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Biography

Three of the most notable types of the revolutionistic innovators of this century are Mazzini (1808--1872), Proudhon (1809--1865), and Bakunin (1814--1876). All three were essentially "men of 48." The culmination of their teaching was then first attempted to be put in practice. But they were so much in advance of their time, that it may still be generations ere the seed they sowed shall ripen into fruit. The three were alike in restless daring, and noble aspiration. But the Italian was the refined and passionate idealist, the Frenchman the intrepid thinker, and the Russian the sturdy man of action. It is with Bakunin, as the least known in England, that I propose at present to briefly deal.

Bakunin, the founder of Russian Nihilism, was born at Torshok, in the department of Tver, in 1814. He came of an aristocratic family and was educated for military service at St.Petersburg. Even in these early years he seems to have seen that soldiers were serfs bribed by pay and decorations to keep down their fellow serfs. The artillery branch, in which he was, in common with the most favored aristocracy, had greater freedom, of thought and research than any other branch of the service, and the powerful mind of Bakunin was stimulated towards philosophy. Hegalianism was then rising in vogue, and he obtained permission to study in Germany. He visited Berlin, Dresden and Leipsic, mastering the Hegelian philosophy, which he afterwards characterised as the "Algebra of Revolution," but already inclining to the heterodox school which produced men like Ludwig Freuerbach and David Friedrich Strauss. Bakunin himself put forward several notable philosophical essays under the nom de guerre of "Jules Elisard." In 1843 he visited Paris and became acquainted with Pierre Joseph Proudhon, who in that year published his profound work on The Creation of Order in Humanity. The Russian became, a disciple of the French Anarchist, and the next few years of his life were devoted to making the Social Democratic movement also anarchist and international. His permission to reside abroad, which had only brought on him the suspicion of being a Russian spy, was recinded by the Russian Government. Instead of obeying the order to return to Russia he issued an address to Poles and Russians to unite in a Pan-Slavonic revolutionary confederation. Ten thousand roubles were offered for his arrest, and the French government expelled him. But the revolution of February 1848 brought him back to Paris, whence he rushed as a torch of revolution to Prague to stir up the Congress of Slavs. Soon after we find him in Saxony, where be became a member of the insurrectionsry government. Forced to fly from Dresden he was captured, sent to prison, and condemned to death in May 1850. His sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. He contrived to escape into Austria, was again captured and sentenced to death, but eventually was surrendered to Russia. He was kept for several years in a dungeon in the fortress of Neva, and at length was deported to Siberia. He spent many years amid the horrors of penal servitude, but his spirit was unvanquished. He finally succeeded in escaping and walking eastward over a thousand miles, under extreme hardship, and at last reached the sea and obtained passage to Japan. From there he sailed to California, thence to New York, and in 1860 appeared in London. He had suffered innumerable hardships and adventures, had mixed with all sorts and conditions of men, from the rulers of Europe to the wild hairy Ainus, and had everywhere found that government was tyranny. He threw himself into revolutionary schemes with redoubled enthusiasm. With Hertzen he published the Kolokol, or Tocsin of Revolution. His demand for the abolition of the State drew him more and more into conflict with the Marxian wing of the revolutionary Socialist party, and in 1872 he was expelled from the Congress of the International Association, carrying however, thirty delegates with him. Meanwhile he had helped to build up the Nihilist party in Russia on the basis of undoing, present injustice without seeking to hamper, or even to guide, the natural evolution of the future. Switzerland was his only safe centre of operations, and here, with hands, heart and brain full of revolutionary schemes, he died on July 1st, 1876.

Carlo Cafiero and Elisée Reclus, in their preface to Bakunin's God and the State, say: "In Russia among the students, in Germany among the insurgents of Dresden, in Siberia among his brothers in exile, in America, in England, in France, in Switzerland, in ItaIy among all earnest men, his direct influence has been considerable. The originality of his ideas, the imagery and vehemence of his eloquence, his untiring zeal in propagandism, helped too by the natural majesty of his person and by a powerful vitality, gave Bakunin access to all the socialistic revolutionary groups, and his efforts left deep traces everywhere, even upon those who, after having welcomed him, thrust him out because of a difference of object or method." Bakunin, it is evident, was rather the stimulator than the organiser. He wrote wonderful letters, arousing the torpid and nerving the timid. Fertile in suggestion, his writings were of the nature of fragments cast off red-hot from the fiery furnace of his mind. "My life," he used to say, "is but a fragment." Most notable of the aforesaid fragments is his booklet on God and the State, in which those twin instruments of oppression are attacked with equal vehemence and vigor. It is on the pretence of divine authority that human authority is founded, and Bakunin, "apostle of destruction" as he was called by the Belgian economist Lavaleye, looked forward to the time when "human justice will be substituted for divine justice." Bakunin shows that the superstitions and stupidities of religious belief are the natural outcome of ignorance and oppression, with only the dram- shop and the church, debauchery of the body and debauchery of the mind, as the relief to a life of serfdom. But the work is accessible to all, and to those who like to come into contact with a vigorous mind I say:--"Read it; and if you do not like it, Read it again By J. M. W.

Chronology of Bakunin's Life

Michael Aleksandrovich Bakunin born May 18, 1814 (Russian calander), May 30, 1814 (European calander), in the village of Premukhino in the province of Tvar.

1828 Sent to St. Petersburg to prepare for Artillery School

1829 entered the Artillery School in St. Petersburg.

1832 commissoned as a junior officer and sent to Misk and Grodno in Poland.

1835 resigned commission.

1836 moved to Moscow and studied philosophy.

1836 translated Fichte's Lectures on the Vocation of the Scholar.

