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(en) France, UCL AL #315 = History, 1921: Kropotkin's funeral, Russian libertarian twilight (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Thu, 6 May 2021 10:19:26 +0300

On February 8, 1921, the old revolutionary, great scientist and main theorist of anarchism, Pierre Kropotkine, died at the age of 78. His funeral brings together 20,000 people. It will be the ultimate public manifestation of anarchism in Soviet Russia. ---- Born in 1842 into a family from the Muscovite aristocracy, starting a career as an officer in the tsarist army, nothing predestined Pyotr Alexeïevich Kropotkin to become one of the theorists of anarchism. However, in 1863 he resigned from the army following the Polish uprising. Passionate about geography and anthropology, he made scientific expeditions to Siberia and Manchuria. He discovered the libertarian movement during a stay in Switzerland in 1872 and joined the First International.

From then on his life was devoted to anarchist propaganda. At first close to the nihilists, he was arrested in Russia in 1874 and imprisoned for two years for subversive propaganda. Following his escape he took refuge in Switzerland where he militated for propaganda by the fact.

It was at this time that he met Élisée Reclus. Together they co-founded the newspaper Le Révolté. Kropotkin began his theoretical work at this time. The anarchist society that he promotes in the form of a free federation of producer and consumer groups will be born out of collectivism and the abolition of all forms of government.

An anarchist attack in Lyon in 1882 provides a reason to stop it. He was condemned in 1883 in the famous "trial of the 66" which aimed no less than the destruction of the anarchist movement [1]. Kropotkin will be sentenced to five years in prison, the heaviest sentence.

In 1917 we esteem him, but we no longer follow him
Pardoned the following year, he moved to London where he carried out scientific research and theoretical work. His ambition: to found a scientific anarchist theory. Noting that the strategy of propaganda by the fact has failed, "an edifice based on centuries of history cannot be destroyed with a few kilos of explosive" he writes, he sees in the unions a movement to be invested without making it. an exclusive strategy.

Back in Russia in 1917 following the February revolution, the anarchist movement retained its esteem for him, but no longer followed him. Because he supported the sacred union against Germany. But also because he allowed himself to be exploited by the Kerensky government by participating in the State Conference of August 1917. On February 8, 1921, Pierre Kropotkine died at the age of 78, in Dmitrov, near Moscow.

On February 10, the coffin was transported by train to the capital, where the body was exhibited for two days at the Maison des Syndicates. The funeral took place on February 13, in the presence of 20,000 people. If Kropotkin's family finally managed to keep control of the organization of the funeral, the Bolshevik power is still there. The All-Russian Department of Cinema and Photography (VFKO) is also making a full report on this event.

All the libertarian tendencies, as well those placed in satellite by the regime as the oppositional ones are present. Other currents insisted on being represented, whether they were the Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks or Bolsheviks, proof of the political importance of these funerals.

Read also the Report from beyond the grave: "The funeral of Kropotkin" (1921)
In front of the grave, a host of speakers and a female speaker will speak: Emma Goldman ; Isaac Steinberg (left SR) ; Alfred Rosmer, French revolutionary trade unionist rallied to Moscow; Sandomirski (anarchist orbited by the PC) ; Nikolai Pavlov (anarcho-syndicalist opposed to the PC); Aaron Baron, who will return to the cell the same evening ...

A few weeks after this funeral, the Petrograd strikes and the famous Kronstadt revolt broke out. The Bolshevik power will then decide to eradicate any space of expression. The anarchist organizations will pay the price, and will be dismantled before the end of the year. Kropotkin's funeral was therefore the last opportunity for them to demonstrate publicly.

Journal Commission


[1] The prosecutor thus justifying his requests for sentence: the defendants being "affiliated with an international company (International Association of Workers), whose aim is to cause the suspension of work, the abolition of the right to property, of the family, of the fatherland, of religion, and thus to have committed an attack against the public peace".

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