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




Mikhail Bakunin stands out as unique among the revolutionary person- alities of the nineteenth century. This extraordinary man combined in his being the dauntless socio-philosophical thinker with the man of action, something rarely encountered in one and the same individual. He was always prepared to seize every chance to remold any sphere of human society.

His impetuous and impassioned urge for action subsided somewhat, however, after the defeat of the Paris Commune of 1871, and finally- following the collapse of the revolts of Bologna and Imola in 1874 -- he withdrew completely from political activity, two years before his death. His powerful body had been undermined by ailments from which he had long suffered.

But it was not only the increasingly rapid decline of his physical powers which motivated his decision. Bakunin's political vision, which was later so often confirmed by events, convinced him that with the birth of the new German Empire, after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, another historical epoch had been ushered in, bound to be disastrous for the social evolution of Europe, and to paralyze for many years all revolu- tionary aspirations for a rebirth of society in the spirit of Socialism.

It was not the disillusionment of an elderly man, ravaged by disease, who had lost faith in his ideals, which had made him abandon the struggle, but the conviction that with the change of conditions caused by the war, Europe had entered a period which would break radically with the tradi- tions created by the Great French Revolution of 1789, and which would be superseded by a new and intense reaction. In this respect Bakunin fore- saw the future of Europe much more correctly than most of his con- temporaries. He was mistaken in his estimate of the duration of this new reaction, which led to the militarization of all Europe, but he recognized its nature better than anyone else. That appears particularly in his pathetic letter of November 11, 1874, to his friend Nikolai Ogarev: [18]

"As for myself, old friend, this time I also have finally abandoned any effective activity and have withdrawn from all connection with active engagements. First, because the present time is decisively inappropriate. Bismarckianism, which is militarism, police rule, and finance monopoly, united in a system characteristic of the new statism, is conquering every- thing. For the next ten or fifteen years perhaps, this powerful and scientific disavowal of all humanity will remain victorious. I don't mean to say that there is nothing to be done now, but these new conditions demand new methods, and mainly new blood. I feel that I am no good any more for fresh struggles, and I have resigned without waiting for a plucky Gil Bias to tell me: 'Plus d'homilies, Monseigneur!' " [No more sermons, My Lord!]

Bakunin played a conspicuous part in two great revolutionary periods, which made his name known throughout the world. When the February revolution of 1848 broke out in France, which he, as Max Nettlau wrote, had foreseen in his fearless speech in November, 1847, on the anniversary of the Polish revolution, Bakunin hastened to Paris, where, in the thick of the turmoil of revolutionary events, he probably lived the happiest weeks of his life. But he soon realized that the victorious course of the Revolution in France, in view of the rebellious ferment noticeable all over Europe, would evoke strong reverberations in other countries, and that it was of paramount importance to unite all revolutionary elements, and to prevent the splitting up of those forces, knowing that such dispersion would work only to the advantage of the lurking counter-revolution.

Bakunin's foreknowledge then was considerably ahead of the general revolutionary aspirations of that time, as appears from his letter of April, 1848, to P. M. Annenkov, and particularly also from his letters to his friend, the German poet Georg Herwegh, written in August of the same year. And he likewise had enough political insight to discern that existing conditions must be reckoned with, in order that the larger obstacles be removed, before the Revolution could reach for higher aims.

Shortly after the March revolution in Berlin, Bakunin went to Ger- many, to make contact from there with his many friends among the Poles, Czechs, and other Slavic nationalities, with the thought of stimulating them to a general revolt in conjunction with the Western and German democracy. In this he saw the only possible way to batter down the last remaining bulwarks of royal absolutism in Europe -- Austria, Russia, and Prussia -- which had not been much affected by the Great French Revolu- tion. To his eyes those countries loomed as the strongest barriers against any attempt at social reconstruction on the Continent and the most power- ful buttress for every reaction.

His feverish activity in the revolutionary period of 1848-49 attained its highest point during his military leadership of the Dresden uprising in May of th" latter year, which made him one of the most celebrated revolu- tionaries in Europe, to whom even Marx and Engels could not deny their [19] recognition. This period, however, was followed by gloomy years of long and harrowing confinement in German, Austrian, and Russian prisons, which were lightened only when he was exiled to Siberia in March, 1857.

