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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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From this time Kropotkin devoted his time to literary work, and to the development of his doctrine of "mutual aid." His best known book was: "Mutual Aid a Factor in Evolution," published in 1902 and revised in 1915. He had a singularly gentle and attractive personality, and was much loved and respected in England. He desired the minimum of government, and the development of a system of human cooperation which would render government from above superfluous. When the Russian Revolution broke out, he returned to his native land in 1917 and settled near Moscow. He took no part in Russian politics and died on February 8, 1921.

Another eminent Russian sociologist, Novikov, defined "social Darwinism" as "the doc-trine that collective homicide is the cause of the progress of the human race." Kropotkin was once described as "the only true Darwinian in England." Regarding Darwin's mis-interpreters, Kropotkin said: "They came to conceive the animal world as a world of per-petual struggle among half-starved individuals, thirsting for one another's blood. They made modern literature resound with the warcry of 'woe to the vanquished,' as if it were the last word of modern biology. They raised the 'pitiless' struggle for personal advantages to the height of a biological principle which man must submit to as well, under the menace of otherwise succumbing in a world based upon mutual extermination."

Kropotkin held the view that the struggle for existence and war between members of the same species cannot be considered as identical terms, especially as applied to man. The human struggle for existence is basically a struggle of man against nature, not against members of his own species. He said he could not accept pseudo-Darwinism, "because I was persuaded that to admit a pitiless inner war for life within each species, and to see in that war a condition of progress, was to admit something which not only had not yet been proved, but also lacked confirmation from direct observation."

Kropotkin concludes, from his own observations, that if the struggle for existence improves the species, it is the struggle against physical environment and not the struggle between fellow creatures. As a result of his studies in human association, Kropotkin said: "Wherever we go we find the same sociable manners, the same spirit of solidarity. And when we endeavor to penetrate into the darkness of past ages, we find the same tribal life, the same associations of men, however primitive, for mutual support. Therefore Darwin was right when he saw in man's social qualities the chief factor for his further evolution, and Darwin's vulgarizers are entirely wrong when they maintain the contrary."

Darwin himself said that man "manifestly owes' this immense superiority to his intellec-tual faculties, to his social habits, which lead him to aid and defend his fellows." The inclusion of the entire human race within the bounds of moral law is, in the true Darwinian theory, the ultimate goal of human evolution. Darwin said : "There is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races."

Prince Kropotkin is the best interpreter of Darwin's theory of mutual aid as the central principle of social progress. His book, "Mutual Aid a Factor in Evolution," has become a classic. It is an utter refutation of the doctrine that force is the determining factor in social progress. He calls attention to the futility of struggle, especially "collective homicide" and the effectiveness of mutual aid or cooperation in social evolution.

The best American interpreter for the mutual aid theories of Kropotkin and Novikov was George Nasmyth. In his book, "Social Progress and the Darwinian Theory," pub-lished in 1916, Nasmyth says: "The philosophy of force, which is anti-Democratic, and anti-Christian, has fallen like a blight upon the intellectual life of Christendom during the past half-century, but its effects have been almost entirely confined to the aristocratic, in-tellectual, and governing classes." He pays high tribute to Kropotkin as the prophet of a new order of cooperative society, and concludes with this quotation from Kropotkin:

"The ethical progress of our race viewed in its broad lines, appears as a gradual extension of the mutual aid principles from the tribe to always larger and lorger agglomerations so as to finally em-brace one day the whole of mankind, without respect to its diverse creeds, lan-guages, and races . . . We can affirm that in the ethical progress of man, mutual support --- not mutual struggle --- has had the leading part. In its wide extension, even at the present time, we also see the best guarantee of a still loftier evolution of our race."


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