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How can we be free? The meaning of Karl Marx’s struggle with Mikhail Bakunin

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Jeremy Dewar looks at the struggle in the First International between Marx and Bakunin, scientific socialism and anarchism and what it means today.

At the turn of the new century, the emergence of the anticapitalist movement saw a real revival of anarchist ideas and practices. These included an emphasis on “direct action” carried out by “affinity groups” working from “convergence centres” at the summit sieges and an organisational methodology based on “consensus” rather than majority decision-making. It soon became clear that these were not the pragmatic methods some of their American proponents claimed them to be but in fact matters of high principle. They were essential, we were told, in order to safeguard the total autonomy of individuals and small groups. They were explicitly aimed at preventing any “leadership” emerging, even of the most temporary character, and blocking the exercise of any “authority”, even if it were democratically elected. Indeed, “no votes” was the loud cry when any attempt was made to break, what we might call, the “tyranny of structurelessness”, that is, the chaos which allows a few strong willed and vocal individuals to come to the fore as the self-appointed spokespersons for the protesters. Anarchism’s renewed influence was also extremely visible in both the black and the pink-and-silver blocks on demonstrations from Seattle to Genoa.

When it came to a discussion of the strategy of the movement, that is, what it should do and fight for, anarchism’s presence was again keenly felt. This was particularly true in the early anticapitalist movement’s general hostility to “politics”, or, rather, to any politics that focused on the state and the need for political power; the very idea of the struggle for power was seen as outmoded and dated. The leading forces in this were the Zapatistas and their theoretician/ supporter, John Holloway, with his How to Change the World Without Taking Power. A wide variety of objectives replaced the goal of political power: counter-hegemony, empowerment of indigenous communities, microcredit unions and cooperatives in India, workers’ self-management in Argentina and Venezuela. These were presented, both severally and together, as solutions that bypassed the state but could build up “another world” from below without the dangers and overhead costs of seizing power. Both the reformist strategy of using the existing capitalist state as an instrument, through which reforms could be achieved, and the revolutionary strategy of creating a workers’ state, through which to expropriate the capitalists, were rejected. Whilst many of the proponents of these “anti-political” ideas did not openly identify themselves as anarchists, their rejection of the role of the state gave their proposals a common libertarian theme.

The youth based radicalisation of the early anticapitalist movement, from the demonstrations in Seattle in 1999 through to the great street battles of Gothenburg and Genoa, was remarkably similar to the post-1968 radicalisation. Key factors in this politicisation were hostility to US imperialism because of the Vietnam War and disenchantment with both Stalinism and social democracy. The role of the Soviet Union in crushing the Prague spring and the betrayal of the French Communist Party, both in 1968, dispelled many illusions in Stalinism. Equally, social democracy in the west suffered from the fallout from the end of the post war boom. The emergence of the anticapitalist movement at the turn of this century was also characterised by anger with US imperialism and a crisis in the reformist and Stalinist left. The post-cold war US world order was increasingly seen for what it was: barbarous and reactionary. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a crisis in the official communist parties; social democracy shifted rightwards – abandoning any pretence at working class, social orientated reform. A space to the left of the traditional working class parties was opening and the anticapitalist movement was able to fill it.

The new libertarians claimed their ideas were anti-bureaucratic, militant and unencumbered by the dogmas of the past. Yet, in fact, none of their ideas were new. All can be traced back to debates during the formative decades of the modern labour movement, in the nineteenth century. The ideas of anarchism and libertarianism have a history which is as long as that of Marxism. Both trace their roots to the political battles between the followers of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and those of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) and, later, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (1814-1876). These battles began in the 1840s but only erupted on a mass scale in the First International (1864-1872).

This article examines the origins and crystallisation of anarchism as a movement and its strategic differences with revolutionary communism. Its focus is on the debates within the First International and particularly the conflict between Marx and Bakunin, combining a historical survey of the struggle between them with a philosophical analysis of their competing ideas. A simple exposition of the history, while interesting in and of itself, would not inform the political strategy we must develop to fight the anticapitalist struggles of today. It is the future of those struggles that make a strategic debate on anarchism or Marxism tremendously important. The differences between them involve fundamental questions; what constitutes freedom and justice and what lies at the roots of power and authority? It is from the counterposed answers to these questions that major differences of political strategy, such as what constitutes the revolutionary class, flow.

The Hungry Forties
The 1840s became known as the “hungry forties”, such was the immiseration of the working class and peasantry in this early period of capitalism. Social conflicts culminated in the Europe wide revolutions of 1848-49 but, following their defeat, capitalism enjoyed a period of feverish expansion lasting through the 1850s and 1860s. This period of mid-century prosperity decimated the first generation of labour and socialist organisations formed during the 1830s and 1840s. One particularly significant victim was British Chartism, the first mass working class movement. Yet, by the mid-1860s, in Britain, Belgium, France and a few other countries, new trade unions, new cooperative movements and new political organisations were slowly emerging. They were less revolutionary in their methods and less boldly utopian in their objectives than their predecessors but they nevertheless represented a major revival of the workers’ movement.

A growing political ferment was to be observed. In Britain, frequent working class demonstrations and rallies were held in support of the Polish and Italian national independence struggles. This extended to support for Abraham Lincoln and the Union side during the American Civil War (1861-65) especially when it became clear that their victory would lead to the emancipation of the slaves. At an economic level, striking English and Belgian workers sent delegations to one another to seek solidarity, that is, to stop the import of scab labour to break strikes.1 British and French workers’ organisations exchanged visits around the international exhibitions of trade and industry, which were a feature of these years. It was during a visit to the International Exhibition of 1862 in London by a delegation of French workers, that the idea for a permanent international working class association was first proposed.

First International
On 28 September 1864, the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) was founded in London by delegations of French, British, German and other workers’ leaders. Though only a silent witness on the platform at this meeting, Karl Marx was elected onto a provisional committee to draft the rules and constitution. After the defeat of the 1848 revolutions its leaders found themselves exiled in London, without mass forces and unable to explain the defeats of the revolution. They were soon attacking one another as traitors and police agents. The Communist League too, which had been given its famous Manifesto by Marx and Engels, collapsed into warring factions. Marx in London and Frederick Engels (1820-1895) in Manchester withdrew from the warfare of the émigré cliques to focus on theoretical work, what was to become Marx’s Capital. Their political isolation lasted for over a decade. Now, however, because real mass workers’ organisations were involved, Marx enthusiastically joined the IWMA. Engels was at first more hesitant, eager to see his friend complete Capital. In collaboration with remaining figures from the old Communist League, like Johann Eccarius, Marx sought to influence these sizeable and genuine working class organisations step by step towards a fully rounded revolutionary programme and to create a worldwide political organisation. He and Engels, after the latter moved to London in 1870, threw themselves into this work, writing appeals and organising levies for strikers, whilst developing policies that could generalise their struggles into demands for political action which culminated in the struggle for power.

Marx took on the job of writing the International’s first programmatic statement, the Inaugural Address to the International Working Men’s Association. He himself commented that it could not be written in the bold language of the Communist Manifesto but it tackled the essential points in language the newly emerging labour movements could understand. In it, Marx laid down the foundations of a programme for the working class, leading from the struggles of the day, for political freedom, economic and social reforms, to the goal of political power. The document pointed to the fact that, despite the incredible expansion of industry, workers were not being paid sufficient wages to live on, women and children were not being protected from terribly injurious working conditions and public health was being ignored. Pointing to the British Ten Hours Bill agitation in 1847, Marx noted that its passage into law marked “the first time in broad daylight that the political economy of the middle class [i.e. bourgeoisie] succumbed to the political economy of the working class”.2

Marx cited the cooperative movement as another victory for the labouring classes, particularly cooperative factories. They had, he argued, “shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labour need not be monopolised as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the labouring man himself.” However, he concluded that such cooperatives, “if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of private workmen, will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even to perceptibly lighten the burden of their miseries”. The conclusion Marx drew was that, “...cooperative labour ought to be developed to national dimensions, and, consequently, to be fostered by national means”.

Marx also emphasised the linkage between working class liberation and the international dimension and asked, ‘If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal concurrence, how are they to fulfil that great mission with a foreign policy in pursuit of criminal designs, playing upon national prejudices, and squandering in piratical wars the people’s blood and treasure?’ It was with this question that The Address came to its culminating conclusion, “To conquer political power has therefore become the great duty of the working classes. They seem to have comprehended this, for in England, Germany, Italy, and France, there have taken place simultaneous revivals, and simultaneous efforts are being made at the political organisation of the workingmen’s party.”3

At its height, the International held the affiliated support of mass organisations across Western Europe and North America. It organised strikes and solidarity and developed internationalist working class foreign policy. It developed democratic and working class demands for an 8-hour working day, free state education, universal suffrage, active opposition to war, solidarity with oppressed nations and the necessity of the socialisation of land and the entire means of production. As a result, it increasingly attracted repression; in France it was banned and its leaders tried and fined for conspiracy.

