Essential Kropotkin – Kropotkin

Kropotkin is an awesome anarchist thinker and one of the founders of anarchist theory. The Essential Kropotkin is a compilation of some of his best and most influential work and he makes a lot of really good points.
Reading this has really given me a good foundation to understand anarchism, it’s goals, and it’s critique of capitalism and the state.

I pulled what I think are some of his best points and arranged them in a pretty good progression that should make sense.
Please excuse the typos and such ūüôā
  • introduction
    • (editor) As for the anarchist train of the socialist tradition, that movement flourished up to 1917, giving serious promise of achieving fundamental change by means of its own organizations and in keeping with its own conception of the nature of human nature. but the russian revolution, which in its early stages a was as much a ratification of anarchist theory -or none – as of marxist doctrine, was soon taken in hand by the Bolshevicks and directed with inspired political and military skill to its eventual triumph. at that point the attraction of the leninist idea of the revolutionary state proved irresistible to the greatest number on the left. that, coupled with the forcible suppression, by imprisionment, judicial murder, assassination, or summary exception of the anarchist themsevels – first in the soviet union, then in the united states, and finally in spain – put an end to anarchism as an organized political force. and with that quietus cam an almost universal effacement, in the imagination of the Left, of the long record of though and struggle of the libertarian socialists. the bequest of a number of theoreticians of genius, and of a host of devoted militants, lived on only in the minds of a few sectaries, benevolent odd fellows niched inconspicuously in the interstices of the more or less totalitarian industrialized societies – capitalist or communist – that rule the modern age.
    • (editor) [Kropotkin lived in a time] when hope was permissible.
    • (editor) [The established society poses the question of life like this:] “How do we more cheaply, more efficiently, more effectively, do what we are already doing?”… [The examined life asks:] “How are we to live?”
  • capitalism
    • in periods of frenzied haste toward wealth, of feverish speculation and of crisis, of sudden downfall of great industries and the ephemeral expansion of other branches of production, of scandalous fortunes amassed in a few years and dissipated as quickly, it becomes evident that the economic institutions which control production and exchange are far from giving to society the prosperity which they are supposed to guarantee. instead of order they bring forth chaos, intend of prosperity, poverty and insecurity; instead of reconciled interest, war, a perpetual war of the exploiters against the worker.
    • poverty, the existence of the poor, was the first cause of riches.
    • in short, what they wanted was what economists have called freedom of industry and commerce, but which really meant the relieving of industry from the harassing and repressive supervision of the State, and the giving to it full liberty to exploit the worker, who was still to be deprived of his freedom. there were to be no guilds, no trade societies; neither trade wardens nor master craftsmen; nothing which might in any way check the exploitation of the wage-earner. there was no longer to be any State supervision which might hamper the manufacturer. there were to be no duties on home industries, no prohibitive laws. for all the transaction of the employers, there was to be complete freedom, and for the workers a strict prohibition against combinations of any sort.¬†lassoer faire¬†for the one, complete denial of the right to combine for the others.¬†
    • liberty to utilize the riches of Nature for personal aggrandizement, as well as liberty to exploit human labour without any safeguard for the victims of such exploitation, and political power organized so as to assure freedom of exploitation to the middle classes.
    • when there are no longer any destitute there will no longer be any rich to exploit them.
  • Government and the State
    • The main purpose of the state is to protect private property. Therefore, the purpose of the state is to continue the unequal distribution of wealth.
    • Socialism, we have said – whatever form it make take in its evolution towards communism – must¬†find its own form of political organization. serfdom and absolute monarchy have always marched hand in hand. the one rendered the other a necessity. the same is true of capitalist rule, who’s political form is representative government, either in a republic or in a monarchy. this is why socialism¬†cannot¬†utilize representative government as a weapon for liberating labor, just as it cannot utilize the church and its theory of divine right, or imperialism and Ceasarism, which its theory of hierarchy of functions, for the same purpose.
      A new form of political organization has to be worked out the movement that socialist principles shall enter into our life. and it is self-evident that this new form will have to be more popular, more decentralized, and nearer to the folk-mote self-government than representative government can ever be.
