CONCERNING “BLACK FLAME” : Was Kropotkin a revolutionary syndicalist ?
Article mis en ligne le 2 avril 2019

par Eric Vilain

Unlike Bakunin, Kropotkin was not an organizer of the labour movement, nor a strategist. He eventually gave up propaganda by the deed as implemented by the “insurrectionalists”, and rallied to the idea of acting within the labour movement, but it is not the result of a particularly brilliant anticipation of the situation : he only followed the general movement. Of course Kropotkin was not indifferent to the workers’ movement since he had long been a diligent chronicler of social struggles in Les Temps Nouveaux , but his vision of trade unionism was far from revolutionary syndicalism. Now that a movement of rejection of terrorism was emerging, especially among syndicalists (Fernand Pelloutier was radically opposed to terrorism), Kropotkin writes that “we must be with the people, who no longer call for isolated acts, but for men of action in their ranks”. But on what basis does Kropotkin claim that yesterday people wanted isolated acts, and today they want “men of action” ?
Now he advocates “monster unions, including millions of proletarians against the thousands and millions of gold of the exploiters”. Such remarks authorize the editor of the article “Kropotkin” of the Grande Encyclopédie Larousse (Great Larousse Encyclopedia) to write that the Russian revolutionary “appears as one of the precursors of revolutionary syndicalism, which, a few years later and for a long time, would strongly mark the labour movement. with, among others, men like Émile Pouget and Fernand Pelloutier”.
A point of view that coincides with that of Schmidt and van der Walt, who believe that Kropotkin was a supporter of syndicalism : “The key figures in defining anarchism and syndicalism were, however, Bakunin (1814–1876), and Pyotr Kropotkin (1842–1921)”, can we read in Black Flame (p. 9) – a very questionable assertion as far as Kropotkin and syndicalism is concerned.