The economic downturn of 1866-67 saw a huge wave of strikes in most countries in Europe. The International successfully intervened in and, indeed, instigated, these where it had branches. The Paris bronze workers’ lockout (1867) the Geneva builders’ strike and, especially, the massacre of striking Belgian miners (both in 1868) brought thousands of new adherents to the International, “At first the strike was an end in itself. By degrees, however, experience showed that a strike contributed enormously to the strength of the International, inasmuch as it induced strikers to throw themselves into the arms of the organisation.”4 By the time of the Basle congress, 1869, the International had six regional federations and 64,000 members in Belgium, 230 branches and 95,000 members in Britain, and 13,350 members in the Austrian Empire, despite it being a proscribed organisation.5

Bakunin’s road to anarchism
At the time of the 1866-67 strike waves, the trade unions were at the high point of their involvement in the First International. This also marked the high point of Marx’s political influence. The French Proudhonists, the other major political trend within the International, were hamstrung by their general hostility to trade unions, which they had inherited from Proudhon himself. It was at this time that Bakunin became active in the International. He had a career as a revolutionary writer and activist stretching back to the 1840s, but it was only in 1867 that he declared himself an anarchist.6 Proudhon had coined the term “anarchist” back in 1840 but did not regularly use it, preferring to call himself a “mutualist”. Nor, did he himself build any organisations around his mutualist ideas, beyond his failed People’s Bank. Nevertheless, Proudhon enormously influenced Bakunin both in the 1840s, when they met for extensive discussions in Paris, and later in the 1860s after his return to Western Europe from prison and exile. Bakunin later repeatedly stated that “Proudhon was the master of us all.”

The importance of Bakunin in the history of anarchism is twofold. He was the first to work out a distinct programme for anarchism, and the first to outline and, to some extent, build an international organisation to carry out this programme. In general terms, Proudhon was the originator of anarchist ideology, specifically its absolute refusal to translate social transformation into the conquest of political power and its rejection (in words) of all authority. Bakunin, developing these ideas, was the father of anarchism as a political movement. From Proudhon he took the concepts of mutualism, free association and federalism. However, it was certainly not only Proudhon who influenced Bakunin’s political programme and theory; indeed, Bakunin rejected outright the former’s hostility to trade unions and strikes. Rather, Bakunin eclectically combined elements drawn from various sources. Hal Draper, in volume four of his monumental work, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Critique of Other Socialisms, notes the following components of Bakuninism:

“(1) A social theory suggested by Proudhon, with a dash of [Max] Stirner – the anarchist element proper
(2) A socioeconomic programme which was a (changing) version of the anticapitalist collectivism current in socialist circles, including eclectic borrowings from Marxian theory to fill in the chinks
(3) For the political strategy, the conspiratorial putschism of the then current left-Jacobin tradition of the B’s, that is, Babeuf, Buonarroti, [Auguste] Blanqui, Barbès (what historians nowadays loosely call ‘Blanquism’) – all skewed by a Russian-accented terrorist nihilism.”7

This description is useful and is certainly easy to illustrate from Bakunin’s own writings.

To it, however, one should add, as does Aileen Kelly,8 left Hegelianism. As a student, Mikhail Bakunin had studied the works of GWF Hegel (1770-1831) in Moscow in the 1830s and 1840s. Hegel was an objective idealist, seeing the realm of ideas and thought as primary and real and the material world as secondary and derived from it. Unlike earlier idealists, however, he did not see the Ideal as unchanging or without conflict or contradiction. Quite the opposite, he saw human history as a process of ceaseless evolutions and development, punctuated by revolutionary leaps. In his youth he developed this dialectical method under the impact of the cataclysmic changes wrought by the great French Revolution, the British industrial revolution and discoveries in the natural sciences. These put an end to the old static worldview with its unchanging logical categories. However, in his later years, heavily influenced by the counterrevolution after Napoleon’s downfall, he became more conservative, concluding that some form of constitutional monarchy was the final endpoint of history, that is, the realisation of the Ideal or the divine-in-society. His followers divided into conservatives and revolutionaries. The latter, specifically Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), concentrated on Hegel’s revolutionary dialectical method and sought to apply it to human society on a materialist basis.

Bakunin left for Berlin in 1840 and became a member of the Young Hegelian circle in 1842, alongside Max Stirner, Marx, Engels and Bruno Bauer. He was hoping to write a magnum opus on Ludwig Feuerbach, the main inspirer of the Young Hegelians, but he never completed it. In 1844, he contributed to Marx and Engels’ Deutsche-Französische Jahrbucher.9 He wrote an article entitled the Reaction in Germany, which ended with a theme he would return to again and again, nihilism. He wrote: “Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life. The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!”10 When revolution broke out in Paris in February 1848, Bakunin rushed there to intervene and later that year was also active in the uprising in Dresden. He later attended the bourgeois liberal Pan-Slav Congress held in Prague. As was to reoccur 20 years later at the congress of the League for Peace and Liberty, this bourgeois assembly rejected his call for “social upheaval”, which he had presented in his Appeal to the Slavs. Such pan-Slav nationalism, like his enthusiasm for nihilistic destruction, was to crop up time and again in Bakunin’s politics with little concern for whether it was consistent with other elements of his programme.

This was perhaps the first issue to separate him from Marx and Engels. They vehemently rejected pan-Slavism as a reactionary current splitting the revolutionary movement in central Europe, which in their view ought to centre on the unification of Germany but should also ally itself with the national struggles of the Poles and Hungarians. Their position was not at all that of German nationalists but because they believed revolutionary unification would be ring about the downfall of Russian, Austrian and Prussian absolutism and open the road first to a democratic and then a socialist revolution. Thus they judged the various national struggles as revolutionary or reactionary according to what attitude they took towards the Russian Tsar. Russia had played a central role in crushing Napoleon and the remnants of the French revolution, and, at the head of the Holy Alliance (with Austria and Prussia), had policed the long reactionary period from 1815 to 1848. Pan-Slavism in their view played into the hands of the Russian Tsar and his agents, who were posing as the liberators of the Slavs. Tsarism was the arch-reactionary superpower of the nineteenth century, the backer and inspirer of all attempts to crush the bourgeois democratic revolutions of 1848. The slightest coquetting with it, as Bakunin did, was anathema to Marx and Engels.

The Austrian authorities arrested Bakunin during his stay in Prague and transported him to Saxony where he was sentenced to death but handed over to the Tsar, being imprisoned in the infamous Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg. He was to spend the next eight years there, much of it in isolation. He then spent a further four in internal exile in Siberia. In an attempt to get his death sentence commuted to life, he did one of the most bizarre things in his political career. He wrote a Confession to Tsar Nicholas I (1851), which fortunately for him was not discovered and published till after the revolution of 1917. In it, he appealed to the Tsar to foment social revolution and place himself at the head of a movement to create a decentralised state, based on federated peasant communes, on the grounds that he would thereby be acting in accord with Russian instincts and that the revolution would be less bloody and brutal.

Even more curiously for the future apostle of anarchy, in the Confession Bakunin outlined his ideas on the role of an a exceptionally authoritarian secret society both during and after a revolution: “All clubs, newspapers, and all manifestations of an anarchy of mere talk were to be abolished, all submitted to one dictatorial power; the young people and all able-bodied men divided into categories according to their character, ability, and inclination were to be sent throughout the country to provide a provisional revolutionary and military organisation. The secret society directing the revolution was to consist of three groups, independent of and unknown to each other: one for the townspeople, another for the youth, and a third for the peasants.

“Each of these societies was to adapt its action to the social character of the locality to which it was assigned. Each was to be organised on strict hierarchical lines, and under absolute discipline. These three societies were to be directed by a secret central committee composed of three or, at the most, five persons. In case the revolution was successful, the secret societies were not to be liquidated; on the contrary, they were to be strengthened and expanded, to take their place in the ranks of the revolutionary hierarchy.”11

Apologists for Bakunin have explained this Confession as simply a ruse to get his sentence reduced. But this does not explain why he resorted to such appeals when he was a free man. Years later he made similar appeals to “benevolent” dictatorial rulers, to Nicholas I’s “liberal” successor, Alexander II (in 1862), to King Charles XV of Sweden (in 1863), and, according to Hal Draper, to the entire Russian feudal nobility in 1869-70.12

Subsequently, having made his escape via a long journey across Siberia and the United States, Bakunin returned to Europe. Here he was influenced by various intellectuals and activists, notably in 1862-64 by Alexander Herzen, the father of Russian populist “socialism”. But it was in Italy, in 1865-67, that he became an anarchist. At this time, the country still had a living culture of secret societies ranging from the freemasons to the carbonari. In this context, Giuseppi Fanelli and Carlo Gambuzzi won him to the use of the term anarchism and later became important members of Bakunin’s Alliance for Socialist Democracy.

The International Brotherhood
In 1866 Bakunin formed the International Brotherhood. Like its predecessor, the Brotherhood that he had set up in 1864 in Florence and many of Bakunin’s other organisations, it never accumulated a large membership. In fact, it was tiny. However, its importance is twofold; it was the first anarchist organisation that Bakunin set up; and its Principles and organisation of the International Brotherhood (1866) was the first and, in many ways, the prototype for all of Bakunin’s statutes and programmes. Since the libertarian writer Daniel Guérin describes these statutes as “the least well-known and maybe the most important of Bakunin’s anarchist writings”13 it is worth explaining some of its key ideas. Indeed, as a whole, the pamphlet brings together the key tenets of his anarchist ideology.

