Mikhail Bakunin & Karl Marx,
and the Life, Death & Legacy
of the First International
“Thus the game of this highly dangerous intrigant – at least on the terrain of the International – will soon be played out.” – Karl Marx, last sentence in a long confidential letter on Mikhail Bakunin sent to Dr. Ludwig Kugelmann on March 28, 18701
“When, thanks to the Commune, the International had become a moral force in Europe, the row at once began. Every fraction wanted to exploit the success for itself…. The Hague Congress was really the end - and for both parties. The only country where something could still be accomplished in the name of the old International was America, and by a happy instinct the executive was transferred there. Now its prestige is exhausted there too, and any further effort to galvanize it into new life would be folly and waste of energy.” – Friedrich Engels, from a letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge in September 18742
“After the Basel congress, and especially after the war of 1870, which thrust the European social movement along quite a different route, it became obvious that there were two tendencies inside the International, tendencies so irreconcilably opposed to one another that this opposition went as far as a split. Later an attempt was made to reduce their disagreements to the level of a personal squabble between Michael Bakunin and Karl Marx, the latter with his General Council in London. There could not be a more mistaken, groundless account than this one, which is based on utter ignorance of the facts. Of course, personal considerations did have a role to play in these clashes, as they usually do in such situations. In any event, it was Marx and Engels who resorted to every conceivable impropriety in their attacks on Bakunin. As a matter of fact, Karl Marx's biographer, the author Franz Mehring, was unable to keep silent on this fact, since, basically, it was not a question of vain silly squabbling, but of a clash between two ideological outlooks which did and do have a certain natural importance.” – From an article, “Anarchism and Sovietism,” on libcom.org3
Four Conditions leading to the Founding of the First International
1. The Industrial Revolution
2. The increase in wealth of the property class
3. The misery and increasing consciousness of the working class
4. First-rate men devoting themselves to the cause of proletariat --
IWMA founders included:
French Mutualists and Proudhonists
Owenites (or Owenists)
Individual anarchism proponents
Other socialists of various persuasions.
Growth and decline of the First International (IWMA)
Some Other Internationals
The Second International
The Third International became better-known as
(short for Communist International)
The International Workers' Association (IWA)
The Fourth International
The Socialist International
Chronology -- Important Events Relating to the First International and the
Conflicts between Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin
Marx and Bakunin meet for the first time, 1843
Lengthy exchange of letters to [the editor of] The Morning Advertiser
[Newspaper] and The People’s Paper [when The Morning Advertiser
refused to continue the spat], 1853
Marx September 1853 letter to The
People's Paper in answer to
anonymous "Foreign Correspondent" (Golovin)
Founding Meeting of the
International Workingmen's Association in St.
Martin's Hall in London, September 28, 1864
The Geneva Congress, 1866
The Lausanne Congress, 1867
Inaugural Meeting of the League of Peace and
September 9, 1867
The Brussels Congress, 1868
Founding of the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy, Geneva,
The IWMA’s General Council votes to deny the International Alliance for
Socialist Democracy membership within the IWMA, December 22, 1868
Letter from the IWMA General Council to the International Alliance for
Socialist Democracy, March 9, 1869
Reply from the Alliance for Socialist Democracy to the General Council’s
March 9 letter, June 22, 1869
The Basel Congress, 1869
The Franco-Prussian War, July 19, 1870 to May 10, 1871
The Paris Commune, March 18, 1871 to May 28, 1871
Marx and Engels write a paper, "Fictitious Splits in the International," in
preparation for a confrontation with Bakunin at the upcoming Hague
Congress, January to March 5, 1872
The Hague Congress, 1872
Bakunin writes about the IWMA and Marx shortly after his expulsion
by the Hague Congress, 1872
Letter from Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, written September 12 & 17,
Philadelphia Conference, 1876 (The IWMA disbands.)
Disputes Between Marx and Bakunin
Quotations from Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx Showing Important Differences
Excerpts taken from
Bakunin’s paper, “On the International
Workingmen’s Association and Marx,” written about two
months after his expulsion from the IWMA in September
· Comments on the IWMA and Marx
· Political Consciousness and Statist Civilization
· Critique of Economic Determinism and Historical Materialism
The Nature of the State, the Inevitability of
Citizens, and how States Deal with Discontent
o The Promised “People’s State of Marx”
o Marx’s Conflict of Interest and its Resolution
B. Excerpts from Marx’s letter to Friedrich Bolte, November 23, 1871
C. Excerpt from Marx’s Letter to Edward Beesly, October 17, 1870
Excerpt from Marx’s
letter to Nikolai Danielson, signed by Marx
pseudonymously as A. Williams, August 19, 1872
Excerpt from Marx’s
letter to Nikolai Danielson, signed by Marx
pseudonymously as A. Williams, December 12, 1872
Conditions leading to the Founding of the First International
Four notable conditions which led to the founding of the First International, also known as the International Workingmen’s Association, were: (1) the 19th century Industrial Revolution, (2) the huge increase in wealth of the property class resulting from the increase in productivity gained from working class, (3) the rising consciousness of the proletariat & the failure of the proletariat to realize promised benefits from increased production, and (4) first-rate men devoting themselves to the cause of the proletariat.
Here are some figures9 for France which will give an indication of the scope of the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution leading up to the founding of, and during the existence of, the IWMA:
The table immediately below shows relative production of coal, pig iron, and steel & iron.
Steel and iron
The principal driving power of the Industrial Revolution in XIX century is the steam. For France, we have the following dynamic:
Number of factories with steam power
The dynamic of trade, for France, is represented by the following relative numbers:
increase in wealth of the property class
Karl Marx discussed this at length in his “Address to the Working Class,” written between October 21 and October 27, 1864, which served as the IWMA’s “Inaugural Address.”10 Here are two relevant excerpts from the address as it appeared in the original printed pamphlet:
“Dazzled by the ‘Progress of the Nation’ statistics dancing before his eyes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer exclaims in wild ecstasy:
“From 1842 to 1852, the taxable income of the country increased by 6 per cent; in the eight years from 1853 to 1861, it has increased from the basis taken in 1853, 20 per cent! The fact is so astonishing to be almost incredible! ... This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power,” adds Mr. Gladstone, “is entirely confined to classes of property.10
“The income and property tax returns laid before the House of Commons on July 20, 1864, teach us that the persons with yearly incomes valued by the tax gatherer of 50,000 pounds and upwards had, from April 5, 1862, to April 5, 1863, been joined by a dozen and one, their number having increased in that single year from 67 to 80. The same returns disclose the fact that about 3,000 persons divide among themselves a yearly income of about 25,000,000 pounds sterling, rather more than the total revenue doled out annually to the whole mass of the agricultural laborers of England and Wales. Open the census of 1861 and you will find that the number of male landed proprietors of England and Wales has decreased from 16,934 in 1851 to 15,066 in 1861, so that the concentration of land had grown in 10 years 11 per cent. If the concentration of the soil of the country in a few hands proceeds at the same rate, the land question will become singularly simplified, as it had become in the Roman Empire when Nero grinned at the discovery that half of the province of Africa was owned by six gentlemen.”10
3. The misery and increasing consciousness of the working class
Marx also addressed the miserable and stagnant conditions of the working class in the IWMA’s “Inaugural Address.” Here are two more relevant quotes:
“It is a great fact that the misery of the working masses has not diminished from 184811 to 1864, and yet this period is unrivaled for the development of its industry and the growth of its commerce. In 1850 a moderate organ of the British middle class, of more than average information, predicted that if the exports and imports of England were to rise 50 per cent, English pauperism would sink to zero. Alas! On April 7, 1864, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delighted his parliamentary audience by the statement that the total import and export of England had grown in 1863 “to 443,955,000 pounds! That astonishing sum about three times the trade of the comparatively recent epoch of 1843! “With all that, he was eloquent upon “poverty”. “Think,” he exclaimed, “of those who are on the border of that region,” upon “wages... not increased”; upon “human life... in nine cases out of ten but a struggle of existence!“10
“In all of them there has taken place, since
1848, an unheard-of development of industry, and an unheard-of expansion of
imports and exports. In all of them, as in England, a minority of the working
classes got their real wages somewhat advanced; while in most cases the monetary
rise of wages denoted no more a real access of comforts than the inmate of the
metropolitan poorhouse or orphan asylum, for instance, was in the least
benefited by his first necessaries costing £9 15s. 8d. in 1861 against £7 7s.
4d. in 1852. Everywhere the great mass of the working classes were sinking down
to a lower depth, at the same rate at least that those above them were rising in
the social scale. In all countries of Europe it has now become a truth
demonstrable to every unprejudiced mind, and only decried by those whose
interest it is to hedge other people in a fool’s paradise, that no improvement
of machinery, no appliance of science to production, no contrivances of
communication, no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free
trade, not all these things put together, will do away with the miseries of the
industrious masses; but that, on the present false base, every fresh development
of the productive powers of labor must tend to deepen social contrasts and point
social antagonisms. Death of starvation rose almost to the rank of an
institution, during this intoxicating epoch of economical progress, in the
metropolis of the British empire.”10
4. First-rate men devoting themselves to the cause of proletariat
It is a good idea
to take a look at the makeup of the remarkable and diverse group who founded the
IWMA in 1864.
While examining its diverse make-up, imagine how difficult a task it must have been to bring such a group together sufficiently to collect several (perhaps eight, as the IWMA claimed5) million signatures under their single banner. These were men who could listen to others, but who also had a history of independent thinking. As it would turn out, their differences in political philosophies, and the belief of some of them that the IWMA should obligate its members to subscribe to their political philosophy, contributed mightily to the IWMA’s early demise just twelve years after its founding (or, as an effective organization, just eight years after its founding).
French Mutualists12 and Proudhonists13 were primarily followers of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Mutualists supported the idea of a society in which each person possessed a means of production, either individually or collectively. Proudhon was the first individual to call himself an "anarchist" (after 1848, he began to refer to himself as a federalist) and he’s considered to be among the first anarchist thinkers. Proudhon is famous for asserting in 1840 that "Property is theft!", in What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government. Proudhon’s What is Property? attracted the attention of Karl Marx, and the two began a friendly correspondence, later meeting in Paris. Their friendship dissolved when Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy responded to Proudhon’s The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty. Their dispute was one of the sources of the split between the anarchists and the Marxists in the IWMA. Besides his disagreements with Marx, Proudhon also had disagreements with Mikhail Bakunin.
