James Joll, The Anarchists, Second Edition, 1979.

Chapter IV
Bakunin and the great schism

Pour soulever les hommes, il faut avoir le diable au corps.


Proudhon provided most of the ideas which inspired the anarchist movement. It was Bakunin who gave later anarchists an example of anarchist fervour in action; and it was Bakunin who showed how great was the difference in theory and practice between anarchist doctrine and the communism of Marx, and thus made explicit the split in the international revolutionary movement which had already been implicit in the divergence between Proudhon and Marx in the 1840s. Bakunin, too, more than any of his contemporaries, linked the revolutionary movement in Russia with that of the rest of Europe, and derived from it a belief in the virtues of violence for its own sake and a confidence in the technique of terrorism which was to influence many other revolutionaries besides anarchists.

Michael Bakunin was born in 1814 about 150 miles from Moscow, in the province of Tver,1 and in spite of a happy country childhood -- his father was a conservative but comparatively enlightened member of the provincial nobility -- he grew up to be a violently rebellious young man, with a love of stirring up dramas, which he never lost. 'Michael tells me', one of his friends wrote, 'that every time he returns home from anywhere, he expects to find something unusual.'2 Certainly, if he did not find anything unusual, he set about remedying the situation. He himself 'attributed his passion for destruction to the influence of his mother, whose despotic character inspired him with an insensate hatred of every restriction on liberty.'3 His later revolutionary activity seems to be the direct expression of a complex and turbulent [68] temperament. (Some writers have seen in his career a compensation for the sexual impotence from which he appears to have suffered.) His character changed little during his life, and it was well summed up quite early in his career by his friend, the critic Vissarion Belinsky, who wrote: 'A marvellous man, a deep, primitive, leonine nature - this cannot be denied him. But his demands, his childishness, his braggadocio, his unscrupulousness, his disingenuousness -- all this makes friendship with him impossible. He loves ideas not men. He wants to dominate with his personality, not to love.'4

Bakunin's love of ideas had already developed in the 1830s when, after a short and unsuccessful period as an officer, he had become involved in the Moscow world of literature and philosophy and become a friend of Belinsky. Like Belinsky, he was immediately swept away by the intoxication of German philosophy - first Fichte, and then Hegel, both of whom to him seemed to preach above all the cult of individual freedom and of revolt. In 1840, at the age of twenty-six, he travelled to Paris, and, like Proudhon, at once came into contact with the international radical intellectuals living there; and it was then that he first met Proudhon and Marx, and read and discussed the writings of the Young Hegelians and of Weitling. Just as Proudhon's contacts with Marx at this period revealed the difference between their temperaments as well as their doctrinal divergences, so Bakunin's first meetings with Marx gave some idea of the great schism of twenty years later. Marx, Bakunin later recalled, 'called me a sentimental idealist, and he was right. I called him morose, vain and treacherous; and I too was right.'5

Although Bakunin during his travels in Germany and France wrote a certain number of articles, his violent nature really wanted action; and it was the revolutions of 1848 which established his reputation as one of the foremost revolutionary figures of Europe. Just before the outbreak of the revolution in Paris, Bakunin had already been in trouble through his association with the Polish refugee organizations. In December 1847 he was expelled from Paris after a rousing speech in which he had offered the Poles his support in overthrowing the tsarist government. (He was to show a lifelong devotion to the cause of the Polish national revolution.) Then he hurried back to Paris the moment the revolution [69] broke out in February 1848, although he left again a month later to try to stir up trouble in Poland. He never reached Poland, however, as he was arrested in Berlin on the way, and was only released on condition that he did not continue his journey. Instead, he attended the Pan-Slav Congress organized at Prague; and this provided him with the first opportunity of addressing a large audience and of putting forward some of his basic ideas.

Bakunin's thought was never very subtle or very original; and, indeed, in all his lifelong devotion to the cause of revolution, it was in the acts of conspiracy and revolt that he expressed his passion, rather than in theories about social or economic change. His complaint that Marx was 'ruining the workers by making theorists of them' is characteristic. However, in the Foundations of Slav Policy, which he wrote for the Prague Congress, and in his Appeal to the Slavs, published at the end of the year, he put forward ideas which were to remain his stock in trade. The Slavs should form a federation, so that 'the new policy will not be a state policy, but a policy of peoples, of independent, free individuals'. Thus not only must the Austrian Empire be destroyed, but also the whole system of liberal bourgeois values which many people thought the revolutions of 1848 were aiming at establishing. 'We must overthrow from top to bottom this effete social world which has become impotent and sterile. . . . We must first purify our atmosphere and transform completely the milieu in which we live; for it corrupts our instincts and our wills and contracts our heart and our intelligence. The social question takes the form primarily of the overthrow of society.'6 And at the same time he wrote to the German poet and radical politician, Herwegh: 'The epoch of parliamentary life, of Constituent and National Assemblies and so forth is over. Anyone who squarely asks himself the question must confess that he no longer feels any interest, only forced and unreal interest, in these ancient forms. I do not believe in constitutions and laws; the best constitution in the world would not be able to satisfy me. We need something different; inspiration, life, a new lawless and therefore free world.'7

Proudhon had taken as his motto Destruam et aedificabo. For Bakunin, on the other hand, the act of destruction was sufficient in itself, for there was in his view a fundamental goodness in man and a fundamental soundness in human institutions which would [70] automatically be released once the existing system was overthrown; and the initial act of revolutionary violence would reveal the natural virtues of man without much further preparation. Bakunin believed that these virtues were especially to be found in the Russian peasantry, and it was they who were somehow to take the lead in the redemption of Europe. Bakunin's Slavophil enthusiasm, as expressed at the Prague Congress, included a strong anti-German feeling which his quarrel with Marx was later to reinforce, so that for many years in the history of the European socialist movement, German Marxism seemed to represent the type of centralized, disciplined and bureaucratic political creed to which the anarchists in Russia and France or Spain or Italy were irrevocably opposed.

At the Pan-Slav Congress at Prague, Bakunin revealed another characteristic passion -- that for establishing largely imaginary secret societies. All his life he was to see himself as the great conspirator, at the centre of a web of clandestine organizations controlled by himself and organized, in theory, on the basis of a 'strict hierarchy and unconditional obedience'. He was always planning central committees of which, as often as not, no other members except himself were ever appointed. Yet such was Bakunin's charm and conviction that young men willingly went off on a wild-goose chase to contact other cells of a conspiracy which often existed only in Bakunin's imagination. The first of such recruits was a young Czech journalist recruited at the time of the Prague Congress; and years later Bakunin was still issuing membership cards of non-existent organizations, such as the one which ran: 'The bearer of this is one of the accredited representatives of the Russian Section of the World Revolutionary Alliance no. 2771.'8 However, Bakunin's make-believe undoubtedly helped him to put across his own view of the nature of the revolution and of his own place in it, and by the end of his life the police of several countries took Bakunin's conspiracies as seriously as he did himself.

