In 1965 Ernesto “Che” Guevara arrived in Bolivia to begin a Cuba-style revolution. Guevara, who was killed by the Bolivian army two years later, had been a disciple of the 19th Century Russian radical, Mikhail Bakunin. Part of Guevara’s inspiration came from The Catechism of the Revolutionary, a guide-book of sorts written by Bakunin and his younger protégé Sergei Nachaev. Bakunin was the founder of anarchism, a revolutionary movement that included Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, and Alexander Berkman.
Guevara’s Bolivian Indians fit well with Bakunin’s model of revolution. These were the very poor, impoverished peasants, who had everything to gain by rising up in popular revolution. This had worked for Lenin in Russia and Mao in China. Anarchism targeted the lowest members of society. Referring to the Revolutions of 1848, historian Paul Avrich writes that Bakunin “threw himself into the uprisings of 1848 with irrepressible exuberance…moving with the tide of revolt from Paris to the barricades of Austria and Germany.”
Bakunin was an adolescent when the Decembrist Revolt took place in St. Petersburg, yet it had a profound affect on his thinking. Russia had a long history of peasant uprisings, the most recent one under Catherine the Great. The Pugachev Revolt involved tens of thousands of peasants – serfs that rose against imperial rule leaving a bloody trail as they marched on Moscow. Before Pugachev were the revolts of Razin and Bulavin.
Although Bakunin studied the philosophies of the German realists, thinkers like Hegel and Fichte, he was not a theorist like Karl Marx and other radicals of the 19th Century. Bakunin was an activist. Anarchism advocated the total destruction of the social and political order. Out of this conflagration would arise a new and more equitable state and society. Bakunin was a man of action who personally rolled up his sleeves to show the peasants how real revolutions are fought.
According to the Catechism of the Revolutionary, an anarchist “knows only one science, the science of destruction.” This conflagration of the existing society began with a “spark,” or “the bunt.” 19th Century anarchism focused, in part, on political assassination. Both the popular Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the American President William McKinley were assassinated by anarchists. Alexander Berkman, a key figure in the violent strike against Carnegie Steel in Homestead, Pennsylvania, was an anarchist. During a rally of angry workers in New York City, Emma Goldman told the crowd to break the windows of shops and take what they needed. She was deported back to Europe.
everything which promotes the success of the revolution is moral and everything which hinders it is immoral.
Thus, any actions taken in the name of revolution were condoned and even glorified. Bakunin, however, was not the stereotype of a cold-blooded killer with mass murder in his eyes. Historian E. H. Carr’s biography anecdotes Bakunin’s attendance at a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Leipzig. At the conclusion of the Ode to Joy, Bakunin rushed to the front of the stage proclaiming, “Everything must be destroyed except this symphony!”
Legacy of Bakunin and Anarchism
Bakunin’s call to revolution as an immediate uprising by the poorest members of society was most keenly seen in the various 20th Century revolutions that utilized peasant masses, achieving radical change from “the bottom up.” His radicalism affected such modern groups as the American Black Panthers as well as movements in South America and Africa. Anarchism continues to be an active force even though other 19th Century revolutionary ideals, like Marxism, have been discredited.
Ethics: Morality of the State - "Crime is the necessary condition for the very existence of the State."
Stateless Socialism: Anarchism - "...we speak of justice based upon human conscience...expressed in a single word: equity."
An essay regarding the Founding of the Worker's International.
What is Authority? - Laws of nature vs. men of privilege.
Capitalism and the State - The capitalist system and productive labor.
God and the State - Evolution of religion, symbiosis of State and Religion.
Essay on Equal Opportunity in Education from Egalite, July 31, 1869.
Another Essay on Equal Opportunity in Education from Egalite, August 14, 1869.
Notes on the Paris Commune and the Idea of the State
Marxism Freedom and The State Anarchism as opposed to State Socialism or Authoritarian Communism.
"Bourgeois patriotism, as I view it, is only a very shabby, very narrow, very mercenary, and deeply antihuman passion, having for its object the preservation and maintenance of the power of the national state—that is, the mainstay of all the priveleges of the exploiters throughout the nation."
Mikhail Bakunin, Letters to a Frenchman
Sculpture. Museum of Contemporary Art. Barcelona, Spain.