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Fascinating forward thinkiing
on 24 August 2006
Peter Kropotkin, whose anthology of works this is, was a socialist anarchist. At the close of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, he was an advocate of what ~ after Mikhail Bakunin ~ sometimes gets called (most famously in Monty Python's Holy Grail) "anarcho-syndicalism". He was opposed to statism such as Russian (Stalinist) Communism, but ridiculed the idea of individualistic opposition to the state. His communism, like that of some of today's cutting edge (i.e. 'post-pomo', if we can take such a classification seriously) continental philosophers, was a non-party, non-state communism embracing concerted social revolution both inaugurated and overseen by the people themselves. (Lenin is said to have admired this man greatly, Marx was a rival).
Pyotr Kropotkin was born a prince, but renounced the title at the age of twelve, to live a poor life, often persecuted and imprisoned while the Czarist regime operated, but always writing, as a scientist, as a traveller in England and in Switzerland, and of course, as an expounder of anarchism. Invited to join the British Royal Society for his scientific work, he declined on the grounds of the Royal association. Kropotkin thought of himself as a man of action and not as a philosopher.
His life fills me with the gusto of a protégé': by my age this man had seriously annoyed just about every capitalist, feudalist and party-line communist group going with his radical, yet sensible, ideas (such as Mutual Aid). In some ways, I think that the ever-flourishing P2P online community is a kind of testimony to the effectiveness of his ideas; an unbaptised implementation of Mutual Aid, his greatest legacy. Proof too, that the coming community is one that, as even Heidegger foresaw, would be able to turn technology around and use it against the danger of 'enframing' humans as commodities / resources.
Kropotkin's writings have been translated and edited into a really easy-to-follow style here, allowing the passion and brilliance of his ideas to shine through. This is a full-marks text.