During the winter of 1848 -- 9, Bakunin was in Saxony; and in the spring of 1849 he was caught up in the brief but violent revolution in Dresden which was the last radical outburst in Germany before the counter-revolution triumphed. In fact, he had little sympathy with its aims, which were to protest against [71] the king's dissolution of the Diet, a body of which Bakunin thoroughly disapproved. But the excitement of being actually present at a real revolution was too much for him, and he fought on the barricades, along with another revolutionary figure whose impact on nineteenth-century Europe was in a different way to be at least as great as his own -- Richard Wagner. With the collapse of the revolution Bakunin was arrested and there began the long period of imprisonment which was to contribute much to his later reputation as the great revolutionary. The Saxon authorities sentenced him to death, but eventually handed him over to the Austrians, who wanted to punish him for his activities at Prague and his advocacy of the destruction of the Empire. They, in their turn condemned him to be executed but yielded to the Russian government's request that it was as a rebellious and actually condemned Russian subject that Bakunin should be punished. From 1851 to 1857 he was in prison in Russia; and in 1857 his sentence was commuted to one of banishment in Siberia. In 1861 he escaped with remarkable ease, after being released on parole, using his family connections and his own social position, and made his way, via Japan and the United States, to London. His escape was so simple, and had even been helped by various Russian officials in Siberia, that it was sometimes rumoured that Bakunin was actually a tsarist agent. There was no truth in these reports; but they were typical of the sort of attack which many subsequent anarchist leaders had to meet from their Marxist rivals, and they were often revived in the struggle between Bakunin and Marx a decade later. Moreover, just as Proudhon had aroused the suspicion of other radicals by his brief flirtation with Bonapartism, so Bakunin, too, had in the first stages of his imprisonment produced a curious document, a Confession to the Tsar, in which, speaking as 'a prodigal, estranged and perverted son before an indulgent father', he narrated the story of his life, though without compromising any of his revolutionary associates, and then went on to express his deep patriotic Slav feelings and his even deeper detestation of the Germans. The Confession was not published for seventy years; and not many people seem to have known about it at the time. It is a reflection of Bakunin's Russian nationalism as much as of any subservience to the tsar, and its interest lies more in the light it throws on the Dostoievskian [72] side of Bakunin's nature than in its political significance. Yet, as in Proudhon's case, there is perhaps also a touch of the impatience and exasperation of the anarchist who, when confronted with more conventional revolutionaries and reformers, turns in desperation to authority in the hope of achieving his aims.

Bakunin's arrival in London brought him right into the centre of the international revolutionary movement. He went to live with the Russian exiles, Herzen and Ogarev, and, indeed, was to depend largely on Herzen for his financial support. Bakunin's prestige among the revolutionary groups was very great; and the malicious rumours about the circumstances of his escape could not dim the reputation which his revolutionary acts in 1848-9 and his subsequent long imprisonment had brought him. His appearance, too, was most impressive. He was immensely tall, immensely energetic, with at times an almost childlike simplicity. 'His activity, his leisure", his appetite,' Herzen wrote, 'like all his other characteristics -- even his gigantic size and continual sweat -- were of superhuman proportions, and he himself remained, as of old, a giant with leonine head and tousled mane.'9 In comparison with the force of his character and his charm, Bakunin's defects -- his complete fecklessness about money, his impetuosity, his childish petulance -- hardly showed except to his intimate friends, such as Herzen, who was tolerant and ironical enough to put up with him.

Bakunin remained in London for some three years; and, although he met Marx, whom he suspected of encouraging the rumours that he was a tsarist agent, at Marx's request and although he discussed the International with him, he played no part in the founding of the organization. In 1864, the year of the foundation of the International, Bakunin settled in Italy and lived there for the next three years, first in Florence and then in and around Naples. It was in Naples that he was to find his first disciples, and Italy has remained one of the countries from which anarchist ideas have never entirely vanished. The appeal of Bakunin's revolutionary anarchism in the Italy of the 1860s was considerable. He arrived there just at the moment when Mazzini, for a generation the hero of all the radical republicans in Italy, was beginning to lose some of his influence over the young. Although Mazzini had been one of the great prophets of Italian unification, [73] that unification had been accomplished in 1860 without his aid, and in a constitutional form -- the Monarchy - to which he was bitterly opposed. There were some among the younger republicans who thought that Mazzini's liberalism was sterile and old-fashioned, and who saw in Bakunin a new and more exciting revolutionary leader preaching a social revolution at a moment when it appeared that the political revolution of the previous years had not solved many of Italy's social problems.10 Moreover, the' young radicals of Naples, with whom Bakunin quickly became friendly, were already much influenced by Proudhon's ideas. Carlo Pisacane, who had been defeated and killed when he tried to raise a republican rebellion against the Bourbons in 1857, had spread ideas of federalism and mutualism among his followers, and they were ideas which seemed even more attractive after 1860 when republicans in the south felt that the centralized monarchy of the House of Savoy might be as dangerous to liberty as their own local Bourbon dynasty which they had just overthrown.

Bakunin himself, too, found in Italy just the sort of situation which appealed to him. Whereas Marx had become convinced that the revolution could only take place in industrial societies and by means of the class-conscious industrial proletariat, Bakunin saw the possibility of revolution in non-industrial societies, such as Italy or his native Russia. Soon after his arrival in Italy he was writing as follows: 'The advent of the social revolution is in no country nearer than in Italy. In Italy there does not exist as in other countries of Europe a privileged class of workers who, thanks to their considerable wages, pride themselves on the literary education they have acquired; they are dominated by the principles of the bourgeois, by their ambition and vanity, to such an extent that they are only different from the bourgeois by their situation and not in their way of thinking.'11 The contrast between Bakunin's belief in the revolutionary potentiality of those with nothing to lose (an idea which, as we have seen, he may well have derived from Weitling) and Proudhon's ideal of the self-educated, self-improving peasant or craftsman cooperating with his neighbour to build a new society, is an obvious one and has remained a dichotomy in the anarchist movement. In fact, however, Bakunin was to find his disciples from both types of worker. For all his [74] belief in the Lumpenproletariat, it was among the watchmakers of the Swiss Jura -- some of the most skilled and best-educated artisans of Europe -- that his most devoted followers were to be found. At the same time he was to recruit in Italy a band of loyal anarchists who were to be among the leaders of European anarchism in the next generation, and whose following lay among the ignorant and oppressed workers of the Italian cities and countryside, so that even in our time it was possible to find Roman or Sicilian children called 'Bakunin' or the three daughters of an anarchist father bearing the truly anarchist names of Hunger, Poverty and Revolution. [ Fame, Miseria, Rivoluzione.]

While Bakunin was in Italy he founded the first of the international revolutionary organizations to which he was to devote the rest of his life. This was called the International Brotherhood and, although Marx had already launched the International Working Men's Association in London, he did not yet regard Bakunin as a serious rival and indeed welcomed his activity in Italy as a means of lessening Mazzini's influence. However, before his activities in Italy had become very important, Bakunin, whose movements were always largely determined by his perpetual financial difficulties, had settled in Switzerland, and it was there, from 1867 on, that the most influential phase of his life was passed.


Once in Switzerland, Bakunin soon became the centre of innumerable plans, intrigues, projects, hopes and fears. His exuberant temperament, his love of conspiracy, his faith in the revolutionary potentialities of Russia, Italy and Spain, his feckless Bohemian way of life and his desire to surround himself with friends and disciples, all involved him in a series of difficult situations, and all produced consequences, which, by their very inconsistency, illustrate the internal conflicts from which the anarchist movement has constantly suffered. Bakunin's deep hostility to tsarist Russia was matched by an equally deep faith in the power of Russia not only to redeem herself but also to point the way towards a [75] European revolution. For Bakunin, the oppressed were naturally revolutionary, and only needed leadership to make them rise in revolt.

