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The Place of Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution An Address Delivered in Paris   By: (1842-1921)

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New Edition (enlarged) TWO PENCE

The Place of Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution

An Address delivered in Paris BY PIERRE KROPOTKIN

Translated by HENRY GLASSE

AN APPEAL TO THE YOUNG By Pierre Kropotkin PRICE 2d.




You must often have asked yourselves what is the cause of Anarchism, and why, since there are already so many Socialist schools, it is necessary to found an additional one that of Anarchism. In order to answer this question I will go back to the close of last century.

You all know the characteristics which marked that epoch: there was an expansion of intelligence, a prodigious development of the natural sciences, a pitiless examination of accepted prejudices, the formation of a theory of Nature based on a truly scientific foundation, observation and reasoning. In addition to these there was criticism of the political institutions bequeathed to Humanity by preceding ages, and a movement towards that ideal of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity which has in all times been the ideal of the popular masses. Fettered in its free development by despotism and by the narrow selfishness of the privileged classes, this movement, being at the same time favoured by an explosion of popular indignation, engendered the Great Revolution which had to force its way through the midst of a thousand obstacles both without and within.

The Revolution was vanquished, but its ideas remained. Though at first persecuted and derided, they became the watchword for a whole century of slow evolution. The history of the nineteenth century is summed up in an effort to put in practice the principles elaborated at the end of last century: this is the lot of revolutions: though vanquished they establish the course of the evolution which follows them. In the domain of politics these ideas are abolition of aristocratic privileges, abolition of personal government, and equality before the law. In the economic order the Revolution proclaimed freedom of business transactions; it said "Sell and buy freely. Sell, all of you, your products, if you can produce, and if you do not possess the implements necessary for that purpose but have only your arms to sell, sell them, sell your labour to the highest bidder, the State will not interfere! Compete among yourselves, contractors! No favour shall be shown, the law of natural selection will take upon itself the function of killing off those who do not keep pace with the progress of industry, and will reward those who take the lead."

The above is at least the theory of the Revolution of 1789, and if the State intervenes in the struggle to favour some to the detriment of others, as we have lately seen when the monopolies of mining and railway companies have been under discussion, such action is regarded by the liberal school as a lamentable deviation from the grand principles of the Revolution.

What has been the result? You know only too well, both women and men, idle opulence for a few and uncertainty for the morrow and misery for the greater number; crisis and wars for the conquest of markets, and a lavish expenditure of public money to find openings for industrial speculators. All this is because in proclaiming liberty of contract an essential point was neglected by our fathers. Not but what some of them caught sight of it, the best of them earnestly desired but did not dare to realise it. While liberty of transactions, that is to say a conflict between the members of society, was proclaimed, the contending parties were not equally matched, and the powerful, armed for the contest by the means inherited from their fathers, have gained the upper hand over the weak. Under such conditions the millions of poor ranged against a few rich could not do otherwise than give in.

Comrades! you have often asked yourselves "Whence comes the wealth of the rich? Is it from their labour?" It would be a mockery to say that it was so... Continue reading book >>

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