Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

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The Kropotkin

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Dear “Emancipation”

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel in Russia. I really wasn’t sure what I’d find there since all you ever hear about the place is propaganda from one side or the other. I least of all expected to find other anarchists, but I did.

I was sitting in a wharf-side bar in Leningrad, boldly wearing my AAA [Anarchist Association of the Americas] pin, when I noticed a middle-age man, obviously a dock worker, looking me over. And I began to wonder if being bold and alone was such a good idea in the domain of a totalitarian state. As the worker, who by now was KGB in my mind, started over, I began to run over alibies and excuses in my head.

He sat down next to me, tapped my pin and whispered, “Makno? Durutti?” Feeling bold again, I replied, perhaps a little too loudly, “And Kropotkin and Bakunin!” Shhing me, he again whispered, “American Anarchist?” I nodded, confused about exactly what was happening. “Me too,” he said. “Let’s go.”

He led me back to his small apartment. After we both relaxed a little over some very strong vodka, we began toasting Anarchists past and present, and discussing little known bits and pieces of Anarchist history.

Late in the evening, about half the bottle later, he raised his glass, saying, “To the Kropotkin.” Smiling I raised mine announcing, “Here’s to Prince Peter.” Lowering his glass he said, “Not Peter Kropotkin, the Kropotkin.” Confused, I asked him what in the world could be the difference.

“You don’t know!” he bellowed with a hearty laugh. “The pastry – The Kropotkin.” Settling down he said, “You really don’t know, do you?”

Surely he’s putting me on, I thought. But it was his vodka, so I played along.

With a very serious look on his face, he began to tell me his tale of the Kropotkin. In the early 1900’s prior to the failed 1907 [1905-6] revolution in Russia, a group of Anarchists working in a fancy bakery, frequented by Russia’s elite, decided to put a little humor into their work. They had noticed how it was considered chic for the aristocrats to consume vast quantities of Napoleons. Indeed, Napoleons were the largest selling item at the bakery where they worked. Naturally, the workers and peasants, who could barely afford bread, never tasted pastries of any kind.

Not wishing the masses to miss out on the delights of pastries, our group of anarchist pastry workers dreamed up a simple, but delicious pastry – the Kropotkin. Right under the noses of the bakeries bosses, our anarchist bakers stole an egg here and some flour there. Then, turning out Kropotkins while the boss went off to lunch, they’d smuggle their Kropotkin treats out in hollowed loaves of bread. During the evening, they would pop up at a workers’ tavern, quickly passing out their Kropotkins and the odd revolutionary pamphlet.

This went on for about a year, before one of the czar’s spies brought him the news and a captured Kropotkin. At first, the czar laughed hysterically while munching on a Napoleon. But then his mood shifted. Snatching the Kropotkin from his spy’s hands, he took a bite. It was truly marvelous. Never before had the czar tasted such a pastry. This infuriated him; how dare common workers prepare such a food! The czar issued orders that the bakers be hunted down and the recipe destroyed.

Soon after, both Kropotkins and our heroic bakers disappeared. No one knows whether they escaped or were caught. But being anarchists, they had published their recipe on the back of their pamphlets – after all, such things are the property of no one. It is rumored that after the Bolsheviks seized power, they discovered one of the baker’s pamphlets in the Czar’s archives and that now Kropotkins are available again, but only to the upper echelons of the party. Though my Russian friend didn’t believe the rumor, as he put it, “The Bolsheviks aren’t smart enough to recognize a good pastry recipe when they see one.”

At the end of his tale, I could no longer contain myself, and laughed out loud. “So you don’t believe me,” my friend pouted. “I’m sorry, but I did enjoy the story,” I replied.

“I’ll show you,” he said, as he began removing books from the book case. He then opened a small hidden compartment and took out a faded old pamphlet. “There,” he said, pointing to the back cover. Sure enough on the back of a copy of “God and the State” was a recipe for – the Kropotkin. I apologized and he carefully placed the treasure back in the wall. “I’ll save it for better days,” he said. Before he closed the panel, I pulled off my AAA pin and laid it on top of the pamphlet. He smiled and I think a tear came to his eye. We embraced and I left. It was after one and my friend would have to be on the docks by 6, and I would be off on the rest of my tour.

 

Salud!

Comrade X

 

From: Washington, DC: “Emancipation”, v.8, issue 3 (number 63), July 1985

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Written by gulaganarchists

5, December 2010 at 5:20 pm