We are talking about the great mass of the working class, which, worn out by its daily labour, is ignorant and wretched. Whatever political and religious prejudices people have tried and even partly succeeded to implant in its consciousness, it remains socialist without knowing it; it is basically and instinctively and by the very force of its position more seriously and more really socialist than all the bourgeois and scientific socialists put together. It is socialist through all the conditions of its material existence, through all the needs of its being, while the others are only socialist through the needs of their thoughts; and in real life, the needs of a man's being always exert a much stronger influence than those of his thought, thought being here, as everywhere and always, the expression of being, the reflections of its successive developments, but never its moving principle.12

This being so, it was in the backward countries that revolution was most likely, even if the oppressed classes themselves did not realize it. 'The Russian people', Bakunin says, 'are socialist by instinct and revolutionary by nature.'13 The same is true of Italy, where 'the workers are socialist and revolutionary by circumstance and by instinct . . . but they are still in almost complete ignorance of the true causes of their miserable situation'.14 'The mass of Italian peasants', he wrote in 1871, 'already constitutes an immense and all-powerful army for the social revolution. Led by the proletariat of the towns and organized by the young socialist revolutionaries that army will be invincible.'15 However, it is no use waiting for the slow processes of education to make the people aware of their own interests. 'We must not teach the people, but lead them to revolt.'16 The act of revolution would be sufficiently educational in itself. 'Many of the good bourgeois socialists', Bakunin once wrote, 'are always telling us, "Let us instruct the people first and then emancipate them." We say on the contrary, "Let them emancipate themselves first and they will instruct themselves of their own accord." '17 The Russian peasants were, in Bakunin's eyes, in a particularly strong position, [76] since they had traditional forms of organization, village communes and the like, so that they might well be in a position to set an example to the working class in more advanced countries, if only they could be given vigorous revolutionary leadership. 'If the workers of the West delay too long,' he wrote in 1869, 'it will be the Russian peasant who will set them an example.'18

With his deep feelings for Russia and his faith in its revolutionary future, Bakunin was particularly anxious to feel himself in touch with the younger generation inside Russia. He thus welcomed enthusiastically in 1869 a twenty-two-year-old Russian, Sergei Gennadevich Nechaev, who appeared in Switzerland claiming to have escaped from a Russian prison. 'I have with me', Bakunin wrote to a Swiss friend, 'one of those fanatical young men who know no doubts, who fear nothing and who have decided in an absolute way that many, very many of them, must perish at the hands of the government, but who will not stop because of that until the Russian people rise. They are magnificent, these young fanatics, believers without gods, heroes without phrases.'19 Bakunin's friendship with Nechaev was to cause him personal pain and political trouble, but nevertheless it was important for the development of anarchist concepts, since it was his association with Nechaev, a man of truly terrorist temperament, that led to Bakunin being widely regarded as an advocate of terror as the most effective way of challenging the values and the power of the state.

Nechaev was a self-made revolutionary, a dark, lonely tortuous man, part poseur, part fanatic, part idealist, part criminal. He had been born in very humble circumstances in the developing textile centre of Ivanovo, north-east of Moscow, but he soon succeeded in getting away to Moscow and attending classes at the university there. The revolutionary students whom he met there had been much impressed by the attempt to assassinate the Tsar Alexander II in 1866; they read and admired the writings of Buonarroti and were devoted to the idea of the conspiratorial life. In Moscow, Nechaev had met Peter Nikitich Tkachev, the most consistent and thoroughgoing of these neo-Jacobins. He was a man whose doctrine of the professional dedicated revolutionary elite was to have considerable influence on Lenin and, although he had, like all his generation, fallen under the spell of the Bakunin legend, he was to [77] end up by advocating a rigorously organized revolutionary movement and completely rejecting Bakunin's anarchist ideas. Nechaev and Tkachev produced in 1868 a Programme of Revolutionary Action which contained elements both of Bakuninist anarchism and of Tkachev's later centralized discipline. The leaders of the revolutionary insurrection would be men of a new stamp, dedicated wholly to the revolutionary cause and finding in their activity the full freedom and development of their personality. The revolutionary groups were to be decentralized and members were to change places, so that no one should be corrupted by the exercise of too much authority. Above all, the revolutionary must have no loyalties except to the revolution: 'Those who join the organization must give up every possession, occupation or family ties, because families and occupations might distract members from their activity.'20

When Nechaev arrived in Geneva in the spring of 1869, with all sorts of largely invented tales about his revolutionary past, he found Bakunin eager to cooperate with him and to place himself at the head of the new revolutionary generation in Russia. While in Geneva, Nechaev drafted a Revolutionary Catechism, a set of Principles of Revolution, and other manifestoes, which proclaimed the necessity of ruthless terror in the fight against the state.21 Anyone who flouted and despised the values of existing society was an ally in the revolutionary cause:

Brigandage is one of the most honoured aspects of the people's life in Russia. . . . The brigand in Russia is the true and only revolutionary, without phrase-making, without bookish rhetoric. Popular revolution is born from the merging of the revolt of the brigand with that of the peasant. . . . Even today this is still the world of the Russian revolution; the world of brigands and the world of brigands alone has always been in harmony with the revolution. The man who wants to make a serious conspiracy in Russia, who wants a popular revolution, must turn to that world and fling himself into it.22

The revolutionary despises and hates present-day social morality in all its forms ... he regards everything as moral which helps the triumph of revolution. ... All soft and enervating feelings of friendship, relationship, love, gratitude, even [78] honour, must be stifled in him by a cold passion for the revolutionary cause. . . .Day and night he must have one thought, one aim -- merciless destruction.

We recognize no other activity but the work of extermination, but we admit that the forms in which this activity will show itself will be extremely varied -- poison, the knife, the rope, etc. In this struggle, revolution sanctifies everything alike.23

Nechaev, before returning to Russia, was calling for immediate, personal, violent action.

Without respect for lives, without hesitating before any threat, fear or danger, we must -- with a series of personal acts and sacrifices succeeding each other according to a predetermined established plan, with a series of bold, not to say rash, attempts - throw ourselves into the life of the people, from which to stir up faith in itself and us, faith in its own power, to shake it, unite it and urge it towards the triumph of the cause. . . . We have a uniquely negative plan that no one can modify: complete destruction.24

Nechaev's career as a revolutionary ended in a sordid and mysterious fashion. After his return to Moscow, he murdered a student who was a member of his organization, perhaps because he feared treachery, or perhaps simply to demonstrate his own power over his followers, and then fled back to Geneva. Here he not only tried to seduce Herzen's daughter for her money, but also started to intrigue against Bakunin. In 1872 he was arrested and extradited to Russia, where he died in prison ten years later. Bakunin sadly admitted that he had been taken in by a crooked, dubious adventurer, and wrote: 'We were fools, and how Herzen would have had the laugh of us if he had been alive and how right he would have been to scold us. Well, there is nothing to be done. Let us swallow the bitter pill, and we shall be wiser in future.'25

The brief association of Bakunin and Nechaev had openly linked the doctrine of anarchism with the practice of individual terrorism, and with far-reaching results. From 1870 on there was always to be a section of the anarchist movement ready to commit acts of terrorism, if not for their own sake at least to symbolize a [79] total revolt against society. Criminals and brigands were often able to claim that they were carrying out anarchist principles and that their crimes served to expose the hypocrisy and greed of the order they were attacking. There was to be a series of terrorist actions in Russia which, even if their aim was not the anarchist one of abolishing the state, derived their technique from the movements with which Bakunin and Nechaev had been associated. All over Europe and elsewhere, terrorism was to become an accepted political weapon; and in some cases, as in that of the conspiracy which led to the murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914, it was directly inspired by the anarchist example.


