Words of a Rebel

Peter Kropotkin

Edited by

Iain McKay

Peter Kropotkin remains one of the best-known anarchist thinkers, and Words of a Rebel was his first libertarian book. Published in 1885 while he was in a French jail for anarchist activism, this collection of articles from the newspaper Le Revolté sees Kropotkin criticise the failings of capitalism and those who seek to end it by means of its main support, the state. Instead, he urged the creation of a mass movement from below that would expropriate property and destroy the state, replacing their centralised hierarchies with federations of self-governing communities and workplaces.

Kropotkin’s instant classic included discussions themes and ideas he returned to repeatedly during his five decades in the anarchist movement. Unsurprisingly, Words of a Rebel was soon translated into numerous languages—including Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Russian, and Chinese—and reprinted time and time again. But despite its influence as Kropotkin’s first anarchist work, it was the last to be completely translated into English.

This is a new translation from the French original by Iain McKay except for a few chapters previously translated by Nicolas Walter. Both anarchist activists and writers, they are well placed to understand the assumptions within and influences on Kropotkin’s revolutionary journalism. This volume compiles the original 1885 text, the preface to the 1904 Italian edition, and the preface and afterword to the 1919 Russian edition, along with numerous articles on the labour movement by Kropotkin for Le Revolté that highlight how he envisioned moving from criticism to a social revolution. With a comprehensive glossary and an introduction by Iain McKay placing this work within the history of anarchism as well as indicating its relevance to radicals and revolutionaries today, this is the definitive edition of an anarchist classic.


Published by PM Press


Introduction: On the Terrain of the Economic Struggle

Further Reading

A Bibliographical Sketch

A Note on the Text

Preface by Elisée Reclus

Preface to the 1904 Italian Edition

Preface to the 1919 Russian Edition

Words of a Rebel

I The Situation

II The Breakdown of the State

III The Necessity of Revolution

IV The Next Revolution

V Political Rights

VI To the Young


VIII Revolutionary Minorities

IX Order

X The Commune

XI The Paris Commune

XII The Agrarian Question

XIII Representative Government

XIV Law and Authority

XV Revolutionary Government

XVI All Socialists!

XVII The Spirit of Revolt

XVIII Theory and Practice

XIX Expropriation

Afterword to the 1919 Russian Edition

Supplementary Material

International Workers’ Association: General Assembly of the Jura Federation

The Anarchist Idea from the Point of View of Its Practical Realisation

International Workers’ Association: Jura Federation

Enemies of the People

The League and the Trade Unions

The Workers’ Movement in Spain

Congress of the Jura Federation of the International Workers’ Association

Declaration of the Accused Anarchists before the Lyon Criminal Court

The Lyon Trial

A Letter to Georges Herzig

Advance Praise

With his usual exemplary scholarship, Iain McKay has again done us a great service in establishing a new, authoritative English edition of Words of a Rebel, completed by a selection of Kropotkin’s newspaper articles giving us a much clearer understanding of his thinking about the central importance for anarchists of trade union work. And again, McKay’s introduction does an outstanding job not just of putting Kropotkin’s work into context and explaining its importance for us today, but also of debunking some important misapprehensions and deliberate misrepresentations about anarchist communism. – David Berry, author of A History of the French Anarchist Movement 1917-1945

Another welcome instalment in McKay's ongoing project to make Kropotkin's oeuvre more accessible, this edition of Words of a Rebel contains valuable new translations that provide a fuller picture of the anarchist tradition's most important theorist. – Matthew Adams, Loughborough University, author of Kropotkin, Read, and the Intellectual History of British Anarchism

The renewed interest in Peter Kropotkin’s writings can be easily explained. Capitalist crises are intensifying. The supposed alternatives – the once overwhelming forces of social democracy and authoritarian socialism (‘pickpockets of socialism’ to use Kropotkin’s phrase) – have been repeatedly shown to be inadequate and, thus, are declining in ideological dominance. Kropotkin’s work is both theoretical rich and practically relevant, both analysing the weaknesses of capitalism-and-the-state (the two, as Kropotkin explains, go hand-in-hand) and offering practical alternatives. This updated and fuller English-language edition of Words of a Rebel contains not just the collated of articles published in the earlier editions, but includes the prefaces, afterword and footnotes omitted from previous English-language versions. It also has an excellent introduction, glossary and additional footnotes from the editor Iain McKay, which clarifies key terminology and contextualises the collection’s main arguments.

Amongst many of Kropotkin’s attributes was to write in a clear and engaging manner which successfully presented anarchism to wider publics. This carefully constructed and highly readable volume will help him do the same today. – Benjamin Franks, Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Philosophy, University of Glasgow, author of Rebel Alliances: The means and ends of contemporary anarchisms and Anarchisms, Postanarchisms and Ethics