The first principle, the starting point of Bakunin’s programme, is that absolute freedom for each individual can be reconciled and fulfilled only in a society of free individuals: “It is not true that the freedom of one man is limited by that of other men. Man is really free to the extent that his freedom, fully acknowledged and mirrored by the free consent of his fellow men, finds confirmation and expansion in their liberty. Man is truly free only among equally free men; the slavery of even one human being violates humanity and negates the freedom of all.”14 Bakunin characteristically turns the idea of freedom into an absolute, that is, an unconditioned and uncontradictory unity. He simply asserts that if every one is free then there can be no contradiction between their wills. This forms the basis for Bakunin’s rejection of democracy, as this limits the individual rights of minorities and, indeed, the individual. So, for Bakunin, it is illegitimate for majorities to pursue policies that have been won following democratic debate and discussion, as this would violate the individual rights of the minority participants. There is an extreme egotism underpinning this thinking; the self expression and arrogance of one agent is allowed to obstruct the democratic will of the community. This thinking persists today in the insistence on “consensus” decision making in the anticapitalist movement where, more often than not, decisions are still made and imposed but by unaccountable and self-appointed leaders, i.e. minorities, in the absence of a democratic vote.

Following on from this was Bakunin’s “absolute rejection of every authority including that which sacrifices freedom for the convenience of the state”.15 In the Principles and Organisation of the International Brotherhood, Bakunin recognised the rights of political oppositions to organise, “even those associations which advocate the undermining (or destruction) of individual and public freedom”.16 However, there was of course a vulgar contradiction between his activity with secret societies and his publicly expressed views.17 During his association with Sergei Nechaev in 1869-70 and, more importantly, in his practical struggle against Marx and Engels within the International, Bakunin put into practice the plans he had confessed to the Tsar in 1851 – “all clubs, newspapers, and all manifestations of an anarchy of mere talk were to be abolished, all submitted to one dictatorial power”.

Bakunin argued that the new society must be reorganised “from the base to the summit, from the circumference to the centre, according to the principles of free association and federation”.18 For this reason, he asserts, the revolution must start with and retain a “local” character. At the same time, however, he blithely asserts that “national revolutions must become international in scope, just as the European and world reaction is unified; there should no longer be isolated revolutions, but a universal, worldwide revolution”.19

The revolution envisaged by the International Brotherhood involved two political acts, the abolition of the state and the church and the abolition of inheritance, with the instrument of the revolution being the conspiratorial civil society.20 Bakunin advanced these policies relatively consistently throughout his life and they remain typical features of the anarchist strategy today. He often treated the abolition of inheritance as enough to abolish capitalism itself, when in fact it is simply a juridical reform, albeit a radical one. As the end goal of his programme, it contrasts sharply with the Marxist policy of the socialisation of the means of production and democratic planning undertaken by a workers’ government, based on the armed people. Such a state would, for Bakunin, infringe on the individual rights of its citizens by imposing an authority, however democratic.

The roots of these differences lie in the fundamentally different philosophical premises that Marxists and Anarchists hold about reality and history. Before considering the role of Bakunin in the First International it is necessary, if we are to establish a global critique of anarchism as a political strategy, to look at these fundamental questions.

Freedom in Marx and Bakunin
Ann Robertson, in The Philosophical Roots of the Marx-Bakunin Conflict,21 shows that Bakunin used an entirely different philosophical premise for the concept of freedom from that used by Marx. As various anarchist defenders have pointed out,22 Bakunin did not reject all authority; he recognised that human beings are part of nature and thus subject to “natural law”. Rather, he believed that only by obeying their natural instincts and by disregarding all limitations imposed by other people, that is, society, could humans be truly free. Restrictions imposed by society nullify this instinct; they are unjust. Natural laws, on the other hand, do not restrict freedom:

“Those laws are not foisted upon us by any external law-maker living either alongside or above us; they are, rather, immanent, and inherent within us, representing the very foundations of our being, material, intellectual, moral alike; instead of finding in them curtailments, we should look upon them as the actual conditions and effective grounding of our liberty.”23

To reconcile this concept of absolute individual liberty with society, that is, to escape the antisocial egoism of Max Stirner (1806-1856) author of The Ego and His Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, literally The Individual and his Property) Bakunin defined the new, free society thus: “collective liberty and prosperity exist only so far as they represent the sum of individual liberties and prosperities.”24 In other words, egotism, in the commonsense meaning of anti-social selfishness, will simply fade away once the authority of the Church, the State, the landlord and the capitalist is abolished. Here Bakunin had recourse to the notion of natural goodness or sociability, which Stirner had contemptuously rejected. This will take over and reconcile all differences in a free society when individuals abide by the laws of nature. All external compulsion, even that of a democratically agreed majority, results in oppression.

Marx’s concept of freedom, on the other hand, is defined historically according to given material conditions. Marx took from Hegel the insight that history is the development of humanity from the realm of nature and instinct to the realm of rationality and freedom. In The German Ideology, written in 1845, Marx and Engels showed that individual needs can only be met through society, and that the social relations which see to the satisfaction of these needs determine our consciousness. These in the earliest stages consisted of extended family, clan, and tribal relations but at a certain stage in human history become class relations.25

The repeated changes in the mode of production with which these needs are met, the different ruling and exploiting classes within these modes create changing ideologies or ruling ideas. This successively changes our notions of such concepts as the natural, law, justice, morality and freedom. In so doing, society creates new needs and new ideas to correspond with these. Far from being fixed permanently in an unchanging nature, ideas such as liberty are relative and change as society itself undergoes evolution and revolution. Throughout history so far this has remained an unconscious process; individuals perceive the means of production and the social and legal institutions developed to preserve them not as they are, the collective basis for human society, but, privately, as something forced upon them from the outside, alien forces rather than their own product.

As Robertson says: “The goal of a socialist society is to invert this relation. Instead of individuals feeling powerless in the face of their own social institutions, by directly coming together through organised discourse, they place themselves in a position to alter these institutions according to their own needs and values. But this can only be accomplished when individuals are operating as a coordinated force, where they are discussing, debating and voting on which options to pursue, and where everyone has the opportunity to participate. Consequently a socialist society brings into play a new definition of freedom, and, in Marx’s opinion, a superior conception: the collective, rational determination of social policy.”26

This lays the basis for Marx’s criticism of the bourgeois notion of freedom, which is based on individual rights, “based not on the association of man with man, but on separation of man from man... the right of the restricted individual”.27 This isolated and atomised individual or “ego”, that Stirner and Bakunin start from, and whose absolute freedom they proclaim, is not at all a product of nature but, rather, the unit of bourgeois civil society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft, the term adopted by Hegel in his Philosophy of Right). It is a product of a society that is “freeing” the great majority of society from ownership or access to the land, tools and workshops, casting them as propertyless individuals onto the market where they have nothing to sell except their capacity to work. Thus the majority of the population become proletarians, alienated from the means of production and from its products, except just so much as is needed to reproduce their capacity to labour.

This emerging capitalist society engendered a viewpoint which always starts from the alienated individual and is to be seen alike in the classical political economists Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ricardo (1772-1823) for whom the “hidden hand” of the market creates a society out of these isolated units, and in Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) whose sovereign individuals have to make a social contract. In fact, this bourgeois individualism is not a perfect freedom of the individuals, which could, and would be absolute if only the state and the church could be abolished, but is the basis for another form of social slavery: wage slavery. Marx came to this view as early as 1845: “Precisely the slavery of civil society is in appearance the greatest freedom because it is in appearance the fully developed independence of the individual, who considers as his own freedom the uncurbed movement, no longer bound by a common bond or by man, of the estranged elements of his life, such as property, industry, religion, etc., whereas actually this is his fully developed slavery and inhumanity.”28

Despite thse different concepts of freedom held by Marx and Bakunin, the latter occasionally paid homage to Marx’s historical materialist method. Indeed, in his most mature work, Statism and Anarchy, Bakunin wrote of “the principle that juridical evolution in history is not the cause but the effect of economic development, and this is a great and fruitful concept... to Marx belongs the credit for establishing it as the basis for an economic system”.29 Nevertheless, elsewhere, he is quoted as saying, in comparison to Proudhon, “It is likely that Marx could construct a more rational theory of freedom, but he lacks the instinctive feeling for it. As a German and a Jew, he is authoritarian from head to foot.”30

We will return to the implied racist slur later, but these quotes reveal that Bakunin never really understood Marx’s materialism at all. He praised the discovery that juridical evolution is, in the last analysis, caused by the development of the economic base, yet, in his programme and at the Basle congress of the IWMA, he turned the abolition of the right of inheritance (a juridical measure of a capitalist state as compared to the abolition of private property altogether) into a panacea, which would somehow abolish capitalism by itself. Bakunin constantly made appeals to freedom, autonomy, justice, equality as ahistorical, i.e. as natural ideas operating through history. Likewise, he treated terms like authority, the state and god, in the same a-temporal and non-class fashion.

Flowing from Bakunin’s idealised individualism is his absolute rejection of all authority. He argues that authority is the origin of exploitation and social oppression rather than a product of it. Even democracy, sometimes especially democracy, is denounced as a hidden form of authority. The state and religion both spring from this principle: the recognition of authority (divine and human).

Engels tore this upside down approach apart in his pamphlet, On Authority (1872) showing that all forms of human society are based on some sort of authority; that modern large scale industry demands it, but that the working class must step by step limit its sphere to the administration of things and democratically exercise control over social production. In so doing, the working class will abolish the authority of the capitalist over production, replacing it with the collective authority of the workers both in production and in the state, whose coercive powers, at first maintained to hold down the expropriated capitalists, will gradually wither away.

