noble fighters for humanitarian ideals and intellectual liberation.
Kropotkin possesses in delightful harmony the qualities of a true inductive scientist and evolutionary philosopher with the greatness of a Socialist thinker and fighter, inspired by the highest ideals of social justice. At the same time by his temperament he is undoubtedly one of the most ardent and fearless propagandists of the social revolution and of the complete emancipation of working humanity through its own initiative and efforts. And all these qualities are united in Kropotkin so closely and intimately that one cannot separate Kropotkin, the scientist, from Kropotkin, the Socialist and revolutionist.
As scientist—geographer and geologist—Kropotkin is famed for his theory of the formation of mountain chains and high plateaux, a theory now proved and accepted by science, and, in recognition of which the mountains in East Siberia explored by him have been named Kropotkin mountains.
As naturalist and inductive thinker on evolution, Kropotkin has earned undying glory and admiration by his "Mutual Aid," a work showing his vast knowledge as a naturalist and sociologist.
One of the most striking works of Kropotkin, I may say even classical by its form, deep knowledge, brilliant argumentation and noble purpose, is his "Fields, Factories and Workshops." Here he shows to toiling huinanity with facts and figur.es the abundance of produce obtainable, the comforts and pleasures of life possible if physical and intellectual work are combined, if agriculture and industry are going hand in hand. I think that for the last quarter of a century no book has appeared so invigorating, so encouraging and convincing to those who work for a happier society. No wonder that a London democratic weekly advised its readers to buy his book by all means, even if they had to pawn their last shirt to raise the shilling.
Kropotkin as a Socialist, as a Communist-Anarchist and revolutionist, . . . but who of our readers does not know his numerous and inimitable writings on Socialism, on Anarchism-Communism, etc. ? Who has not read and enjoyed his "Memoirs of a Revolutionist" ? His "Paroles d'un Revoke," his "Conquest of Bread," "Modern Science and Anarchism," "Russian Literature," "The Terror in Russia," "The State and Its Historic Role," etc., etc. Here I will not dwell on those books; I have another aim in this article.
I will attempt to give an idea of the personal character, the charming individuality of. the author of all those splendid books. First of all let me try to sketch Kropotkin at work.
I often ask myself if there exists another man equal to Kropotkin in quickness, intensity, punctuality and variety of work? It is simply amazing what he is capable of doing in a single day. He reads incredibly much, in English, French, German and Russian; with minute interest he follows political and social events, science and literature, and especially the Anarchist movement in the whole world. His study, with its booklined walls, has piles of papers, new books, etc., on the floor, tables and chairs. And all this material, if not read, is at least looked through, annotated, often parts are cut out, classified and put away in boxes and portfolios made by himself. Kropotkin used to occupy himself for recreation with carpentry and bookbinding, but now confines himself to the latter and to the making of cardboard boxes for his notes. Whatever he does, he does quickly, with great exactitude; his notes and extracts are made with the speed of a stenographer, and all his work is done with beautiful neatness and correctness.
To give an idea of the variety of his work, I shall describe my last visit to Kropotkin. I came with a French scientist, also a great worker and a sincere admirer of Kropotkin. We found him in his study, hard at work, giving the last touches to a new edition of his "Fields, Factories and Workshops." One side of his table was covered with the French proofs of "La Science moderne et L'Anarchie." There were also the appendix and glossary in English for the coming Freedom edition of the same book. On a small table a half-finished article on Syndicalism was lying, and a pile of letters, some of them twelve pages long, exchanged with an old friend and comrade of the Federation Jurassienne, and dealing with the origin of Syndicalism, awaited an answer. Newspapers, books everywhere, volumes and separate articles on Bakunin were about, as Kropotkin is at present editing a complete Russian edition of Bakunin's works. In the midst of all these things, vigorous, alive, active as a young man, smiling heartily, Kropotkin himself. And people try to convince us that he is old and must rest! "Nonsense," said my French friend, "this is not an old and tired man; he is more alive now than many a young man of our present generation!" And really with his overflowing activity and spirits, he animates the whole household.
It is of course only natural that a man of his learning and all-sided development is much sought after. Specialists and scientists, political and literary people, painters and musicians, and especially Socialist and Anarchist comrades and Russian revolutionists, are visitors to his house, and charmed by his straightforward simplicity and wholehearted interest. Even children are at once captivated not only by his fatherly goodness, but by his capacity to share their enjoyment, by playing for and with them, arousing their delighted amazement by his juggling tricks and performances.
At the end of the day, when the household has gone to rest, Kropotkin, with his usual consideration for those who have worked, moves about the house like a mouse, tiptoeing so as not to disturb the sleep even if only the servant has gone to bed. Often he has whispered to me to be careful so as not to awaken her. Lighting his candle, he retires to his own room, sometimes till midnight reading new publications for which he could not find time during the day.
It is not astonishing that all who come in contact with him love and adore him.
But there is another side to his character. Kropotkin, the political and social thinker, the revolutionist, the Anarchist-Communist, with his fiery temperament of a fighter, with his inflexible principles, his insight in political and social problems, is yet more admirable; he sees further, he understands better, he formulates clearer than any of our contemporaries. Few people feel so deeply and acutely the suffering and injustice of others, and he cannot rest until he has done all in his power to protect and help. From 1881, when he was expelled from Switzerland for having organized a meeting protesting against the execution of Sophia Perovskaya and her comrades, up till recently when he feverishly wrote his "Terror in Russia," that crushing act of accusation against the Czar's wholesale murder and torture, he has always been the indefatigable defender of all the victims of social and political injustice.
Such is, in a few lines, Kropotkin, the Anarchist, the scientist, and above all the man, beloved by his comrades and friends, respected and admired by honest people the world over.