marx, bakunin and the question of authoritarianism

14 09 2010

David Adam casts doubt on the traditional narrative regarding the question of authoritarianism in the Marx-Bakunin conflict

Historically, Bakunin’s criticism of Marx’s “authoritarian” aims has tended to overshadow Marx’s critique of Bakunin’s “authoritarian” aims. This is in large part due to the fact that mainstream anarchism and Marxism have been polarized over a myth—that of Marx’s authoritarian statism—which they both share.1

Thus, the conflict in the First International is directly identified with a disagreement over anti-authoritarian principles, and Marx’s hostility toward Bakunin is said to stem from his rejection of these principles, his vanguardism, etc. Anarchism, not without justification, posits itself as the “libertarian” alternative to the “authoritarianism” of mainstream Marxism. Because of this, nothing could be easier than to see the famous conflict between the pioneering theorists of these movements—Bakunin and Marx—as a conflict between absolute liberty and authoritarianism. This essay will bring this narrative into question. It will not do this by making grand pronouncements about Anarchism and Marxism in the abstract, but simply by assembling some often neglected evidence. Bakunin’s ideas about revolutionary organization lie at the heart of this investigation.

Political Philosophy

We will begin by looking at some differences in political philosophy between Marx and Bakunin that will inform our understanding of their organizational disputes. In Bakunin, Marx criticized first and foremost what he saw as a modernized version of Proudhon’s doctrinaire attitude towards politics—the belief that all political power is antithetical to freedom. Also separating Bakunin from Marx was a radical idealism similar to that of Stirner. A certain passage from Marx’s critique of Stirner goes a long way towards helping us understand Marx’s differences from Bakunin: “Up to now freedom has been defined by philosophers in two ways; on the one hand, as power, as domination over the circumstances and conditions in which an individual lives—by all materialists; on the other hand, as self-determination, riddance of the real world, as merely imaginary freedom of the Spirit—this definition was given by all idealists, especially the German idealists.”2 Despite Bakunin’s professed materialism, Marx would fault him for idealism in this regard. Bakunin claimed, “Freedom is the absolute right of every human being to seek no other sanction for his actions but his own conscience, to determine these actions solely by his own will, and consequently to owe his first responsibility to himself alone.”3 Here the natural rights of the (bourgeois) individual are taken as the foundation of freedom, whereas in Marx the development of freedom is identified with the creation of a new human being, no longer confronted by his alienated social powers as a hostile force. Bakunin writes that “every individual, every association, every commune, every province, every region, every nation enjoys an absolute right of self-determination, to enter or not to enter into association, to enter into alliance with whomsoever they may wish, and to break off alliances without regard to supposed historic rights or the convenience of their neighbors. . . .”4 Instead of offering such philosophizing, Marx always pointed to the necessarily historically determined character of human rights, human nature, and social possibilities.5 Bakunin’s natural rights theory is the foundation of his federalist rejection of the bourgeois state, whereas Marx’s opposition to the bourgeois state flows from his critique of human alienation under capitalism.

Understanding this philosophical approach of Bakunin helps us investigate his differences from Marx in understanding socialist revolution. It is here, in the realm of class-consciousness and political action that the Marx-Bakunin feud actually erupted. Whereas Bakunin tended to identify freedom with natural laws and spontaneity, and thus emphasized the creation of secret groupings of revolutionaries to incite the latent instincts of the masses, Marx emphasized the necessity for the emergence of class-consciousness on a mass scale, which only comes from workers exercising for themselves the creative organizing capacities denied to them in capitalist daily life. As Marx said of Germany, “Here, where the worker is regulated bureaucratically from childhood onwards, where he believes in authority, in those set over him, the main thing is to teach him to walk by himself.”6 Ultimately, the wielding of political power by the workers has this function. The proletarians must take charge, re-organize society, and thus re-create themselves through the arduous process of self-emancipation. It is in this sense that Marx speaks of the self-abolition of the proletariat as a subjected class.7 The exercise of political power is not contrasted with working class self-activity, but is rather the means by which the working class manages its own affairs. “One day,” said Marx in 1872, “the worker will have to seize political supremacy to establish the new organization of labour; he will have to overthrow the old policy which supports the old institutions if he wants to escape the fate of the early Christians who, neglecting and despising politics, never saw their kingdom on earth.”8 Unlike Marx, who saw in the bourgeois state the alienated powers of the citizenry, Bakunin identified the state as such with “authority, force, the display of and fascination with force.”9 If the state in the abstract is viewed as an external imposition on the natural rights of the individual, there is no need for the proletarians to take over any of its functions collectively.

“Teach the people?” Bakunin once asked. “That would be stupid. . . . we must not teach the people, but incite them to revolt.”10 Marx had always rejected this approach. In an argument with Weitling, who was an advocate of individual dictatorship, Marx said that to rouse the workers without offering any scientific ideas or constructive doctrine was “equivalent to vain dishonest play at preaching which assumes an inspired prophet on the one side and on the other only the gaping asses.”11 Marx specifically criticized the Bakuninists in the First International in similar terms: “To them, the working class is so much raw material, a chaos which needs the breath of their Holy Spirit to give it form.”12 Not only this, but Marx even criticized Bakunin in the same terms that Bakunin famously used against him: “This Russian [Bakunin] obviously wishes to become the dictator of the European worker’s movement.”13

We can learn something of Bakunin and Marx’s divergent views from a little-known essay in which Marx and Engels quote part of Bakunin’s program for his secret Association of the International Brethren.14 Here is Bakunin, with Marx and Engels’ comments in parentheses: “All that a well-organized secret society can do is, first, to assist in the birth of the revolution by spreading among the masses ideas corresponding to their instincts, and to organize, not the army of the revolution—the army must always be the people (cannon fodder) [—] but a revolutionary General Staff composed of devoted, energetic, intelligent and above all sincere friends of the people, who are not ambitious or vain, and who are capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea (monopolized by them) and the popular instincts.”15 Marx and Engels comment further: “To say that the hundred international brethren must ‘serve as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the popular instincts,’ is to create an unbridgeable gulf between the Alliance’s revolutionary idea and the proletarian masses; it means proclaiming that these hundred guardsmen cannot be recruited anywhere but from among the privileged classes.”16 In Marx’s view, Bakunin’s program for revolution, by treating the worker as “so much raw material,” prevented him from learning “to walk by himself.”

The International

It is appropriate to give some relevant background on Bakunin’s presence in the International Workingmen’s Association, or First International. Bakunin did not join the International until July 1868, while Marx had been involved since its foundation in 1864. During 1867-1868, Bakunin and some of his associates were involved in the bourgeois League of Peace and Freedom, a democratic reformist group. Bakunin played a prominent role in the League’s September 1867 conference, and thought that he could win the League over to his revolutionary politics. When he joined the International, Bakunin urged close affiliation between the League and the International. Arthur P. Mendel comments on Bakunin’s intentions at this time, using quotations from Bakunin: “He was not planning to ‘drown our League’ in the International, but to have them work together as complimentary organizations, with the International ‘concerning itself if not exclusively, then at least principally, with economic questions,’ while the League would handle ‘political, religious and philosophical questions,’ as well as ‘prepare the issues and, thereby, clarify the political direction.’”17 As it turned out, Bakunin and his associates found themselves in the minority at the League’s September 1868 congress. Bakunin and 18 of his supporters left the League and decided to form a new organization. Mendel comments: “Compromising between Bakunin’s wish for an entirely secret organization and the other members’ preference for a public association, the founders decided to have both forms. As finally worked out, the ‘Alliance,’ as the organization as a whole came to be called, reflected several levels of secrecy and intimacy, that is, degrees of ‘family’ ties with Bakunin.”18

Mendel describes what happened next:

Acting through Marx’s friend Becker, he [Bakunin] officially applied that November (1868) for admission of the Alliance as a whole into the International, on terms that would allow the Alliance to retain its organizational integrity, hold its own Congresses, and so on. The International would gain considerably by the merger, Becker said in a letter accompanying the application, since the Alliance could make up for the International’s lack of “idealism.” The two organizations would complement each other, Bakunin later wrote, since the International could continue its fine work with the masses, representing necessarily only the “germs” of the full program, while the Alliance, at a higher level of development, would preserve the ideals of the program and thereby be in a position to give the International a “really revolutionary direction.” As he later was to describe the relationship between his Alliance and the International, the Alliance was to be “a secret society formed within the International in order to provide the International a revolutionary organization, in order to transform it, together with the popular masses that were outside of it, into a force sufficiently well-organized to annihilate reaction.”19

The General Council of the International flatly refused to let the Alliance into the International unless it ceased to function as a parallel international organization.20 A sympathetic Bakunin-biographer has even written, “Marx’s response to the Alliance’s application to affiliate with the International was logical enough, and remarkably restrained given his strong feelings.”21 Marx was apparently not the only one who was suspicious of the Alliance’s attempt at membership. The Council of the Belgian branch of the International sent a letter to the Geneva Alliance expressing the opinion that the Alliance’s actions were divisive and harmful:

Do you not understand that the workers established the International precisely because they wanted no kind of patronage, whether from Social-Democrats or from anyone else; that they want to go forward on their own without advisors; and that if they accept into the Association [the International] socialists who, because of their birth and privileged situation in the present society, do not belong to the disinherited class, it is only on condition that these friends of the people do not form a group apart, a kind of intellectual protectorate or an aristocracy of intellect, in a word, leaders, but instead remain part of the ranks of the vast proletarian masses?22