    • as society became more and more divided into two hostile classes, one seeking to establish its domination, the other struggling to escape, the strife began. now the conqueror was in a hurry to secure the results of his actions in a permanent form, he tried to place them beyond question, to make them holy and venerable by every means in his power. law mad its appearance under the sanction of the priest, and the warrior’s club was place at its service. its office was to render immutable such customs as were to the advantage of the dominant minority. military authority undertook to ensure obedience. this new function was a fresh guarantee to the power of the warrior; now he had not only mere brute force at his service; he was the defender of the law.
    • we maintain that the State organization, having been the force to which the minorities resorted for establishing and organizing their power over the masses, cannot be the force which will serve to destroy these privileges
    • To imagine that capitalism may be abolished while the State is maintained, and with the aid of the State – while the latter was founded for forwarding the development of capitalism and was always growing in power and solidity, in proportion as the power of capitalism grew up – to cherish such an illusion is as unreason, in our opinion, as it was to expect emanicapition of labor from the church, or from Caearism or imperialism.
    • freedom to oppose exploitation has so far never and nowhere existed.¬†everywhere it had to be taken by force, step by step, at the cost of countless sacrifices. “non-interference,” and more than non-interference, – direct support, help and protection, – existed¬†only¬†in the interests of the exploiters.¬†nor could it be otherwise.¬†the mission of the church has been to hold the people in intellectual slavery. the mission of the State was to hold them, half starved, in economic slavery.
    • we say so, not because we have a personal dislike of governments, but because nowhere and never in history do we find that people carried into government by a revolutionary wave, have proved equal to the occasion.
  • law
    • (editor) Kropotkin argues that the law is literally the origin of crime; it defines all crimes, intenting new categories from time to time and dropping others – for the most part in the interest of the ruling class – and is the poin of contact and conflict between the people and the state. the complexity of the law, and, humanly speaking, its arbitrary character, make crime a by-product of the normal functioning of society. the cure for the kind of crime that is a perennial feature of the social order and the legal system that defends it is simply the abolition of that social order and that legal system. if there is no invidious affluence, if there is no implacable economic pressure, most of the actions classified as crimes will not occur.
    • the law is always on the side of property
    • to remain the servant of the written law is to place yourself every day in opposition to the law of conscience, and to make a bargain on the wrong side, and since this struggle cannot go on forever, you will either slience your conscience and become a scoundrel, or you will break with tradition, and you will work with us for the utter destruction of all this injustice, economic, social, and political.¬†
    • “when ignorance reigns in society and disorder in the minds of men, laws are multiplied, legislation is expected to do everything, and each fresh law being a fresh miscalculation,¬†men are continually led to demand from law what can proceed only from themselves, from their own education and their own morality”
    • customs, absolutely essential to the very being of society, are, in the code, clever intermingled with usages imposed by the ruling caste, and both claim equal respect from the crowed. “do not kill,” says the code, and hastens to add, “and pay tithes to the priest.” “Do not steal,” says the code, and immediately after, “he who refuses to pay taxes shall have his hand struck off.”
    • “the best laws are those which repealed the preceding ones.”
    • Laws can be divide into three principal categories: protection of property, protection of persons, protection of government
    • in olden times they tried to give “Law” a divine origin; later they began to seek a metaphysical basis for it; now, however, we are able to study its anthropological origin‚Ķ in this way we come to the conclusion already expressed, namely, that all laws have a twofold origin, and that in this very respect differ from those institutions established by cutom which are generally recognized as the moral code of a given society at a given time. law confirms and crystallizes these customs, but while doing so it takes advantage of this fact to establish (for the most part in a disguised form the germs of slavery and class distinction, the authority of the priest and warrior, serfdom and various other institutions, in the interest of the armed and would-be ruling minority. in this way a yolk has imperceptibly been placed upon man, of which he could only rid himself by means of subsequent bloody revolutions. and this is the course of events down to the present moment – even in contemporary “labor legislation” which, along with “protection of labor,” covertly introduces the idea of a compulsory State arbitration in the case of strikes, a comuplorty working day of so many hours, military exploitation of the railroads during strikes, legal sanction for the dispossession of the peasants in Ireland, and so on. and this will continue to be so as longs one portion of society goes on framing the laws for all society, and thereby strengthens the power of the State, which forms the chief support of capitalism
    • Laws are not a product of the wisdom of our ancestors; they are the product of their passions, their timidity, their jealousies, and their ambition.
