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The Basic Bakunin, writings 1869-1871
Remetente: Luiz  Fernando  Bier  Melgarejo  <fernando@edugraf.ufsc.br>
Data  de  Envio: 1996-07-17  09:32:28.000
History is written by the victors.  The victory of Stalinism in 
the USSR was certainly one of the reasons why the works of 
Marx were classified, published, translated and sold into the 
millions.  The opposite is true for Mikhail Bakunin's 
political ideas.  

Bakunin led an adventurous life travelling throughout 
Europe.  When it was once remarked to him that his 
manuscripts were in disarray he replied "my life itself is a 
fragment." (see introduction).
This has meant that many of his major works remain 
untranslated and published.  There are many well paid 
academics who call themselves Marxists but only a handful, 
like Noam Chomsky, with the courage to call themselves 
anarchists.  So the work of translating and printing 
Bakunin's ideas remains the work of a handful of dedicated 
and unpaid activists.  This book is a useful addition to that 
ongoing effort.
It is a collection of writings spanning what Cutler describes 
as "a phase of his activity which is central to his anarchism, 
which is generally agreed to be one of his most significant 
projects and which marks the height of his influence in his 
They were originally written as articles for the Swiss 
newspapers 'L'Egalite' and 'Le Progress'  in 1869.  As_articles 
they are well written and readable, not boring economic or 
political tracts.
Cutler divides the writings into five parts.  Parts 2, 3 and 4 
would be of greatest interest to present day anarchists or 
activists with an interest in anarchism.  These deal with the 
differences between bourgeois and revolutionary socialism 
(his terms!), and the programme and tactics which 
revolutionaries need to succeed.
Much of his time was spent trying to differentiate his ideas 
from those of Marx.  Bakunin's position in this battle of 
ideas is clearly outlined in chapters like that on the policy of 
the International Workingmen's (sic) Association.  Bakunin 
emphasised the point that ideas are not handed down ready 
made by intellectuals hot out of the library.  Ideas are learned 
through living and through struggling.  As he says of "the 
worker". (p.103)
"On the other hand, through practice and collective 
experience, which is naturally always more broadening and 
instructive then any isolated experience, the progressive 
expansion and development of the economic struggle will 
bring him more and more to recognise his true enemies: the 
privileged classes, including the clergy, the bourgeoisie and 
the nobility; and the state."
Socialism was not bought in from "without" but was carried 
instinctively by the great majority.(p.140)  "People have 
always longed for their emancipation from every yoke that 
has enslaved them."
This instinct was not enough though, organisation was 
necessary.  Bakunin pointed to the International Working 
Men's Association of which he was then a member as an 
example of how to organise.  He shows how it was acting as 
a leadership of ideas. (p.140)  "The International's influence 
has never been anything but one of opinion".
This he compares to the state which never calls on workers 
for anything other then their "submission".
Besides these basic anarchist arguments there are other 
articles on a range of issues like nationalism, social 
democracy, education, land and inheritance, and the general 
Overall this book is readable, inspirational and still relevant.  
Unlike the adoration of Marx by some Marxists, we don't 
claim Bakunin as a deity with all the answers.  But he did 
point us in the right direction.  As a basic introduction to 
anarchist ideas you could do worse than start here.
Des McCarron 
Available from the WSM bookservice PO Box 1528, Dublin 8 
for #8.00 inc. p+p.

The Basic Bakunin, writings 1869-1871

Translated and edited by Robert M Cutler
Prometheus Books, New York, #6.95

Workers Solidarity 48 is now on the web alongside other
anarchist publications like Red && Black Revolution.

See it at

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