Eventually, Bakunin’s Alliance was able to enter the International. Mendel relates the conditions under which this occurred:

At a meeting in late February 1869, the [Alliance] Bureau decided to accept the conditions laid down by London, to “dissolve” the Alliance as an international network and to turn its local sections into sections of the International. The Alliance would, thus, enter the International “without any organization, bureaus, committees and congresses other than those of the International Workers’ Association,” or so the Bureau said in a public announcement of the dissolution. In fact, no such dissolution occurred at all. Clandestine correspondence in code, such as it was, continued to flow from Bakunin’s pen to his “intimates” in other countries, discussing, among other things, tactics for strengthening the Alliance’s influence within the International; and the secret Geneva Bureau continued to exist alongside what now became the Geneva Alliance section of the international.23

For example, in a May 1872 letter to A. Lorenzo (a delegate at the 1871 London conference), Bakunin wrote that “the Alliance is a secret that none of us can divulge without committing treason.”24 He therefore wished for Lorenzo to address him simply as a member of the International, and not the secret Alliance, so that Lorenzo’s letter could be used against Marx and his supporters. Bakunin nonetheless signed off as “M. Bakunin, Alliance and Brotherhood.”25 Marx and Engels were even aware of one of Bakunin’s references to the supposedly dissolved Alliance in an 1872 letter to Francisco Mora, and they quoted it in their pamphlet on the Alliance and the International: “You doubtless know that the International and our dear Alliance have progressed enormously in Italy of late. . . . It is good and it is necessary that the Alliancists in Spain should enter into direct relations with those in Italy.”26

Let us look at an interesting episode that exemplifies Bakunin’s conspiratorialism. There is a record of a conversation between Charles Perron and Bakunin around the time of the Basel Congress of the International:

Bakunin assured him that the International was an excellent institution in itself, but that there was something better which Perron should also join—the Alliance. Perron agreed. Then Bakunin said that, even in the Alliance, there might be some who were not genuine revolutionaries, and who were a drag on its activities, and it would therefore be a good thing to have at the back of the Alliance a group of “International Brothers.” Perron again agreed. When next they met a few days later, Bakunin told him that the “International Brothers” were too wide an organization, and that behind them there must be a Directorate or Bureau of three—of whom he, Perron, should be one. Perron laughed, and once more agreed.27

An excellent source for better understanding Bakunin’s thinking is his June 2, 1870 letter to Nechayev. There he outlines the organization of a hypothetical revolutionary society that he advises Nechayev to form. He writes of such a society:

The whole society constitute’s [sic] one body and a firmly united whole, led by the C.C. [Central Committee] and engaged in unceasing underground struggle against the government and against other societies either inimical to it or even those acting independently of it. Where there is war, there is politics, and there inescapably arises the necessity for violence, cunning, and deceit. Societies whose aims are near to ours must be forced to merge with our society or, at least, must be subordinated to it without their knowledge, while harmful people must be removed from them. Societies which are inimical or positively harmful must be dissolved, and finally the government must be destroyed. All this cannot be achieved only by propagating the truth; cunning, diplomacy, deceit are necessary.28

In this letter—which should be read in its entirety by anyone interested in these matters—Bakunin famously criticizes Nechayev, yet he does not clearly break with him. Bakunin wished, as he wrote Ogarev, to “save our erring and confused friend.”29 As the above passage indicates, Bakunin continued to hold a belief system similar to Nechayev’s.

Getting back to Bakunin’s role in the International, it is well known that Marx complained of the continued existence of the secret Alliance. It is also well known that Bakunin’s main complaint was the supposed authoritarianism of Marx and the General Council. Bakunin and the anarchists would loudly denounce not only the actions of the General Council in expelling Bakunin, but also the principle of the General Council’s authority. After the London conference of 1871, where Marx succeeded in getting resolutions passed aimed at blocking the activity of the Alliance, the anarchists of the Jura Federation convened a congress, which issued the Sonvillier Circular, which was sent to all the federations of the International and which challenged the validity of the London conference’s decisions. One theoretically important aspect of this Circular is its call for the General Council to become “a simple correspondence and statistical bureau.”30 The sections would thus be completely autonomous. When Bakunin received the Circular, he was fully supportive, explicitly echoing its call for a General Council without any authority in a letter to Ceretti.31 In 1872 he even called for “the abolition of the General Council.”32 For his part, Marx believed in the necessity of a General Council for the integrity of the International. As he wrote to Lafargue in March, 1872, “Thus from the moment at which the Council ceases to function as the instrument of the general interests of the International, it becomes wholly invalid and powerless. On the other hand, the General Council itself is one of the Association’s vital forces, being essential for the latter’s unity and for preventing the Association from being taken over by hostile elements.”33 Marx and Engels were concerned with defending the idea of democratic authority, as opposed to the complete autonomy of national sections or even individuals in an explicitly international organization. In his essay “The Congress of Sonvillier and the International,” Engels mocked the reasoning of the anarchists: “If in each individual section the minority submits to the decision of the majority, it commits a crime against the principles of freedom and accepts a principle which leads to authority and dictatorship!”34 Marx and Engels were perfectly capable of distinguishing between authority in general (which could be democratic) and individual authority or authoritarianism. In Capital, for instance, Marx quotes his Poverty of Philosophy: “It can . . . be laid down as a general rule that the less authority presides over the division of labour inside society, the more the division of labour develops inside the workshop, and the more it is subjected there to the authority of a single person.”35 He claims that, “in the society where the capitalist mode of production prevails, anarchy in the social division of labour and despotism in the manufacturing division of labour mutually condition each other. . . .”36

Bakunin was not always a consistent opponent of the General Council’s authority. Hal Draper relates the case of the Basle Congress of the International—the only one that Bakunin attended:

The GC [General Council] had requested that the congress grant it power, subject to Congress veto, to exclude a section acting contrary to International principles, in order to defend the movement against alien elements. Bakunin not only became the most enthusiastic proponent of this proposal, but went further: he proposed substantially greater powers for the leading body, powers that the GC had not requested. These proposals were carried through, perhaps largely because of his advocacy. The contemporaneous press report through which we know of this episode summarized the facts as follows: “Bakunin proposes to give the General Council the right to veto the entrance of new sections into the International until the following Congress, and the right to suspend existing sections; as for National [i.e. Federal] Committees, he wants to grant them the right to expel sections from the International. . . . Hins [Belgian delegate] asks that the right of suspension belong only to the Federal Committees and not to the General Council . . . Bakunin [speaking again] puts emphasis on the international character of the Association; it is necessary for this reason that the General Council not be without authority. He points out that, if the national organizations [Federal Committees] had the right of suspension, it could happen that sections animated but the true spirit of the International might be expelled by a majority unfaithful to the principles.” What this meant—as Bakunin later admitted when he beat his breast and wailed Mea culpa—was that he was afraid the Swiss Federal Committee might expel his Alliance, and so he looked to the General Council to protect his rights. That is, he was ready to jettison anarchist rhetoric about federalism and anti-authority as soon as his own local power base was threatened.37

Bakunin had advocated more authority for the General Council before he advocated a General Council without any authority. Marx and Engels referred to Bakunin’s change of position on different occasions as evidence that “the sect [the Alliance] had not donned its anti-authoritarian mask” until its hopes of taking over the General Council were destroyed.38

Against All Authority?

Let us further examine the topic of Bakunin’s opposition to authority. It is well known that Bakunin’s anarchism was coupled with an undying conspiratorialism. Bakunin drafted all sorts of programs and charts and vows for the various secret organizations he thought up. Most of these organizations were active only in Bakunin’s imagination.39 An interesting glimpse into one of Bakunin’s organizational plans is provided by Arthur Mendel:

Finally, there were the vows to be taken by the “brothers” in the secret “families,” national and international. Two categories of “brothers” were defined—the active and nominal brothers. The active brothers, from whom alone the leadership could be drawn, took the more stringent oaths: “. . . I swear loyalty and absolute obedience to the international organization and promise to it zealous activity, care and discretion, silence regarding all secrets, the sacrifice of my own egoism, self-love, ambition and my personal interests, and the complete and unlimited surrender to its disposition of all my strength and power, my social position, my influence, my fortune, and my life. I submit in advance to all the sacrifices and assignments that it will impose on me, certain that it will demand nothing of me that is contrary to my convictions and my honor or beyond my personal capacities. Throughout the time that I am charged with a function or mission I will unconditionally obey the orders of the immediate leader who has entrusted me with it and swear to carry out the mission with all possible speed, precision, energy and foresight, stopping only at what seems to me to be truly insurmountable obstacles. I subordinate from now on all my activities, public and private, literary, political, official, professional, and social to the supreme directives that I receive from the committees of this organization.” . . . In the final vow, the candidate agreed to accept against himself “the vengeance of the society” if he betrayed his oath or even forgot it.40

To see such “vows” coming from the pen of the great paladin of individual liberty and freedom should at least raise an eyebrow. It is not the only one of Bakunin’s calls for a distinctly authoritarian revolutionary organization.