  • Crime, punishment and prisons
    • The societies of that time looked upon crime as an accident or misfortune‚Ķ therefore they did not admit of the principle of personal vengeance as preached by the Bible, but considered that the blame for each misdeed reverted to the whole society.
    • The severity of punishment does not diminish the amount of crime. hang, and if you like, quarter murders, and the number of murders will not decrease by one. on the other hand, abolish the penalty of death, and there will not be one murder more, there will be fewer. statistics prove it. but if the harvest is good, and bread cheap, and the weather fine, the number of murders immediately decreases‚Ķ the amount of crime always augments and diminishes in proportion to the price of privations and the state of the weather. not that all murders are actuate by hunger. that is not the case. but when the haves is good, and provisions are at an obtainable price, and when the sun shines, men, lighter-hearted and less miserable than usual, do not give way to gloomy passions, do not from trivial motives plunge a knife into the bosom of a fellow creature.
    • the man who is called “criminal” is simply unfortunate; that the remedy is not to flog him, to chain him up, or to kill him on the scaffold or in prision, but to help him by the most brotherly care, by treatment based on equality, by the usages of life among honest meant. in the next revolution we how that this cry will go forth:
      “burn the guillotines; demolish the prisoin; drive away the judges, policemen and informers – impurest are upon the face of the earth; treat as a brother the man who has been led by passion to do ill to his fellow; above all, take from the ignoble products of middle-class idleness the possibility of displaying their vices in attractive colors; and be sure that but few crimes will mar our society”
    • Prison is a school of crime
    • the best influence to which a prisoner could be subjected, the only one which could bring him a ray of light, a softer element in his life, – the relationship with his kin, – is systematically prevented.
    • under these conditions all the will power that he may have had on entering disappears. and where will he find the strength which which to rest the temptations which will arise before him, as if by magic, when he is free of the prision walls? where will he find the strength to resist the first impulse to a passionate outbreak, if during several years everything was done to kill this inner strength, to make him a socile tool in the hands of those who control him? this fact is according to my mind,¬†the most terrible condemnation of the whole penal system based on the depivation of individual liberty
    • current system is about housing the greatest number of prisioners with the fews possible guards
    • the released man is only looking for the outstretched hand of warm friendship. but society, after having done everything it could to make an enemy of him, have inoculated him with the vices of prision, rejects him. he is condemned to become a “repeater.”
    • instead of curing diseases medicine no seeks primarily to prevent them. hygiene is the best of all medicines. We have yet to do the she thing for this great social phenomenon which we still call ‘crime’ but which our children will call ‘social disease’
    • a fundamental, now forgotten, principle of Christanity: that retaliation is no act of justice
  • reform
    • (editor) As cheap and efficient methods replace forever the methods and materials adapted to more desirable ends, our standards of what is in fact desirable sink.¬†We forget what is desirable and make do with what is procurable – even developing a refined connoisseurship of the inferior‚Ķ what horrors have socialists not learned to accept, little by little, in the name of socialism?
    • every day gives rise to a new demand. “reform this,” “reform that,” is heard from all sides. “war, finance, taxes, courts, police, everything must be remodeled, reorganized, established on a new basis,” say the reformers. and yet all know that it is impossible to make things over, to remodel anything at all because everything is interrelated; everything would have to be remade at once; and how can society be remodeled when it is divided into two openly hostile camps?
    • man when he is at all superstitious, is always afraid to indrocude any sort of change into existing conditions; he generally venerates what is ancient. “our fathers did so and so; they got on pretty well; they brought you up; they were no unhappy; do the same!”‚Ķ the unknown frightens them, they prefer to cling to the past even when that past represents poverty, oppression, and slavery.
    • reform is always a compromise with the past, but the progress accomplished by revolution is always a promise of future progress.
