Guy A. Aldred
Until I commenced to publish translations of Bakunin’s writings, and accounts of incidents in his career, in the Herald of Revolt (1910–14), The Spur (1914–21), The Commune (1923–29), and The Council (1923–33), little of the great Russian Nihilist’s life or thought was to be found in English except his “God and the State” — itself but an indigestible fragment. I published an abridged edition of his work in August, 1920, and issued, shortly afterwards, my “life” of Bakunin. In the present book, that life has been revised and re-written completely. All the essays from Bakunin’s pen published by me have been collected and will be published as a separate and complete work.
From the foreword to the 1920 biography, dated from “Bakunin House, Glasgow, N.W., November, 1920,” I select the following passage, explanatory of my reason for publishing a study of Bakunin : —
“How far persons may be deemed the embodiment of epochs is a debatable question. It is, at least, certain that history gains in fascination from being treated as a constant succession of biographies. Assuredly, more than Luther and his circle were necessary to effect the Reformation. But who will deny that to glean the characters of Luther, Melanethon, and Zwingi gives charm to our knowledge of the period? And do not the boldness of men and certain notable sayings remain with us as matters of consequence to be remembered in song and story, whilst the abstract principles for which they stood bore us not a little? Who of us will care to follow all the technical work accomplished by Wieklif when he pioneered the public reading of the Bible in English or turned aside from his scholarly Latin to bold writings in our native tongue? We remember only that he did these things. Forgetting his errors, in so far as he inclined towards orthodoxy, we linger with admiration over his brave declaration when he stood alone against interest and prejudice: ‘I believe that the Truth will prevail.’ And so, when we speak of Free Press, we think of one man, Richard Carlile, as typifying and embodying the struggle though assuredly his work was made possible only by the devoted band of men and women who rallied round in historic battle for the free press.
“In like fashion, when we speak of the Russian Revolution and Communism our thoughts turn to Michel Bakunin and Alexander Herzen. The latter was the father of revolutionary Nihilism. But he repented of his offspring. Bakunin never repented.
“I have endeavoured to give a true portrait of Bakunin in relation to the revolution and his epoch. My aim has been to picture the man as he was — a mighty elemental force, often at fault, always in earnest, strenuous and inspiring.”
This revised biography is a record of Bakunin’s life and struggle, and the evolution of his thought; the story of the working-class movement from 1814 to 1876; and of the thought and attitude of Bakunin’s parents and their influence on his mental growth and reaction to oppression. The story merits telling well: but it is so interesting in itself, that it will survive being told badly, until an abler pen relates it with the power equal to its thrilling importance.
GLASGOW, September, 1933.
A few chapters of this revised MS. were printed by a French comrade in 1934, who published also a French edition. There were innumerable errors and the comrade invented his own chapter headings, which sometimes made amazing reading. Thus: Bakunin Has The Time Of His Life.” This was one heading which struck me as being both funny and startling in a sober biography.
Since this MS. was prepared, the Spanish struggle against Fascism, and the World War, has made the study of Bakunin’s life a matter of urgent importance. He is the great world pioneer of resistance to Fascism.
GLASGOW, August 2, 1940.
GUY A. ALDRED
1. — BIRTH, PARENTAGE, AND DESCENT.
Michel Alexandrovitch Bakunin was born on May 8th, 1814, at the family seat of his father, at Pryamuchina, situated between Moscow and St. Petersburg, renamed Petrograd a century later, and now called Leningrad. What a cycle of history these changes indicate!
Bakunin was born two years after his friend, Alexander Herzen, first saw the light by the fires of Moscow. Those fires were lit by the order of Prince Rostopchin, as intelligent as reactionary a man, in order to drive Napoleon and his Grand Army out of the Russian Capital. Rostopschin considered that Russia faced a graver enemy in her idealistic nobility than in any foreign invaders. He observed that, in other countries, aristocrats planned insurrection in order to secure power for themselves: and democracy rose against the aristocracy in order to broaden the basis of privilege, to widen the opportunity and illusion of power: but in Russia the privileged and the aristocrats plotted revolution, and risked terrible oppression and persecution, with no other object than the abolition of their own privileges. Not only Bakunin’s career, but the story of his father, timid sceptic though he was, and of his relatives, bear out the truth of Rostopschin’s observation.
The future apostle of Nihilism was the son of a wealthy landed proprietor, who boasted a line of aristocratic ancestors. He was very rich and was what was then called the owner of a thousand slaves. Only the men were counted. Women did not count. Even as slaves, they were without consequence. They were out of the bill entirely. Thus he was the unrestricted ruler of 2,000 slaves, men and women. He had the right to sell them, to banish them to Siberia, or to give them to the State as soldiers. To speak plainly, he could rob them and enjoy himself at their expense.
As a child of nine years of age, he been sent to Italy, to the Russian Embassy in Florence. There, in the house of the Russian Minister, who was related to the family, he was brought up and educated. At the age of thirty-five he returned to Russia. One can say, therefore, that he spent his youth and received his education abroad. He returned to Russia a man of intellect and culture, a true philanthropist, possessed of a broad mind and generous sympathies. He was a Freethinker but not an Atheist. He had owed his sojourn abroad to the fact that his uncle, also a Bakunin, had been Minister of the Interior, under Catherine II.
Peter the Great had introduced European Civilization into Russia. In his ruthless way, he forced the aristocratic proprietors to shave off their beards, smoke tobacco, and accompany their wives and daughters into society. He tore young men, literally, from their families, and sent them abroad to study. This changed the life of the Russian aristocracy superficially. Beneath the acquired artificialities, they remained barbarians, slaves of Czarism, debased rulers, and outragers of their own serfs. But in its train, this pretence of civilization brought philosophy and literature. One cannot play at culture without being affected by culture in consequence. It is dangerous even for Czarism to play with fire. The fingers of authority are bound to be burnt, a little.
Catherine II., whom Bakunin’s grand-uncle served, played more daringly with the fire than Peter the Great and so burnt the fingers of the autocracy more seriously than did the mighty crushing workman Czar, the huge animal autocrat. Catherine, who died in 1786, when European Revolution and thought was at its height, had personal need of literature and philosophy, and of companionship in thought. She forced the study of the great works of the period upon her nobles. She was the friend of Voltaire and Diderot, and corresponded with Encyclopedists. She commanded their works to be read. She worshipped civilization and deified abstract humanity- very abstract-yet very dangerous to despotism. Naturally, involuntarily, her nobles became philosophers as they might have become hangmen, had she commanded them to do so. The effect on their manners was to the good, however, and their intellect suffered no harm. Out of this compulsory reading of literature, love of philosophy grew, and small pioneer groups of aristocrats were formed, for whom the shining idea of the epoch, the idea of humanity, which should supersede entirely that of the deity, was the great revelation. It unfolded itself in their lives, became at once the foundation and the ideal of their existence, a new religion. They became its Apostles, its propagandists, and the real founders of Russian thought and literature. Catherine had builded better than she intended; and although, from fear, she suppressed the movement, and cruelly persecuted its leaders, the stone of the temple had been laid and the building of the temple could not be stopped. The building proceeded steadily, though secretly, during the reigns of Paul I. (1796–1801) and Alexander I. (1801–1825), until it startled the world of “Nicholas with the Big Stick” by its proportions and extent. There can be no doubt that Bakunin’s father owed his liberal education to the philosophic ambition of Catherine II. To her fears, and those of her successors, was due the condition of Russia to which he returned.
He returned to Russia, at the age of thirty-five, a member of the Russian diplomatic service, with no immediate intention of quitting it. But the aristocratic world of St. Petersburg made such a repulsive impression on him, that he tendered his resignation voluntarily and immediately, and retired to his family seat, which he never left even for a day. Here his doors were never closed, so to speak, so large was the number of visitors and friends who called upon him. His sympathies were with the advanced circles of aristocratic thought-legacy of Catherine’s foolish trifling with philosophy, which then spread their ideas in Russia: and he ventured, not without caution, yet quite definitely, to associate himself with them. From 1815 to 1825, he took part in the Secret Society of North Russia. More than once he was asked to become President. But he was too great a sceptic and too cautious to accept.
Deism was the limit of his thought, the Deism that his son in later years castigated so effectively. Though Deism was the extent of his philosophy, he was inspired by the spirit of scientific and philosophic enquiry, which was then finding a home in Europe. It was the Age of Reason and of the Right of Man, if not yet of woman. And Bakunin’s father rejoiced in the spirit of the age. He was a keen student of nature and possessed a burning desire to understand the working of natural phenomena. Nature he loved, and next to nature, thought. The Liberalism of his mind revolted against the terrible and degrading position of slave-dealer.
Several times he gave his slaves the opportunity to demand their emancipation and to become free. But he took always the wrong measures and did not succeed in his wish and circumstance and longstanding habit conquered, and he remained quietly an owner, just like many of his neighbours, who all looked, with complacent unconcern, upon the hundred of human beings who lived in bondage, and on whose labour they fattened.
Slavery cannot be abolished piece-meal. A prevailing social disorder, entrenched in the ruling interests of the day, and so having a hundred or more economic manifestations, a complete nervous system of corruption and degradation has to be abolished entirely throughout the area that it covers: it has to be rooted up. One cannot destroy the evil by lopping off its branches. The axe must be laid to the roots.
2. — BOYHOOD AND HOME LIFE.
One of the main reasons which caused a change in Bakunin’s father’s life was his marriage. Already over forty, he fell in love with a girl of eighteen, likewise of aristocratic birth, beautiful but poor. He married this young thing; and in order to quieten his conscience for this egoistic act, he endeavoured for the rest of his life, not to raise her to his level but to reduce himself to her’s.
Bakunin’s mother came from the family Muraview. She was a niece of the hangman Muraview and of a hanged Muraview. She was a very common woman, vulgar and selfish. None of her children loved her. But they loved her father so much the more; for, during their childhood, he was always kind and affectionate towards them.
Although there were eleven children, of whom two sisters and five brothers were alive when Bakunin was at the height of his revolutionary career. Thanks to the influence of their father they were brought up more in a European than in a Russian style. They lived, so to speak, outside the Russian reality. The world immediately about them was decorated with feeling and imagination, and was far removed from all realistic influence. Their education was, at first, very liberal. But after the unhappy end of the conspiracy of December, 1825, the father got frightened and changed his plan. From now on he tried, with all his might, to make his children true servants and subjects of the Czar. For this reason he sent Bakunin as a boy of fourteen, to St. Petersburg, in order to join the Artillery School. There he spent three years; and when he was a few months over the age of seventeen years, became an officer.
At home he had acquired much learning. Besides Russian, he already spoke French and understood a little German and English. His father had given his children lessons in ancient history, and one of his uncles taught him arithmetic. Religious instruction was entirely overlooked. The priest-a dear man whom Bakunin learned to love because he brought him all kinds of sweets-came into the house often but exercised no influence regarding religion. Bakunin was always more of an unbeliever than a believer. Or rather, he was absolutely indifferent to religion.
His ideas and opinions on morals, right, and duty, were vague. He possessed instinct, but no principle. He loved the good and despised the bad, without being able to give reasons when he considered the one good and the other bad. Every injustice and injury was repulsive to him. Revolt against and hatred of all injustice, were developed more strongly within him than all others. His moral education suffered through the fact that his material and intellectual existence was founded on a gigantic injustice and on an entirely immoral foundation, the slavery of the peasants, whose sweat kept the “better class” in wealth.
Bakunin’s father felt this. He knew it quite well. But he was one of the practical men, and therefore never spoke to his children about this. He preferred to leave them in ignorance.
Bakunin’s passionate desire for adventure was a conspicuous feature of his early youth. His father used to relate his travelling recollections. To listen to them was his children’s greatest joy. His tales were very interesting. He planted the same love of nature in his children. But he never took the trouble to satisfy their wishes and give them scientific explanation. To travel, to visit different countries and new worlds-that was the wish and ideal of his children.
Bakunin’s imagination developed very much under the influence of such desires. He dreamt of nothing but travels. His brain pictured vividly how he escaped from home and found himself far, far away; far away from his father, his sisters and brothers, whom he, nevertheless, loved and honoured.
So he dreamed and thought when he entered the Artillery School. This was his first meeting with real Russian life.
3. — THE ARTILLERY SCHOOL TO MOSCOW.
Bakunin did not escape Liberalism at the Artillery School. Economic conditions had decided that his natural destiny was the army. Political circumstance selected him for a revolutionist. He discovered Liberalism, if not among the majority, at least among a large minority of the students. Here was a menacing undercurrent of radical thought and sympathy which was only outwardly loyal and obedient to the behests of the Governmental despotism. Amongst themselves, the rebel students cherished the memories of the Decemberists of 1825, and handed round the poems — that some of the martyred insurrectyionists had written — as sacred literature to be preserved and handed on from generation to generation. Anecdotage of the martyrs themselves — most of whom had belonged to the First Cadet Corps and the Artillery Institute — was retailed eagerly also and recited jealously. The students felt that Decembrism expressed and maintained “the hounour of the school.” Those of the Decembrists who had been sentyenced to Siberia were pitied, not on account of their exile, but because they had not been permitted to share the more honourable and direct fate of those who had died on the gibbet or had been executed otherwise. t was impossible for milityary despotism to efface memories of heroic revolt or to silence entirely the genius of knowledge. So the rebvolutionary enthusiasm continued top existy and to grow apace. That it influenced Bakunin is certain. His subsequent career is an evidence of its effect as a ppwerful undercurrent, directing all his energies towards the mighty purpose of social revolution. By temperament, Bakunin was passionate and elemental. This characteristyic linked the conservatism of his youth with the radicalism of his maturity and his old age. It finds expression in all the writings and explains his strange concentyrated style. In all the stahes of his evolution he was volcanic and he writes history and philosophy as though he had a commission from the fates to reduce the record of time to a study in precis-witing. Bakunin was very human. It was easy for him to pass from the conservative worship of slaves to authority to the idealistic admioration of the martyrs of liberty. There came a time when he recalled the school legends of the Decembrists as sources of vision and inspiration. At first he suspected them of being enemies of the fatherland and was dead to the grand motif of their lives. He was very much the schoolboy, conscious mainly of the discord existing between himself and his environment. And he had the grand manner of youth indulged by wealth. Alas, for the egoism of too early introspection!
Writing to his parents in the autumn of 1829, Bakunin expressed the reaction of fifteen with the solemnity of seventy. He speaks disgustedly of “the new era in my life.” This meant that he was suffering from homesickness. He complains that his imagination is pure and innocent no longer; whereas his imagination has not discovered itself as yet. The artillery school has “acquainted” him, not with Decembrism, but with “the black, foul, low side of life.” He “got used to lying” because the art of lying was approved unanimously. He felt his spirituality go to sleep, for “there reigned among the students a cold indifference to every thing noble, great, or holy.” By these virtuous superlatives, the youthful Bakunin meant loyalty to the Czar.
Three years later, Bakunin passed his examination with great eclat. He was now an officer, eighteen years old and as orthodox and priggish as a state curriculum could make him. He writes home of this event. The undergraduate saw “a new era in my life.” Bu the graduate declares that there has begun “truly a new epoch in my life.” There is the same flamboyant egotism noticeable but there is a subtle improvement in the expensive arrogance of expression. Slavish military discipline has given place to personal freedom. Bakunin feels spiritually awake. He goes where he likes and meets his fellow officers only in lesson hours. He has severed all other relations with them because their presence reminded him of the meanness and infamy of his school life. Here we see the passion of the man surging almost into revolt against the idea of external discipline. The writer seems to anticipate his latter anti-authoritarianism. Yet his letters betray extreme conservatism of opinion. His ideas are static to all appearance. Of course, the devil was born in heaven and in the beginning of his rebel career was God’s second in command. George Washington was jealous of English prestige against the French in the American colonies when the British governor and the Home Government were indifferent. Washington was compelled by the very logic of his English and a new flag. Bakunin’s Nihilism was foreshadowed by the extravaganism of his Czarism. His life-long French bias was predicted in his first contemptuous dismissal of the French revolutionary outlook.
“The Russians are not French,” he wrote to his parents, “they love their country and adore their monarch. To them his will is law. One could not find a single Russian who could not sacrifice all his interests for the welfare of the sovereign and the prosperity of the fatherland.”
Bakunin should have become an officer of the Guards as a matter of course. This would have meant participating in the splendour of the Court. Bakunin would have come into direct contact with his beloved Czar. Fortunately, he had contrived to hanger his father and to arouse the jealousy of the Director of Artillery. Adoration of his monarch had not saved him from rebelling against both parent and superior officer. As a punishment for his dual office of petty treason he was given a commission in the line. He was doomed to spend his days in a miserable peasant village far away from any centre of civilization. A hut was assigned to him for his new quarters. Here he took up his abode. He declined to accept the implied disgrace as a discipline. His military duties spent whole days in complete isolation. At last, his commanding officer ordered him to resign his appointment. He sent in his papers and returned to Moscow, a civilian. He had “worked” his discharge and was free of the military atmosphere.
In the great Russian capital, reduced by Peter the Great as Rome was by Constantine, only to become even more eternal, Bakunin was received into a circle of young savants. Its members were situated similarly to himself. Owing to the wisdom of the Russian statesmen and police authorities, this circle was engrossed in German philosophy. It was keen, especially on Hegel, who had been for several years the recognised leader of philosophy in German. His recent death at the age of sixty one, had given fresh life to his thought among these Moscow students. Entire nights were spent discussing, paragraph by paragraph, the volume of his “Logic,” “Ethics,” ““Encyclopedia,” etc. The most insignificant pamphlets which appeared in Berlin were obtained and read eagerly. In a few days they were torn and tattered and preserved in honoured pieces. Members of the circle would have nothing to do with one another for weeks after a disagreement respecting the definition of “the intercepting mind” or “the absolute personality” and its autonomous existence.
The system of Hegel was both the negation and the culmination of the philosophy of Kant, who flourished from 1724 to 1804. Hegel’s youth had been contemporary with Kant’s old age, and the period during which Kant developed his own critical philosophy of his life. In Hegel, the Kantian dualisms of phenomena and nuomena or nuomenon disappear. Hegel identifies the rational with the real and the real with the rational. He made idealism imminent in the experience and logic imminent in history. After his death his disciples split into two schools; a right and a left wing who were bitterly opposed to each other. The leaders of the left wing, the positive, original, vigorous, and ultimately only important group were Strauss and Feuerbach.
Feuerbach was born the year Kant died. He lived till after the Paris Commune and the triumph of Thiers. Bakunin survived him only four years. George Eliot translated into English his famous work in which he classified the ideas of God, the future life, and holiness, as the extravagant desires of a fugitive race dwelling upon an inconsiderable planet. Feuerbach developed the Hedonistic ethical theory and declared, somewhat crudely and, to my minid, inaccurately: “Man is only what he eats.” Man is not what he eats, but what he assimilates, remoulds, and creates. Even more, man is what he is, and what he expresses in the simple fact of being.