This Nechaev affair, although it absorbed much of Bakunin's energies in 1869 and 1870, was not the most important episode in his years in Switzerland. As soon as he arrived there he was involved in the politics of the local radical groups, both Swiss and foreign, and, more important, through them with the politics of the International. At the same time, it was in these years that his influence in Italy was being consolidated and that the foundations were being laid in Spain of what was to be the most important section of the anarchist movement anywhere.

When Bakunin arrived in Geneva in 1867 there was already a vigorous revolutionary movement in the neighbouring districts, especially among the watchmakers in the mountains of the Jura. If his experiences in Italy had convinced him of the revolutionary potentialities of the landless peasant and of those workers with no stake in society, it was in Switzerland that he found another type of working man, the skilled artisan, thoughtful and self-improving, who was trying to create in the conditions of his working life something of the atmosphere of the society of the future. Bakunin himself told them: 'Working in small groups in your workshops or often working at home in your houses, you earn much more than you would in the great industrial factories which employ hundreds of workers; your work is intelligent and artistic, it does not brutalize you as working with machines does. [80] Your skill and intelligence contribute much to it. And in addition you have more leisure and relative freedom; that is why you are better educated, freer and happier than others.'26 Bakunin was perhaps over-impressed by the enthusiasm with which he was greeted, for the watchmakers of Saint-Imier and La Chaux-de-Fonds were often underpaid and exploited, forced to depend on others for the marketing of their products and the supply of raw materials, and they were increasingly worried by the change from a home-based to a factory-based industry.27 Nevertheless, the freedom and the possibilities of education and discussion which their work allowed were real enough; and, under the influence of Dr Coullery, a radical doctor, who was soon joined by schoolmaster and historian James Guillaume, they were already sufficiently well organized to have got in touch with the General Council of the International as early as 1865. When Bakunin appeared among them they at once responded to his teaching and to the warmth and exuberance of his personality, and 'Michel', as he soon became known in the Swiss Jura, became a familiar figure at their meetings.

Bakunin was thus directly involved in local working-class politics in Switzerland as well as maintaining contact with anarchists and revolutionaries in Russia, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. He was accordingly both caught up in purely Swiss disputes -- for instance in the rivalry in Geneva between skilled workers in the watch trade and the unskilled building labourers - and, more important, in the politics of the International.

Bakunin had not hitherto been directly involved with the International, though his relations with Marx had been superficially quite friendly. His first public appearance at an international gathering after his arrival in Switzerland was, in fact, at a meeting in September 1867 of a heterogeneous liberal organization called the League for Peace and Freedom, of which the star was Garibaldi and which was also attended by Victor Hugo and John Stuart Mill as well as by a number of members of the International. Bakunin, however, was already sufficiently famous a European figure to appear side by side with the Italian hero, and indeed the two men seem to have felt an instinctive liking for each other, as though their simplicity and directness and their dedication to revolutionary causes enabled them to transcend wider [81] differences of belief and tactics. An eyewitness described Bakunin's entry into the congress hall: -

As with heavy, awkward gait he mounted the steps leading to the platform where the bureau sat, dressed as carelessly as ever in a sort of grey blouse, beneath which was visible not a shirt but a flannel vest, the cry passed from mouth to mouth, 'Bakounine'. Garibaldi, who was in the chair, stood up, advanced a few steps and embraced him. This solemn meeting of two old and tried warriors of revolution produced an astonishing impression. . . . Everyone rose, and there was prolonged and enthusiastic clapping of hands.28

Bakunin never regarded membership of one revolutionary body as incompatible with membership of another. His Revolutionary Brotherhood, which he had founded while in Italy, was still nominally in existence, and in September 1868 he was to start yet another organization, the International Social Democratic Alliance. Consequently, it did not seem to him to be contradictory to try and make the League of Peace and Freedom more revolutionary by taking it bodily into the International, which had just shown its concern for the revolutionary cause in Switzerland by supporting a strike by the building workers of Geneva. Bakunin therefore used the congress of the League of Peace and Freedom at Berne as an opportunity for expressing his own revolutionary views and for opposing the mild bourgeois liberalism of most of the delegates, and he declared: 'In order to become a beneficial active force, our League ought to become the purely political expression of the great social-economic interests and principles which are now being so triumphantly developed and disseminated by the great International Association of Working Men of Europe and America.'29 There was little chance of the League's becoming a truly revolutionary body, and Bakunin's proposals were defeated. Immediately afterwards Bakunin broke with the League of Peace and Freedom and decided to join the International. 'Once opposing ideas and tendencies of a bourgeois-sentimental kind were found to be in a majority,' he said, 'there was no place in it for a serious and sincere revolutionary. The tool had been tried, it had been found unsuitable, it had to be thrown [82] away; it only remained to seek another. The International Working Men's Association presents itself as such.'30

Bakunin apparently did not wholly realize the problems which his joining the International would raise. His Swiss friends already belonged; his relations with Marx had been distant, but mostly not unfriendly, while his admiration for Marx as a thinker was very great. Marx, he wrote in 1870, was a man 'of great intelligence, equipped with profound learning, whose whole life, one can say without flattery, has been solely devoted to the greatest cause which exists today, that of the emancipation of the workers.'31 Marx himself described Bakunin as 'a man devoid of all theoretical knowledge',32 but in fact he shared most of his general theoretical convictions with Marx. He was a convinced materialist; he believed deeply that the world could be understood in terms of scientific laws and that there was no need for any metaphysical or theological explanation of social, economic, political or ethical behaviour, and indeed that such explanations only served to obscure men's knowledge of their own interest. It was, he wrote, Marx's materialism that made him superior to Proudhon, whose great misfortune was 'never to have studied the natural sciences and taken over their method'. Marx, on the other hand, 'is on the right track. He has established the principle that all religious, political and juridical developments are not the causes but the results of economic developments.'33 Yet the two men were too different in temperament ever to cooperate happily. Their clash of temperament was to develop into a conflict of doctrine, and differences about revolutionary tactics were to result in the division of the international working-class movement, a division from which it has never wholly recovered.