1838 March: published Preface to Hegel's Gymnasium Lectures.

1840 moved to St. Petersburg and in June to Berlin to study and prepare for a professorship at the University of Moscow.

1842 moved to Dresden and collaborates with Arnold Ruge in publishing Deutsche Jahrbücher.

1842 published "Reaction in Germany" in October.

1843 moved to Bern and Zurich, meets Wilhelm Weitling.

February 1844 moved to Paris, via Brussels.

February 1844 ordered home by Russian government.

December 1844 stripped of his nobel status and sentenced in abstensia to hard labor in Siberia.

1844-1847 meets and talks with Proudhon often and Marx occasionally, and is on friendly terms with George Sand.

November 29, 1847 at the banquet in Paris commemorating the Polish insurrection of 1830, Bakunin delivered a speech denouncing the Russian government and is subsequently expelled from France. Russian ambassador, in an attempt to discredit Bakunin, circulates the false rumor that Bakunin is employed by the Russian government to pose as a revolutionary.

1847 expelled from France in December and moved to Brussels where he met Marx again.

February 1848 returned to Paris after February Revolution.

March 1848 met Marx and Engels in Cologne and split begins over Marx's denunciation of Bakunin's frined Herwegh, who had led an ill-fated expedition of German exiles to Baden in the hope of instigating an uprising.

June 1848 particpated in Slav Congress and insurrection in Prague.

June 1848 Marx publishes false report that Bakunin is a Russian agent responsible for the arrest of Poles.

Latter part of 1848 expelled from Prussia and Saxony, and spends the rest of the year in the principality of Anhalt.

December 1848 Appeal to the Slavs. published.

January 1849 secretly arrived in Leipzig to prepare for an uprising in Bohemia.

April 1849 moved to Dresden.

May 3, 1849 popular rebellion broke out in Dresden and Bakunin emerged as a "heroic" leader.

May 9. 1849 the rebellion crushed, Bakunin, Richard Wagner and Heuber escaped to Chemnitz where Bakunin and Heuber are arrested while Wagner hides in his sister's house and escapes.

January 14, 1850 while held in the Königstein fortress, Bakunin is condemned to death.

June 1850 death sentence commuted to life imprisonment, after which Bakunin is extradited to Austria.

March 1851, after first being jailed in Prague, then Olmütz where he is sentenced to hang. Although the death sentence is commuted, Bakunin is chained hand and foot to the prison wall and suffers acutely. Shortly thereafter, he is handed over to the Russians and imprisoned in the dungeons of the Fortress of Peter and Paul.

1851 Confession to Tsar Nicholas I.

1854 moved toSchüsselberg prison where he succumbs to scurvy, causing his teath to fall out.

1857 Tsar Alexander relents, Bakunin is released from prison and sentenced to perpetual exile in Siberia.

1858 married Antonia Kwiatkowski, a young Polish girl, on October 5 and moved to Irkutsk.

June 1861 Bakunin contrives to escape Siberia, arrives in Nikolavsk in July, sails on the Strelok to Kastri where he boards an American merchant ship, Vickery, to Hakodate, Japan. Next he makes his way to Yokohama, and, in October, sails to San Francisco. In November he crosses to New York, and on December 27, 1861 he arrived in London.

1862 published To My Russian, Polish and Other Slav Friends, and The People's Cause: Romanov, Pugachev, or Pestel?

1863 goes to Stockholm and is reunited with his wife, then back to London, and on to Italy.

Mid-1864 back to Sweden, then London, where he saw Marx, and on to Paris where he renewed his friendship with Proudhon, finally moving to Italy where he stayed until 1867. He settled first in Florence.

1864 founded the journal Libertà e Giustizia.

October 1865 moved to Naples.

1866 founded International Brotherhood, or the Alliance of Revolutionary Socialists.

1867 travels to Geneva, attends and addresses the inaugural Congress of the League for Peace and Freedom and writes Federalism, Socialism and Anti-Theologism.

September 25, 1868 founds the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy.

July 1868 Bakunin joined the Geneva section of the International Workingmen's Association. Moved to Geneva.

January 1869 secret "Alliance" dissolved.

March 1869 began his collaboration with Nechaev.

Fall 1869 moved to Locarno and translated first volume of Marx's Das Kapital.

September 1869 attended Basle Congress of International.

March 28, 1870 Marx addessed his "Confidential Communication" to his German friends to stir up hatred against Bakunin by declaring him an agent of the pan-Slavist party from which he allegedly received 25,000 francs per year.

June 1870 broke relations with Nechaev.

August 1870 Bakunin expelled from the Geneva section of the International due to his support for the Jura faction.

1870 Published Letters to a Frenchman.

September 9, 1870 left Locarno and arrived in Lyons Sept 15.

September 28, 1870 a popular uprising is suppressed, and Bakunin is forced to flee in the face of an arrest warrant. He hid in Marseilles.

October 24, 1870 sailed from Marseilles to Locarno.

1870-71 Wrote The Knouto-Germanic Empire, including the sections published posthumously as God and the State.

1871 Wrote The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State and published The Political Theory of Mazzini and the International.

Summer and Autumn 1872 Bakunin stayed in Zurich.

September 7, 1872 Bakunin expelled from the International at the Hague congress.

1973 Published Statism and Anarchy.

October 12, 1873 Bakunin retired from the struggle and resigned from the Jura Federation.

First half of 1874 spent in Italy where Bakunin lived with Cafiero near Locarno.

July 1874 Bakunin joins his friends in Bologna where they have planned an uprising, but is forced to return to Switzerland in disguise and settled in Lugano.

1875 in poor health Bakunin traveled to Bern and is hospitalized.

July 1, 1876 at noon Bakunin died.

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