Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Kropotkin, the lifeboats and me
Most maritime safety legislation, and a good deal of health and safety legislation in general, comes about as the result of a tragedy and the sinking of the Thames passenger vessel Marchioness was to eventually result in a whole raft of new initiatives. I say eventually because it was only after determined campaigning by relatives of the 51 people who lost their lives that night twenty years ago that all of the changes where put in place. One of the initiatives was the introduction in 2002 of RNLI lifeboats to the Thames. I was proud to be asked to take on the training of volunteer crews at one of the new Thames stations and having helped set up the station stayed on for three years.
I have a lot of respect for the RNLI and I'm not the first anarchist to feel that way about it. Peter Kropotkin was not only an admirer of the lifeboat service but was fond of pointing it out as an example of how a post-revolutionary society might operate. His vision of independent individuals freely cooperating in groups that in turn freely federated with others was in the opinion of that prince of libertarian communists something that could be witnessed here and now in the form of the lifeboat service.