After twelve years of prisons and exile Bakunin succeeded in escaping from Siberia and arriving in December, 1861, in London, where he was welcomed with open arms by his friends Herzen and Ogarcv. It was just then that the widespread reaction in Europe, which had followed the revolutionary happenings of 1848-49, began gradually to abate. In the Sixties new trends and a new spirit were manifest in many parts of the Continent, which inspired new hope among the rebel-minded whose goal was human freedom. The exploits of Garibaldi and his gallant bands in Sicily and on the Italian mainland, the Polish insurrection of 1863-64, the growing opposition in France to the regime of Napoleon III, the beginning of a European labor movement, and the founding of the First International, were portentous signs of forthcoming great changes. All these stirring developments made not only the revolutionists of various political lean- ings believe that another 1848 was in the making, but even impelled reputable historians to make similar forecasts. It was a time of great expec- tations, which, however, was cut short by the war of 1870-71, and by the defeat of the Paris Commune and the Spanish Revolution of 1873.

This vibrant atmosphere of the Sixties was exactly what was needed by Bakunin's impetuous urge for action, a craving by no means weakened by his past gruelling imprisonment. It almost looked as if he sought to catch up with all the activity he had missed in more than a decade of enforced silence. During the long years when he was a prisoner, first in the Austrian fortress of Olmutz and then In the Peter-and-Paul fortress and in Schliisselburg, where he was kept in unbroken solitary confinement, he was deprived of any possibility of learning what was going on in the outside world. Neither was he able to visualize during his exile in Siberia the far-flung transitions in Europe which had followed the stormy days of the two revolutionary years. Whatever he heard by accident in the exile period was only faint echoes from distant lands, of occurrences which had no relation to his Siberian surroundings.

That helps to explain why, immediately after his escape from the farthest reaches of Alexander H's domain, Bakunin tried to resume his activity where he had left off in 1849, by announcing that he was renewing his struggle against the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian despotisms, and con- tending for the union of all Slavic peoples on the basis of federated com- munes and common ownership of land.

Only after the defeat of the Polish insurrection of 1863 and Bakunin's moving to Italy, where he found an entirely new field for his energies, did his actions assume an international character. From the day he arrived in London his indefatigable inner urge drove him again and again to revo- lutionary enterprises which occupied the next thirteen years of his agitated [20 Intro

life. He took a leading part in the secret preparations for the Polish i rection, and even succeeded in persuading placid Herzen to follow a ] contrary to his inclinations. In Italy he became the founder of a socis revolutionary movement, which came into open conflict with Mazzin nationalist aspirations, and which attracted many of the best elements I Italian youth.

Later he became the soul and inspiration of the libertarian wing of 1 First International, and thus the founder of a federalist anti-authoritai branch of the Socialist movement, which spread all over the world, which fought against all forms of State Socialism. His correspond with well-known revolutionists of various countries burgeoned to an all unparalleled volume. He participated in the Lyons revolt in 1870, and i the Italian insurrectional movement in 1874, at a time when his health v obviously breaking. All this indicates the mighty vitality and will-pow that he possessed. Herzen said of him: "Everything about this man colossal, his energy, his appetite, yes, even the man himself!"

It will be easily understood why, in view of the tempestuousness of his life, most of Bakunin's writings remained fragmentary. Publication of his ; collected works did not begin until nineteen years after his death. Then, in 1895, the first volume of a French edition of those writings, edited by Max Nettlau, was brought out by P. V. Stock in Pans. That was followed by five other volumes, also issued by Stock, but edited by James Guillaurr in the period from 1007 to 1913. The same publisher announced additio Bakunin works to come, but was prevented from issuing them by con tions growing out of World War I. We know that Guillaume prepared i seventh volume for the printers, and that it was to have been brought c after the Armistice, But unfortunately it has not yet appeared. The I French volumes issued so far include, in addition to works published pamphlet form at earlier dates, the text of numerous manuscripts never before printed.

