BAKUNIN Michail Alexandrovich—theoretician of anarchism and political activist, b. 1814, d. 1878 in Rome, the author of a collectivist version of anarchism, to whom is ascribed an introduction to the thought of an anarchistic revolutionary idea of force as a means of abolishing the state (anarcho-terrorism).
Michail Bakunin came from a family of landowners. In his youth he rejected a military career to study philosophy in Moscow and Berlin. During these studies he became familiar with the idealism of J. Fichte and W. F. Hegel. He spent time in western Europe were he made contact with many political activists including K. Marx and P. J. Proudhon, who had a great influence on the formation of his views. Bakunin was greatly interested in Polish affairs and knew I. Lelewel, among others. In this period he supported Pan-Slavism. In 1848 and 1849 he took part in uprisings in Prague and Dresden, where he was arrested and sentenced to be deported to Russia. He spent eight years in prison in Russia and then four years as a penal settler in Siberia. In 1861 he fled to London and again took part in political activism. He founded many revolutionary anarchist organizations including the International Brotherhood (1865). He took part in the First International where he fell into conflict with Marx. He spent the last years of his life in Italy where he made preparations for an unsuccessful uprising in Bologne.
Bakunin’s writings are not an ordered whole. He never finished many of his theoretical works. Different versions are known. He was not a systematic thinker. He devoted much attention to current political problems and published manifestos, addresses, and other documents. His best known works, which contain the chief ideas of anarchism, include: Gosudarstviennost’ i anarchiya (Z-G 1873); L’Empire knouto-germanique et la Révolution sociale (place of publication unknown, 1871). Bakunin’s works are available in a Polish edition edited by H. Temkinowa: Michaił Bakunin, Pisma Wybrane [Selected Writings] (I–II, Wwa 1965).
The core of Bakunin’s thought is the recognition of freedom as the highest value. The state as an institution that limits freedom is the chief object of his criticism. Bakunin rejected all forms of government and disagreed with the dictatorship of the proletariat proposed by the Marxists. According to Bakunin, the most important features and, at the same time, the vices of governments are centralism and bureaucracy. The capitalist system, which leads to the concentration of property in the hands of few, also violates the freedom of the individual.
Revolution is the means to abolish the state. Bakunin approves the use of force, conspiratorial methods, and terrorist methods. In place of the state organization, a federation of voluntarily and spontaneously created bonds of producers should arise. The means of production (collective property) would belong to this federation. Only such a collectivist system could guarantee freedom, a condition for which is social-economic equality. Collectivism sets Bakunin’s anarchism apart from Proudhon’s individualistic proposition. Bakunin was a firm opponent of religion. He emphasized the connections between religion and state power, and the institutional form of religion, which violates man’s freedom. Bakunin’s views played a role in the neo-anarchist movement that arose in the 1960s. Many later anarchist authors in their writing and in their practice referred to Bakunin’s thought.
H. E. Kamiński, Bakunin,la vie d’un révolutionnaire, P 1937; E. Porges, Bakounine, P 1946; B. P. Hepner, Bakunin et la panslavisme révolutionnaire, P 1950; The Political Philosophy of Bacon. Scientific Anarchism, Lo 1953; A. Leśniewski, Bakunin o sprawy polskie [Bakunin on Polish affairs], Łódź 1962; H. Temkinowa, Bakunin i antynomie wolności [Bakunin and the antinomies of freedom], Wwa 1964; H. Day, Michel Bakunin: aspects de son oeuvre, P 1966; G. A. Aldred, Bakunin, NY 1971; H. Arvon, Bakunin: absolu et révolution, P 1972; A. Masters, Bakunin, the Father of Anarchism, Lo 1974; E. H. Carr, Michael Bakunin, NY 1975; R. O Huch, Michael Bakunin und die Anarchie, F 1980; R. B. Saltman, The Social and Political Thought of Michael Bakunin, Westport 1983; P. Arvich, Bakunin and Nechaev, Lo 1987; M. Grawitz, Bakounine, P 1990; B. Morris, Bakunin. The Philosophy of Freedom, NY 1993; W. Rydzewski, Powrót B. Szkice o “rosyjskiej idei” i mitach lewicy [Return of Bakunin. Sketches of the “Russian idea” and myths of the left], Kr 1993; D. Morland, Demanding the Impossible? Human Nature and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Social Anarchism, Lo-Wa 1997.