Strauss, who was contemporary with Feuerbach, being cradled a few years after him and outliving him a few years also by way of equity, had a disastrous career as a theologian. His “life” of Jesus, which cost him theological chairs in Germany, was translated by George Eliot. Strauss viewed Jesus as a Socrates misconceived by Christian tradition as a magician; which is a very happy conception and one that time will endorse.
At the time Bakunin returned to Moscow as an ex-officer, Feuerbach had not employed his sardonic humour to contrast the actual and ideal worlds. Nor had he produced his works on the philosophy of historoy. But he had explained belief in immorality as an illusion. Strauss was still a teacher and was planning his “life” of Jesus. Hegel, with murmurings of Feuerbach, were the themes of the Moscow circle. Its founder was Stankevitch, who had sat under Professor Pawlov at Moscow University.
Pawlov was a pedant who preferred learning to knowledge, and routine to wisdom. He introduced German philosophy into the university curriculum in 1821, because it seemed to him to be so eminently safe and dull. It was his alternative to the French, which he deemed nervous, doubtful, and dynamic. French philosophy in struck him as being something shattering and devastating. The German school was his choice between the quick and the dead.
Pawlov confined the students’ attention to Schelling and Oken. Schelling, who flourished from 1775 to 1854, had not developed at that time his theosophical gnosticism. He opposed nature to spirit but conceived both as common equal expressions of one underlying absolute principle. Actually, Monism; thoughtful and even brilliant, but not revolutionary. Oken-shortened from Ochenfuss-lived from 1779 till 1851. He attempted to construct an a priori system of knowledge and originated the idea of annual meetings of German scientists. It is said that the British Association was modelled on his plan. This fact alone is sufficient to prove that Oken was an essentially fake savant.
Having been introduced to the German philosophy, Stankevitch did not find it possible to stop at Schelling and Oken. He blundered on to Hegel and became fascinated, Hegel seemed to him all important. Consequently, Stankevitch introduced the study of Hegel to a select circle of his friends. Among these were Herzen and Bakunin. The latter had found his “new era” or “epoch.” Hegel and the Hegelians were to inspire all Bakunin’s future thought.
4. — OPENING AN EPOCH.
Years afterwards, Bakunin explained the mental atmosphere of Russia at the time that he studied at the Artillery School. He also outlined the aims and objects of the Decembrist conspiracy. It was the beginning of a new epoch.
No one who was born in America or one of the Western European countries, not even a Frenchman who received his political education under the reign of Napoleon III., or a German who went to school with Bismarck in order to learn how to become a free citizen, or an Italian who suffered under the Austrian yoke, could imagine what a terrible condition Russia was in under the regime of Nicholas. Perhaps, to-day, someone living under Hitlerism, or in Italy, under Mussolini, can imagine the Russia of “Nicholas with the Big Stick.”
The accession of Nicholas erected a memorial stone, i.e. the suffocation of the military uprising which had been prepared silently through a great aristocratic conspiracy. This is the movement which we call the conspiracy of December, not because it was started but because it was killed in that month. And when I call that movement an aristocratic one I do not mean to insinuate that their programme was aristocratic. On the contrary, their goal was democratic; in many directions, even socialistic. It was called an aristocratic movement from the fact that nearly all who took part in it belonged to the noble-class, and formed, so to speak, the intelligence of the time.
This was the main object of the Decabrist conspiracy, to end privilege. There were two societies, one in the North and the other in South Russia. The first embraced St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as the military and official element. It was much more aristocratic and political in the sense of state power than the second one. In it were the Muraviews. The members seriously considered the liberation of the serfs, and laboured to this end. They were, at the same time, great believers in a great and united Russia, with a liberal constitution. As their goal was a united Russia, they were opposed, naturally, to the independence of Poland.
The second, the South Russian society, whose seat was Kiev, was more revolutionary and democratic in the full sense of the word. This society also consisted mostly of officers and officials who hailed from Central Russia. The cause of the more revolutionary character of the organization is to be found in the fact that it was directed by the more thoughtful personalities, such as Colonel Muraview-Apostol, Dotozeff-Rumen, and the genial colonel of the general staff, Pestel.
In a certain sense, Pestel was a federalist and socialist. He was not satisfied with the wish to liberate peasants from their bondage, and give them their personal liberty. He demanded that they should be declared owners of the land on which they worked. His political ideal was a federative republic similar to the United States of America, instead of Russian Czardom. Pestel and his friends were not opposed to the independence of Poland. They even attempted to fraternise intimately with the Polish revolutionaries. For that they were criticised severely by their northern sister organization.
The above-mentioned men were conspicuous not only through their intelligence. They were great and noble characters. In the year 1820, all three died on the scaffold in St. Petersburg. A few hours before his execution, Pestel received a visit from his father, the Governor-General of Siberia. The old man was an indescribably corrupt creature, a monster, a thief, a murderer. In a word, all that usually is meant by a servant of the Czar. He came with the pretext of taking leave of his son, but really, he wanted only to rub salt into the latter’s wounds. Pestel did not want to receive him, but he had no choice.
Amongst other things, he asked him in his impudence: “Now tell me, my son, how high do you think you would have risen if you had succeeded in overthrowing Czardom?” “First of all,” said Pestel unhesitatingly, “we would have liberated Russia of devils incarnate of your type.”
As the punishment of strangulation was not then in use, the gruesome procedure went off clumsily. They were true martyrs of liberty, forerunners of the world liberated, as one day it will be, who were executed. The rope slipped over Pestel’s face, and he fell heavily to the ground where he remained, badly injured. During the moments in which the hangman re-adjusted the rope, the dying man exclaimed, “They cannot even hang you properly in Russia.”
It was the birth of a new era. Hitherto, the Russian aristocracy had been the voluntary slaves of the Czar, and the brutal, terrible proprietors of serfs who had to till their land. Until then, the aristocracy had been nothing more than a brutal beast, shut off from every ideal and saturated by the most nonsensical prejudices.
The Western European civilization, which had been introduced by Peter the Great, and developed by Catherine, was no longer a dead thing. Although the historian, Karamatin, sent as a young man to Europe to study, returned to Russia to betray his patrons, civilization and knowledge advanced by his reaction. He created official Russian patriotism and rhetoric. Even art leads to morality. And the students, in their secret circles, developed knowledge from his writing.
Napoleon’s invasion, in 1812, turned Russia upside down. Czarism, instead of defending itself was forced to beg the aristocracy, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, and the serfs for their help. Each category felt its strength and was joyful and active, like a new-born babe, in a consciousness of its power. This was the first breeze of liberty which swept over this slave-empire. After 1812, the peasants never ceased to clamour for bread and liberty. The aristocratic youth came back from abroad strangely changed. They had become liberal and revolutionary. A gigantic propaganda sprung up in all towns and garrisons, in all aristocratic palaces. Even the women took part at last, and fought with glorious enthusiasm. Thus changed the Russian aristocracy, the hitherto despicable slave of a barbaric despot, almost miraculously into fanatical propagandist of humanity and liberty.
This then, was the new world-full of progress and healthy, vigorous strength-which Czar Nicholas fought from the first day of his accession. The reaction, which broke out after the downfall of the December conspiracy, was terrible. Everything humane, everything intelligent, and everything true and good that existed in Russia, was destroyed and crushed. Everything brutal and debased ascended the throne with Nicholas! It was a systematic and entire destruction of humanity in favour of brutality and all corruption.
In the middle of these conditions, this gruesome time, Bakunin had entered, as boy of fourteen years, the Artillery School at St. Petersburg.
5. — HERZEN’S INFLUENCE.
Herzen was the love child of a German mother and a Russian noble. His father recognised and cared for him from birth. In 1827 he was sent to the University at Moscow to complete the studies he had commenced at home. Reaction was striding triumphant through Russia. The Czar and his Court were conspiring to close the universities and to replace them with organised military schools. Living a century later, we are familiar with the arguments of military despotism and entrenched bureaucracy at the war with democracy and public right. Lord Trenchard gives an excellent impersonation of the Czar’s Statesmen militarising the universities during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when he urged to-day the military reconstruction of the London Metropolitan Police Force. The unoriginal medieval Hitler apologises for the militarising of the German Universities in phrases that have been plagarised without any alteration from these pioneer Czarist despots inspired with the so-called German philosophy.
Moscow was made the centre of attack. The reaction suspected the educational foundation of being a hotbed of liberal thought and intrigue. The university was ancient and possessed a real tradition for learning. Traditions are not true, necessarily. Only, they grow hoary with legend, and stubborn believers sometimes try to make such traditions come true. In this way, falsehoods have a knack of growing into truth. Respect the pretence of knowledge long enough and you will wake up one fine morning alive to genuine love of culture. Hypocrisy is the forerunner of sincerity. It is the masquerade that proceeds the reality.
Moscow had boasted its pride of study so much that it had come to demand an independent life for its students. Their thought was to be untrammelled. Its professors were actually free spirits, inspired by the dignity of their calling. They sensed its earnestness and declined to flatter, servilely, autocracy. They were not panderers, like the old-time Greeks, willing to wait in the ante-room of authority. They were men, actual living human beings, and not schoolmasters. Their function was to develop in the students’ personality and understanding responsibility. The students, on their part, responded gladly to the liberal and radical teachings of the professors. Here, in the very heart of Moscovy, Czarist barbarism notwithstanding, flourished the cameraderie of knowledge. Youth and age belonged equally to the great Commune of learning. It was the period of the Russian Renaissance.
Czarism, and its police agents, through the desolating pestilence of their authority made increasing warfare on these professors. Their devotion to education was rewarded with secret denunciation and exile without trial. Sometimes the penalty was unrecorded translation to eternity, the pet Muscovite method of governmental assassination. A teacher became suspect naturally. His book lore placed him at the mercy of ignorant inspectors and innumerable auxiliaries of the police department. Wisdom was outlawed. Learning died. Weak men bowed before the ruling system. Their genius declined. Personality extinguished, they became mere police shadows, nervous creatures of routine. Even talent disappeared into the abyss that had been prepared for genius. Lectures were merely recitals of the Czar’s standing orders. Incapable masters were kept in office for their proved incapacity by cynical police considerations. The seminary became a cemetery. And yet, where the grave is, there is always the resurrection. Knowledge banned was love barred. It was revered. The students, in their devoted quest, proved the truth of Moncure Conway’s words; “They who menace our freedom of thought and speech are tampering with something more powerful than gunpowder.” Our day has witnessed the explosion.
The French were forbidden. Voltaire, whose name is at once romance, legend, history and satire! Rousseau! There is more than one Rousseau in the book of fame as there was more than one Jesus at the time of the wanderer of Nazererth. But there is only one Rousseau who lives in the memory of mankind. The others are recorder in the very dulltone, whose pages one sometimes idly turns. This is the parish register of the dead great: great they were were but they are dead. Jean Jacques, who lived from 1712 to 1778 is the only member of the Rousseau family who, being dead, lives. He pioneered a revolution in social relations with his imaginary contract social; wrought a revolution in French prose; and releasted literature, what sedition, from the fetid atmosphere of the salon. Rousseau’s influence finally raised the saloon above the salon in the stormy days of revolution that he inspired but never lived to witness. Moliere, who lived from 1622 to 1673, who knew human nature so well, had employed his wide understanding and great gifts so usefully to expose hypocrisy in all its professional hideousness and habiliments! Malby, 1709–1785, who retired from statemanship to plead for simplicity and equality in society! Diderot, the Encyclopedie, giant and pioneer of revolution who shook the thrones of Europe as a terrier might shake a rat. He approached the monarchy with less charm of address than did either Voltaire or Rousseau, but he moved with a force and vigour that they might well have envied. All were denied their place in the University Library at Moscow. The pantheon of power has no place for the figure of genius.
Did truth despair? Not at all. So much did the authorities dread the great French thinkers, their wit, their mordant humour, their keen irony, their knowledge, that they imagined Paris to be the centre of all thought. Panic made imbeciles of the Russian statesmen. It never occurred to their dull police understanding that their might be German thinkers. They assumed that Germans, like Russians, never thought. Certainly the triumph of Hitlerism after years of social democratic and communist agitation in the fatherland lends colour to this assumption. Gladly did the Russian government permit German classics to enter the university from which all French thought had been banned. Hegel, being German, was deemed no thinker, and was so permitted- Hegel, whose methods had inspired more revolutionar thinking than even the satires of Voltaire. Feuerbach was allowed also- Feuerbach, who denied the existence of the soul, and repeated the Communist war-cry, heard in the streets of Paris in those days of revolution: “Property is Robbery.”
The French philosophers were neglected with enthusiasm, once the Germans had usurped their place in the affections of the students. It is proverbial that love laughs at locksmiths. Thought is no less romantic and efficient. It treats authority with the smiling disdain Venus reserves for the lock-and-key maker and penetrates bars and bolts with the most effecient ease. Thought rejoices in its address and enjoys the pompous blundering of power. Voltaire was deposed and the revolution proceeded apace. The message triumphed though the messenger was changed. Is not the word greater than its bearer?
To Herzen, the German philosophy was wonderful. It was a revelation that excited his imagination and fired his ambition. He sought to understand and to assimilate its theories. The joy of discovery possessed him and he put his thoughts into writing. His manuscripts were seized. A years imprisonment followed. On his release he attended a dinner organised by the students, who toasted Hegel and sung revolutionary songs. He was arrested again and exiled to Perm, on the very borders of Siberia. In solitude he determined to fathom Hegel. A master who had cost his disciple so much freedom ought to be understood.
Herzen was permitted to return to civilized life and to live at Vladimir. He fled from here to Moscow and carried off from one of the Imperial Ladies’ Academies, a young cousin to whom he had been engaged. The authorities smiled at his romance where they frown at his thought. He was forgiven for his escapade and even allowed to live in Moscow. Ungrateful and unrepentant he joined a study circle at which he met Bakunin.
At first, Bakunin and Herzen were in opposite camps. The circle was divided into two facitons. One was Bakunin-Bielinsky-Stankevitch group. This was frankly German, authoritarian and purely speculative. It confined philosophy to the sky. The other was the group of Herzen and Ogariov. It was avowedly French, libertarian and revolutionary. It insisted that philosophy belonged to the earth. Herzen denounced Bakunin as a sentimentalist and Bakunin ridiculed Herzen as the “Russian Voltaire”. To Bakunin, throughout his career, Germany was the fatherland of authority and France the motherland of liberty. He divorced the one and espoused the other. He never varied his conception of their respective roles.
Bakunin denounced the French for being turbulent. He condemned “the furious and sanguinary scenes of” their revolution. He described the revolution itself as “this abstract and illimitable whirlwind.” It “shook France and all but destroyed her.” The French writers assumed the gaudy and unmerited title of philosophers. In their “philosophications” they made revelation an object of mockery and religion a subject for contempt. The Revolution negated the State and legal order. It sacrificed loyalty and all that was most holy and truly great in life to passing fashion. Herzen and his colleagues were suffering from this “French Malady.” They filled themselves with French phrases. Their speeches were vanities of sound, empty of meaning. Their “babbling” killed the soul in the germ. With their speeches they deprived life of the essence of beauty. Russian society in defence of “our beautiful Russian reality,” must ally itself with “the German world” and “its disciplined conscience.”
“Reconciliation with reality in all its relations and under all conditions is the great problem of our day,” he added. Real education was “that which makes a true and powerful Russian man devoted to the Czar.” Like the more modern Hitler, Bakunin, at this stage of his thought, omitted women as an individual from his scheme of things. The Russian man was to be “devoted to the Czar” of his own will. In the case of women, obedience was her natural lot. She had no initiative in the matter. Her loyalty was but the docility of the cowed domestic animal. Many Socialists and even Communists indulge this Early Church Father failing that Luther perpetuated into German life and thought. Even Free-thought has not cured the most radical manhood of the folly of striking sex out from the definition of the male human and omitting “human” from the definition of woman. In our text books, is not woman still referred to as “the sex?” Does not man regard sex as his spare time enjoyment? Consider then the actual insult to at least half the human race conveyed by the prevailing male conception.
Hegel and Goethe were, according to Bakunin, “the leaders of this movement of reconciliation, this return from death to life.” “Yes,” he added, “suffering is good; it is that purifying flame which transforms the spirit and makes it steadfast.”
Of course suffering is good, provided it serves some definite useful purpose. Otherwise suffering is merely senseless barbarism. To accept injunction of Jesus, to take up the burden or cross of the everyday useful struggle of life, to witness for Truth against Mammon and Moloch and the Kings of the Earth, is wisdom. Unhappily, Bakunin did not mean this kind of sacrifice. He meant repression and subjection. It was “sacrifice” to don a uniform and proceed to murder in the name of Glory; to enlist under the banners of Czar and Kaiser; indeed to follow any licensed murderer who termed himself a King or a General or a Statesman. Bakunin’s “sacrifice” was the quintessence of human folly. Sacrifice is without purpose unless it leads to a fuller life for the individual and for all members of the great human family. Hegel had reconciled Bakunin to Germany and the narrow circumscribed life of oppression. He wrote and spoke as the apostle of Czarism and Prussianism. He was still the homesick schoolboy who despised the students at the Artillery School.
Bakunin plunged to the very depths of the German metaphysical idealism. He hesitated before none of its logical consequences. He rejoiced that “the profound religious feeling of the German people” saved it from such experiences as those endured by France during its immortal Revolution.
No wonder, when he had passed through the violent change which transformed him into an Anarchist and enemy of Czarism, Bakunin hated everything German and adored everything French. No wonder the Germanophile became the Francophile and the Francophote became the Germanophote. Bakunin had passed through his transition before the Stankevitch circle dissolved in 1839. He embraced Herzen’s viewpoint and supported the latter’s contention with boldness and irresistible dialectic. The dawn of the hungry forties found him the champion of France and Revolution. To him, France was now the classic land of struggle and revolution.
It had enjoyed 800 years of revolution from A.D. 987 to 1789. It was home of Freedom, whereas Germany was the home of authority and reaction. Hegel had converted Bakunin to France and Liberty. Voltaire was not merely avenged. He was excelled.
The completion of Bakunin’s mental change is a matter for serious study by the apologists of power. Life is amusing as well as sad. It is never more entertaining and instructive than in its moments of great crisis, when old worlds give place to new. Then we witness the renowned struggle between Little Jack and the Mighty Giant. The Biblical variant is David and Goliath. History has many variants. Jesus against Caesarism, a struggle not yet ended. Luther against Rome. Erasmus against the Dark Ages. Voltaire against the feudal nobility of France. Servetus against Calvin. In terms of struggle and tragedy they relate and illustrate the same magnificent paradox of progress. In the battle between Power and Thought, it is Power and not Thought that is handicapped unmercifully. Yet whenever the contest is renewed sides are taken because men believe that Power is supreme and Thought a hopelessly outclassed challenger. It is as though mankind regularly at the dawn of each new epoch shuts out all knowledge of the past. Were it otherwise there would be no battle, and, perhaps, no true progress. The Apostle intended not error but truth when he defined Faith as the evidence of things unseen. Actually, Faith is the vision of things clearly seen from the beginning of time.