A Russian edition of Bakunin in five volumes was issued by Golos ' Truda in Petrograd in 1919-21. Notably the first of these is Statism and Anarchism, which is not in the French edition. But the Russian edition lacks several of Bakunin's works which are included in the French set. In addition to these five tomes in Russian the Bolshevik government planned to bring out in its Socialist Classics complete editions of the works of both Bakunin and Kropotkin. The editing of the Bakunin edition for this enter- prise was entrusted to George Steklov, who intended to issue fourteen volumes. But only four of these were published-containing the writings, letters, and other documents of Bakunin up to 1861. Later, however, even those four tomes were withdrawn from circulation.

Three Bakunin volumes in German were brought out in 1921-14 by the publishers of the periodical Der Syndikalist in Berlin. At my sug- gestion they undertook to produce two more volumes, the translation and

2I Introduction

preparation of which were to have been done by Max Nettlau, who also had selected the contents of and edited the second and third German volumes. But the Nazi domination of Germany prevented the publication of the additional two.

In the Nineteen Twenties a Spanish edition of Bakunin was projected by the administrators of the Anarchist daily newspaper, La Protesta, in Buenos Aires. Diego Abad de Santillan was commissioned to prepare the Spanish text for it, with Nettlau as editorial consultant. Of that edition five volumes had appeared by 1929, the fifth one being Statism and Anar- chism, with a prologue by Nettlau. But issuance of the remaining five was completely blocked by the suppression of both La Protesta and its book publishing business by Uriburu's dictatorial regime, established in 1930.

The fifth Spanish volume included the text of Statism and Anarchism, which Bakunin wrote in Russian. This book, of which, in 1878, only a few short passages had been published in French in the newspaper VAvant- Garde in Chaud-de-Fonds, Switzerland, so far has not been translated into any other language but Spanish. One special virtue of the Buenos Aires edition is the illuminating historical introduction written by Nettlau for each volume. . . . Afterward, in the time of the Spanish Civil War, Santillan tried to bring out Bakunin's works in Barcelona, and a few vol- umes in beautiful format were printed there, but the victory of Franco killed all attempts to complete that undertaking.

No complete edition of Bakunin's works has yet been issued in any language. And none of the existing editions -- except the four-volume set issued by the Soviet Russian government, contains the writings of his first revolutionary period, which are of particular interest and importance for the understanding of his spiritual evolution. Some of those writings ap- peared in periodicals or in pamphlet form, in German, French, Czech, Polish, Swedish, and Russian. Among these were his notable and widely discussed essay, The Reaction in Germany, A Fragment by a Frenchman, which, under the pseudonym Jules Elysard, he wrote for the Deutsche Jahrbiicher, published by Arnold Ruge in Leipzig; his article about Com- munism in Frobel's Schweizerischer Republikaner in Zurich, 1843; the text of Bakunin's speech on the anniversary of the Polish revolution; his anonymous articles in the Allgemeine Oderzeitung of Breslau; his Appeal to the Slavs in 1849, and other writings from that period. Later on, after his escape from Siberia, there were his Appeal to My Russian, Polish, and All Slavic Friends, in 1862; his essay The People's Cause: Romanov, Puga- chev, or Pestel?, which came out the same year in London, and various others.

Bakunin was a brilliant author, though his writings lack system and organization, and he knew how to put ardor and enthusiasm and fire into his words. Most of his literary work was produced under the direct influ- ence of immediate contemporary events, and as he took active part in [22 Introduction I

many of those events, he rarely had time for leisurely and deliberate polish- ] ing of his manuscripts. That largely explains why so many of them remained incomplete, and often were mere fragments. Gustav Landauer understood this well when he said: "I have loved and admired Mikhail Bakumn, the most enchanting of all revolutionists, from the first day 1 knew him, for there are few dissertations written as vividly as his -- perhaps that is the reason why they are as fragmentary as life itself."

Bakunin had long wished to set down his theories and opinions in a i large all-inclusive volume, a desire which he repeatedly expressed in his later years. He attempted this several times, but for one reason or another he succeeded only partly, which, in view of his prodigiously active life, wherein one task was apt to be shoved into the background by ten new ] ones, hardly could have been avoided.

