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Kropotkin: an addendum

I’ve finally got round to reading Rudolf Rocker, The London Years, trans. Joseph Leftwich (Nottingham: Five Leaves; Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2005). It’s a powerful and readable book, even if the translation is a bit clunky. Among many points of interest, it contains a couple of marvellous descriptions of Kropotkin that really give a very strong impression of the man. Rocker first got to know Kropotkin in 1896, and was a regular visitor to his house in Bromley thereafter. As I said in my previous post, Kropotkin also visited Rocker, and worked at Dunstan Houses, and frequently spoke at the Jubilee Street Club. The first passage is a general appraisal:

I remained closely connected with Kropotkin from the day I first entered his house in 1896 till he returned to Russia after the Revolution of 1917. The longer I knew him the more I admired and loved him. He was a man of great personal charm and kindliness, with all his great learning modest and unassuming, and with a burning passing for justice and freedom. He was in his personal life ad his personal relations the same man who wrote Mutual Aid. There was no cleavage between the man and his work. He spoke and acted in all things as he felt and believed and wrote. Kropotkin was a whole man. He was one of the greatest happenings in my life. I was never a man to worship an idol. I could never be blind to a man’s faults, however great I thought him. What bound me to Kropotkin was his warm humanity, his unshakeable sense of justice. Justice was no abstraction to him. It was the expression of his real fellow-feeling with other people. I am sure he never made anyone feel small in his presence. He was a great soul (pp. 75-6).

The second is a description of the first protest meeting against the Kishinev pogrom, held in early May 1903 in Hyde Park (before the mass meeting of 21 June I mentioned in the previous post):

Outstanding among the many speakers was Peter Kropotkin. I still carry a picture in my mind of Kropotkin as I saw him that day, his face pale with emotion, his grey beard caught by the wind. His first words were hesitant, as though choked by his deep feeling. Then they came rushing out fiercely, each word like the blow of a hammer. There was a quiver in his voice when he spoke of the suffering of the victims. He looked like some ancient prophet. All the thousands who listened to him were moved to their depths (p. 86).

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