Blanquists14 were followers of Louis Auguste Blanqui. Blanqui held that socialist revolution should be carried out by a relatively small group of highly organized and secretive conspirators. Having taken power, the revolutionaries would then use the power of the state to introduce socialism or communism. It is considered a brand of 'putschism' - that is, the view that political revolution should take the form of a putsch or coup d’etat. The Communards of the Paris Commune tried to have Blanqui as their leader, but he was in prison for the Commune’s duration.
Owenites (or Owenists)15, named after Englishman Robert Owens, were believers in establishing social utopias.
Italian Republicans16 believed in nations governing as republics, with emphasis being placed on liberty, rule of law, popular sovereignty, and civic virtue being practiced by citizens. Republicans strongly opposed any form of dictatorship or tyranny.
Mazzinists17 were followers of the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini who believed in large and small popular uprisings to force the unification of Italian states, several of which had become dominated by foreign powers, into the modern Italian state. Karl Marx, in an interview by R. Landor in 1871, said that Mazzini's ideas represents "nothing better than the old idea of a middle-class republic." Marx believed, especially after the Revolutions of 1848, that this middle class point of view had become reactionary and that the proletariat has nothing to do with them.18
Individual anarchism proponents19 present generally held that individual conscience is supreme, and that the pursuit of self-interest should not be constrained by any collective body or public authority. While individualist anarchism comes in many varieties, some individualist anarchists believe that any imposition of democracy or rule by a majority is null and void.
Individualist anarchism is
seen by many as one of two main categories or wings of anarchism. The other
wing has been called social, socialist, collectivist, or
Other socialists of various persuasions.
Karl Marx was a leader among the socialists, and a [or the] leading member of the IWMA from the start. He was invited to represent Germany at the September 28, 1864, founding meeting of the IWMA at St. Martin's Hall in London. It is possible he learned of the first meeting less than a week before it was to occur. He waived his usual rule to decline such invitations when he was assured that leading figures from England and France would attend. He remained silent during the September 28 meeting, but was appointed to the new organization’s provisional leadership. By the end of October he had written the IWMA’s “Inaugural Address”10 and put together its provisional “General Rules.”20 He was elected to every succeeding General Council of the association (at first it was called the Central Council), and was a key figure in all important decisions. Proposals and initiatives with Marx’s support were not often defeated.
During the Marxist faction’s crucial 1872 confrontation with the Bakuninists at the Hague Congress, which ended with the expulsion of Bakunin, it was either true or the nearest possible thing to true, that Marx was effectively the General Council’s dictator. Also at the Hague Congress, Marx benefited from the success of his effort to have supporters present at a higher relative strength at the Hague Congress than they had been at prior Congresses. (Congress-packing allegations, some likely true, had been made against various groups at other Congresses.)
Growth and decline of the First International (IWMA)
Over its short life, the IWMA grew into a major movement, with local federations in many countries developing strong bases of working class activism. At its peak, the IWMA had 5 million members according to police reports21, although its official journal reported 8 million members.5 After moving its headquarters to New York, however, the IWMA rapidly declined. After reaching the point of near inactivity, the death-knell was sounded at its 1876 Philadelphia Conference. This was only four years after the expulsion of Bakunin at the Hague Congress, and the IWMA’s move to New York City.
How much of the IWMA’s rapid decline was due to the split between the Marxist and Bakuninist groups, Marxist socialists and anarchists? Certainly a lot of it was; many IWMA sections were critical of the Hague Congress. But not all of the IWMA’s decline was due to the split between anarchists and Markists. There may have been a small decline during the Franco-Prussian War. But a serious decline began with the ruthless crushing of the Paris Commune in 1871. That event made it necessary for the International to rapidly become an effective relief agency. Money had to be collected from around the world to care for many thousands of refugees who had fled France. Although there was a strong desire to help the French heroes, the relief effort drained the IWMA of both money and energy. In addition, the crushing of the Commune instilled great fear into the working class, and labor organizing became a more dangerous occupation all over Europe. It also happened to be that event, the crushing of the Paris Commune, that caused Bakunin to become more openly hostile in his writings to Marx’s views on the state, particularly Marx’s idea that the state could be used to help the working class. The very purpose of the state had just been displayed in Paris; it is to maintain the property class in power and crush the members of the working class whenever necessary.
Although it folded in 1876, and although attempts to revive it made over the next five years failed, the IWMA left behind an important legacy, a consciousness of the plight of the working class. This heightened consciousness could never go away or be ignored. There would always be more first-rate men and women who would devote themselves to trying to unify the working class, and to helping the working class demand and receive full value for its labor. These new first-rate men and women would benefit from the history, good and bad, of the First International.
Some Other Internationals
Since the death of the First International, there have been several similar groups. Some of the more notable groups have been, or are:
The Second International22 (1889–1916) was an organization of socialist and labor parties formed in Paris on July 14, 1889. At the Paris meeting delegations from 20 countries participated. It continued the work of the dissolved First International, though excluding the still-powerful anarcho-syndicalist movement and unions. Among the Second International's most famous actions were its (1889) declaration of May 1 as International Workers’ Day and its (1910) declaration of March 8 as International Women’s Day. It initiated the international campaign for the 8-hour working day (which the First International had endorsed at its 1866 Geneva Congress).
The Third International23 became better-known as the Comintern (short for Communist International). It was founded in Moscow in March 1919. The Thirst International intended to fight "by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State." The Comintern was founded after the dissolution of the Second International in 1916, following the 1915 Zimmerwald Conference in which Vladimir Lenin had led the "Zimmerwald Left" against those who supported the "national union" governments in war with each other.
The Comintern held seven World Congresses, the first in March 1919 and the last in 1935. As of 1928 it was estimated that the organization had 583,105 members, excluding its Soviet membership.
At the start of World War II, the Comintern supported a policy of non-intervention, arguing that this was an imperialist war between various national ruling classes, much as World War I had been. However, when the Soviet Union itself was invaded on June 22, 1941, during Operation Barbarossa, the Comintern switched its position to one of active support for the Allies. The Comintern was subsequently officially dissolved in 1943.
The International Workers Association24 (IWA) is an international anarcho-syndicalist federation of labor unions from different countries. It was founded as the International Workingmen’s Association in 1922, at a congress of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions taking place in Berlin.
The Fourth International25 [this section of three paragraphs is quoted from Wikipedia25] is an international communist organization which opposes both capitalism and Stalinism. Consisting of followers of Leon Trotsky, it is dedicated to helping the working class bring about socialism.
The Fourth International was established in France in 1938. Trotsky and many of his supporters, having been expelled from the Soviet Union, considered the Comintern (Communist International, also known as the Third International) to have become lost to Stalinism and incapable of leading the international working class towards political power. Thus, they founded their own competing "Fourth International." Throughout the better part of its existence, the Fourth International was hounded by agents of the Soviet secret police, repressed by capitalist countries such as France and the United States, and rejected by followers of the Soviet Union and later Maoism as illegitimate – a position these communists still hold today. It struggled to maintain contact under such conditions of both illegality and scorn around much of the world during World War II. When workers' uprisings occurred, they were usually under the influence of Soviet, Maoist, social democratic, or nationalist groups, leading to further defeats for Trotskyists.
The Fourth International suffered a split in 1940 and an even more significant split in 1953. Despite a partial reunification in 1963, more than one group claims to represent the political continuity of the Fourth International. The broad array of Trotskyist Internationals are split over which organization represents its political continuity.26
The Socialist International27 is a worldwide organization of democratic socialist, socialist democratic, and labor political parties. It was formed in 1951 to continue the work of the Second International which had dissolved during World War I. It continues to exist.
A Chronology --
Important Events Relating to the First
and the Conflict between Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin
· Marx and Bakunin meet for the first time, 184343 – There seems to have been no serious issues dividing Marx and Bakunin for quite some time. Marx would write in an August 30, 1853, letter to the editor of The Morning Advertiser28 (see next item), “In the latter part of August, 1848, I passed through Berlin, saw Bakunin there, and renewed with him the intimate friendship which united us before the outbreak of the revolution of February.”
· Lengthy exchange of letters to [the editor of] The Morning Advertiser [Newspaper] and The People’s Paper [when The Morning Advertiser refused to continue the spat], 1853 -- The letter exchange began on August 23, 1853, when the morning Advertiser published a letter from “F.M.” (Francis Marx, a conservative English journalist) which charged that Mikhail Bakunin was a Tsarist agent. There immediately followed a slew of letters defending and attacking both Bakunin and “F.M.” Karl Marx entered the fray on August 30, 1853, with a letter to The Morning Advertiser. In his letter, Marx confirmed that the rumor about Bakunin had been discussed in The Rhenish Gazette, in 1848, while he [Karl Marx] was its editor. Because Marx’s letter contains information as to his generally favorable impression of Bakunin up to at least August 30, 1853, I present immediately below his letter to the editor in full:
To the Editor of The Morning Advertiser 28
Sir, — Messrs. Herzen and Golovine have chosen to connect the New Rhenish Gazette, edited by me in 1848 and 1849, with the polemics going on between them and “F.M.,” with regard to Bakunin. They tell the English public that the calumny against Bakunin took origin in that paper, which had even ventured to appeal to the testimony of George Sand. Now, I care nothing about the insinuations of Messrs. Herzen and Golovine. But, as it may contribute to the settlement of the question raised about Michael Bakunin, permit me to state the real facts of the case:
On July 5th, 1848, the New Rhenish Gazette received two letters from Paris — the one being the authographic correspondence of the Havas-Bureau, and the other a private correspondence, emanating from a Polish refugee, quite unconnected with that concern — both stating that George Sand was in possession of papers compromising Bakunin as having lately entered into relations with the Russian Government.
The New Rhenish Gazette, on July 6th, published the letter of its Paris correspondent.