Marx's attitude to the International was always an ambivalent one. He believed in the importance of an international organization for the propagation of his own ideas and for maintaining control over the growing working-class movements of Europe. At the same time, however, he was often sceptical about the congresses of the International which did not directly serve these ends and which might give opportunities for the spread of doctrines which, in his view, would prevent the working class from seeing what the correct course of action was. In fact, at the early congresses of the International, Marx's followers were outnumbered by those of [83] Proudhon, and, since these were most numerous in France and Switzerland, they were particularly strong at the congress held at Geneva in the late summer of 1866 -- the first since the founding of the International. Marx had already expressed doubts about the congress before it met: 'Although I am spending much time on the preparations for the Geneva Congress,' he wrote on 23 August, 'I am neither able nor willing to attend, because it is impossible for me to leave my work for a time. I expect thanks to it [my work] to do something more important for the working class than anything I can do personally in any congress.'34

Most of the Proudhonian members of the congress were by now comparatively mild and unrevolutionary. The purely anarchist side of Proudhon's doctrine was neglected in favour of his 'mutualist' ideas about credit and economic organization. Many of his disciples now even envisaged some forms of state action, in the field of education, for instance; and the attempt by Tolain to get the Geneva congress to adopt a strong class-conscious revolutionary and anti-intellectual line was defeated. 'We hate no one,' he said, 'but in present conditions we are bound to consider as our adversaries all the members of classes which are privileged whether as capitalists or by virtue of a college degree.'35 This dislike of intellectuals was often to recur among later anarchists -- 'Pas de mains blanches, settlement les mains calleuses' was a popular slogan -- and it was an emotion which Bakunin often shared. The defeat of Tolain's motion and the confusion of the ideas of most of the delegates to the 1866 congress may well have contributed to Bakunin's willingness, after his own adherence to the International two years later, to accept the Marxists' attempts to make the organization more efficient and to give it a more class-conscious basis. Bakunin's own idea after joining the International was to create an organization which would train 'propagandists, apostles and finally organizers' and produce, as-it were, the shock troops of the revolution to evangelize the workers all over Europe. The body that was to do this was called by Bakunin the International Social-Democratic Alliance. He did not apparently think of this as outside the International or in any way contrary to its purposes, but rather as an elite organization inside the International which would inspire its members with continuous revolutionary fervour. 84

The Alliance was the most effective of the many organizations invented by Bakunin, and by the end of 1868 it had branches in Lyons and Marseilles, had taken up again Bakunin's Neapolitan contacts and had dispatched Giuseppe Fanelli to Madrid and Barcelona to launch the Spanish anarchist movement on its remarkable course. It is not surprising that these activities were looked on with the deepest suspicion by Marx and Engels in London, and, however loyal Bakunin was to the International in intention, the Social Democratic Alliance must have appeared to be a rival organization which aimed at taking over its functions. Bakunin was puzzled by Marx's hostile attitude. In a letter in December 1868 he wrote to Marx, after receiving complaints from him in a letter from Marx to one of his associates in Geneva:

You ask him if I am still your friend. Yes, more than ever, my dear Marx, because I now understand better than ever how right you have been in following and inviting us all to tread the high road of economic revolution and in attacking those among us who were about to get lost in undertakings which were either nationalist or exclusively political. I am now doing what you started to do more than twenty years ago. Since the solemn and public farewell I addressed to the bourgeois at the Berne Congress, I know no other society, no other milieu than the world of the workers. My fatherland is now the International, of which you are one of the main founders. You see then, dear friend, that I am your disciple, and I am proud to be so. . . .36

This letter confirmed Bakunin's rejection of the League of Peace and Freedom, even if it did not say anything specifically about the Alliance. But in any case, however conciliatory it was meant to be, it arrived too late. On the day on which it was written the General Council of the International, which three months earlier had formally condemned the League of Peace and Freedom, now pronounced against the International Social Democratic Alliance: 'The presence of a second international body operating inside or outside the International Working Men's Association would be the surest way of disorganizing the latter.'37

Again Bakunin was prepared to cooperate: he suggested that the Alliance should be dissolved and that its sections should become directly sections of the International. The questions of [85] organization and control which were so important to Marx meant little to Bakunin: but Marx, once he felt his authority challenged, was determined to destroy Bakunin's influence in the International. The crisis came at the congress of the International at Basle in September 1869. Whereas previously Bakunin had seemed to Marx and his supporters to be threatening the jurisdiction of the General Council of the International, at Basle he questioned their position on matters of policy and doctrine. Neither Marx nor Engels attended the congress, while Bakunin's Swiss supporters were naturally there in some strength. Bakunin actually gave yet another demonstration of his willingness to accept the authority of the General Council and supported their proposal that their own executive powers should be extended and that they should have the right to suspend from membership any section acting against the spirit of the International.38 Nor was there any immediate major quarrel about doctrine in the discussions on property and the collective ownership of land, which took up much of the congress's time. Bakunin opposed the General Council's views, however, on the comparatively minor question of including the abolition of the right of inheritance in the immediate programme of the International. The Marxists argued, with some justification, that this was something which would look after itself after the revolution, and that there was no need to make a specific point of it at this stage. However, it was a matter on which Bakunin had long held strong views. For him, hereditary property, far from being one of the many comparatively unimportant evils that would vanish with the transformation of society, was the basis on which the whole of existing society rested. The abolition of hereditary property, therefore, was an essential step towards the dissolution of the state, and any state which could be persuaded or forced to abolish inherited wealth would have taken a first and crucial step towards abolishing itself. Moreover, in Bakunin's view, it is only hereditary fortunes which prevent all men being equal: he denied that there was any inequality of natural gifts, and believed that it was only environment which produced the inequities of present society. 'The immense majority of men are not identical, but equivalent and consequently equal.'39 Take away the inherited wealth from the rich man, and with it all the privileges of good nourishment, good education, [86] good housing that it has brought him, and he will be no better than anyone else.

Bakunin's insistence on this point at the Basle congress may have been tactically mistaken and brought him little practical advantage. However, he carried his point, and the General Council's resolution was defeated by Bakunin and his Swiss, French and Belgian friends. When the result was known Eccarius, the German tailor from London who was Marx's representative at the congress, exclaimed: 'Marx will be extremely displeased.'41 Marx's immediate reaction was that things might have gone worse at the congress. 'I am glad the Basle congress is now over,' he wrote to his daughter on 25 September, 'and that its results-have been comparatively good. Such open displays of the party and all its sores always worry me.'42 During the next six months, however, Marx and Engels, egged on by some of Bakunin's personal enemies among the refugees in Geneva, launched an all-out attack on Bakunin, both politically and personally. While the sections of the International in Switzerland became involved in increasingly bitter quarrels between the followers of Marx and those of Bakunin, all the personal grievances and complaints against Bakunin's behaviour were revived. The rumours that he was a Russian agent -- a charge from which he had been formally cleared at the Basle congress -- were repeated; Marx remembered that Bakunin had omitted to think him for the presentation copy of the first volume of Capital; there were suggestions that Bakunin, who was supposed to be preparing the Russian translation of the book, had pocketed the advance and not done the work -though Mehring, the official German socialist historian of the Marxist movement, remarks understandingly: 'How many others, including many of the most famous, have not at some time or other found themselves in the position of having spent their advance and being unable to perform the promised work?'43

Throughout the next two years, against the dramatic background of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, the dispute dragged on in a war of letters, circulars and pamphlets repeating the same accusations and rebuttals. Marx had come to believe, as firmly as the police of most of Europe, that Bakunin was leading a vast secret conspiracy. Bakunin and his friends were more and more convinced that Marx's attempts to organize the [87] working-class movement on a centralized basis would frustrate the revolutionary aims which the movement was meant to serve. As the Jura anarchists put it in their 'Sonvillier Circular' of November 1871, after Marx's attack had been launched: 'How can you expect an egalitarian and a free society to emerge from an authoritarian organization? It is impossible. The International, embryo of future human society, must be from this moment the faithful image of our principles of liberty and federation, and reject from its midst any principle leading to authority and dictatorship.'44

