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Bakunin, Mikhail Alexandrovich

BAKUNIN, MIKHAIL ALEXANDROVICH

(18141876), world-famous revolutionary and one of the founders of Russian anarchism and revolutionary populism.

Although born into a nobleman's family, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin was hostile toward the tsarist system and the traditional socioeconomic and political order. An extreme materialist, he was bitterly antireligious and saw organized religion as oppressing people.

Despite his revolutionary passion, Bakunin, as a contemporary Western philosophical encyclopedia puts it, "was learned, intelligent, and philosophically reflective." By contrast, a Soviet-period philosophical dictionary describes Bakunin as a "revolutionary-adventurer [who] blindly believed in the socialist instincts of the masses and in the inexhaustibility of their spontaneous revolutionary feeling, especially as found among the peasantry and lumpen -proletariat."

The "reign of freedom," Bakunin insisted, could come for the masses and for everyone only after the liquidation of the status quo of traditional bourgeois society and the state. Bakunin soon fell out with the Marxists, with whom he had originally been tenuously allied in the First International in Geneva. He denounced the Marxist teaching of the necessity of a dictatorship of the proletariat in order to usher in the new order of socialism. He also disagreed with those Russian revolutionists who advocated terrorism and various forms of postrevolutionary authoritarianism and dictatorship, such as the Russian Jacobins. "Every act of official authority," Bakunin once wrote, "necessarily awakens within the masses a rebellious feeling, a legitimate counterreaction."

In a letter to the 1860s revolutionary terrorist Sergei Geradievich Nechayev, Bakunin once wrote: "You said that all men should follow your revolutionary catechism, that the abandonment of self and renunciation of personal needs and desires, all feelings, all attachments and links should become a normal state of affairs, the everyday condition of all humanity. Out of that cruel renunciation and extreme fanaticism you now wish to make this a general principle applicable to the whole community. You want crazy things, impossible things, the total negation of nature, man, and society!" Here Bakunin seemed to be renouncing his own, earlier brief leanings toward authoritarianism before adopting his anarchist philosophy.

For Bakunin, government of any kind, like religion, is oppressive. The church, he said, is a "heavenly tavern in which people try to forget about their daily grind." In order for people to gain freedom, religion and the state must be swept away along with all forms of "power over the people." Their place will be taken by a "free federation" of agricultural and industrial cooperative associations in which science reigns.

Bakunin spent much of his life abroad. He emigrated from Russia in 1840 to live in central and western Europe. There he formed close ties with other famous Russian émigrés, such as Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Ogarev.

Bakunin's relations with the First International and Karl Marx were stormy. Resenting Marx's high-handedness and authoritarian political ideology, Bakunin was finally expelled from the communist world organization in 1870. Soon after this, his The State and Anarchy was published in several languages. In this work, in quasi-Hegelian terms, he describes the historical process by which mankind evolves from "bestiality" to freedom.

See also: anarchism; herzen, alexander ivanovich; nechayev, sergei geradievich; populism

bibliography

Venturi, Franco. (1966). Roots of Revolution: A History of the Populist and Socialist Movements in Nineteenth Century Russia, trans. Francis Haskell. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.

Weeks, Albert L. (1968). The First Bolshevik: A Political Biography of Peter Tkachev. New York: New York University Press.

Albert L. Weeks

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Bakunin, Mikhail

Mikhail Bakunin (mēkhəyēl´ bəkōō´nyĬn), 1814–76, Russian revolutionary and leading exponent of anarchism. He came from an aristocratic family but entered upon revolutionary activities as a young man. He took part (1848–49) in the revolutions in France and Saxony and was sent back to Russia and exiled to Siberia. Escaping (1861), he went to London, where he worked with Aleksandr Herzen. In 1868, Bakunin became active in the First International, where, with his militant anarchist doctrines, he had great influence. These doctrines, however, brought him into conflict with Karl Marx, and he was expelled (1872). Bakunin believed that man is inherently virtuous and deserving of absolute freedom obtained through extreme individualism. He advocated violent overthrow of existing states and institutions as a necessary step to achieving such freedom. His writings include God and the State (1882, tr. 1893).

See studies by R. B. Saltman (1983) and A. Kelly (1987).

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"Bakunin, Mikhail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Bakunin, Mikhail Alexandrovich

Bakunin, Mikhail Alexandrovich (1814–76) Russian political philosopher. He became a believer in violent revolution while in Paris in 1848, and was active in the first Communist International until expelled by Karl Marx in 1872. His approach, known as revolutionary anarchism, repudiated all forms of governmental authority as fundamentally at variance with human freedom and dignity. In God and the State (1882), Bakunin argued that only natural law is consistent with liberty.

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"Bakunin, Mikhail Alexandrovich." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Bakunin, Mikhail Alexandrovich." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bakunin-mikhail-alexandrovich