Bakunin, on his part, declared in the Neue Oder-Zeitung (a Breslau paper), that, before the appearance of the Paris correspondence in the New Rhenish Gazette, similar rumours had been secretly colported at Breslau, that they emanated from the Russian embassies, and that he could not better answer them than by appealing to George Sand. His letter to George Sand was published simultaneously with his declaration. Both the declaration and the letter were reprinted immediately by the New Rhenish Gazette, (vide New Rhenish Gazette, July 16, 1848). On August 3, 1848, the New Rhenish Gazette received from Bakunin, through the means of M. Koscielski, a letter addressed by George Sand to its editor, which was published on the same day, with the following introductory remarks: —
“In number 36, of this paper, we communicated a rumour circulating in Paris, according to which George Sand was stated to be possessed of papers which placed the Russian refugee, Bakunin, in the position of an agent of the Emperor Nicholas. We gave publicity to this statement, because it was communicated to us simultaneously by two correspondents wholly unconnected with each other. By so doing, we only accomplished the duty of the public press, which has severely to watch public characters. And, at the same time we gave to Mr. Bakunin an opportunity of silencing suspicions thrown upon him in certain Paris circles. We reprinted also from the Neue Oder-Zeitung Mr. Bakunin’s declaration, and his letter addressed to George Sand, without waiting for his request. We publish now a literal translation of a letter addressed to the Editor of the New Rhenish Gazette by George Sand, which perfectly settles this affair.” — (Vide New Rhenish Gazette, Aug. 3, 1848.)'
In the latter part of August, 1848, I passed through Berlin, saw Bakunin there, and renewed with him the intimate friendship which united us before the outbreak of the revolution of February.
In its number of October 13, 1848, the New Rhenish Gazette attacked the Prussian ministry for having expelled Bakunin, and for having threatened him with being delivered up to Russia if he dared to re-enter the Prussian States.
In its number of February 15, 1849, the New Rhenish Gazette brought out a leading article on Bakunin’s pamphlet — Aufruf an die Slaven, which article commenced with these words — “Bakunin is our friend. This shall not prevent us from subjecting his pamphlet to a severe criticism.”
In my letters, addressed to the New-York Daily Tribune on “Revolution and Contre-revolution in Germany,” I was, as far as I know, the first German writer who paid to Bakunin the tribute due to him for his participation in our movements, and, especially in the Dresden insurrection, denouncing, at the same time, the German press and the German people for the most cowardly manner in which they surrendered him to his and their enemies.
As to “F.M.” proceeding, as he does, from the fixed idea, that continental revolutions are fostering the secret plans of Russia, he must, if he pretend to anything like consistency, condemn not only Bakunin, but every continental revolutionise as a Russian agent. In his eyes revolution itself is a Russian agent. Why not Bakunin?
London, August 30, 1853. [Published September 2, 1853]
Thus Marx considered the charge that Bakunin was a Tsarist agent to be bogus, and the affair to be settled by August 3, 1848. Furthermore, Marx presented himself as friendly toward Bakunin until at least August 30, 1853.
· Marx’s letter to The People’s Paper, September 185329 – The above letter of Marx was published on September 2, 1853. On September 3, the Morning advertiser published a response by an anonymous “Foreign Correspondent” (who turned out to be Golovin, who had also been the author of an article on Bakunin which had prompted the letter from “F.M.” mentioned above.) The anonymous response, titled “How to Write History,” accused both the New Rhenish Gazette and Marx of slandering Bakunin. Anonymous accused Marx of being a “stupid friend” of Bakunin, and worse than a “wise enemy.” On September 4, Marx wrote an answer to the charge which he wanted The Morning Advertiser to publish, but the newspaper refused. So Marx appealed29 to The People’s Paper to print both the letter from the anonymous [Russian] “Foreign Correspondent,” and also his reply. The People’s Paper complied with Marx’s request. Because these two items comment on Marx’s attitude toward, and treatment of, Bakunin, I present below both the note from the anonymous “Foreign Correspondent” [Golovin], and Marx’s reply. First, the September 3, 1853, letter from “Foreign Correspondent”:
How to Write History. - By a Foreign Correspondent29
“Bakunin is a Russian agent — Bakunin is not a Russian agent. Bakunin died in the prison of Schlisselburg, after having endured much ill-treatment — Bakunin is not dead: he still lives. He is made a soldier and sent to the Caucasus — no, he is not made a soldier: he remains detained in the Citadel of St. Peter and St. Paul. Such are the contradictory news which the press has given us in turn concerning Michael Bakunin.
“In these days of extensive publicity, we only arrive at the true by affirming the false, but, has it at least been proved that Bakunin has not been in the military pay of Russia?
“There are people who do not know that humanity makes men mutually responsible — that in extricating Germany from the influence which Russia exercises on it, we react upon the latter country, and plunge it anew into its despotism, until it becomes vulnerable to revolution. Such people it would be idle to attempt to persuade that Bakunin is one of the purest and most generous representatives of progressive cosmopolitism.
“'Calumniate, calumniate,’ says a French proverb, [and] ‘something will always remain.’ The calumny against Bakunin, countenanced in 1848 by one of his friends, has been reproduced in 1853 by an unknown person.
“'One is never betrayed but by one’s own connexion,’ says another proverb; ‘and it is better to deal with a wise enemy than with a stupid friend.’ The conservative journals have not become the organ of the calumny insinuated against Bakunin. A friendly journal undertook that care.
“Revolutionary feeling must be but slightly developed, when it can be forgotten for a moment, as Mr. Marx has forgotten, that Bakunin is not of the stuff of which police spies are made. Why, at least, did he not do, as is the custom of the English papers — why did he not simply publish the letter of the Polish refugee, which denounced Bakunin? He would have retained the regret of seeing his name associated with a false accusation!”
And now, Marx’s reply:29
The Foreign Correspondent in Saturday’s Morning Advertiser
‘... It is better to deal with a wise enemy than a stupid friend.'
“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who is astonished at the discovery, that a controversy involves antagonistic opinions, and that historical truth cannot be extricated but from contradictory statements?
“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who thinks necessary to find fault with explanations in 1853, with which Bakunin himself was satisfied in 1848, to ‘plunge Russia anew in its despotism,’ from which she has never emerged, and to call French a trite Latin proverb?
“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who assures a paper to have countenanced’ a statement made by its Foreign Correspondent and unmarked by its editor?
“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who sets up ‘conservative journals’ as models for ‘revolutionary feeling’ at its highest pitch, invented the lois des suspects,30 and suspected the ‘stuff’ of a traitor even in the Dantons, the Camille Desmoulins, and the Anacharsis Clootses, who dares attack third persons in the name of Bakunin, and dares not defend him in his own name?
“In conclusion, let me tell the friend of proverbial commonplace that I have now done with him and with all such-like friends of Bakunin.”
· St. Martin’s Hall Meeting, London, 186420,31 -- The initial and founding meeting was September 28, 1864. A provisional leadership was set in place, and within a month Karl Marx had written the IWMA’s “Inaugural Address” and drawn up its “General Rules”. The “Inaugural Address” was widely distributed as a way of announcing the establishment and mission of the new organization.
· The Geneva Congress, September 3-8, 186632,33 -- In all, sixty persons took part in this Congress, with forty-six being delegates. The Paris group of Proudhonists dominated the discussions. Six Blanquists from Paris came to the Congress to denounce the French representatives as emissaries of Bonaparte, but they were thrown out. A significant decision at this event was the adoption of the 8-hour work day as one of the Association's fundamental demands. Establishing an international campaign for the 8-hour day would later become a major activity of the Second International, founded at Paris in 1889. [The Second International, established to continue the work of the First International, continued in existence for more than twice the lifespan of the IWMA, disbanding in 1916 due to World War I.]
Congress, September 2-8, 186732,34 --
Congress of the International was held on September 2-8, 1867. One account34
says that the seventy-one delegates included eighteen from France and
thirty-eight from Switzerland. Another32
says that the Congress was attended by 64 delegates from Great Britain, France,
Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland. Marx didn't attend this Congress because he had to work on the final proofs of Das Kapital,
but hardly anything was done without considering his views.
Reports delivered showed good progress. Proudhonists, mostly from France, were especially strong at this Congress and
influenced the orientation of the International’s activity and its programmatic
principles. Despite the efforts of the General Council’s delegates, they
succeeded in revising the resolutions of the Geneva Congress, passing a number
of their resolutions, in particular on cooperation and credit. The Proudhonists,
however, failed to seize the leadership of the International, as the Congress
re-elected the General Council in its former composition and retained London as
The Lausanne Congress confirmed the Geneva Congress resolutions on the economic struggle and strikes, and passed a resolution on political freedom which emphasized that the social emancipation of workers was inseparable from political liberation. The Lausanne Congress ignored the General Council’s resolution and resolved officially to take part in the Congress of the League of Peace and Freedom in Geneva (see immediately below).
Inaugural Meeting of the League
of Peace and Freedom, Geneva,
September 9, 186735
-- Mikhail Bakunin
played a prominent role
in the Geneva Conference, and joined the League’s Central Committee. The
founding conference was attended by 6,000 people.
The League’s meeting had
originally been scheduled for September 5, but was postponed to September 9 to
allow representation from the IWMA which was meeting that summer in Lausanne.
Marx recommended to the IWMA's Central Council that it not send official IWMA
representation to the League’s meeting in Geneva. He was indirectly quoted
in the The Bee-Hive newspaper on August 17 as having advised the IWMA's
“It was desirable that as many delegates as could make it convenient should attend the Peace Congress in their individual capacity; but that it would be injudicious to take part officially as representatives of the International Association. The International Working Men’s Congress was in itself a peace congress, as the union of the working classes of the different countries must ultimately make international wars impossible. If the promoters of the Geneva Peace Congress really understood the question at issue they ought to have joined the International Association.”36
Marx's true feelings on the League were revealed in a letter to Friedrich Engels written on September 1, 1867. He wrote, “You know that in the General Council I opposed our having anything to do with these peace windbags. I spoke on the subject for about half an hour. Eccarius, who was minute secretary, prepared a report for ‘The Beehive,’ but he reproduced only one or two sentences of my speech.”37
This was one of the
times a recommendation of Marx’s was defeated, as the IWMA decided to send
representation to Geneva. How much worse Marx’s recommendation to the Lausanne
Congress must have seemed to the 6000 at Geneva when they heard of it,
especially after they postponed the start of their meeting out of deference to
the International. It could reasonably be assumed that Marx’s recommendation
indicated one or more of the following to many of those at Geneva:
o Marx’s feeling of superiority,
o his reluctance to recognize natural allies,
o his preference for not supporting organizations in which he would not have a starring role, and/or
o that Marx never mastered the early childhood lesson on how to work and play well with others.38
· The Brussels Congress, September 6-15, 186832,39 -- The Brussels Congress of the International, at which the ninety-nine delegates included fifty-five from Belgium and sixteen from France, approved Marx’s tactics in regard to the League of Peace and Freedom, opposing official affiliation to the League but calling upon the working class to combine efforts with all progressive anti-military forces.
