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Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (Russian Михаил Александрович Бакунин), (May 30, 1814 - June 13, 1876) was a well-known Russian anarchist contemporaneous to Karl Marx. He was best known as one of the first generation of anarchist philosophers, and has been called one of the "fathers of anarchism".

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Biography Bakunin was born of an aristocratic family in the village of Pryamuhino[?] (Прямухино) between Torjok[?] (Торжок) and Kuvshinovo[?] (Кувшиново), in the government of Tver[?], northwest of Moscow, in the spring of 1814. At the age of 14 he left for St. Petersburg where he was given military training at the Artillery University. On completion of his studies in 1832, he was commissioned as a junior officer in the Russian Imperial Guard[?] and sent to Minsk and Grodno, Poland. After two to three years in service, Bakunin resigned his commission in 1835 out of disgust of despotism aroused by witnessing the repressive methods employed against the Poles.

After leaving service, he spent time in Moscow and then St. Petersburg, working on translations of works by authors such as Fichte[?] and Hegel. In 1842, he proceeded to Germany, studied Hegel, and soon got into touch with the leaders of the young German movement in Berlin. From there he went to Paris, where he met Proudhon and George Sand, and also made the acquaintance of the chief Polish exiles. From Paris he journeyed to Switzerland, where he resided for some time, taking an active share in all socialistic movements.

While in Switzerland, Bakunin was ordered by the Russian government to return to Russia, and on his refusal his property was confiscated. In 1848, on his return to Paris, he published a fiery tirade against Russia, which caused his expulsion from France. The revolutionary movement of 1848 gave him the opportunity of entering upon a violent campaign of democratic agitation, and for his participation in the Dresden insurrection[?] of 1849 he was arrested and condemned to death. The death sentence, however, was commuted to imprisonment for life, and he was eventually handed over to the Russian authorities, by whom he was imprisoned and finally sent to eastern Siberia in 1855.

Bakunin received permission to remove to the Amur region, from where he succeeded in escaping, making his way through Japan and the United States to England in 1861. He spent the rest of his life in exile in western Europe, principally in Switzerland. In 1869 he founded the Social Democratic Alliance[?]; however, this organisation was refused entry to the First International, on the grounds that it was an international organisation, and only national organisations were permitted membership. The Alliance dissolved in the same year it was formed, and the various groups which it was composed of joined the International separately.

In 1870 Bakunin led a failed uprising in Lyons on the principles later exemplified by the Paris Commune. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels later approved of the Paris Commune and described it as an example of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Bakunin's disagreements with Marx, which led to his expulsion from the International in 1872 after being outvoted by the Marx party[?] at the Hague congress[?], give a clear cut representation of the differences between the Marxist view on the one hand of the need for an intermediate socialist state prior to the dissolution of the state, and Bakunin's opposition to the the notion that such an intermediate step was needed. Although Bakunin accepted Marx's class analysis[?] (acknowledging Marx's "genius"), he thought Marx was arrogant, and that his authoritarian methods would lead to totalitarianism which would compromise a communist revolution (a prediction that many believe has been proved accurate). Marx in turn said Bakunin was a "sentimental idealist," which Bakunin freely admitted.

He retired to Lugano[?] in 1873 and died at Bern on June 13, 1876.

Political beliefs Bakunin's political beliefs rejected governing systems in every name and shape, from the idea of God downwards; and every form of external authority, whether emanating from the will of a sovereign or from universal suffrage. "The liberty of man," he wrote in his Dieu et l'Etat (published posthumously in 1882), "consists solely in this, that he obeys the laws of nature, because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been imposed upon him externally by any foreign will whatsoever, human or divine, collective or individual." Natural laws being thus recognized by every man for himself, Bakunin's reasoning went, an individual could not but obey them, for they would be the laws also of his own nature; and the need for political organization, administration and legislation would at once disappear.

Bakunin similarly reject the notion of any privileged position or class, for "it is the peculiarity of privilege and of every privileged position to kill the intellect and heart of man. The privileged man, whether he be privileged politically or economically, is a man depraved in intellect and heart."

Bakunin's methods of realizing his revolutionary program were no less purposeful than his principles. The revolutionist, as Bakunin described, would be a consecrated man, who allowed no private interests or feelings, and no scruples of religion, patriotism or morality, to turn him aside from his mission, the aim of which is by all available means to overturn the existing society.

See also: anarchism


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