The first attempt in that direction was his work The Revolutionary Question: Federalism, Socialism, and Anti-Theologism. He and his more intimate friends submitted to the inquiry committee of the first Congress of the League for Peace and Freedom, held in Geneva in 1867, a rcso- : lution intended to win the delegates over to these postulates, an effort which, because of the composition of the committee, was utterly hopeless. Bakumn expounded the three points in a lengthy argument which was to be printed in Berne. But after a few sheers had gone through the press, the job was stopped and the type-forms destroyed -- for reasons never explained. The manuscript (or most of it) surviving, the text was pub- lished in 1895 in the first volume of the French edition of Bakunin. That work runs to 205 pages. Its conclusion, however, is missing, the final printed paragraph ending with a broken sentence. We do not know whether 1 part was lost, or if Bakunin never got around to completing this n script. But the pages which were preserved show clearly that he inte to include in one volume the basic tenets of his theories and opinions.

A second and more ambitious attempt was made by Bakunin with I The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution, the first part t which was published in 1871. A second part, of which several pages I been set up in type, was never published in his lifetime. But numer manuscripts left by him, of which several had been prepared with gn care, as is evidenced by the changes in the text, prove that he was exceed- ingly anxious to complete this work.

Like most of Bakunin's literary productions, this one also was inspired by the pressing events of the hour. In that instance the compelling motif was the Franco-German War of 1870-71. He preceded that script in September, 1870, with a kind of introduction entitled Letters to a French- man About the Present Crisis, of which only a small part of 43 pages was put into print at that time. With those letters, which he had secretly dis- patched to rebel elements in France, Bakunin tried to arouse the French people to revolutionary resistance against the German invasion, and his

w 2j Introduction

personal participation in the insurrection of Lyons in September, 1871, bears witness that he was willing to risk his own life in that venture. Only after the insurrectionary efforts in Lyons and Marseilles failed and he was forced to flee from France, did he find time to work on his more substan- tial manuscript, though even then his writing was frequently interrupted. The residue of his Letters to a Frenchman, which was not printed while he lived, as well as most of the manuscripts he intended for his larger volume about the Knouto-Germanic Empire, were published for the first time, in French, long after his death.

Though Bakunin never succeeded in completing this intended larger volume, that attempt to concentrate on the most important points of his socio-philosophical theories, enabled him soon thereafter to confront Mazzini with brilliant arguments, when the latter launched his attacks against the First International and the Paris Commune. In fact, the polemical writings of Bakunin against Mazzini, and particularly his The Political Theology of Mazzini and the International are among the best he ever wrote. From various manuscripts left by Bakunin, it is evident that he meant to write a sequel to this latter pamphlet, but only a few sketchy notes on the subject were discovered.

His last important work, Statism and Anarchism, appeared in 1873. It was the only extensive text that he wrote in Russian. In it he incorporated many ideas which are found in one form or another in several other manuscripts, intended for inclusion in The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution. But of Statism and Anarchism, which, together with an appendix, comprises 332 printed pages in that Russian edition, only the first part has been published. In 1874, when Bakunin had definitely retired from both public and secret revolutionary action, he might have found time for the materialization of his life-long ambition, but his illness and worries over the problem of obtaining the bare necessities for subsistence marred the last two years of his life, though he did not suspect that he had only a short while longer to live. Yet even in those days of dire poverty he was tormented by the desire to finish the major literary task so often interrupted. In November, 1874, he wrote in the previously quoted letter to Ogarev:

"By the way, I do not sit around idle, but I work a lot. First, I am writing my memories, and second, I am preparing myself -- if my forces will allow it -- to write the last words concerning my deepest convictions. And I read a lot. Now I am reading three books simultaneously: Kolb's History of Human Culture, John Stuart Mill's autobiography, and Scho- penhauer. ... I have had enough of teaching. Now, my old friend, in our old days we want to begin learning again. It is more amusing."

But his memoirs, which Herzen had urged him so often to put on paper were never written, except for a fragment, Histoire de ma Vie, in which Bakunin tells of his early youth on the estate of his parents in Pryamu- [24 lntroductic

khino. It was published for the first time by Max Nettlau in Septemh 1896, in the magazine Societe Nouvelle of Brussels.

