Anarchism and the Beliefs of Mikhail Bakunin + "Statism and Anarchy" free book
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.
The Roots of Anarchism and Russian Radicalism
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.”
19th Century Anarchism in Action
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.
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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!”
Statism and Anarchy
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