Power moves along the ages heavily, weighed down with its own authority, and armed always with its unwieldy bludgeon. It has no elan. It was wealth and pomp and numbers; perfect machinery, much surrounding circumstances, but withal, no life. Thought is without numbers. Thinkers rarely command a majority. The grave can boast a more compact majority. Thought has no machinery of action. Like Shakespeare’s conspirators, thought is lean and dangerous. But it is destiny and ever survives. It dies only when it has ascended from the gutter to the palace and has assumed the rank of fashion. It then returns to the gutter and makes war on its shadow. Hans Andersen has told the story of the man and his shadow in one of his immortal fairy tales. In his story, the shadow, which is Power, triumphs. In our record the man, being Thought, lasts the distance.
Power lumbers awkwardly to its doom, whilst Thought moves gracefully and bravely through suffering, from the gibbet to the throne. This is the great message of Christianity as yet unrevealed to theologians but obvious to the poor. The sword must perish and the world must triumph. This fact explains why Achilles and Hector, old-time deities, are now forgotten. Hector, of course, is remembered in the word “hectoring.” It means that humanity reveres him no longer as a god but recalls his memory as that of a braggard and bully. The growth of this idea registered the distance that separates Shakespeare’s story of the gods in his little appreciated
“Troilus and Cressida” from the same theme as developed at an earlier epoch of English literature by Chaucer. Jesus based his entire ethic on the simple truth that the gods of power and violence must pass away. Every martyr since has expressed the same conception. Holy Synods and Czarist police knew nothing about such subtleties. By destroying bodies and burning books they expected to perish thought. To the contrary, by destroying mere messengers, they gave body to thought itself. Men die only that that thought may be resurrected in a new body unto triumph and glory. In Russia, Bakunin became that new body. He was the word incarnate, a most brilliant member of a brilliant group of thinkers and disputants.
Herzen”s contention, at first challenged and then accepted by Bakunin, was that Hegel’s system was nothing less than the algebra of the Revolution. It set men free in a sense that no other philosophy had done or could do. It liberated the world from obsolete restrictions. It left no authority secure in Christendom. It proclaimed the idea that nothing was immutable and asserted that every social condition contained the germ of its own destruction. This idea, a platitude of all modern socialist argument, belongs, not to De Leon or even Marx, but to Hegel. The idea led Herzen to the study of the French Revolution. He went further back. The revolution led to the philosophers who had foreseen and inspired it. They became the divinities of his thought like so many stars in the firmament. Hegel had proven Herzen’s direct path to the study of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and d’Alembert. In his turn, Herzen had brought Bakunin to worship at the same altar.
Bakunin’s changed attitude made his writings radical and his outlook on theology very clear. From this time on he was not merely an Atheist but an anti-theist. Voltaire needed God to explain the universe and to restrain the wildness of democracy in riotous mood. Freethinkers have complained that Bakunin was not too much concerned with disputing the validity of Voltaire’s deistic explanation. That is true. Bakunin’s concern was to remove once and for all, the authority of the idea of god in order that man might breathe freely. Bakunin assumed what most freethinkers were not prepared to accept: not only did god not exist, but even if he could or did man had rights against god. In a word, Bakunin set his cause on liberty.
Herzen was impressed with Bakunin’s incomparable “revolutionary tact.” At least he was awake. He personified tireless energy. Days of reaction had made him thoroughly at home with the German language and the German philosophy. He employed its forceful concentration to express French libertarian ideas. Proudhon noted the effect of his German studies on his thought and style. The great French Anarchist regarded Bakunin as a monstrocity in his terse dialectic and his luminous perception of ideas in their essence.
Monstrosity! Perhaps that word will serve as well as any other to explain the shadow that Bakunin cast across the field of the nineteenth century European politics. It is a worthy portrait of, and a fitting epitaph for, the man who was, throughout his life, the victim of his own thoroughness.
6. — THE FRENCH AND GERMAN SPIRIT.
Tourgenieff once invented a Nihilist hero named Bazaroff. This character lives in Socialist literature because of his propagandist reply to the usual skeptical question: Do you imagine that you influence the masses? Bazaroff answered: “A half-penny tallow dip sufficed to set all Moscow in a blaze.” Herzen’s nativity associates his name with the immortal flames thus humbly originated. He is the lighted tallow dip which began the mighty Russian conflagration which yet threatens to consume the whole of Capitalist Society. Even as the flames spread, Herzen spluttered and went out. Before succumbing to reaction, he set fire to a rare torch in Bakunin. His great disciple was destined to light the beacon fires of revolution throughout the world. For many years Bakunin’s activities may have seemed to have been so much smoke. To-day we know they were smouldering fires. The last has not been heard of his world influence. Bakunin began his mission in 1841. He proceeded to Berlin to continue the studies commenced at Moscow. He was now a Red among Reds. Philosopher, Socialist, Rebel, he left Russia for the first time. The following ear he removed from Berlin to Dresden in order to gain a nearer acquaintance with Arnold Rouge, the foremost Hegelian of the lft. Bakunin was anxious to proclaim his sympathy with Rouge, and his definite rupture with conservatism. To this end, he published his first revolutionary essay, entitled “The Reaction in Germany,” in Rouge’s Jahrbucher for 1842, Nos. 247–51. He used the nom-de-plume of Jules Elizard and had Rouge pretend it was a “Fragment by a Frenchman.” From this time on, French prejudices were to mar his work, as formerly, his German ones had confined his understanding. The hindrance of radical idealism was fatal to the genius of the nineteenth century. It limited Marx as well as Bakunin.
“Jules Elizard” entered an uncompromising plea for revolution and Nihilism. The principle of revolution, he declared is the principle of negation, the everlasting spirit of destruction and annihilation that is the fathomless and ever-creating fountain of all life. It is the spirit of intelligence, the ever young, the ever new born, that is not to be looked for among the ruins of the past. The champions of this principle are something more than the mere negative party, the uncompromising enemies of the positive; for the latter exists only as the contrary of the negative, whilst that which sustains and elevates the party of revolt is the all-embracing principle of absolute freedom. The French Revolution erected the Temple of Liberty, on which it wrote the mysterious words: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” It was impossible not to know and feel that these words meant the total annihilation of the existing world of politics and society. It was impossible, also, not to experience a thrill of pleasure at the bare suggestion of this annihilation. That was because the “joy of destruction is also the joy of creation.”
It was fitting that the year after the publication of “Jules Elizard” essay, Bakunin should quit Dresden for Paris. He believed he had learned all there was to be learned in Germany. In the French capital he identified himself with all who were noted for their revolutionary opinion. A certain community of thought attracted him to Proudhon. The latter answer answered the question, “What is Property?” with Brissot’s revolutionary reply: “Property is Theft.” Proudhon, who paid great tribute to Jesus as a prophet, adopted the early Christian motto: “I will rebuild.” Proudhon possessed an intense admiration for Hegel and believed that the process of destruction was a necessary part of construction. With Thomas Paine, he also believed that the social constitution of society was opposed to the political constitution of the state. This is the essence of Anarchist philosophy. Despised during the years that parliamentary social democracy was fooling and betraying the workers of Europe, it is now seen to embody the wisdom of the social struggle.This idea subsequently led Proudhon to develop his “Revolutionary Idea” in which he foresees the liquidation of political or military society-he identifies the two-in industrial or useful society. Proudhons anarchist theory that reaction is the forerunner of revolution is seen to-day to be historically correct as opposed to the parliamentary theory of gradualism, which has collapsed. On all these points Bakunin finds himself at one with Proudhon. Marx describes Proudhon as a Utopian and a Reformist. Bakunin described him as a social revolutionist of the first water. There is truth in both conceptions. In later years Bakunin came to share Marx’s view of Proudhon. In “Statism and Anarchy,” issued somewhere in Russia, in 1873, Bakunin wrote:-
“Proudhon, in spite of all his efforts to get a foothold upon the firm ground of reality, remained an idealist and a metaphysician. His starting point is the abstract side of law; it is from this that he starts in order to arrive at economic facts, while Marx, on the contrary, has enunciated and proved the truth, demonstrated by the whole of the ancient and modern history of human societies, of people and of states, that economic facts preceded and precede the facts of political and civil law. The discovery and demonstration of this truth is one of the greatest merits of M. Marx.”
Two years before, writing at the time of the disaster to the Commune and at the beginning of the parliamentary debacle, Bakunin, in his Political Theology of Mazzini and the International, published at Neuchatel, gives Marx the credit of having discovered the materialistic conception of history. Bakunin defines this conception as follows:-
“All the religions, and all the systems of morals that govern a given society are always the ideal expression of its real, material condition, that is, especially of its economic organisation, but also of its political organisation, the latter, indeed, being never anything but the juridical and violent consecration of the former.”
In this same year of tragedy, Bakunin records his first impressions of Marx when he met him in Paris:-
“Marx was much more advanced that I was as he remains to-day, not more advanced but incomparably more learned than I am. I knew then nothing of political economy. I had not yet rid myself of metaphysical abstractions, and my Socialism was only instinctive. He, though younger than I, was already an Atheist, an instructed materialist, a well-considered Socialist. It was just at this time (1847) that he elaborated the first foundations of present system. We saw each other fairly often, for I respected him much for his learning and his passionate and serious devotion-always mixed, however, with personal vanity-to the cause of the proletariat. I sought eagerly his conversation, which was always instructive and clever, when it was not inspired by a paltry hate, which, alas! happened only too often. But there was never any frank intimacy between us. Our temperaments would not suffer it. He called me a sentimental idealist, and he was right. I called him a vain man, perfidious, and crafty; and I, also, was right.”
This takes us back to the forties and Bakunin’s adventures in France. A few months after their meeting, Proudhon was obliged to leave Paris for Lyons. Bakunin was induced by his Polish to leave Paris for Lyons. Bakunin was induced by his Polish friends to go to Switzerland. He was involved in the trial of the Swiss Socialists and deprived of his rank as a Russian officer and his rights of nobility. He whittled away five years in the Swiss villages. Proceeding to Paris, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the struggle for freedom. His activity brought him into contact with Marx. His impression of Marx has been recorded.
7. — BEFORE THE STORM.
November 29th, 1847, was the anniversary of the insurrection of Warsaw. On this date Paris celebrated Bakunin’s speech to the Poles. For the first time a Russian offered the hand of brotherhood to the rebel nationalists of this much persecuted people, and renounced publicly the government of St. Petersburg. His oration promised that the future Russian Revolution would make amends for the grievous injustice suffered by the Polish nation under the Czar. It would remove all differences between the two leading Slav families and unite them into a federative Social Republic. It must not be concluded that Bakunin was anticipating the post-war Poland of the counter revolutionary financiers. He was not anticipating even Stalinist Soviet Russia, where revolutionists are exiled and imprisoned for their adherence to the permanent revolution and their opposition to the counter-revolutionary fallacy that an agrarian country can build a socialist state surrounded by capitalist nations. He visioned a Soviet Poland and a Soviet Russia, two allied proletarian lands in which all power would be vested in the direct hands of the producers themselves. Bakunin wanted a real social reorganisation of society. His new Russia was merely an introduction to a new Europe and a new world. Its full import was not appreciated at the time. ALl that the Czar’s government realised was that it had made a sensation and was thoroughly seditious. It placed a reward of 10,000 roubles on the venturesome orator’s head, and demanded his expulsion from Paris. His every move was watched by Russian police agents. The idea was to kidnap him once the French government had sacrificed his political immunity to the Czar’s request.
Guizot has some reputation in literature for radicalism. As a statesman, he was a reactionary of the worst description and always ready to play lackey to the Czar. A few years before had been too polite to refuse the Russian government’s request for Marx’s expulsion. The latter was actually expelled from Paris not even to please the Kaiser but to placate the Czar. Bakunin was expelled, and like Marx, went to Brussels. He had scarcely reached here when Paris rose in revolt and expelled Guizot and Louis Phillippe from France. The new provisional government now invited the “brave and loyal Marx” to return. It extended a similar invitation to Bakunin and described France as being “the country whence tyranny had banished” them and where “all fighting in the sacred cause of the fraternity of the peoples” were welcome. Bakunin returned to Paris and became active in the new political life of that city.
Marx and Bakunin were an annoyance to the Lamartine and Marast government. They took the republican ideal seriously and realised the material revolution must proceed its realisation. The government did not expel Bakunin but his departure was a relief to it. He went to the Slavo-Polish Congress at Breslau, and afterwards attended the Prague Congress of June 1st, 1848. Here his famous Slavonic programme was written. To avoid arrest, he travelled on the passport of an English merchant, and cut off his long hair and beard. Up till the time that Windisgraetz dispersed this congress with Austrian cannon, Bakunin worked with the Slavonians. These events inspired Marx’s famous chapters on “Revolution and Counter-Revolution.” Credit for this work is now given to Engels. It is admitted, however, that if Marx did not write it, he inspired it. Engels seems to have been, on occasion, the most efficient secretary and if necessary, the complete literary ghost.
Treating of this political storm period, Marx sings the praises of the generous bravery and the noble far-sightedness of the spontaneous revolt of the Viennese populace in the cause of Hungarian freedom. He contrasts their action against the “cautious circumspection” of Hungarian statesmanship. He dismisses Parliamentarians as poor, weak-minded men so little accustomed to anything like success during their generally very obscure lives that they actually believed their parliamentary amendments more important than external events. Marx proves that at this crisis Parliament did not control the army nor even the executive authority. He quotes with approval Radetzky’s sneer at the imbecile responsible ministers at Vienna, that they were not Austria, but that he and his army were. Marx adds: “The army was a decisive power in the State, and the army belonged, not to the middle classes, but to themselves.” It “had only to be kept in pretty constant conflicts with the people and the decisive moment once at hand, it could with one great blow, crush the revolutionists, and set aside the presumptions of the middle class parliamentarians.”
Although Marx flirted with the universal suffrage in Britain, he neither answered nor recalled his trenchant contrast of the superiority of a confident army to a babbling parliament. His words sound the call of battle and revoltuionary anti-parliamentarism. He identifies his work with the ideal and endeavour of Bakunin.
8. — OUT OF CHAOS.
The year 1848 was an era in the history of EUropean Socialism. It will probably prove to be a turning point in the history of human progress. Not only did it witness the so-called French Revolution., with its marvellous February days, but it found the whole of Europe in a ferment. Radicalism now became Socialism. The political revolution now gave place to the social revolution. Although agitators and advanced thinkers quibbled as to whether the Social Revolution was a political revolution or not, and although their theories of action proved a chaos of blundering, they agreed definitely on the necessity for a social revolution as distinct from a mere political revolution. Socialism now turned its back on its Utopian pioneers and aspired to be scientific. It regarded itself as inevitable. It made its appearance in Russia. Twenty years after Herzen had been introduced by the scared police authorities of Russia to Hegel at Moscow, the theories of St. Simon, relieved of their Utopian trimming appreance s became the gospel of the Russian radicals. In its origin, Russian Socialism was closely connected with the Anarchism of Proudhon. It will be found that the Slav connection of the proletarian revolution never lost completely Proudhon’s influence. Since the war, the world socialist movement has plunged into chaos. Marxism is making its last authoritarian stand through
the medium of the utterly bankrupt Stalinist International. True in its wonderful analysis of history, Marxism has floundered terribly in its political play-acting. Its words are the words of the working-class struggle but its political practice belongs to the bureaucracy of the middle-class. Out of this chaos, the workers are turning to the policy outlined by Proudhon. We are returning to the Russian Socialism of 1848.
The Paris upheaval of 1848 was the last attempt of the French workers to entrust completely their cause to the care of middle-class politicians. Since then the workers of the world have been deceived completely and repeatedly by politicians. These worthies have usually lived and died in comfort. Their origins were plebeian enough and they entered politics as proletarian champions. The function of their career has been to repeat the lesson of 1848; the workers have nothing in common with politicians. In a word, political radicalism cannot be trusted by the masses. Is not that the lesson of MaxDonalds career? Of Snowden’s? Of Ebert’s? Of Millerand’s? And Briand’s? It was the starting point of Russian Socialism. The diplomatic record of the present Soviet bureaucracy will establish its truth. Proudhon’s anarchy was a consistent influence from his excellent object lesson.
He argued that the 1848 movement failed because it was a political revolution and not a social one. He did not blame the middle class politicians. He explained them and satirised them. He asserted that every political revolution must end in debacle because it changes nothing except the holder of power; and power, whether exorcised by a democrat or a republican, must be conservative and oppressive. Power cannot challenge but must accept the prevailing economic order. Power is not a radical but a panderer. It lacks initiative, the essential feature of social change. The economic order could be abolished only when power was destroyed and the adjustments of economic interests relegated to the direct mutual consent of the producers themselves individually assembled in their various Communes. Revolution would abolish the existing economic order naturally and spontaneously. Such revolution did not need violence for its achievement; for it would be brought about first in human minds. Said Proudhon: “The means that were taken from society by an economic arrangement will be given back to society by dint of another economic arrangement.”
There is a Utopian flavour about this statement yet it helped to differentiate the economic interests of the working class from the political interests of the middle class. It did draw a definite line of demarcation between the political struggle for power and the social overthrow of usury. Herzen and Bakunin embraced this distinction with enthusiasm. In close touch with Proudhon they applauded his conclusions and enlarged its application. For a time after his association with Bakunin, Herzen returned to the service of the Russian State. His work was purely technical and he spent his spare time in writing novels, romances, and studies of manners. The meanness of his occupation, both official and spare time, outraged his self-respect. He exploded and once more took up the struggle against Czarism. Again his pen denounced despotism. He wrote boldly and bitterly and encountered persecution as a matter of course. He was compelled to abandon his office as a barrister and go into exile. In 1848, Herzen left Russia never to return. In exile he proclaimed his gospel of universal negation. His goal was the social republic.
Herzen explained why he went beyond Proudhon:
“A thinking Russian is the most independent being in world. What, indeed could stop him? Consideration for the past? But what is the starting point of modern Russian history other than the entire negation of nationalism and tradition?...On the other hand the past of the western nations may well serve us a lesson — but that is all; we do not think ourselves to be executives of their historic will. We share in your hatred, but we do not understand your attachments to the legacies of your ancestors. You are constrained by scruples, held back by laternal considerations. We have none...We are independent, because we start a new life... because we do not possess anything — nothing to be loves. All our recollections are full of rancour and bitterness...We wear too many fetters already to be willing to put on new chains... What matter for us, disinherited juniors that are, your inherited duties? Can we, in conscience, be satisfied with your worn-out morality, which is non-Christian and non-human, and is evoked only in the rhetorical exercises and judicial sentences? What respect can we cherish for your Roman-Gothic law: that huge building, lacking light and fresh air, a building repaired in the Middle Ages and painted over by a manumitted bourgeoisie?... Do not accuse us of immorality on the ground that we do not respect what is respected by you. Maybe we ask too much — and we shall not get anything... Maybe so, but still we do not despair of attaining what we are striving for.”