Even though the bulk of Bakunin's writings remained fragmentar nevertheless the numerous manuscripts he left, which saw the light print only in later years, contain many original and sagaciously develop ideas on a great variety of intellectual, political, and social problems. Ar these largely still maintain their importance and may also inspire fut generations. Among them are profound and ingenious observations on nature of science and its relation to real life and the social mutations history. One should keep in mind that those superb dissertations were writ- ten at a time when intellectual life generally was under the influence of reawakened natural sciences. At that time, too, functions and tasks we often assigned to science which it could never fulfill, and thus many its representatives were led to conclusions justifying every form reaction.

The advocates of the so-called social Darwinism made the survival of the fittest the basic law of existence for all social organisms and rebuked anyone who dared contradict this latest scientific revelation. Bourgeois and even Socialist economists, carried away by their fervor to give their own treatises a scientific foundation, misjudged the worth of human labor so greatly that they pronounced it equivalent to a commodity exchange- able for any other commodity. And in their attempts to reduce to a simple formula value for use and exchange value, they forgot the most vital factor, the ethical value of human labor -- the real creator of all cultural life.

Bakunin was one of the first who clearly perceived that the phenomena of social life could not be adapted to laboratory formulas, and that efforts in this direction would inevitably lead to odious tyranny. He by no means miscalculated the importance of science and he never intended to dispute the place to which it was entitled, but he advised caution against attribut- ing too great a role to scientific knowledge and its practical results. He objected to science becoming the final arbiter of all personal life and of the social destiny of humanity, being keenly awake to the disastrous possibilities of such a course. How right he was in his forebodings, we understand better now than most of his contemporaries could know. Today, in the age of the atomic bomb, it becomes obvious how far we may be misled by the predominance of exclusively scientific thinking, when it is not influenced by any human considerations, but has in mind only immediate results without regard to final consequences, though they may lead to extermination of all human life.

Among countless fragmentary notes by Bakunin there are various sketchy memoranda, which indicate that he meant to elaborate them when time might permit. And there was never enough time for him to do this. But there also are others, developed with meticulous care and vividly expressive language; for instance, the scintillating essay which Carlo

r [ 25


Cafiero and ElisŁe Reclus published for the first time in 1882-in pamphlet form -- under the title God and the State. Since then that pamphlet has been republished in many languages and has had the widest circulation of any of its author's writings. A logical continuation of this essay, in pages penned for The Knouto-Gernianic Empire, was found later by Nettlau among Bakunin's manuscripts, and he incorporated it under the same title in the first volume of the French edition of the Bakunin Oeuvres, after publishing an extract thereof in English in James Tochetti's magazine Liberty in London.

Bakunin's world of ideas is revealed in a diversity of manuscripts. Therefore it was no mean task to find in this labyrinth of literary frag- ments the essential inner connections to form a complete picture of his theories.

It was an admirable purpose on the part of our cherished comrade Maximoff, who died all too young, to present in proper order the most important thoughts of Bakunin, and thus to give the reader a clear exposi- tion of his doctrines in the pages which follow. This work is particularly commendable because most of Bakunin's collected writings in any language are out of print and difficult to obtain. The Russian and German editions are completely out of print, and several volumes of the French edition also are no longer obtainable. It is especially gratifying that the present edition will appear in English, because only Bakunin's God and the State and a few minor pamphlets have been issued in that language.

Maximoff divided his annotated selections into four parts, and arranged in logical sequence the fundamental concepts expressed by Bakunin on subjects including Religion, Science, the State, Society, the Family, Property, historical transitions, and his methods in the struggle for social liberation. As a profound connoiseur of Bakunin's socio-philosophical ideas and of his literary work, he was eminently qualified to undertake this project, to which he devoted years of painstaking labor.

Gregori Petrovich Maximoff was born on November 10, 1893, in the Russian village of Mitushino in the province of Smolensk. After com- pleting his elementary education he was sent by his father to the theolog- ical seminary in Vladimir to study for the priesthood. Though he finished the course there, he realized that he was not fitted for that vocation, and went to St. Petersburg, where he entered the Agricultural Academy, graduating as an agronomist in 1915.