One such organizational plan, which pertained to the Alliance, was known by Marx and Engels and criticized in their pamphlet on “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association.” In the outline, Bakunin describes in some detail the international and national levels of the organization and various sub-groups. What is striking is the way the organization is described as a sort of manipulative structure vis-à-vis the individual members. Bakunin writes, “National Brotherhoods of each country are organized in such a way as to never be able to withdraw from the direction of the international brothers who are in the Central Committee. . . .”41 Writing of the national sections of the organization, Bakunin identifies two groups existing within a “National Committee.” He writes, “However, the two groups must not be under any circumstances informed of the existence of the international organization or of the seat and the composition of the international central Committee.”42 An interesting idea: the sections of the organization are not even aware of the existence of its executive organs. The same idea re-appears in the organizational plan Bakunin drew up for Nechayev in 1870: “All members of the Regional Fraternity know each other, but do not know of the existence of the People’s Fraternity. They only know that there exists a Central Committee which hands down to them their orders for execution through [a] Regional Committee which has been set up by it, i.e. by the Central Committee.”43 In Engels’ report to the Hague Congress, after citing evidence that the Alliance never dissolved as it had agreed, touches upon this organizational question: “The organization of a secret society of this kind is a blatant violation, not only of the contractual obligations to the International, but also of the letter and spirit of our General Rules. Our Rules know only one kind of members of the International with equal rights and duties for all. The Alliance separates them into two castes: the initiated and the uninitiated, the aristocracy and the plebs, the latter destined to be led by the first by means of an organization whose very existence is unknown to them.”44 Even Paul Avrich, a sympathetic Bakunin scholar, acknowledges that Bakunin wanted to create a secret society whose members “would be subjected to the ‘strictest discipline’ and subordinated to a small revolutionary directorate.”45

Another instructive discussion of organizational principles by Bakunin comes in his Russian text To the Officers of the Russian Army. In his Statism and Anarchy, Bakunin writes that in the world of the Russian officers, in contrast to that of the German officers, “a human heart can still be found, an instinctive capacity to love and understand mankind, and in the right conditions, under a good influence, the ability to become a fully conscious friend of the people.”46 What does Bakunin offer these potential friends of the people in his Russian text? He recommends to them a powerful organization that is prepared to direct a mass rising in Russia—Nechayev’s organization. This organization, he assures them is “strong in discipline, passionate dedication, and the self-sacrifice of its members and unconditionally obedient to all the orders and directives of a Single Committee that knows everything, but is known by no one.”47 Bakunin explains that “Each new member joins our organization voluntarily, knowing in advance that once he has become a part of it, he ceases to belong to himself, and will from then on belong only to the organization.”48 Bakunin describes the role of the individual member in the organization: “He only speaks about the cause with those who he is authorized to speak with, and he sticks strictly to what he must say; and in general he conforms absolutely and rigorously to all the orders and instructions which he receives from above, without wondering or trying to learn at what level he is located in the organization; he wishes simply and quite naturally to be entrusted with as many tasks as possible, but at the same time waits patiently to be assigned new tasks.”49 Bakunin has just described what he is looking for in a member, and it basically boils down to obedience. He expresses opposition to “parliamentary chatter” which could lead to the forming of “opposing parties within the organization.”50 Marx and Engels, aware of this essay of Bakunin’s, were hesitant to take his rhetoric about freedom and autonomy so seriously.

Bakunin’s conspiratorialism seems to be heavily influenced by French socialist traditions, particularly the revolutionary practice of Philippe Buonarroti. The Bakunin scholar Arthur Lehning has written of Buonarroti: “He too built up on an international scale, though over a much longer period, an elaborate underground network, on a freemason pattern, sometimes using Masonic institutions, to work for his egalitarian creed of 1796, for a social revolution and for the republicanisation of Europe. For forty years the principles remained the same: the leadership was secret; the existence of the higher grades was unknown to the lower; protean in character, this network took advantage of and used other societies.”51 As we have seen, these principles are clearly evident in Bakunin’s writings. “Not for nothing did [Bakunin] praise Buonarroti as ‘the greatest conspirator of his age,’” observed Paul Avrich.52 Marx, on the other hand, was very critical of the conspiratorial tradition in French socialism. In an 1850 book review, Marx writes the following of the “conspirators”:

It is precisely their business to anticipate the process of revolutionary development, to bring it artificially to crisis-point, to launch a revolution on the spur of the moment, without the conditions for a revolution. For them the only condition for revolution is the adequate preparation of their conspiracy. They are the alchemists of the revolution and are characterised by exactly the same chaotic thinking and blinkered obsessions as the alchemists of old. They leap at inventions which are supposed to work revolutionary miracles: incendiary bombs, destructive devices of magic effect, revolts which are expected to be all the more miraculous and astonishing in effect as their basis is less rational. Occupied with such scheming, they have no other purpose than the most immediate one of overthrowing the existing government and have the profoundest contempt for the more theoretical enlightenment of the proletariat about their class interests.53

Criticizing Marx

It is fairly well-known that Bakunin harbored some racist beliefs, and his anti-Semitic and anti-German ideas came out in his feud with Marx. This obviously does not reveal some fatal flaw of anarchism, but a look at Bakunin’s racial diatribes helps us understand the particular way in which Bakunin mixed racism and politics. While one can easily agree with Bakunin’s “politics” and clearly reject the “racism,” Bakunin himself had a deeply racial understanding of political tendencies. Even more importantly, Bakunin’s racial remarks with regard to Marx reveal how much of an incorrigible fantasist Bakunin was.54 Key points in his critique of Marx are based on pure fantasy. Bakunin saw himself as engaged in an epic racial battle against pan-Germanism, of which Marx was a representative. In Statism and Anarchy, Bakunin cautions, “Do not think that Bismarck is as ferocious an enemy of this party [the Social-Democrats] as he pretends. He is too clever not to see that it serves him as a pioneer, disseminating the German concept of the state in Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland. The propagation of this Germanic idea is now the chief aspiration of Marx, who, as we have already noted, tried to resume within the International, to his own advantage, the exploits and victories of Prince Bismarck.”55

When the battle raged in the International, Bakunin identified Marx with Bismarck’s plans for German domination of Europe: “It is this plan to destroy liberty, a plan that has posed a mortal danger to the Latin race and the Slavic race, that is now trying to win absolute control of the International. Against this monstrous claim of pan-Germanism, we must oppose an alliance of the Latin and Slavic races. . . .”56 Racial agitation played an important role in Bakunin’s campaign against Marx preceding the 1872 Hague Congress. His main propaganda of this period was a series of circular letters addressed to his supporters. Bakunin’s chosen tactic in some of these tirades was to encourage opposition to the “Marxists” through anti-Semitic rhetoric.57 An example of one of these circular letters is Bakunin’s December 1871 Letter to the Bologne Members of the International. Here is an extract from this circular:

Well now, this whole Jewish world which constitutes a single exploiting sect, a sort of bloodsucker people, a collective parasite, voracious, organized in itself, not only across the frontiers of states but even across all the differences of political opinion—this world is presently, at least in great part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand and of the Rothschilds on the other. I know that the Rothschilds, reactionaries as they are and should be, highly appreciate the merits of the communist Marx; and that in his turn the communist Marx feels irresistibly drawn, by instinctive attraction and respectful admiration, to the financial genius of Rothschild. Jewish solidarity, that powerful solidarity that has maintained itself through all history, united them.58

Since Marx can be “united” with the Rothschild banking dynasty, Bakunin has no problem at all identifying Marx with someone like Lassalle, who had very different politics from Marx. For example, Bakunin writes, “Conforming strictly to the political program Marx and Engels had set forth in the Communist Manifesto, Lassalle demanded only one thing of Bismarck: that state credit be made available to the workers’ producer associations.”59 As it turns out, in Marx’s mind there was a clear distinction between what Bismarck could do for the workers, and what the workers could do for themselves. Marx was quite hostile to Lassalle’s socialism-from-above. As he wrote in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, criticizing Lassallean influence on the Gotha Programme,

Instead of the revolutionary process of transformation of society, the ‘socialist organization of the total labour’ ‘arises’ from the ‘state aid’ that the state gives to the producers’ co-operative societies and which the state, not the worker, ‘calls into being.’ This is worthy of Lassalle’s imagination that one can build a new society by state loans just as well as a new railway! . . . That the workers desire to establish the conditions of co-operative production on a social, and first of all on a national, scale in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned they are of value only in so far as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the government or of the bourgeoisie.60

While Marx’s critique of Bakunin’s authoritarianism is often ignored, Bakunin’s critique of Marx is often praised for its prescience, despite its complete distortion of Marx’s ideas.

Some of Bakunin’s criticisms of Marx are truly bizarre. Bakunin believed that “doctrinaire revolutionaries” like Marx and Engels think “that thought precedes life, that abstract theory precedes social practice, that sociology must therefore be the point of departure for social upheavals and reconstructions,” and therefore come to the conclusion “that since thought, theory, and science, at least for the present, are the property of a very few individuals, those few must be the directors of social life.”61 After quoting at length Bakunin’s charges that Marx was using the First International to impose on the world a “government invested with dictatorial powers,” Daniel Guerin comments, “No doubt Bakunin was distorting the thoughts of Marx quite severely in attributing to him such a universally authoritarian concept, but the experience of the Third International has since shown that the danger of which he warned did eventually materialize.”62 This is a curious justification for Bakunin’s criticism: because people have done authoritarian things in Marx’s name, Bakunin’s elaborate straw-man argument becomes retroactively vindicated. Another commentator writes, “Bakunin’s conception of the Marxist state he saw waiting in the wings of history was disturbing but correct. . . . history seems to have been on Bakunin’s, not Marx’s, side. . . .”63 Praise for Bakunin’s prophetic powers has served to gloss over the inaccuracy of his portrayal of Marx’s ideas.

