Alexandrovich Bakunin (Trolo) was a well known Russian anarchist.
He was best known as one of the first generation of anarchist philosophers,
and has been called one of the "fathers of anarchism".
was born of an aristocratic family in the village of Pryamukhino
between Torzhok and Kuvshinovo, in Tver guberniya, northwest of
Moscow, in the spring of 1814. At the age of 14 he left for St.
Petersburg where he was given military training at the Artillery
University. On completion of his studies in 1832, he was commissioned
as a junior officer in the Russian Imperial Guard and sent to
Minsk and Gardinas in Lithuania (now in Belarus). Though his father
wished him to continue in either the military or civil service,
Bakunin abandoned both in 1835 and fled to Moscow, where he hoped
to pursue the study of philosophy.
Moscow, Bakunin became fast friends with a group of former university
students, then engaged in the systematic study of Idealist philosophy,
in particular Schelling, Fichte, and Hegel. All along, he and
his friends hoped to complete their studies with a trip to Berlin,
then considered the capital of modern science. Bakunins' parents
refused at first to pay for this journey; but in the end, they
relented and in 1840 Bakunin went abroad.
stated plan at the time was still to become a university professor
(a "priest of truth," as he and his friends imagined
it). But he soon encountered and joined radical students of the
so-called 'Hegelian Left,' and joined the socialist movement in
Berlin. From there he went to Paris, where he met Proudhon and
George Sand, and also made the acquaintance of the chief Polish
exiles. From Paris he journeyed to Switzerland, where he resided
for some time, taking an active share in all socialistic movements.
in Switzerland, Bakunin was ordered by the Russian government
to return to Russia, and on his refusal his property was confiscated.
In 1848, on his return to Paris, he published a fiery tirade against
Russia, which caused his expulsion from France. The revolutionary
movement of 1848 gave him the opportunity to join a radical campaign
of democratic agitation, and for his participation in the May
Uprising in Dresden of 1849 he was arrested and condemned to death.
The death sentence, however, was commuted to imprisonment for
life, and he was eventually handed over to the Russian authorities,
by whom he was imprisoned and finally sent to eastern Siberia
received permission to move to the Amur region, from where he
succeeded in escaping, making his way through Japan and the United
States to England in 1861. He spent the rest of his life in exile
in western Europe, principally in Switzerland. In 1869 he founded
the Social Democratic Alliance; however, this organisation was
refused entry to the First International, on the grounds that
it was an international organisation in itself, and only national
organisations were permitted membership in the International.
The Alliance dissolved in the same year it was formed, and the
various groups which composed it joined the International separately.
1870 Bakunin led a failed uprising in Lyons on the principles
later exemplified by the Paris Commune. Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels later approved of the Paris Commune and described it as
an example of a dictatorship of the proletariat; however, Marx
was of the view that the rising in Lyons had been premature and
disagreements with Marx, which led to Bakunin's expulsion from
the International in 1872 after being outvoted by the Marx party
at the Hague Congress (1872), give a clear-cut representation
of the differences between the Marxist view of the need for a
transitional workers' state prior to the final dissolution of
the state, and Bakunin's opposition to the notion that such an
intermediate step was needed. Although Bakunin accepted Marx's
class analysis and economic theories regarding capitalism (acknowledging
"Marx's genius"), he thought Marx was arrogant, and
that his methods would compromise a communist revolution (a prediction
that many believe has been proved accurate). More importantly,
Bakunin criticized "authoritarian socialism" (marxism)
and the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat which he adamantly
you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute
power, within a year he would be worse than the Czar himself."
retired to Lugano in 1873 and died at Bern on June 13, 1876.
Bakunin's political beliefs rejected governing systems in every
name and shape, from the idea of God downwards; and every form
of external authority, whether emanating from the will of a sovereign
or from universal suffrage. He wrote in his Dieu et l'Etat or
God and the State (published posthumously in 1882):
liberty of man consists solely in this, that he obeys the laws
of nature, because he has himself recognized them as such, and
not because they have been imposed upon him externally by any
foreign will whatsoever, human or divine, collective or individual."
laws being thus recognized by every man for himself, Bakunin's
reasoning went, an individual could not but obey them, for they
would be the laws also of his own nature; and the need for political
organization, administration and legislation would at once disappear.
