Monday, February 13, 2012

David Morris: Where is Kropotkin When We Really Need Him?

[Thivai -- Clarification to the article: the Darwinism that Morris is discussing was actually Herbert Spencer's theories of "social darwinism," which was later used by the ruling elites to justify their acts.

Charles Darwin did not put forth those theories. It was gross misunderstandings/misreadings, or more properly, non-readings that have led to the association of Darwin's ideas with contemporaneous theories of all-against-all Social Darwinism -- as Literaghost reminds me, it should actually be called Spencerism.

Having said that it is great to see a discussion of Petr Kropotkin -- a great model for collective activism and cooperation.]

Where is Kropotkin When We Really Need Him?
by David Morris
Common Dreams

If you want to know what anarchism is and why we should care, read Kropotkin.

On February 8, 1921 twenty thousand people, braving temperatures so low that musical instruments froze, marched in a funeral procession in the town of Dimitrov, a suburb of Moscow. They came to pay their respects to a man, Petr Kropotkin, and his philosophy, anarchism.

Petr Kropotkin (1842–1921)
Some 90 years later few know of Kropotkin. And the word anarchism has been so stripped of substance that it has come to be equated with chaos and nihilism. This is regrettable, for both the man and the philosophy that he did so much to develop have much to teach us in 2012.

I am astonished Hollywood has yet to discover Kropotkin. For his life is the stuff of great movies. Born to privilege he spent his life fighting poverty and injustice. A lifelong revolutionary, he was also a world-renowned geographer and zoologist. Indeed, the intersection of politics and science characterized much of his life.

His struggles against tyranny resulted in years in Russian and French jails. The first time he was imprisoned in Russia an outcry by many of the world’s best-known scholars led to his release. The second time he engineered a spectacular escape and fled the country. At the end of his life, back in his native Russia, he enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the Tsar but equally strongly condemned Lenin’s increasingly authoritarian and violent methods.

In the 1920s Roger N. Baldwin summed up Kropotkin this way:

Kropotkin is referred to by scores of people who knew him in all walks of life as "the noblest man" they ever knew. Oscar Wilde called him one of the two really happy men he had ever met…In the anarchist movement he was held in the deepest affection by thousands--"notre Pierre" the French workers called him. Never assuming position of leadership, he nevertheless led by the moral force of his personality and the breadth of his intellect. He combined in extraordinary measure high qualities of character with a fine mind and passionate social feeling. His life made a deep impression on a great range of classes--the whole scientific world, the Russian revolutionary movement, the radical movements of all schools, and in the literary world which cared little or nothing for science or revolution.

For our purposes Kropotkin’s most enduring legacy is his work on anarchism, a philosophy of which he was possibly the leading exponent. He came to the view that society was heading in the wrong direction and identifying the right direction using the same scientific method that had led him to shock the geography profession by proving that the existing maps of Asia had the mountains running in the wrong direction.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

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