The Conquest of Bread presents the clearest statement of Kropotkin’s anarchist social doctrines. It possesses a lucidity of style not often found in books on social themes. In Kropotkin’s own description, the book is “a study of the needs of humanity, and the economic means to satisfy them”. Taking the Paris Commune as its model, its paramount aim is to show how a social revolution can be made and how a society, organized on libertarian lines, can then be built on the ruins of the old. Form Stirner’s individualism, Proudhon’s mutualism and Bakunin’s collectivism Kropotkin proceeded to the principle of “anarchist communism”, by which private property and inequality of income would give way to the free distribution of goods and services. In summing up his beliefs he said, “The anarchists conceive a society in which all the mutual relations of its members are regulated… by mutual agreements between the members of the society and by a sum of social customs and habits…continually developing and continually readjusting in accordance with the ever-growing requirements of a free life stimulated by the progress of science, invention and the steady growth of higher ideals.” In his introduction, George Woodcock throws a modern light on the significance and scope of Kropotkin’s work.
Peter Kropotkin was one of the most influential Russian thinkers and activists and, though born a prince, is considered the architect of anarcho-communism. The year 2021 will mark the centennial of Kropotkin’s death, which this book commemorates through the first-ever English edition of his Siberian diaries.
Aged nineteen and freshly graduated at the top of his class from a prestigious military academy, Kropotkin decided to be posted to the distant backwater of Siberia, to the shock of his friends and family. There, he idealistically pursued political reforms and also participated in various ground-breaking geographic surveys, keeping a diary that recorded his experiences. Ten years later, after tenuously living a double life in the royal court and radical circles, the Tsarist Secret Police arrested him in St. Petersburg and seized his papers, including these Siberian diaries. This arrest, and his dramatic escape from prison, would spark the beginning of his reputation as one of the most famous anarchists ever. He would then spend forty years in exile before returning to revolutionary Russia where he would become increasingly critical of the Bolsheviks.
First published posthumously in 1923 in Russia, Kropotkin’s Siberian diaries take us on his five-year journey from St. Petersburg to Siberia, via Moscow, Kaluga, Chita, and Irkutsk. These pages, published here for the first time in English, immerse us in Kropotkin’s development as a brilliant scientist as he explored almost impassable terrain while also giving us a clear picture of his early political and philosophical thinking at a crucial moment in Russian history.
With the international celebrations of the French Revolution as background, the publication of Peter Kropotkin's classic with an introduction by George Woodcock represents the fulfilment of an important documentary need. The turbulent upheaval that swept in the first mighty revolution in the West, and which had such far ranging consequences, has subsequently been described by a thousand differing pens. From the King's summoning of the Estates General in 1789 to the establishment of the Directory in 1793, the revolution has had many interpretations. But Kropotkin is among the very few who analyses this drama not only as a complex interplay of its leading personalities or a chain of political decisions made from above; rather, he penetrates this surface confusion to describe a great reordering of the economic bases of the ancien régime by the mass of urban workers and the peasantry. He saw the redistribution of land impeded at every step by an aggrandising middle class and by the forces of the counter-revolution inside and outside France. Kropotkin, as a true historian, was not concerned with merely the period he discussed. He saw it as a climax in a long past and future development. The result is a very skillful and absorbing book, with great momentum, an active and readable style, and a capable use of a mass of details regarding the most obscure but no less important aspects of the French Revolution. First published in 1909 and long out of print, The Great French Revolution is the finest historical writing from the fluent pen of Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). The introduction by George Woodcock, the celebrated Canadian author, throws a modern light on the significance and scope of Kropotkin's contribution.
In Mutual Aid, which was first published in 1903, the renowned geographer applies his explorations of Eastern Asia and his study of wild-animal behaviour to a critical examination of the theory of evolution. His arguments anticipate in a remarkable way the contention of contemporary ecologists that the world of nature is one of interdependence rather than strife. Born in 1942 into an ancient military family of Russian princes, Peter Alexeivich Kropotkin was selected as a child for the elite Corps of Pages by Czar Nicholas I himself. Shortly before his death in 1921, Kropotkin had moved so far from his aristocratic beginnings and had attained such stature as a libertarian leader that he could with with impunity to Lenin, “Vladimir Ilyich, your actions are completely unworthy of the ideas you pretend to hold.” Kropotkin provides a potent argument for anarchism by showing that people tend to cooperate spontaneously and that the state destroys this natural inclination towards mutual aid by strangling initiative with the dead hand of regulation. With the exception of his memoirs, this is Kropotkin's best-known work, and it is widely regarded as his masterpiece. It forms the cornerstone of his philosophy, and constitutes the most successful attempt by any writer to put anarchism on a scientific foundation. Mutual Aid is still the best refutation of the Darwinian thesis of survival of the fittest.