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

Mikhail Bakunin:
A Biographical Sketch


NOTE: Bakunin's birth-date in this sketch is given in Russian Old Style, and Nettlau's Russian dates therein evidently are all Old Style, which in the 19th century was in each instance 12 days earlier than the equivalent date in our own calendar.

Mikhail Alexandrovitch Bakunin was born on May 18, 1814 in Pryamukhino, an estate on the banks of the Osuga, in the Novotorschok district of Tver province. His grandfather, Mikhail Vasilevitch Bakunin, state counselor and vice-president of the Chamber Collegium in the time of Catherine II, had bought the estate in 1779, and after leaving government service, had lived there with his large family. His third son, Alexander, Mikhail Bakunin's father, for unknown reasons was brought up after the age of nine in Italy, where he became a doctor of philosophy at the University of Padua.

Though Alexander was slated for diplomatic service, he took up natural sciences also, and followed in general liberal philosophical and cosmopolitan ideas which were prevalent in all educated circles in the years before the French Revolution and in the period immediately following the storming of the Bastille. But the grim realities of the years of revolution quenched his platonic liberalism. One of his two brothers was a government official and the other an officer. Alexander, however, very soon left the government service, and at the request of his parents he managed the family estate, where his unmarried sisters also lived. These sisters were wholly absorbed in religious devotions, apparently because of the death of their brother Ivan, an officer who had been killed in the Caucasian war in the Eighteen Twenties.

Not before he reached the age of forty did Alexander fall in love -- and then he married a young woman of the Muraviev family, Barbara Alexandrovna. who had had numerous suitors. During the years 1811- 1824 she became the mother of eleven children. The oldest were daughters, Lyubov (1811) and Barbara (1812); they were followed by Mikhail [30] (1814), the daughters Tatiana (1815), and Alexandra (1816), and five sons, born between 1818 and 1823, and a daughter who died at the age of two. This big family lived most of the time in Pryamukhino, occasionally visiting Tver and Moscow, until studies, or, in the case of the older sisters, marriage and an early death in 1838 decreased the size of the household. The parents, particularly the father, who became blind, reached a ripe old age. He died in 1856, the mother in 1864.

Mikhail Bakunm's youth and his relationship with his family circle undoubtedly had a great influence on his development, as appears from his own short account -- The Youth of Mikhail Bakunin published in Moscow, 1911, in Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought), from the letters carefully edited by A. A. Kormlov, and other material. Although Bakunin outgrew his environment so completely, nevertheless it supplied the basis, trend, and motivation for has career, while the energy of his active life and the breadth of his aims undoubtedly sprang from his individual nature. His great capacity to absorb the best thoughts and achievements of his period was combined with ability to co-ordinate their inner meaning with his own purposeful and resolute striving toward a distant goal.

While there were no radical or realistic influences in his parent's home to shape his character, there were humanistic influences there which tended to deepen his inner life. His old father, cautiously conservative as his attitude toward young people appeared to be, was however, deeply influenced by the prevailing humane ideas of the Encyclopedists and Jean Jacques Rousseau. The piety of Mikhail's aunts was transferred to the oldest of their nieces in the form of a cult of their inner life, and a striving toward unattainable truth, which they later came to look for in philosophy rather than in religion. As Mikhail grew older, his sisters soon began to see in him a co-searcher with them for the truth, and the uncontested spiritual mentor of this younger brother.. Soon he became the spiritual leader of all his brothers and sisters.

That family circle was, in fact, the most ideal group to which he ever belonged, the model for all his organizations and his conception of a free and happy life for humanity in general. The absence of any economic problems, the comfortably country life among the beauties of nature, though it was based on the serfdom of so many, formed a close bond between these sisters and brothers, created a microcosm of freedom and solidarity with intimate and intensive striving toward the inner perfection of each one of them and the full expression of his inborn talents. There was, however, always present the desire that from the fulfilment of each one, the best interests of all should be forwarded. From this soon developed Mikhail's desire to serve all humanity and to give selflessly to others everything he might gain for himself.

Here undoubtedly were planted the seeds of his life-long striving toward a world in which freedom and solidarity, Anarchism and Socialism [31] could be united; doctrines inseparable from spiritual freedom and from that understanding of nature, free of all superstitions -- atheism. What seemed to be missing then was the desire for destruction of the existing society which later filled him so completely. He felt a holy zeal and a fervent desire to work toward that aim; this logically grew into his conviction of the necessity of destruction -- revolution.

Bakunin's spiritual development was interrupted but by no means stopped when on November 25, 1828, at the age of fourteen and a half, he was sent to St. Petersburg to enter the artillery school. For several years he lived in that institution -- and hated it -- until he was promoted to the officer class at the end of Jauary, 1833. Now permitted to live outside the institution, he greeted his new freedom with joy. Soon he had a temporary romance with a young cousin, and later in the summer of 1833, was deeply inspired hy the poems of Venevitinov. This was followed by an attachment to an old friend of his father and a relative of his mother, the former statesman Nikolai Nazarovitch Muraviev, who gave him a practical insight into Russian political and economic affairs. A younger Muraviev, Sergei Nikolayevitch, who was five years older than Bakunin, very probably helped to foster his Russian nationalist sentiments at that time. Such proclivities, though never lacking, had found little encouragement in the cosmopolitan education in his father's home.

In August-September, 1833, Mikhail visited his family in Pryamukhino, and there found a new cause to champion -- the fight for justice, the struggle of youth against the older generation, and the struggle of human freedom against authority. At first this took the form of his siding with his oldest sister in her rebellion against an unhappy marriage that was hateful to her. This was his first struggle, which he fought with all his energy; consequently the illusion of general harmony, particularly of the time-honored family happiness, was destroyed.

