Selected Readings on Anarchism and Revolution
The editor of this anthology writes that anarchism in the late nineteenth century "combined within itself the extremes of intellectuals such as as Kropotkin and Tolstoy surrounded by an aura of unimpeachable moral conduct, together with assassins and bandit-outlaws such as Ravachol and Sazonov. What these widely disparate individuals shared was a common attitude toward society and the state. It was an attitude of profound alienation cutting across all social class lines from urban aristocrat to rural peasant."
This anthology contains selected essays and correspondence of Peter Alekseevich Kropotkin, who was, after Bakunin's death in 1876, unquestionably the most widely read and respected theorist of anarchism. The selection is designed to reveal such fundamental conceptions as Kropotkin's interpretation of the role of anarchism in modern history, his criticism of capitalism, his theory of revolution, and his views of the ideals to be realized in the postrevolutionary society of the future. The theoretical writings are supplemented by more concrete articles dealing specifically with conditions in nineteenth-century Russia—a society confronted by an authentic revolutionary opposition. Kropotkin's analysis of the revolution itself is implicit in the report of his meeting with Lenin and in his letters to the Bolshevik leader. The letters to Nettlau, Steffen, and Brandes present additional concerns which are closely related to the large themes of anarchism and revolution described in the essays.
Martin Miller's introduction surveys and analyzes the most significant aspects of Kropotkin's life and thought: Kropotkin's formative years in Russia, 1842-1876, and the origins of his anarchist thinking (military service in eastern Siberia, the influence of the works of Proudhon and Bakunin, his role in the Chaikovskii Circle); his years as an emigre in western Europe, 1976-1917, and the ripening of his political thought (editor of Le Révolté, his views on "propaganda by the deed" and on Marxist socialism); and his last years in the Soviet Union, 1917-1921 (the revolution and civil war, his meeting and correspondence with Lenin).