Bakunin was slow to take up Marx's personal and political challenge himself, and left it to his Swiss friends to represent his views, partly from a genuine respect for Marx, partly from tactical considerations and partly from other preoccupations - his relations with Nechaev and his personal financial difficulties, as well as his growing interest in the anarchist movements in Spain and Italy and the shock of the war of 1870. Moreover, he was conscious that the breach with Marx, when it did come, should come on a clear question of principle. 'The situation might arise,' he wrote to Herzen in October 1869, 'and indeed quite soon, in which I would engage in a struggle with him, not because of his personal insults, but for a question of principle, the question of State Communism, of which he himself and the English and German parties he controls are the warmest partisans. Then it will be a struggle to the death. But there is a time for everything and the hour for this struggle has not yet struck.'45

It was Marx who decided when the hour had come. In the summer of 1871 he summoned a private conference of the International in London. This was both an attempt to take stock of the situation of the International after the collapse and repression of the Paris Commune and a means, Marx hoped, of finally eliminating Bakunin's influence. None of Bakunin's close supporters attended the conference, although some of his views were supported by some of the delegates even though they were always in a minority. At the London conference, Marx came out openly in favour of the formation of a working-class political party which was to be the organ of the emancipation of the proletariat: 'Against the power of the propertied classes, the proletariat can only act as a class by turning itself into a political party.'46 This [88] was, of course, directly aimed at Bakunin and his complete rejection of political action; and another resolution declared that 'the incident of the Alliance of Social Democracy' was now considered closed. Marx was, as it turned out, to be disappointed with the results of the London conference. Except in Germany, the proletariat did not seem eager to constitute itself into a political party under the direction of Marx and the International, while Baku-nin's influence remained as great as ever in Spain, Italy and Switzerland, and over a considerable number of the International's supporters in France and Belgium.

By 1872 Marx had made up his mind that the International had in any case served its purpose, and indeed the repression which everywhere followed the Paris Commune made its activities extremely difficult. Marx and Engels began by sending out a so-called Private Circular of the General Council of the International -- on The Alleged Scissions in the International -- in which the old charges, personal and political, against Bakunin were repeated and which ended with the clearest statement yet to appear of the doctrinal differences between Marxists and anarchists:

Anarchism, that's the great warhorse of their master Bakunin, who has taken nothing but the labels from socialist systems. All socialists understand by anarchism the following: once the goal of the proletarian movement, the abolition of classes, is attained, then the power of the state which serves to maintain the great productive majority under the yoke of a small exploiting minority, disappears, and the governmental functions are transformed into simple administrative functions. The Alliance looks at things the other way round. They proclaim anarchy in the ranks of the proletariat as the most infallible means of breaking the powerful concentration of political and social forces in the hands of the exploiters. On this pretext, they demand of the International, at the moment when the old world is trying to break it, to replace its organization by anarchy. . . ,'47

This final violent attack was not unexpected by Bakunin: 'The Damocles sword with which they have threatened us for so long has at last fallen on our heads. It is not exactly a sword, but Mr Marx's usual weapon, a heap of filth.'48 Soon after, Marx summoned [89] a congress of the International at the Hague, sufficiently far from Switzerland, Spain and Italy to make it difficult and expensive for Bakunin's supporters to attend in any numbers. Bakunin was not there himself; the Swiss James Guillaume was the spokesman for Bakunin's ideas. Marx was there in person. The proceedings were squalid and undignified. The usual accusations against Bakunin were repeated, including the one of financial dishonesty over the translation of Capital. After acrimonious discussions, Guillaume and his friends were expelled; and it was decided to move the seat of the General Council to the United States. Marx had scored his victory over Bakunin, but it was, in fact, the end of the International.

The immediate causes of the split in the international working-class movement were comparatively unimportant; a misunderstanding about the relations between the International Social Democratic Alliance and the International Working Men's Association, an argument about the abolition of hereditary property, local differences among the workers in the Geneva neighbourhood and allegations against Bakunin's personal integrity. Inevitably, however, since both sides needed a grander issue of principle on which to take their stand, the differences of approach and doctrine were formalized and magnified. The state communism based on a centralized disciplined party which the Marxists proposed was attacked by the anarchists, who offered instead a vision of a free federation of independent communes in which 'capital, factories, tools and raw materials belong to associations, and land to those who cultivate it'. Bakunin, however, was always more interested in the making of the revolution and in the preservation of liberty than in the economic organization of society. Bakunin had declared to the League of Peace and Freedom in 1868:

I detest communism, because it is the negation of liberty and because I can conceive nothing human without liberty. I am not a communist because communism concentrates and absorbs all the powers of society into the state; because it necessarily ends in the centralization of property in the hands of the state, while I want the abolition of the state -- the radical extirpation of the principle of authority and the tutelage of the state, which, on [90] the pretext of making men moral and civilized, has up to now enslaved, oppressed, exploited and depraved them,'49
And again, although he realized that Proudhon lacked Marx's intellectual grasp of the world and his systematic philosophical intelligence, nevertheless it was to Proudhon that he felt himself most drawn temperamentally and instinctively:
Proudhon understood and felt liberty much better than Marx; Proudhon, when he was not dealing with doctrine and metaphysics, had the true instinct of the revolutionary - he worshipped Satan and proclaimed anarchy. It is possible that Marx might theoretically reach an even more rational system of liberty than that of Proudhon -- but he lacks Proudhon's instinct. As a German and a Jew he is authoritarian from head to foot. Hence come the two systems: the anarchist system of Proudhon broadened and developed by us and freed from all its metaphysical, idealist and doctrinaire baggage, accepting matter and social economy as the basis of all development in science and history. And the system of Marx, head of the German school of authoritarian communists.50

The difference of temperament between Marx and Bakunin also led to a fundamental difference in the methods by which they believed the revolution could be achieved. For Marx the revolution would come through the ineluctable processes of history and through the gradual realization by the proletariat of their place in the inevitable class struggle. For Bakunin, on the other hand, the revolution could be provoked by a handful of devoted and fanatical leaders who would exploit the potentialities for revolution already existing. 'Three men alone if they stand united already form an important beginning of strength', he wrote to his Italian followers. 'Now what will happen when you organize your country to the extent of some hundreds. ... A few hundred young men of good will are certainly not enough to create a revolutionary power without the people . . . but they will be enough to reorganize the revolutionary power of the people.'51 'You want a popular revolution,' he told an Italian disciple on another occasion, 'consequently there is no need to recruit an army, since your army is the people. What you must form are [91] general staffs, a network well organized and inspired by the leaders of the popular movement. For this purpose you do not, in fact need to have available a large number of people initiated into the secret organization.'52

This preference for loosely organized secret societies over the mass political parties which Marx's followers were organizing, especially in Germany, led to a radical difference in the tactics and organization of the revolution. As Bakunin put it:

