Peter Kropotkin


Peter Kropotkin : biography

21 December 1842 – 8 February 1921

Kropotkin did not deny the presence of competitive urges in humans, but believed that they were not the driving force of history as capitalists and social Darwinists claimed. He did believe that there were times that it was socially beneficial to seek out conflict, but only during attempts to destroy unjust, authoritarian institutions such as the State or Church, which stifled human creativity and freedom and impeded humans’ instinctual drive towards sociality and cooperation.

His observations of cooperative tendencies in indigenous peoples (pre-feudal, feudal, and those remaining in modern societies) allowed him to conclude that not all human societies were based on competition, such as those of industrialized Europe, and that in many societies, cooperation was the norm among individuals and groups. He also concluded that most pre-industrial and pre-authoritarian societies (where he claimed that leadership, central government and class did not exist) actively defend against the accumulation of private property by, for example, equally distributing within the community a person’s possessions when he died, or by not allowing a gift to be sold, bartered or used to create wealth (see Gift economy).Morris, David. , AlterNet, February 13, 2012

Mutual aid

In The Conquest of Bread, Kropotkin proposed a system of economics based on mutual exchanges made in a system of voluntary cooperation. He believed that should a society be socially, culturally, and industrially developed enough to produce all the goods and services required by it, then no obstacle, such as preferential distribution, pricing or monetary exchange will stand as an obstacle for all taking what they need from the social product. He supported the eventual abolishment of money or tokens of exchange for goods and services.

Kropotkin believed that Bakunin’s collectivist economic model was simply a wage system by a different name,Kropotkin wrote: "After the Collectivist Revolution instead of saying ‘twopence’ worth of soap, we shall say ‘five minutes’ worth of soap." (quoted in ) and thought that such a system would breed the same type of centralization and inequality as a capitalist wage system. He stated that it is impossible to determine the value of an individual’s contributions to the products of social labor, and thought that anyone who was placed in a position of trying to make such determinations would wield authority over those whose wages they determined. He further developed these ideas in Fields, Factories and Workshops.

According to Kirkpatrick Sale:

His focus on local production led to his view that a country should strive for self-sufficiencymanufacture its own goods and grow its own food, lessening dependence on imports. To these ends he advocated irrigation and growing under glass to boost local food production ability.


Early life

Peter Kropotkin was born in Moscow, into the second-highest level of the Russian aristocracy. His mother was the daughter of a Cossack general. His father, Alexei Petrovich Kropotkin, was a prince in Smolensk, of the Rurik dynasty which had ruled Russia before the rise of the Romanovs. Kropotkin’s father owned large tracts of land and nearly 1,200 male serfs in three provinces.

"[U]nder the influence of republican teachings," Kropotkin dropped his princely title at the age of twelve, and "even rebuked his friends, when they so referred to him."Roger N. Baldwin, "The Story of Kropotkin’s Life," in Kropotkin’s Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings, ed. by Baldwin (Orig. 1927; Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1970), p. 13.

In 1857, at age 14, Kropotkin enrolled in the Corps of Pages at St. Petersburg. Only 150 boys — mostly children of nobility belonging to the court — were educated in this privileged corps, which combined the character of a military school endowed with special rights and of a court institution attached to the Imperial Household. Kropotkin’s memoirs detail the hazing and other abuse of pages for which the Corps had become notorious.