Tagore and Kropotkin

From several of Tagore’s ‘world change’ essays, we can see that he was an anarchist – though not with a capital ‘A’ – see ‘Essays by Tagore’, http://www.tagoreanworld.co.uk – so it is interesting to compare Tagore’s ideas with those of Kropotkin, not to find any exact correlation, but resonances between their respective visions – and at the end of his life Tagore was in despair because, for all his devoted followers, there was no appreciation of the vision. This short extract purports to be from Kropotkin’s Modern Science and Anarchism, but there are variations between editions of that work and the passage is not present in the version online at http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-modern-science-and-anarchism.

Peter Kropotkin, ‘Modern Science and Anarchism, in Evolution and Environment, ed. by George Woodcock (London: Black Rose, 1995), pp. 15-107 (pp. 77-8).

If the revolt against the State, so long as it was advocated, before 1848 and later on till the Paris Commune, by middleclass writers, took the character of a revolt of the individual against society and its hypocrisy, – now, when a similar revolt began to take place among the working men, it took a deeper character. It became a research of those forms of society which might get rid of the oppression and exploitation of men by other men which is now going on with the aid of the State. In the International Working Men’s Association its founders saw the embryo of that society which would be called into existence by a social revolution – a society where the functions now belonging to Government would be substituted by free agreements growing out of the direct relations between free groups of producers and consumers. In these surroundings the ideal of the Anarchist ceased to be individual: it became social.

In proportion as the workers of Europe and America began to know each other directly, without the intermediary of Governments, they grew more and more convinced of their own forces and of their capacity for rebuilding society on new bases. They saw that if the people resumed possession of the land and of all that is required for producing all sorts of necessaries of life, and if the associations of men and women who would work on the land, in the factories, in the mines, and so on, became themselves the managers of production, they would be able, in such conditions, to produce with the greatest ease all that is necessary for the life of society, so as to guarantee wellbeing for all, and also some leisure for all. The recent progress in science and technics rendered this point more and more evident. Besides, in a vast international organisation of producers and consumers, the exchange of produce could be organised with the same ease – once it would not be done for the enrichment of the few.

At the same time, the ever-growing thinking portion of the workers saw that the State, with its traditions, its hierarchy, and its narrow nationalism, would always stand in the way of the development of such an organisation; and the experiments made in different countries with the view of partially alleviating the social evils within the present middleclass State proved more and more the fallacy of such tactics.

The wider the sphere of those experiments, the more evident it was that the machinery of the State could not be utilised as an instrument of emancipation. The State is an institution which was developed for the very purpose of establishing monopolies in favour of the slave and serf owners, the landed proprietors, canonic and laic, the merchant guilds and the moneylenders, the kings, the military commanders, the “noblemen,” and finally, in the nineteenth century, the industrial capitalists, whom the State supplied with “hands” driven away from the land. Consequently the State would be, to say the least, a useless institution [78], once these monopolies ceased to exist. Life would be simplified, once the mechanism created for the exploitation of the poor by the rich would have been done away with.

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