similarly rejected the notion of any privileged position or class,
since "it is the peculiarity of privilege and of every privileged
position to kill the intellect and heart of man. The privileged
man, whether he be privileged politically or economically, is
a man depraved in intellect and heart."
methods of realizing his revolutionary program were no less purposeful
than his principles. The revolutionist, as Bakunin described,
would be a devoted man, who allowed no private interests or feelings,
and no scruples of religion, patriotism or morality, to turn him
aside from his mission, the aim of which is by all available means
to overturn the existing society.
dispute between Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx highlighted the
difference between anarchism and Marxism: While both anarchists
and Marxists share the same final goal - the creation of a free,
egalitarian society with no social classes and no government,
they strongly disagree on how to achieve this goal. Anarchists
believe that the classless, stateless society should be established
right away, as soon as possible; they refuse any intermediate
stage of dictatorship of the proletariat. Marxists believe that
such a thing would be impossible and that the anarchists are too
idealistic; the Marxists want a more gradual transition towards
the classless and stateless society, involving a transitional
stage of democratic government and planned economics, which they
call "socialism". (Note that the word "socialism"
also has a number of other meanings.)
Bakunin is alleged to have been anti-semitic, in one quote regarding
Jewish people he wrote "one exploiting sect, one people of
leeches, one single devouring parasite closely and intimately
bound together not only across national boundaries, but also across
all divergences of political opinion ... [Jews have] that mercantile
passion which constitutes one of the principle traits of their
national character" It is, however, unclear
whether he was talking about Semites or about those practicing
Judaism but it must be noted that he criticised all religions
throughout his life and Christianity and Judaism were dominant
in Europe at his time. Bakunin's anti-Semitism, like that of many
at the time, likely grew out of a perception that "they"
were behind the workings of European capitalism and politics,
which he spent his life opposing.
The following quote, part of a polemic attacking Karl Marx, illustrates
his perceptions of European Jewry: "Now this entire Jewish
world, which constitutes an exploiting sect, a people of leeches,
a voracious parasite, closely and intimately connected with another,
regardless not only of frontiers but of political differences
as well -- this Jewish world is today largely at the disposal
of Marx or Rothschild. I am sure that, on the one hand, the Rothschilds
appreciate the merits of Marx, and that on the other hand, Marx
feels an instinctive inclination and a great respect for the Rothschilds.
This may seem strange. What could there be in common between communism
and high finance? Ho ho! The communism of Marx seeks a strong
state centralization, and where this exists, there the parasitic
Jewish nation -- which speculates upon the labor of people --
will always find the means for its existence..."
reality, this would be for the proletariat a barrack-regime, under
which the workingmen and the workingwomen, converted into a uniform
mass, would rise, fall asleep, work, and live at the beat of the
drum. The privilege of ruling would be in the hands of the skilled
and the learned, with a wide scope left for profitable crooked
deals carried on by the Jews, who would be attracted by the enormous
extension of the international speculations of the national banks..."
-- Michael Bakunin: Polemique contre les Juifs, 1872.
Bakunin has been criticized by anarchists and statists alike as
a closet authoritarian. He is known to have sent secret letters
in the hopes of creating an "invisible dictatorship."
For example, a letter to Albert Richard stated that "[t]here
is only one power and one dictatorship whose organisation is salutary
and feasible: it is that collective, invisible dictatorship of
those who are allied in the name of our principle." However,
it is argued that these quotes are taken out of context, and that
by definition this "invisible dictatorship", to the
contrary of the Marxist "dictatorship of the proletariat",
is not organized: "this dictatorship will be all the more
salutary and effective for not being dressed up in any official
power or extrinsic character." Some however argue that the
sole expression in itself is a sign of Bakunin's alleged authoritarianism.
anarchists argue that the "collective dictatorship"
was meant to be the spontaneous coalition of citizens against
the state without a ruler behind it. However, in one letter Bakunin
stated that "the secret and universal association of the
International Brothers" need not be large. "One hundred
revolutionaries, strongly and earnestly allied, would suffice
for the international organization of all of Europe. Two or three
hundred revolutionaries will be enough for the organization of
the largest country."
proponents of anarchism and statism alike, would consider this
to be against the basic ideals of anarchism because the vast majority
of people are left outside the decision-making process. In the
same letter he argued that "revolutions are never made by
individuals or even by secret societies. They make themselves."