Conclusion

Marx characterized the International as “a bond of union rather than a controlling force”64 and considered it “the business of the International Working Men’s Association to combine and generalize the spontaneous movements of the working classes, but not to dictate or impose any doctrinary system whatever.”65 On the basis of this vision, Marx opposed secret groupings in the International and held that this type of organization “is opposed to the development of the proletarian movement because, instead of instructing the workers, these societies subject them to authoritarian, mystical laws which cramp their independence and distort their powers of reason.”66 This perspective bears little in common with the caricature of Marxian authoritarianism that has become so widespread. Writing to Blos in 1877, Marx asserted that when he and Engels first joined the Communist League, they “did so only on condition that anything conducive to a superstitious belief in authority be eliminated from the Rules.”67 Marx’s opposition to authoritarian methods of organization reflects his long-standing belief in the importance of workers’ democracy. This was thus the basis for his rejection of Bakunin’s brand of vanguardism. As we have seen, Marx considered Bakunin’s emphasis on a tightly knit revolutionary general staff to be misguided. Far from being a consistent critic of authoritarianism, Bakunin mixed his elaborate praise for abstract liberty with an authoritarian organizational outlook.

1. On this theme, see “Karl Marx & the State,” available here: http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/alternatives-to-capital/karl-marx-the-state.html
2. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (Amherst: Prometheus, 1998), 319.
3. Daniel Guerin, Anarchism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), 31.
4. Mikhail Bakunin, “The Program of the Brotherhood,” in No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism, ed. Daniel Guerin (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 156. For Marx, understanding freedom as freedom from outside interference, as self-determination, is only the ideological reflection of bourgeois civil society and the Hobbesian “war of all against all.” In his 1843 “On the Jewish Question” Marx had written, “The right to private property is therefore the right to enjoy and dispose of one’s resources as one wills, without regard for other men and independently of society: the right of self-interest. The individual freedom mentioned above, together with this application of it, forms the foundation of civil society. It leads each man to see in other men not the realization but the limitation of his own freedom.” Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” in Karl Marx: Early Writings, trans. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton (New York: Vintage, 1975), 229-230.
5. “Every thing, every possible form of oppression had been justified by abstract right; it was high time to abandon this mode of agitation.” Karl Marx, “Record of Marx’s Speeches on Landed Property,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 21 (New York: International Publishers, 1985), 392.
6. Karl Marx, “Marx to Johann Baptist von Schweitzer,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 43 (New York: International Publishers, 1988), 134.
7. Marx in 1844: “The proletariat . . . is compelled as proletariat to abolish itself and thereby its opposite, the condition for its existence, what makes it the proletariat, i.e. private property.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Critique (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1956), 51.
8. Karl Marx, “On the Hague Congress,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 23 (New York: International Publishers, 1988), 255.
9. Mikhail Bakunin, “God and the State,” in No Gods, No Masters, 152. This conception of the state goes along with a voluntarist conception of creating socialism. Marx wrote of Bakunin: “Willpower, not economic conditions, is the basis of his social revolution.” Karl Marx, “Notes on Bakunin’s Book Statehood and Anarchy,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 24 (New York: International Publishers, 1989), 518.
10. Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists (Oakland: AK Press, 2005), 92.
11. Francis Wheen, Karl Marx: A Life (New York: Norton, 2001), 104.
12. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Alleged Splits in the International,” in Political Writings, Volume III: The First International & After, ed. David Fernbach (New York: Vintage, 1974), 306.
13. Karl Marx, “Marx to Engels,” in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 43, 332-333.
14. This program is available in No Gods, No Masters, 177-183.
15. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association,” in Collected Works, Vol. 23, 469.
16. Ibid., 470.
17. Arthur P. Mendel, Michael Bakunin: Roots of Apocalypse (New York: Praeger, 1981), 305.
18. Ibid., 306.
19. Ibid., 309. Marx expresses himself on these issues in his April 19, 1870 letter to Lafargue. See Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 43, 489-490. Marx’s suspicions would seem to be confirmed by the way Bakunin addressed the issue privately, as in these remarks on the International from a letter to Richard: “Let us live among others and use them. But we will live with them as do parasites: nourish ourselves on their life and their blood. . . .” Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 349.
20. Ibid., 310.
21. Mark Leier, Bakunin: The Creative Passion (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), 233.
22. Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 310.
23. Ibid., 314-315.
24. Ibid., 388.
25. Aileen Kelly, Mikhail Bakunin: A Study in the Psychology and Politics of Utopianism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 234-235.
26. Marx and Engels: “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association,” 579. Italics added by Marx and Engels. Also quoted in Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 388.
27. E.H. Carr, Michael Bakunin (London: Macmillan, 1937), 349.
28. Michael Bakunin, “M. Bakunin to Sergey Nechayev,” in Michael Confino, Daughter of a Revolutionary: Natalie Herzen and the Bakunin-Nechayev Circle (London: Alcove Press, 1974), 268. Emphasis added.
29. Paul Avrich, Bakunin and Nechaev (London: Freedom Press, 1987), 21.
30. Paul Thomas, Karl Marx and the Anarchists (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 321.
31. Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 380.
32. Ibid., 389.
33. Karl Marx, “Marx to Paul Lafargue,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 44 (New York: International Publishers, 1989), 346.
34. Friedrich Engels, “The Congress of Sonvillier and the International,” in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 23, 67.
35. Karl Marx, Capital: Volume I (London: Penguin, 1990), 477. Emphasis added.
36. Ibid., 477.
37. Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Volume IV: Critique of Other Socialisms (New York: Monthly Review, 1990), 277. The text Draper refers to, where Bakunin (literally) wails “Mea culpa,” is his “Lettre aux Internationaux de la Romagne,” available in Michel Bakounine, Œuvres Complètes, Volume 2: Michel Bakounine et L’Italie 1871-1872 (Paris: Editions Champ Libre, 1974).
38. Marx and Engels, “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association,” 473. See also Engels, “The Congress of Sonvillier and the International,” 67-68, and Friedrich Engels, “Report on the Alliance of Socialist Democracy Presented in the Name of the General Council to the Congress at the Hague,” in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 23, 233.
39. On the Alliance itself: “Although a network of his organization existed in Spain, elsewhere it consisted largely of individual cells—the tightly-knit international structure described in his programmes was sheer fantasy.” Kelly, Mikhail Bakunin, 237.
40. Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 295-296.
41. Michel Bakounine, Œuvres Complètes, Volume 6: Michel Bakounine et ses relations slaves 1870-1875 (Paris: Editions Champ Libre, 1978), 369. This passage is quoted in Eugene Pyziur, The Doctrine of Anarchism of Michael A. Bakunin (Milwaukee: The Marquette University Press, 1955), 94.
42. Ibid., 369-370.
43. Bakunin, “M. Bakunin to Sergey Nechayev,” 266.
44. Engels, “Report on the Alliance,” 232.
45. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, 24.
46. Michael Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 78.
47. Michel Bakounine, Œuvres Complètes, Volume 5: Michel Bakounine et ses relations avec Serge Necaev 1870-1872 (Paris: Editions Champ Libre, 1977), 174.
48. Ibid., 175.
49. Ibid., 177. Some real-world examples of this outlook: Bakunin and Nechayev at one point attempted to get Natalie Herzen to join their mysterious organization. Natalie Herzen tells of her frustration with never receiving any real explanation of what she would be getting into: “I always made the same reply: ‘I need to have a clear idea of the ends and the means!’” Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 339. E.H. Carr writes of an 1869 argument over Bakunin’s authority in his International Brotherhood, started in Italy. His unhappy members claimed that in his absence (Bakunin went to Geneva) they had “neither information, nor addresses, nor documents,” pertaining to the organization, these presumably having been monopolized by Bakunin. Carr, Michael Bakunin, 353.
50. Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 335.
51. Arthur Lehning, “Bakunin’s Conceptions of Revolutionary Organisations and Their Role: A Study of His ‘Secret Societies’,” in Essays in Honour of E.H. Carr, ed. C. Abramsky (London: The Macmillan Press, 1974), 58.
52. Avrich, Bakunin and Nechaev, 22.
53. Karl Marx, “Review: Les Conspirateurs, par A. Chenu,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 10 (New York: International Publishers, 1978), 318.
54. Bakunin is an intriguing figure in this regard. For example, In August 1862, Bakunin went to Paris and offered his services to a Polish general, Mieroslawski, showing support for a Polish rising. According to the General, Bakunin presented himself as the “plenipotentiary delegate of a powerful Russian secret conspiratorial organization who was in a position to strengthen our uprising on the Vistula by some 70,000 Russian troops, to surrender Modlin into our hands, etc. It seems that he [Bakunin] had just been wondering himself at the time how he might use those 70,000 Tsarist soldiers. So, he promised to form them into a Russian legion in order to start a revolution in [the Ukraine] and then in Russia.” Mieroslawski decided to have nothing to do with this “dangerous madman.” Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 278.
55. Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, 194.
56. Mendel, Michael Bakunin, 383.
57. Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Volume IV, 295.
58. Quoted from Ibid., 296. The circular letter is available as “Lettre aux Internationaux de Bologne (décembre 1871),” in Bakounine, Œuvres Complètes, Volume 2. For more of Bakunin’s anti-Semitic campaign against Marx, see his “Aux Compagnons de la Fédération des Sections Internationales du Jura (février-mars 1872),” in Michel Bakounine, Œuvres Complètes, Volume 3: Michel Bakounine et les Conflits Dans L’Internationale 1872 (Paris: Editions Champ Libre, 1975). In Bakunin’s reply to Marx and Engels’ “The Alleged Splits in the International,” he denounced the lies of “German and Russian Jews.” See “Résponse à la Circulaire Privée du Conseil Général: Les Prétendues Scissions dans L’Internationale,” in Bakounine, Œuvres Complètes, Volume 3, 121. Bakunin’s reply was published in the Jura Federation’s Bulletin of June 15, 1872. In July, Engels commented on Bakunin’s reply in a letter to Cuno: “Bakunin has issued a furious, but very weak, abusive letter in reply to the Scissions. That fat elephant is beside himself with rage because he has finally been dragged from his Locarno lair out into the light, where neither scheming nor intrigues are of any more use. Now he declares that he is the victim of a conspiracy of all the European—Jews!” Friedrich Engels, “Engels to Theodor Cuno,” in Marx and Engels, Collected Works Vol. 44, 408.
59. Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, 184.
60. Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (New York: International Publishers, 1970), 16-17.
61. Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, 136. As Marx explained repeatedly, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” Karl Marx, “Preface to A Critique of Political Economy,” in Karl Marx: Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 389.
62. Guerin, Anarchism, 24-25.
63. Alvin W. Gouldner, “Marx’s Last Battle: Bakunin and the First International,” Theory and Society 11, no. 6 (1982), 866.
64. Karl Marx, “The Curtain Raised: Interview with Karl Marx, the Head of L’Internationale,” New Politics 2, no. 1 (1962), 130.
65. Karl Marx, “Instructions for Delegates to the Geneva Congress,” in Political Writings, Volume III, 90.
66. Karl Marx, “Record of Marx’s Speech on Secret Societies,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works Vol. 22 (New York: International Publishers, 1986), 621.
67. Karl Marx, “Marx to Blos,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 45 (New York: International Publishers, 1991), 288.

