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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
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  Anarchist History
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  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets


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and he spent his spare time in writing novels, romances, and studies of manners. The meanness of his occupation, both official and spare time, outraged his self-respect. He exploded and once more took up the struggle against Czarism. Again his pen denounced despotism. He wrote boldly and bitterly and encountered persecution as a matter of course. He was compelled to abandon his office as a barrister and go into exile. In 1848, Herzen left Russia never to return. In exile he proclaimed his gospel of universal negation. His goal was the social republic.

Herzen explained why he went beyond Proudhon:

"A thinking Russian is the most independent being in world. What, indeed could stop him? Consideration for the past? But what is the starting point of modern Russian history other than the entire negation of nationalism and tradition?...On the other hand the past of the western nations may well serve us a lesson - but that is all; we do not think ourselves to be executives of their historic will. We share in your hatred, but we do not understand your attachments to the legacies of your ancestors. You are constrained by scruples, held back by laternal considerations. We have none...We are independent, because we start a new life... because we do not possess anything - nothing to be loves. All our recollections are full of rancour and bitterness...We wear too many fetters already to be willing to put on new chains... What matter for us, disinherited juniors that are, your inherited duties? Can we, in conscience, be satisfied with your worn-out morality, which is non-Christian and non-human, and is evoked only in the rhetorical exercises and judicial sentences? What respect can we cherish for your Roman-Gothic law: that huge building, lacking light and fresh air, a building repaired in the Middle Ages and painted over by a manumitted bourgeoisie?... Do not accuse us of immorality on the ground that we do not respect what is respected by you. Maybe we ask too much - and we shall not get anything... Maybe so, but still we do not despair of attaining what we are striving for."

This is the statement of Nihilism. It is the Russian application of St. Simon and Feuerbach. The new order is to be brought into existence by burying existing society under its own ruins. Once abolished, the old society can never reconstitute itself. Another society must emerge inevitably, because man must live in society whatever states and political orders he destroyed. The new society will be a better and truer society without doubt. Certainly, it would be no likeness to bourgeois republicanism, no matter what means were employed to substitute such a republic era of feudalism. Herzen could not see beyond the first principles of the new society. He did not know what was to develop under it, not yet what was to follow it. He knew it could not be the end. The old society was a regime of death. The new must be the beginning of life. Change must follow even that change. Without persecuting the future with his doubts Herzen saluted the coming revolution with the words: "Death to the old world! Long live


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