His military career, which had never much interested him, was cut short by a violent quarrel with a general, after which he was assigned to an artillery brigade in western Russia, beginning in 1834, before he had finished his officer's training. His military service in the provinces of Minsk and Grodno was interrupted by a summer journey to Pryamukhino. He detested that service, which was a torture to him. He was also in Vilna, and there he became somewhat acquainted with Polish society and got a glimpse of Russia's policy in Poland, through another relative, M. N. Muraviev, then governor of Grodno, who later became so notorious as Poland's hangman.

Smarting under military service and feeling terribly lonesome, Bakunin at that time (December, 1834) dreamed of dedicating himself to science and some civilian occupation after leaving the service. Only in the event of war, he decided, would he remain in the Army. He hoped to be transferred to his home territory, and at the beginning of 1835 he was sent to [32] Tver to buy horses. From there he went to Pryamukhino. reported sick, and greatly against the wishes of his father, obtained his discharge from the Army on December 18. 1835. The father got for him a position in the civil government service in Tver, but he refused to accept it. His fond desire was to train himself for scientific work and obtain a professorship in order to disseminate the philosophical knowledge he had gained from; his studies.

In March, 1835, he became acquainted in Moscow with a young man named Stankevich, born in 1813; during the summer his friend Efremov visited the family estate, and in the fall Stankevich also came there and he and Mikhail became intimate friends. Their philosophical interest at that time was concentrated on Kant. However, Stankevich, for several years a student of German philosophy, wanted to study Kant as a basis for understanding Schelling. Connection of Bakunin with Stankevich's circle of friends, established in 1831 and 1832, was easily formed through his acquaintance with the Beer family in Moscow, whose two daughters were friends of his sisters and at whose house Stankevich and his friends often visited.

In the fall of 1835 he had conceived in Tver, with his sisters and brothers and the Beer sisters in Pryamukhino, the idea of forming his own intimate circle, united in purpose and thought, as a refuge against the outside world. This was, so to speak, the first of his secret societies, which always had an inner core of his closest friends. To detail all these relationships would be a huge task. Those who are interested in the people of the Thirties and Forties and who can read Russian could be referred to numerous volumes of correspondence, memoirs, biographies, etcetera, but for those not acquainted with this special material it would be necessary to write volumes of explanation. In general, however, it can be said, that behind the philosophical literary ideology they put forward, the real life of all these diverse young men and women went on and demanded its right to be heard. Their mutual idealistic aim formed a bond between the rich and the relatively poor, and still more did the cross currents of love affairs and passions, happy and unhappy, hopeless or fulfilled. The final solution of all these entanglements and conflicts, entered into with philosophical zeal and intensively discussed, was generally a very prosaic one, wholly outside of the realm of ideas.

Naturally Mikhail was soon in the center of these surging emotions, and took upon himself not only his own affairs but also those of his sisters. It was inevitable that his friends, Belinsky included, would fall in love with his sisters, while Mikhail remained emotionally impervious, though many a girl's heart beat faster when he was around. In addition to that, there was his personal championship of his eldest sister, already mentioned, in her luckless marriage. Because of the intimate family lifc of his early youth he could not brush aside such worries, but had to interfere [33] with great energy in all these matters, which might have been settled much better by themselves without his meddling, and resulted in many conflicts and enmities. This trait remained in him to the end of his life, for he was deeply convinced of his mission as a social being.

Being interested only in the remote possibility of a professorship of philosophy in Moscow as his goal in life, Mikhail came ro a sharp break with his family, and at the beginning of 1836, he left his parents' home for Moscow, to establish an independent existence in the metropolis. He expected to attain this by private tutoring in mathematics while studying at the University as a non-matriculated student. The immediate reason for the quarrel with his parents was Bakunin's persistent demand to travel abroad, in order to study at a German university, which his old father, blessed with eleven children, considered an impossible extravagance. In Moscow, after February, 1836, Mikhail was entirely absorbed in the philosophical ideas of Fichte, whose Lectures on the Destiny of the Scholar he translated for the Telescope at the request of Belinsky. Fichte's The Way to a Blessed Life fascinated him, and became his favorite book. With Stankevich, he read Goethe, Schiller, Jean Paul, E.T.A. Hoffman, and others. But his hope for economic independence did not materialize, neither then nor at any time in all his years.

In April, 1836. he began to lecture, but by the end of May he was back in Pryamukhino, and remained there for quite a while, as the conflict with his father had somewhat subsided, though neither of them abandoned his point of view. With his sisters, who greatly deplored his brusque attitude toward the father, he had threshed out the matter by correspondence. In the spring and summer he succeeded in converting them from their formal piety, which up to that time they had considered the greatest aim in life, to the most idealistic form of Fichteanism as propounded in The Way to a Blessed Life. Also he strengthened his somewhat weakened influence over them and his growing brothers.

Little information is available on the following years up to the summer of 1840, during which Bakunin transferred his theoretical allegiance from Fichte to Hegel -- in fact to the most rigorous Hegelianism, with its conservative-reactionary conclusions concerning the Russia of that day. That period also was marked by his relationship with Belinsky, his conflicts with the radical and Socialist circles centering about Herzen and Ogarev, and his contact with the younger Slavophiles, particularly with Konstantin Aksakov and the older P. A. Tschaadaev (1794-1856). It was for Bakunin largely a painful period of waiting because he could not obtain from his father the means to study at a German university; neither were his other hopes fulfilled.

He was only twenty-six years old when he finally left Russia, but he had begun to fear that there he would "gradually decay mentally." Probably, however, these years were useful to him spiritually, because by [34] continuous mental activity he learned to enhance through brilliant discussions his rather small philosophical knowledge. He now faced new impressions abroad with a more mature outlook than he had had in 1836, and thus he escaped from being entirely absorbed by any one doctrine -- as had happened to him in the case of Fichte and Hegel. And fortunately the evolution of the radical philosophy and of Socialism advanced rapidly in the years after 1840, while during the years 1836 to 1840 it had been only in the stages of incubation. In this respect, also, conditions favored him.

