Mar 082015

MutualAidMUTUAL AID A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin  LOOK INSIDE
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ChristieBooks on KOBO  — MUTUAL AID A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin £2.50

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.

Mar 062015

CharlemagneWHAT IS PROPERTY? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Translated by Benjamin R. Tucker) LOOK INSIDE
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ChristieBooks on KOBO  — WHAT IS PROPERTY? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (£2.50)

Proudhon’s work is a classic for many reasons. Not only did it put a name to a tendency within socialism (“I am an Anarchist”) and raise a battle-cry against inequality (“Property is Theft!”), it also sketched a new, free, society: anarchy.

The bulk of the book contains Proudhon’s searing critique of property. This rests on two key concepts. Firstly, property allowed the owner to exploit its user (“property is theft”). Secondly, that property created authoritarian social relationships between the two (“property is despotism”). These are interrelated, as it is the oppression that property creates which ensures exploitation while the appropriation of our common heritage by the few gives the rest little alternative but to agree to such domination and let the owner appropriate the fruits of their labour. The notion that workers are free when capitalism forces them to seek employment was demonstrably false: “We who belong to the proletarian class, property excommunicates us!”

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Dec 012013

Long before Karl Marx wrote about it at great length in Das Kapital and other works, the well to do had realised that there was a problem with the workers who serviced them. They and their families eat into the profits of the comfortably off. In the opening scene of Coriolanus, the proud hero’s friend, Menenius Agrippa, avuncularly chides the famished plebs for growing mutinous. He tells them an Aesop fable (borrowed by Shakespeare from Plutarch) about how the whole body collapsed when its members, tired of slaving away to satisfy the wants of the belly, decided to go on strike. The body stands for the State, the belly for Rome’s storehouses, and both, of course, were controlled by the patricians through the Senate.

The common people of Ancient Rome had no share in governance, only the right to petition through their elected Tribunes. Yet here is a lesson for today, for our time of no work to go to or shrinking wages, welfare cuts, food-banks, and evictions, since these are just a few of the things that bring into question the value of a vote that entitles us to play a petty part in who is going to govern us. Considering how much has gone awry in the world of politics in recent times (especially since we entered what had been heralded as a brave new millennium), and considering how little the ‘ordinary’ man or woman can do about it, widespread political disengagement – not so much from politics as such (remember the million-or-more march against war in Iraq?), but from parliamentary politics – is no wonder.

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Apr 062013

AnsinLondTHE ANARCHISTS IN LONDON. A Personal MemoirAlbert Meltzer (ISBN 978-0-904564-12-9),  £2.03, ChristieBooks. PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN341ZS. First published by Cienfuegos Press, Over the Water, Sanday, Orkney, in 1976. This fully revised ChristieBooks (Kindle eBook) edition published 2013. LOOK INSIDE

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Albert Meltzer was one of the most enduring and respected torchbearers of the international anarchist movement in the second half of the twentieth century. His sixty-year commitment to the vision and practice of anarchism survived both the collapse of the Revolution and Civil War in Spain and The Second World War; he helped fuel the libertarian impetus of the 1960s and 1970s and steer it through the reactionary challenges of the Thatcherite 1980s and post-Cold War 1990s.


Albert Meltzer, anarchist, born London, January 7,1920; died, Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset, May 7, 1996.

Fortunately, before he died, Albert managed to finish his autobiography, I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels, * a pungent, no-punches pulled, Schvejkian account of a radical twentieth century enemy of humbug and injustice. A life-long trade union activist, he fought Mosley’s Blackshirts in the battle of Cable Street, played an active role in supporting the anarchist communes and militias in the Spanish Revolution and the pre-war German anti-Nazi resistance, was a key player in the Cairo Mutiny during WWII, helped rebuild the post-war anti-Franco resistance in Spain and the international anarchist movement. His achievements include Cuddon’s Cosmopolitan Review, an occasional satirical review first published in 1965 and named after Ambrose Cuddon, possibly the first consciously anarchist publisher in the modern sense, the founding of the Anarchist Black Cross, a prisoners’ aid and ginger group and the paper which grew out of it Black Flag.

