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Centennial Tribute to Kropotkin

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society to encourage the individual to a selfish demand of more reward for his services rendered than their actual value. The ethical and social ideal, on the contrary, is the glad and abundant giving which characterizes the free and generous man.

His antagonism to law is also a moral reaction. Compulsory good is not good. He sees law as a perversion. It is security only for the exploiters, the privIleged [sic] few. The threat of the law and punishment are demoralizing. However useful it may have been in the democratizing process, law too is passing. "Free agreement is becoming a substitute for law." "The feeling of honor in keeping agreements" alone makes trade possible and is the only necessary sanction. The numerous charitable societies show the trend to be "not in increasing powers of the state, but in resorting to free organization and free federation in all those branches which are now considered as attributes of the state."

In his essay, "Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal," there is a better balancing up between the philosophy of solidarism and the philosophy of individualism. There he maintained that political economy is no longer "the study of the wealth of individuals." The ideal is to seek "the most complete development of individuality combined with the highest development of voluntary association in all its aspects, in all possible degrees, for all imaginable aims." That is accomplished "not by subjecting all its members to an authority that is fictitiously supposed to represent society, not by trying to establish uniformity, but by urging all men to develop free initiative, free action, free association." It is "the ideal of a society where each governs himself according to his own will." For "we need not fear the dangers and abuses of liberty." This doctrine is always implicit in his teaching. Only elsewhere he was especially concerned to emphasize the solidarist rather than the individualist or libertarian viewpoint.

What is outstanding in Kropotkin is that despite the turmoil of his early life and hardships to the end, he grew steadily in balance of judgment and human understanding. Although professing to be a materialist, he reacted healthily against the brutal doctrine of a relentless struggle for survival. He was more nearly right and certainly more humane in making insistence upon mutual aid as the better road to progress. He was no pacifist and recognized revolution and violence as often necessary, though ideally undesirable. He took a lesson from Nature's book that the peacefulness of the social animals is the best assurance of survival, and the proof is that they are the most numerous on the face of the earth.

Thus Kropotkin's naturalism is nobly inspiring. It gives primacy to intellect and goodwill. It is a corrective of conventional and traditional sociality. It idealizes only that social life which is humane. Does it matter then that Kropotkin misnamed his philosophy anarchist communism and that he did not understand that a responsible state is not only possible but is substantially what he also believed in ? Among the very great must his name be permanently enrolled — the scholar, the true scientist, the kindly man who really loved his fellowmen and gave himself whole-heartedly with that abundant energy which for him was synonymous with duty.

His true disciple will pass over what was ephemeral in him and hold fast to the great truths of enduring humanity which so eloquently and ably he pleaded for.


By Edward Adams Cantrell

Kropotkin did a great deal for me. Back in the old days, when, following Huxley, I was leaning toward an extreme form of Darwinian ethics, Kropotkin gave me a foundation for a more humane outlook on life. His biological and anthropological arguments for mutualism, I think, are unassailable. "Mutual Aid" is one of the great books of our time, and Kropotkin himself was one of the great free spirits of all time. I revere his memory.


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