Anarchist History: Some Recent Books

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

A FIVE-HUNDRED PAGE PAPERBACK, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements by George Woodcock has just been published in America (Meridian Books 1962, $1.95). It is not available in Britain but we learn that it is to appear here as a Penguin book next year.

There are persistent rumours that James Joll, the author of a history of the Second International is also preparing a history of anarchism.

Kropotkin's Memoirs af a Revolutionist in a one-volume abridged edition edited by James Allen Rogers, has been published in America as a paperback (Anchor Books 1962, $1.45 — available in England from Freedom Bookshop at 10s.) The editor has added an epilogue, largely about Kropotkin's attitude to the Bolshevik revolution, and has also replaced pseudonyms (which Kropotkin used to avoid compromising friends) by the actual names.

Among great autobiographical works of nineteenth-century Russia, Kropotkin's memoirs are second only to those of Alexander Herzen. Six years ago, in his introduction to Herzen's From the Other Shore (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1956), Isaiah Berlin called the memoirs (My Past and Thoughts), a literary and political masterpiece, "comparable in quality and scope with War and Peace". The six little volumes of Constance Garnett's translation have long been out of print, and the three volume revised translation which will appear this winter from Chatto and Windus will be very welcome.

Emma Goldman, whose activity as an anarchist propagandist spanned the years from the desperate struggles of the American labour movement in the eighties and nineties of the last century to the tragic end of the Spanish civil war in 1939, is celebrated in Richard Drinnon's immensely intelligent and thoughtful biography Rebel in Paradise (University of Chicago Press, $5.95, London 1961, 48s.) Reviewing this book in the Sunday Times, Goronwy Rees wrote "Her exuberant and overpowering vitality, her courage and audacity in defending the individual against the State, even her notorious series of love affairs, in which she combined sexual energy with compassion and sympathy, made this short, stout, bespectacled little woman, who spent her life on public platforms preaching hopeless causes, in prisons, exile, hardship and contumely, one of the great women of her age; and somehow Mr. Drinnon has succeeded in making us understand why this should be so."

The French edition of Bakunin's works reached six volumes, published by P. V. Stock, Paris between 1895 and 1913. For this reason, when the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam decided to begin the publication of the Bakunin Archives — the vast collection of manuscript material which was amassed by Max Nettlau and is housed in the Institute, it was thought best to begin with previously unpublished sources. The series as a whole will comprise about fifteen volumes, edited by A. Lehning, A. J. C. Ruter, and P. Scheibert. The first volume, which appeared last year, edited and annotated by Dr. Arthur Lehning is Michel Bakounine et l'Italie (1871-1872, Première partie La Polémique avec Mazzini. Ecrits et matériaux. (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1961, 55 florins).

It is intended to devote each volume to one or more special themes, although a chronological order will be observed as far as possible. Variant readings, as well as Bakunin's correspondence will be included. The first two volumes will gather together all the material dealing with the social and religious ideas of Mazzini, and with the birth of Italian socialism. The third volume will contain one of Bakunin's most considerable manuscripts, the "Lettre aux compagnons de la Fédération du Jura" (1872) discussing pan-Slavism. The fourth volume will include the Russian text and a French translation of "The State and Anarchy" (1873).

Some interesting double-think about anarchism appears in a long article by O. Mandic in "Anarchism as a Social Phenomenon" in the Jugoslav Arhiv za Pravne i drustveve Nauke (Jan.-June, 1960). His argument is as follows: "Anarchism as an ideology emerged as a necessary, though temporary tactic which was linked to the interests and the era of the petite bourgeois and that of the proletariat, who were joined in a common struggle against the political forces in various European countries. At the same time, the proletarian ideology of Marxism, which formulated the scientific laws governing social development and which established the bases for political activity by the proletariat, had not yet been fully constructed. Anarchism, which formally rejected the notion of the state, in actual practice reinforced the existence of the state by stimulating the state to organise its forces against anarchism and at the same time attacking the progressive movements of the proletariat."