This is the statement of Nihilism. It is the Russian application of St. Simon and Feuerbach. The new order is to be brought into existence by burying existing society under its own ruins. Once abolished, the old society can never reconstitute itself. Another society must emerge inevitably, because man must live in society whatever states and political orders he destroyed. The new society will be a better and truer society without doubt. Certainly, it would be no likeness to bourgeois republicanism, no matter what means were employed to substitute such a republic era of feudalism. Herzen could not see beyond the first principles of the new society. He did not know what was to develop under it, not yet what was to follow it. He knew it could not be the end. The old society was a regime of death. The new must be the beginning of life. Change must follow even that change. Without persecuting the future with his doubts Herzen saluted the coming revolution with the words: “Death to the old world! Long live chaos and destruction! Long live death! Place for the future! Out of the chaos, Socialism was to be born.
Herzen’s Socialism embodied the current European doctrines of his time. He grafted these on to his early Moscow studies. The result was that he confused nationalist ideals with radical universal ones. Down to the storm period of 1848, these two Russian movements were inspired with the same idea: the glorious destiny of the people. They separated and became irreconcilably opposed because the one movement conceived of the greatness of Russia and the other desired the greatness of the people themselves within and without Russia. This conflict finds an echo in the struggle that exists to-day between Trotskyism and Stalinism. The permanent revolution is European and cosmic. Socialism in one country is nationalistic and reactionary. Herzen states the difference very well in his “Memoirs.”
“We and the Slavophils represented a kind of two faced Janus; only they looked backward and we look forward. At heart we were one; and our heart throbbed equally for our minor brother, the peasant — with whom our mother-country was pregnant. But what for them was the recollection of the past was taken by us as the prophecy of the future.”
Herzen is here explaining that he and his Slavophils were agreed that the foundations of the Russian peoples’ emancipation was the Mir or rural Commune. The Slavophils considered the Commune the historic national expression of Christian living — the economic organisation of love and humility. Herzen had not time for Christianity and theology. He wanted man, not god. To him, the Russian Commune was prophetic. It symbolised in germ the socialist society of the future. His Slavophile prejudices have been justified in two directions. The industrial expression of the Mir is the Soviet or Council. Without question, the Council is the unit of organisation and of franchise in industrial society as opposed to the territorial constituency of useless political or consuming society. Consumption has no right to be enfranchised. Production must be enfranchised if society is not to degenerate into chaos. Believing this, Herzen maintained that European civilisation must die a natural death of exhaustion.This world revolution would begin in Moscow and not in Paris or Berlin or even London. Herzen loved to compare the arrogant civilisation of the eternal city and the triumph of Christianity with the arrogant civilisation of Western Europe and the dawn of Socialism. He saw Russia playing the part of Saviour. He wanted a New Russia even as we want a New Britain.
Herzen developed his theories in a series of articles written during the first two years after he left Russia. He had approached them at the beginning of his exile in his famous work, published in Rome, “Before the Storm.” The storm of 1848 left power in the hands of the heated bourgoisie whose politicians Herzen call “the prize beasts.” He develops his theory with greater force in “After the Storm.”
“We are not called upon to gather the fruits of the past, but to be its torturers and persecutors. We must Judge it, and learn to recognise it under every disguise, and immolate it for the sake of the future.”
Herzen thus challenged the theory now known as the inevitability of gradualism. He denied the constitutional social democratic idea that the proletariat should conquer political power under Capitalism. Radically at one with Marx in his analysis of capitalism and his theory of the class struggle. He was opposed to both Marx and Engels wherever they diluted the revolutionary theory with a suggestion of parliamentary programmes. Herzen denied that the possible triumph of social democratic politicians was a triumph of socialism. He denied that Jesus had conquered Caesar when Constantine established the Church of the Capitol. He saw throughout the ages the original plan of tyranny being developed and improved in detail, re-named, and re-decorated from time to time, but never abandoned nor destroyed so long as leaders pursued personal power and the masses remained in subjection. The Reformation, headed by Luther, did not emancipate the people. It averted revolution and saved clericalism. Did not Luther compromise his opposition to the superstition of the physical real presence in disgust at the peasants’ rebellion and to express his opposition to the communism of the Annabaptists? The French Revolution, Herzen argued, finally did not destroy authority. It conserved authority, but the coming social revolution would uproot and destroy. It would put an end to the ages of cant. It would not widen the power of States but destroy their entire political structure.
As one follows Herzen in the development of this theory, one may not endorse all the details of his approach. The present writer, for example, considers that the French Revolution did not destroy authority, but that it was arrested in its expression. There can be no doubt, however, that, fundamentally, the message of Herzen is the message of working-class emancipation. It defines the chaos and points the way out. It is a revolutionary negation of parliamentarism. Would that the workers of Europe had hearkened to it. It spells the establishment of Soviet responsibility. In the last analysis, that is the social revolution and the sole foundation of proletarian freedom.
9. — IN EXILE AND ACTION.
Bakunin was compelled to quit Prague. He fled to Germany and was received with open arms by the Radical element. Everywhere pursued and expelled whenever the police discovered his place of concealment, he wandered from town to town till the end of April, 1849. In this fashion he lived first at Berlin, then at Dessau, Cothen, and various towns in Saxony. At last, under an assumed name, he found employment at the university of Leipsig. He organised a revolutionary circle of Bohemian students, and formed a revolutionary alliance of Slavonian democrats, Hungarian rebels and German revolutionists.
Wilhelm Richard Wagner, the great composer, lived in Paris from 1839 to 1842. He returned to Dresden that year. In Paris, he made the acquaintance of Bakunin. The friendship was renewed when Bakunin came to Saxony. When Bakunin took command at the defence of Dresden, Wagner was his close associate. When Bakunin was arrested in 1849 the great composer fled from Germany. He remained in exile in Zurich, in Switzerland, till 1862. That was the very year that Bakunin returned to his life and propaganda after weary years of imprisonment and exile under the Czar. Wagner has given us a picture of Bakunin in exile and action during the Saxony period. He writes: —
“With Bakunin everything was colossal, and of a primitive negative power. He liked to discuss; and lying on the not too comfortable sofa of his friend, Rockel, in whose house he was hiding, he was pleased always to talk with others over various revolutionary problems. In those discussions, Bakunin was usually the victor. It was impossible to refute his logical arguments and radical conclusions. From every word he uttered one could feel the depth of his innermost convictions...
“His many startling remarks naturally made an extraordinary impression on me. On the other hand, I saw that this all-destroyer was the love-worthiest, tender-hearted man one could possibly imagine. Noticing once that my eyes could not endue the bright light of the lamp, he shaded for me with his broad hand for about an hour, although I begged him not to trouble. All the while, he calmly developed his most dangerous theories.
“He knew my most secret troubles, about the ever present danger to my ideal desires for art. Nothing was incomprehensible to him; yet he did not wish me to affront him with my art projects. I wanted to explain to him, my nibelung work, but he refused to listen... As regards the music, he always advised me to repeat the same text in various melodies: Struggle and Destruction. The tenor was to urge the need from strife to chaos. The soprano was to do so, and the baritone also.
“I remember, even yet, with pleasure, that I once persuaded him to listen to the first act of my ‘Flying Dutchman.’ He listened most attentively to the music and when I stopped for a moment, exclaimed ‘that is wonderfully beautiful.’ He loved music and wanted to hear more and more.
“Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony,’ was played at a general repetition before a concert of the Saxon Court-Orchestra. When the music was finished, Bakunin came running over and declared: ‘If music should perish in the coming world upheaval, we must risk our lives to save the ‘Ninth Symphony.’
“More than once Bakunin remained with us to supper. On one of these occasions he exclaimed to my wife: ‘A real man must not think beyond the satisfaction of his first needs. The only true worthy passion for man is love.’
“Bakunin longed after the highest ideals of humanity. His nature reflected a strangeness to all the conventionalities of civilisation. That is why the impression of my association with him is so mixed. I was repelled by an instinctive fear of him; yet he drew me like a magnet.”
Wagner tells many stories of Bakunin’s activities in exile. In his hiding corner, he received men from all sections of the revolutionary movement. The Slavonian revolutionists were his favourites. For the French, as individuals, he had no particular sympathy in spite of his eulogy of the French spirit and his endorsement of Proudhon’s socialism. Of the Germans he never spoke. He despised them beyond words. He was not interested in democracy or the republic because he deemed them the political shadows of class-society. He wanted economic democracy; a producers’ and not a joint stock republic. He hated every scheme for the reconstruction of the social order because it meant the prolonging of slavery. He saw that, one day, the very pretence of reformism would have to break down. His sole aim was the complete overthrow of the existing regime, and the evolution was a completely new social order.
Once a Pole, who was afraid of such ideas, remarked that some State organisation was necessary, in order that the individual might be assured of the full results of his labour. Bakunin replied: “You mean that you would fence in your piece of land to afford a living for the police. Is that getting the full results of our labours? Organisations for the new social order will rise in any case. Our task is to destroy parasitism.”
This was Bakunin’s actual attitude towards life. It summarises all his thought and work. He hated the petty bourgeoisie, the men and women of the suburbs, with their back-gardens and train time tables. With them, everything was a narrow mean routine. Bakunin knew that these small people were the great drawback to the revolutionary change. He hated their smug politeness and called them Philistines. He found their true embodiment in the Protestant clergymen and declared that it was impossible to make a man of this contemptible creature. He wrote: “Of the tyrants we need have no fear; the real menace consists of the Philistines. Kings would often abdicate but for the lackeys who prey through them.”
Bakunin acquired a glory at the Dresden uprising which his enemies have not denied. From the 6th to the 9th May he was the very life and soul of its defence against the Prussian he had found few there whom he could count on in a rebel emergency. At first he was an indifferent spectator of the Dresden uprising. On the third day he was fighting on the barricades. The Provisional Government consisted of three members. Two of these lost their heads completely when they learned that the Prussian troops were advancing. The third member was the courageous and energetic Hybner. He appeared in the most dangerous places to encourage the fighters. The Dresden movement had made a comic impression on Bakunin by its folly. But the noble endurance and example of Hybner resolved him to fight by the latter’s side. Bakunin thereupon took command of the principal barricade and repulsed one of the worst attacks. The Prussians were forced to retreat. Bakunin became the hero of the uprising. He was active day and night, and hardly ever closed his eyes. He showed less fatigue than any of the other defenders. For strategical purposes he ordered the “lovely tress” along the promenade to be cut down. The good citizens of Dresden protested. Bakunin remarked: “The tears of the Philistines make no wine for the gods.” When Bakunin saw that it was impossible to defend Dresden any longer, he suggested that the revolutionaries should retreat to the hills, and carry the battle over to the provinces. The uprising would assume then the character of a real national movement.
Through the negotiation of the Chemnitz town guard, the Provisional Government settled there. On the way to Chemnitz, they stopped for a while in Freiburg, Hybner’s home. Hybner, who very much admired Bakunin’s courage, at the same time entertained a certain fear of his ideas. He asked Bakunin if it would not be more practical to dissolve the small revolutionary army, instead of continuing the battle, which had no more prospects of victory. Bakunin was against it. “If the people have been brought so far,” he said, “that they revolt, we must go with them to the end. If we meet with death, honour at least is saved. If this is not the case, then no person will, in future, have any faith in such undertakings.” The conversation ended with Bakuin’s suggestion being accepted.
In Chemnitz, something happened that nobody expected. Hybner, Bakunin, and Martin stopped in a hotel. As they were dead-tired, they soon went to sleep. Through the night, the were arrested in the name of the Saxony Government. The whole invitation to come Chemnitz was only a disgraceful deception. From the date of this seizure, May 10th, 1849, Bakunin’s long martyrdom commenced.
Bakunin’s proud and courageous demeanour did not desert him, although he must have known that he was facing either death or else a long and terrible imprisonment. Twenty-seven years afterwards, one of the Prussian officers who had guarded the prisoner on the way through Altenburg, still remembered the calmness and intrepidity with which the tall man in fetters replied to a lieutenant who interpolated him, “that in politics the issue alone can decide which is a great action and what is a crime.”
10. — IMPRISONMENT, CONFESSION, AND ESCAPE!
From August, 1849, to May, 1850, Bakunin was kept a prisoner in the fortress of Konistein. He was then tried and sentenced to death by the Saxon tribunal. In pursuance of a resolution passed by the old Diet of the Bund in 1836, he was delivered up to the Austrian Government and sent (chained) to Prague instead of being executed.
The Austrian Government attempted in vain to extort from him the secrets of the Slavonian movement. A year later, it sentenced him to death, but immediately commuted the death sentence to one of perpetual imprisonment. In the interval he had been removed from the fortress at Gratz to that of Almutz, as the government was terrified by the report of a design to liberate him. Here he passed six months chained to the wall. After this, the Austrian government surrendered him to the Russian. The Austrian chains were replaced by native irons of twice the weight. This was in the autumn of 1851, when Bakunin was taken through Warsaw and Vilna to St. Petersburg, to pass three wear years in the fortress of Alexis. At Vilna, in spite of the threats of the Russian Government, the Poles gathered in the streets to pay the last tribute of silent respect to the heroic Russian orator of four years before. As Bakunin drove past them in the sledge, they bowed their heads with an affection never assumed in the presence of Emperors. Bakunin maintained his fortitude during years of confinement in Russian dungeons, until the torture of his imprisonment produced the tragedy of his confessions, and showed that he was not unworthy of their devotion.
In Russia he was never tried; the Czar Nicholas I. considered him his property, like all his other subjects, and simply sent him to the fortress of Peter and Paul, at Petrograd, to moulder there to the end of his life. There were no charges, no fellow conspirators; he was a passive object in the hands of the Czar. The Czar, no doubt, felt proud to have this rebel at his mercy; he felt curious also about the secrets of the European revolution, which Bakunin, if anybody, was believed to possess; and, with the contempt of men that an autocrat, before whom all cringe, must feel, he may have expected to tame Bakunin, to win him over, perhaps to make him one of his tools.
So his henchman, Count Orloff, was sent to tell Bakunin that the Czar wished to receive a statement on his revolutionary doings, and that he might talk to the Czar with the same confidence which a penitent would exercise towards the priest in the confessional.
Bakunin demanded a month’s time for reflection, and then wrote a statement which was given to the Czar in the summer of 1851. He addressed himself in terms of crushing humility. The reign of Nicholas has been described as a blank sheet in the history of Russian progress. He made no pretence at reforms and glorified in reaction. The last ten years of his reign saw the reduction of even ordinary newspapers to a level of almost zero. Only six newspapers and nineteen monthlies were permitted to be published throughout the whole of Russia. It was a period of absolute sterility.
The reception of Bakunin’s petition by the Czar symbolised the attitude of power towards genius. He had a god in chains and the cowardly suppression of titanic energy merely served to tickle the vanity of this Lilliputian braggart in uniform. He chuckled at the idea of forgiving and releasing Bakunin, and then intensified the persecution. When Nicholas II. was executed or assassinated by the Bolsheviks, it may have been an unnecessary and unjustifiable murder in the violence of reaction and struggle against the crimes Czarism; but when the Romanoff, Nicholas I., was sowing he might have remembered that some day another Romanoff, even a Nicholas, so as to point the moral, might reap. Those called to authority should always remember that one sows a storm only to reap a whirlwind.
Truth is more sacred than all the gods. Its utility is greater than the strife of heroes. Knowing this to be a fact it is the author’s duty, in this chapter, to put before his readers the saddest and most regrettable discoveries of the Russian Revolution. These are the documents containing Bakunin’s “avowal of sins,” found in the archives of the Czar’s secret police. Four Czars, rejected the “secret of the confessional” and did not use the document against the living Bakunin, their open enemy, nor against his memory. It was left to the Soviet regime to use them against his memory. One suspects that it was more from a desire to damn his fame than from zeal for truth. It must be remembered that the Soviet press, under the domination of Stalinism, slandered Trotsky and recalled, with exaggeration and falsification, his quarrels with Lenin. Stalin’s hired apologists endeavoured to write Trotsky’s name out of the revolution and to write Stalin’s name in its place. Clumsy forgery, true: but none the less, an established forgery that all the world may see. Before Trotsky, Bakunin was the most slandered revolutionist in the world, enjoying the especial hatred of the Marxists.
In the history of Socialism, with the exception of Trotsky, there is no historical personality which has been so much slandered by a handful of would-be revolutionists and pseudo-Socialists. Just so was the hatred and slander against Bakunin, the work of Marx, and hist doctrinaire disciples, as the slander of Trotsky is the work of Stalin and his disciples. Bakunin, the true incarnation of revolutionary spirit, fearless fighter for the social and political emancipation of the working class, was the direct antithesis to the Social Democratic and petty bourgeoisie cowardice in the political life of the day. In the midst of the revolutionary struggle of 1848, Marx published, in his New Rhenish Gazette, articles accusing Bakunin of being a secret agent of Czar Nicholas and the Panslavists. Marx and his friends were then forced to stammer their apology. Whilst Bakunin, at Olmnitz and other Austrian jails, suffered imprisonment, forged to the walls in chains, Herzen and Mazzini forced Marx to take back his unworthy lies. But Marx was not the man to forgive them this humiliation.
When Bakunin reappeared in the midst of his revolutionary friends, after his escape from Siberia, Marx and his satellites recommenced their slanderous attack. Marx especially merits the workers’ regard for his great services to the revolutionary cause, rendered under conditions often of appalling poverty. But this personal vanity and domination detract seriously from his claim to our love as a man and a comrade. His private spleen and hatred towards Bakunin, although occasionally softened, is unforgiveable and a serious blemish on a great character. On Bakunin’s return, he inspired anonymous denunciations in Social Democratic Papers, which were under the editorship of W. Liebknecht, M. Hess, and others. Again at the congress of the International at Basle, 1869, the slanderers lost the game, and were forced to compromise themselves, and declare the entire baselessness of their charges. Marx resolved to kill Bakunin and Herzen, morally, at one stroke. In his position as secretary of a Russian section, and as a member of the General Council of the International, Marx sent, on March 28th, 1870, “a private and confidential circular to his German friends.” This bore, at the bottom, the official seal of the International. The fact of it being issued secretly was an offence against the rules and spirit of the International. The slanders which it contains cover eight printed pages, and had been conveyed to Marx. The organisers of these slanders, and confidential correspondents of Marx, were two men who begged the Czar’s pardon, received it, and loyally returned to Russia. Their names were Utin and Trussow. In our day, Trotsky has been slandered by similar types.
