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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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no illusions about revolutions. As he said of the Russian Revolution: "It is perpetrating horrors...That is why it is a revolution and not a peaceful progress, because it is destroying, without regarding what it destroys and whither it goes. . . . A reaction is absolutely inevitable."

Deploring the frequent inevitability of revolution, he sought the better way in the ethical advancement of mankind through peaceful progress. That the last work of his life was his book on Ethics is evidence of the continuous direction of his mind. In the prime of life he wrote Mutual Aid, which is his most famous book. But his essay entitled Anarchist Morality is the most explicit statement of his ethical principles. In that the most significant idea is his conception of our common human nature as the natural basis of any good morals. Into that was injected his evolutionism, for he insisted that social animals have an ethical nature of the same kind as man and differing only in degree. But, again showing his excellent judgment, his naturalistic ethics did not dispense with intelligence, thinking, and what he called criticism. He had no blind faith in social institutions, customs and traditions. He relied upon criticism courageously made to break "the cake of custom." Indeed, "in some instances it is a custom, a venerated tradition, that is fundamentally immoral."

Nor did he feel any bondage to abstract principles of morals, such as Kant's Categorical Imperative. He refused "once and for all to model individuals according to an abstract idea." Free men, not servile to any authority, was his ideal. Duty he conceived not as restraint, but as super-abundant life and energy in a man with power to act and willingness to give without asking anything in recompense. Therefore, mutual aid is the law of growth and progress. He thought he found in anarchist morality and communism and equality of men a synthesis which at once em-braced solidarity and free individuality. He believed that the more we have of solidarity and equality, the greater is free individual initiative. And he identified this principle of solidarity with the Golden Rule. His ethics might seem to be hedonistic utilitarism — the attainment of human pleasure or happiness is the test of good conduct. But the test of the good was for him social rather than merely individual. The higher principle for his ethics was therefore sympathy or mutual aid.

Out of this social ethics Kropotkin attempted to formulate a scientific program of economic and political reform. As to politics it was the common profession of all schools of Socialism in his time to abhor the State. Yet all of them proposed some form of organization of society. Even Marxists, whom Kropotkin called state-socialists, dislike the name. Nevertheless, the anarchists also find it necessary to resort to some compulsory type of institution. Thus the individualist, Tucker, would have associations to resist invasion by force, that is, to compel respect for the volun-tary institutions of anarchism. Kropotkin proposes syndicates or communes, and federations of these, to carry on what we call government. In what respect then are his ideas in conflict, say, with Jeffersonian democracy? In this that he is offended by the institution of representative government, legislatures, courts, written laws, and constitutions. His "new form of political organization" would "be more popular, more decentralized, and nearer to the folk-mote self-government than representative government can ever be." It is what Matlock called "pure democracy."

In another respect there is apparent agreement between Kropotkin's communism and that of nearly all socialists. That is, nearly all of them would abolish private property. State socialists such as Marxians, instead of private property, would have socialized property, which means that all property is owned corporately or by the state. Strictly according with the Marxian definition modern corporate property is socialized property, for it is not the private property of the stockholders. Benjamin Tucker, it will be recalled, defended the American trust system against government regulation. And we find Kropotkin citing these great privnte autonomous corporations as proof of the feasibility of his communes. Kropotkin calls such property the common property of the community. However, the tendency of recent socialism is to distinguish private property as that which can be truly owned privately because its use is chiefly individual, and that which is held more or less publicly or in common by the indefinite individuals constituting the state or community.

The vagueness of these ideas about property is also the vice of non-socialists. It is decidedly the merit of Kropotkin that he pointed out


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