For Bakunin, authority was the antithesis of individual autonomy, which, as for Stirner and Proudhon, lay at the centre of his political philosophy. As we can see, like all anarchists and liberals, Bakunin could not help returning to this individualism as the central building block of his social theory. However, unlike Stirner’s absolute egotism, which allowed for no collective action, and Proudhon’s peaceful economic mutualism, Bakunin accepted the need for mass revolutionary action, from the mass strike up to the violent insurrection. That is, he wanted to base his programme on the capture by the workers of the modern means of production: factories, transport infrastructure, and so forth.

The problems he encountered and never succeeded in answering were: how can any modern, industrial society be run without the subjection of the individual’s will to some sort of social authority, whether that be imposed by the single capitalist or by the democratic will of the associated workers? How can the geographical, economic and social inequalities inherited from capitalist society be overcome without an overall central viewpoint, a conscious plan, and the democratically derived authority to impose it, if need be, on privileged, selfish or genuinely antisocial minorities and individuals? And how can the revolution be brought about and defended when it triumphs in isolated cities or nations without revolutionary force being mobilised from these hubs, by a central authority?

Engels explained these contradictions. He took three examples of modern society, the cotton mill, the railway and the steam ship, to show that, even if all political authority were abolished overnight on the morrow, the very means of production and transportation would demand cooperation, exact time-keeping, the precise ordering of processes and so on. If these were not imposed by discipline, the raw cotton would be rendered completely useless, the steam at the mill would be built up at the wrong time, trains would crash and ships sink.

He drew the conclusion that, “wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel”. Yet such a return was itself completely utopian because “the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority. Hence it is absurd to speak of the principle of authority as being absolutely evil, and of the principle of autonomy as being absolutely good. Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society.”31

By introducing the concept of the relativity of authority and autonomy into the equation, Engels started a debate about the proletariat fighting to confine authority “solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable”32. But this gives rise to a series of other questions, none of which Bakunin wished to touch upon precisely because they involved the proletariat fighting to impose its own authority against the bourgeoisie. In other words, they involved a political fight or raised the economic struggle to a political level. The need for the working class to struggle for authority within the production process was later to be taken up by the Communist International in the demands for workers’ control of the production process.

Today, in a world where billions live below the most minimal standards of human decency and where wholesale destruction of the environment threatens the lives of millions, it is plain that humanity’s productive forces more than ever need to be planned democratically. Are minorities or individuals to be allowed to veto such planned action until they can be persuaded to change their minds?

The state
Against Engels’ arguments, Bakunin could only offer the simplistic and ultimately sterile counterposition of authority and autonomy in formal logic. He also conflated the concepts of oppression and exploitation. He viewed the state not as the instrument by which the ruling class defends and extends its property relations against the exploited classes, but as the essential means by which the ruling class exploits the other classes. For Bakunin, to abolish the state is, at one and the same time, to abolish exploitation, since the former cannot exist without the latter. He argues: “If there is a state, there must be domination of one class by another and, as a result, slavery; the state without slavery is unthinkable, and this is why we are the enemies of the state.”33

Engels responded to this argument: “Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created capital, that the capitalist has his capital only by grace of the state... As, therefore, the state is the chief enemy, it is above all the state which must be done away with and then capitalism will go to blazes of itself. We, on the contrary, say: do away with capital, the concentration of all the means of production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall of itself.”34

Bakunin defended his position against the Marxists in his pamphlet, Statism and Anarchy (1873). Marx read it in the original Russian and copied out long excerpts, along with critical remarks. Marx succinctly answers the common criticisms made of Marxism by anarchists today.

Bakunin: “If the proletariat becomes the ruling class, over whom will it rule?”

Marx: “So long as... the capitalist class exists and the proletariat struggles against it, it must employ forcible means, hence governmental means”

Bakunin: “Will the dictatorship of the ‘urban factory proletariat’ govern over the peasantry?”

Marx: Yes, the workers “must as government take measures through which the peasant finds his condition immediately improved, so as to win him to the revolution... It must not hit the peasant over the head, as it would e.g. by proclaiming the abolition of the right of inheritance.”

Bakunin: “Will the entire proletariat perhaps stand at the head of government? Will all 40 million Germans be members of the government?”

Marx: “In Bakunin’s constitution, will all ‘from the bottom to top’ be at ‘at the top’? Then there will be certainly be no one ‘at the bottom’... the whole thing begins with the self-government of the commune.” (In other words, Marx’s concept of workers’ democracy has the same starting-point as Bakunin’s; moreover, the latter tacitly recognises the need for representation and centralisation.)

Bakunin ends his polemic by stating that “the pseudo-People’s State will be nothing but a despotic control of the populace by a new and not at all numerous aristocracy of real and pseudo-scientists. The ‘uneducated’ people will be totally relieved of the cares of administration, and will be treated as a regimented herd. A beautiful liberation, indeed!!”35 He mocks the claim that “this dictatorship will only be transitional and short”.

Marx’s answers in his notebook are quite short and reiterate the basic position that “the proletariat still acts, during the period of struggle for the overthrow of the old society, on the basis of that old society, and hence still moves within the political forms which more or less belong to it; it has not yet, during this period of struggle, attained its final constitution, and employs means for its liberation, which after this liberation fall aside.”36

Various liberal commentators37 and, of course, anarchists, have argued that Marx is dismissive of the dangers of bureaucratism and that Bakunin foresaw the dangers of the political expropriation of the proletariat by a bureaucratic caste, as happened in the Soviet Union. But such a defence of Bakunin is wrong on several accounts. First, it ignores his own plans for an “invisible dictatorship” which was to have no transitional nature and be totally unaccountable, a programme he never published (for obvious reasons; it was to operate behind the people’s backs!) and never renounced.

Second, Marx was not advocating the rule of a “numerically very small” educated elite, but developing the programme of a mass international workers’ party struggling for power. He obviously could not have predicted the course of development of the early 20th century. The Second International in 1914 collapsed as its sections chose to support “their” imperialist governments in a barbaric First World War, rather than wage a revolutionary struggle for power. As it turned out, the first workers’ revolution occurred in Russia and eventually degenerated. Today, with the benefit of the experience of Stalinist degeneration, revolutionaries must build into their programme anti-bureaucratic measures. To do so is entirely consistent with Marx’s own theory of revolution.

In 1871, only two years prior to Bakunin’s attack on the dictatorship of the proletariat, there was a living, historical example of a workers’ government: the Paris commune. The Parisian working class rose up and seized political power, which it used to wage a generalised economic, political and military war against the bourgeoisie. Rather than simply take over the bureaucratic-military machinery of oppression, it replaced the standing army with the armed people, introduced laws to safeguard and promote the interests of the proletariat and other oppressed classes and social groups (e.g. women), and sought to spread the revolution. Marx and Engels, quite rightly, sought to generalise and codify the lessons of this experience, concluding that it showed the viability of proletarian power, but also the need to completely smash the bourgeois state machine.38

In the meantime, Bakunin provided not one, but two, practical experiences, by which his programme could be judged. On 28 September 1870, he led a putsch in Lyons. In The Alliance of Social Democracy and the split in the First International, Marx and Engels recounted the sorry affair: “Bakunin installed himself there [Lyons city hall]. Then came the critical moment, the moment awaited for many years, when Bakunin could carry out the most revolutionary act the world had ever seen – he decreed the abolition of the state. But the state, in the form and nature of two companies of bourgeois National Guards, swept the hall, and set Bakunin hurrying back on the road to Geneva.”

There were only 20 people in Bakunin’s band and, two days before Bakunin’s arrival on the scene, they had voted against the putsch. But, in a reversal of history’s more usual order, tragedy was to follow farce. In 1873, in Spain, the king abdicated, thereby creating a prolonged revolutionary crisis through much of the country. The Bakuninists had substantially greater influence than the Marxists; indeed they were the dominant force among the Internationalists. But Spain was a backward country, with no chance of the immediate emancipation of the working class. Nevertheless, as in all revolutionary situations, the working class wanted to participate in elections to a Constituent Assembly.

In his pamphlet, The Bakuninists at Work, Engels documented how the anarchists abandoned their principles and decided that Internationalists, “as individuals, could act on their own as they thought fit, and join any party they chose... Most members of the International, including the anarchists, took part in the election with no programme, no banner and no candidates, thereby helping to bring about the election of almost exclusively bourgeois republicans.”39

As the crisis developed, the Bakuninists proceeded to abandon more of their principles. They entered into revolutionary governments in “various towns, and moreover almost everywhere as an impotent minority, outvoted and politically exploited by the bourgeoisie… Neither the Bakuninists themselves nor the masses they led had any programme nor knew what they wanted when they joined the movement. The natural consequence of this was that the Bakuninists either prevented any action from being taken… or drifted into sporadic, desultory and senseless uprisings… or that the leadership of the uprising was taken over by the… bourgeoisie”.40

The fact that the anarchists followed the dogma of federated communes and refused to centralise the forces of the various towns they held “enabled the government to conquer one city after another with a handful of soldiers, practically unresisted”41. Worst of all, for Engels, was the resulting disintegration of the Internationalist forces in Spain “perhaps for years to come” and the legacy of defeat, which “philistines of all countries” would latch on to.

Political action
Engels’ criticism of the Spanish Bakuninists, that they did not organise the proletariat independently to fight for a programme of radical political reforms and place demands on the radical wing of the bourgeoisie, the Intransigents, and the government, was a crucial one. For Marx and Engels, this was part of the essential work of preparing the proletariat to seize political power, both because such reforms would lead to better conditions in which to continue the class struggle, and because it would teach the workers how to use political power when the opportunity for them to seize it presented itself.

