Mikhail Bakunin
Reference Archive

1817 - 1876


Mikhail Bakunin

"...all the history of ancient and modern States is nothing more than a series of revolting crimes... present and past kings and ministers of all times and of all countries - statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors - if judged from the point of view of simple morality and human justice, deserve a thousand times the gallows of penal servitude."

--Mikhail Bakunin, "The Immorality of the State"


Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin[a] (/bəˈkuːnɪn/; 30 May [O.S. 18 May] 1814 – 1 July 1876) was a Russian revolutionary anarchist, socialist and founder of collectivist anarchism. He is considered among the most influential figures of anarchism and a major founder of the revolutionary socialist and social anarchist tradition. Bakunin's prestige as a revolutionary also made him one of the most famous ideologues in Europe, gaining substantial influence among radicals throughout Russia and Europe.

Bakunin grew up in Pryamukhino, a family estate in Tver Governorate. From 1840, he studied in Moscow, then in Berlin hoping to enter academia. Later in Paris, he met Karl Marx and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who deeply influenced him. Bakunin's increasing radicalism ended hopes of a professorial career. He was expelled from France for opposing Russia's occupation of Poland. In 1849, he was arrested in Dresden for his participation in the Czech rebellion of 1848 and deported to Russia, where he was imprisoned first in Saint Petersburg, then in the Shlisselburg fortress from 1854 and finally exiled to Siberia in 1857. He escaped via Japan to the United States and then to London, where he worked with Alexander Herzen on the journal Kolokol (The Bell). In 1863, Bakunin left to join the insurrection in Poland, but he failed to reach it and instead spent time in Switzerland and Italy.

Mikhail Bakunin

"...the People's State so strongly commended by Marx, and the aristocratic-monarchic State, maintained with as much cleverness as power by Bismarck, are completely identical by the nature of their objective at home as well as in foreign affairs. In foreign affairs it is the same deployment of military force, that is to say, conquest; and in home affairs it is the same employment of this armed force, the last argument of all threatened political powers against the masses, who, tired of believing, hoping, submitting and obeying always, rise in revolt."

--Mikhail Bakunin, "Marxism, Freedom, and the State"

In 1868, Bakunin joined the International Working Men's Association, leading the anarchist faction to rapidly grow in influence. The 1872 Hague Congress was dominated by a struggle between Bakunin and Marx, who was a key figure in the General Council of the International and argued for the use of the state to bring about socialism. On the other hand, Bakunin and the anarchist faction argued for the replacement of the state by federations of self-governing workplaces and communes. Bakunin could not reach the Netherlands and the anarchist faction lost the debate in his absence. Bakunin was expelled from the International for maintaining, in Marx's view, a secret organisation within the International and founded the Anti-Authoritarian International in 1872. From 1870 until his death in 1876, Bakunin wrote his longer works such as Statism and Anarchy and God and the State, but he continued to directly participate in European worker and peasant movements. In 1870, he was involved in an insurrection in Lyon, France. Bakunin sought to take part in an anarchist insurrection in Bologna, Italy, but his declining health forced him to return to Switzerland in disguise.

Bakunin is remembered as a major figure in the history of anarchism, an opponent of Marxism, especially of the dictatorship of the proletariat and for his predictions that Marxist regimes would be one-party dictatorships over the proletariat, not by the proletariat. His book God and the State has been widely translated and remains in print. Bakunin continues to influence anarchists such as Noam Chomsky. Bakunin has had a significant influence on thinkers such as Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Herbert Marcuse, E. P. Thompson, Neil Postman and A. S. Neill as well as syndicalist organizations such as the Wobblies, the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and contemporary anarchists involved in the modern-day anti-globalization movement.

Mikhail Bakunin

Source: Wikipedia.org.

"The worker is in the position of a serf because this terrible threat of starvation which daily hangs over his head and over his family, will force him to accept any conditions imposed by the gainful calculations of the capitalist, the industrialist, the employer."

--Mikhail Bakunin, "The Capitalist System"

See Also:

1940Bakunin — Guy A. Aldred


1871God and the State
1870-72Marxism, Freedom, and the State


Writings of Mikhail Bakunin
Bakunin on Anarchy


1842The Reaction in Germany
1847On the 17th Anniversary of the Polish Insurrection
1848Appeal to the Slavs
1848I believe neither in constitutions, nor in laws
1851Confession to Tsar Nicholas I
1861Project Declaration to the Polish People
1862The Cloche and the Polish People
1862Preface to a Pamphlet on Poland
1862Where I Stand
1866Revolutionary Catechism
1866National Catechism
1867Power Corrupts The Best
1867The Workers and the Sphinx
1867Solidarity in Liberty: The Workers' Path to Freedom
1867Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism
1867Appeal to my Russian Brothers
1868Our Program (Program of the Russian Socialist Democracy, 1868)
1868, Oct.Program of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy
1869, Jul.On Education
1869, Aug.On Education, Part II
1869, Aug.The Policy of the International Workingmen's Association
1869The Program of the International Brotherhood
1869The Policy of the Council
1869The Organization of the International
1870Rebuke of Nechayev : Bakunin to Nechayev on the role of secret revolutionary societies
1870On Universal Suffrage
1870The Illusion of Universal Suffrage
1870The Red Association
1870The Class War
1870The German Crisis
1870Count on No One But Yourselves : Letter from Bakunin to Albert Richard
1870The Social Revolution
1870On the Social Upheaval
1871Assorted, Selected Writings (1995)
1871The Principle of the State
1871What is Authority?
1871Man, Society, and Freedom
1871Politics and the State
1869-71Recollections on Marx and Engels
1871On the Question of the Right of Inheritance
1871On the Program of the Alliance
1871The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State
1871The Capitalist System
1872To the Brothers of the Alliance in Spain
1872Mrs. Bakunin to Ogarev: Disaster is Knocking at Our Door
1872On The International and Karl Marx
1873Statism and Anarchy
~Rousseau's Theory of the State
~Ethics: The Morality of the State
~Stateless Socialism: Anarchism
~God or Labor: The Two Camps
~The Commune, the Church, and the State
~On the Founding of the Worker's International
~The Immorality of the State


1861, Oct.Letter to Herzen and Ogareff
1861Letter to Herzen and Ogareff
1861Letter to Herzen and Ogareff, [fragment]
1863, Aug.Letter to Herzen and Ogareff
1869Four Letters to the Comrades of Locle and Chaux-De-Fonds
1870Letter to Albert Richard
1870To “Valerien”
1870Letter to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis
1870Letter to Sergey Nechayev
1872Letter to La Liberté
1873Letter to the Comrades of the Jura Federation
1874Letter to R-S: “Revolutionary action can never be based on vile and base passions”
1875Letter to Élisée Reclus


Biography, by Brian Baggins
The Philosophical Roots of the Marx-Bakunin Conflict, by Ann Robertson