Amongst innumerable treacherous stupidities, the circular went on: —
“Soon after Herzen died, Bakunin, who, since the time he tried to proclaim himself leader of the European labour movement, and disowned his old friend and patron. Herzen, lost no time, soon after his death, to sing his praise. Why? Herzen, in spite of his great personal wealth, accepted 25,000 francs annually, for propaganda Through his flattering voice. Bakunin attracted this money, and with is, the heritage of Herzen — malgre so haine de l’heritage — pecuniarily and morally a beneficio inventaril resumed.”
Never in the whole political and revolutionary movement was a worse slander issued. Herzen, who issued at his own cost a complete revolutionary library, and who was one of the most intellectually brilliant and uncompromising destroyers of political and intellectual reaction is slandered equally with Bakunin.
These slanders against Bakunin must be borne in mind when we recall that his alleged confessions have been published by the school of ‘his traditional enemies, who are jealous of their own reputation, and have silenced all opposition by medieval methods. Yet the facts having been given to the revolutionary and labour world, their import must be considered.
The documents are summarised by L. Deitch, an old Russian revolutionist and a disciple of Bakunin, in the columns off the Yiddish monthly, The Future, of New York, for February, 1924. Deitch writes, that in the spring of 1876, when he was living in Odessa, Anna Rosenstein-Makerevitch returned to the comrades there from a visit to Bakunin, whom they regarded as their rebel idol and guide. She reported that Bakunin had not long to live. Her visit was undertaken in order to consult him about a plan that rising among the peasants of the district of Tchigirin by issuing a forged manifesto purporting to come from the Czar. Bakunin replied that falsehood is sewn always with white thread, and sooner or later the thread will show. This is a wise reply and does Bakunin credit. Yet history proves that oft-times falsehood achieves its purpose, unfortunately. Indeed it is safe to say that if truth triumphed naturally and spontaneously, as it should do, there would be no history. Politics and governments would cease to masquerade and society would become a harmony. The remarkable thing about Bakunin’s utterance is that he must have known that his confessions were lying in the archives of the Russian third division. Time woul dpublish them; and no one was working harder for the dawn of that time than Bakunin himself. The future will place his confessions in the same category as that of Galileo. History recalls that even Giordano Bruno sought to evade trial and death. Had it been known, however, during Bakunin’s life, that he had addressed himself to the Czars in the fashion that he did, not even his great personality, nor yet his logical concentrated diction, would have earned him that standing in the International Working-Class Movement that he came to enjoy so deservedly. It must be recalled, against the merit of Bakunin’s revolutionary activity and writing that many of his colleagues suffered torture in the Czar’s prisons and never wavered. The pioneer is never the perfect hero. As a thinker he is the wordincarnate. As a messenger he is often a very frail man. His life is usually a tragic and heroic stumbling between his two functions. He seems to be a dual personality. His career ever reminds us that there are no gods to order progress; only pioneers, very, very human beings, to blaze the trail, as they stumble along. Their names pass into legend, grow into a great tradition, and earn a brave respect. Then someone discovers the essential humanity, some temporary weakening under torture, and the hero is gone. All is destroyed. Even the mighty worth that challenged persecution and rose so bravely for the benefit of mankind from its yieldings to temptation is denied. Time, the great healer, rights that also. Finally, posterity sees neither god nor the weakling but the man as he was in the actual setting of his time and circumstance. Remembering this let us consider Bakunin’s confessions from prison and all that happened to them and him.
To Nicholas I. Bakunin wrote:
“In Eastern Europe, wherever we look, we see senility, weakness, lack of faith, all are charlatanising. Learning has become the same as powerlessness.”
Nicholas wrote in his own hand in the margin: “A wonderful truth.” Certainly the statement was true. It depicts class society in all its drab futility. As a truth the Czar could not be expected to appreciate its force. He toyed with it as an empty platitude. Its sound pleased him. It argued, apparently, against learning. He commended it because it gave him a picture of his victim squirming. We must read it in association with its contents. Bakunin describes himself as “a penitent” and defines his revolutionary activities as “criminal Don Quixotic-like nonsense.” He styles his Socialist plans “as having been, in the highest sense, ludicrous, nonsensical, insolent, and criminal. Criminal against you, my Emperor, my Czar. Criminal against my Fatherland. Criminal against all spiritual, divine, and human laws.”
As has been remarked already, Bakunin was nothing if not thorough. Whether he was promoting the revolution or abasing himself before the Czar, he enjoyed expressing himself to the very limit of his mood. The revolution was his earnest thought. The abasement must be considered a pose, assumed for some tactical objective. It ranks with the parliamentary oath of allegiance. The extremism of expression was Bakunin himself.
The petition continues: —
“It is hard for me, Czar of mine, an erring, estranged, misled son, to tell you he has had the insolence to think of the tendency and the spirit of your rule. It is hard for me because I stand before you like a condemned criminal. It is painful to my self-love. It is ringing in my ears as if you, my Czar, said: ‘The boy babbles of things he does not understand’.”
Bakunin repeats the phrase, that he is a criminal, over and over again. The Czar adds a note: “A sword does not fall on a bowed neck. Let God pardon him.” The pardon was to be quite metaphysical. For his own part, the Czar intended to keep Bakunin jailed.
Nicholas was succeeded by Alexander II. Bakunin’s mother petitioned to the new Emperor. The latter replied with affability: “As long as your son lives, Madam, he will never be free.” To this Czar, Bakunin addressed a petition, dated February 4th, 1857.
It was signed: “The mercy-imploring criminal, Michel Bakunin.” Deitch quotes a few passages to show how the great revolutionist degraded himself before the Czar.
“My Lord King, by what name shall I call my past life? I have squandered my life in fantastic and fruitless strivings and it has ended in crime. A false beginning, a false situation, and a sinful egotism have brought me to criminal errors. I have done noting in my life except to commit crimes. I have dared to raise my powerless arm against my great Fatherland. I have renounced and cursed my errors and faults. If I could rectify my past by an act, I would ask mercy and the opportunity to do this. I should be glad to wipe out with blood my crimes against you, my Czar. To you, my Czar, I am not ashamed to confess my weakness. Openly, I confess that the thought of dying in loneliness, in the dark prison cell, terrifies me more than death itself, and from the depths of my heart and soul I pray your Majesty to be released, if it is only possible, from this last punishment, the heaviest that can be. No matter what sentence may await me, I surrender to it in advance and accept it as just. And I permit myself to hope that this last time I may be allowed to express the feeling of profound gratitude to your unforgettable father, and to Your Majesty, for all the benefits that you have shown me.”
There are other documents of a similar character addressed to high officials.
In 1854, at the beginning of the Crimean War, Bakunin was transferred to the casemates of the dreaded fortress of Schlusselburg, which actually lie beneath the level of the Neva. When Alexander II. ascended the throne in August, 1856, he half-pardoned many political refugees and conspirators. With grim satire he included the surviving Decembrists of 1825. A royal pardon after thirty years of torture! Bakunin was not amongst the pardoned.
In 1857, Bakunin was released from prison and removed to Western Siberia as a penal colonist. Three years later Bakunin asked to return to Russia. The emperor refused this request as he saw in him “no signs of remorse.” After eight years imprisonment and four years in exile, he had to look forward still to a series of dreary years spent in Siberia. Two of these had gone when, in 1859, the Russian Government annexed the territory of the Amur. Bakunin was given permission to settle here and to move about as he pleased. This was not enough. A new flame had been kindled throughout Russia. Garibaldi had unfurled the Italian flag of seeming freedom. Bakunin, at forty-seven years of age and with his pulse full of vigour, could not remain tame and distant spectator of these revolutionary events. His confessions were forgotten. The titan was himself again. He determined to escape. His excursions were extended gradually as far as Novo-Nikolaievsk. Here at last, he secretly boarded an American clipper and reached Japan. He was the first political refugee to seek shelter in the land of the cherry blossom. From there he proceeded to the Devil’s Kitchen, San Fransisco. He crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached New York. On the 26th December, 1861, he landed at Liverpool. The next day he was with his comrades in London. They knew nothing about the amazing documents Bakunin had left behind him in the Russian archives. Sixty years were to elapse before they were to come to light. In the interval, his revolutionary influence was to win the Russian youth to the cause of social revolution by the simplicity, clearness and consistency of his teachings. Immediately, the organised workers of London were inspired by his wonderful record of martyrdom. They regarded both him and his doctrine with respectful awe. Behind his phrases they beheld the figure of a legendary being who had given up the safety of his home and thrown himself into the fight for working-class freedom. They did not know all the truth. It was as well because they would not have appreciated its exact significance. They would have made no allowance for the agony that reduced Bakunin’s spirits to the state of humble petition. They would have forgotten that every martyr has wished that the cup might pass from his lips. They would have attached undue importance to promises and abasements made under duress. Bakunin would have been unable to have given to the world his later magnificent Anarchist manifestos. As it was, they rejoiced. Their rejoicing more nearly expressed what the truth merited than their silence would have done.
“Bakunin is in London! Buried in dungeons, lost in Siberia, he reappears in the midst of us full of life and energy! He returns more hopeful than ever, with redoubled love for freedom’s holy cause. He is invigorated by the sharp but healthy air of Siberia. With his resurrection, images and shadows rise from the dead! Ghosts walk abroad! Visions of 1848 reappear! That revolutionary epoch belongs no longer to the past! It has changed its place in the order of time. The revolution must be completed.”
Such were the greetings with which all lovers of freedom and members of the revolutionary working-class committees throughout Britain welcomed the approach of the year, 1862.
To justify these expectations, Bakunin settled down to the part editorship of Herzen’s Kolokol or Bell. Never did revolutionists produce greater or more valuable writings than Bakunin did during the ten years that followed. Mentally and physically, he attained his prime.
11. — THE RETREAT OF HERZEN.
“The slightest concession, the smallest grace and compassion will bring us back to the past again, and leave our fetters untouched. Of two things we must choose one. Either we must justify ourselves and go on, or we must falter and beg for mercy when we have arrived half-way.”
In these terms, written in a mood of uncompromising Nihilism, Herzen condemned his later career. The condemnation applies to the world socialist movement. It is safe to say that the careerist labour leaders of European politics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries flourished in retreat. The organisation of the Labour Movement has been a long story of calculated anti-socialist conspiracy and intrigue. Should a future generation ever pause to tell the story it will be found that the workers never organised from the time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs to the triumph of Fascism and the outlawry of Marxism in Germany. They were organised steadily towards the arrestment and finally, the destruction of their power of resistance. Herzen’s career symbolised this organised surrender to capitalism. Only, he retreated reluctantly. Unlike the labour politician he succumbed without enthusiasm and had the decency to acknowledge disaster. He did retreat. As he retreated, Bakunin advanced.
In 1848, it did not seem possible that the world would have to wait long for the inevitable conflageration. Although we must be nearer the revolution than our forebears of that time, the fact that they expected it should check our own absolute certitude of its realisation in the immediate future. Belief that Caesarism must collapse misled the apostles and the first Christians. Karl Marx expected John Most to see it. There have been tremendous changes in the world since death of Most. The revolution, however, is still on its way. It will arrive, but no one can say when. As Jesus so wisely remarked, it is due to come like a thief in the night. The delay saddened Herzen. The downfall of all existing institutions had seemed imminent. Socialism was the gospel of youth, the hope of humanity, the goal to be attained. The youth of the world of time revelled in the thought that the spring-time was at hand. With joy and vigour he prophesied:--
“When the spring comes, a young and fresh life will show itself over the whitened sepulchres of the feeble generations which will have disappeared in the explosion. For the age of senile barbarity, there will be substituted a juvenile barbarity, full of disconnected forces. A savage and fresh vigour will invade the young breasts of new peoples. Then will commence a new cycle of events and a new volume of universal history. The future belongs to Socialist ideas.”
The 1848 upheaval failed. The crushing of the French Labour Movement angered and disheartened Herzen. Sorrow at the general check received by the revolution throughout Europe disturbed his outlook. He repented, as an illusion, his temporary affection for Western culture. He returned to Russia in thought but not in body. He felt weary and aged. “We were young two years ago; to-day we are old,” he wrote in 1850. He poured out his sense of hopelessness and despair in his work, “From The Other Shore.”
He could not give up his faith in revolution. The West had failed--but there was Russia. Why should not Russia become a Socialist Republic without passing through capitalism? Why should not Russia emancipate the world? Herzen saw no reason and so, in 1851, he penned the prophetic words: “The man of the future in Russia is the Moujik, just as in France he is the artisan.” Herzen foresaw the workers’ and peasants’ republic. He continued in this faith down to the renewal of his association with Bakunin in London. He developed his ideas in “The Old World and Russia.” The coming revolution, starting from Russia, would destroy the basis of all the States--the Roman, Christian, and feudal institutions, the parliamentary, monarchial, and republican centres. All would perish but the people of Europe would live. Faith in Russia renewed Herzen’s optimism. He opposed himself against reformism anew in the following words:--
“We can do more plastering and repairing. It has become impossible to move in the ancient forms without breaking them. Our revolutionary idea is incompatible entirely with the existing state of things.”
“A constitution is only a treaty between master and slave.” This declaration was made by Herzen also. It at once became the motto of the minority of the Russian extremists. Herzen’s desire now became the speeding up of the Russian Revolution. Disheartened by failure he turned opportunist. Intrigue replaced insurrection and finally he repudiated revolutionary measures for liberalism. He identified himself with the constitutionalists and left his colleague Bakunin to spread the flame of universal destruction. He declared that Bakunin mistook the passion for destruction for the passion for creation. For himself, he no longer wished to march ahead of the bulk of mankind. He would not remain behind but would keep in step with the needs of constitutional progress.
There was nothing wrong with Herzen’s revolutionary programme. It was his impatience that drove him to reaction. The fire did not blaze quickly enough and so he denounced the dampness of the wood and declared that the burning must end in smoke. The vapour was Herzen’s impatience turned to pessimism and not his work nor yet his ideal.
Herzen retreated from Nihilism to the reform of Russian officialdom. He urged this in the Kolokol. Bakunin opposed him. He identified the Kolokol more and more with the applause of the negative principle and the denunciation of all positive institutions. This dual policy continued down to 1865. The Kolokol was transferred then from London to Geneva. In this cemetery of many hopes and many peace conferences, the paper died.
12. — BAKUNIN’S INFLUENCE.
Kropotkin has asserted that we must measure Bakunin’s influence not by his literary legacy, which was small contrasted against that of Marx, but by the thought and action he inspired in his immediate disciples. The influence has descended through them to our time. It is legendary and oral rather than written and direct. It is purely spiritual but none the less real. Blanqui used to assert that one should never measure the influence of events by their seeming direct results. These were always unreal and unimportant. The accurate measurement was to judge the indirect consequences. This is how Bakunin must be judged. From his life and work has flown a steady stream of revolutionary thought, passion, and work throughout the world.It has not merely contributed towards the triumph of the Russian Revolution but it will pass on to destroy utterly the present Stalinist counter-revolution and the menacing Fascism now triumphant in Europe. His three books and his many pamphlets all originated in the same way. They were written to answer questions of the day. They were addressed as letters to friends, but reached the length of pamphlets owing to their author’s discursive style of writing.
In Paris, in 1847, and in Germany, in 1848, his influence on all men of thought was tremendous. He exerted a great power over Wagner, who was his personal friend; George Sand, Ogaroff, and the comrades who composed the socialist circles, the Young Germany, Italy and Sweden movements. All were infected by his revolutionary spirit.
Bakunin’s real literary career began after his break with Herzen. To this period belongs the essays “The Paris Commune and the State Idea,” “The Historical Development of the International Workers’ Association,” God and the State,” “The Knouto-German Empire,” “Report of a Frenchman on the Present Crisis,” “The Political Theology of Mazzini and the International,” and “The Bears of Berne.”
Bakunin’s speeches at the Congress of the Peace and Liberty League were so many challenges to the radicals of Europe. They declared that the Radicalism of 1848 had had its day, that the new era, the epoch of Socialism and Labour, had dawned. The question of economic independence had raised its head and would become the dominating factor in European history. This idea inspires his pamphlet to Mazzini. Here he announces the end of the conspiracy for the purpose of waging wars of national independence.
In “The Bears of Berne” he says good-bye to the Phillistine Swiss democratism. His “Letters to a Frenchman” were a litany to Gambetta’s Radicalism. They anticipated and proclaimed the epoch of the Paris Commune.
His “Knouto-German Empire and the Social Revolution” was the prophetic vision of an old revolutionist. Bakunin foresaw Fascism. He prophesied that, resulting from the triumph of Bismarck’s military state, a fifty years’ reaction would descend on Europe. Bakunin declares that the rise of German State Socialism, to which Bismarck stood sponsor, was the prelude to this counter-revolution. This summary shows that in spite of their fighting tendency, attributed to the fact that they were written on the spur of the moment, Bakunin’s writings are replete with profound political thought and a clear philosophic conception of history. Inspired by Proudhon’s revolutionary idea, they trace more accurately than Marx’s writings, the political developments of the class struggle to out time.
Bakunin’s works include no ready-made recipe for a political cook-shop. He has no creed to order. Those who expect to find an answer to all their questions in his books, without having to use their own thinking-caps will get no satisfaction. The writer defines and expressed life as one would do in conversation. He invites you to reflect for yourself. His brilliant generalisations awaken your intellect. His ideas pour forth unarranged, in a spontaneous flow. It may be said that his works have done more for the revolutionary education of the proletariat than all the heavy scholastic treatises of the doctrinaire socialists put together. The man lived. He continues to live in his writings. He makes his readers live. Through life the revolution will come.
13. — BAKUNIN’S COMMUNISM.
In 1869, Bakunin delivered his famous speech to the League of Peace and Liberty Congress at Berne. Plechanoff has described this organisation as an entirely bourgeoisie body. The history of social democratic movement that George Plechanoff defended so laboriously, has proven to be so completely counter-revolutionary that his censures of Bakunin may pass as mere words of abuse. Bakunin’s speech impeached modern civilisation as having been “founded from time immemorial on the forced labour of the enormous majority, condemned to lead the lives of brutes and slaves, in order that a small minority might be enabled to live as human creatures. This monstrous inequality,” he discovered, rested “upon the absolute separation between head-work and hand-labour. But this abomination cannot last: for in the future the working-classes are resolved to make their own politics. They insist that instead of two classes, there shall be in future only one, which shall offer to all men alike, without grade or distinction, the same starting point, the same maintenance, the same opportunities of education and culture, the same means of industry: not, indeed, by virtue of laws, but by the nature of the organisation of this class which shall oblige everyone to work with his head as with his hands.”
