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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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sions and truth of his attitude in World War I.

In his "Mutual Aid," Kropotkin took issue with Huxley's interpretation of Darwinism and while not denying the tooth and claw factor, asserted there was also the factor of mutual aid. He gave many proofs of this element in the human, as well as other species; and in these days when the barbaric and savage instincts have reached a new high in the human animal, the element of mutual aid manifests itself in thousands of ways and among millions in helping to save men, women and children from death and torture. It looks like a duel between two forces struggling for the mastery of man.

We have no means of knowing how many Germans agree with or even understand Hitlerism, but if "by their fruits ye shall know men," it means force, naked and unashamed, and the triumph of the tooth-and-claw theory.

Not all of the horrors are on one side by any means, but even among those who abominate Hitlerism the feeling is growing that to defeat barbarism one must use barbaric methods and therefore practice the tooth-and-claw theory for the time, hoping always to renounce it when the danger is past. That this has its dangers is obvious, but as long as we remember that the acts of kindness, humanity and mutual helpfulness continue and grow in influence it will one day lift humanity to heights heretofore only dreamed of by great souls like Peter Kropotkin.


By V. Tehertkoff

I made Kropotkin's personal acquaintance in England in 1897, after my expulsion from Russia by the Czarist Government.

He received me with that cordial welcome, with that fineness, so well known by those who came in contact with him. And soon I felt his sincere benevolence which made us realize that we could count on him in case of need. My intimacy with Leo Tolstoy, for whom I entertained a profound respect and sincere sympathy, naturally played a great role in his relations with me. Tolstoy, on his part, also respected Kropotkin highly.

In the Spring of 1897, having delivered a letter from Kropotkin to Tolstoy, I received one from Tolstoy in which he wrote me: "Kropotkin's letter has pleased me very much. His arguments in favor of violence do not seem to me to be the expression of his opinion but only of his fidelity to the banner under which he has served so honestly all his life. He cannot fail to see that the protest against violence, in order to be strong, must have a solid foundation. But a protest for violence has no foundation and for this very reason is destined to failure."

When I had read these words to Kropotkin, the latter, evidently touched by the sympathy of Tolstoy, and as if to confirm the lines I had just read, spoke some phrases to me whose gist, if not the very words, has been indelibly impressed upon my brain: "In order to comprehend how much I sympathize with the ideas of Tolstoy, it suffices to say that I have written a whole volume to demonstrate that life is created, not by the struggle for existence, but by mutual aid."

Leo Nicholeyevitch wrote me in January 1903: "One has time to reflect when one is ill. During this illness I was particularly occupied with recollections and my beautiful memories of Kropotkin were given special preference." Later, in February, Tolstoy wrote me : "Send Kropotkin my kindest greetings...I have recently read his 'Memoirs' and I am delighted with them!"

On the question of non-resistance to evil and violence, we came to have hot disputes, as was necessarily to be expected and he sometimes became greatly excited over my obstinacy, as a consequence of his ardent temperament; but these transitory differences always terminated in a touching reconciliation which showed, indeed, the extreme and fundamental goodness of Kropotkin's character.

I was constantly surprised at the rapidity of his impressions and conceptions, at the extent of his interests, his remarkable erudition in the sphere of economics and international politics.

Kropotkin reminded me of Tolstoy by the astonishing variety of subjects which interested him. And if Kropotkin, in his intercourse with me, was silent upon the "spiritual" questions which Tolstoy looked upon as the foundation of a comprehension of life, one nevertheless felt, incontestably, that at the core of his heart, Peter Alexeivich was not a materialist, but an idealist of the purest water.


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