At a very early age he became acquainted with the revolutionary movement. He was tireless in his quest for new spiritual and social values, and during his college years he studied the programs and methods of all revolutionary parties in Russia, until he came across some writings of Kropotkin and Stepniak, in which he found confirmation of many of his own ideas which he had worked out by himself. And his spiritual evolution bakunin-2.jpg



was further advanced when, later on, he discovered in a private library in the Russian interior two works of Bakunin which impressed him deeply. Of all the libertarian thinkers it was Bakunin who appealed most strongly to Maximoff. The bold language of the great rebel and the irresistible power of his words which had profoundly influenced so many of Russia's youths, now also won over Maximoff, who was to remain under his spell for the rest of his life.

Maximoff took part in the secret propaganda among the students in St. Petersburg and the peasants in the rural regions, and when finally the long awaited revolution broke out, he established contacts with the labor unions, serving in their shop councils and speaking at their meetings. | It was a period of boundless hope for him and his comrades -- which, how- ever, was shattered not long after the Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian government. He joined the Red Army to fight against the counter- revolution, bat when the new masters of Russia used the Army for police work and for the disarming of the people, Maximoff refused to obey orders of that kind and was condemned to death. He owed it to the soli- darity and dynamic protests of the steel workers' union that his life was spared.

The last time that he was arrested was on March 8, 1921, at the time of the Kronstadt rebellion, when he was thrown into the Taganka prison in Moscow with a dozen comrades on no other charge than the holding of his Anarchist opinions. Four months later he took part in a hunger strike there which lasted ten and a half days and which had wide reverberations. That strike was ended only after French and Spanish comrades, then attending a congress of the Red Trade Union International, raised their voices against the inhumanity of the Bolshevik government, and demanded that the imprisoned men be freed. The Soviet regime acceded to this demand, on condition that the prisoners, all native Russians, be exiled ] from their home land.

That is why Maximoff went first to Germany, where I had the( welcome opportunity to meet him and to join the circle of his friends. He remained in Berlin for about three years and then went to Paris. There he stayed for six or seven months, whereupon he emigrated to the United States.

Maximoff wrote a great deal about the human struggle through many [ years, during which he was at various times an editor of and contributor | to libertarian newspapers and magazines in the Russian language. In' Moscow he served as co-editor of Golos Truda (Voice of Labor), and later of its successor, Novy Golos Truda (New Voice of Labor.) In Berlin he became the editor of Robotchi Put, (Labor's Path), a magazine published by Russian Anarcho-Syndicalists. Settling later in Chicago, he was appointed as editor of Golos Truzhenika (Voice of the Toiler), which he had contributed from Europe. After that periodical ceased


jjos he assumed the editorship of Dielo Trouda-Probnzhdenie (Labor's Cause-Awakening, a name growing out of the merger of two magazines), issued in New York City, a post he held until his death. The roster of MaximofTs writings in the periodical field makes up a long and sub- stantial bibliography.

To his credit, too, is the writing of a book entitled The Guillotine at Work, a richly documented history of twenty years of terror in Soviet Russia, published in Chicago in 1940; a volume called Constructive Anarchism, brought out likewise in that city in 1952; a pamphlet, Bolshevism: Promises and Reality, an illuminating analysis of the actions of the Russian Communist Party, issued in Glasgow in 1935 and reprinted in 1937; and two pamphlets published in Russian in Germany earlier -- Instead of a Program, which dealt with the resolutions of two conferences of Anarcho-Syndicalists in Russia, and Why and How the Bolsheviks Deported the Anarchists from Russia, which related the experiences of his comrades and himself in Moscow.

MaximorT died in Chicago on March 16, 1950, while yet in the prime of life, as the result of heart trouble, and was mourned by all who had the good fortune to know him.

He was not only a lucid thinker but a man of stainless character and broad human understanding. And he was a whole person, in whom clarity of thought and warmth of feeling were united in the happiest way. For him, Anarchism was not merely a concern for things to come, but the leit-motif of his own life; it played a part in all of his activities. He also possessed understanding for other conceptions than his own, so long as he" was convinced that such beliefs were inspired by good will and deep conviction. His tolerance was as great as his comradely feeling for all who came into contact with him. He lived as an Anarchist, not because he felt some sort of duty to do so, imposed from outside, but because he could not do otherwise, for his innermost being always caused him to act as he felt and thought.

Crompond, N. Y. July, 1952.