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(en) ias romania: AN ANARCHIST GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS By Golos Truda [machine translation]
Sun, 17 Dec 2017 09:04:53 +0200
It is not surprising to discover that anarchist theorist Piotr Kropotkin was interested in
Christmas. In Russian culture, St. Nicholas (Nicolas the Wonderworker) was venerated as a
defender of the oppressed, weak and disadvantaged. Kropotkin shared these feelings. But
there was also a family bond. As it is known, Kropotkin comes from the ancient Dynasty
Rurik who ruled Russia before the Romans and who, since the first century AD, controlled
the commercial routes between Moscow and the Byzantine Empire. The part of the family to
which Nicholas belonged was sent to patrol the Black Sea. But Nicholas was a spiritual man
and sought to escape the piracy and robbery for which his Russian viking family was
renowned. So he settled under a new name in the southern countries of the Empire, where
Greece is now,
Unpublished sources of archive recently found in Moscow that Kropotkin was fascinated by
this family history and the striking resemblance between him and Father Christmas's image,
popularized by the publication "A visit from Santa Claus" (also known as "The Evening
Beyond Christmas ") of 1823.
Kropotkin was not as cunning as Klaus, but a pillow under his tunic could easily mimic
him. His friend, Elisee Reclus, advised him to give up the fur on the suit. It was a good
idea because it allowed him to wear more black in combination with red. He followed
Elisee's advice on reindeer, and used a handshake. Kropotlin is generally not expensive.
But he took advantage of this resemblance to spread the anarchist message, which was an
excellent propaganda by deed.
Kropotkin believed we could all be Santa Claus. On the edge of a page it says: "Infiltrate
the stores, distribute the toys!"
Remains on the back of a view proclaim:
"The night before Christmas we'll all be ready
As people sleep, we
'll blow We'll expose goods from stores because it's fair
And we'll distribute them to those who need it."
The notes of his project also show some valuable perspectives on his ideas about the
anarchist features of Christmas and how Victorian Christmas rituals can be adapted. "We
all know," he says, "that the big stores - John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges - are
starting to exploit the commercial potential of Christmas, creating caves, caves and
magical realms to draw our children and press us to buy gifts we do not want them and we
can not afford them. "
"If you are one of us," he continues, "you will realize that the Christmas magic depends
on Father Christmas's production system, not the shops' attempts to seduce you to use
unnecessary luxuries." Kroporkin describes the workshops at the North Pole where the elves
worked all year round because they knew they were producing for the pleasure of others.
Observing that these workshops were strictly nonprofit, artisanal, and deployed on
communal lines, Kropotkin considered them prototypes for factories of the future
(described in "Fields, Factories and Workshops").
He believed that some people considered Santa Claus's dream of bringing a gift to everyone
on Christmas Day as idealistic. But it could be accomplished. Indeed, the expansion of
workshops - which are expensive in the Arctic - would facilitate generalized production
for needs and the transformation of occasional gifts into a gift-based economy. "We have
to tell people," Kropotkin wrote, "that community workshops can be set up anywhere, and
that we can pool resources to make sure everyone has satisfying needs"!
One of the things that bothered Kropotkin most about Christmas was how Nicholas's
inspirational role in creating Christmas myths that distorted his ethics. Nicholas was
mistakenly represented as a charitable, benevolent man: holy because he was benevolent.
Absorbed in the figure of Santa Claus, Nicholas' motivations to give birth became even
more erroneous by the Victorian fixation for children.
Kropotkin did not really understand the ties, but he thought it was an attempt to moralize
childhood through a concept of purity symbolized by the birth of Jesus. Of course, he
could not imagine creating the "big brother" Santa Claus, who knows when the kids are
sleeping or not, and who arrives in the city knowing who dared to cry or be stunned.
But, sooner or later, this idea of purity will be used to distinguish between naughty
children and those who are good, and only the latter will be rewarding with gifts.
Whatever the situation, it was important both to recover the principle of Nicholas'
compassion from this confusion and the folkloric origin of Santa Claus. Nicholas gave him
because he was aware of the suffering of other people. Although he was not an assassin (as
far as Kropotkin knew), he shared the same ethics as Sofia Petrovskaya. And although it is
important to worry about the well-being of children, the anarchist principle is to take
account of everyone's sufferings.
Similarly, the practice of dedication was wrongly considered to require the implementation
of a centrally coordinated plan supervised by an all-knowing administrator. This is wrong:
Santa comes from the imagination of the people (consider the variety of names accumulated
by Nicholas: Sinterklaas, Tomte, de Kerstman). And the spread of the gentle spirit was
organized from bottom to top.
Rooted in Christmas, says Kropotkin, is the solidarity principle of mutual aid.
Kropotkin appreciated the significance of the ritual and real value that individuals and
communities attributed to carnival, commemorating and remembering actions. He did not want
to decimate Christmas just as he did not want it to be republicanized by any bureaucratic
reordering of the calendar.
It was, however, important to separate the ethics that Christmas holds for the singularity
of his holiday. A party means only that; expanding the principle of mutual help and
compassion in everyday life is quite different. In the capitalist society, Christmas
offers a space for particularly good behaviors. Although it is possible to be a Christian
once a year, anarchism is for life.
Kropotkin realized that his propaganda would have the best chance of success if he could
show how the anarchist message is embedded in popular culture. His notes show that he was
particularly interested in Dickens 'Christmas Carol' to find a vehicle for his ideas. The
book was highly appreciated because it strengthened feelings of love, joy and goodwill for
Christmas. Kropotkin considered it brilliant in its structure. What else was the story of
Scrooge's encounter with the ghosts of past, present and future if not a prefigurative
account of change?
Seeing his present past, Scrooge has been given the chance to change his blatant way of
being and shaping both his own future and the future of the Cratchit family. Even though
it is only remembered once a year, Dickens' book, considered Kropotkin, offers the
anarchists a perfect instrument to teach this lesson: by transforming our present actions,
adapting our behaviors to Nicholas, we can build a future in which to be always Christmas!
Ruth Kinna is an editor of the Anarchist Studies journal and a political theory teacher at
Loughborough University. He is the author of Anarchism volumes: A Beginners Guide and
William Morris: The Art of Socialism .
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