Guy A. Aldred Archive

Bibliographical Appendix

Written: 1940.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

As stated in the Foreword, the manuscript of the present biography was completed in 1934. Three years after this work had been written, Professor E.H. Carr published his magnificent book, Michael Bakunin. The publishers were MacMillan & Company, of St. Martin’s Street, London. The book consisted of thirty-four exhaustive chapters. Unfortunately, it was published at the impossible price, so far as the workers were concerned, of twenty-five

shillings. No effort has been made to produce a popular addition. This militates seriously against the excellent research work of Professor Carr being popularized. Professor Carr’s study is a growth: for his Bakunin embodies chapters from his previous writings on Herzen.

The reception that was accorded to Carr’s work did not make for welcome understanding. Reviews in the capitalist press stated that Professor Carr had nothing but affectionate contempt for this sinister political buffoon. The reviewers also spoke of the “wretched Bakunin, who threw away everything he loved to pursue a phantom in whose reality he believed until his death.” They spoke of Bakunin choosing exile from his respectable semi-aristocratic home for the sake of his shifty principles, and thereafter living on whatever money he could borrow form friends and acquaintances. They declared that Carr had pictured Bakunin as a man who achieved immortality “because of his unremitting quarrel with Karl Marx for whom he entertained a permanent hatred, for the double reason: that Marx was a Germany and also a Jew.” It was admitted that Carr had brought out the fact that although Bakunin’s life was one long record of dismal failures, he will live for all time in the history of Socialism, as one of those giant personalities that become legends long even before death.

The capitalist reviewer did not do tribute to the care and scrupulous research which went to make up Professor Carr’s study. They pretended that Carr had enshrined merely an old clown and they made no attempt to realize how much freedom of every man and woman depends, and has depended upon, the apparently futile struggle for liberty made by men like Bakunin who fought and struggled, borrowed and starved, and were jailed, often under fearful conditions, in order that their political principles might become social realities.

Bakunin was not a buffoon and he was not a clown. Those who attack him for borrowing money from friends after he had thrown away his heritage, have understanding of the sordid and bitter struggle that represents the soil in which the agitator flowers. It may be said that Bakunin failed; but whoever studies the wars of capitalist society, its their magnificent destruction of its magnificent civilization, its calculated scientific desolation, must confess that capitalist society, its statesmen and politicians, have no claim to success. In his own person, living and dwelling in poverty, Bakunin by contrast with the Labor leader of the Radical politician, who ends his life in comfort, is a failure. He may seem both clown and buffoon to those who believe that the aim of life is a career. Men like Bakunin are not failures but protests. It is not exactly what they say that matters. Many of their doctrines may be false. True or false, they are often embodied in formulas that to the mass of mankind read like so much metaphysical gibberish. Their writings are often unreadable and the records of many of their orations

Offend by arrogance and conceit. Yet they represent fundamental truth and the hope of mankind for a new and higher social order. It is very hard to estimate the worth of an agitator and it will remain hard until a new social order has been born and our present system of finance and corruption, militarism and exploitation, has been condemned at the bar of history for the worthless thing it is.

Carr’s life of Bakunin, although applauded, was reviewed so poorly by the capitalist press that its worth suffered in consequence. The result was that Max Nettlau, who has doted on Bakunin’s life and manuscript so much, in an anarchist paper, protested against nearly all Carr’s assertions. Nettlau is far from being the accurate authority the so-called anarchists have pretended; but he has certainly cherished Bakunin’s writings and the anecdotage about his career. In the excellent bibliography to his work, Carr acknowledges at great length his debt to Nettlau. But Nettalu sees no good in Carr. My view is that Nettlau’s review of Carr’s book should be published in pamphlet form and read in connection with the work to which it refers. Meanwhile, I refer the reader to Professor Carr’s work for a very full study of phases of Bakunin’s life that have no been touched upon in my own words. Nettlau condemns Carr for dealing so thoroughly with Bakunin’s private affairs. Some of the incidents related are not absolutely to Bakunin’s credit. If they are true I do not think that this criticism matters. If the idol has feet of clay, and if the feet are still well-fashioned it might be nice to look at the idol with his feet of clay as well. Actually the picture presented by Carr is not such a terrible one. He shows a man of great purpose, with a strong libertarian impulse, anxious to do tremendous things, hating the wrongs of the world in which he lived, handicapped in a thousand ways, and straining with all the might of his tremendous volcanic personality against the bonds that bound him. Of course he did things that he ought not to have done. Of course he was not always equal to his own greatness. He had many foibles and many conceits. Some of his errors were almost criminal. But they merited forgiveness; for they arose out of a boundless energy to serve mankind and out of a feeling of loneliness in facing the disaster that represents the capitalist world of struggle. Fundamentally, Professor Carr has given the world a picture of Bakunin in his true setting; a living picture of a living man. And now that Bakunin belongs to immortality, it does not matter too much whether every offense charged against him is true.

Since Professor Carr gives such a complete Bakunin bibliography, there is no need to cover that ground in the present chapter.