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34 responses

14 09 2010
Mark

I cannot comment on the accuracy of the author’s depiction of the dispute between Marx and Bakunin as I do not have sufficient knowledge of this part of the history of the workers’ movement. However, I’m unsure of the author’s intention in publishing this on the Commune web site. As contribution to a history of the workers’ movement I’m not sure if it takes us any further forward than what’s already been published, but in that I may be wrong. Secondly, I wouldn’t be surprised that this interpretation elicited responses from anarchists who would contest its accuracy. So it’s perfect set up for a dispute between Marxists and anarchists regardless of its historical accuracy. While the author’s intention may well have been to ‘set the record straight’ it may well have the effect of antagonising anarchist opinion towards the Commune. As a Marxist who welcomes anarchists into the Commune network all I can say that this sort of article doesn’t help.

However, this is not to say that these types of articles have no value, far from it, but their value is confined to the academic history of the workers’ movement. A more appropriate place for publication would have been Revolutionary History. What value does this article have for communist practice today? What lessons are we supposed learn from it? That we should not trust anarchists because they are always conspiratorial? Or that they are tainted by the conspiracy theories one of their founders, assuming that’s completely accurate? I’m not saying that this sort of article is a complete waste of time but it usefulness is confined to historical exegesis. The Left spends far too much time on debating who said what at which congress. It’s about time we turned our eyes to what is happening around us. The Left needs to focus on a rigorous analysis of the current situation and the trends within global and local capitalism and its social and political implications. It needs to project a vision and strategy which might, if we are lucky, help us to transcend capitalism, and both Marxism and anarchism can help in this . I don’t care whether Bakunin was worse or better than Marx. This article is marginal at best to the needs of the situation today. However, I fear that this will spark another tiring debate. I hope people prove me wrong.

14 09 2010
Chris

This is a very interesting and well reasearch article which complements an earlier article on this subject published on the site. I dont understand Marks comments above, people who forget where they are coming from generally have a hard time working out where they are going. Nor is it of value to consider Marxists should diminish their critique of anarchism to facilitate their entrance to the network. To do so is surely to abandon hard learned lessons gained through long historical experience. The question of the libertarian mythology of anarchism as represented in this case by Bakunin (we could equally cite Proudhon) in this example is surely of importance in the conceptualising of an emancipatory alternative for today, such in regard to the organisational question and the role of subjective forces for example.

15 09 2010
dave c

As the author of the article, I just wanted to quickly respond to some of the questions Mark brings up. The article was part of a broader investigation of Marxism and anarchism, something I took an interest in due to the fact that I considered myself an anarchist for some time. The other part of this investigation was looking at Marx’s writings on the state, and the result is my other article linked to in the first footnote above. The above article is certainly one-sided in the sense that its focus is on these negative things about Bakunin. But I considered this worthwhile in that a lot of this information is really not readily available, and anarchists can correctly point out that many Marxist criticisms of Bakunin simply rely on his mention of “invisible dictatorship” without presenting enough support for their accusations, at the same time painting all of anarchism as Bakuninism.

I would say that I have a lot in common with many anarchists, and I’m certainly in favor of comradely discussion. But I don’t want this topic to be off limits just because debates on the this topic can be tiresome (and I agree that they can!) I would welcome comradely comments and criticism from anarchists. But it must be realized that the article had a limited purpose, and leaves out much that is not directly relevant to questioning Bakunin’s anti-authoritarianism. Many people have no idea that Marx was critical of Bakunin’s vanguardism, much less that there is actually some support for this criticism. So I felt that what was readily available on this topic was inadequate. And I really did not want to criticize anarchism as such. Modern anarchists are not Bakuninists. But I do think this history is relevant in the sense that Marx’s ideas are often slighted and ignored for illegitimate reasons.

15 09 2010
Jasper

I’d second what the guy Mark has said. I don’t know that there’s much use in figuring out who was less of an ass back in the day, because after all, these differences discussed above are all about what two dudes said, not what masses of workers were doing to fight capitalism at the time. It is very interesting stuff, but its mostly just a fun read. we can learn from popular struggle, but not much from the internal squabbles between these two.

that said, the one sidedness of this article makes it hard to really read. Bakunin was a fuck, sure. But Bakunin is not anarchism. Anarchists take(or ought to) take their politics directly from past and contemporary struggle, not a few dead guys.

it feels like we’re supposed to have an epiphany, Bakunin sucked so anarchism must be bankrupt. I hear you saying that wasn’t yr intention, but thats how the piece read.

interesting nonetheless

15 09 2010
Adam Ford

This brings together a lot of information that will be new to a lot of people, whether they consider themselves Marxists or anarchists. If anything, its presence on this site will surely show that there is far less dividing Marxism and anarchism than many have long believe. This is something that is great both for The Commune as a project and uniting against the real enemy in the struggles to come.

15 09 2010
Chris

The interesting piece was published earlier by The Commune on the same subject.

http://thecommune.wordpress.com/ideas/bakunins-expulsion-from-the-first-international/

15 09 2010
Mark H

@ Jasper

“it feels like we’re supposed to have an epiphany, Bakunin sucked so anarchism must be bankrupt. I hear you saying that wasn’t yr intention, but thats how the piece read.”

That’s not how I felt whilst reading it at all.

@ Mark

Perhaps I spend too much time looking backwards, however I feel it is important to get to the root of these historic events, perhaps this is a bourgeois feeling but I do value the ‘truth’.

“it may well have the effect of antagonising anarchist opinion towards the Commune.”

If someone feels antagonised by this well researched article then I’m not sure that they would be the sort of critically thinking militants we need around us?

“What value does this article have for communist practice today? What lessons are we supposed learn from it? That we should not trust anarchists because they are always conspiratorial?”

I appreciate that you do see some value in this article, in relation to your comment above… In particular I gained from the article that it shows how little real difference there is between anti-state Marxists and anarchists-communists.

16 09 2010
Peter Storm

Being an anarchist myself, I found both of Dave’s articles very interesting. I think the issues raised about both Marx’attitude to the state AND Bakunin’s organisational/ conspirational attitues, and his horrible antisemitism, are important. If the author is right, it should destroy any remnant of hero-worship around Bakunin. Fortunately, most anarchists tend to take what they – rightly, in my view – see as valuable from Bakunin; they don’t feel the need to take over the whole package just because Bakunin is sometimes considered the founder of anarchism. And why should they/ we?

On Marx, Bakunin and the state: what strikes me is how CLOSE their visions are to the other one’s. The only reason why Marx calls the directly democratic post-revolutionary structure a ‘state’ is because it has to forcefulle prevent the former rulers to return to power. The reason anarchists DON’T call it a state is that it is not a hierarchical structure imposing minority rule upon the rest. Marx calls it a state, Bakunin does not – but they describe basically the SAME structure. A large part of the debate, then, is about semantics. I am with the anarchists here: something that is just the self-organised post-revolutionary society is better NOT called a state, even if it uses force against counterrevolutionary threats.

