In ‘Modern Science and Anarchism’ Kropotkin argues that the Idea of anarchism originated not with individual thinkers, but from among the people and that it will preserve its vitality and creative force only for as long as it remains a movement of the people. Kropotkin claims in this work that throughout history ‘two currents of thought and action have been in conflict in the midst of human societies,’ — the ‘mutual aid’ tendency, as exemplified in tribal custom, village communities, medieval guilds, and, in fact, all institutions ‘developed and worked out, not by legislation, but by the creative spirit of the masses’. The other current is the authoritarian one, beginning with the ‘magi, shamans, wizards, rain-makers, oracles, and priests’ and continuing with the recorders of laws and the ‘chiefs of military bands’. ‘Kropotkin concludes ‘that anarchy represents the first of these two currents. … We can therefore say that from all times there have been anarchists and statists.’ Kropotkin postulates that the roots of anarchism lie in ‘the remotest Stone-age antiquity’; from this highly personal view of prehistory he continues through all rebellious movements to the rise of the early trade unions, concluding that ‘these are the main popular anarchist currents which we know of in history’. The book’s roots go back to 1887 when Kropotkin wrote an article entitled “The Scientific Bases of Anarchy” for the Nineteenth Century, the magazine edited by James Knowles which published most of Kropotkin’s major works in essay form before they appeared as books. Modern Science and Anarchism originated out of a burst of activity on Kropotkin’s part related to the rise of the clandestine anarchist movement in Russia. The first edition was printed in Russian, in London, in 1901; a later, German edition, was published in 1904, while the English and French versions did not appear until 1912/13. Kropotkin’s intention in writing Modern Science and Anarchism was, apparently, to clarify the basic methodological principle of anarchism, and establish the fact that anarchism is a broad based modern sociological science, i.e. political economy broadly defined, including political sociology, psychology, and law. Far from endorsing ‘the government of science’, he wanted to see established: “A society in which all the mutual relations of its members are regulated, not by laws, not by authorities, whether self-imposed or elected, but by mutual agreement… and by a sum of social customs and habits—not petrified by law, routine, or superstition, but continually developing and continually readjusted, in accordance with the ever-growing requirements of a free life, stimulated by the progress of science, invention, and the steady growth of higher ideals” (Modern Science and Anarchism).
“Anyone who wants to know what anarchism is about in the contemporary world would do well to start here. The Floodgates of Anarchy forces us to take a hard look at moral and political problems which other more sophisticated doctrines evade.” —The Sunday Times
“A lucid exposition of revolutionary anarchist theory — Peace News
The floodgates holding back anarchy are constantly under strain. The liberal would ease the pressure by diverting some of the water; the conservative would shore up the dykes, the totalitarian would construct a stronger dam. But is anarchy a destructive force? The absence of government may alarm the authoritarian, but is a liberated people really its own worst enemy—or is the true enemy of humanity, as the anarchists claim, the means by which one is governed? Without government the world could manage to end exploitation and war. Anarchy should not be confused with weak, divided or manifold government. As Christie and Meltzer point out, only with the total abolition of government can society develop in freedom.
With a new introduction, this classic anarchist text from the `70s is available once again.
“Coming from a position of uncompromising class struggle and a tradition that includes many of our exemplary anarchist militants, Floodgates of Anarchy has a power and directness sadly missing from some contemporary anarchist writing. It is exciting to see it back in print, ready for a new generation to read.” — Barry Pateman, Associate Editor, The Emma Goldman Papers, University of California at Berkeley.
THE STATE. ITS HISTORIC ROLE by Peter Kropotkin.
“…Kropotkin’s brilliant, erudite, provocative lecture needs no formal introduction from a latter-day translator. And one assumes that the reader is prepared to make the necessary time adjustment and allowances for ‘contemporary’ references that are no longer contemporary but still interesting and relevant to our time; and for forecasts that have alas been proved over-optimistic; possibly too for Kropotkin’s undue enthusiasm for an historic past the glories of which are sometimes given more emphasis than are its less attractive aspects.
THE ABC OF ANARCHISM by Alexander Berkman.
THE ABC of ANARCHISM was first published in 1929, by the Vanguard Press of New York, under the title What is Communist Anarchism? It comprised three parts: “Now”, “Anarchism”, and The Social Revolution”. It was re-issued in 1936, by Frei Arbeiter Stimme of New York, with the new title of Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism. Freedom Press first published it in Britain, this time as The ABC of Anarchism, in May 1942, but without part one. The ABC of Anarchism is now an historic document. Indeed, George Woodcock (for whatever his opinion is worth!) has called it a minor classic of libertarian literature. That however is not the reason for its republication. The reason is that it still remains one of the best introductions to the ideas of anarchism, written from the communist-anarchist viewpoint, in the English language. Its author, Alexander Berkman, was no mere theoretician or “intellectual”. He had been a militant activist for much of his life.
Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid is usually, and rightly, called his masterpiece. While the high quality of all his work makes it hard to say whether this classic can be considered his best, it is fair to say that it is probably his most famous and one of his most widely read. Suffice to say, that it is rarely out of print testifies to its importance as well as the quality and timelessness of its message.
It is often called an anarchist classic. This is not entirely accurate. Yes, it is a classic and it was written by an anarchist, indeed the leading anarchist thinker of the time. However, it is not a book about anarchism. It is, first and foremost, a work of popular science, a “best-selling work,” which made co-operation “well known in lay society” while ensuring it would “be discussed among biologists in the following decades.” It was aimed at rebutting the misuse of evolutionary theory to justify the status quo, but its synthesis of zoological, anthropological, historical and sociological data achieved far more and, consequently, its influence is great. “It is arguable that of all the books on co-operation written by biologists,” suggests Lee Alan Dugatkin Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Louisville, “Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid had the most profound affect on biologists, social scientists, and laymen alike.” Anthropologist Ashley Montagu dedicated his book Darwin, Competition and Co-operation, to Kropotkin, stating it was a “classic” and “no book in the whole realm of evolutionary theories is more readable or more important, for it is Mutual Aid which provides the first thoroughly documented demonstration of the importance of co-operation as a factor in evolution.”
This is not to say that anarchism plays no part in it nor that it holds nothing of interest for anarchists or anarchist theory. Far from it! The very mode of analysis, the looking into mutual aid tendencies of everyday life is inherently libertarian. It flows from the “bottom-up” and is rooted in popular history. More than that, it is documented with the skill of a talented scientist and, in this, it is somewhat unusual. It is often noted that Proudhon, the founding father of anarchism, was unique in being a socialist thinker who was also working class. In the case of Kropotkin, he was one of the few socialist thinkers who was a trained scientist, an extremely gifted one according to his peers. This education in the scientific method can be seen from all his work, but most obviously in Mutual Aid.