Thus, they sought to engage the International in political action: for legal limits to the length of the working day, for elementary public education of children, for universal suffrage, for popular militia to replace the standing army and in solidarity with revolutionary democratic movements in Poland, Ireland and America, for example. Workers themselves, primarily through the trade unions, spontaneously generated political campaigns on many of the above-mentioned issues. Many, such as the fight for a limit to the working day, for trade union rights and freedom of the press, for education rights, for nationalisation of the land and infrastructure, were clearly part of the struggle of the working class to maintain its minimum standards of well-being, without which it would be driven to the point of extinction, or at least see its social standing deteriorate further. These were all vitally necessary struggles, equally as important as the struggle for better wages.
On the more overtly political issues, too, the working class was not slow to begin its own campaigns and take up its own point of view. Even before the formation of the International, the English trade unions had started to take a keen interest in foreign affairs, both as a means to prevent the use of foreign scab labour and to support democratic movements. Working class support for the Polish insurrection of 1863, and the London Trades Council’s mass demonstration and rally in support of Garibaldi in 1864 were both positions contrary to the interests of Britain’s bourgeoisie. Indeed, Garibaldi was deported from the country after the London rally in order to prevent him being similarly fêted by Sheffield and Birmingham Trades Councils.

Workers’ support for the North in the American Civil War was even more remarkable. It ran contrary to workers’ direct and immediate interests as the resultant cotton famine produced mass lay-offs in the Lancashire mills. Furthermore, it had a direct effect, preventing the British government from openly supporting the South. Marx encouraged all these campaigns, seeing them as essential in the struggle for working class independence, and linking them directly to the socialist goal: “The fight for such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes. Proletarians of all countries, unite!”42

Bakunin joined the International after Marx’s battle against the political indifference of the Proudhonists, which was started at the Geneva congress of 1866 and decisively won at Brussels in 1868. Bakunin, moreover, did not hold to the complete abstention from the struggle for reforms within capitalism that characterised Proudhonism, since he supported trade unions and strikes. Nevertheless, he often displayed his hostility to working class political action, denouncing both the value of any reforms that could be won from the bourgeoisie as practically worthless, and the spirit of “compromise” that any such struggle would engender within the working class, deflecting it from the goal of abolishing capitalism.

For example, he was most vocal in his denunciation of the fight for working class children’s education. In L’Egalité, the newspaper of the Swiss Federation that Bakunin controlled, he argued that, “Bourgeois socialists demand only a little education for the people, a soupçon more than they currently receive; whereas we socialist democrats demand, on the people’s behalf, complete and integral education, an education as full as the power of intellect today permits.”43

Nonetheless, he ended up declaring that such a reform could only result in workers receiving propaganda from a “hostile social background”, and counterposing to it the economic struggle:

“‘The emancipation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves… This is the fundamental principle of our great association. But the workers know little about theory and are unable to grasp the implications of this principle. The only way for the workers to learn theory is through practice: emancipation through practical action. It requires the full solidarity of the workers in their struggle against their bosses, through the trade unions”.44

Bakunin’s image of the working class here was an idealist and workerist one, which betrayed his lack of practical work among the industrial proletariat. This anti-intellectualism, as we shall see, was also fundamental to Bakunin’s political strategy. In this, the working class needed only to remain true to its spontaneous instincts. Contamination by bourgeois society, through education, no less than through parliamentary action, would dull this instinct. Thus, Bakunin not only appealed to the anti-intellectual prejudices of sections of the working class, he also actively encouraged them.

Marx took a wholly opposite view: “In too many cases, [the worker] is even too ignorant to understand the true interest of his child, or the normal conditions of human development. However, the more enlightened part of the working class fully understands that the future of its class, and, therefore, of mankind, altogether depends on the formation of the rising working generation. They know that, before everything else, the children and juvenile workers must be saved from the crushing effects of the present system. This can only be affected by converting social reason into social force, and, under given circumstances, there exists no other method of doing so, than through general laws, enforced by the powers of the state. In enforcing such laws, the working class does not fortify governmental power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency.”45

Marx neither overestimates the workers’ thirst for self-improvement, nor lumps them all in as unthinking and passive. Instead, he points out the variegated character of the class, and promotes a campaign, whereby the “more enlightened” part can spread its influence among and raise the awareness of the “too ignorant” part. Some commentators, however, have seized on the last two sentences quoted above to argue that Bakunin was more finely attuned to the dangers of reformism, the doctrine that socialism can be won through a peaceful process of reforming capitalism through its own democratic institutions, than Marx. But this, again, is an anachronistic criticism, which fails to see what Marx was trying to achieve in the International.

Marx was proposing and helping to implement independent political activity by the working class, which, aside from the Chartist movement, had never happened before. Marx was confronted by a mass and growing working class movement, in a situation, where the seizure of political power was not on the immediate agenda. What should it do? Marx proposed that it should fight for immediate improvements, which would raise the material and intellectual level of the whole class, at the expense of the capitalists. The method he used also prefigured the united front tactic, in the sense that non-revolutionary workers, and their leaders, could unite around demands that would take them closer to reaching revolutionary conclusions. In both these senses, the gaining of pro-working class measures at the expense of the bourgeoisie, and the raising of workers’ consciousness, he was not “fortifying governmental power” but taking the first steps towards “transforming that power”.

On the other hand, Bakunin clearly did not have any materialist understanding of reformism, but a fundamentally idealistic one: “It is clear that every political movement, whose objective is not the immediate, direct, definitive, and complete economic emancipation of the workers, and which does not clearly and unmistakably proclaim the principle of economic equality, i.e., restitution of capital to labour or social liquidation – that every such political movement is a bourgeois movement and must therefore be excluded from the International. The politics of the bourgeois democrats and the bourgeois socialists is based on the idea that political liberty is the preliminary condition for economic emancipation. These words can have only one meaning... The workers must ally themselves with the radical bourgeois to first make the political revolution; and then, later, fight against their former allies to make the economic revolution.”46

This can only have one meaning: that workers must refrain from any political action whatsoever. Electoral activity was, for Bakunin, the worst form of political activity, because any progress in that direction, including the fight for universal suffrage, led towards the working class striving for state power.

Struggle for power
This was not Bakunin’s only objection. He thought it also held the door open to compromise, e.g. alliances with the liberal and “socialist” bourgeoisie in obtaining the vote and forming blocs with working class parties in parliaments. In this, he had much ammunition with the record of the English trade unionists, who collaborated with the Liberals’ Reform League, and the Germans’ bloc with the Volkspartei. Indeed, the English trade unionists, having won partial suffrage for registered (essentially, skilled) workers through the 1867 Reform Act, went on to support the Liberal Party in the 1868 election. However, both Marx and Engels were, if anything, more critical of both these examples of “disgraceful” class collaboration. And, of course, Bakunin himself also endorsed and even encouraged his Spanish followers to use electoral tactics in 1873.

Marx and Engels fought their decisive battle inside the International precisely on the issue of preventing the working class movement from becoming the “fag-end of the ‘great Liberal Party’”.47 At the London conference of the International (1871) they successfully moved the resolution on working class political action, which contained the following key phrases, “... Considering, that against this collective power of the propertied classes the working class cannot act, except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to all old parties formed by the propertied classes; that this constitution of the working class into a political party is indispensable in order to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and its ultimate end – the abolition of classes...”48

Against this, Bakunin preached complete political abstention. As we have seen from the experience in Spain, in every great political crisis, revolutionary or counter-revolutionary, it is impossible for the masses to ignore political action, that is, the seizure of power. But in these crucial situations, Bakunin ends up advising the masses to act precisely as the “fag-end” of the liberal bourgeoisie, because he does not struggle for an alternative government. There is a further, more fundamental difference in the approaches of Marx and Bakunin, which is revealed here. For Bakunin, the intelligentsia had to play the role of “intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and popular instinct”. “This instinct”, he insisted, “is a fact which is completely primordial and animalistic... It is a matter of temperament rather than intellectual and moral character.” Far from believing workers knew little about theory, Bakunin actually accused Marx of “ruining the workers by making theorists out of them”.49

Marx and Engels, on the other hand, had long been convinced that working class emancipation had to involve the working class seizing and consciously planning the use of all the instruments of production in order to build socialism. Directly answering Bakunin’s problem of how to create “unity of thought and action”, they replied, “The members of the International are trying to create this unity by propaganda, by discussion and the public organisation of the proletariat.”50

For them, trade unions were more than organs for securing economic demands: “It is in trade unions that workers educate themselves and become socialists, because under their very eyes and every day the struggle with capital is taking place.” Political campaigns and the formation of a political party were their means of speeding up this development of consciousness from “a class in itself” into “a class for itself”.

The problem of reformism stems not in the industrial working class, per se, but in its heterogeneity. At the top end, there is an aristocracy of labour, better paid, more secure in its social position, with more bargaining power in the labour market. This layer was over-represented in the trade union movement as a result. Marx and Engels increasingly saw this as a defect in the English movement, “despite its great organisational strength”. As early as 1866, Marx was urging the unions to become, “organising centres of the working class in the broad interests of its complete emancipation. They must aid every social and political movement tending in that direction... They must look to the interests of the worst paid trades... [and] aim at the emancipation of the downtrodden millions.”51

The secret society
Bakunin accepted that the modern working class, the proletariat, is a revolutionary class. However, he abhorred its inherent appetite for theory and books, for political activity and its having been “seduced” by the idea of holding political power, that is, the revolutionary workers’ state. In his search for a revolutionary force that was more suited to his strategy, he gravitated towards the peasantry or, rather, he returned to his pre-anarchist populist roots. In Letters to a Frenchman, Bakunin explained at length why the peasantry should be considered inherently socialist, what the relationship between the peasantry and the proletariat should be, and the role of revolutionaries in directing peasant struggles.