The circumstances of his leaving Russia are clear from his well-known letter (Tver, April 20, 1840) to Herzen, who finally lent him money for the journey, and also from his passport (Tver, May 29) for the journej from St. Petersburg by way of Lubeck to Berlin on June 29, 1840.

We do not know the details of Bakunin's mental growth during his sojourn in Berlin and Dresden up to the end of 1842, but in the second half of this period he did make continuous progress toward becoming a conscious revolutionary. Three documents serve as milestones of this mental evolution: Bakunin's preface to Hegel's Lectures to High School Students, published in the Moskovskii Nablyudatel, vol 16, 1838, edited by Belinsky: the article On Philosophy in Otechestvennyia Zapiski, St. Petersburg, 1849, vol. 9, section 2, the second part of which was never published; and Reaction in Germany -- A Fragment by a Frenchman signed Jules Elysard, in the Deutsche Jahrbucher fur Wissenschaft und Kunst, Leipzig, October 17-21, 1842. It is surprising to find in the first of these two publications that such a clear mind could still remain so profoundly influenced by empty dogmas, which Bakunin took as absolute truth, without any regard to reality. Yet the famous article in the Deutsche Jahrbucher, in spite of its philosophical verbiage, was a clarion call for revolution in the widest sense, including social revolution. It ended with the words: "Let us have confidence in the eternal spirit which destroyi and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternally crearivd source of life. The urge of destruction is at the same time a creative urge."

It is noteworthy also that Bakunin, after three university semesters in Berlin, preferred to move to Dresden in the spring of 1842, to enjoy the company of Arnold Ruge. who at that time was the center of the radical Hegelians and not to prepare for a Moscow professorship. Losing interest in that, his chief concern now was awaiting the Revolution. At that time many forces were working toward the Revolution, which indeed was not far distant, as was proved in 1848. Only then did the Western world unfold to him -- a world which up to that time he had viewed with disdain, partly because of his Russian nationalist point of view, which still clung to him, and partly because of the lofty philosophical knowledge he imagined he had. Socialism, as it was developing at that time in France, was introduced to the German public for the first time through the well-known [35] book of Dr. Lorenz Stein. This book did not offer anything new, but gave a sizeable survey of many socialistic trends and the reasoning behind them; and in 1842 it introduced Bakunin, as he himself pointed out, to this subject, which fascinated him.

In Berlin in 1840, he saw his sister Barbara, who had returned from the death-bed of Stankevich in Italy. In Berlin and Dresden his younger brother and Ivan Turgeniev were his closest friends. By now his connection with Russia was finally severed and he became a true exile, fully accepting his status. The Russian government became aware of his radical evolution and demanded his return to Russia. But Bakunin had no intention of submitting, and in January, 1843, he took the decisive step of going to Zurich with Georg Herwegh. the most famous poet of the time. Herwegh returned to Zurich, then the center of literary, political, and revolutionary propaganda for Germany, and to which, that spring, Wilhelm Weitling, the German Communist, transferred his activity from French Switzerland.

During his Zurich sojourn from January 16 to the beginning of June, Bakunin, having closely observed the political activities there, lost all his republican politicaI illusions, if he still had any. Through his personal relations with Weitling, he became acquainted with the Comrnunist ideology, which he considered a general revolutionary factor, but which, however, never succeeded in captivating him. From that time up to 1848, he had friendly relations with German Communists in Switzerland and in Paris, and occasionally he called himself a Communist. In a letter to Reinhold Solger, dated October, 1844, and in some other letters to Solger, August Becker, and the wife of Professor Vogt, he expressed these ideas up to 1847.

Opinions voiced by Bakunin at that time were published in the Deutsch- Franzosische Jahrbucher (Paris, 1844) under the title B. to R. (Bakunin to Ruge), dated Peter Island in the Bieler Lake, May, 1843, and several articles entitled Der Communismus in the Schweitzerische Republikaner, (Zurich, June 2, 6 and 13, 1843), signed XXX. I believe also that still another article, in 1843, generally overlooked, was written by Bakunin. Closer scrutiny of the articles would show that he was sympathetic and hopefully, though not uncritically, inclined toward the expressions of Socialism then current. Those movements championed a good cause, had a very lofty goal, but they could not satisfy his aspirations for ideas and systems that would really liberate mankind. He felt instinctively the absence of freedom in these systems, and therefore he hesitated to accept completely any of the ideas embodied in them.

Shonly before the arrest of Weitling, Bakunin went to western Switzerland and lived in Geneva, Lausanne, and also in Nyon. He tramped on foot over the Alps to Berne, where he remained during the winter of 1844 until February. These travels and sojourns were influenced by his personal [36] relations: In Zurich he knew August Follen, the brother of Professor Vogt's wife, who lived in Berne; in Dresden he knew Madame Pescantini, a German-Russian from Riga, who lived with her husband, an Italian emigre, in Promenthoux near Nyon. His lifelong friend, the musician Adolf Reichel, from East Prussia, whom he had met in Dresden, also had come to Geneva, and together with him and the German Communist, August Becker, he had crossed the Alps on foot. Reichel remained with him in Berne in order to accompany him in February, 1844, to Brussels. Bakunin's long friendship with the sons of the Vogt family began at that time. The youngest Vogt, Adolf, and Adolf Reichel were thc only ones who, thirty-three years later, stood at Bakunin's bier in Berne.

On July 21, 1841, the Swiss police issued an official report, signed by State Counselor Bluntschli, quoting many letters of Weitling's in which Bakunin's name was mentioned repeatedly. This put the Russian police into motion, and in February, 1844, the Moscow ambassador in Berne ordered Bakunin to return to Russia immediately. But Mikhail prefcrred to move to Brussels. There he saw the first Polish emigres, and as he knew everywhere how to meet the most important men in radical and revolutionary movements, who in turn considered him a highly interesting acquaintance, he became friendly with old Joachim Lelewel, one of the most charming Poles of that period. Thus he got acquainted with the Polish aspirations in their most exalted, but also in their most determined and intransigent ideas -- the demand for the "historical Poland" of 1772, which included Lithuania, Little Russia, and White Russia.