    • there are, in fact, in a modern State established relations which is practically impossible to modify it one attacks them only in detail. there are wheels within wheels in our economic organization – the machinery is so complex and interdependent that no one part can be modified without disturbing the whole. this becomes clear as soon as an attempt is made to expropriate anything
  • revolution
    • Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization not their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted; they perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath, and bring to mankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial, and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration.
    • How has this abyss been bridged? how is it that men who only yesterday were complaining quietly of their lot as they smoked their pipes, and the next moment were humbly saluting the local guard who they had just been abusing, – how is it that these same men a few days later were capable of seizing their scythes and their iron-shod pikes and attacking in his castle the lord who only yesterday was so formidable? by what miracle were those men, who’s wives justly called the cowards, transformed in a day into heroes, marching through bullets and cannonballs to the conquest of their rights? how was it that words, so often spoken and lost in the air like the empty chiming of bells, were changed into action?
      The answer is easy.
      Action, the continuous action, ceaselessly renewed, of minorities bring about this transformation. courage, devotion, the spirit of sacrifice, are as contagious as cowardice, submission and panic. 
    • let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions
    • the awakening of the revolutionary spirit always took place in such a manner that at first single individuals, deeply moved by the exising state fof things, protested against it, one by one. many perished, “uselessly” the armchair critic would say. but the indifference of society was shaken by these progenitors. the dullest and most narrow-minded people were compelled to reflect, “why should men, young, sincere, and full of strength, sacrifice their lives in this way?” It was impossible to remain indifferent; it was necessary to take a stand, ¬†for or against: thought was awakening. then little by little small groups came to be imbued with the same spirit of revolution. they also rebelled – sometimes in the hope of local success – in srikes or in small revolts against some official who they dislike, or in order to get food for their hungry children, but frequently also without any hope of success, simply because the conditions grew unbearable. not one, not two, or tens, but¬†hundreds¬†of similar revolts have preceded¬†and must precede¬†every revolution. without these no revolution was ever wrought.
    • To wait therefor for a social revolution to come as a birthday present, without a whole series of protests on the part of the individual conscience, and without hundreds of preliminary revolts by which the very nature of the revolution is determined, is to say the least, absurd. but to assure the working people that why will gain all the benefits of a social revolution by confining themselves to electoral agitation, and to attack vehemently every act of individual revolt and all minor preliminary mass-revolts – means to become as great an obstacle to the development of the revolutionary spirit and to all progress as was and is the christen church.
    • two great currents prepared and made the Great French Revolution. one of them, the current of ideas, concerning the political reorganization of States, came from the middle ¬†classes; the other, the current of action, came from the people, both peasants and workers in towns, who wanted to obtain immediate and definite improvements in their economic condition. and when these two currents met and joined in the endeavor to realize an aim which for some time was common to both, when they had helped each other for a certain time, the results was the Revolution.
    • A revolution is a swift overthrow, in a few years, of institutions which have taken centuries to root in the soil, and seem so fixed and immovable that even the most ardent reformers hardly dare to attack them in their writings. it is the fall the crumbling away in a brief period, of all that up to that time composed the essence of social, religious, political, and economic life in a nation. it means the subversion of acquired ideas and of accepted notion concerning each of the complex institutions and relations of the human herd.
    • now, what we fear with regard to Expropriation is exactly the contracy. we are afraid of not going far enough, of carrying out expropriation on too small a scale to be lasting. we would not have the revolutionary impulse arrested in mid-career, to exhaust itself in half measures, which would content no one, and while producing a remendous confusion in society, and stoping its customary activities, would have no vital power – while nearly spread general discontent and inevitably prepare the way for the triumph of reaction.
    • if the people of the revolution expropriate the houses and proclaim free lodging – the communalizing of houses and the right of each family to a decent dwelling – then the revolution will have a communistic character from the first, and started on a course from which it will be by no means easy to turn it. it will have struck a fatal blow at individual property.
      for the expropriation of dwellings contains in germ the whole social revolution. on the manner of its accomplishment depends the character of all that follows. either we shall not on a good road leading straight to anarchist communism, or we shall remain sticking in the mud of despotic individualism
  • Mutual Aid
    • the hospitality of primitive people, respect for human life, the sense of reciprocal obligation, compassion for the weak, courage, extending even to the sacrifice of self for others which is first learnt for the sake of children and friends, and later for that of members of the same community – all these qualities are developed in man anterior to all law, independently of all religion, as in the case of the social animals. such feelings and practices are the inevitable results of social life.
