Happy Birthday Kropotkin (taken from Working Class History)

On this day, 9 December 1842, revolutionary, scientist, and philosopher Peter Kropotkin was born in Russia. He later abandoned his aristocratic background in favour of the working-class struggle.

He participated in the 1917 Russian revolution, and wrote numerous influential works, including Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution. In this work he criticised interpretations of the ideas of Charles Darwin which focused on competition, and highlighted instances of cooperation in the natural world. “If we … ask Nature: ‘who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?’ we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest. They have more chances to survive, and they attain, in their respective classes, the highest development of intelligence and bodily organisation.”

These ideas continue to be influential today. Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote of Kropotkin: “I would hold that Kropotkin’s basic argument is correct. Struggle does occur in many modes, and some lead to cooperation among members of a species as the best pathway to advantage for individuals. If Kropotkin overemphasised mutual aid, most Darwinians in Western Europe had exaggerated competition just as strongly. If Kropotkin drew inappropriate hope for social reform from his concept of nature, other Darwinians had erred just as firmly (and for motives that most of us would now decry) in justifying imperial conquest, racism, and oppression of industrial workers as the harsh outcome of natural selection in the competitive mode.”

Kropotkin’s ideas were central in the theoretical foundation of contemporary anarchist communism.

We have made a beautiful new illustrated edition of Mutual Aid, as well as a book about his ideas and more items celebrating his life and work in our online store: https://shop.workingclasshistory.com/…/all/peter-kropotkin