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Jan 312013

MillysmallMilly Witkop-Rocker (March 3, 1877 – November 23, 1955) by Rudolf Rocker. This 1956 tribute to his life-partner, Milly Witkop, by Rudolph Rocker was handset with the Kennerley and Hadriang types, designed by Frederick W. Goudy & printed on superfine text paper at the Oriole Press by Joseph Ishill, Berkley Heights, New Jersey.  The frontispiece illustration is a crayon drawing by her son, Fermin Rocker. Republished 1981 by Cienfuegos Press, Over the Water, Sanday, Orkney, UK, and Soil of Liberty, Minneapolis, Minnesota. KOBO eBook £1.00

Milly Witkop was born Vitkopski in the Ukrainian shtetl of Zlatopol to a Jewish Ukrainian-Russian family as the oldest of four sisters. The youngest of the four, Rose, was also a well-known anarchist. In 1894, Witkop left the Ukraine for London where she worked in a tailoring sweatshop saving enough money to finance her parents’ and sisters’ passage to England, and it was her involvement in a bakers’ strike that led her to become involved with the group around the Jewish anarchist newspaper Arbayter Fraynd. In 1895, she met Rudolf Rocker in the course of her political work and, in May 1898, Rocker invited her to accompany him to New York, where he hoped to find employment. The two were, however, not admitted to the country, because they refused to marry legally and were returned to the United Kingdom on the same ship that had taken them to the United States.

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Jan 252013

Marxism2aMarxism and a Free Society by Marcus Graham. First published 1976 by Simian Publications (Cienfuegos Press),  Over the Water, Sanday, Orkney, KW172BL/ This eBook (Kindle) edition published 2013 by ChristieBooks, PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN341ZS. ISBN 978-0-904564-13-6

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Isaac Deutscher’s lecture “On Socialist Man” was given to the second annual Socialist Scholars Conference held at the Hotel Commodore, New York, on September 9-11, 1966. Deutscher had come from London as the principal invited guest at the conference. This reply to Deutscher’s address by Romanian-American anarchist writer Marcus Graham deals, in particular, with the Minutes of the First International and the sabotaging of the Hague Congress by the Marx clique.

Marcus Graham (1893-1985) lived most of his early life in the semi-clandestine world where many fighters for freedom have occasion to find themselves. He contributed to several anarchist papers before launching, in January 1933, MAN!, the organ of the International Group in San Francisco, an important link between different strands of the North American anarchist movement. In its pages Graham published articles covering the whole spectrum of anarchist thought, the politics of Roosevelt’s America, crime, fascism, religion, resistance, art, poetry, literature and anarchist profiles — a real snapshot of life and anarchism throughout most of the Thirties. MAN! continued to be published, despite police and state harassment, until its forced closure by the US government in April 1940.

Jan 242013

Wilson CoverThree Essays on Anarchism by Charlotte Wilson. Introduction and biographical note by Nicolas Walter. First published as separate essays in 1886. Compiled and published in 1979 by  Cienfuegos Press, Over the Water, Sanday, Orkney, KW172BL This eBook (Kindle) edition published 2013 by ChristieBooks, PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN341ZS. ISBN 978-0-904564-26-6

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 Charlotte Wilson was the principal founder of Freedom Press, and the first editor of the anarchist newspaper Freedom, in 1886. She had been writing about anarchism in the socialist press since 1884, and like the work of her better-known contemporary Peter Kropotkin, whom she invited to England to join the Freedom group, her anarchist writings are scholarly, original, thoughtful and clear.