On conspirationalism: I think here Marx is on quite strong grounds. But what this means is that Marx, here, is the BETTER anarchist! He criticises Bakunin, not because of the latter’s anti-authoritarianism, but because he is so inconsistently anti-authoritarian. Here, Marx should be considered an (very unwilling…) ALLY of anarchism’s core argument. The sad thing is that neitheer Marx, nor (obviously) Bakunin, nor latter-day anarchists, could mostly see it that way. My fellow anarchists, can’t we finally posthumously recruit the guy for anarchism?

But where akunin, and not Marx, was right, I think, was on political methods. The stress that Marx laid on using elections, sending ‘workers’candidates’ to parliament, building parties to organise in that direction, demanding of the First International that this principle should be accepted – and THIS was what Marx insisted upon – led to reformist practice, electoral illusions, adaptation to bourgeois politics, als Bakunin said they would. THESE predictions of Bakunin made sense, even if he was on weaker ground on other issues.

Interesting point: how do we evaluate Bakunins serious weaknesses? I don’t think he was a hypocrite or a fool. Rather, I think he was in the process of breaking with all kinds of pre-Anarchist ideas – but the process was unfinished. He picked up conspirationalism in Italy, where republican bourgois-nationalist conspiracies were all around. He had a background as an pan-Slavist democratic (but not yet socialist) revolutionary, which explains partly (without being a valid excuse!) his nasty antisemitism and anti-German chauvinism that disfigures his politics so badly. Remember: he only developed his anarchism in the 1860s, after almost 20 years of having been an revolutionary activist. He carried this background with him and did not discard al previous bad ideas and methods.

Meanwhile, he pioneered an anarchist vision, and was looking – not quite succesfully – to find political and organisational forms to push his vision. He did not reach a consistent synthesis. He was, so to speak, an incomplete anarchist. Later anarchists broke with many of the anti-anarchist aspects of Bakunin’s politics, and were – and are still are – creating a much more consistent anarchism – in which, as far as I am concerned, core ideas of Marx should be integrated very fruitfully. Dave Adam’s articles – the one above, and the other one on Libcom – can be read as contributions to such integration. Whether he sees it that way himself, is another matter: )

16 09 2010
c0mmunard
17 09 2010
eleanor

I agree that this article was well-researched and well-written.
People will always have different interpretations of events in history. I don’t think we should get hung up about them. Firstly we weren’t there and we are always reliant on someone else’s report. Secondly there is nothing we can do about it. But I agree with Chris and Mark H that learning the lessons of history is vital to our own understanding of current events (which we can take part in).
If anyone (anarchist or marxist) finds an article like this so antagonistic that they must abandon the Commune then doesn’t that speak volumes about them more than it does the author of the article.

We should not fear debate any more than we should clamp down on it. If it makes us feel uncomfortable then we need to ask the question why? If it makes us change our opinion what’s wrong with that? More important is the search for the truth.

23 09 2010
Larry Gambone

While many of Bakunin’s “on-paper only” groups do have a bit of a comic ring about them, this does not mean that his “vanguardism” can be misconstrued as authoritarian. The small group of advanced comrades was not to boss the workers nor to rule over them once the revolution was successful. (Unlike the Leninist vanguard) Bakunin saw that mass parties and mass movements alone could not complete the revolution and a leadership was needed to encourage the population to make the final push, and at the same time fight off the would – be new rulers. One can make a case that Marx, and not Bakunin was the one in the wrong about this question. Bakunin’s concept of anarchist leadership may well be a missing piece of anarchist theory. I have written about it , see http://www.anarkismo.net/article/15401

23 09 2010
Nick

As Mark says, I don’t fathom the intent of this article. It reads like the usual Leninist demonisation of Bakunin, and I thought the Commune was breaking with the bankrupt ideas of Leninism.( A similar belittling of Machajski on this blog similarly ignored the interesting ideas of this revolutionary, preferring to slander him)
Bakunin was far from perfect but to dwell on Bakunin’s anti-semitism without once mentioning Marx and Engel’s own antisemitism, racism and sexism seems specious. As Mark Leier says in his recent biography of Bakunin:” His remarks make up a deplorable but miniscule part of his thought, never becoming a consistent theme in his writing or turning into generalised attacks on Jews”.
As regards Nechaev, Bakunin was to say that noone “has done me, and deliberately done me me, so much harm as he”. He was despite what your article says, to repudiate Nechaev in a long letter on all his methods and outlook. As he said in the letter ” People’s revolutions are born from the course of events, or from historical currents which, continuously and usually slowly, flow underground and unseen within the popular strata, increasingly embracing, penetrating, and undermining them until they emerge from the ground and their turbulent waters break all barriers and destroy everything that impedes their course. Such a revolution cannot be artificially induced. It is even impossible to hasten it, although I have no doubt that an efficient and intelligent organisation can facilitate the explosion. There are historical periods when revolutions are simply impossible; there are other periods when they are inevitable”. Larry Gambone’s understanding of Bakunin’s concept of a revolutionary organisation seems to me to be correct within this context.
But the worst part of the article was the total ignoring of the manipulations used by Marx and his coterie to expel Bakunin and his associates. As I wrote elsewhere : ” “Bakunin was in close contact with militants who shared his outlook, who had some of them, indeed developed their own ideas remarkably similar to Bakunin, within the workers movement.
It would be equally naive to deny the same state of affairs existed with Marx, as Malatesta has noted. ”
Marx had already written in private correspondence to Engels in September 1869 that “If the Russian doesn’t take care, he will be excommunicated” ( Interesting enough, this papal pronouncement)
The investigating committee set up by the General Council concluded that Bakunin had “tried to establish and perhaps succeeded ( so then no actual evidence -my comment) in establishing a society in Euope called the Alliance, with rules on social and political matters entirely different fromm those of the International”. Interesting, as the International did not actually have its own programme. As Lehning notes “The Provisional Rules of 1864 and the Statutes of 1869 were vague enough to admit all kinds of organisations and schools of thought”.
Bakunin continued to emphasise that the programme of the International should be general enough to unite all workers in one International. The resolution on the capture of political power by Marx and his coterie at the London Conference of 1871- that the working class should organise itself into a political party to accomplish this- was never confirmed by the federations and in fact was rejected by the vast majority of the International.
Another charge was added to the reasons for the expulsion of Bakunin, the letter from Nechaev threatening a St Petersburg editor for whom Bakunin was translating the first volume of Capital, to release the latter from his obligations. Marx read this out at a secret meeting of the investigating committee. Bakunin had not authorised this letter and was not aware of its contents. Marx had been informed of this, but still produced the letter as evidence.
Interesting that after the expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume, Marx’s up to then loyal henchman for twenty years, Eccarius, was sufficiently disgusted by these machinations to articulate his concerns and was as a result dismissed as general secretary of the Council and that the English section, certainly no “Bakuninists” by any stretch of the imagination announced a formal and complete boycott of the General Council.
And in the end Marx used the same trick as when he had the Central Board of the Communist League moved from London to Cologne, with Engels standing up at and proposing out of the blue that the General Council be transferred to New York at the Hague Congress of 1872.
The Italian Federation had already broken away in disgust and now it was the turn of the French with the majority walking out. When the investigating committee did meet on the following day to pass its pronouncements it had taken a u-turn announcing that Bakunin had once attempted to form a secret organisation, that it was doubtful whether he had carried this out and that such an organisation actually existed and that no one knew whether or not it still existed. The committee informed Guillaume that afternoon that there were “No serious results”.
It was at the point that Marx produced the Nechaev letter again. In the end the committee added a paragraph dictated by Marx which read :” Citizen Bakunin has used fraudulent measures for the purpose of appropriating all or part of another man’s wealth- which constitutes fraud; and further, in order to avoid fulfilling his engagements, has, himself or through his agents, had recourse to threats”. By now only half the delegates were present at the Congress and the expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume was carried.
This was followed up with 160 pages authored by Marx, Engels and Lafargue where further slanders against Bakunin were elaborated.It was alleged that Bakunin had not so much been exiled in Siberia but through the favours of the governor there had acted as a plundering corrupt and tyrannical ruler. As Ruhle noted ( ibid. above ) ” A malicious pamphlet, in which almost every line is a distortion, almost every allegation an injustice, almost every argument a falsification, and almost every word an untruth”. Seconded by Franz Mehring in his “Karl Marx” “Of all the works that we have from the pen of Marx and Engels, this is perhaps the most unworthy”. ”
Ruhle and Mehring, both good Marxists, are far fairer than the author of the above article and as Bakunin was far fairer to Marx than either Marx or many of his circle were to be. “Leaving aside all the foulness he has spewed against us, we cannot ignore, at least I cannot, the great service he has rendered to the socialist cause for twenty-five years. Undoubtedly he has left all of us far behind in this. He is also one of the first founders, if not the creator, of the International. This is of enormous worth, in my view, and whatever his attitude toward us, I will always acknowledge this… Marx is undeniably a very useful man in the International. Up to now he has been a wise influence and has been the strongest bulwark for socialism, the strongest obstacle against the invasion of bourgeois ideas and tendencies. And I could never forgive myself if I destroyed or weakened his beneficial influence for the mere aim of personal vengeance”.
P.S. “The Russian Serno was, in his earlier correspondence with Borkheim, decidedly against Bakunin. In my reply to Serno I wished to use this young man as an informant about Bakunin. Since I trust no Russian, I did it in this form: ‘What is my old friend (I don’t know if he still is) Bakunin doing, etc., etc.’ The Russian Serno immediately informed Bakunin of this letter, and Bakunin used it for a sentimental entrée!” Letter from Marx to Engels, 1869. Are we to extrapolate from this that Marx was a rampant and generalised Russophobe!