I now refer to the book to which Carr made no reference. This is “The Spirit of Russia” written by the late President Masaryk, and published in English in two volumes by Allen and Unwin, London, 1919. The second volume deals very thoroughly with

Bakunin and his place in Russian literature and European thought and struggle. Masaryk’s book is a wonderful work of scholarship. It is not concerned with the personal life of Bakunin but with his literary life, with his political career, with his entire scholastic background. I would advice every person who wishes to understand Bakunin’s life to read this book. This does not mean that I endorse all its conclusions.

Masaryk depicts Bakunin as a zealot, a fanatical autocrat, a revolutionary Czar. He shows that Bakunin is not merely a theorist but a would-be man of action limited in his capacity to achieve by the force of his own zeal.

Masaryk discusses very completely the history of Russian Socialism and the ideals that moved the exiles under the Czardom. He considers fully Lavrov’s relationship with Herzen; relates the breach between Katkov and Bakunin (1840) and describes how they came to blows in Belinksi’s house. He shows the influence on Bakunin of Marx. Contrasting Bakunin against Kropotkin, Masaryk concludes the difference consisted in the fact that Bakunin aimed solely at disorganization and never gave any heed to re-organization. It may be that Kropotkin stands in relation to Bakunin as Edward Carpenter does to Walt Whitman. There is a roughness and an original force about Whitman that is lacking in Carpenter. The latter is cultured and essentially the disciple, but the disciple who has refined the strength of the master. Bakunin lacks much of the culture that finds expression in Kropotkin’s writings. Nowhere does Kropotkin express himself with the energy and force that is to be found in Bakunin. Especially in this the case when we compare Kropotkin’s tracing of the anarchist idea in England back to the Whigs, ignoring entirely the Radical Republicans whom the Whigs persecuted, with Bakunin’s analysis of the Liberals in Russia. Masaryk deals very thoroughly with his analysis. To Bakunin, as to Dobroljubov, the Liberals are superfluous persons; cultured and hyper-cultured persons suffering form the paralyzes and morbidity of civilization. They are superfluous weaklings as contrasted against the Muzik.

As I have referred the reader to Masaryk’s work I do not need to analyze it at great length in the present appendix. He discuses the relation of Cernysevskii to Herzen and Bakunin as interpreters of Russian literature and thought. He describes how Cernysevskii had Marx’s writings sent to him during his exile in Siberia but displayed no interest whatever in the philosophy of Marx. Masaryk concludes that Cernysevskii continued the literary work of Belinski, whereas Herzen and Bakunin departed form Russian traditions and supplied the younger generation with revolutionary ardor. He quotes Bakunin’s definition of government and of the reactionaries who maintain the government as privileged persons in point of political blindness. He concludes from Bakunin’s severity that he served as the model for Turgenev’s “Dmitri Rudin,” and also

for his “Bazarov.” These creations are supposed to define Bakunin at different stages of his career and to bring home to the student the fact that Bakunin’s gospel was that of socio-political destruction, or pan-destruction.

As a protest against this criticism of Bakunin, it may be urged that the capitalist world has produced so much self-destruction that Bakunin’s gospel may prove to be less reprehensible and less destructive than his critics assume.

Masaryk drives home his conception in an excellent criticism of Thomas Paine in contrast to Bakunin. In the twenty-forth chapter of his book, dealing with democracy versus theocracy, and charging Bakunin with theocracy, despite his Atheism, Masaryk, in section 206, makes the following comparison: —

“If I mistake not, among the participators in the French Revolution Thomas Paine may be regarded as the most conspicuous example of a modern, democratically minded, deliberately progressive revolutionary. His writings supply the philosophical foundations of the democratic revolution. Precisely because his participation in the revolution was so deliberate, he was able to estimate very accurately the errors of the revolution, and yet would not allow these errors to confuse his mind as to the general necessity of the movement. Paine, and here he stood alone, had the courage to defend Louis XVL, saying ‘Kill the king, not the man,” thus modifying Augustine’s maxim, ‘Dilligite homines, interficte errores.” Paine, too, was valiant enough to defend the republic and democracy against his brother revolutionaries.”

“The Russian revolutionaries lack Paine’s qualities. The errors of the revolutionary movement alarmed Herzen and warped his judgment both of Europe and of Russia. Bakunin clung to revolution, but his revolutionism was blind; it is always Bakunin to whom Russians appeal, and to Bakunin’s doctrine of revolutionary instinct, when what is requisite is intelligent revolutionary convention. Cernysevskii might perchance have developed into a Russian Paine, had he not been monstrously condemned to a living death in Siberia.”

Masaryk overlooks the fact that Bakunin defended liberty against the dictatorship idea the dictatorship idea of his Marxian brother revolutionaries. Time may yet prove that Bakunin envisioned with more understanding than his Parliamentary, Marxist, Liberal, and Social Democratic critics admit.

Karl Marx: His Life and Work, by Otto Ruhle was published in English by Allen and Unwin in 1929. This work devotes a considerable amount of space to Bakunin, and in the main is friendly to the great Russian revolutionist. Ruhle treats very thoroughly of the difference between Marx and Bakunin.