Bakunin concluded his speech by a declaration in favour of “the economical and social equalisation of classes and of individuals.” A delegate named Chaudey reproached him with advocating Communism. Bakunin repudiated the charge in a passage that has often been misinterpreted by the alleged followers of Marx, headed by Plechanoff whom these petty parliamentarians have discipled faithfully in this matter of slander. Bakunin urged that he was an upholder of collectivism as opposed to communism. As his magnificent comments on the Paris Commune show, he was never opposed to communism but only to the authoritarian conception of communism for which the ultra-Marxians stood. He used the word collectivism in a sense that after became obsolete. Indeed, collectivism came to mean exactly the same as the communism Bakunin repudiated. Bakunin did not oppose the idea of equity or economic equality for which communism stands. He opposed the idea of a central statism with which the Marxians had identified the idea of communism. It is typical of the unfair attacks made on Bakunin that Eleanor Marx Aveling complained that Bakunin’s use of the word “statism” was an invented barbarism for which she had to make a special apology. The word has passed since into regular use and even the pedants of the universities employ it to define the invasions of individual liberty by the agents of bureaucracy. Chaudey was a testamentary executor of Proudhon. His attack annoyed Bakunin, who declared:
“Because I demand the economic and social equalisation of classes and individuals, because, with the Workers’ Congress of Brussels, I have declared myself in favour of collective property, I have been reproached with being a Communist. What difference, I have been asked, is there between Communism and Collectivism... Communism I abhor, because it s the negation of liberty, and without liberty I cannot imagine anything truly human. I detest Communism because it concentrates all the strength of Society in the State, and squanders that strength in its service: because it places all property in the hands of the State, whereas my principle is the abolition of the State itself, the radical extirpation of the principle of authority and tutelage, which has enslaved, oppressed, exploited, and depraved mankind under the pretexts of moralising and civilising men. I want the organisation of society and the distribution of property to proceed from below, by the free voice of society itself: not downwards from above, by the dictate of authority. I desire the abolition of personal hereditary property, which is merely and institution of the State, and a consequence of State principles. In this sense I am a Collectivist not a Communist.”
It may be that Bakunin seems to propound the fallacy that the State creates property, instead of espousing the sound doctrine that property necessitates and decides the State. He may mistake the shadow for the substance. But his error is one of theory and not of fact. It has always seemed strange to me that the Marxists, whose economic explanation of politics or the State is correct, should have become, in practice, parliamentarians and pretend to believe that parliament controls industry. Proudhon, Bakunin, and Most, being Anarchists, might be forgiven did they deduce from their hatred of authority, some idea of warring against the State instead of economic conditions. In practice they adopt the correct attitude of wanting to liquidate the State in economic society, of substituting use-value for property conditions. Hence they conclude their propaganda as sound Marxians. This is especially true of Most, who reconciled the teaching of Bakunin and Marx in his classic robust proletarian propaganda. Bakunin’s aspiration as to social organisation all Communists share. When he repudiates Communism for Collectivism, it is clear, without the explanation already given, that he is giving a different meaning to these terms from that which we give to them. He is expressing his fear of dictatorship. He believes in the upsurge of violence but wants it the end in a free society. That is the revolution triumphant. He does not want violence to conserve itself into a dictatorship. To his mind this is the negation of the revolution and the triumph of reaction. The men who would exercise a dictatorship,once the revolutionary upheaval has seemed to succeed, would most likely be the very persons who has opposed the struggle. Dictatorship, in Bakunin’s eyes meant that the class struggle still continued; that bourgeois society had not been liquidated; that a conflict of interests still prevailed. Dictatorship would no end that conflict. It would sacrifice the revolutionary toilers to the interests of counter-revolutionary bureaucracy and nepmen, as we term these creatures since the time of Lenin. Bakunin did not accept the theory that a revolutionary state could be created, only that it might wither away. To him, there was no withering-away state. The state meant a permanent authoritarian society.
Bakunin did not deny that there must be a transitional period between Capitalism-destroyed and Communism-achieved. During this period the workers must defend and develop the revolution and crush the counter-revolutions. Every action of the working-class would have to be class-power-action, in order to liquidate the operations of the beast of property, to destroy power the workers must build and express power. But it must be the living power of action of life in revolt; not the dead power of decrees and a new state authority. Bakunin did not object to the dictatorship of action. He objected to the power of action being lost to the workers in their industrial solidarity and a dictatorship established on the basis of their surrender to an external central bureaucracy, Stalinism is said to express the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia. It has abolished the factory Soviet, established wage differences and variations of status among the workers, and introduced economic differences that properly belong to the world of capitalist political economy. It has sneered at freedom of speech and of thought as bourgeoise superstitions and has exiled Trotsky and Rakovsky as enemies of the revolution. Considering these facts I ask; was Bakunin right or wrong in his opposition to the state and political dictatorship?
His speech turned to the question of religion. It was very happy, because Bakunin always wrote and spoke well on God and the idealists. His hatred of the shadow-world was his one great consistency. There is no need to cite his reflections since they are repeated in his immortal work “God and the State.”
It has been said that Bakunin was a double Utopian. He added to Proudhon’s Utopia of Liberty, his own Utopia of Equality. He was Proudhon adulterated by Marx and Marx expounded by Proudhon. Some folks may consider this a justifiable complaint. To my mind, it means that Bakunin is and excellent guide, philosopher and friend to the cause of Communism.
14. — SLAV AGAINST TEUTON.
Herzen, as has been stated, was that the natural son of a rich nobleman named Iakovlev and a Stuttgardt lady, Louise Haaag. Herzen’s name was a fancy one and signified a love token. “Herzen’s kind” means “child of the heart.” His father spared no expense in the matter of his education. The result was that Herzen not merely spoke correctly but brilliantly in Russian, French, English, and German. Despite these advantages he appealed to a Russian audience only. In 1865 he met Garibaldi in London. The effect of this meeting was to convince Herzen that, as Garibaldi was the Italian patriot, he must prove himself a Russian one. Unlike Herzen, Bakunin demanded the European stage. He remained the Slav at heart and before the audience of International Labour paraded his hatred of the Teuton. The Germans, he declared, were authoritarians. Their socialism was a menace. Despite phrases of equality and justice, they would bring the workers of the world to disaster. At heart the Teuton was a counter-revolutionist. He would change; but it would require half-a-century of falsehood and illusion ending in debacle before he would be converted to real communism and realise the need of revolutionary struggle.
Bakunin’s pan-Slavism was the fatal contradiction that paralyses his revolutionary endeavour. This will be seen from his pamphlet, “Romanoff, Pugatscheff, or Pestal,” published in 1862. In this, he announced his willingness to make peace with absolutism provided that the son of the Emperor Nicholas would consent to be “a good and loyal Czar,” a democratic ruler, and would put himself
at the head of a popular assembly in order to constitute a new Russian, and play the part of the saviour of the Slav people.
“Does this Romanoff mean to be the Czar of the peasants, or the Petersburgian emperor of the house of Holstein-Gottorp? This question will have to be decided soon, and then we shall know what we are and what we have to do.”
Perhaps Alexander II. objected to being classified with Pugatscheff, the Cossack who had pretended to be Peter III. and had placed himself at the head of the peasant rising of 1773; and Pestal, the republican conspirator, who was hanged in 1826 by Nicholas. Perhaps the Czar merely scorned a revolutionary suggestion. Rulers usually treat revolutionists with contempt until it is too late to treat with them. Deposed, they have to plead for mercy at the feet of the men the formerly kicked. However the Czar’s silence be explained, the fact of it angered Bakunin. He repented his temporary notion of compromise and returned again to Nihilism. His Pan-Slavism might have remained in abeyance but for the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war and the German invasion of France. His Russian enmity on the Germanic race revived. Like his disciple, Kropotkin in 1914. Bakunin declared the Germans to be the enemies of mankind. He addressed an appeal to the peasantry of all countries, “to come to drive out the Prussians.” The cause of France, he said, was the cause of humanity. The offical Muscovite Press agreed with him. Bakunin was at one with ruling class Russia. He was acting as became a Russian and a patriot. The company in which he found himself was neither anarchist nor internationalist. It is true that he uttered some thought they did not appreciate. Fundamentally, he allied himself with their cause.
Bakunin outlined the case against Germany, and enunciated his theory of the historic mission of the French, in his “Letters to a Frenchman About the Present Crisis” and his pamphlet on “The Knouto-Germanic Empire.” He disowned nationalist and declared that patriotism was a very mean, narrow, and interested passion. It was fundamentally inhuman and conserved exploitations and privileges. It was fostered by the Napoleons, Bismarks, and Czars in order to destroy the freedom of nations. By a strange turn of thought and twist of the pen Bakunin proceeded from this reasoning to deduce an argument for French patriotism as opposed to German. He said: —
“When the masses become patriotic they are stupid, as are to-day a part of the masses of Germany, who let themselves be slaughtered in tens of thousands, with a silly enthusiasm, for the triumph of that great unity, and for the organisation of that German Empire, which, if founded on the ruins of usurped France, will become the tomb of all hopes of the future.”
It may be that Bakunin was visioning the future correctly. Much of his prophecy about the period of reaction that must follow
in the wake of parliamentary socialism has been justified. The subjection of the French proletariat to demands of Napoleon III. was not the correct revolutionary answer to Prussian militarism. It was the continuation of militarism and the surrender of socialism to reaction. The problem may have been difficult. It was Bakunin’s business to find a correct revolutionary answer or else to keep silent. Instead, he shaved history shamefully so as to oppose the France of 1793 to the Germany of Bismarck. The France of Napoleon, of Bourbon royalism and of bourgeoisie republicanism was dismissed from view. He pictured the world as waiting on the initiation of France for its advance towards liberty, equality and fraternity. France was to drive back Germany, exile her traitor officials and inaugurate socialism. Said Bakunin: —
“What I would consider a great misfortune for the whole of humanity would be the defeat and death of France as a great national manifestation: the death of its great national character, the French spirit; of the courageous, heroic instincts, of the revolutionary daring, which took with storm, in order to destroy, all authorities that had been made holy by history, all power of heaven and earth. If that great historical nature called France should be missed at this hour, if it should disappear from the world scene; or—what would be much worse—if the spirited and developed nature should fall suddenly from the honoured height which she has attained, thanks to the work of heroic genius of past generations — into the abyss, and continue her existence as Bismarck’s slave: a terrible emptiness will engulf the whole world. It would be more than a national catastrophe. It would be a world- wide misfortune, a universal defeat.”
It is only necessary to add that Bakunin had to attack the great “French spirit” that murdered in cold blood the Communards in the May-June days of 1871. On the other side, Marx, who also eulogised the Communards, had declared for the German spirit of order and saw in the French disaster not so much the defeat of Napoleon III. or the triumph of the Prussian Kaiser but the defeat on the international field of thought of Proudhon and the triumph of Marx. These Gods! How they nod!
Bakunin believed in the Russian nationalism, bound on the east by the Tartars, and on the west by the Germans. This meant believing in the German nation, bounded on the west by France, and on the est by Russia. It meant the status quo. He was upholding the States of Europe. Yet he wrote: —
“Usurpation is not only the outcome, but the highest aim of all states, large or small, powerful or weak, despotic or liberal, monarchic, aristocratic, or democratic ... It follows that the war of one State upon another is a necessity and common fact, and every pence is only a provisional truce.”
This idea was not worked out at some other time, under different circumstances, but in these “Letters to a Frenchman” eulogising the national spirit. He asserted that all States were bad, and there could be no virtuous State: —
“Who says State, says power, oppression, exploitation, injustice — all these established as the prevailing system and as the fundamental conditions of the existing society. The State never had a morality, and can never have one. Its only morality and justice is its own advantage, its own existence, and its own omnipotence at any price. Before these interest, all interests of mankind must disappear. The State is the negation of mankind.”
“So long as there is a State, war will never cease. Each State must overcome or be overcome. Each State must found its power on the weakness, and, if it can, without danger to itself, on the abrogation of other States. To strive for an International justice and freedom and lasting peace, and therewith seek the maintenance of the State, is a ridiculous naivete.”
Bakunin had to escape this very charge of ridiculous naivete.
15. — MARX AND BAKUNIN: AN ESTIMATE.
Bakunin closed his stormy career at Berne, on the 1st July 1876. He had founded the social democratic alliance and been expelled from the Marxist International. It was decided at his funeral to reconcile the social democrats and the anarchists in one association. Fraternal greetings were exchanged between the Jura federation, assembled at Chaux-de Fonds, and the German social democratic congress at Gotha. At the eighth international congress, at Berne, in October, the social democrats and the anarchists met and expressed the desire that all socialists should treat each other with mutual consideration and complete common understanding. A banquets conclude this congress. Caferio, the disciple of Bakunin, drank to Marxism and the German socialists. De Paepe, the Marxist, toasted the memory of Bakunin. All Bakunin’s fiery words against the State, his talk of the revolution, his hurrying across Europe to boost first one then another insurrection had ended seemingly in vapour, smoke! All Marx”s insurrectional politics, his opposition to the parliamentary joint stock republic, his faith in the Commune and not the empire, seemed vanities. Marx was not reconciled with Bakunin at these conferences. The fundamental revolutionary inspiration of both were made subsidiary to the parliamentary ideas of Lassalle, from whom the social democrats drew the fatal inspiration. Since the days of the Commune the slogan of Lassalle, “Through universal suffrage to victory,” has been substituted for Marx’s magnificent: “Workers of all lands, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! You have a world to gain!”
“To set about to make a revolution,” said Lassalle, “is the folly of immature minds, which have no notion of the laws of history.” Thus he interpreted the events of 1848 as an argument for direct universal suffrage. Thus his disciples interpreted the events of 1871. Believing that it understood the laws of history the European social democracy buried socialism and attempted to
murder outright the European proletariat in the world was of 1914 to 1918. The war ended, it had given birth to Fascism. With this hopeless movement of middle-class suffrage, the anarchists seriously thought of identifying themselves. They imagined such as alliance to be an honour to Bakunin, just as the Marxists thought they were honouring Marx by repudiating his revolutionary principles.
“And so you think that Marx and Bakunin were at one,” said my friend.
“Yes,” I replied, “I think that they were at one. I believe that they were one in purpose and in aspiration. But they accomplished distinct tasks and served different functions. It would not do for us all to act the same part. Fitted by temperament to enact a peculiar role, each man felt his work to be a special call, the one aim of life. This developed strong personality. And when the two strong personalities came into conflict through the nature of their respective tasks, the natural antagonisms of their temperament displayed themselves. Then came fools, who called themselves disciples of the wise men, and magnified their accidental collisions into vital discords of purpose. Do we not know the friend who persuades us to quarrel? And do we not know the ‘disciples’ who are actually street brawlers of a refined order? Marx and Bakunin have suffered at the hands of these mental numskulls.
“But how would you define the difference between the two men,” pursued my friend.
“Very easily,” I answered, “Marx DEFINED the Social Revolution, whilst Bakunin EXPRESSED it. The first stood for the invincible logic of the cause. The second concentrated in his own person its unquenchable spirit. Marx was an impregnable rock of first principles, remorselessly composed of facts. He dwarfed the intelligence of Capitalist society and witnessed to the indestructability of Socialism. He incarnated the proletarian upheaval. He was the immovable mountain of the revolution. Bakunin, on the other hand, was the tempest. He symbolised the coming flood. Both were great brave men; and together they gave completeness to the certitude of revolution. They promised success by land and by water. They symbolised inexhaustible patience, unwearying stability, inevitable growth, and tireless, resistless attack. Who can conceive of a world not made up of land and water? Who can conceive of the Social Revolution without the work of Mars and Bakunin?
But my friend was not convinced, so we turned to other subjects.
1. — MARX AND BAKUNIN
Many comrades have found it hard to understand the difference between Marx and Bakunin. The story is very simple and can be told clearly.
During his imprisonment and exile, Bakunin was attacked by Marx and the latter’s friends. Bakun summarised the attack: —
“While I was having a far from amusing time in German and Russian fortresses, and in Siberia, Marx and Co. were peddling, clamouring from the housetops, publishing in English and German newspapers, the most abominable rumours about me. They said that it was untrue to declare that I had been imprisoned in a fortress, that, on the contrary, Czar Nicholas had received me with open arms, had provided me with all possible conveniences and enjoyments, that I was able to amuse myself with light women, and had a abundance of champagne to drink. This was infamous, but it was also stupid.”
After Bakunin arrived in London, in 1861, and settled down to his work on Herzen’s Kolokol , an English newspaper published a statement by a man named Urquhart, declaring that Bakunin challenged his calumniator and heard no more of the matter. In November, 1864, Bakunin had an interview with Marx in London. Bakunin described the interview in the following terms: —
“At that time I had a little note from Marx, in which he asked me whether he could come to see me the next day. I answered in the affirmative, and he came. We had an explanation. He said that he had never said or done anything against me; that, on the contrary, he had always been my true friend, and had retained great respect for me. I knew that he was lying, but I really no longer bore any grudge against him. The renewal of the acquaintanceship interested me moreover, in another connection. I knew that he had taken a great part in the foundation of the International. I had read the manifesto written by him in the name of the provisional General Council, a manifesto which was weighty, earnest, and profound, like everything that came from his pen when he was not engaged in personal polemic. In a word, we parted, outwardly, on the best of terms, although I did not return his visit.”
Writing to Engels, under date, November 4, 1864, Marx says: —
“Bakunin wishes to be remembered to you. He has left for Italy to-day. I saw him yesterday evening once more, for the first time after sixteen years. He said that after the failure in Poland he should in future, confine himself to participation in the Socialist Movement. On the whole he is one of the few persons whom I find not to have retrogressed after sixteen years, but to have developed further. I had a talk with him also about Urquhart’s denunciations.”
Bakunin wanted to be on good terms with Marx, for the sake of building up the International. He desired to devote himself henceforward exclusively to the Socialist Movement. This was difficult because of Marx’s injustice. Bakunin tells the story thus: —
“In the year 1848, Marx and I had a difference of opinion, and I must say that he was far more in the right of it than I. In Paris and Brussels had had founded a section of German Communists, and had, in alliance with the French and a few English Communists, supported by his friend and inseparable comrade, Engels, founded in London the first international association of Communists of various lands... I , myself, the fumes of the revolutionary movement in Europe having gone to my head, had been much more interested in the negative than in the positive side of this revolution, had been, that is to say, much more concerned with the overthrow of the extant than with the question of the upbuilding and organisation of what was to follow. But there was one point in which I was right and he was wrong. As a Slav, I wanted the liberation of the Slav race from the German yoke. I wanted this liberation to be brought about by the revolution, that is to say by the destruction of the regime of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Turkey, and by the re-organisation of the peoples from below upwards through their own freedom, upon the foundation of complete economic and social equality, and not through the power of any authority, however revolutionary it might call itself, and however intelligent it might in fact be.