    • sociability and need of mutual aid and support are such inherent parts of human nature that at no time of history can we discover men living in small isolated families, fighting each other for the means os subsistence, on the contrary, modern research ‚Ķ. proves that since the very beginning of their prehistoric life men used to agglomerate into¬†gentes,¬†clans, or tribes, maintained by an idea of common descent and by worship of common ancestors.
    • if scarcity visited the [medieval] city, all had to suffer from it more or less; but apart from the calamities, so long as the free cities existed no one could die in their midst from starvation as is unhappily too often the case in our own times.
    • in short, the more we begin to know the medieval city the more we see that is was not simply a political organization for the protection of certain political liberties. it was attempt at organizing, on a much grander scale than in a village community, a close union for mutual aid and support, for consumption and production, and for social life altogether, without imposing upon men the fritters of the State, but giving full liberty of expression to the creative genius of each separate group of individuals in art, crafts, science commerce, and political organization.
    • [a man] must be depraved indeed and utterly cankered by vice, who has not dreamed that one day he would apply his intelligence, his abilities, his knowledge to help on the enfranchisement of those who today grovel in misery and in ignorance.
  • Anarchy
    • while we throw down we shall be building. we shall be build in the name of communism and of anarchy.
    • Anarchism (from the Gr. Contrary to authority), is the name given to a principe or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government – harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, free constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.
    • the anarchists conceive a society in which all the mutual relations of its members are regulated, not by laws, not by authorities, whether self-imposed or elected, but by mutual agreements between the members of that society and by a sum of social systems and habits – not petrified by law, routine, or superstition, but 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.
    • the individual understand that he will be really free in proportion only as all the others around him become free.
    • without real¬†equality, the sense of justice can never be universally developed, because justice implies the recognition of equality; while in a society in which the principles of justice would not be contradicted at every step by the exiting inequalities of rights and possibilities of development the would be bound to spread and to enter into the habits of the people.
    • we cannot see a guarantee of progress in a still greater submission, of all to the Sate. we seek progress in the fullest emancipation of the individual from the authority of the State; in the greatest development of individual initiative and in the limitation of all the governmental functions, but surely not in their extension. the march forward in political institutions appears to us to consist in abolishing in the first place the State authority which has fixed itself upon society and which now tries to extend its functions more and more; and in the second place, in allowing the broadest possible development for the principle of free agreement, and in acknowledging the independence of all possible associations formed for definite ends, embracing in ¬†their federations the whole of society. the life of society itself we understand, not as something complete and rigid, but as something never perfect – something ever striving for new forms, and every changing theses forms in accordance with the needs of the time. this is what life is in nature.
    • it is impossible to legislate for the future. all we can do is to guess vaguely its essential tendencies and clear the road for it.
    • if every member of the community knows that after a few hours of productive toil he will have a right to all the pleasures that civilization procures, and to those deeper sources of enjoyment which art and science offer to all who seek them, he will not sell his strength for a starvation wage. no one will volunteer to work for the enrichment of your [capitalist]. his golden guineas will be only so many pieces of metal – useful for various prupsoses, but incapable of breeding more.
    • now all history, all the experience of the human race, and all social psychology, unite in showing that the best and fairest way is to trust the decision of those whom it concerns most nearly. it is they alone who can consider and allow for the hundred and one details which must necessary be overlooked in any nearly official redistribution.
  • guilds
    • taking, for instance, the skraa¬†of some early Danish guild, we read in it, first, a statement of the general brotherly feelings which must reign in the guild; next come the regulations relative to self-jurisdiction in cases of quarrels arising between two brothers, or a brother and a stranger; and then, the social duties of the brethren are enumerated. if a brother’s house is burned, or he has lost his ship, or has suffered on a pilgrim’s voyage, all the brethren must come to his aid. if a brother falls dangerously ill, two brethren must keep watch by his bed till he is out of danger, and if he dies, the brethren must bury him – a great affair in those times of pestilence – and follow him to the church and the grve. after his death they must provide for his children, if necessary; very often the wide becomes a sister to the guild.
