Direct Struggle against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology.

Author:Hilmer, Jeffrey D.
Position:Book review
 
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Iain McKay (ed.), Direct Struggle against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology

Oakland & Edinburgh: AK Press, 2014; 680pp; ISBN 9781849351706

Those familiar with anarchy and anarchism will be no strangers to the writings of Peter Kropotkin. He is a canonical anarchist thinker and an incontestably first-rate intellectual. Kropotkin is a valuable articulator of fundamental anarchist concepts and practices including mutual aid, voluntary cooperation, direct action and consensus decision-making, among others. To understand anarchy and anarchism one would be wise to read Kropotkin.

In this regard, Iain McKay's exceptional anthology of Kropotkin's writings is an invaluable resource. Topping out at over seven hundred pages, the volume is an assemblage of Kropotkin's most substantial writings. The first one hundred pages contain McKay's introduction to Kropotkin's historical context (pp 1-21), his intellectual predecessors Proudhon and Bakunin, and Kropotkin's own ideas (pp 21-79) and his life (pp 79-97). The section concludes with a valuable guide to further reading. The bulk of the text--and it is bulky, but all for the better--is organised into six sections: Anarchism and Anarchists; Capitalism and the State; The Workers' Movement and Class Struggle; Revolutions; Social Revolution; Anarchy.

Those who know Kropotkin's work will be gratified to see particular inclusions. The famous Encyclopaedia Britannica article Anarchism' (pp 163-74) is reprinted in its entirety. The chapter 'Our Riches' (pp 235-42) from The Conquest of Bread remains a singular statement on the source of social wealth, the anarchist view on the collective ownership of property, and social justice more generally. Furthermore, an excerpt from Mutual Aid (pp 363-69) is included. The lengthiest selection comes from Fields, Factories and Workshops (pp 647-76), perhaps the most fully articulated account of Kropotkin's vision of an anarchist society.

These selections are predictable. There are many others that are less so, but equally valuable. For example, Kropotkin's critique of representative government from 'Representative Government' (pp 223-33) is as topical today as...

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