“Already, at this date, the difference between our respective systems (a difference which now severs us in a way that, on my side, has been very carefully thought out) was well marked. My ideals and aspirations could not fail to be very displeasing to Marx. First of all, because they were not his own; secondly, because they ran counter to the convictions of the authoritarian Communists; and finally, because, being a German patriot, he would not admit then, any more than he does to-day, the right of the Slavs to free themselves from the German yoke- for still, as of old, he thinks that the Germans have a mission to civilise the Slavs, this meaning to Germanise them whether by kindness or force.
“To punish me for being so bold as to aim a realising an idea different from and indeed actually opposed to his, Marx then revenged himself after his own fashion. He was editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung published in Cologne. In one of the issues of that paper I read in the Paris correspondence that Madame George Sand, with whom I had formerly been acquainted, was said to have told some one it was necessary to be cautious in dealing with Bakunin, for it was quite possible that he was some sort of Russian agent.”
The Morning Advertiser, for September 1, 1853, published the statement by Marx that, on July 5, 1848, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung received two letters from Paris, declaring that George Sand possessed letters compromising Bakunin, “showing that he had recently been in communication with the Russian government.” One was from Havas Bureau, and the other from Dr. Ewerbeck, sometime leader of the Federation of the Just.
Bakunin described the effect of this accusation and his reaction to it:-
“The accusation was like a tile falling from a roof upon my head, at the very time when I was fully immersed in revolutionary organisation, and it completely paralysed my activities for several weeks. All my German and Slav friends fought shy of me. I was the first Russian to concern himself actively with revolutionary work, and it is needless for me to tell you what feelings of traditional mistrust were accustomed to arise in western minds when the words Russian revolutionist were mentioned. In the first instance, therefore, I wrote to Madame Sand.”
Bakunin’s life as an agitator, his insecurity of existence, his entire manner of living rendered it easy to undermind his prestige by sowing suspicion. This was also the policy of the Russian Embassy. In order to reply to Marx and the Czarist traducers, Bakunin wrote to George Sand. The text of George Sand’s letter to the Zeitung, dated August 3, 1948, is reproduced in my Pioneers of Anti-Parliamentarism (”Word” Library, 1st Series, No.7). Her declaration rehabilitated Bakunin as a revolutionary and a victim of slanderous conspiracy.
Slander never dies. In 1863, when he was about to enter Switzerland, a Basle paper declared that he has involved Polish refugees in disaster whilst remaining immune. German Socialist (sic) periodicals constantly slandered him. Marx never missed a chance of speaking against him.
Otto Ruhle has described how Marx wrote to a young Russian seeking information regarding Bakunin. For reasons of conspiracy, Marx referred to Bakunin as “my old friend, Bakunin-I don’t know if he is still my friend .” Marx persuaded too well: for his correspondent forwarded the letter to Bakunin. Marx complained of the result: “Bakunin availed himself of the circumstances to excuse a sentimental entree.”
“This sentimental entree not only redounded to Bakunin’s credit, not only showed his good feeling and his insight, but deserved a better reception from Marx than the biting cynicism and the derogatory insolence which it was encountered (cynicism and insolence which were only masks for embarrassment).”
“you ask whether I am still your friend. Yes, more than ever, my dear Marx, for I understand better than ever how right you were to walk along the broad road of the economic revolution, to invite us all to follow you, and to denounce all those who wandered off into the byways of nationalist or exclusively political enterprise. I am now doing what you began to do more than twenty years ago. Since I formally and publicly said good-bye to the bourgeois of the Berne congress, I know no other society, no other milieu than the world of the workers. My fatherland is now the International, whose chief founder you have been. You see, then, dear friend, that I am your pupil— and I am proud to be this. I think I have said enough to make my personal position and feelings clear to you.”
Bakunin met Marx with simplicity and friendship.
Ruhle points out that Bakunin endeavoured honestly to be on good terms with Marx and to avoid friction. He adds that Bakunin loved the peasants and detested intellectualism and abstract systems, with their dogmatism and intolerance. He hated the modern State, industrialism, and centralisation. He had the most intense dislike for Judaism, which he considered loquacious, intriguing, and exploitative. All that authority and theorising for which he had an instinctive abhorrence were, for him, incorporated in Marx. He found Marx’s self-esteem intolerable. Yet he mastered his spiritual repugnance and antagonism for the sake of building the movement of struggle towards Freedom, from loyalty to the workers, and from a sense of justice to Marx’s worth as a master in the struggle. Bakunin’s loyalty and aspiration after friendship were magnificent. It lent him a stature that dwarfs the envious and contemptible Marx into a mere pigmy. With justice, Bakunin says of Marx and his political circle:-
“Marx loved his own person much more than he loved his friends and apostles, and no friendship could hold water against the slightest wound to his vanity. He would far more readily forgive infidelity to his philosophical and socialist system...Marx will never forgive a slight to his person. You must worship him, make an idol of him, if he is to love you in return; you must at least fear him, if he is to tolerate you. He likes to surround himself with pygmies, with lackeys and flatterers. All the same, there are some remarkable men around his intimates.
“In general, however, one may say that in the circle of Marx’s intimates there is very little brotherly frankness, but a great deal of machination and diplomacy. There is a sort of tacit struggle, and a compromise between the self-loves of the various persons concerned; and where vanity is at work, there is no longer place for brotherly feeling. Every one is on his guard, is afraid of being sacrificed, of being annihilated. Marx’s circle is a sort of mutual admiration society. Marx is the chief distributor of honours, but is also invariably perfidious and malicious, the never frank and open, inciter to the persecution of those whom he suspects, or who gave had the misfortune of falling to show all the veneration he expects.
“As soon as he has ordered a persecution, there is no limit to the baseness and infamy of the method. Himself a Jew, he has round him in London and in France, and above all in Germany, a number of petty, more of less able, intriguing, mobile, speculative Jews (the sort of Jews you can find all over the place), commercial employees, bank clerks, men of letters, politicians, the correspondents of newspapers of the most various shades of opinion. In a word, literary go-betweens, just as they are financial go-betweens, one foot in the bank, the other in the Socialist Movement, while their rump is in German periodical literature... These Jewish men of letters are adepts in the art of cowardly, odious, and perfidious insinuations. They seldom make open accusation, but they insinuate, saying they ‘have heard- it is said- it may not be true, but,’ and then they hurl the most abominable calumnies in your face.”
Bakunin had a profound respect for Marx’s intellectual abilities and scientific efficiency. When he read Marx’s Capital he was amazed, and promptly set to work upon translating it into Russian. He translated The Communist Manifest into Russian in 1862.
Writing to Herzen, Bakunin said:—
“For five and twenty years Marx has served the cause of Socialism ably, energetically, and loyally, taking the lead of every one in this matter. I should never forgive myself if, out of personal motives, I were to destroy or diminish Marx’s beneficial influence. Still I may be involved in a struggle against him, not because he has wounded me personally, but because of the State Socialism he advocates.”
Bakunin describes how simple and personal was the cause of the struggle being renewed. He writes:-
“At the peace Congress in Geneva, the veteran Communist, Becker, gave me the first, and as of yet only, volume of the extremely important, learned, profound, although very abstract work, Capital. Then I made a terrible mistake: I forgot to write Marx in order to thank you...I did not hasten to thank him and to pay him a compliment upon his really outstanding book. Old Phillip Becker, who had known Marx for a very long time, said to me, when he heard of this forgetfulness: ‘What, you haven’t written to him yet? Marx will never forgive you!’”
Bakunin thought that his forgetfulness could be ranked as a personal slight and an unpardonable discourtesy. But he did not believe that it could lead to a resumption of hostilities. It did. Frau Marx wrote to Becker as follows:-
“Have you seen or heard anything of Bakunin? My husband sent him, as an old Hegelian, his book- not a word or a sign. There must be something underneath this? One cannot trust any of these Russians; if they are not in the service of the Little Father in Russia, then they are in Herzen’s service here, which amounts to much the same thing.”
Bakunin was unable to persuade the Berne Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom to adopt a revolutionary programme and to affiliate to the International. He resigned an in conjunction with Becker, founded the International Alliance of Social Revolutionaries. His aim was to affiliate the Alliance to the International. At this time, Bakunin’s programme was somewhere between that of Marx and Proudhon.
Mehring describes Bakunin’s place in relation to Marx as follows:-
“Bakunin had advanced far beyond Proudhon, having absorbed a larger measure of European culture; and he understood Marx much better than Proudhon had done. But he was not so intimately acquainted with German philosophy as Marx, nor had he made so thorough a study of the class struggles of Western European nations. Above all, his ignorance of political economy was much more disastrous to him than ignorance of natural science had been to Proudhon. Yet he was revolutionary through and through; and, like Marx and Lassalle, he had the gift of making people listen to him.
“Marx favoured centralism, as manifested in the contemporary organisation of economic life and of the State; Bakunin favoured federalism, which had been the organisational principle of the precapitalist era. That was why Bakunin found most of this adherents in Italy, Spain, and Russia, in countries where capitalist development was backward. Marx’s supporters, on the other hand, were recruited from lands of advanced capitalist development, those with an industrial proletariat. The two men represented two successive phases of social revolution. Furthermore, Bakunin looked upon man rather as the subject of history who, ‘having the devil in his body,” spontaneously ripens for the revolution, and merely needs to have his chains broken; but Marx regarded man rather as the object, who much slowly be trained for action, in order that, marshaled for class activity, he may play his part as a factor of history. The two outlooks might have been combined, for in combination they supply the actual picture of man in history. But in the case of both of these champions, the necessary compromise was rendered impossible by the orthodox rigidity of intellectual dogmatism, by deficient elasticity of the will, and by the narrow circumstances of space and time, so that in actual fact they became adversaries. Then, owing to their respective temperaments, owing to the divergences in mental structure which found expression in behaviour, their opposition in concrete matters developed into personal enmity.”
Mehring defends Marx too eloquently. When we gaze at the world to-day, and the condition of the Labour Movement, we must feel that there was much more to be said for Bakunin’s approach than for that of Marx.
Inspired by Marx, the General Council of the International refused to accept the affiliation of the Alliance. The affiliation was proposed by the Genevese section which was led by Bakunin.
Marx now denounced the Bakuninst programme as: “an olla podrida of worn-out commonplaces, thoughtless chatter; a rose-garland of empty motions, and insipid improvisation.”
Marx feared the influence of Bakunin among the homeworkers in the watchmaking industry of the Neuchatel and Bernese Jura. In 1865, Dr. Coullery had founded, in La Chaux des Fonds, a section of the International. Its principal leader was James Guillaume, a teacher at the Industrial School in Le Locle. The Jura section was federalistically inclined and soon became ardent supports of Bakunin. He amalgamated their groups into a federal council; founded a weekly, Egalite, and started a vigorous revolutionary movement. In London this aroused the impression that Bakunin was trying to capture the International. At the Basle Congress of the International, on September 5 and 6, 1869, Bakunin was no longer, as he had been in Brussels, alone against the Marxian front, but was backed up by a resolute phalanx of supporters. It was obvious that Bakunin’s influence was on the increase. This became especially plain during the discussion on the question of direct legislation by the people (initiative and referendum).
At this Congress, Bakunin once more brought to a head the slanders that the Marxists had circulated concerning him. His opponents had tried to check his influence by a flood of suspicions and invectives.
In 1865, the Demokratisches Wokhenblatt, published in Leipzig, under Wilhelm Liebknecht’s editorship, attacked Bakunin’s personal honour severely. At the same time, Bebel wrote to Becker that Bakunin was “probably an agent of the Russian Government.” Liebknecht declared that Bakunin was in the Czar’s pay.
Bakunin secured the appointment of a court of arbitration to investigate the charges. Liebknecht had no proofs to adduce, and declared that his words had been misunderstood. The jury unanimously agreed that Liebknecht had behaved with “criminal levity,” and made him give Bakunin a written apology. The adversaries shook hands before the Congress. Bakunin made a spill out of the apology, and lighted a cigarette with it.
Bakunin never tried to pay back Marx in the same coin. Mehring says of Bakunin’s writings, that “we shall look in them in vain for any trace of venom towards the General Council of towards Marx.” Bakunin preserved so keen a sense of justice and so splendid a magnanimity, that on January 28, 1872, writing to the internationalists of the Romagna about Marx and the Marxists, he said: —
“Fortunately for the International, there existed in London a group of men who were extremely devoted to the great association, and who were, in the true sense of the words, the real founders and initiators of that body. I speak of the small group of Germans whose leader is Karl Marx. These estimable persons regard as an enemy, and maltreat me as such whenever and wherever they can. They are greatly mistaken. I am in no respect their enemy, and it gives me, on the contrary, lively satisfaction when I am able to do them justice. I often have an opportunity of doing so, for I regard them as genuinely important and worthy persons, in respect both of intelligence and knowledge, and also in respect of their passionate devotion to the cause of the proletariat and of a loyalty to the cause which has withstood every possible test — a devotion and a loyalty which have been proved by the achievements of twenty years. Marx is the supreme economic and socialist genius of our day. In the course of my life, I have come into contact with a great many learned men, but I know no one else who is so profoundly learned as he. Engels, who is now secretary for Italy and Spain, Marx’s friend and pupil, is also a man of outstanding intelligence. As long ago as 1846 and 1848, working together, they founded the Party of the German Communists, and their activities in this direction have continued every since. Marx edited the profound and admirable Preamble to the Provisional Rules of the International, and gave a body to the instinctively unanimous aspirations of the proletariat of nearly all countries of Europe, in that, during the years 1863–1864, he conceived the idea of the International and effected its establishment. These are great and splendid services, and it would be very ungrateful of us if we were reluctant to acknowledge their importance.”
Bakunin explains the break between Marx and himself:
“Marx is an authoritarian and centralizing communist. He wants what we want, the complete triumph of economic and social equality, but he wants it in the State and through the State power, through the dictatorship of a very strong and, so to say, despotic provisional government, that is, by the negation of liberty. His economic ideal is the State as sole owner of the land and of all kinds of capital, cultivating the land through well-paid agricultural associations under the management of State engineers, and controlling all industrial and commercial associations with State capital.
“We want the same triumph of economic and social equality through the abolition of the State, and of all that pass by the name of our law (which, in our view, is the permanent negation of human rights). We want the reconstruction of society, and the unification of mankind, to be achieved, not from above downwards, by any sort of authority, or by socialist officials, engineers, and other accredited men of learning — but from below upwards, by the free federation of all kinds of workers’ associations liberated from the yoke of the State.
“You see that two theories could hardly be more sharply opposed to one another than are ours. But there is another difference between us, a purely personal one.
“Marx has two odious faults: he is vain and jealous. He detested Proudhon, simply because Proudhon’s great name and well-deserved reputation were prejudicial to him. There is no term of abuse that Marx has failed to apply to Proudhon. Marx is egotistical to the pitch of insanity. He talks of ‘my ideas,’ and cannot understand that ideas belong to no one in particular, but that, if we look carefully, we shall always find that the best and greatest ideas are the product of the instinctive labour of all...Marx, who was already constitutionally inclined towards self-glorification, was definitely corrupted by the idolization of his disciples, who have made a sort of doctrinaire pope out of him. Nothing can be more disastrous to the mental and moral health of a man, even though he be extremely intelligent, than to be idolized and regarded as infallible. All this has made Marx even more egotistical, so that he is beginning to loathe every one who will not bow the neck before him.”
Ruhle had dealt very exhaustively with the steps taken by Marx to get rid of his hated adversary. Marx organized irregular conferences at London and the Hague. Bakunin, Guillaume, and Schuizgulbed were expelled by methods since employed by the Third International to expel Trotskyists and other opponents of present-day Stalinism. The Purge was always a characteristic of Marxism. A victory was won that secured no fruit. Marx had to admit that the last Congress of the International, held at Geneva, in September, 1873, was a complete fiasco. Becker wrote a letter to Serge describing Marx’s hopeless intrigues in connection with this Congress.
Marx decided to throw a last handful of mud at Bakunin. With Engels and Lafargue, he undertook to publish a report of the charges made against Bakunin, under the title “Die Allianz Der Sozialistisch en Demokratie Und Die International Arbeitassoziation” (The Alliance of the Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association). Every line of this report is a distortion, every allegation an injustice, every argument a falsification and every word an untruth. As Ruble says, even Mehring although so indulgent to Marx, places this work “at the lowest rank” among all those published by Marx and Engels.
Bakunin met the attack with resignation. He described the pamphlet as a “gendarme denunciation.” He declared that Marx, urged onwards by furious hatred, had undertaken to expose himself before the public in the role of a sneaking and calumniatory police agent.
Bakunin added: —
“That is his own affair; and, since he likes the job, let him have it... This has given me an intense loathing of public life. I have had enough of it. I therefore withdraw from the arena, and ask only one thing from my dear contemporaries — oblivion.”
When Bakunin died, on July 1, 1878, no trace of the Marxian International remained.
Marxism degenerated into the 2nd International, parliamentary opportunism and careerism, and the Nationalistic support of the First Great War. After that war, it gave us the machinations of the 3rd International, the assassination of Socialists and Socialism, in Soviet Russia; the debacle in Germany, the betrayal in Spain leading to the triumph of Fascism; and, finally, the dictatorship diplomacy which released the Second Great War by signing a pact with Germany; the great Stalin-Hitler alliance, the Soviet-Nazi pact. Marxism is dead; and the world of libertarian struggle recalls the wisdom and the defiance of Bakunin. Marx is dead and Bakunin strides on, leading the workers of the world on to the conquest of break and freedom — and roses too. Today, the name of Bakunin is linked historically and traditionally with the emancipation of the human race. In death, he is symbol of anti-Fascism. He is legend, power, and reality.
2. — THE CHALLENGE OF CATALONIA
The braggart, Franco, at the beginning of his mountebank career of Fascist adventurism, boasted that Catalonia would fall before his alien arms without a struggle. Such chatter was worthy of the tool of Hitler and Mussolini! It defined the extent of the man’s ignorance with a superbness of irony that no other persons could have achieved. It stamped as grotesque the knowledge, the approach, the attitude of Franco. It showed the man in action and in repose to be the one character: a clown turned butcher n order that he might clown at tragedy as well as at comedy; clown as wantonly with human misery as he had clowned hopelessly at politics.
The Capitalist and Fascist powers treated this comedian seriously merely because his comedy grew into crime and his fool’s
costume dripped with proletarian blood. His mirthless braggadocio regarded the conquest of Catalonia as something to be attained without struggle: a maidenly surrendered to be obtained for the mere medieval gesture of request and command. Self-styled patriot, of the history of his country he had no knowledge. Of the destiny of his country he knew even less. For Spain was choosing. It was choosing between Franco and Bakunin. That there should be such a choice possible, pays too much honour to the merit of Franco: but the choice was historical and signifies the passing of Capitalism. Once so great and majestic, Capitalism was degraded to mediocrity, and from out of its ruins rose the menacing, colossal shadow of Bakunin, the chained Titan, the veritable Siegfried of the class struggle.