· Founding of the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy, Geneva, October 186840 – Mikhail Bakunin, along with 79 others, founded this organization on October 28, 1868. It soon applied for recognition as a section of the IWMA.
· The IWMA’s General Council votes to deny the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy membership within the IWMA, December 22, 186841 – The reasons for the IWMA General Council’s rejection of the Alliance’s application for membership were listed in the report of its action written by Marx. They included the following:
the presence of a second international body operating within and
outside the International Working Men's Association will be the most
infallible means of its disorganization;
every other group of individuals, anywhere at all, will have the right
to imitate the Geneva initiating group and, under more or less plausible
excuses, to bring into the International Working Men's Association other
international associations with other ‘special missions’;
the International Working Men's Association will thereby soon
become a plaything for intriguers of every race and nationality;
the Rules of the International Working Men's Association anyway
admit only local and national branches into the Association (see Article 1
and Article 6 of the Rules);
sections of the International Association are forbidden to give
themselves rules or administrative regulations contrary to the General
Rules and Administrative Regulations of the International Association
(see Article 12 of the administrative Regulations); and
the Rules and Administrative Regulations of the International
Association can only be revised by the General Congress in the event of
two-thirds of the delegates present voting in favor of such a revision (see
Article 13 of the Administrative Regulations).”41
· Letter from the IWMA General Council to the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy, March 9, 1869 – In this letter,42 the General Council denies the Alliance membership in the IWMA, giving the reason that the Alliance, as itself an international organization, is not eligible for membership within IWMA Rules. It advised the Alliance that, in order to make its sections eligible for IWMA membership, it would have to disband. The letter also makes clear that one part of the Alliance’s written Program was in conflict with an IWMA goal. Point #2 of the Alliance’s Program said, “The Alliance wants above all political, economic, and social equalization... of classes," but a goal of the IWMA was the “abolition of classes.” Equalization of classes is not the same as abolition of classes.
· Reply from the Alliance for Socialist Democracy to the March 9, 1869 letter from the General Council of the IWMA, June 22, 186944 – In its reply to the General Council’s March 9 letter, the Alliance promised to meet the General Council’s conditions, saying in part, “We are pleased to inform you that a great majority of the groups share the views of the Central Committee which intends to announce the dissolution of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy. The question of dissolution has today been decided.”44 The Alliance dissolved, but Marx believed that its dissolution had only been nominal.1 The Alliance’s faithfulness to its promise to dissolve was still in question as late as 1872. [A five person Commission to Investigate the Alliance was appointed on September 5, 1872, and the Commission reported to the Hague Congress that the Alliance was still in existence.] Nevertheless, despite doubts of Marx and others, former members of the Alliance were accepted into the IWMA as members of various sections following the Alliance’s [nominal or real] dissolution.
· The Basel Congress, September 6-12, 186945 – Seventy-five delegates attended, including 28 from France and 22 from Switzerland.45 This Congress clarified and expanded the role of workers’ unions. There had been questions as to whether unions should limit their activities to those aimed at improving the wages and working conditions of workers, or whether they should engage in activities and causes more broadly affecting the life of the working class. There was also the question of whether workers should look upon unions as temporary organizations which would become unnecessary at some point in the future, after workers’ pay and living conditions had been improved, or whether they would be important beyond that point. The answers to those questions would decide how unions would see themselves in history’s bigger picture, what roles they would undertake, what activities they would engage in, and what kind of education would be given to workers at the local level.
This Congress had a healthy attendance of anarchists. They came with an agenda, and several of their proposals were put to a vote. An attempt to move the IWMA’s seat to Geneva, which Marx believed was an attempt to help Bakunin take control, was defeated.46 The Basel Congress is prominent in the important pamphlet, “Fictitious Splits in the International,” written by Marx and Engels in early 1872 (more on this pamphlet below).
· The Franco-Prussian War, July 19, 1870 to May 10, 187147 -- The beginning of a stressful period for the IWMA as its members took sides, and sometimes changed sides during the war. (Most changing of sides occurred when Prussia’s objective changed from defending itself from attack to taking French territory and creating a German Empire.) The war was started by France, but was won by Prussia and its Germanic allies. A result of the war was the uniting of Prussia and Germanic states into the German Empire. Near the end of the war, when the French government had moved from Paris to Versailles for safety reasons, there was a resulting power vacuum in Paris which proved to be a decisively favorable condition toward the establishment of the Paris Commune of 1871 (see immediately below). [Communes had been formed in other places in France, but never in a large city. Paris at this time had a population of about two million people.]
· The Paris Commune, March 18, 1871 to May 28, 187148 – Friedrich Engels called the Paris Commune the first “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Both he and Marx praised the Commune, but criticized several decisions they felt led to its being crushed by the French government (with between 20,000 and 50,000 Communards killed). They believed that the Commune could have survived had some other decisions been made, such as instituting conscription and centralized planning in a revolutionary direction. Both Marxists and anarchists gave interpretations and analyses of the events relating to the Paris Commune which favored their own political philosophies.2 As a result, the tension between Bakuninists and Marxists heightened considerably, setting the stage for the confrontation at the Hague Congress the next year.
· Marx and Engels write a paper, “Fictitious Splits in the International,” in preparationa for a confrontation with Bakunin and his supporters at the upcoming Hague Congress, January to March 5, 1872 -- Today this paper of more than 15,500 words appears on the Internet49 with a note added to the front which says, “The pamphlet marks the opening of Marx and Engels' preparations for confrontation with Bakuninist forces at upcoming IWMA congress at the Hague (September 1872).”
This paper is an excellent source in which to find Marx’s own side in his disputes with Bakunin, especially as the disputes related to events within the IWMA. The reader has to get past a lot of name-calling, petty charges and trivia to find it, but the major difference between Bakunin and Marx is also there. It is a difference in political philosophy involving: (1) different conceptions of the usefulness, uselessness, or harmfulness of the state, (2) the wisdom or foolishness of trying to obtain control of the state, even as an intermediate step toward a longer-range goal, and (3) proper strategy and tactics in dealing with states.
· The Hague Congress, September 2- 1872 -- After the 1871 Paris Commune, from which anarchists and Marxists made different observations and drew different lessons, Bakunin characterized Marx's ideas as authoritarian, and predicted that if a Marxist party came to power its leaders would end up as bad as the ruling class they had fought against.17 There had been tension between Marxists and Bakuninists for several years, and it was inevitable that a confrontation would eventually take place within the IWMA. It happened at this Congress. Knowing that the confrontation was coming, Marx saw to it that his supporters were present at this Congress in higher relative numbers than they had attended the others. Sixty five people took part in the Congress, and twenty-one were members of the General Council. Also, nineteen were from Germany. The entire Congress was a battle between supporters of Bakunin and Supporters of Marx. The first three days were devoted to fights over credentials. The ultimate outcome of the confrontation was the expulsion of Bakunin. Here is how G.M. Stekloff reports the matter of Bakunin in Chapter 14 of his book, History of the First International.
“The committee of enquiry into
the question of the Bakuninist Alliance had been elected, and was composed of
Marx, Engels, Wroblewski, Dupont, Serraillier, and Swarm, representing the
Marxist faction; and of Guillaume, Schwitzguébel, Zhukoffsky, Alerini, Morago,
Marselau, and Farga-Pellicer for the Bakuninists.
”The commission, after examining various documents and questioning witnesses, presented a report to the congress. This document declared that the secret Alliance, founded on rules which were absolutely contrary to the spirit of those adopted by the International Workingmen’s Association, had existed, but that its present existence had not been satisfactorily proved; that the Alliance had been founded by Bakunin; that Citizen Bakunin had resorted to fraudulent manoeuvres in order to possess himself of other people’s property, and that, in order to escape fulfilling his engagements, he or his agents had had recourse to intimidation. For these reasons the members of the committee urged the congress, (1) to expel Citizen Bakunin from the International Workingmen’s Association; (2) likewise to expel Citizens Guillaume and Schwitzguébel, since the committee is convinced that they are still members of the Alliance (3) to expel Malon, Bousquet, and Louis Marchand, who have been proved guilty of intrigues designed to effect the disorganisation of the International; (4) as concerns Morago, Farga-Pellicer, Marselau, Alerini, and Zhukoffsky, in view of their solemn assurance that they have severed their connexion with the Alliance, no further action is to be taken.
”The special indictment of Bakunin was founded upon the following facts. Towards the end of the year 1869, he undertook to translate into Russian the first volume of Marx’s Capital. The translation was to have been published by Pollyakoff, from whom Bakunin had received an advance payment of 300 roubles. Nechaeff (who in January, 1870, had returned to Switzerland from Russia as the representative of the Russian Revolutionary Committee) advised Bakunin to discontinue the work of translation for a while, and to devote all his energies to “Russian affairs,” which, being interpreted, meant “revolutionary propaganda within the Russian borders.”
Nechaeff undertook to square matters with the prospective publisher, and this promise he carried out by sending Polyakoff a threatening letter demanding that the latter should leave Bakunin in peace. Bakunin was, in all probability, quite innocent of this affair, though undoubtedly he acted in an irresponsible manner. The student Lyubavin, who had undertaken to do the work of translation in place of Bakunin, and Danielson (generally known as Nikolai On, a well-known writer who was in correspondence with Marx), were instrumental in bringing these facts to Marx’s notice, and through Marx they were communicated to the committee.
“Cuno, the president of the Committee, declared that, though the committee had received no material proof of the guilt of the accused, it had, nevertheless, acquired a moral conviction of his guilt.
”Roch Splingard, who had heard the evidence put before the committee, insisted that all this evidence could prove was that Bakunin had made an attempt to organise a secret society within the International. Guillaume, when asked to exculpate himself, refused to do so, on the ground that this was treating the attack too seriously. It was, he said, an attack against the whole federalist party, though apparently levelled against some of its members only. Schwitzguébel was content to say: “We have been condemned beforehand, but the workers will condemn the decision of your majority.” Dave then read the minority declaration. Herein it was declared that the members of the minority faction were supporters of the idea of autonomy and of federation among the groups of workers. The report proceeded as follows
“1. We will continue administrative relations with the General Council, relations concerning the payment of dues, correspondence, and statistics of labour; 2. the federations for which we are acting as delegates shall establish direct and continuous relationships between themselves and all the other branches of the International that shall have been constitutionally formed (this signifying that such relationships were to be independent of the General Council; 3. should the General Council wish to interfere in the internal affairs of the federations, the federations, represented by the undersigned, are resolutely determined to maintain their autonomy, without in any way infringing the rules of the International that were approved by the Geneva Congress” [thus rejecting the changes made in the rules by the London Conference and by the Hague Congress].