23 09 2010
dave c

Thanks for the comments, Larry and Nick.

Larry: I understand what you are saying, but aside from the question of whether Bakunin’s idea of “invisible dictatorship” is authoritarian in its relationship to the mass of workers, there is the question of democracy within a secret revolutionary organization, which I focused on more in the article. I don’t see why anarchists would say that revolutionaries simply being handed down orders from above is not an authoritarian setup.

Nick: You usually don’t learn anything new from “the usual Leninist demonisation[s] of Bakunin” because they simply demonize him. However, you did at least learn something new from this article, or from what I posted on libcom when you were discussing these issues on a thread there. (the article was originally posted on libcom: http://libcom.org/library/marx-bakunin-question-authoritarianism) And you are obviously fairly knowledgeable about this topic. But some of the things that you won’t find in Mark Leier’s book, or in the anthologies of Bakunin’s writings, may well be important. At least, you can’t adequately judge their importance until you are made aware of them, and someone like Mark Leier is not going to do this.

You write: “He [Bakunin] was despite what your article says, to repudiate Nechaev in a long letter on all his methods and outlook.” In the article I said that this letter of Bakunin’s should be read “in its entirety.” This is because, sharply divided Bakunin scholars, on reading this leader, interpreted it in different ways. Anarchists were happy to read of his rejection of some of Nechayev’s ideas, and were happy to say that it proved how different Bakunin was from Nechayev (a fair point). Scholars who are more critical of Bakunin focused on the fact that Bakunin, after becoming aware of Nechayev’s duplicity, still offered to renew their collaboration (also a fair point). If you are using “repudiate” to mean “to refuse to have anything to do with,” then what you say is simply not true. If you mean that Bakunin criticized Nechayev in this letter; well, I said that in the article.

Pointing out Marx’s faults is all well and good, and I’m glad you made some points against Marx. But certainly you can fathom the intent of the article. Many people are unaware that Marx was critical of Bakunin’s organizational approach, not because it was “anarchist”, but because he saw it as somehow authoritarian. When I was first reading about anarchism and Bakunin, I feel like I got a very simplistic view of the theoretical aspect of his conflict with Marx. So this article tries to do something to counter this simplistic view.

24 09 2010
dave c

Its not terribly important, but I realized the link I gave to libcom didn’t work. Here it is again: http://libcom.org/library/marx-bakunin-question-authoritarianism

24 09 2010
Nick

Thank you for your magisterial remark that I am “Fairly knowledgeable” on the siubject ( but must try harder, eh?) What you are basically saying is that it’s all down to interpretation. Yes, until recently I was not aware of the anti-semitic remarks that Bakunin made in a circular. I certainly will never defend such deplorable comments. But as I said, for me it comes down to your omission of Marx and Engels racist, sexist and anti-semitic views which should have been addressed if the question of Bakunin’s own anti-semitism comes up. Likewise with the question of the Alliance/Brotherhood and Marx and Engels own appalling manipulations in the International. In the final analysis both Marx and Bakunin had serious flaws but it was in the end the Marx coterie that destroyed the First International, something Bakunin, in my opinion, never wanted to do.

“With all his mistakes and weaknesses, history will give him a place of honour amongst the pioneers of the international proletariat, though that place may be contested so long as there are Philistines in the world, whether they conceal their long ears under the nightcap of petty-bourgeois respectability or don the lion’s skin of a Marx to cloak their trembling limbs.” Franz Mehring on Bakunin.

24 09 2010
dave c

Nick, I wasn’t trying to be condescending. Its not like I can’t learn anything from you. My point was that certain aspects of Bakunin’s thought are ignored in the sources that anarchists are most likely to read, or in anthologies edited by anarchists. By this I did not specifically mean racism, but the theoretical/organizational approach which was the focus of the article.

Regarding racism, my point was that Bakunin’s racism was an important aspect of his political thinking, and this discredits the idea of taking his critique of Marx at face value–the “authoritarianism” idea that was the focus of the article. I don’t think racism played this role for Marx, and I don’t think Marx was such a fantasist. So yes, this comes down to interpretation, as in interpreting the importance of certain ideas.

I still think your remark about not fathoming the point of the article was disingenuous. I think my point about the need to combat these myths stands up fairly well, given that you have here repeated the myth that Bakunin repudiated Nechayev in that letter. (I just found that it is at least online in Spanish: http://miguelbakunin.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/carta-de-bakunin-a-nechayev/

28 09 2010
Nick

It appeared in English translation as a pamphlet “On Violence” in 1993
So neither:
You, my dear friend — and this is a terrible mistake –have become fascinated by the system of Loyola and Machiavelli, the first of whom intended to enslave the whole of mankind, and the second to create a powerful state (whether monarchist or republican is of no importance, it would equally lead to the enslavement of the people). Having fallen in love with police and Jesuitical principles and methods, you intended to base on them your own organization, your secret collective power, so to say, the heart and soul of your whole society. You therefore treat your friends as you treat your enemies, with cunning and lies, try to divide them, even to foment quarrels, so that they should not be able to unite against your tutelage. You look for strength not in their unity but in their disunity and do not trust them at all. You try to collect damning facts or letters (which frequently you have read without having the right to do so, and which are even stolen), and try to entangle them in every way, so that they should be your slaves. At the same time you do it so clumsily, so awkwardly and carelessly, so rashly and inconsiderately, that all your deceits, perfidies, and cunning are exposed very quickly. You have fallen so much in love with Jesuit methods that you have forgotten everything else. You have even forgotten the aim which led you to them, the passionate desire for the people’s liberation.
nor
“You wished, and still wish, to make your own selfless cruelty, your own truly extreme fanaticism, into a rule of common life…. Renounce your system and you will become a valuable man; if, however, you do not wish to renounce it you will certainly become a harmful militant, highly destructive not to the state but to the cause of liberty…”

are repudiations of Nechaev’s methods?

It would not say that this points to the belief that “Bakunin continued to hold a belief system similar to Nechayev’s.”

28 09 2010
dave c

It is possible there was some talking past each other. I will be clear: Bakunin refused to have anything to do with some of Nechayev’s methods, but he did not repudiate Nechayev himself, that is, he did not refuse to associate with him. What Bakunin objected to was specifically treating friends and enemies in the same manner, as in the passage you quote. But just before that passage, Bakunin says that “Jesuit methods” can be useful against enemies, and that other radical groups should be subordinated to the secret society (as quoted in the article), and he earlier wrote about renouncing all “personal interests” and all “material comforts and delights”–much like the language of Nechayev’s Catechism. So these are important areas of commonality, I think.

And the conclusion to Bakunin’s criticism of Nechayev is the following: “As a consequence of these considerations and in spite of all that happened between us, I would wish not only to remain allied with you, but to make this union ever closer and firmer, on condition that you will change the system entirely and will make mutual trust, sincerity and truth the foundation of our future relations.” (Confino, Daughter of A Revolutionary, 277) Anyway, that is why I said that Bakunin criticized Nechayev but did not break with him, because he offered renewed collaboration.

29 09 2010
Zero

Regarding Marx’s ‘anti-Semitism’, I don’t actually recall Marx having even discussed a ‘Jewish race’.

29 09 2010
nick

He definitely used the term “the Jewish people” as can be seen in for example On The Jewish Question

30 09 2010
Nick

Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every pope by a Jesit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets.
… the real work is done by the Jews, and can only be done by them, as they monopolize the machinery of the loanmongering mysteries by concentrating their energies upon the barter trade in securities… Here and there and everywhere that a little capital courts investment, there is ever one of these little Jews ready to make a little suggestion or place a little bit of a loan. The smartest highwayman in the Abruzzi is not better posted up about the locale of the hard cash in a traveler’s valise or pocket than those Jews about any loose capital in the hands of a trader… The language spoken smells strongly of Babel, and the perfume which otherwise pervades the place is by no means of a choice kind.
… Thus do these loans, which are a curse to the people, a ruin to the holders, and a danger to the governments, become a blessing to the houses of the children of Judah. This Jew organization of loan-mongers is as dangerous to the people as the aristocratic organization of landowners… The fortunes amassed by these loan-mongers are immense, but the wrongs and sufferings thus entailed on the people and the encouragement thus afforded to their oppressors still remain to be told.
… The fact that 1855 years ago Christ drove the Jewish moneychangers out of the temple, and that the moneychangers of our age enlisted on the side of tyranny happen again chiefly to be Jews, is perhaps no more than a historical coincidence. The loan-mongering Jews of Europe do only on a larger and more obnoxious scale what many others do on one smaller and less significant. But it is only because the Jews are so strong that it is timely and expedient to expose and stigmatize their organization.

Marx, “The Russian Loan,” New-York Daily Tribune January 4, 1856.