    • self-jurisdiction and mutual support.
    • if the institution of the guild has taken such an immense extension in Asia, Aferica, and Europe, if it has lived thousands of years, reappearing again and again when similar conditions called it into existence, it is because it was much more than an eating association, or an association for going to church on a certain day, or a burial club. it answered to a deeply in rooted want of human nature; and it embodied all the attributes which the State appropriated later on for its bureaucracy and police, and much more than that. it was an association for mutual support in all circumstances and in all accidents of life, “by dded and advice,” and it was an organizion for maintaining justice -with this difference from the State, that on all these occasions a humane, a brotherly element was introduced instead of the formal element which is the essential charastic of State interference. Even when appearing before the guild tribunal, the guild-brother answered before men who knew him well and had stood by him before in their daily work, at the common meal, in the performance of their brotherly duties: men who were his equals and brethren indeed, not theorists of law nor defenders ¬†of someone else’s interests.
    • on the other hand, the immensity of progress realized in all arts under the mediaeval guild system is the best proof that the system was no hinderance to individual initiative. the fact is, that the mediaeval guide, like the mediaeval parish, “street,” or “quarter,” was not a body of citizens, placed under the control of the State functionaries; it was a union of all men connected with a given trade. for the inner organization of the trade its assembly was sovereign, so long as it did not hamper the other guilds, in which case the matter was brought before the guild of the guilds – the city. but there was in it something more than that. it had its own self-jurisdiction, its own military force, its own general assembles, its own traditions of struggles, glory, and independence, its own relations with other guilds of the same trade in other cities: it had in a word, a full organize life which could only result from the integrality of the vital functions.
    • liberty, equality, fraternity
  • division of labor and education
    • under the pretext of division of labor, we have shapely separated the brain worker from the manual worker.
    • integration of labour: political economy has hitherto insisted chiefly upon division. we proclaim integration; and we maintain that the ideal of society – that is, the state toward which society is already marching – is a society of integrated labour; a society where each individual is a producer of both manual and intellectual work; where each able-bodied human being is a worker, and where each worker works both in the field and the industrial workshop; where each aggregation of individuals, large enough to dispose of a certain variety of natural resources – it may be a nation, or rather a region – produces and itself consumes most of its own agricultural and manufactured produce.
    • we maintain that in the interests of both science and industry, as well as of society as a whole, every human being, without distinction of birth, ought to receive such an education as would enable him, or her, to combine a thorough knowledge of science with a thorough knowledge of handicraft.
    • good education: in science, learning from memory was not in honor, while independent research was favored by all means. science was taught hand in hand with its applications, and what was learned in the school room was applied in the workshop.
    • waste of time is the leading feature of our present education. now only are we taught a mass of rubbish, but what is not rubbish is taught so as to make us waste over it as much time as possible.
    • We know how men of science will meet the reproche. they will say, “we discover the laws of nature, let others apply them; it is a simple division of labour.” but such a rejoinder was be utterly untrue. the march of progress is quite the reverse, because in a hundred cases against one the mechanical invention comes before the discovery of the scientific law. its as not the dynamical theory of heat which cam be before the steam-engine – it followed it. when thousands of engines already were transforming heat into motion under the eyes of hundreds of professors, and win they had done so for half a contrary, or more;
    • when every engine was illustrating nteh impossibility ofutilising all the head disengaged by a given amount of burnt fuel, then came the law of Clausius. when all over the world industry already was transforming motion into heat, sound, light, and electricity, and each one into each other, then only came Gorves’ theory of the “correlation of physical forces.”
    • how much better the historian and the sociologist would understand humanity if they knew it, not in books only,not in a few of its representatives, but as a whole, in its daily life, daily work, and daily affairs! how much more medicine would trust to hygiene, and how much less to prescriptions, if the young doctors were the nurses of the sick and the nurses received the education of the doctors of our time! and how much the poet would gain in his feeling of the beauties of nature, how much better he would know the human heart, if he met the rising sun adminst the dialers of the soil, himself a tiller; if he fought against the storm with the sailor on board shill if the knew quest!