As a Russian, but also as a democrat and internationalist, Bakunin maintained, on the contrary, the right to autonomy and independence for non-Polish territories within these "historic" frontiers. Thus, in spite all his sympathy for the Poles and all his efforts to bring about co-operation, it inevitably followed that the Poles always considered him an unwelcome and disturbing element in their plans and never reciprocated his sincere attempts toward solidarity with them. Since the Poles as well as Bakunin saw in each other a revolutionary factor of some real value, the subject was rarely discussed frankly, and all attempts at mutual action were destined to failure. To this was added the fact that the question of liberation of the peasants and the distribution of land naturally separated Bakunin from the powerful aristocratic Polish party, as did also their extreme clericalism.

After a short visit to Paris in 1844, Mikhail persuaded his friend Reichel to come and live with him in Paris, and they stayed there until 1847. Bakunin endeavored to get in contact with the German radicals who lived there, particularly with the circle around the weekly Vorwaerts, through which he got acquainted with Marx and Engels. Many disagreeable quarrels ensued between Ruge, Marx, and Herwegh, and lasted up to the time when the German circle was broken up by expulsion of its members [37] and the suspension of the publication. Thereafter Bakunin did not take any sustained interest in the German movement, but he remained in friendly relations with Herwegh and his wife, with Karl Vogt, a few German Communists, and in general, with the Swiss acquaintances he had made in 1843-44.

He became acquainted with French Socialists and political and literary personalities of all shades of opinion, without getting very close to any of them, with the exception of Proudhon, whose ideas and personality attracted him, and who in turn showed interest in Bakunin. He also met Russians -- the Dekabrist Nikolai Turgeniev, as well as many Russian visitors to Paris -- Poles, Italians, and others. It was a period in which a great many advanced ideas emerged, without, however, any one idea predominating. While the bourgeois system seemed to be nearing its full development unchallenged, Bakunin sensed that, underneath, the ferment of the coming revolution was at work. "We arrived," Bakunin said in 1876, according to a French Socialist, "at the firm belief that we were witnessing the last days of the old civilization, and that the age of equality would soon begin. Very few could resist this highly charged emotional atmosphere in Paris; two months on the boulevards was usually long enough to change a liberal into a Socialist."

In spite of this active and interesting life during the years 1845, 1846, and 1847, Bakunin was not happy, because he felt more isolated than any of the others. Neither did he have a clear conception of the future. To be more exact, these various Socialist trends were all narrowly sectarian, each one opposed to the others; because they had no right of assembly nor freedom for public activity, their adherents were limited to an artificial life through books, magazines, and small groups. It is true that Bakunin did not join any of the groups, but to conclude from this fact that at that time he was no Socialist would be, in my opinion, absolutely wrong. He did not find his conception of Socialism in any of the sects then existing; indeed, he probably had not clearly formulated his own ideas, as he had no practical incentive to do so, It is impossible to imagine him as a follower of a certain trend or sect -- such as being a Fourierist, Cabetist, or Marxist. The only man from whom he could derive part of his Socialism then was Proudhon.

One of Bakunin's Italian comrades, at the end of the Sixties, stated that Bakunin had told him that, when reading Proudhon's book, it had suddenly flashed upon him: "This is the right thing!" That is how it must have happened. Only Proudhon had at that time the idea of attaining full freedom, of really abolishing the State, without rebuilding it in a new form. This established a spiritual bond between the two men, though they differed on certain details. That Bakunin understood the basic ideas of Anarchism, which he approved, is shown by a few passages in his Intimate Letters to Herwegh. By pure accident he had no opportunity to express [38] them publicly. The voice he had raised in 1842 and 1843 was silenced (except in Slavonic affairs) and his work on Feuerbach, whose ideas he wanted to publish in French, was not completed or was lost.

In December, 1844. Tsar Nikolai I issued, at the proposal of the Senate, a decree depriving Bakunin of all his civil and nobility rights, confiscating his property in Russia and condemning him to lifelong exile in Siberia should he ever be caught on Russian soil. He wrote a long letter on this subject to the Paris Reforme (January 27, 1845) expressing his first free opinion on Russia and foreshadowing his future writings in many respects. His first statement on Poland was made in his letter to Le Constitutionel (March 19, 1846) on the occasion of Russian persecution of Polish Catholics.

Soon afterward he tried (as he also tells in his Confession of 1851) to enter into conspirative relations with the Polish Democratic Central Committee, the headquarters of which was in Versailles. His aim was revolution in Russia, a republican federation of all Slavic countries, and establishment of a united and indivisible Slavic republic, administered federatively for interior affairs and centralized politically for foreign affairs. But nothing came out of these deliberations, mainly because he could not offer the Poles anything except his good intentions. Before that, after appearance of his article in La Reforme, the Polish aristocrats, such as Prince Adam Czartoryski, as well as the democratic Poles, welcomed him and the Polish classical poet, Adam Mickiewicz, tried to attract him into his mystical-federalist circle, which Bakunin, however, declined to enter. Again in 1846 young refugee Poles from Cracow approached him, and it was this group which invited him to speak at the meeting of November 29, 1847, in commemoration of the Polish insurrection of 1830.

A few months before, in 1847, Bakunin again met with Herzen, Belinsky, and other Russian friends in Paris, and though that reunion was amicable, those friends did not respond to his plea that conspiratory action be planned for a revolutionary movement in Russia. There is no evidence that he knew of the efforts of the group of Petrashevsky and Speshnev at that time. Thus he could not help knowing or feeling that he was quite alone so far as Russian problems were concerned.