Compared with some other writers, Bakunin is far from dewy-eyed about the peasantry. He summarised the antagonism many workers felt towards the peasants thus: “There are three grievances. The first is that the peasants are ignorant, superstitious, and fanatically religious, and that they allow the priests to lead them by the nose. The second is that they are zealously devoted to their emperor. The third is that the peasants are obstinate supporters of individual property.”52 City workers, on the other hand, “are immeasurably more inclined towards communism than are the peasants”, but his conclusion was that, “this is no reason to praise the workers for their communist inclinations, nor to reproach the peasants for their individualism”.53 He went further: “The more sophisticated, and by that very circumstance, slightly bourgeois-tinged, socialism of the city workers, misunderstands, scorns, and mistrusts the vigorous, primitive peasant socialism, and tries to overshadow it.”54

Instead of “overshadowing” the peasants, Bakunin advocated that the workers adapt their policies to the prejudices of the peasants: “where the Emperor [Napoleon III] is loved, almost worshipped, by the peasants, one should not arouse antagonism by attacking him... [instead only] the functionaries of the Emperor – the mayors, justices of the peace, priests, rural police, and similar officials – should be discredited.”55 We could surely be forgiven for thinking that Bakunin’s hatred of authority was only skin deep if such concessions were legitimate! His advice is all the more outrageous when we remember that it was given immediately after the Parisian working class had overthrown Napoleon III in the revolution of 4 September 1870. In such circumstances, any concessions to the Emperor would have enormously weakened the revolution.

For Bakunin, this was no tactical blunder but, rather, a strategic orientation away from the proletariat and towards the peasantry. The workers, Bakunin wrote, should not seek to impose any socialist reforms on the countryside since this would “give another army of rebellious peasants to the reaction”. He despaired of the Parisian working class, for whom he thought (five months before the Commune) the game was already up, and he advised his supporters to organise the peasants, who would be “a thousand times better and more just than any existing organisation” of the workers.56

In his search for a vehicle for his revolution, Bakunin turned increasingly not just to the peasantry, but in particular to the lumpenproletariat and rural banditry. The former he described as “the ‘riff-raff’, that rabble which, being very nearly unpolluted by all bourgeois civilisation, carries in its heart, in its aspirations, in all necessities and the miseries of its collective position, all the germs of the socialism of the future”.57 The latter he often romanticised and, in a private letter to Nechaev, confessed “to use the bandit world as an instrument of popular revolution ... is a difficult task: [but] I recognise that it is necessary”58 .

This still left a huge problem for Bakunin in his strategy. In France, the peasantry, in general, was quiescent and in awe of god and the monarchy, but Bakunin believed both the church and the monarchy had to be abolished as the first act of the revolution. The peasantry, therefore, had to be guided towards its instincts by the secret Alliance. This strategy was most fully expressed at the end of Bakunin’s 1869 Program of the International Brotherhood59, “This revolutionary alliance excludes any idea of dictatorship and of a controlling and directive power. It is, however, necessary for... the unity of ideas and of revolutionary action to find an organ in the midst of the popular anarchy which will be the life and the energy of the revolution. This organ should be the secret and universal association of the International Brothers.” He continued, “... revolutions are never made by individuals or even by secret societies... They receive a long preparation in the deep, instinctive consciousness of the masses... All that a well-organised society can do is, first, to assist at the birth of a revolution by spreading among the masses ideas which give expression to their instincts, and to organise, not the army of the revolution – the people alone should always be that army – but a sort of revolutionary general staff, composed of dedicated, energetic, intelligent individuals, sincere friends of the people above all, men neither vain nor ambitious, but capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the instincts of the people.”

He concluded, “There need not be a great number of these men. One hundred revolutionaries, strongly and earnestly allied, would suffice for the international organisation of all of Europe. Two or three hundred revolutionaries will be enough for the organisation of the largest country.”

So Bakunin’s long journey to anarchism led him straight back to the strategy of his Confession of 1851. On reading the programme, Marx noted that the “general staff in the background [could only be] appointed and commanded by the permanent Citizen B[akunin]”. The proletariat, organised in the International and beyond its ranks are thus rendered redundant, as “these hundred revolutionary guardsmen cannot be recruited anywhere but from among the privileged classes”. The Marxists’ jibe that, even within the Alliance, never mind among the people, this could mean “nothing but orthodoxy and blind obedience” 60 could not have been closer to the mark. In fact, the Brotherhood of 1869 was founded because Bakunin had dissolved the original Brotherhood of 1866 after its (very few) members had revolted against his dictatorial methods.61

The discovery of letters from Bakunin to the Spanish and Italian Alliance members revealed that Bakunin intended the International itself to form one of the outer casings of his system of Chinese boxes. He told his Spanish followers of “a secret society which has been formed in the very bosom of the International in order to give the latter a revolutionary organisation” 62 and he urged the Italian brethren to form “nuclei composed of the surest, most devoted, most intelligent and most energetic members” inside the International, adding that they should be “only a very small number of individuals”.63 It was for this act that the Hague Congress of the International voted in 1872 to expel Bakunin and his main operators, James Guillaume and Adhemar Schwitzguébel.

Violence and racism
Despite the overwhelming evidence for Bakunin’s secret operations against the International and the disastrously wrong strategies he advocated, many biographers and writers, like Paul Thomas and EH Carr, have tended to side with Bakunin or apportioned blame on the part of Marx, Engels and their collaborators. However, it is hard, if not impossible, to sustain such criticism today, when we can verify two sets of facts that were unverifiable in 1872.

The first of these is the full extent of the Nechaev affair. Sergei Nechaev was a young Russian from a poor working class background, who became active in St Petersburg student circles around the leader of so-called Russian Jacobinism, Pyotr Tkachev (1844-1886). Tkachev regarded Marx with great respect but his ideas were much closer to those of Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), who believed that a secret conspiratorial organisation must “make the revolution” and institute a dictatorship. Tkachev’s applied this method to Russia. His views can be summed up thus; a revolutionary seizure of power must be the work of an élite of vanguard intellectuals. This revolutionary socialist elite would establish a dictatorship for the workers, a workers’ state. Such a proletarian revolution was necessary immediately because a bourgeois revolution would probably embed private property for generations to come. Such a revolutionary leap over all intermediate socioeconomic stages was possible. Lastly, in order to ensure the eradication of private property based consciousness, he advocated the necessity of a Committee for Public Security like that of the Jacobins in French Revolution.

Nechaev added to Tkachev’s ideas a powerful emphasis on contempt for all forms of contemporary morality, a stance that helped earn the Russian revolutionists of the 1870s the name Nihilists. He embodied this worldview in the famous Catechism of a Revolutionist: “Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honour must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction – the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim – merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.”64

In January 1869 he left Russia, making up a story that he had escaped from the notorious prison the Peter and Paul Fortress. He met and collaborated with Bakunin in Switzerland in the spring of that year. It seems that the Catechism of a Revolutionist was a joint work. Its most famous passage is its opening words: “The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.”

The Catechism talked in the most nakedly elitist way of “second- or third-degree revolutionaries”, who “should be regarded as part of the common revolutionary capital placed at [the fully initiated revolutionary’s] disposal. This capital should, of course, be spent as economically as possible in order to derive from it the greatest possible profit.” To be absolutely clear what this means, the Catechism demands the revolutionary “must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.”65

Nechaev returned to Russia in August 1869, with Bakunin’s blessing and authority, claiming to be the emissary of the non-existent Worldwide Revolutionary Union. He set up a new secret society, Narodnaya Rasprava or People’s Reprisal. But one of its members, a young student I Ivanov, began to voice doubts about the truth of Nechaev’s claims of its numbers and strength and left Rasprava. Nechaev became increasingly paranoid and in November persuaded several other members, along with himself, to kill him. This they carried out by beating, strangling and shooting the unfortunate Ivanov, and then dumping his body in a frozen lake. Nechaev then escaped back to the West in February the following year, where he renewed his acquaintance with Bakunin, who continued to have great hopes in him, calling him “my tiger cub.” However many Russian émigrés now deeply distrusted him and the case of Ivanov soon became widely known.