30 09 2010
dave c

It should be noted that some recent scholarship has “ruled out” the attribution of “The Russian Loan” to Marx, which had been supported by Padover. Specifically a 2001 essay by the editors of the German MEGA, cited in Kevin Anderson, Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies, 262. I can’t say more than that as I haven’t read this essay or any other scholarship on the New York Tribune article.

1 10 2010
Dave Black

From Kevin Anderson’s new book Marx at the Margins (Chigago University Press 2010):
“Padover has created a convenient digest of the problematic discussion by Marx on Judaism and Jews (KML, 5, 169-225). Padover however errs when he attributes to Marx ‘The Russian Loan’, a particularly noxious Tribune article about Jewish bankers published on January 4, 1856 (KML,5,221-5). In ‘Die Mitarbeit von Marx und Engels an der New York Tribune’ (2001) an illuminating essay that forms part of the apparatus to MEGA I/14, the volumes’ editors (Hans-Jurgen Bockinski and Martin Hundt, with Ute Emmrich and Manfred Neuhaus) write that the earlier attributions of ‘The Russian Loan’ to Marx can ‘Definitely be ruled out’, this on the basis of a close textual analysis.”

1 10 2010
nick

These academics might have found that a “close textual analysis” of a signed article by Marx was not actually by him but his own daughter Eleanor and her partner Edward Aveling ( who might have possibly known more about its provenance) re-published it in a Marx collection -The Eastern Question -in 1897.

1 10 2010
nick

Correction- I meant to write “unsigned article”

1 10 2010
Nick

Eleanor Marx’s compilation of the Eastern Question is described in some detail in Eleanor Marx, Vol2: by Yvonne Kapp on pages 645-648 of the Pantheon edition.

2 10 2010
Dave Black

The fact that Edward Aveling had a supervisory role in the editing of the Eastern Question doesn’t exactly add to the case for the article being genuine. Blamed by many for driving Eleanor Marx to suicide (and suspected by some of actually administering the cyanide), he was regarded by amost everyone who ever knew him as dishonest and corrupt.

3 10 2010
Nick

I knew someone would make a comment like that. I fail to see how being dishonest and corrupt, all of which was true, has to do with the compilation of Marx’s writings, particularly as one can see in Yvonne Kapp’s book that Eleanor’s role in the complilation was the principal one.
By the way , I look forward to seeing on here an investigation into the slanderous campaigns instigated by Marx’s coterie on several occasions accusing him of being a police spy, but I won’t hold my breath

3 10 2010
Nick

As regards Bakunin and Mieroslawski, mentioned in a footnote to the blog article and quoting the biographer Bakunin, I will deal in more detail on this in another post.
As regards Mendel and his biography where psychological reductionism appears to be the main ingredient I urge you all to read Robert M. Cutler’s decisive trashing of Mendel in Bakunin and the Psychobiographers at
http://www.robertcutler.org/bakunin/pdf/ar09klio.pdf

3 10 2010
Nick

Correction ” quoting the biographer MendeL” rather than ” quoting the biographer Bakunin”

5 10 2010
nick

It does seem odd that the David Adam quotes Mendel for the Mieroslawski episode whilst signally ignoring E.H. Carr. Yet he has read Carr because he uses him for other references. Whilst Mendel uses few sources and is one of those purveyors of psychologism which gives the motivation of psychopathological narcissism as Bakunin’s real reason for involvement in Hegelianism, the 1848 revolutions, Panslavism and the First International, none of which Bakunin cared for a jot according to Mendel, Carr at least is more detailed in his account of Bakunin with the use of many sources, whilst treating Bakunin as a tragi-comic clown. In the end Carr’s biography still stands up the best, despite its faults whilst “for Mendel, Bakunin is a villain of the highest order, with an egomaniacal will to dominate and to destroy. ” http://www.syndicalist.org/archives/llr1-13/13i.shtml
Here is Carr on the meeting between Mieroslawski and Bakunin:

” Bakunin called on Mieroslawski twice. It may be inferred, from the accounts afeterwards writen by both, that the conversation passed off amicably, and that Bakunin’s enthusiasm was proof even against the general’s one-sided pretensions. Mieroslawski depicts himself as full of kindly condescension for Bakunin’s shortcomings. Though convinced that ” the damp of Ladoga had sapped away half he contents of his crazy skull” the general was prepared to admit that ” his unhappy brain might grradually recover through constant contact with our sane patriotism”. Bakunin solemnly undertook, when the Polish insurrection broke out, to publish a manifesto “commanding” the Russian armies in Poland ” to fall back on Smolensk and behind the Dnieper”; and Mieroslawski attached so much importance to this “definite recognition by the editors of the Bell of the frontiers of 1772″ that he allowed himself to be deterred by his friends from subjecting Bakunin’s “innocent gasconnades” to “excessive criticism”. Bakunin says nothing of this remarkable promise. But he relates how Miersolslawski warned him to have no dealings with other Polish revolutionaries, since ” except for himself and his friends there were no serious people among the Poles”. In particular, Mieroslawski warned him against the emissaries of the National Committee, the very existance of which he refused to recognise. The measure of credence to be accorded to these accounts (which are complementary, but not contradictory) is a matter of guesswork. All that is certain is that Bakunin borrowed two books from Mieroslawski, introduced to him a Russian officer from Poland who had just arrived in Paris, and returned to London”. Carr p.287
So ” a matter of guesswork”. Further one has to bear in mind the following hostility between the two when Bakunin rejected Mieroslawski’s chauvinism and his hostility to peasant uprisings within Poland, which would be against the “national interest”. Bakunin did write and issue an appeal to Russian soldiers to support the Poles and he, Herzen and The Bell did have contact with a group of Russian officers led by Potebnya, The Committee of Russian Officers, who said they would support a Polish rising. So not complete fantasy, even if the figure of 70,000 soldiers ( only alleged by Mieroslawski) can obviously not be substantiated. Neither though can Mieroslawski’s statement that he had nothing more to do with the dangerous madman Bakunin as contacts continued for a period. The allegations made by Mieroslawski were some time after the initial meetings .

31 10 2010
dave c

A belated reply to Nick’s above posts: I don’t espouse Mendel’s psychological theories. Cutler’s criticism of Mendel, which focuses on the shortcomings of his book as a psychobiography, is certainly not a “trashing,” (as Cutler sees some value in Mendel’s book) and the only reason I imagine Nick thinks everyone should read it is that it is critical of Mendel. But I don’t think my article relies on Mendel’s psychological theories at all.

Nick’s questioning of Mieroslawski’s credibility is reasonable. It seems to me, however, that Bakunin’s supposed comments about a “powerful Russian secret conspiratorial organization” are very much in line with other evidence presented by Mendel. For example, in 1863, in a speech at a Swedish banquet, Bakunin claimed to represent Land and Freedom, which he claimed was incredibly powerful, having adherents from all classes, such as officers, landowners, merchants, priests, peasants, and “millions of sectarians,” and “striving to constitute itself, so to speak, a state within a state. It is organizing its own finances, its own administration, its own police and soon, I hope, it will have its own army.” (Mendel, 281-282) Carr presents these quotations as well, along with countless other examples of what he calls Bakunin’s “world of melodramatic fiction.”

The basic point that Bakunin had a very active imagination is, I think, uncontroversial. I think that if there is disagreement on this score, it may have more to do with the question of to what extent Bakunin consciously manipulated people, or to what extent his deception was mainly self-deception. Kelly, for example, portrays Bakunin as somewhat more sinister than Carr in this regard. For example, she cites his comment in his letter to Nechayev that he holds no grudge about being deceived about the strength of Nechayev’s organization, saying “this is a habit of all conspirators, and … often a useful one.” (Kelly, 274) In any case, my main reason for bringing up Bakunin’s fantasies was to raise the question of to what extent Bakunin’s critique of Marx is based on fact.

In this regard I recommend reading both Bakunin’s critiques of Marx, for example the “Marxism, Freedom, and the State” collection, and also checking out, if possible, some of the lesser-known texts of Marx and Engels that I cite in the article such as “The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the IWMA”, Engels’ “The Congress of Sonvillier,” Engels’ “Report on the Alliance”, and “Record of Marx’s Speech on Secret Societies.”

22 11 2012
Nick

So a quote from Bakunin at a Swedish banquet in 1863 well before the development of Bakunin’s libertarian body of thought is now used to portray a Bakunin who is “sinister”, authoritarian, fantasising, deceiving and self-deceiving? Sorry you’ll have to do better than that. In the end, as I have already noted, you return again and again to crude psychologist attacks a la Mendel on Bakunin .
You now quote Kelly who offers all sorts of fanciful ideas about Bakunin, where she talks about anarchism as a screen for Bakunin’s “lust for power” , and where she concludes that the Stalinist state is an accurate description of Bakunin’s anarchist ideas!!!. In the text to which I gave a link above Baunin and the Psychobiographers Robert M.Cutler very effectively trashes Kelly, Mendel et al. Have you actually read it yet??

22 11 2012
Nick

Bakunin : “But revolutionary thought is only revolutionary, alive, active and true in so far as it expresses, and only in so far as it formulates, popular instincts that have been worked out by history. Any effort to impose our ideas on the people which might be opposed to their instincts signifies a desire to enslave them to a new sovereignty… The organisation must be sincerely impregnated with the idea that it is the servant and helper of the people, and by no means their ruler”. On organisation in a letter to Nechaev, in Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, Lehning (ed.)Cape (1973)




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