On November 29 he made his famous speech in Paris in favor of a revolutionary conciliation between Poles and Russians. Thereupon, at the request of the Russian ambassador, he was expelled from France, and on December 10, he went to Brussels, where he met many Poles as well as the Communist circle of Karl Marx, whom he greatly disliked. On February 14, 1848, he spoke again at a meeting called by Lelewel to form brotherly ties between Polish and Russian democrats. According to Bakunin's Confession he also spoke of the great future of the Slavs, destined to rejuvenate the Western world, of the break-up of Austria, etcetera. The full text of that speech was never published.

The Russian Embassy, headed by Count Kisselev, also tried to ruin [39] his reputation by setting rumors afloat that he actually was a Russian agent, who had exceeded his orders. This slander was passed on to the French government by Polish intermediaries. Bakunin answered in an open letter of February 7, 1848, to Count Duchatel, then Minister of Interior, but after the February revolution, the same source spread this calumny in democratic circles and cast a shadow of doubt over all the rest of Bakunin's life, beginning with 1848-49, the last year of his activity at that time.

When the longed-for revolution finally came, Bakunin's joy knew no bounds. Even his crestfallen Confession of 1851 contained an enthusiastic description of the life and activities of the people of Paris, in which he took part up to April, 1848. La Reforme of March 13 carried a lengthy article by him, in which his ideas were summarized. But what grieved him most was that he saw no sign of an approaching Russian revolution, to accomplish which he felt driven to give his utmost energies. Russian power was in the service of the counter-revolution, and in fact it did intervene in Hungary in 1849, to suppress the revolution there. In 1848 a clash between the rebelling countries of Europe and the Russia of Tsar Nikolai I appeared probable, and the Poles worked toward this goal. Bakunin wanted to prevent that conflict, and the idea of a Slavic federation seemed to him the proper means.

Such a federation was intended to unite all Slavs, Poles, and Russians as well, under the battle-cry of liberating the Slavs living under the rule of Prussia, Austro-Hungary, and Turkey. Bakunin had no resources for this propaganda, so he approached Flocon, Louis Blanc, and Albert and Ledru Rollin, who reluctantly lent him 2,000 francs. For everything else he was dependent on the Poles. He went to Germany, where the slander launched by the Russian Embassy followed him, as did also the lie that he was preparing an attempt on the life of the Tsar. This brought about another expulsion. These slanders likewise affected his trial in Saxony (1849-50), and in 1851 were to help determine his fate in Russia.

His journey took him through Baden to Frankfort and Cologne, where he made the final break with Marx on account of Herwegh. From there he went to Berlin, where the police stopped him from traveling on to Posen; from Berlin he went to Leipzig and Breslau, where he again met many Poles; then he continued on to the Slav Congress in Prague, in which he actively participated. This congress was followed by the bloody but abortive Whitsun-week insurrection in June, 1848, which Bakunin wanted to promote and intensify. His return to Breslau and to Berlin was followed by his expulsion from Prussia and Saxony, but finally in the fall and winter he found a pleasant and safe refuge in Koethen, Anhalt State, at that time an oasis of freedom in Germany, where certain Cabinet ministers of that state, old friends of Max Stirner and his comrades, were his table companions in the local Rathskeller. [40]

Later, when the conspiracy became more active, Bakunin returned to Leipzig. His life in the "underground" there was interrupted by a still more secret journey to Prague, and finally he went to Dresden to be nearer to Bohemia. While he was there the May revolution of 1849 broke out. He gave all his energy to it, and shared the fate of other leaders of the revolution when, after several sleepless nights, totally exhausted, he was arrested in Chemnitz (Saxony) on the night of May 9. This put an end to his activities for many years to come.

Bakunin's ideas in that period can be ascertained from a few documents of the Prague Slav Congress, particularly from the Charter of a New Slavic Policy and from the pamphlet Appeal to the Slavs published in fall of 1848, and other statements of that time and later. The most extensive account of his plans is set down in his Confession of 1851. To this be added a few intimate letters, particularly to Herwegh, and his long defense plea at the trial in Saxony. I am familiar only with extracts of this plea contained in a letter to his lawyer, but the whole plea as well as the statements in the preliminary questioning are available for publication.

From these sources we see how he, who in the months immediately following February 24, certainly was inspired by the purest revolutionary spirit, gradually became more and more imbued with nationalist ideas, until, after the events in Prague and Breslau, he indulged in the most commonplace expressions of hate against everything German. This made him feel impelled, as he says in his Confession to Nikolai I, to write to Tsar asking forgiveness for his sins and imploring him to put himself at the head of the Slavs as their savior and father, and to carry the banner of Slavdom into Western Europe.

His good common sense prevented him, however, from finishing this letter, and he destroyed it. Nothing compelled him to record this fact, which, by the way, is not so surprising, since nationalism unites men of all ideologies, and the revolutionist and the Tsar stood here on common ground.

Autumn in 1848 brought about a change in Bakunin's attitude. He came out in favor of common struggles of all peoples -- Slavs, Magyars, and Germans -- against the oppressors, their governments. By organizing and heading Czech and German secret societies to instigate a revolutionary movement in Bohemia, he made extraordinary efforts to help German democracy which, at that time, was preparing for the struggles of 1849. But only the German democrats in Saxony started a revolt (in May, while the premature Czech conspiracy was nipped in the bud by many arrests, ending in a lengthy trial and cruel sentences to long imprisonment of many young Czechs and Germans in Bohemia. In general, it can be said, however, that Bakunin's activity in 1848 lost much of its effectiveness because of its close relation to nationalism. It was therefore fortunate for [41] the clarifying of his ideas that the May revolution in Dresden offered him such a welcome opportunity for objective revolutionary activity unmarred by nationalism.

