The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, compiled and edited by G. P. Maximoff, 1953.

CHAPTER 6: Peasants' Day is Yet to Come

The peasants in almost all the countries of Western Europe -- with the exception of England and Scotland, where peasants in the proper sense of the word do not exist, and with the exception of Ireland, Italy, and Spain, where they are poverty-stricken, and where they are revolutionary and Socialists without even being aware of it -- outside of these countries the peasants of Western Europe, especially those of France and Germany, are semi-content with their position.

They enjoy, or believe they enjoy, certain advantages, and they imagine that it would be to their interest to preserve those advantages against the attacks of a social revolution. They have, if not the real profits of property, at least a vain-glorious dream about it. Besides, they are kept systematically in crass ignorance by governments and all the official and officious State churches. The peasants constitute the principal, almost sole, foundation upon which the safety and power of the State now rest. Therefore they have become the object of especial solicitude on the part of all governments. And the peasant mind is being worked upon by all the governental and church agencies, who try to cultivate within that mind the tender flowers of Christian faith and loyalty to the reigning monarchs, and to sow salutary seeds of hatred for the city.

Peasants Are a Potentially Revolutionary Class. Yet in spite of all that the peasants can be stirred into action, and sooner or later they will be so stirred by the Social Revolution. This is true for three reasons: [204] 1. Owing to their backward or relatively barbarous civilization, they retained in all their integrity the simple, robust temperament and the energy germane to the folk nature. 2. They live from the labor of their hands, and are morally conditioned by this labor, which fosters within them an instinctive hatred for all privileged parasites of the State, and for all exploiters of labor. 3. Finally, being toilers themselves, they share common interests with city workers, from whom they are separated only by their prejudices.

A Workers-Peasants Revolution Under the Leadership of the Proletariat. A great, truly Socialist and revolutionary movement may at first startle them, but their instinct and their native common sense will soon make them realize that the Social Revolution does not aim to despoil them of what they have, but to lead to the triumph everywhere and for everyone, of the sacred right of work, a right to be established upon the ruins of privileged parasitism. And when the [industrial] workers, inspired by revolutionary passion, and abandoning the pretentious and scholastic language of a doctrinaire Socialism, come to tell them simply, without any evasions or phrase-mongering, what they want; when they come to the villages not as schoolmasters but as brothers and as equals, provoking the revolution but not imposing it upon the toilers on the land; when they have consigned to flames all the writs, lawsuits, property deeds and rents, private debts, mortgages, and criminal and civil laws; when they have made a bonfire of all these immense heaps of red tape -- the sign and official consecration of the poverty and slavery of the proletariat -- when the workers have done all these things, then, rest assured, the peasants will understand them and will rise together with them.

But in order that the peasants rise in rebellion, it is absolutely necessary that the city workers take upon themselves the initiative in this revolutionaly movement, because it is only the city workers who today unite in themselves the instinct, the clear consciousness, the idea, and the conscious will of the Social Revolution. Consequently, the whole danger threatening the existence of the States is now mainly centered in the city proletariat.1

The Peasantry and the Communists. To the Communists, or Social Democrats, of Germany, the peasantry, any peasantry, stands for reaction; and the State, any State, even the Bismarckian State, stands for revolution. Far be it from us to traduce the German Social Democrats in this matter. We have cited to this effect speeches, pamphlets, magazine articles, and finally their letters, in proof of our assertion. Altogether, the Marxists cannot even think otherwise: protagonists of the State as they are, they have to damn any revolution of a truly popular sweep and character especially a peasant revolution, which is anarchistic by nature and which marches straightforward toward the destruction of the State. And in this hatred for the peasant rebellion, the Marxists join in touching unanimity all the layers and parties of the bourgeois society of Germany.2 [205]

Basic Solidarity of Peasants and Workers. One should not forget that the peasants of France, certainly a vast majority of them, although owning their lands, nevertheless live by their own labor. This is what separates them essentially from the bourgeois class, the great majority of which lives by the profitable exploitation of the work of the masses of the people. And this very circumstance unites the peasants with the city workers, notwithstanding the difference of their positions -- a difference which is much to the disadvantage of the workers -- and the difference of ideas, too often resulting in misunderstandings in matters of principles.

Proletarian Snobbishness Harmful to the Cause of Peasant-Worker Unity. What above all alienates the peasants from the workers of the cities is a certain aristocracy of intelligence, rather ill-founded on the part of the workers, which they flaunt before the peasants. The workers are no doubt the more literate, they are more developed so far as mind, knowledge, and ideas are concerned, and in the name of this petty scientific superiority, they sometimes treat the peasants condescendingly, openly showing their contempt for them. The workers are quite wrong in that respect, for by this very claim, and seemingly with much greater reason, the bourgeois, who are much more learned and developed than the workers, should have even a greater right to despise the latter. And as we know, the bourgeois certainly do not miss any occasion to emphasize their superiority.3

In the interests of the revolution, the workers should stop flaunting their disdain for the peasants. In the face of the bourgeois exploiter the worker should feel that he is the brother of the peasant.4

Revolutionary Unity of Workers and Peasants Will Lead to Abolition of Classes. The peasants in the greater part of Italy are miserably poor, much poorer than the workers in the cities. They are not proprietors like the peasants of France, which fact is of course highly fortunate from the point of view of the Revolution. And it is only in a few regions that the peasants manage to make some sort of living as share-croppers. That is why the masses of the Italian peasantry already constitute a vast and powerful army of the Social Revolution. Directed by the proletariat of the city and organized by the revolutionary Socialist youth, this army will be invincible.

Therefore, my dear friends, simultaneously with the organizing of the city workers, you should use all the means at your disposal to break the ice separating the proletariat of the cities from the people of the villages, and to unite and organize those two classes into one. And all the other classes should disappear from the face of the earth, not as individuals but as classes.5