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Jan 212013

LibComcoversmallLibertarian Communism by Isaac Puente Amestoy. First published in 1932 under the title El comunismo libertario. First English-language translation (by Paul Sharkey) published in The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review (No. 6, 1982),  Over the Water, Sanday, Orkney, KW172BL This eBook (Kindle) edition published 2013 by ChristieBooks,  PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN341ZS. ISBN 978-1-873976-11-1

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Dr. Isaac Puente Amestoy (3 June 1896 – 1 September 1936)

‘Economic pressures compel the individual to co-operate in the economic life of the locality. These same economic pressures ought to be felt by the collectives, obliging them to co-operate in the economic life of the nation. But to accomplish this needs no central council or supreme committee, which carry the seeds of authoritarianism and are the focal points of dictatorship, as well as being nests of bureaucracy. We said that we have no need of an architect or any ordaining authority beyond the mutual agreement between localities. As soon as each and every locality (city, village, or hamlet) has placed its internal life in order, the organisation of the nation will be complete. And there is something else we might add concerning the localities. Once all its individual members are assured that their needs will be met, then the economic life of the municipality or of the federation will also be perfected. . .’

This seminal anarchist text defining the term ‘libertarian communism’ was first published in 1932 by the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist unions of the National Confederation of Labour (CNT), with many subsequent editions. The first English translation, by Paul Sharkey, appeared in ‘The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review‘ #6 Orkney, 1982.

Jan 212013

Kropotkin001Peter Kropotkin: His Federalist Ideas by Camillo Berneri. First published in 1922 under the title Un federalista Russo, Pietro Kropotkin. First English-language translation published in War Commentary, May 1942. This eBook (Kindle) edition republished (2013) from the ‘Simian’ (Cienfuegos Press) edition 1 Exchange, Honley, W. Yorks. 1976. ChristieBooks,  PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN341ZS ISBN 978-0-904564-07-5

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Camillo Berneri (May 28, 1897, Lodi – Murdered Barcelona, May 5, 1937)

One thing on which all anarchists and libertarian socialists agree is that the social revolution should be the result of a popular movement, not one imposed from above. As Peter Kropotkin, probably the best-known of the anarchist theoreticians, described it, “[the revolution] must take the form of a widely spread popular movement, during which movement, in every town and village invaded by the insurrectionist spirit, the masses set themselves set themselves to the work of reconstructing society…without waiting for schemes and orders from above…They may not be – they are sure not to be – the majority of the nation. But if they are a respectably numerous minority of cities and villages scattered over the country…they will be able to win the right to pursue their own course”.

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Kropotkin began developing his federalist ideas as a means of countering the centralised state-building agenda then being pursued by the Bolsheviks. His vision of a federalist Russia was based on the existing regions of the Tsarist empire: Finland, the Baltic provinces, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Siberia and others, each of which would have received international recognition of its right to govern itself. But, as Camillo Berneri points out, Kropotkin envisaged that, ultimately, each component of the new Russian Federation would itself by a federation of free cities and rural communities.

Jan 202013

LaneCoversmallAn anti-statist communist manifesto by Joseph Lane with a profile of Joseph Lane by Nicolas Walter. First published by Joseph Lane in 1887 (Bethnal Green). Second edition (with intro by Nicolas Walter)  by Cienfuegos Press, Sanday, Orkney 1978 This eBook (Kindle) edition published 2013 by ChristieBooks  PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 1ZS. ISBN 978-0-904564-42-6

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Joseph Lane defended liberty, equality and solidarity — what would now be called libertarian socialism. He attacked authority, whether religious or political, and declared himself both atheist and anti-statist neither God nor master! He avoided the word anarchist, preferring to call himself a revolutionary socialist or a free communist. He opposed both mere radicals and mere secularists, both individualist anarchists and collectivist socialists. He opposed Parliament as a symbol of what was wrong with public life and marriage as a symbol of what was wrong with private life (though he was himself happily married with several children). He rejected such panaceas as imperialism and emigration, co-operation and land nationalisation, teetotalism and vegetarianism, or so-called Malthusianism (birth control), and such palliatives as a legal eight-hour day or public relief far the unemployed. He attacked the welfare state as well as the warfare state. He wanted social revolution, not social democracy.

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