Next, Bakunin spent one year in Saxon prisons in Dresden and in the fortress of Koenigsstein, up to June 13, 1850, when a death sentence against him was commuted to imprisonment for life, That his spirit was unbroken appears in his letters from the fortress to Adolf and Matilde Reichel. He was then extradited to Austria, where for one year he was chained in his cell and had to submit to endless questioning in Prague and Olmutz till probably the grimmest experience of his life.

This was followed by a new condemnation to death with immediate commutation of the sentence -- but extradition to Russia. Not knowing what to expect, Bakunin viewed his fate with dread, but was pleasantly surprised when he soon found himself treated relatively well as a state prisoner of importance, and also considered as such in the Peter-and-Paul fortress in St. Petersburg.

After two months, around August, 1851, the Tsar sent Count Orlov to see Bakunin in the fortress and to ask for a confession from him. Bakunin really did write this, as it became known in 1921. The document did not change his situation, and Nikolai's successor, Alexander II, pointed out quite correctly that he did not see any repentence in that confession. Opinions may vary concerning this document, but it contained nothing that would have endangered any person or compromised any cause, embodying, rather, details interesting to a biographer. Anything in it which may appear unsavory is the result of the nationalist psychosis that influenced Bakunin at the time, and from which few are entirely free!

Solitary confinement in the Peter-and-Paul fortress and later, during the Crimean war, in Schlusselburg. was to him a spiritual torment, despite the fact that his manner of life and his treatment were tolerable. Life in prison caused his body to lose its youthfulness and to assume the mishapen form, which later on was one of the causes of his early death. I have no knowledge of his letters from prison, except of the one addressed to Alexander II in 1857, but even if I knew them I would nor consider myself entitled to pronounce any judgement. He was near to committing suicide, when his family finally succeeded in having him sent to Siberia, after Tsar Alexander II had extorted from him the letter of February 27. 1857 which gave such a moving description of the effects of solitary confinement.

Bakunin was allowed to spend a day in Pryamukhino where he saw his mother for the last time and met again his surviving sisters and brothers after the seventeen-year separation since 1840. He was then taken to Tomsk in Weatern Siberia, where within the usual limitations, he could move about freely.

He adapted himself quite well to Siberian conditions by getting interested [42] in them and in the Russian expansion toward Eastern Siberia, down the Amur toward the sea. Envisaging a future Siberian independence, he encouraged such ideas among young men like the explorer Potanin, later, in 1865, had to stand trial in Omsk with other youthful Siberians for separatist attempts. Bakunin became acquainted with many exiled Poles, whom he wanted to impress with the necessity of a conciliation between Poles and Russians.

While he was giving French lessons to some members of the Polish family Kwiatkowski, he came to know one of the daughters, Antonia, whom he married in 1858. There are memoirs of his relations with the Dekabrists and the followers of Petrashevsky (the latter by Emanuel Toll), though later on sharp differences arose between Petrashevsky and Bakunin, Nikolai Muraviev-Amurski, Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, also a relative of Mikhail's mother, came to see him. In 1833 he had known both Muraviev and his father well. Finally Bakunin's wjsh to be transferred to Siberia was granted and in 1859 he arrived in Irkutsk.

For a while that year he traveled for a business concern in the Far East, but this occupation was only temporary, because he expected a full pardon and the right to return to Russia, though if that hope failed, he dreamed of a not too difficult escape. He realized that the Governor-General was a brutal despot, but their nationalism and their hatred of the Germans united them to such a degree that Bakunin condoned Muraviev's bad characteristics. The correspondence which he resumed in 1860 with Alexander Herzen, whose periodical Kolokol [The Bell] was then at the peak of its influence, contains hymns of praise for Muravicv. This may be explained by Bakunin's increasing nationalist psychosis, induced and nourished by the expansionist ideas of the officials and exploiters who surrounded him in Siberia, causing him to overlook the plight of their victims.

Finally Muraviev left Siberia without being able to do anything for Bakunin, and that relieved him of any compunction which might have restrained him from escaping while a relative was Governor. He left Irkutsk on June 18, 1861, sailed down the Amur River, succeeded in boarding an American ship, and after passing through several Japanese ports, San Francisco, Panama, and New York, he arrived in London on December 27 and went straight to the home of Herzen and Ogarev, who received him like a brother. In Yokohama he had met up with a fellow-fighter of the Dresden May revolt, and in the United States he talked with comrades of the 1848 revolution.

From San Francisco he had written to Herzen that he would continue his efforts, begun in that year, toward Slavic federalism. In short, from the first hour of his freedom he was ready to resume with unimpaired energy his activity, interrupted in 1849, aiming at a Russian peasant revolution, Slavic national wars for independence, and Slavic federation. In the Italy of 1859 and in the actions of Garibaldi he recognized the way [43] perceiving many symptoms of the rising tide toward liberty, and, as in 1848, Bakunin again was ready to do his share. His Socialism, however, was deeply buried beneath his nationalist psychosis.

That appears still more evident from his first "open letter" entitled To Russian, Polish, and all Slavic Friends, published on February 15, 1862; from the pamphlet The People's Cause: Romanov, Pugachev, or Pestel?, issued in London in 1863, and from shorter articles; from Herzen's account in his Posthumous Writings; and from Bakunin's own letters, some of which appeared in the St. Petersburg periodical Byloe (The Past).

There were important and impressive open movements in Russia (Tchernishevsky's and the Youth movement); secret organizations of unknown and constantly shifting scope, such as Zemlya y Volya (Land and Freedom), and the great liberal movement headed by Herzen and Ogarev; the Zemstvos, in which several brothers of Bakunin distinguished themselves in Tver, etcetera. Here also may be mentioned the sectarian movement of Ogarev and Kelsiev, the revolutionary possibilities of which were so extremely overrated. These movements, which needed many years to reach their full development, were suddenly followed or joined by the Polish movement in the violent form of an insurrection, which complicated the situation considerably. Only Bakunin and a Russian military organization [headed by a sympathetic officer from Warsaw named Potebnya] were willing to co-operate sincerely with the Poles. At the same time, however, the old dissensions between Bakunin and the Poles continued, and there were for example, bitter polemics with Mieroslawski.