”Out of the 65 delegates who had been admitted to the congress, there were now no more than 43 present, 10 delegates of the minority faction, and 12 of the majority faction having left ere this. When the motion for Bakunin’s expulsion from the International was put, 27 voted in favour of the resolution, 7 against, and 8 abstained from voting. For the expulsion of Guillaume 25 voted for, 9 against, and 9 abstained; the vote for Schwitzguébel’s expulsion was 15 for, 17 against, and 9 abstentions. Thus Schwitzguébel was not expelled, but he immediately entered a protest, and declared that, seeing that his expulsion was proposed on the same grounds as Guillaume’s, it would be absurd to expel one and not the other. Guillaume declared that he would still continue to look upon himself as a member of the International.”50
The expulsion of Bakunin aggravated the long-running conflict between Marxists and anarchists. From that point until today, Marxist and anarchist currents of socialism have had separate organizations, including, at times, rival Internationals.51
The anarchists who believed they were unfairly ejected from the IWMA held a new Congress of their own “International” at Saint-Imier52 on September 15-16, 1872, immediately after the IWMA’s Hague Congress. Later, after both rival Internationals had collapsed, the anarcho-syndicalists decided to re-found the “First International” in a congress held at Berlin in 1922. They named it the “International Workers Association”. The IWA still exists.53
Another decision made at the Hague Congress in 1872 was the decision to relocate the IWMA seat to New York City. Here is how G.M. Stekloff reports the matter of Bakunin in Chapter 14 of his book, History of the First International.
“At the Friday session, the congress discussed where the headquarters of the new General Council should be. By 26 votes to 23, with 9 abstentions, it was decided that the headquarters should no longer be in London. Marx’s group feared that, if the seat of the General Council were to remain in London, there would be a danger of the International falling into the hands of the Blanquists, who counted many sympathisers in that city. Besides, Marx and his supporters also had in mind the duty of saving the International from the influence of anarchist theories in order that it might not become an instrument for “conspiratorial experiments” performed by the Communard refugees. Engels proposed that the headquarters should be transferred to New York. Vaillant entered as energetic protest; he was backed by other Communards who dreaded that through this change the leadership of the International would slip from their hands Some of the minority faction, in the belief that, once the General Council was on the farther side of the Atlantic, it would, as far as they were concerned, cease to exist, and that they would soon be able to prove how well the International could get on without it, voted with the Marxist group.
Thus, the voting in favour of Engels’ motion that the seat of the General Council be transferred to New York was 30: for retention in London, 14; for the transference to Barcelona, 1; and for the transference to Brussels, 1. Thirteen delegates abstained from voting.
“The decision brought about a division in the camp of the majority faction. The Blanquists passionately opposed the transference of the General Council to New York, and on the Saturday morning the congress learned that, with the exception of Dereure, they refused to attend any more sessions. Ranvier, chairman of the congress, was among the Blanquist malcontents, and he declared that the International was lost. Sorge replaced him as chairman. The congress new proceeded to elect the new General Council, the members of which had necessarily to be residents in the United States. Twelve were elected, among whom were Bolte and Dereure. Two of the twelve, David and Ward, when they learned that they had been nominated refused to stand. The new Council had the right to co-opt three members. This decision was taken in order than Sorge might subsequently become a member of the Council. He had shown himself averse to the transference of headquarters, to New York and had refused to stand for nomination to the General Council. Ultimately he succeeded in overcoming his own feelings in the matter, and was brought to see the affair from the point of view of the common good. He was then chosen as general secretary to the Council.”54
The headquarters of the IWMA General Council did move to New York City, and the IWMA soon became nearly inactive. The First International disbanded four years after the move to New York, at its 1876 Philadelphia Conference.55 Attempts to revive the organization over the next five years failed. In 1889, the Second International was established with the stated intention of being successor to the First International.56
The Hague Congress was to be the IWMA's last Congress. It was also to mark the end of Marx and Engels' direct participation in the International. Again, here is G.M. Stekloff reporting the decision of Marx and Engels in Chapter 14 of his book, History of the First International.
“Already, before the Hague Congress, Marx and Engels had decided to take no further direct part in the International. This decision had been influenced by many considerations, some personal and some general. Above all, Marx felt that his strength was waning, and that he must concentrate all his forces for the completion of his great work, Capital. This task alone was sufficient to prevent him from taking a very active part in the labours of the General Council. In addition there no longer existed the same unity of outlook as of yore. Many members of the Council, especially those who were working in the British working-class movement, such as Hales, Eccarius, and Jung, had never been true-hearted comrades-in-arms of Marx; these members were beginning to play, within the Council, the opposition game, and were paralysing the fighting spirits by entering into disruptive intrigues with the Bakuninists. The main reason for the decision was, however, that Marx and Engels realised that the old International had accomplished its task as awakener and as propagator of socialist ideas among the masses, and that henceforward the movement was to take a fresh turn. Instead of the formless and, as it were, fluid or loose unification of the dispersed forces of the proletariat, there must arise a stable solidarity among the workers of the respective nations, in order to accomplish this preliminary process of the creation of socialist parties in the different lands. In due course there would become necessary the creation of a new International, based upon the working class parties that had been nationally consolidated, and utilising all the experience of these parties.”59
· Bakunin writes about the IWMA and Marx shortly after his expulsion by the Hague Congress, 187257 -- Shortly after his expulsion from the Intternational in September, Bakunin wrote a piece of approximately 12,700 words on the IWMA and Marx. The material, important because Bakunin thoroughly states his own side of his disputes with Marx, was originally published in a 1971 book, Bakunin on Anarchy58, and is now on the Internet.57 Bakunin writes primarily about the important issues separating him and Marx, and less about the trivial matters used to expel him from the IWMA.
· Letter from Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, written September 12 & 17, 18742 – This letter reveals Engels’ belief that the row ignited by the Paris Commune, when “every faction wanted to exploit the success for itself”, led to a sequence of events which brought about the [impending] death of the International. Engels wrote, “The Hague Congress was really the end - and for both parties. The only country where something could still be accomplished in the name of the old International was America, and by a happy instinct the executive was transferred there. Now its prestige is exhausted there too, and any further effort to galvanize it into new life would be folly and waste of energy.”
Here is the entire pertinent except from Engels’ letter to Sorge:
“When, thanks to the Commune, the
International had become a moral force in
Europe, the row at once began.
Every fraction wanted to exploit the success for itself. The inevitable collapse
arrived. Jealousy of the growing power of the only people who were really ready
to work further along the lines of the old comprehensive programme--the German
Communists--drove the Belgian Proudhonists into the arms of the Bakuninist
adventurers. The Hague Congress was really the end - and for both parties. The
only country where something could still be accomplished in the name of the old
International was America,
and by a happy instinct the executive was transferred there. Now its prestige is
exhausted there too, and any further effort to galvanise it into new life would
be folly and waste of energy. For ten years the International dominated one side
of European history--the side on which the future lies--and can look back upon
its work with pride. But in its old form it has outlived itself. In order to
produce a new International after the fashion of the old one--an alliance of all
the proletarian parties in every country--a general suppression of the workers'
movement like that which predominated from 1849-64 would be necessary. But for
this the proletarian world has become too big, too extensive. I think that the
next International--after Marx's writings have had some years of influence--will
be directly Communist and will openly proclaim our principles. ...”2
· Philadelphia Conference, 1876 -- The IWMA disbands.55
Disputes Between Marx and Bakunin
Because it was the report of the Commission to Investigate the Alliance that directly led the Hague Congress to expel Bakunin, one could reasonably wonder whether the records produced at, and by, the Commission might be a good place to get information on Marx’s side of his disputes with Bakunin. But that is not the case. The long paper written by Mark and Engels in early 1872, in preparation for the confrontation at the Hague Congress, is a far better resource. Here are four reasons why the Commissions records are not the best place to go for the important differences and disputes between Marx and Bakunin:
o First, the purpose of the Commission was not to identify the major differences between Marx and Bakunin; there was no such hint that it should serve anything close to such a function.
o Second, the real purpose of the heavily Marxist Hague Congress in establishing the Commission to Investigate the Alliance was to obtain some rationale [which could be communicated to all IWMA sections] for expelling Bakunin from the organization. The Commission was to report Bakunin (and some of his allies) guilty of (1) continuing the existence of the Alliance, in secret, as an organization with goals different than the goals of the IWMA, and (2) working to have members of the secret Alliance, especially Bakunin, obtain control of the IWMA. That this is the case is reasonably understood from the types of evidence that had been collected and prepared for the investigation, and also from the fact that the investigation itself was begun on the day it was authorized and was effectively over by the next evening. No follow-up was conducted to sort out conflicts in testimony and evidence. [From the Commission’s viewpoint, it had to conduct the investigation immediately because several key players were available, and quickly because the Congress wanted a report soon.]
o Third, some of the “evidence” produced in the Commission’s two-day investigation would not stand up in any court.
o Fourth, it is clear from looking at all the documents (the 15,500 word paper and the Commission’s records) that the difference in political philosophy was more important than any “crimes” uncovered by the Commission. This is the feeling of the majority of people who favor the view of each antagonist, and who have looked a fair and representative share of available materials.
There were some other problems between the two,
besides their political philosophies involving the state. These were two huge
egos, and they acted something like frat boys competing to be top banana in the
fraternity of social revolutionaries. Through the years they said many nice
things about each other, and most of the complimentary words were likely
sincere. There were other times when they criticized each other in as harsh a
fashion as one could imagine, often behind the other’s back.
Each repeatedly accused the other of using intrigue against him, and in this they were both right. Any judgment on this aspect of their characters, however, should take into account the nature of their occupations and their political philosophies. Both were pragmatists who sometimes placed more importance on achieving goals than on how they did it. And it certainly would have been impossible for either of them to have not known that. When it came to using secrecy against each other, their playing field and the rules they played by were equal. Bakunin was not expelled from the International for using secrecy against Marx, but for using secret measures against the International.
Although there is a ton of evidence that Bakunin recognized he was very inferior to Marx as a “brain” (a word he used for Marx), he clearly felt superior to Marx in knowing how to carry out a revolution.
