📰 Piotr Kropotkin, About Individualism
Full Title: Piotr Kropotkin, About Individualism
It is not because we became trade unionists that youth has left us. Attracted by the picturesque, they lost interest as soon as the picturesque and the dramatic became less forceful and they had to apply themselves to pedestrian tasks. "I came to you because I thought the revolution was near at hand, but I see now that a long period of educational work is needed."
I am not demanding individual acts of revolt from them; Epicurians would be incapable of that. But when it comes to defending the cause of the oppressed (remember the last plea of Grave), the libertarian school, the small daily efforts of propaganda, where are they? We must find more workers!
Why? Because a narrow and selfish individualism such as that offered from Mandeville (Fable of the Bees) to Nietzsche and the young French anarchists, cannot inspire anyone. It does not offer anything great and inspiring.
I will go still further-and this seems to me of the greatest importance (a new philosophy to be developed): what has been called "Individualism" up to now has been only a foolish egoism which belittles the individual. Foolish because it was not individualism at all. It did not lead to what was established as a goal; that is the complete, broad, and most perfectly attainable development of individuality.
That which has been represented as individualism so far has been pathetic and skimpy-and what is worse, contains in itself the negation of its goal, the impoverishment of individuality, or in any case the denial of what is necessary for obtaining the most complete flowering of the individual. We saw kings who were rich and filled their paunches and we immediately represented individualism as the tendency to become a king, surrounded by slaves like a king, pampered by women like a king (and what women! who would want them?), eating nightingales' tongue (cold and always served with the same sauce!) on gold or silver plates like a king! And yet, is there anything in the world more typically bourgeois than a king! And, worse still, more enslaved than a king!
With these few brief remarks, you can probably understand what I mean by personalismus or pro sibi communisticum: the individuality which attains the greatest individual development possible through practicing the highest communist sociability in what concerns both its primordial needs and its relationships with others in general.
Here is my opinion: from among a hundred men taken at random in Europe, you will not find as many enthusiasts, ready to set forth on untraveled paths, as in America. The dollar is nowhere given so little importance: it is won or it is lost. In England, one values and worships the pound, but definitely not in America. That is America. Any village in Oregon is better than the smallest hamlet in Germany.
The great Nietzsche, for he was great in a certain revolt, remained a slave to bourgeois prejudice. What a terrible irony!