*The mothers would be a different matter, if I would ever get around to them...
Not only was it not, it was also startlingly clear (and in retrospect, I should have expected this) that Kropotkin was a, y'know, European nobleman. Is all of his stuff like this? Why do people like him? It was just plain icky to read! I only made it about 75 pages in and called it quits.*
*After reading what I'm about to discuss, I found myself with little stomach for what would have been the next two sections, entitled "Mutual Aid Among Savages" and "Mutual Aid Among the Barbarians,"** which of course contrast with the shared title of the final chapters, "Mutual Aid Among Ourselves."
**No I don't know why barbarians get a definite article and savages don't.
Here's a bit from shortly before page 75:
All that natural selection can do in times of calamities is to spare the individuals endowed with the greatest endurance for privations of all kinds. So it does among the Siberian horses and cattle. They are enduring; they can feed upon the Polar birch in case of need; they resist cold and hunger. But no Siberian horse is capable of carrying half the weight which a European horse carries with ease; no Siberian cow gives half the amount given by a Jersey cow...So we will note here that the "quality" of the animals under discussion is judged solely on the basis of their utility to humans, and not to the animals themselves. Eating Polar birch and resisting cold and hunger sounds like a pretty good life for a horse in Siberia! But since they can't carry as much as other horses, an ability totally lacking in any purpose for the horse itself, pragmatic or recreational, Kropotkin judges them evolutionarily inferior. I mean, !!?!?
Unfortunately he continues, removing as he does the "sub" from the scientific racism subtext:
...and no natives of uncivilized countries can bear a comparison with Europeans. They may better endure hunger and cold, but their physical force is very far below that of a well-fed European, and their intellectual progress is despairingly slow.Ha ha ha! Hey, Kropotkin, let's drop you alone in an "uncivilized country" in the cold and see how your wealthy Russian gentleman's style of intellectual progress helps you have a good time. Here also, though he does not state it explicitly, he is still considering the beasts of the field in terms of their use to people like him; for with neither the physical force to perform endless slave labor nor the "intellectual progress" to participate in the mummery of western civ, your average native is just going to go to waste, living a life of their own choosing and maybe even enjoying it, shudder to think.
Then there's this on the next page. For context, he's talked about ants farming aphids before, and he just loves how they've tamed the wilderness they live in! They're almost as good as people!
Happily enough, competition is not the rule either in the animal world or in mankind. It is limited among animals to exceptional periods, and natural selection finds better fields for its activity. Better conditions are created by the elimination of competition by means of mutual aid and mutual support. In the great struggle for life--for the greatest possible fulness and intensity of life with the least waste of energy--natural selection continually seeks out the ways precisely for avoiding competition as much as possible. The ants combine in nests and nations; they pile up their stores, they rear their cattle--and thus avoid competition; and natural selection picks out of the ants' family the species which know best how to avoid competition, with its unavoidably deleterious consequences.Note please that the aphids are completely left out of this consideration. (I should note before I go on that from what I understand of it, using the word "farming" is misleading in the case of ants and aphids, who seem to have a much more, OH HO!, mutual relationship than that, but within Kropotkin's text he approaches the phenomenon, though he doesn't put it in these terms, as being entirely exploitative.) Yes, the ants have it good, in Kropotkin's telling of it. They keep their stores of aphids around to supply them with all the sugary shit they want! Freed from the labor of gathering food, they get to relax and spend their time developing a life of the mind. They don't compete! They cooperate! Liberté, égalité, fraternité! And (again, in Kropotkin's skewed accounting of the ant/aphid relationship), as with the human bourgeoisie, it appears that it's equality for me and not for thee, and as a matter of fact thee hardly existeth. Kropotkin's interpretation of the ants and the aphids is remarkably similar to your average civilized man's attitude towards all of the labor we, especially since the 1600s or so, "outsource" to slaves and colonies and wage workers and women and immigrants and so on--remarkable perhaps especially in how equally unaware Kropotkin (like your average bourge) seems to be, for all his anarchism and supposed sympathy for the lower orders, of the injustice in both situations.