The majority opinion is that Bakunin was the more passionate revolutionary while Marx possessed more of the egghead’s passion to see his theories tested. I believe this was true, but neither was without some of the passion more identified with the other.
While the differences between the two men were many, the main differences which kept these men at war with each other can be seen from the following sets of quotations. Besides these quotations, two other valuable sources for the problems between the men within the IWMA are first, the long paper, "Fictitious Splits in the International,"60 written by Marx and Engels in the Spring of 1872 in preparation for the battle at the Hague Congress, and (2) the minutes and documents published by Marx and Engels [under the banner of the Hague Congress] in August 1873,61 nearly a year after the Congress expelled Bakunin. The latter source is either the most complete source available, or close to it, with respect to some charges against Bakunin, for example those charges relating to the Nechayev Affair.62
Quotations from Mikhail Bakunin and Karl
Marx Showing their Important Differences
“They [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship - their dictatorship, of course - can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up.” - Mikhail Bakunin, Statism and Anarchism
Excerpts taken from Bakunin’s paper,
“On the International
Workingmen’s Association and Marx,” written about two
months after his expulsion from the IWMA in September 187263
Comments on the IWMA and Marx
This first series of quotes shows Bakunin’s view of the basic difference between him and Marx within the IWMA. Marx wanted the IWMA to support his idea that the workers should participate in a political struggle to obtain control of the state. Bakunin, on the other hand, believed that the state was never, and would never be, a friend of the workers. Bakunin believed that the political process was a fraud carried out for the purpose of keeping the wealthy property class in power while giving the working class the mistaken belief that they had some control over the government. Bakunin believed that even the proletariat’s obtaining control of the government would ultimately result simply in one tyranny being replaced by another. Whereas Marx tried hard to have his own political philosophy to be endorsed by the IWMA, Bakunin wanted all endorsements of particular political philosophies to be left out of the IWMA’s requirements, documents, and platform.
“When it comes to exploitation, the bourgeoisie practice solidarity. In combating them the exploited must do likewise; and the organization of this solidarity is the sole aim of the International. This aim, so simple and so clearly expressed in our original statutes, is the only legitimate obligation that all the members, sections, and federations of the International must accept.”
“Mr. Marx, who was one of the principal initiators of the International (a title to glory that no one will contest) and who for the last eight years has practically monopolized the whole General Council, should have understood better than anyone two things which are self-evident and which only those blinded by vanity and ambition could ignore: 1) that the marvelous growth of the International is due to the elimination from its official program and rules of all political and philosophic questions, and 2) that basing itself on the principle of the autonomy and freedom of all its sections and federations the International has happily been spared the ministrations of a centralizer or director who would naturally impede and paralyze its growth. Before 1870, precisely in the period of the International’s greatest expansion, the General Council of the International did not interfere with the freedom and autonomy of the sections and federations – not because it lacked the will to dominate, but only because it did not have the power to do so and no one would have obeyed it. The General Council was an appendage trailing behind the spontaneous movement of the workers of France, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy.
“As far as the political question is concerned, everyone knows that if it was eliminated from the program of the International, it was not the fault of Mr. Marx. Nor is it due to any change of mind on the part of the author of that famous Manifesto of the German Communists published in 1848 by him and his friend and accomplice, Mr. Engels. Nor did he fail to emphasize this question in the Inaugural Proclamation – a circular addressed to all the workers of all lands – published in 1864 by the London Provisional General Council. The sole author of the Proclamation was Mr. Marx. In this proclamation the chief of the German authoritarian communists stressed that ‘the conquest of political power is the first task of the proletariat ...’ [Note: Marx’s Inaugural address included the words, “To conquer political power has, therefore, become the great duty of the working classes. They seem to have comprehended this, for in England, Germany, Italy, and France, there have taken place simultaneous revivals, and simultaneous efforts are being made at the political organization of the workingmen’s party.”]
“The First Congress of the International (Geneva, 1866) nipped in the bud the attempt of Marx – who now poses as the dictator of our great association – to inject this political plank. It has been completely eliminated from the program and statutes adopted by this congress which remain the foundation of the International. Take the trouble to re-read the magnificent ‘Considerations’ which are the Preamble to our general statutes and you will see that the political question is dealt with in these words:
“Considering that the emancipation of the workers must be the task of the workers themselves; that the efforts of the workers to achieve their emancipation must not be to reconstitute new privileges, but to establish, once for all, equal duties and equal rights; that the enslavement of the workers to capital is the source of all servitude – political, moral, and material; that for this reason the economic emancipation of the workers is the great aim to which must be subordinated every political movement, etc.” [Emphases are Bakunin’s.]
Then, Bakunin goes on to describe how the Alliance [not the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy, which had agreed to dissolve, but the Alliance which was the Geneva section of the IWMA] interpreted that portion of the “Considerations”:
“The Alliance, the Geneva section of the International, has interpreted this paragraph of the ‘Considerations’ in these terms:
”The Alliance rejects all political action which has not for its immediate and direct aim the triumph of the workers over capitalism. Consequently it fixes as its ultimate aim the abolition of the state, of all states, [these to be replaced] by the universal federation of all local associations through and in freedom.
Bakunin then immediately goes on to give the contrasting interpretation of the IWMA’s founding “Considerations” by Marx’s section:
“Contrary to this, the German Social Democratic Workers party, founded in 1869, under the auspices of Mr. Marx, by Mr. Liebknecht and Mr. Babel, announced in its program that ‘the conquest of political power was the indispensable condition for the economic emancipation of the proletariat’ and that consequently, the immediate objective of the party must be the organization of a big legal campaign to win universal suffrage and all other political rights. The final aim was the establishment of the Great Pan-Germanic State, the so-called People’s State.”
Note well the following paragraph summarizing Bakunin’s view of the major difference between the two interpretations of the “Considerations,” by Geneva’s Alliance and Marx’s German Social Democratic Workers party:
”Between these two tendencies there exist the same conflicting conceptions and the same abyss that separate the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Is it surprising, therefore, that these irreconcilable adversaries clashed in the International, that the struggle between them, in all forms and on all possible occasions, is still going on? The Alliance, true to the program of the International, disdainfully rejected all collaboration with bourgeois politics, in however radical and socialist a disguise. They advised the proletariat that the only real emancipation, the only policy truly beneficial for them, is the exclusively negative policy of demolishing political institutions, political power, government in general, and the State, and that to do this it is necessary to unify the scattered forces of the proletariat into an International organization, a revolutionary power directed against the entrenched] power of the bourgeoisie.
“The German Social Democrats advocated a completely opposite policy. They told these workers, who unfortunately heeded them, that the first and most pressing task of their organization must be to win political rights by legal agitation. They thus subordinated the movement for economic emancipation to an exclusively political movement, and by this obvious reversal of the whole program of the International they filled in at a single stroke the abyss that the International had opened between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. They have done more. They have tied the proletariat to the bourgeois towline. For it is evident that this whole political movement so enthusiastically extolled by the German Socialists, since it must precede the economic revolution, can only be directed by the bourgeoisie, or what is still worse, by workers transformed into bourgeois by their vanity and ambition. And, in fact, this movement, like all its predecessors, will once more supersede the proletariat and condemn them to be the blind instruments, the victims, to be used and then sacrificed in the struggle between the rival bourgeois parties for the power and right to dominate and exploit the masses.”
In this next section of quotes, Bakunin makes the point that, while his section of the IWMA deplored the actions of Marx and his followers as stated above, they did nothing to interfere with the Marxists, respecting the independence of IWMA sections to follow the path which they selected as best for them. Note well Bakunin’s acceptance of the Lausanne Congress’s “platonic” statement that “the political question was inseparable from the economic question”.
“Certainly we have deplored and still deeply deplore the immense confusion and demoralization which these ideas have caused in arresting the promising and marvelous growth of the International and almost wrecking the organization. In spite of this none of us ever dreamed of stopping Mr. Marx and his fanatical disciples from propagating their ideas in our great association. If we did so, we would violate our fundamental principle: ‘absolute freedom to propagandize political and philosophic ideas’.
“The International permits no censor and no official truth in whose name this censorship can be imposed. So far, the International has refused to grant this privilege either to the Church or to the State, and it is precisely because of this fact that the unbelievably rapid growth of the International has surprised the world.
“This is what the Geneva Congress (1866) understood better than Mr. Marx. The effective power of our association, the International, was based on eliminating from its program all political and philosophical planks, not as subjects for discussion and study but as obligatory principles which all members must accept.
“It is true that in the second congress of the International (Lausanne, 1867), misinformed friends, not adversaries, moved for the adoption of a political plank. But most fortunately the question of politics was harmlessly formulated in this platonic statement: ‘that the political question was inseparable from the economic question’ – a declaration to which any of us could subscribe. For it is evident that politics, that is, the institutions of and relations between states, has no other object than to assure to the governing classes the legal exploitation of the proletariat. Consequently, from the moment that the proletariat becomes aware that it must emancipate itself, it must of necessity concern itself with the game of politics in order to fight and defeat it. This is not the sense in which our adversaries understand this problem. What they have sought and still want is the constructive politics of the State. But not finding the sentiment favorable at Lausanne, they wisely abstained from pressing the question.”
Marx and his allies continued to press for the IWMA to endorse his particular political at the Brussels Congress (1868), and that Congress again refused, sticking to the IWMA’s general statement that “the political question was inseparable from the economic question.” Having suffered defeats in three consecutive attempts to have their political philosophy endorsed by the UWMA (at the Geneva Congress of 1866, the Lausanne Congress of 1867, and the Brussels Congress of 1868), the Marxist faction determined that the Basel Congress would be different. Here is how Bakunin describes their resolve and activities, their loss at Basel, and Marx’s shifting of the battleground to the IWMA’s General Council, which he characterized as “Marx’s puppet”.
“Three years of defeats! This was too much for the impatient ambition of Mr. Marx. He commanded his army to make a direct attack, which order was carried out at the Basel Congress (1869). The chances seemed favorable. The Social Democratic party had enough time to organize itself in Germany under the leadership of Mr. Liebknecht and Mr. Babel. The party had links with German Switzerland, at Zurich and Basel, and even in the German section of the International in Geneva. It was the first time that German delegates were present in any great number in a congress of the International.