Though this situation, in 1862 and 1863, offered innumerable opportunities for action by Bakunin, embroilments repeatedly ensued, and led more to confusion than to solutions. Thus, in spite of his good intentions, his activities produced only meager results. He conspired in all directions; had negotiations in Paris; and on February 21, 1863, he went via Hamburg and Copenhagen to Stockholm, where he remained until autumn, and where, after many vicitudes, he was reunited with his wife, who had found her way out of Siberia. He was not connected with the Polish incursion of Lapinski, whom he met in Malmo, but he would have been willing to go to Russia, if he had sensed the beginning of any revolutionary movement there. This clement lacking, he did his best to influence public opinion in Sweden about events in Finland. His speeches and articles in the large dailies created a sensation, and he was fairly lionized, but was unable to get armed assistance from the Poles.

Bakunin never abandoned his attitude in public, but he had such bad experiences with many personalities in the Polish movement and with the elusive Russian secret organizations, that in the fall of 1863 he withdrew entirely from Slavic national movements, and probably reconsidered the situation thoroughly. It also became apparent to him that further work with Herzen and Ogarev in London would be impossible. Bonaparrist [44] France was out of the question for a permanent sojourn, but there was one country where he would be able to remain -- Italy -- which had an active radical party. At the end of 1863 he left London, and by slow stages, crossing Belgium, France, and Switzerland, he reached Italy. From that time onward he began anew to participate in the international revolutionary movement.

I do not know whether, during that journey, in the course of which he met Proudhon, Elie and Elisee Reclus, Vogt, Garibaldi, and other old and new friends, he intended to make direct connection with those men, or if he went just for the purpose of meeting old friends and gathering information. His new place of residence was Florence, where he stayed through the first half of 1864. In August he went to London and Sweden, and in November, going back to London and then to Brussels and Paris, he returned to Florence. While on those travels, the purpose of which is not quite clear, he was visited by Marx in London, and in Paris saw Proudhon for the last time. The summer of 1865 found him in Sorrento, and till August, 1867, he dwelt in Naples and vicinity. Bakunin enjoyed his sojourn in Italy, particularly the simple, natural life of the people, and from the fall of 1869 until his death seven years later he lived in small towns in the Swiss canton of Ticino.

He saw the defeat of the Polish revolution of 1863, which was led by the feudal lords, but he hoped to live to see a peasant upheaval and a new European revolution in the offing. Inasmuch as he maintaincil contacts with the leading men in the militant parties and their following among young people, especially in Italy, he undoubtedly became aware of two great obstacles: The fact that the national movements were inextricably blended with the designs of the States -- Napoleon III in particular was behind these -- and that the ideologies of the young people were hopelessly circumscribed by religious ideas and by the pseudo-Socialism of Mazzini. Therefore Bakunin felt compelled to assemble and educate a group of clear-thinking revolutionists freed from the fetters of religion and religious philosophy, and opposed to the idea of the State, and to establish among them close contacts which would facilitate international activities.

He tried to use the Free Mason movement for that purpose, and explained his ideas with great lucidity to Italian lodges, but failed to win them over. He then worked alone and did succeed in forming an intimate circle of able persons from various countries -- a secret society, so to speak, which may be designated as the Fraternite Internationale. Through personal contact and extensive correspondence he worked tirelessly to clarify the ideas of his comrades, and to free them from a variety of nationalist proconceptions. Most of them made valuable contributions to the international Socialist movement in later years.

Through this activity, begun in Florence -- perhaps during his first visit [45] in that city -- or even earlier in London, Bakunin systematized his anti- religious, atheist, anti-State, and Anarchist Weltanschaung, and of course also formulated his Socialist, national, and federalist ideas. This was done in comprehensive programs and program outlines for closely knit groups; in elaborate expositions, which he probably wrote first for the Free Masons; in occasional articles, and in his careful and widespread correspondence. Represented in these are all the ideas with which he was equipped when he joined the First International in 1868. The labor movement as such was given the least consideration because in 1864 it had hardly existed. Bakunin had no personal contact with the insignificant labor movement in London in 1862-63, and in Italy there was no such movement at all. The International, when Marx spoke to him about it in 1864, was then in its initial stage, and the followers of Proudhon in Paris were not a revolutionary element for action in Bakunin's sense. These circumstances explain why he acted alone and created by himself an international revolutionary fighting group.

When later, in September, 1867, European democrats at their Geneva Congress formed the League for Peace and Freedom. Bakunin considered this international organization an appropriate medium within which he and his friends in the Fraternite could forward and spread their ideas. In 1868 he submitted his thoughts to this effect to the Geneva and Berne Congresses, outlining them in his Federalism, Socialism, and Antitbeologism. He also was notably active in the organizing committee of the League in 1867-68, while living in Vevey and Clarens. But the bourgeois Socialists proved deaf to Socialist ideas, whereupon Bakunin and some of his friends left the League, joined the [Geneva section of the] International, and founded the Alliance of Socialist Democracy, within which of course, the old secret group of the Fraternite Internationale would continue to exist.

Under these conditions, which came about quite by themselves, but the intrinsic nature of which remained unknown and incomprehensible to all outsiders -- including Marx-Bakunin joined the labor movement of the period represented by the International. This movement developed after 1864, principally in its theories, and spread rather slowly. Only after 1868 did it show a more pronounced revolutionary spirit, as manifested by strikes and in the Congress of Brussels. Thus the time was most opportune, and between the end of 1868 and the summer of 1869 the Socialist movement in Geneva was revived, and temporarily wrested from the hands of the local politicians.

