NOTE ON THE EDITING OF THE PAMPHLETS
From: Peter Kropotkin, Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets. Roger N. Baldwin, editor. Vangaurd Press, Inc. 1927
Kropotkin's work in the field of anarchist teaching was popularized through cheap pamphlets, sold up into the hundreds of thousands in practically every European language,-and Chinese and Japanese as well. He wrote only a few pamphlets as such. The score or more different pamphlets were chiefly reprints of articles and speeches which he adapted to the needs of anarchist propaganda.
Written in a simple style and resounding with calls to action, they appealed also by close reasoning and vivid illustrations. They met the need of workers for a systematic and scientific treatment of the problems confronting those who believed in the revolutionary mission of the working-class, and who rejected the appeal to political methods or to the concept of a State dictatorship by a party of the working-class. They aroused both the spirit of freedom and of revolution. And they voiced the drama of combat against the whole range of authoritarian forces, in the camps of capitalism and of socialism alike.
These pamphlets first appeared in French or English, oftener in French, for most of the articles or speeches from which they were taken were in French. A few were written in Russian. Kropotkin wrote in all three languages. Most of his scientific articles and his larger books were written in English. The pamphlets were translated into a dozen languages,--their greatest circulation being in Latin and English-speaking countries. Their circulation in Japanese has been surprisingly large.
The profound changes in the radical and working-class movement throughout the world following the World 'War and the Russian Revolution, decreased interest in pamphlets dealing with conditions before the war. Their circulation fell off everywhere. The anarchist movement itself lost in numbers and vigor from the dissension among its own followers, from the emergence of communism as a stronger fighting force, and from the general depression of working-class militancy in the face of capitalist consolidation and persecution. Anarchist publications of all sorts have accordingly decreased. But it is noteworthy that much of Kropotkin's work has been published in Sweden and Germany since the war, and a complete bibliography covering over five hundred titles in all languages appeared in 1926.
These pamphlets represent far more than the phases of revolutionary struggle of Kropotkin's time. They make a lasting contribution to thought in the confused conflicts which mark the long transition to a socialist economy and to the freedoms which lie in and beyond it. It is to present the essence of that thought that these pamphlets have been edited in book-form, omitting only the references and illustrations no longer pertinent, and controversial material of no current interest. They appear as they were written except for these omissions, for improvements in phrasing and punctuation, and for better translations.
All the pamphlets ever published in English are reprinted here except four,--The Commune of Paris, which deals with one event to which Kropotkin refers clearly enough in other work; War, a little treatise quite out of date now; The Place of Anarchism in Socialist Evolution, which duplicates other material here printed; and The State, Its Historic Role which is available in book form (see page 302 [in printed version]). Pamphlets which were reprints of chapters from The Conquest of Bread, now available in book form, are also omitted. In addition to including all these pamphlets previously published in English, two translated from French have been added,--The Spirit of Revolt and Prisons and their Moral Effect on Prisoners. No others in other languages contain material which would add to a presentation of Kropotkin's revolutionary thought.
These pamphlets are arranged to give a clear and comprehensive picture of Kropotkin's social teaching. No one of his books covers so wide and varied a field,--n economics, politics, law, the Tate, the treatment of crime, revolution and science. There is also included as an appendix a large part of the article on anarchism from The Encyclopedia Britannica, written by Kropotkin. Its objective treatment is of interest to those who may want a ready reference to the best brief statement of the history and aspects of the whole movement.
I should like to acknowledge here my appreciation of the aid and counsel of Arnold Roller, who translated the section of The Spirit of Revolt that appears in this volume, and who has been patient and never failing in suggestion and editorial advice.
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