“Though well prepared for the great battle, the Marxists lost. Soon after his defeat at this congress, the General Council, which was in effect Marx’s puppet, awoke from its enforced lethargy (so healthful for the International) and opened an offensive. It began with a torrent of odious falsehoods, character assassinations, and plots against all those who dared to disagree with Marx’s clique, disseminated by the German papers and in the other countries by secret letters and confidential circulars, and by all sorts of agents recruited in various ways into the Marxist camp.
“This was followed by the London Conference (September 1871), which, prepared by the long arm of Mr. Marx, approved all that he wished – the conquest of political power as an integral part of the obligatory program of the International and the dictatorship of the General Council, that is, the personal dictatorship of Marx, and consequently the transformation of the International into an immense and monstrous state with himself as chief.”
The climax within the IWMA is approaching. Despite the extraordinary efforts the Marxist faction made at Basel, they suffered their fourth defeat. Here is Bakunin on what happen next, at the London Conference (1871) and the Hague Congress (1872).
“This was followed by the London Conference (September 1871), which, prepared by the long arm of Mr. Marx, approved all that he wished – the conquest of political power as an integral part of the obligatory program of the International and the dictatorship of the General Council, that is, the personal dictatorship of Marx, and consequently the transformation of the International into an immense and monstrous state with himself as chief.
“The legitimacy of this conference has been contested. Mr. Marx, a very able political conniver, doubtless anxious to prove to the world that though he lacked firearms and cannons the masses could still be governed by lies, by libels, and by intrigues, organized his Congress of the Hague in September 1872.” [It was the Hague Congress is that expelled Bakunin.]
Note well this next quote which shows Bakunin’s assessment of what took place at the Hague Congress, including his observation that the Congress had been packed with a “rigged, fictitious majority”. Knowing that the confrontation was coming, Marx had seen to it that his supporters were present at this Congress in higher relative numbers than they had attended the others. [Sixty five people took part in the Congress. Twenty-one were members of the General Council; nineteen partcipants were from Germany. Both these numbers were far higher than were present at any other Congress.] The following quote also reflects Bakunin’s assessment of the effect of the Hague Congress’ actions on the IWMA. In the “barely two months” that had passed since his expulsion by the Hague Congress, anarchists had fled the IWMA in droves and a rival Anarchist International had already been established at an anarchist Congress at St. Imier.
“Barely two months have passed since this [Hague] congress and already in all of Europe (with the exception of Germany where the workers are brainwashed by the lies of their leaders and their press) and its free federations – Belgian, Dutch, English, American, French, Spanish, Italian – without forgetting our excellent Jura Federation [Switzerland] – there has arisen a cry of indignation and contempt against this cynical burlesque which dares to call itself a true Congress of the International.
“Thanks to a rigged, fictitious majority, composed almost exclusively of members of the General Council, cleverly used by Mr. Marx, all has been travestied, falsified, brutalized. Justice, good sense, honesty, and the honor of the International brazenly rejected, its very existence endangered – all this the better to establish the dictatorship of Mr. Marx. It is not only criminal – it is sheer madness. Yet Mr. Marx who thinks of himself as the father of the International (he was unquestionably one of its founders) cares not a whit, and permits all this to be done! This is what personal vanity, the lust for power, and above all, political ambition can lead to. For all these deplorable acts Marx is personally responsible. Marx, in spite of all his misdeeds, has unconsciously rendered a great service to the International by demonstrating in the most dramatic and evident manner that if anything can kill the International, it is the introduction of politics into its program.”
Now, Bakunin givers a pragmatic reason for excluding any particular political philosophy from the platform of the International. He compares the error of requiring adherence to a particular political philosophy with the error that would have been made if the IWMA had required its members to be atheists.
“I do not think that I need show that, for the International to be a real power, it must be able to organize within its ranks the immense majority of the proletariat of Europe, of America, of all lands. But what political or philosophic program can rally to its banner all these millions? Only a program which is very general, – hence vague and indefinite, for every theoretical definition necessarily involves elimination and in practice exclusion from membership.
“For example: there is today no serious philosophy which does not take as its point of departure not positive but negative atheism. (Historically it became necessary to negate the theological and metaphysical absurdities.) But do you believe that if this simple word ‘atheism’ had been inscribed on the banner of the International this association would have been able to attract more than a few hundred thousand members? Of course not because the people are truly religious, but because they believe in a Superior Being; and they will continue to believe in a Superior Being until a social revolution provides the means to achieve all their aspirations here below. It is certain that if the International had demanded that all its members must be atheists, it would have excluded from its ranks the flower of the proletariat.”
Bakunin takes this occasion to contrast his and Marx’s contrasting opinions as to who are the flower of the proletariat.
“To me the flower of the proletariat is not, as it is to the Marxists, the upper layer, the aristocracy of labor, those who are the most cultured, who earn more and live more comfortably than all the other workers. Precisely this semi-bourgeois layer of workers would, if the Marxists had their way, constitute their fourth governing class. This could indeed happen if the great mass of the proletariat does not guard against it. By virtue of its relative well-being and semi-bourgeois position, this upper layer of workers is unfortunately only too deeply saturated with all the political and social prejudices and all the narrow aspirations and pretensions of the bourgeoisie. Of all the proletariat, this upper layer is the least social and the most individualist.
”By the flower of the proletariat, I mean above all that great mass, those millions of the uncultivated, the disinherited, the miserable, the illiterates, whom Messrs. Engels and Marx would subject to their paternal rule by a strong government – naturally for the people’s own salvation! All governments are supposedly established only to look after the welfare of the masses! By flower of the proletariat, I mean precisely that eternal ‘meat’ (on which governments thrive), that great rabble of the people (underdogs, ‘dregs of society’) ordinarily designated by Marx and Engels in the picturesque and contemptuous phrase Lumpenproletariat. I have in mind the ‘riffraff,’ that ‘rabble’ almost unpolluted by bourgeois civilization, which carries in its inner being and in its aspirations, in all the necessities and miseries of its collective life, all the seeds of the socialism of the future, and which alone is powerful enough today to inaugurate and bring to triumph the Social Revolution.”
In the next quote, Bakunin says: (1) that history has taught even the masses that no despotic government can give them the economic equality they desire, and (2) that “the organization and the rule of the new society by socialist savants – is the worst of all despotic governments!”
“What the masses want above all is their immediate economic emancipation; this emancipation is for them equivalent to freedom and human dignity, a matter of life or death. If there is an ideal that the masses are today capable of embracing with passion, it is economic equality. And the masses are a thousand times right, for as long as the present condition is not replaced by economic equality, all the rest, all that constitutes the value and dignity of human existence – liberty, science, love, intelligence, and fraternal solidarity – will remain for them a horrible and cruel deception.
“The instinctive passion of the masses for economic equality is so great that if they had hopes of receiving it from a despotic regime, they would indubitably and without much reflection, as they have often done before, deliver themselves to despotism. Happily, historic experience has been of service even to the masses. Today they are everywhere beginning to understand that no despotism has had or can have either the will or the power to give them economic equality. The program of the International is very happily explicit on this question: the emancipation of the workers can be achieved only by the workers themselves.
“Is it not astonishing that Mr. Marx has believed it possible to graft onto this precise declaration, which he himself probably wrote, his scientific socialism? For this – the organization and the rule of the new society by socialist savants – is the worst of all despotic governments!”
Bakunin then says that Marx will never be successful in his goal of achieving his scientific socialism, and that it will only be a dream for Marx, because the common people are far too distrustful of things political, and of all politicians. He says only a demented person could believe the masses of all countries could be attracted to a uniform political program, and yet Marx does. The result of Marx’s ambition has been to cause a great split in the International. Bakunin says the “rigged” Marxian [Hague] Congress, “voted” in Marx’s program to avoid the appearance of it having been foisted on the International by the Marxist-dominated General Council. Bakunin equated the Congress’ action with imposing slavery on the workers in the name of free choice.
“But thanks to the great, beloved common people, the ‘rabble,’ who are moved by an instinct invincible as well as just, all the governmental schemes of this little working-class minority already disciplined and marshaled to become the myrmidons of a new despotism, the scientific socialism of Mr. Marx will never be inflicted upon them and is doomed to remain only a dream.
“This new experience, perhaps the saddest of all experiences, will be spared society because the proletariat in all countries is today animated by a deep distrust against everything political, and against all politicians – whatever their party color. All of them, from the ‘reddest’ republicans to the most absolutist monarchists, have equally deceived, oppressed, and exploited the people.
“Taking into consideration these feelings of the masses, how can anyone hope to attract them to any political program? And supposing that the masses allow themselves to be drawn into the International even so, as they do, how can anyone hope that the proletariat of all lands, who differ so greatly in temperament, in culture, in economic development, would shoulder the yoke of a uniform political program? Only the demented could imagine such a possibility. Yet Mr. Marx not only enjoys imagining it, he wanted to accomplish this feat. By a despotic sneak attack he tore to shreds the pact of the International, hoping thereby, as he still does today, to impose a uniform political program, his own program, upon all the federations of the International, and hence upon the proletariat of all countries.
“This has caused a great split in the International. Let us not deceive ourselves; the basic unity of the International has been fractured. This was accomplished, I repeat, by the acts of the Marxist party which throughout the Hague Congress has tried to impose the will, the thought, and the policy of its chief upon the whole International.”
“The International can be powerful only if it acts as a unit, with only one political program for all. Otherwise there would be as many different Internationals as there were programs.
“But as it is clearly impossible for all the workers of all the different countries to unite voluntarily and spontaneously under the same political programs, this single program would have to be imposed upon them. To avoid the impression that it was foisted on the International by the Marxist-dominated General Council, a rigged Marxian congress ‘voted’ it in, thus demonstrating in a new way this old truth about the representative system and universal suffrage: in the name of the free choice of all will be decreed the slavery of all. This is what really happened in the Hague Congress.”
Bakunin then associates the Hague Congress’ endorsement of Marx’s political program with its move of the General Council’s headquarters to New York City. In fact, there had been a connection as Marx and Engels felt that their planned reduction in their own involvement with the International would cause it to become vulnerable to control by anarchists if the IWMA headquarters remained in Europe.
“The better to hide his scheme and sweeten the bitter pill, this notorious congress sent to America a dummy general council, chosen and rehearsed by Mr. Marx himself, always obeying his secret instructions, to assume all the trappings, the drudgery, and appearances of power, while from behind the scenes Mr. Marx will exercise the real power.