The Swiss Jura Federation was won for the anti-authoritarian Socialist concepts, revolutionary Socialism in France was considerably invigorated, particularly in Lyons and Marseilles, the International in Spain was founded and from the very beginning inspired hy Anarchist ideas, the Italian International was built on the foundation laid many years before, and those ideas also had certain influence in Russia. In various articles by [46] Bakunin in Egalite of Geneva his propaganda presented to the workers the most comprehensive Socialist thought and aims with marvelous clarity and objectivity.

At the same time he worked at selecting, educating, and co-ordinating elements capable of really revolutionary initiative. It was through Bakunin that the International was revived and received its real incentive. Though the International of Belgium and Paris showed some vigor, it never rose above mediocrity. Bakunin and his friends were the first to arouse it, and the Paris Commune did the rest.

There is a wealth of documentary material and reminiscences about Bakunin's international activity in the period from the fall of 1868 to the summer of 1874. The versatility and intensity of his work can be recognized in the daily notes he wrote during two of those years, and in numerous manuscripts, publication of which began in 1895. Among his outstanding efforts were those in the sections of the Alliance and in the editorial office of Egalite, his propaganda in the Jura region of Switzerland in the spring of 1869, in the last period of the Paris Commune in 187I and particularly during the preparation of a Commune revolt in Besancon, in order to come to the rescue of the Paris Commune.

Too, there were his attempts to initiate in the Southwest and South of France -- during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 -- a social-revolutionary action which would refuse to recognize the State, but would promote the creation of free Communes, to be seconded by similar movements in Spain and Italy to help that in France. These were ambitious plans for which Bakunin risked his life to no purpose in Lyons in September of that year, though he succeeded in organizing the demonstration of September 29. But after further attempts in Marseilles he had to return to Locarno.

The Russian episode of 1869-70 in connection with Nechayev makes a notable chapter in itself, which, however, should not be judged without full knowledge of the documentary material involved. More satisfactory are the reports on Bakunin's Russian propaganda in Zurich in 1872-73, the famous summer of 1872 which saw him in Zurich and in the Jura region for a longer period, and the reports on the Russian printing plants of his friends in Zurich and London, which published several important works of his, among them Statism and Anarchism, which, unfortunately, like so many of his writings, was never completed.

When Mazzini, the eternal enemy of Socialism, denounced the Paris Commune, Bakunin came to its defense and to that of the International in a brilliant pamphlet issued in Milan. This led many young Italians to communicate with him and to form sections of the International, which had an inner revolutionary core of militant comrades closely connected with Bakunin. That was the Alliance Revolutionaire Socialiste, the very soul of the Italian International. The Spanish International, the Alianza, had a similar core; Bakunin's intimate friend and comrade, Fanelli, had [47] organized it in 1868 during a journey to Barcelona and Madrid, arranged by Bakunin's circle. In 1870 and again in the summer of 1873 Bakunin was on the point of going to Spain, where he would have found in Barcelona his most convinced and reliable followers, but circumstances prevented him from going there. Finally, in August, 1874, he went to Italy, where preparations for an insurrectional movement were under way in many places. He was in Bologna on the night of the Prati di Caprara, and after the defeat of that movement he fled to Switzerland, which was his last revolutionary peregrination.

It is well known that these activities, which aimed at the spreading and revolutionary realization of the ideas of collective Anarchism -- and thus of anti-authoritarian Socialism -- were bitterly resented and hated by Karl Marx and his followers. They wanted to found Social-Democratic labor movements, or if the opportunity arose -- a situation which, however, they themselves did not intend to bring about by revolutionary action -- to seize power as dictators of the Revolution and to establish an authoritarian people's State. They hated Bakunin because his and all other liberal-revolutionary activities opposed and thwarted these objectives. This bitter hatred, which often assumed most repulsive forms, because of their complete ignorance of Bakunin's real objectives and actions (as appears from the published correspondence between Marx and Engels), expressed itself by the spreading of slander as well as by administrative chicanery and arbitrary decisions in the International, the executive committee of which in London was dominated by Marx.

A local political party in Geneva and several henchmen such as Nicholas Utin and Paul Lafargue helped Marx in this job. These intrigues reached their peak at the Hague Congress of the International (September, 1872), where, through a majority obtained by tricks and wily maneuvers, Bakunin was expelled from the International, and, in addition, was slandered at the instigation of Marx. All those facts have been investigated fully and so thoroughly explained that the final judgement, now entirely possible, is certainly a blot on the memory of Marx and Engels.

These arbitrary dictatorial tactics at the London Conference of 1871 and the Hague Congress of 1872, which were aimed at altering completely the spirit of the International, resulted in a closer union of the anti- authoritarian sections and federations. Beginning with the answer to the Jura circular of November, 1871, this unity was emphasized by a declaration of the minority of the Hague Congress, and the Congress of St Imier, Switzerland (September, 1872), and brought about the reorganisation of the International at the Geneva Congress of 1873, while the organization of the authoritarian remnant of the International collapsed miserably. Bakunin lived to see this victory of the libertarian trend, the effects of which, however, were thwarted temporarily by the general reaction of the Seventies, following the defeat of the Commune of Paris. Nevertheless [48] this victory led directly to the spiritual consolidation of all freedom-loving revolutionary elements, to whom the future belongs.

After his return from exile, Bakunin's personal situation, owing to some special circumstances, was somewhat better up to 1868, but later he again was beset by poverty and worries, which were mitigated only in 1872 to 1874 by the Cafiero episode. But after this he felt even more keenly his destitution and privation, from which death alone finally relieved him. His health, impaired by his various imprisonments, had broken down, causing him much suffering and bringing his life to an end at the age of not quite sixty-two. Nevertheless, up to his last years, which he spent in Lugano, he preserved the lucidity of his spirit, and all his concepts, desires, and hopes. In June, 1876, he went, hopelessly ill, to Berne and died there on July 1, attended by the friend of his youth. Profesw Vogt, who was his physician, and by the musician, Adolf ReicheL His ideas remain fresh and will live forever.