The important point is not whether Bakunin really believed that Nechaev was innocent or not, but, rather, that Nechaev was simply carrying out Bakunin’s programme to its logical conclusion. Bakunin, in his now infamous final letter to Nechaev (which was understandably concealed by his followers until 1966), merely complained that Nechaev was starting to use such methods against himself: “Thus the simple law must be the basis of our activity: truth, honesty, mutual trust between all Brothers... lies, cunning, entanglement and, if necessary violence towards enemies.”66

A second deeply discrediting episode from the early 1870s is Bakunin’s virulently racist campaign against Marx in the months between the London conference and the Hague Congress. This has been well documented by Hal Draper.67 In a series of semi-public circular letters to leading members of the International, Bakunin uses every anti-Semitic and anti-German smear and slander he can find to turn members of the International against Marx. The volume of material is devastating but, nevertheless, it is only necessary to quote one example:

“Well now, this whole Jewish world, which constitutes a single exploitative sect, a sort of bloodsucker people, a collective parasite, voracious, organised in itself, not only across the frontiers of states, but even across all the differences of political opinion – this world is presently, at least in great part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand and of the Rothschilds on the other. I know that the Rothschilds, reactionaries as they are and should be, highly appreciate the merits of the communist Marx; and that in his turn the communist Marx feels irresistibly drawn, by instinctive attraction and respectful admiration, to the financial genius of Rothschild. Jewish solidarity, that powerful solidarity that has maintained itself through all history, united them.”68

As Draper points out, this campaign actually pre-dates modern anti-Semitism, which, in a sense, it pre-figures. Anarchists have tried to defend Bakunin by finding occasional “anti-Semitic” phrases in Marx’s personal correspondence, particularly those aimed at Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864). Obnoxious as these are, they were never part of a public polemic. Bakunin whipped up this openly racist campaign specifically to defeat Marx and the General Council. But, again, it is not entirely divorced from his political method. His public writings, particularly The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution, in which Bakunin calls for a revolutionary alliance of Slav and southern European peoples, criticises Marx for failing to understand the importance of race.

The Legacy of the International
At the beginning of this article we outlined what Marx and Engels set out to achieve through the International Working Men’s Association, and the progress they made in the 1860s, up until the point when Bakunin launched his destructive operation to take it over. It is now necessary to complete the story of the International: in particular to show why Marx and Engels preferred to temporarily close down the General Council, in Europe at least, rather than let its programmatic and practical legacy become alloyed by Bakuninist nonsense.

Alongside the important work in organising solidarity for strikes, Marx was during this period engaged in an incredibly wide range of activities. Besides his work for the International he completed the first volume of Capital, which was published in English in 1867, and in Russian in 1872. In his endeavours to turn the English trade unions towards the lower-paid trades and sections of the class, Marx fought three important campaigns. The first was to draw women into the trade unions and promote their profile. He not only supported the election of Harriet Law onto the General Council and (less successfully) as a delegate to the Brussels Congress, but proposed a series of special measures to encourage the active participation of women in the workers’ movement, including “special credentials” for women delegates, i.e. reserved places, or a quota. At the London conference of September 1871 he won the International to “the formation of female branches among the working class”, though not counterposed to “branches composed of both sexes”69. This foreshadowed the development of the tactic of women’s caucuses in unions and parties.

Marx’s struggle with the English union leaders over the question of Ireland was even more remarkable. Starting with the drafting of solidarity statements and campaigning for the rights and release of Fenian, i.e. Republican prisoners, Marx and Engels gradually came to the opinion that the relationship between the struggles of the British working class and for Irish national liberation were completely bound together. On behalf of the General Council he replied to Bakunin’s objections to supporting nationalist struggles: “It is a precondition to the emancipation of the English working class to transform the present forced union (i.e. the enslavement of Ireland) into equal and free confederation if possible, into complete separation if need be.”70 For all Bakunin’s talk about the federalist principle and the inalienable right to secede, it was Marx, who made the programmatic breakthrough and won the International to support real (as opposed to imaginary) national liberation struggles (in Poland as well as Ireland) and saw the correct relationship this bore on the class struggle as a whole.

The third campaign he and Engels fought was over electoral tactics and the use of elections to bourgeois parliaments to build up a mass political labour movement, independent of all bourgeois parties. As we have alluded to earlier, they were appalled by the way in which the English trade unionists used their recently won right to vote to “chain the workers politically still more firmly to the bourgeoisie” by supporting the Liberal Party in the 1869 elections. They launched their campaign, finally successful at the London conference of 1871, when the resolution entitled Political Action of the Woking Class cited above was passed.

Marx and Engels in no way believed that that the working class could emancipate itself through gaining a majority in parliament (although, as noted, they saw the necessity of the fight for reforms) but because the workers’ candidates could use parliament as a platform to rally them for the class struggle and organise their forces. Engels held up the speeches of the German workers’ delegates against the Franco-Prussian war as an example:

“If, like Bebel and Liebknecht, they are able to speak from this platform, the entire world can hear them – in one way or the other it means considerable publicity for our principles... We must answer [governments] by using every possible means at our disposal; getting workers into parliament is so much gaining over them, but we must choose the right men and watch out for the Tolains [i.e. careerist traitors].”71

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, which heralded the end of the Second Empire in France and precipitated the Paris Commune of 1872, brought this work to a head. From the beginning of the International, Marx cautioned Engels that they had to be patient with this “mighty engine at our disposal”: “It will take time before the revival of the movement allows the old boldness of language to be used.”72

The Paris Commune definitively marked the end of that preparatory time. The Commune lasted from the 18 March to 28 May. Its crushing in the semaine sanglante (bloody week), in which between 10,000 and 30,000 Communards were killed or executed by the Versaiilles troops, led to 7,000 more being deported to New Caledonia in the Pacific and many thousands driven into exile. Marx’s famous address drafted for the General Council, The Civil War in France, was accepted unanimously only days after the final crushing of the Commune. In it, Marx codified the political lessons of history’s first experiment with the dictatorship of the proletariat. As well as listing with approval all the positive measures the Commune took and praising their heroic military defence, the address also stated that the Communards should have gone further by expropriating the banks and launching a pre-emptive attack on Versailles.

The address also enabled Marx to elaborate further the form and tasks of the revolutionary workers’ state, the impossibility of simply taking over bourgeois institutions for the rule of the working class. The standing army, the over-centralised state, the repressive machinery of the police, judiciary and bureaucracy were all swept aside and replaced by the direct democracy of the Commune. This was not, however, a case of Marx going over to Bakunin’s federalist programme, as, for example, Daniel Guérin has argued, but something Marx had noted in his pamphlet, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. The historical importance of the Commune was not lost on Marx: “It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour.”73

The storm that the address caused meant that the International was witch-hunted all over Europe. The English trade unionists George Odger and Benjamin Lucraft – despite having voted for Marx’s declarations on the Commune in the General Council – buckled under the pressure and severed their ties with the International. In France, in the aftermath of the Commune, the International was outlawed. The French government for some time repeatedly pressed the British government to do likewise. Pressure from the British trade unions, including street demonstrations on behalf of the Communards in London, prevented this from happening. But the General Council desperately had to find funds to house and maintain thousands of Communard refugees, predominantly Blanquists, fleeing the triumphant reaction.

In Germany, August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, the leaders of the Social Democratic Workers Party, close friends of Marx and Engels and adherents of the International in Germany, were imprisoned for a two-year term in 1872 for their defence of the Commune and their antiwar speeches. In Belgium and almost every other country in Europe, the International was hounded, its leaders arrested and often imprisoned. It was in the context of triumphant reaction in the main centres of the proletariat, the swing back to liberalism of the British trade unions and the advance of Bakuninism in the capitalistically backward centres (Spain and Italy) that Marx and Engels feared a takeover by the latter. They decided that they needed to preserve the programmatic and organisational legacy of the International against degeneration.

The fact that this might take some time is made clear in this letter from Engels to Bebel in 1873: “There are circumstances in which one must have the courage to sacrifice momentary success for more important things. Especially for a party like ours, whose ultimate success is so absolutely certain and which has developed so enormously in our own lifetimes and before our own eyes, momentary success is by no means always and absolutely necessary.”74

Engels went on to outline how the Bakuninists would have gained from any compromise they would have been forced to make in order to preserve unity at The Hague: “The sectarians, especially the Bakuninists, would have got another year in which to perpetuate stupidities and infamies... because principles would have already been sacrificed”. And this, for Marx and Engels, was precisely the importance of the International. It swept aside the sects, because it represented the increasingly mass forces of the working class. The political party of the working class had to represent the fusion of scientific socialism with the class struggle. If the momentary receding of the mass forces from class independence, i.e. a rupture between these two revolutionary forces had occurred, then patience and preservation of previous gains were the greatest virtues. Both Marx and Engels were confident that, after the period of reaction, they would be able to continue the work of the International on a firmer footing, with an overtly communist programme and the formation of mass parties in each country. Only Engels, of course, was to live to see this legacy continue to unfold after 1889 in the form of the Second International. Its ultimate justification is seen in the creation of the Third and the Fourth Internationals and indeed in the discussion of the need for a Fifth International today.

Anarchists against the workers
Anarchists naturally baulk at the Marxist critique that asserts that they represent the contradictory outlook of the petit-bourgeoisie – a class enraged at big capital, fearful of its economic and political centralisation, but looking backwards, for a return to small scale egalitarian, individual or at best cooperative production.

Despite anarchist protests at, a study of both Proudhon and Bakunin’s programmes confirm this argument. Despite his various obfuscations, Bakunin clearly sought an alternative revolutionary class to the industrial proletariat. Sometimes he would revert to a form of Slav nationalism; at other times, as in Italy, he would seek out the brigands and déclassé intellectuals or youth from the privileged classes. What remained constant was a vision of the new society in which the attributes of individualistic peasant and artisan life became the basis of the new “socialism”: the small, village-based commune.

His collectivism, directed at breaking down the social power of the big bourgeoisie, was always counterposed to the communism of the Marxists. This was rightly so, because he never advocated that the smallholder should be encouraged to abandon her/his small-scale production – despite being in favour of workers expropriating the big factories and running them as collectives. However, even in the case of the factories only the principles of a voluntary federalism could unite each unit with the rest of industry and society. Freedom from outside control or authority was far more important than the freedom for humanity to organise a nationwide and then a worldwide plan of production. In short, Bakunin wanted to freeze human social development and preserve it in an idealised collectivity of peasants and artisans, with large-scale industrial co-operatives too engaging in commodity exchange and political power decentralised to commune level to protect the small producer. Worse still, Bakunin – like anyone who tries to solve the great social problems of capitalism without basing themselves on the revolutionary strength of the proletariat to create its own state and government – envisages the most dictatorial power for secret conspirators.

