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Mutual Aid: An Illuminated Factor of Evolution

One hundred years after his death, Peter Kropotkin is still one of the most inspirational figures of the anarchist movement. It is often forgotten that Kropotkin was also a world-renowned geographer whose seminal critique of the hypothesis of competition promoted by Social Darwinism helped revolutionize modern evolutionary theory. An admirer of Darwin, he used his observations of life in Siberia as the basis for his 1902 collection of essays Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. Kropotkin demonstrated that mutually beneficial cooperation and reciprocity—in both individuals and as a species—plays a far more important role in the animal kingdom and human societies than does individualized competitive struggle. Kropotkin carefully crafted his theory making the science accessible. His account of nature rejected Rousseau’s romantic depictions and ethical socialist ideas that cooperation was motivated by the notion of “universal love.” His understanding of the dynamics of social evolution shows us that the power of cooperation—whether it is bison defending themselves against a predator or workers unionizing against their boss. His message is clear: solidarity is strength!

Every page of this new edition of Mutual Aid has been beautifully illustrated by one of anarchism’s most celebrated current artists, N.O. Bonzo. The reader will also enjoy original artwork by GATS and insightful commentary by David Graeber, Ruth Kinna, Andrej Grubacic, and Allan Antliff.

Praise

“N.O. Bonzo has created a rare document, updating Kropotkin’s anarchist classic Mutual Aid, by intertwining compelling imagery with an updated text. Filled with illustrious examples, their art gives the words and histories, past and present, resonance for new generations to seed flowers of cooperation to push through the concrete of resistance to show liberatory possibilities for collective futures.”
—scott crow, author of Black Flags and Windmills and Setting Sights

“Taking aim at both Social Darwinists and Romantic dreamers, Kropotkin’s classic text makes plain that the promise of liberation arises from our collective instinct to cooperate. In this new edition, lovingly illuminated by N.O. Bonzo, we can see the powerful amplifying effect of mutual aid firsthand.”
—AK Thompson, author of Black Bloc, White Riot

“The turn of the century world that inspired Kropotkin to write Mutual Aid may seem very distant to the readers of the 21st century. Yet the principles of reciprocal support that he and his comrades advocated have taken on a new significance in our era of austerity, isolation, climate crisis, and pandemic. With a fantastic stroke of transhistorical artistic wizardry, N.O. Bonzo simultaneously conjures up and re-imagines the visionary aesthetics of the early twentieth century anarchist movement to make Kropotkin’s appeal for cooperation feel as urgent as ever.”
—Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook and co-editor of Anarchist Education and the Modern School: A Francisco Ferrer Reader

“The illustrations in this new edition of Mutual Aid do justice to Kropotkin the polymath and to his magnum opus.”
—Lee Dugatkin, author of The Prince of Evolution

“This version of Mutual Aid beautifully illustrates what ‘mutual aid’ is all about! The cooperation evident on the pages between Kropotkin and N.O. Bonzo illuminates that the more we mutually support each other, the more we not only survive but also thrive—and soar to new heights of care and solidarity.”
—Cindy Milstein, coauthor of Paths toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism

About the Contributors

Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) was the foremost theorist of the anarchist movement. Born a Russian Prince, he rejected his title to become a revolutionary, seeking a society based on freedom, equality, and solidarity. Imprisoned for his activism in Russia and France, his writings include The Conquest of Bread; Fields, Factories, and Workshops; Anarchism, Anarchist-Communism, and the State; Memoirs of a Revolutionist; and Modern Science and Anarchism. New editions of his classic works Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution; Words of a Rebel; and The Great French Revolution, 1789–1793 will be published by PM Press to commemorate his life and work on the centennial of his death.

N.O. Bonzo is an anarchist illustrator, printmaker, and muralist based out of Portland, OR. They are the creator of Off with Their Heads: An Antifascist Coloring Book.

David Graeber, taught anthropology at the London School of Economics. He was the international best-selling author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. He has written for Harper’s, The Nation, Mute, and the New Left Review. One of the original organizers of Occupy Wall Street, Graeber has been called an “anti-leader of the movement” by Bloomberg Businessweek. The Atlantic wrote that he “has come to represent the Occupy Wall Street message . . . expressing the group’s theory, and its founding principles, in a way that truly elucidated some of the things people have questioned about it.”

Andrej Grubačić is the Founding Chair of Anthropology and Social Change department at CIIS-San Francisco, an academic program with an exclusive focus on anarchist Anthropology. He is the editor of the Journal of World-Systems Research, and affiliated faculty at the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley. He is the author of several books, including Living at the Edges of Capitalism: Adventures in Exile and Mutual Aid (co-authored with Denis O’Hearn) winner of the 2017 American Sociological Association prize for Distinguished Scholarship. He is the editor of the PM Press Kairos editions.

Ruth Kinna works at Loughborough University in the UK. She is the author of Kropotkin: Reviewing the Classical Anarchist Tradition (2016) and writes on historical and contemporary anarchist politics. She is editor of the peer-review journal Anarchist Studies.

Allan Antliff, professor, University of Victoria, is author of Anarchist Modernism: Art, Politics, and the First American Avant-Garde (University of Chicago, 2001); Anarchy and Art: From the Paris Commune to the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Arsenal Pulp, 2007); Joseph Beuys (Phaidon, 2014); and editor of Only a Beginning (Arsenal Pulp, 2004), a documentary anthology of anarchist writings and activism in Canada.

Oakland-based artist GATS (Graffiti Against the System) is an internationally renowned graffiti artist with work reaching as far as Palestine, the Philippines, and Rome. He is best known for his iconic mask imagery, the intricate insignias that fill them, and his liberatory political messaging accompanying many of his pieces.

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