Many moons had passed since Bakunin landed, after countless hardships, a free man on the coast of California, in 1859. Italy was at that time grinding under the yoke of Austria and the star of Garibaldi was but threatening to rise, only that a renegade Socialist in years to come might turn the poetic nationalism of Mazzini and Garibaldi to darkness and despair. Well did Bakunin attack Mazzini’s idealism. Spain was a land of ‘pronounciamientos,” ending, till 1868, in the sovereignty of Isabella II., a reign of hopeless tyranny. No shadow of Bakunin over Europe then!
In 1868 the rebellion of Prim and Serrano drove Isabella to exile in France. Then followed Republics and Constitutional Monarchy and the restoration of the Bourbons, with Isabella’s son, Alfonso XII., in 1875. No need to continue the Bourbon history, which ended in a Republic, a Republic of Fascism, challenged by Catalonia and sustained only by the alien butchery of Mussolini and Hitler, with the cowardly non-interventionist aid of the capitalist democracies. Franco finally destroyed Catalonia, and knew not that Catalonia will free the world. That emancipation comes in direct line from the times of Bakunin. Catalonia vindicated Labour; it vindicated Socialism; and against Social Democracy and Parliamentarism it vindicated Anarchism and Bakunin. It challenged Fascism, proclaimed the dawn of social revolution.
Federalist uprisings occurred during the year 1873, in Seville, Cadiz, Granada, Malaga, Alicante, and Cartagena. Each centre proclaimed itself an independent canton. From the South of France, Fanelli, disciple of Bakunin, carried the doctrine of Anarchism across the Pyrenees into Catalonia. And so, hardly was Bakunin’s body resting beneath its uncouth stone when adherents of his doctrines were founding his principle and building their libertarian groups at Barcelona and Tarrapona. Meanwhile, Cafiero and Malatesta were pioneering Anarchism in Italy, where it will yet conquer; and John Most, regretting his election to the Reichstag, was proclaiming the counter-revolutionary character of the suffrage in Germany and entering upon that career which does his memory
more credit than all the parliamentary compromises did that of Wilhelm Liebknecht, Engels, and Bebel.
The years pass; and we witness the growing power of Anarchism in Spain. In 1882 great progress has been made in Catalonia and Andalusia. A distinct Anarchist element, co-operating with other schools of Socialist thought, but maintaining the principle of revolutionary Socialism, makes itself felt at a working-class congress held in Seville, when 254 delegates assembled, representing 10 provincial unions, 632 local sections, with 59,000 adherents. In December of this year a personal quarrel between two workers, resulting in the death of one of them, named Bartolome Gago Campos, illustrates the fear with which Anarchism now inspires the ruling class. Marx wrote well of the spectre of Communism. Let us consider Spain haunted by the spectre of Anarchism. The very ignorant commander of the Civil Guard at Jerez had one hundred Anarchists arrested, and invented, in his imagination a secret organization, known as “La Mano Negro” or “The Black Hand.” Although it was proved that no such Anarchist organization existed, that the entire thing was a myth of a maddened militarist’s brain. Capitalist journalism has persisted in using, with increasing dishonour, this “Black Hand” hobgoblin. It is fantastic enough to appeal to the jaded sense of romance which afflicts the bourgeois student of literature!
Nor was the lie all romance. The myth was grounded well in interest. The Capitalist conscience measures all things in the terms of profit. Its taste belongs to the Stock Exchange; its beauty is purchased and tainted and embellished; its love studies percentage and has a prostitute price; and it drags the Golden Calf to Church that it may preside, a more definite deity, in the temple of the Unknown God. The Real Presence of Capitalist society is not the man of sorrows but the gold that lures. “The Black Hand” myth was romance and calculation. It was a brutal and bloody calculation as the reader will understand.
As a matter of fact, the “Black Hand” campaign was but the aggravated aftermath of the terrible agrarian struggle. The ruling class was endeavouring to stamp out Anarchism. Fourteen Anarchists were condemned to death for complicity in the death of Bartolomie Gago, and scores of others were condemned to “chains for life.” Cadiz received the sentences with threats of working class rebellion and in the end only seven of the condemned men mounted the scaffold. The scaffolds were erected on the Plaza of Jerez on 14th June, 1884. What tortures were experienced by those condemned to imprisonment, pen cannot describe. In 1903, twenty years after the arrests, eight prisoners were still held in durance vile. Others had died in prison. These eight, after much agitation, were reprieved. The shocking victimization of these Anarchist workers only stimulated the cause. In 1887, explosions occurred at the Palace of the Cortes in Madrid and in the courtyard of the
Ministry of Finance. Then came May Day, 1890, and the General Strike in several provinces. Striking reigned in the Basque provinces and Barcelona was decreed to be in a stage of siege. In Valencia, the workers attacked a Jesuit convent and the residence of a Carlist aristocrat. Two years later came a plot to release the “Black Hand” prisoners from the prison of Jerez de la Frontera. This ended in an attempt to sieze the town. This attempt was made on 9th January, 1892, and the next month, four Anarchists were executed and others sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. But the workers were unquelled.
There are no more rebellious spirits in the world, than the people of Barcelona. Before the days of Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco, the fortress of Montjuy has controlled the town and made the rebellion of no avail. Risings were futile and foredoomed to defeat. But the courage of the people vindicated Ferrer and took possession of Montjuy. Anarchism controlled Montjuy. Against the spirit of Anarchism, entrenched in Montjuy, Franco was but the embodied futility of the ages, reaction sprawling through hysteria towards paralysis and extinction; the extinction of authority and class society.
In 1896, the Spanish Anarchists were in revolt again. No persecution subdued their powers of organization. Following upon an attack on the Madrid palace, the clericalists of Barcelona staged an attack on a clerical procession, which injured only working men and women. This was to enable Don Antonio Canovas del Castillo, who was then Prime Minister, to lay before the Cortes his Bill to suppress the Anarchists. From this time on, Castillo was a doomed man, and the Spanish people merely waited to learn of his deserved execution. He was shot dead, on 8th August, 1897, by the Italian Anarchist, Michele Angiolillo. No man more richly deserved execution. Angiolillo’s deed inspired the beautiful American Anarchist soul, Voltairine De Cleyre, to write the most pathetic poem, entitled: “Angiolillo,” in which she visions the triumph of Anarchism in Spain and the world.
In Barcelona, Barril wounded the chief of police, and in October, Queen Cristina replaced the avowed Conservative Ministry with a nominal Radical one, under Praxedas Mateo Sagasta. The latter made some pretence of restoring liberty of the press, raising the state of siege in Barcelona, and releasing all untried prisoners from Montjuy. In 1899, Silvela succeeded Sagasta, and middle class revolts occurred, as well as working class ones, in Barcelona. In 1901, and again in 1904, and during the Intervals, strikes are the rule in Barcelona. In 1906, comes the infamous marriage of Alfonso to Princess Ena, the bomb thrown by Mateo Morral of Roca, son of a wealthy cotton spinner of Sabadell, in Catalonia, and the first frame-up of Ferrer. The execution of Ferrer in 1909 for alleged complicity in the general strike in Barcelona belongs to history.
There is no need to plunge into the later history of Spain. Fascism under the monarchy and Fascism under the Republic, until at last, there came the parliamentary administration, which hesitated to arm the workers against the Fascist rebellion of Franco. At least, enough has been told to prove that Anarchism is irrepressible.
In 1897 Terrade de Marmol, in his Les Inquisiteurs d’Espagne, described the terrible horrors the Anarchists endured in Spanish dungeons, form which he escaped I have these horrors listed before me as I write and have heard de Marmol dilate on them before a private audience in London. These horrors, or many of them, were repeated under the Fascist Republic.
In 1936, the martyrs won. “Germinal” was no longer a vain cry. Anarchism was on the March. Fascism, triumphing against Universal Suffrage in Germany and elsewhere, crumpled before the struggle of Anarchism. Lassalle was proven a false prophet, with his “Through Universal Suffrage to Victory.” There is no such thing as the progressive conquest of the powers of democracy under Capitalism. Proudhon is right. Through Reaction to Revolution! And in Spain, inspired by Bakunin, the tide of reaction was checked. True, alien Fascism won—only that a second world war might arise, and capitalist democracy be compelled to advance the challenge made by Catalonia. Anarchist Spain promised that Fascism would be rolled back by European revolution, by the steady, unbeaten onmarch of Anarchism. Spain, once the land of darkness, became the light of the world!
History stages the question. Hitler or Bakunin? The clown-sadist or the Anarchist-revolutionist. The sadist-careerist of authority or the man of liberty. History stages the question in satire of Capitalist authority. And at last, the right answer is given: “For Bakunin and Liberty.”
Fascism passes to its doom, attended by the hirelings of class authority, of statism, and oppression. An anti-militarist commonwealth of liberty, equality, and fraternity is being born
As stated in the Foreword, the manuscript of the present biography was completed in 1934. Three years after this work had been written, Professor E.H. Carr published his magnificent book, Michael Bakunin. The publishers were MacMillan & Company, of St. Martin’s Street, London. The book consisted of thirty-four exhaustive chapters. Unfortunately, it was published at the impossible price, so far as the workers were concerned, of twenty-five
shillings. No effort has been made to produce a popular addition. This militates seriously against the excellent research work of Professor Carr being popularised. Professor Carr’s study is a growth: for his Bakunin embodies chapters from his previous writings on Herzen.
The reception that was accorded to Carr’s work did not make for welcome understanding. Reviews in the capitalist press stated that Professor Carr had nothing but affectionate contempt for this sinister political buffoon. The reviewers also spoke of the “wretched Bakunin, who threw away everything he loved to pursue a phantom in whose reality he believed until his death.” They spoke of Bakunin choosing exile from his respectable semi-aristocratic home for the sake of his shifty principles, and thereafter living on whatever money he could borrow form friends and acquaintances. They declared that Carr had pictured Bakunin as a man who achieved immortality “because of his unremitting quarrel with Karl Marx for whom he entertained a permanent hatred, for the double reason: that Marx was a Germany and also a Jew.” It was admitted that Carr had brought out the fact that although Bakunin’s life was one long record of dismal failures, he will live for all time in the history of Socialism, as one of those giant personalities that become legends long even before death.
The capitalist reviewer did not do tribute to the care and scrupulous research which went to make up Professor Carr’s study. They pretended that Carr had enshrined merely an old clown and they made no attempt to realise how much freedom of every man and woman depends, and has depended upon, the apparently futile struggle for liberty made by men like Bakunin who fought and struggled, borrowed and starved, and were jailed, often under fearful conditions, in order that their political principles might become social realities.
Bakunin was not a buffoon and he was not a clown. Those who attack him for borrowing money from friends after he had thrown away his heritage, have understanding of the sordid and bitter struggle that represents the soil in which the agitator flowers. It may be said that Bakunin failed; but whoever studies the wars of capitalist society, its their magnificent destruction of its magnificent civilisation, its calculated scientific desolation, must confess that capitalist society, its statesmen and politicians, have no claim to success. In his own person, living and dwelling in poverty, Bakunin by contrast with the Labour leader of the Radical politician, who ends his life in comfort, is a failure. He may seem both clown and buffoon to those who believe that the aim of life is a career. Men like Bakunin are not failures but protests. It is not exactly what they say that matters. Many of their doctrines may be false. True or false, they are often embodied in formulas that to the mass of mankind read like so much metaphysical gibberish. Their writings are often unreadable and the records of many of their orations
Offend by arrogance and conceit. Yet they represent fundamental truth and the hope of mankind for a new and higher social order. It is very hard to estimate the worth of an agitator and it will remain hard until a new social order has been born and our present system of finance and corruption, militarism and exploitation, has been condemned at the bar of history for the worthless thing it is.
Carr’s life of Bakunin, although applauded, was reviewed so poorly by the capitalist press that its worth suffered in consequence. The result was that Max Nettlau, who has doted on Bakunin’s life and manuscript so much, in an anarchist paper, protested against nearly all Carr’s assertions. Nettlau is far from being the accurate authority the so-called anarchists have pretended; but he has certainly cherished Bakunin’s writings and the anecdotage about his career. In the excellent bibliography to his work, Carr acknowledges at great length his debt to Nettlau. But Nettalu sees no good in Carr. My view is that Nettlau’s review of Carr’s book should be published in pamphlet form and read in connection with the work to which it refers. Meanwhile, I refer the reader to Professor Carr’s work for a very full study of phases of Bakunin’s life that have no been touched upon in my own words. Nettlau condemns Carr for dealing so thoroughly with Bakunin’s private affairs. Some of the incidents related are not absolutely to Bakunin’s credit. If they are true I do not think that this criticism matters. If the idol has feet of clay, and if the feet are still well-fashioned it might be nice to look at the idol with his feet of clay as well. Actually the picture presented by Carr is not such a terrible one. He shows a man of great purpose, with a strong libertarian impulse, anxious to do tremendous things, hating the wrongs of the world in which he lived, handicapped in a thousand ways, and straining with all the might of his tremendous volcanic personality against the bonds that bound him. Of course he did things that he ought not to have done. Of course he was not always equal to his own greatness. He had many foibles and many conceits. Some of his errors were almost criminal. But they merited forgiveness; for they arose out of a boundless energy to serve mankind and out of a feeling of loneliness in facing the disaster that represents the capitalist world of struggle. Fundamentally, Professor Carr has given the world a picture of Bakunin in his true setting; a living picture of a living man. And now that Bakunin belongs to immortality, it does not matter too much whether every offence charged against him is true.
Since Professor Carr gives such a complete Bakunin bibliography, there is no need to cover that ground in the present chapter.
I now refer to the book to which Carr made no reference. This is “The Spirit of Russia” written by the late President Masaryk, and published in English in two volumes by Allen and Unwin, London, 1919. The second volume deals very thoroughly with
Bakunin and his place in Russian literature and European thought and struggle. Masaryk’s book is a wonderful work of scholarship. It is not concerned with the personal life of Bakunin but with his literary life, with his political career, with his entire scholastic background. I would advice every person who wishes to understand Bakunin’s life to read this book. This does not mean that I endorse all its conclusions.
Masaryk depicts Bakunin as a zealot, a fanatical autocrat, a revolutionary Czar. He shows that Bakunin is not merely a theorist but a would-be man of action limited in his capacity to achieve by the force of his own zeal.
Masaryk discusses very completely the history of Russian Socialism and the ideals that moved the exiles under the Czardom. He considers fully Lavrov’s relationship with Herzen; relates the breach between Katkov and Bakunin (1840) and describes how they came to blows in Belinksi’s house. He shows the influence on Bakunin of Marx. Contrasting Bakunin against Kropotkin, Masaryk concludes the difference consisted in the fact that Bakunin aimed solely at disorganisation and never gave any heed to re-organisation. It may be that Kropotkin stands in relation to Bakunin as Edward Carpenter does to Walt Whitman. There is a roughness and an original force about Whitman that is lacking in Carpenter. The latter is cultured and essentially the disciple, but the disciple who has refined the strength of the master. Bakunin lacks much of the culture that finds expression in Kropotkin’s writings. Nowhere does Kropotkin express himself with the energy and force that is to be found in Bakunin. Especially in this the case when we compare Kropotkin’s tracing of the anarchist idea in England back to the Whigs, ignoring entirely the Radical Republicans whom the Whigs persecuted, with Bakunin’s analysis of the Liberals in Russia. Masaryk deals very thoroughly with his analysis. To Bakunin, as to Dobroljubov, the Liberals are superfluous persons; cultured and hyper-cultured persons suffering form the paralysis and morbidity of civilisation. They are superfluous weaklings as contrasted against the Muzik.
As I have referred the reader to Masaryk’s work I do not need to analyse it at great length in the present appendix. He discuses the relation of Cernysevskii to Herzen and Bakunin as interpreters of Russian literature and thought. He describes how Cernysevskii had Marx’s writings sent to him during his exile in Siberia but displayed no interest whatever in the philosophy of Marx. Masaryk concludes that Cernysevskii continued the literary work of Belinski, whereas Herzen and Bakunin departed form Russian traditions and supplied the younger generation with revolutionary ardour. He quotes Bakunin’s definition of government and of the reactionaries who maintain the government as privileged persons in point of political blindness. He concludes from Bakunin’s severity that he served as the model for Turgenev’s “Dmitri Rudin,” and also
for his “Bazarov.” These creations are supposed to define Bakunin at different stages of his career and to bring home to the student the fact that Bakunin’s gospel was that of socio-political destruction, or pan-destruction.
As a protest against this criticism of Bakunin, it may be urged that the capitalist world has produced so much self-destruction that Bakunin’s gospel may prove to be less reprehensible and less destructive than his critics assume.
Masaryk drives home his conception in an excellent criticism of Thomas Paine in contrast to Bakunin. In the twenty-forth chapter of his book, dealing with democracy versus theocracy, and charging Bakunin with theocracy, despite his Atheism, Masaryk, in section 206, makes the following comparison: —
“If I mistake not, among the participators in the French Revolution Thomas Paine may be regarded as the most conspicuous example of a modern, democratically minded, deliberately progressive revolutionary. His writings supply the philosophical foundations of the democratic revolution. Precisely because his participation in the revolution was so deliberate, he was able to estimate very accurately the errors of the revolution, and yet would not allow these errors to confuse his mind as to the general necessity of the movement. Paine, and here he stood alone, had the courage to defend Louis XVL, saying ‘Kill the king, not the man,” thus modifying Augustine’s maxim, ‘Dilligite homines, interficte errores.” Paine, too, was valiant enough to defend the republic and democracy against his brother revolutionaries.”
“The Russian revolutionaries lack Paine’s qualities. The errors of the revolutionary movement alarmed Herzen and warped his judgment both of Europe and of Russia. Bakunin clung to revolution, but his revolutionism was blind; it is always Bakunin to whom Russians appeal, and to Bakunin’s doctrine of revolutionary instinct, when what is requisite is intelligent revolutionary convention. Cernysevskii might perchance have developed into a Russian Paine, had he not been monstrously condemned to a living death in Siberia.”
Masaryk overlooks the fact that Bakunin defended liberty against the dictatorship idea the dictatorship idea of his Marxian brother revolutionaries. Time may yet prove that Bakunin visioned with more understanding than his Parliamentary, Marxist, Liberal, and Social Democratic critics admit.
Karl Marx: His Life and Work, by Otto Ruhle was published in English by Allen and Unwin in 1929. This work devotes a considerable amount of space to Bakunin, and in the main is friendly to the great Russian revolutionist. Ruhle treats very thoroughly of the difference between Marx and Bakunin.
TO EDITORS, READERS, AND LIBRARIANS
[The author has collected nine pamphlets, Word Library, 1st Series, into one Volume, and issued them in collected form under the title Essays in Revolt.. This second series will be collected into another volume.]
This collection of essays will be sent to a number of papers in all parts of the world for review. It will be sent specifically to the press in Britain, America, the American Colonies, and the British Dominions. Editors are asked, as a favour, to send copies of their papers containing review notices to the author.
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