Their aim is the same: both parties want equally to create a new social order founded on the organization of collective labour. . . . Only the communists imagine that they can attain it by the development and by the political power of the working class and mainly of the urban proletariat with the assistance of bourgeois radicalism, while the social revolutionaries . . . think, on the contrary, that they can only attain this power by the organization of non-political power -- power which is social and consequently anti-political -- of the working masses in the towns and countryside. . . . Hence there are two different methods. The communists believe that they must organize the working-class forces to seize political power in states. Revolutionary socialists organize in order to destroy, or, if you want a politer word, liquidate states. . . .53
While Bakunin admitted that discipline would be necessary in a revolution (though it was not a quality for which he had any natural respect), the discipline of the revolutionary movement would not be the dictatorial, dogmatic discipline of the communists, but rather
the voluntary and considered agreement of individual efforts towards a common aim. At the moment of action, in the midst or the struggle, there is a natural division of roles according to the aptitude of each, assessed and judged by the collective whole: some direct and command, others execute orders. But no function must be allowed to petrify or become fixed, and it will not remain irrevocably attached to any one person. Hierarchical order and promotion do not exist, so that the commander of yesterday can become a subordinate tomorrow. No one rises above the others, or if he does rise, it is only to fall back [92] again a moment later, like the waves of the sea for ever returning to the salutary level of equality.54

Bakunin realized clearly that the methods used to make the revolution were bound to affect the nature of society after the revolution had been made, and therefore insisted that the organization of the revolutionary movement should resemble the type of social organization which the revolution aimed at establishing. This was perhaps the most fundamental difference from Marx. Although Marx and Engels believed that the state would eventually wither away, they were less interested in this than in the analysis of existing society and in the methods of transforming it. Engels expressed the difference between the two viewpoints as follows:

All socialists are agreed that the political state and with it political authority will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the authoritarian political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions which give rise to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will on the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon -- authoritarian means if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not wish to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries.55

The tragedy of the revolutionary movement has been that Engels was right, and that, while still proclaiming - as Khrushchev came near to doing at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union -- that the disappearance of the state is the ultimate goal, the communists have owed their effectiveness to the ruthless discipline of their organization; while those revolutionaries, such as the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, [93] who have put Bakunin's organizational doctrines into practice, have failed to survive.

Bakunin's quarrel with Marx led him to formulate many of his beliefs about the libertarian society and the nature of the revolution more clearly than he had done before. Moreover, during the years of his association with the International he was nearer than before to realizing his dream of an international revolutionary movement with himself as its centre. He was making new contacts in Italy, and anarchist groups and periodicals were appearing in a number of places, organized by young lawyers and students, such as the medical student Errico Malatesta, who first got in touch with the anarchists in Naples in 1871, and who was to continue stoutly to maintain his anarchist beliefs well into the fascist era. Most of these groups did not last long, but new anarchist sections were soon formed again. The idea of anarchism as a doctrine peculiarly suited to Italian social circumstances never wholly died; and, although the movement never became the force it was in Spain, anarchism long remained a living creed in Italy and was to influence much Italian political practice and to produce recurrent disturbances, while Italian immigrants to the United States took their ideas with them and found them appropriate to the crude, violent class struggle characteristic of industrial life in many parts of America at the end of the nineteenth century. As late as the 1920s two Italian anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, were to provide a cause celebre in which a whole generation of American liberals came of age.

The most remarkable of Bakunin's successes was in Spain. In 1868, Elie Reclus, one of two brothers who were to become eminent intellectual leaders of the anarchist movement, went to Spain at the moment of the proclamation of the First Republic, and in October the Geneva Section of the International published an address to the Spanish workers, proclaiming that the demand for provincial autonomy, which the liberal leader Pi y Margall had long been pressing, would prepare the way for anarchism: 'The Spanish people will proclaim the republic based on the federation of autonomous provinces, the only form of government which, temporarily and as a means of arriving at a social organization in conformity with justice, offers real guarantees of popular freedom.'56 In mid-November, 1868, another disciple of [94] Bakunin was sent to Spain and laid the foundations of an organized anarchist movement there. This was Giuseppe Fanelli. Fanelli was a young architect and engineer who had given up his profession to devote himself to politics. He was first a follower of Mazzini and was elected a deputy (and made full use of the privilege of free rail travel attached to the office, since it is said that he spent every night on the train to save the cost of lodging). In 1865 he met Bakunin, and, like so many young followers of Mazzini, at once switched his allegiance to him as the representative of the true revolution. Fanelli's mission to Spain was surprisingly successful. He did not know Spanish; he failed to find the companion who was supposed to be making the journey with him; he had been given the wrong address in Madrid; he was short of money. Nevertheless, he succeeded in making contact with a group of young intellectuals who were already familiar with the doctrines of Fourier and Proudhon, and who were anxious to use the overthrow of the monarchy and the creation of a new republic as an opportunity for social revolution. They were naturally excited to hear of the existence of the International, and Fanelli made an immediate impression on them. Anselmo Lorenzo, one of the group, wrote many years later:

He was a man of about forty years old, tall with a serious and pleasant face, a thick black beard, large expressive black eyes which shone like torches or took on an aspect of affectionate compassion according to the emotion he was feeling. His voice had a metallic ring and could take on all the inflections suitable to what he was expressing, passing rapidly from accents of rage and threats against exploiters and tyrants to those of suffering, pity and consolation. . . .37
Talking in French, which his hearers scarcely understood, Fanelli all the same succeeded in forming a section of the International which accepted the programme of Bakunin's Alliance, without yet realizing that there was growing opposition between Bakunin and Marx; indeed the anarchists in Spain, like those of Italy, were often scarcely aware of the divisions, schisms and controversies of London or Geneva. The movement was launched and soon struck root; and the demand of the first followers of Bakunin in Barcelona: 'We want the end of the reign of capital, of the state and [95] the church, to construct on their ruins anarchy, the free federation f free associations of workers'58 -- this demand became over the next sixty years the creed of millions of Spaniards.

Bakunin's hopes of becoming the centre of a European movement for social revolution were disappointed by 1871. He had been very excited by the Franco-Prussian War, and all his anti-German sentiments, inflamed as they had been by his differences with Marx, made him passionately pro-French, so that the French defeat made him afraid that France would become a German province and that 'instead of living socialism, we will have the doctrinaire socialism of the Germans'.39 At first, it is true, the fall of Napoleon III gave Bakunin hopes of taking part in a real revolution for the first time since 1849. He hurried to Lyons in September 1870 and plunged into republican politics there. However, his passionate pleas for immediate revolutionary action met with little response, and by the end of September Bakunin was forced to leave the city for Marseilles, and then to return to Switzerland in disillusionment and poverty. Even the Paris Commune of March 1871 did little to encourage him, although some of his friends, associates or admirers -- Varlin, Benoit Malon, Elisee Reclus -- were actively involved. In fact, after 1871, Bakunin, feeling old, ill and disillusioned, withdrew to Switzerland. He was now largely preoccupied with extending his influence in Italy, and, from the estate near the Italian frontier on Lake Maggiore, which his young Italian admirer Cafiero had bought for him, he was in touch with the Italian section of the International and was actively engaged in a polemic with Mazzini, who had lost much credit with the younger revolutionaries by his outspoken condemnation of the Commune. In 1874 Bakunin went briefly to Italy with the intention of joining a rising at Bologna, which the Italian anarchists hoped would be part of a general spontaneous revolt throughout the peninsula. The attempt, like so many of Bakunin's projects, ended in disaster; plans were betrayed to the police, many of the conspirators lost their nerve, and Bakunin, alter contemplating suicide (his personal and financial situation was more disastrous than it had ever been), escaped disguised as a pest and retired once more to Switzerland, where he at last withdrew from active revolutionary work, and died on 1 July 1876. [96]

