Marie Goldsmith

Russian anarchist and biologist

Maria Isidorovna Goldsmith (19 July 1871 - 11 January 1933) was a Russian Jewish anarchist and collaborator of Peter Kropotkin. She also wrote under the pseudonyms Maria Isidine and Maria Korn.


  • How did the great emancipatory movement unfurl in the past? The fight against the existing class order first only starts among a small minority whose circumstances made them feel both their oppression and the hope to put an end to it – more than among the great masses. Among the masses, oppression is too heavy for the number of them who manage to free themselves mentally to be, at first, consequent. But the revolutionary minority fights at its own risks, without wondering about whether others are following. Little by little, it starts to grow; it can be seen, if not in facts, at least in spirit. The brave struggle of some diminishes the fear of others; the spirit of revolt grows. We don’t always understand clearly what is the goal of people in revolt, but we understand against what they are fighting, and this elicits sympathy for them. Then the moment arrives at last when an event, sometimes insignificant in itself, a flagrant act of violence or arbitrary power, sparks the revolutionary explosion. Events are precipitated, new experience is had every day, among the intense agitation of minds, ideas develop in leaps and bounds among the masses. The gap between the mass and the revolutionary minority shrinks.
  • A revolution is not only the conclusion of a preceding evolution, it is also the starting point of the following evolution which will precisely be concerned with the realisation of the ideas which, during the revolution, have not found a wide enough resonance.
  • Even when a revolution is vanquished, the principles it has put forward never die. Every revolution in the 19th century has been defeated, but each one of them has been a step closer to victory.
  • The Paris Commune, drowned in blood, blew away the cult of state centralisation and proclaimed the principles of autonomy and federalism. What about the Russian revolution? Whatever the future holds, it will have proclaimed the fall of capitalist domination and the rights of labour; in a country where the oppression on the masses was more revolting than anywhere else, it proclaimed that it is those masses who must now be master of their lives. And whatever the future, nothing will take away this idea from future struggles: the reign of the owning classes has virtually ended.
  • There is, in Marx, a precious quote: “Mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve” In other words, if an ideal is conceived among a community, it is that the necessary conditions to its realisation are there.
  • We can only reach a better life if we try to get it; experiment is the only way which leads to it, and there is no other. Instead of asking: are the conditions ripe? Are the masses ready? We should ask: are we ready? What can we offer as concrete, practical measures “the day after our victory, in order to achieve our socialism, communism, by organising outside and against any state? What are the measures to elaborate, the conditions to study beforehand?” This is where our main preoccupation must lie
  • We believe, as we have always believed, that peasants’ and workers’ organisations taking control of the land and means of production and managing economic life is more likely to ensure the material well-being of society than decrees from the government.
  • We believe that this mode of transformation is better equipped to disarm conflicts and avoid civil war (because it allows for more freedom and more variety in forms of organisation) than introducing by authority one reform across the board.
  • We believe that the direct participation of the people in building the new economic forms makes the victories of the revolution more stable and ensures better their defence.
  • We believe, finally, that this allows us to prepare, on top of economic and political victories, a higher stage of civilisation, both intellectually and morally.
  • We precisely want to go beyond bourgeois rights and bourgeois-inspired justice. Every one is entitled to their existence simply in virtue of being human.
  • In the innumerable discussions which the Russian revolution sparked in the socialist and revolutionary milieus, the idea of a “transition period”, succeeding the victorious revolution, always appears; it might be the notion most commonly abused in order to justify indefensible behaviours and betrayals.
  • We do not believe in predetermined phases of evolution, identical for every people. We know that the general march of human development leads mankind better to use the strengths of nature and better to ensure within its ranks the liberation of individuals and social solidarity. On this path, there can be stops, and even retreats, but no definitive backtracking. And the closer the communion between different peoples is achieved, the faster the ones which are further engaged on this path will help the latecomers. Everything else, the rapidity of the movement, its peaceful or violent forms, what conquests are gained where and when, all of that depends on a number of factors and cannot be predicted.
  • The Paris Commune was not aiming at an anarchist society; but anarchists of all countries highly appreciate it for its large-scale federalism. In the same way, during the Russian revolution, anarchists have welcomed with sympathy the institution of free soviets, in the way they emerged from popular thought, of course, and not from the official organs which, nowadays, are a mere caricature; they saw there a form of political organisation preferable to classic parliamentarianism, which allowed more development of collective initiative and action among the people.
  • It was the development of the theory of anarchist communism that Kropotkin believed to be his main contribution to the theory of anarchism. Indeed, what had the economic ideal of the anarchist movement been before Kropotkin published a series of his famous articles in the Le Révolté newspaper in 1879, articles which eventually made up his book Words of a Rebel?
  • Kropotkin’s communism stems from two sources: on the one hand, from the study of economic phenomena and their historical development, and, on the other, from the social ideal of equality and freedom. His objective scientific research and his passionate search for a social formation into which maximum justice can be embodied consistently led him to the same solution: anarchist communism.
  • Progressive people have always known that to raise people to be better, more advanced, more cultured, they should first be raised to better living conditions; that slavery can never teach you to be free; and that a war of all against all can never engender humane feelings.
  • Kropotkin’s anarchist communism is endorsed by a vast majority of anarchists, but not by all. There are individualist anarchists, some of whom are proponents of private property, while others have little concern at all for future social organization, concentrating their attention on the inner freedom of an individual in any social order; there are also Proudhonist anarchists. But the fact that anarchist communism is accepted by all those involved in the social struggle of our time, chiefly in the workers’ movement, is not a coincidence nor a question of the temporary success of one idea or another.
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