Why then does anarchism persist? Why did it re-emerge in the 1880s and 1890s, in the 1920s, during the Spanish civil war, during and after May 1968, and more recently in the anticapitalist movement? After all, Marx stated in the Communist Manifesto that: “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeoisie and proletariat.”75 This was, however, a tendency, not an unmitigated process. Countervailing tendencies would always ensure that the petit-bourgeoisie, in all its variegated forms, would continuously re-emerge.

Equally, the working class is a diverse class, including relatively affluent and super-exploited elements within its ranks. Moreover, the working class lives alongside other classes and comes under the influence of their political programmes and strategies. Hence the persistence of reformism, bourgeois politics, in the labour movement.

In periods of disenchantment and anger with the old reformist leaderships of the working class, anarchism can win wide forces, as it appears to be their very opposite; where the reformists argue for caution and the slow road, anarchists will frequently argue for outlandish, adventurist tactics. However, it then turns its energy to preventing the movement from growing into a movement of a class for itself, setting itself the conscious aim of seizing political power in order to abolish the classes and exploitation. For this reason, Lenin famously commented in Left-Wing Communism that “Anarchism was often a sort of punishment for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. Both monstrosities mutually supplemented each other.”76

In this phase (as in the period up to the Hague congress) it often finds friends among the reformists. In the anticapitalist movement, it is just such an unholy alliance between the reformists of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) and the French Socialist Party and anarcho-populist supporters of the Zapatistas that police the Porto Alegré Principles which make sure that the World Social Forum does not make majority decisions or become a coordinating centre of struggle. Political parties are not allowed to speak in their own name, or be held to account. These “libertarian” (read anarchist) practices are ideal cover for the reformists, like the PT and Rifondazione Comunista, who came to power on the back of the movement but, once there, carried out the wishes of the IMF and imperialism.

Anarchism’s rejection of politics at crucial moments makes it a plaything in the hands of wily liberal and reformist politicians. The holy fear anarchists have of the conquest of power by the working class, the dictatorship of the proletariat, often means they see reformism as the ‘lesser evil’ to the Marxist programme. Reformism, they argue, can provide a breathing space for anarchism’s playing at insurrection and self-governing spaces. In this sense, anarchism always plays a disorganising role within the working class movement, and always, at the crucial moment, takes a reactionary position in the class struggle. Anarchists however have a choice, especially if they have roots in the working class; they can breaks from anarchism and joins the front ranks of revolutionary communists.

It is their self-contradictory ideology that means anarchists can be won to revolutionary Marxism. This was partially realised in the final months of the struggle in the First International. On a larger scale the experience of the Russian revolution saw tens of thousands of anarchists go over to the Communist International. In the crucible of the Spanish Civil War, the Friends of Durutti took the opposite path to that of the anarchist CNT union leaders, and started to agitate for the formation of workers’ councils as the basis for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This article tries to hasten such an outcome by going to the roots of the methodological and political difference between Marxism and anarchism, as expressed in Bakunin’s work. We have also shown how these differences played out concretely within the First International. We have shown that anarchism, at least insofar as Bakunin’s writings are concerned, sees freedom as essentially an individual achievement. Of course, Bakunin sees such an achievement as being attainable only if all individuals are free. And of course anarchism wishes to encourage the formation of loose voluntary collectivities of individuals. But it remains an individualist concept, because it is not based on organising the working class so that it can take control of all the instruments of production and consciously plan the future of our species and the world. Such organisation as anarchists actually use for their actions are often, as was Bakunin’s, secretive and authoritarian. This is where, as Ann Robertson puts it, Marxism makes a paradigm shift in our understanding of freedom. No longer is it freedom defined of human being against other human beings but the freedom of human beings with each other. That is the freedom that organised political struggle, class struggle, the struggle for power, can achieve. All other idealised forms, the absolute freedom of the individual, are in the end, illusory.

1 See History of the First International, GM Steklov 1928, pp13-46 for an account of this period
2 ibid p79
3 ibid p80
4 From Edmond Villetard’s History of the International, 1872, quoted in Steklov op cit, pp93-94. See Steklov pp88-98 and Marx and Engels, August H Nimtz pp198-99 for a fuller account of the International’s strike activity.
5 Steklov op cit, pp134-35
6 Aileen Kelly points out that Bakunin first called for the abolition of all states in a speech to the second congress of the League for Peace and Freedom in 1868: Mikhail Bakunin, A Kelly, Yale, 1982, pp179-80. However, it is likely that he first became converted to anarchism in Naples in 1865-67.
7 Karl Marx’s theory of revolution, Hal Draper 1990, vol. 4 p130, Monthly Review Press
8 Mikhail Bakunin: a study in the psychology and politics of utopianism, Aileen Kelly 1987, Yale University Press
9 Introduction to Karl Marx: the First International and after, David Fernbach 1974, p44, Penguin Books
11 Confession to Tsar Nicholas I, Mikhail Bakunin 1851,
12 Draper op cit, pp273-74
13 No Gods no masters volume 1, Daniel Guérin 1980, translated and published by AK Press, 1998, p132
15 ibid
16 ibid
17 It is a sad truth that many of Bakunin’s ‘secret societies’ were figments of his over-active imagination
18 ibid
19 ibid
20 ibid
21 archive/bakunin/bio/robertson-ann.htm, first published in What Next, 2003
22 See, for example, the extensive material at
23 The Paris Commune and the idea of the state, Bakunin, 1870, quoted in Guérin, p126
24 God and State, Bakunin, 1871, quoted in Robertson
25 The German Ideology, Marx and Engels Collected Works vol 5, pp 42-43 and pp 77-83.
27 On the Jewish Question, Marx, 1843, quoted in Robertson
28 The Holy Family, Marx, 1845, quoted in Robertson
29 Statism and Anarchy, Bakunin, 1873, quoted in Karl Marx and the anarchists, Paul Thomas, 1980 p297
30 Quoted in Thomas, p296
31 ibid.
32 op. cit Engels.
33 Statism and anarchy
34 Letter to Theodore Cuno, Engels 24 January 1872, quoted in Draper, p153
35 Bakunin Satism and Anarchy http://
36 Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy, Marx, 1874, published in Karl Marx: the First International and after, pp333-38
37 For example, James Joll, Paul Thomas, EH Carr
38 See The civil war in France: address to the General Council, Marx 1871 and other writings collected in On the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971
39 Bakuninists at work, Engels 1873, published in Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1972 p130
40 ibid p145
41 ibid
42 Inaugural address of the international Workingmen’s Association, Karl Marx 1864, published in Karl Marx: the First International and after, p81, Penguin Books
43 On education, Mikhail Bakunin 1869, published in L’Égalité
44 Ibid.
45 Instructions for delegates to the Geneva congress, Karl Marx 1866, published in Karl Marx: the First International and after, p89
46 The Policy of the International Workingmen’s Association, Mikhail Bakunin 1869, published in L’Égalité http://www.
47 The Manchester Foreign section, Engels 1872, published in Marx and Engels on the trade unions p86
48 Resolution on working class political action, Marx and Engels, 1871, published in Karl Marx: the First International and after, p268
49 Bakunin, quoted in Robertson, which contains an excellent section on the differences between Marx and Bakunin on the question of class consciousness
50 The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association, Marx, Engels, Lafargue, 1873, published in Anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism p112
51 Instructions for the delegates of the provisional General Council, Marx, 1866, published in Marx and Engels on the trade unions p65
52 Letters to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis, Bakunin, 1870, http://
53 ibid
54 ibid
55 ibid
56 ibid
57 Marxism, Freedom and the State, Bakunin, 1870-72,
58 Letter to Nechaev Bakunin, 2 June 1870, quoted in Kelly. Kelly has had full access to Bakunin’s archives, rare if not unique for someone, who is not a Bakuninist, and therefore extremely valuable, considering the extent to which much of his output has been suppressed.
59 Program of the International Brotherhood, Bakunin 1869,
60 The Alliance of Socialist Democracy and the International Working Men’s Association, p520
61 See Kelly, p241; also recounted by Steklov
62 Quoted in Kelly, p234
63 Quoted in Draper, p285
65 Catechism of a revolutionist, Sergei Nechaev and Bakunin, 1870, http://www.
66 Letter to Nechaev Bakunin, 2 June 1870, quoted in Kelly, p302
67 See Draper pp291-303
68 Letter to the Bologne Internationalists, Bakunin, quoted in Draper p296
69 Quoted in Nimtz, p201. Nimtz highlights this important work on pp199-202
70 Quoted in Nimtz, p204
71 Quoted in Nimtz, p227. Henri Tolain was an IWMA leader, who was elected to the legislature, but voted with the Versailles government against the Paris Commune.
72 Letter to Engels, Marx. Quoted in Nimtz p180
73 The Civil War in France, Marx, 1871, published in On the Paris Commune, p75
74 Quoted in Nimtz p232
75 The Communist Manifesto, Marx, 1848, published in Karl Marx: Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan, Oxford 1977 p222
76 V. I. Lenin: Left-wing Communism’, An Infantile Disorder, in: Selected Works, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 71