anarchy archives


About Us

Contact Us

Other Links

Critics Corner


The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets


<--Previous  Up  Next-->

discord existing between himself and his environment. And he had the grand manner of youth indulged by wealth. Alas, for the egoism of too early introspection!

Writing to his parents in the autumn of 1829, Bakunin expressed the reaction of fifteen with the solemnity of seventy. He speaks disgustedly of "the new era in my life." This meant that he was suffering from homesickness. He complains that his imagination is pure and innocent no longer; whereas his imagination has not discovered itself as yet. The artillery school has "acquainted" him, not with Decembrism, but with "the black, foul, low side of life." He "got used to lying" because the art of lying was approved unanimously. He felt his spirituality go to sleep, for "there reigned among the students a cold indifference to every thing noble, great, or holy." By these virtuous superlatives, the youthful Bakunin meant loyalty to the Czar.

Three years later, Bakunin passed his examination with great eclat. He was now an officer, eighteen years old and as orthodox and priggish as a state curriculum could make him. He writes home of this event. The undergraduate saw "a new era in my life." Bu the graduate declares that there has begun "truly a new epoch in my life." There is the same flamboyant egotism noticeable but there is a subtle improvement in the expensive arrogance of expression. Slavish military discipline has given place to personal freedom. Bakunin feels spiritually awake. He goes where he likes and meets his fellow officers only in lesson hours. He has severed all other relations with them because their presence reminded him of the meanness and infamy of his school life. Here we see the passion of the man surging almost into revolt against the idea of external discipline. The writer seems to anticipate his latter anti-authoritarianism. Yet his letters betray extreme conservatism of opinion. His ideas are static to all appearance. Of course, the devil was born in heaven and in the beginning of his rebel career was God's second in command. George Washington was jealous of English prestige against the French in the American colonies when the British governor and the Home Government were indifferent. Washington was compelled by the very logic of his English and a new flag. Bakunin's Nihilism was foreshadowed by the extravaganism of his Czarism. His life-long French bias was predicted in his first contemptuous dismissal of the French revolutionary outlook.

"The Russians are not French," he wrote to his parents, "they love their country and adore their monarch. To them his will is law. One could not find a single Russian who could not sacrifice all his interests for the welfare of the sovereign and the prosperity of the fatherland."

Bakunin should have become an officer of the Guards as a matter of course. This would have meant participating in the


[Home]               [About Us]               [Contact Us]               [Other Links]               [Critics Corner]