The year before he died Bakunin wrote to Elisee Reclus: 'Yes, you are right, the revolution for the moment has returned to its bed, we have fallen back into a period of evolution, that is to say one of subterranean revolutions, insensible and even often imperceptible.'60 The repression of the Paris Commune and the measures taken by the other governments of Europe, while they succeeded in giving the impression that the International had been far more effective than in fact it was, made most revolutionary activity impossible. The International would have hardly been able to survive even if Marx had not decided that it had served its purpose and even if it had not been badly split between Marxists and anarchists. However, it soon acquired a legendary status and was to serve as an ideal for the working class of Europe for fifty years or more. At the same time, the Commune, too, provided a myth which both Marxists and anarchists were to exploit. For the Marxists, the Commune was a classic example of a proletarian revolution directed by the International. For the anarchists, it was a pattern of a future anarchist society; it was 'simply the City of Paris administering itself. . . . Oh! how splendid it would be, Paris running its own business, having the same aim for each, the same scale, the same justice, the same fraternity!'61 It was Bakunin's achievement that the idea of the libertarian revolution was now as strongly launched as Marx's doctrine of a disciplined class struggle and a centralized revolutionary movement. In Professor Franco Venturi's words: 'Bakunin succeeded in making a revolutionary mentality rather than a revolutionary organization.'62 As, during the next twenty years, revolutionaries began to think of new methods of effective action, the revolutionary mentality often seemed in some places and circumstances more effective than a revolutionary organization.


1 For Bakunin's life see E. H. Carr, Michael Bakunin (London 1937).

2 ibid., p. 38.

3 ibid., pp. 8-9.

4 ibid., p. 12.

5 ibid., p. 130.

6 Quoted ibid., p. 173.

7 Quoted ibid.

8 ibid., p. 378.

9 Quoted ibid., p. 242.

10 On the relations between Bakunin and Mazzini, see N. Rosselli, Mazzini e Bakunin (Turin 1927); see also R. Hostetter, The Italian Socialist Movement. I, Origins (1860-1882) (Princeton, N.J., 1958), and Arthur Lehning, Michel Bakounine et I'ltalie. Textes etablies et annotees (Leiden 1961).

11 Quoted A. Sergent and C. Harmel, Histoire de Vanarchie (Paris 1949), p. 413.

12 Bakunin, Oeuvres (Paris 1890-1911), vol. V, p. 180.

13 Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, quoted F. Venturi, Il Populismo russo, 2 vols (Turin 1952), vol. II, p. 710.

14 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. IV, p. 32.

15 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. VI, p. 399.

16 Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, quoted Venturi, op. cit., vol. II, p. 708.

17 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. V, p. 107.

18 ibid., p. 252.

19 Bakunin to James Guillaume, 13 April 1869, quoted Venturi, op. cit., vol. I, p. 595.

20 Quoted Venturi, op. cit., vol. I, p. 592.

21 See Michael Confino, Violence dans la violence (Paris 1973) and Daughter of the Revolution (London 1974).

22 Quoted Venturi, op. cit., vol. I, p. 601.

23 Quoted Carr, op. cit., pp. 379-80.

24 Quoted Venturi, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 605, 607.

25 Quoted Carr, op. cit., p. 393.

26 Bakunin, 'Lecture in Val de Saint-Imier', 1871, Oeuvres, vol. V, pp. 325-6.

27 See the valuable unpublished Oxford D.Phil, thesis by R. A. G. Miller 'The Watchmakers of the Swiss Jura 1848-1900' (1974).

28 Vyrubov, quoted Carr, op. cit., p. 329.

29 Quoted ibid., p. 338.

30 Quoted ibid., p. 344.

31 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. IV, p. viii.

32 Marx to F. Bolte, 23 November 1871, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works (London 1950), vol. II, p. 422.

33 Bakunin, Aux freres de I'Alliance en Espagne (1872), quoted Max Nettlau, Bakunin und die Internationale in Italien bis zum Herbst 1872 in Archiv fur die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung, vol. II (1911-12), pp. 283-4.

34 Marx to Kugelmann, 23 August 1866, quoted J. L. Puech, Le Proudbonisme dans l'Association Internationale des Travailleurs (Paris 1907), p. 112.

35 Quoted ibid., pp. 135-6.

36 Bakunin to Marx, 22 December 1868, Neue Zeit, 1900-1, pp. 6-7.

37 Carr, op. cit., p. 352.

38 Franz Mehring, Karl Marx (Leipzig 1918), p. 424.

39 Bakunin, article in L'Egalite, 1869, Oeuvres, vol. V., p. 151.

41 Carr, op. cit., p. 366.

42 Marx to Laura Lafargue, quoted Mehring, op. cit., p. 427.

43 Mehring, op. cit., p. 497.

44 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. II, pp. xlix-1.

45 To Herzen, 28 October 1869, Oeuvres, vol. V, pp. 233-4.

46 Resolution IX of the London Conference. For an excellent discussion of the significance of the conference and of the decline of the International, see Miklos Molnar, Le Declin de la Premiere Internationale: La Conference de Londres de 1871 (Geneva 1963).

47 Les Pretendues Scissions dans l'Internationale, Circulaire Privee du Conseil General de L'Association Internationale des Travailleurs (Geneva 1872), p. 37. This and other documents have been conveniently reprinted in Jacques Freymond (ed.), La Premiere Internationale, Recueil de Documents (Geneva 1962, 2 vols).

48 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. II, p. 1.

49 J. Guillaume, L'Internationale: Documents Souvenirs 1864-1878 (4 vols., Paris 1905-10), vol. I, pp. 74-5.

50 Quoted Nettlau, Bakunin und die Internationale in Italien, pp. 283-4.

51 Bakunin, At miei amid d'ltalia . . . quoted M. Nettlau, Bakunin e l'Internazionale in Italia (Geneva 1928), p. 253.

52 ibid., p. 320.

53 Guillaume, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 160-1.

54 Bakunin, L'Empire Knouto-Germanique et la Revolution Sociale (1871), Oeuvres, vol. II, p. 297.

55 F. Engels (January-February 1873) in Almenacco Repubblicano 1874, quoted Marx and Engels, Selected Works, vol. I.

56 M. Nettlau, Miguel Bakunin, la Internacional y la Alianza en Espana 1868-1873 (Buenos Aires 1925), p. 20.

57 Anselmo Lorenzo, El Proletariado Militante (Mexico City n.d.), p. 19.

58 Nettlau, M. Bakunin, la Internacional y la Alianza en Espana, p. 53.

59 Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. II, p. 272.

60 Bakunin to Elisee Reclus, 15 February 1875, quoted James Guillaume, op. cit., vol. Ill, p. 284.

61 Le Pere Duchene, no. 8 du 30 ventose an 79, quoted Charles Thomann, Le Mouvement Anarchiste dans les montagnes neuchdteloises et le Jura bernois (La Chaux-de-Fonds 1947), p. 52.

62 Venturi, op. cit, vol. II, p. 699.