”But disgusting as this scheme may appear to delicate and timorous souls, it became absolutely necessary from the moment the proposal was made to anchor the political question in the program of the International. Since unity of political action is considered necessary, and since it cannot and will not freely emerge through the spontaneous and voluntary agreement of the federations and sections of the different countries, it must be imposed on them. Only in this way can this most desired and highly touted political unity be created. But at the same time slavery is also being created.
”To sum up: By introducing the political question in the official and obligatory programs and statutes of the International, the Marxists have put our association in a terrible dilemma. Here are the two alternatives: Either political unity with slavery or liberty with division and dissolution. What is the way out? Quite simply: we must return to our original principles and omit the specific political issue, thus leaving the sections and federations free to develop their own policies. But then would not each section and each federation follow whatever political policy it wants? No doubt. But then, will not the International be transformed into a tower of Babel? On the contrary, only then will it attain real unity, basically economic, which will necessarily lead to real political unity. Then there will be created, though of course not all at once, the grand policy of the International – not from a single head, ambitious, erudite, but nevertheless, incapable of embracing the thousand needs of a proletariat no matter how brainy it may be, – but by the absolutely free, spontaneous, and concurrent action of the workers of all countries.
“The foundation for the unity of the International, so vainly looked for in the current political and philosophical dogmas, has already been laid by the common sufferings, interests, needs, and real aspirations of the workers of the whole world. This solidarity does not have to be artificially created. It is a fact, it is life itself, a daily experience in the world of the worker. And all that remains to be done is to make him understand this fact and help him to organize it consciously. This fact is solidarity for economic demands. This slogan is in my opinion the only, yet at the same time a truly great, achievement of the first founders of our association, among whom, as I always like to remember, Mr. Marx has played so useful and preponderant a part – excepting his political schemes which the Geneva Congress (1866) wisely eliminated from the program he presented.”
In this next [lengthy] quote, Bakunin talks about the errors made by the Hague Congress, which he felt was not a representative or genuine Congress. He felt that workers would never unite under the political platform of the Hague Congress. Although anarchists had already set up a rival International at St. Imier (with Bakunin present), he actually was hoping that the mistakes of the Hague Congress would be reversed so that workers could once again unite under the banner of the original International.
“The masses, regardless of their degree of culture, religious beliefs, country, or native tongue, understood the language of the International when it spoke to them of their poverty, their sufferings, and their slavery under the yoke of capitalism. They responded when the necessity to unite in a great common struggle was explained to them. But here they were being told about a political program – most learned and above all quite authoritarian – which for the sake of their own salvation was attempting – in the very International by means of which they were to organize their own emancipation – to impose on them a dictatorial government (only temporarily, of course!) directed by an extraordinarily brainy man.
”It is sheer madness to hope that the working masses of Europe and America will stay in the International in such circumstances.
But, you may ask, ‘Has not the remarkable success [of the International] shown that Mr. Marx was right, and didn’t the Hague Congress vote in favor of all his demands?’
”No one knows better than Mr. Marx himself how little the resolutions approved by the unfortunate congress at the Hague expressed the true thoughts and aspirations of the federations of all countries. The composition and the manipulation of this congress have caused so much pain and disappointment that no one has the least illusion about its real value. Outside of the German Social Democratic party, the federations of all countries – the American, the English , the Dutch, the Belgian, the French, the Jura – Swiss, the Spanish, and the Italian – protested all the resolutions of this disastrous and disgraceful congress and vehemently denounced its ignoble intrigues.
“But let us set aside the moral question and deal only with the main points. A political program has no value if it deals only with vague generalities. It must specify precisely what institutions are to replace those that are to be overthrown or reformed. Marx’s program is a complete network of political and economic institutions rigidly centralized and highly authoritarian, sanctioned, no doubt, like all despotic institutions in modern society, by universal suffrage, but nevertheless subordinate to a very strong government – to quote Engels, Marx’s alter ego, the autocrat’s confidant.
“But why should this particular program be injected into the official and binding statutes of the International? Why not that of the Blanquists? Why not ours? Could it be because Mr. Marx concocted it? That is no reason. Or is it because the German workers seem to like it? But the anarchist program is with very few exceptions accepted by all the Latin federations; the Slavs would never accept any other. Why, then, should the program of the Germans dominate the International, which was conceived in liberty and can only prosper in and by liberty?
“It is clear that the wish to force the federations – be it by violence, by intrigue, or both – to accept a single arbitrary political program must fail; the most likely result would be the dissolution of the International and its division into many political parties, each promoting its own political program. To save its integrity and assure its progress, there is only one procedure: to follow and preserve the original policy and keep the political question out of the official and obligatory program and Statutes of the International Workingmen’s Association – which was organized not for the political struggle but only for economic ends – and absolutely refuse to let it be used by anyone as a political instrument.”
Bakunin emphatically makes it clear that he believes it is essential that political questions be discussed within the International, however without any political program being officially endorsed, or required of members. He feels that the International, once it officially endorsed a particular political program, would have made discussion of political questions meaningless.
“We hasten to say that it is absolutely impossible to ignore political and philosophical questions. An exclusive preoccupation with economic questions would be fatal for the proletariat. Doubtless the defense and organization of its economic interests – a matter of life and death – must be the principal task of the proletariat. But it is impossible for the workers to stop there without renouncing their humanity and depriving themselves of the intellectual and moral power which is so necessary for the conquest of their economic rights. In the miserable circumstances in which the worker now finds himself, the main problem he faces is most likely bread for himself and his family. But much more than any of the privileged classes today, he is a human being in the fullest sense of this word; he thirsts for dignity, for justice, for equality, for liberty, for humanity, and for knowledge, and he passionately strives to attain all these things together with the full enjoyment of the fruits of his own labor. Therefore, if political and philosophical questions have not yet been posed in the International, it is the proletariat itself who will pose them.
“On the one hand, the political and philosophical questions must be excluded from the program of the International. On the other, they must necessarily be discussed. How can this seeming contradiction be resolved?
“This problem will solve itself by liberty. No political or philosophical theory should be considered a fundamental principle, or he introduced into the official program of the International. Nor should acceptance of any political or philosophical theory be obligatory as a condition for membership, since as we have seen, to impose any such theory upon the federations composing the International would be slavery, or it would result in division and dissolution, which is no less disastrous. But it does not follow from this that free discussion of all political and philosophical theories cannot occur in the International. On the contrary, it is precisely the very existence of an official theory that will kill such discussion by rendering it absolutely useless instead of living and vital, and by inhibiting the expression and development of the worker’s own feelings and ideas. As soon as an official truth is pronounced – having been scientifically discovered by this great brainy head laboring all alone – a truth proclaimed and imposed on the whole world from the summit of the Marxist Sinai, why discuss anything?”
Bakunin states his view that the proletariat, in the very act of joining the International, has taken a stance against politics, even if they don’t realize it at first.
“The workers, as I have said, originally join the International for one very practical purpose: solidarity in the struggle for full economic rights against the oppressive exploitation by the bourgeoisie of all lands. Note that by this single act, though at first without realizing it, the proletariat takes a decisively negative position on politics. And this in two ways. First of all, it undermines the concept of political frontiers and international politics of states, the existence of which depends upon the sympathies, the voluntary cooperation, and the fanatical patriotism of the enslaved masses. Secondly, it digs a chasm between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and places the proletariat outside the activity and political conniving of all the parties within the State; but in placing itself outside all bourgeois politics, the proletariat necessarily turns against it.
“The proletariat, by its adherence to the International, has unconsciously taken up a very definite political position. However, this is an absolutely negative political position; and the great mistake, not to say the treason and the crime of the Social Democrats – who are urging the German workers to follow the Marxist program – is that they tried to transform this negative attitude into positive collaboration with bourgeois politics.
“The International, in placing the proletariat outside the politics of the State and of the bourgeois world, thereby constructed a new world, the world of the united proletarians of all lands. This is the new world of the future: the legitimate inheritor, but at the same time the gravedigger of all former civilizations, which, founded on privilege, are completely bankrupt, exhausted, and doomed to extinction. On the ruins of the old world, on the demolition of all oppressions divine and human, of all slavery, of all inequality, the International is destined to create a new civilization. This is the mission, and therefore the true program of the International – not the official, artificial program, from which may all the Christian and pagan gods protect us – but that which is inherent in the very nature of the organization itself.”
In the next quote, Bakunin lists the three main activities which he believes can lead to the workers achieving its goal of economic emancipation. He wrote about these in detail near the end of Part I of his lengthy paper on the IWMA and Marx, written about two months after his expulsion. It is well worth reading, but I will present here only his introductory remarks.
“The true program, I will repeat it a thousand times, is quite simple and moderate: the organization of solidarity in the economic struggle of labor against capitalism. On this foundation, at first exclusively material, will rise the intellectual and moral pillars of the new society. To bring such a society into being, all the thoughts, all the philosophical and political tendencies of the International, born out of the womb of the proletariat itself, must originate, and take as their principal point of departure this economic base which constitutes the very essence and the declared, obvious aim of the International. Is this possible?
“Yes, and this process is now taking place. Whoever has kept in touch with developments in the International during the last few years will notice how this is slowly taking place, sometimes at a quickened, sometimes at a slower pace, and always in three different, but firmly connected, ways: first, by the establishment and coordination of strike funds and the international solidarity of strikes; second, by the organization and the international (federative) coordination of trade and professional unions; third, by the spontaneous and direct development of philosophical and sociological ideas in the International, ideas which inevitably develop side by side with and are produced by the first two movements.”
Political Consciousness and
Here is Bakunin addressing the relationship of political consciousness and statist civilization. First, he looks at what propaganda [not a pejorative term] can and cannot do, arguing that it can never “imbue the great masses of a nation with tendencies, aspirations, passions, and thoughts that are absolutely foreign to them, that are not the product of their own history, of their customs and traditions…. Ultimately, no propaganda has ever artificially created a source or basis for a people’s aspirations and ideas, which are always the product of their spontaneous development and the actual conditions of life.” Bakunin looks at what political consciousness is for both the privileged classes and the proletariat, saying that it is quite different for the two. He moves on to argue for the naturalness of revolt for oppressed species, and claims that there never was a people who did not feel at least a spark of revolt at the beginning of their slavery.
“Is it possible even by means of the most cleverly devised and energetically expressed propaganda to imbue the great masses of a nation with tendencies, aspirations, passions, and thoughts that are absolutely foreign to them, that are not the product of their own history, of their customs and traditions? It seems to me that when the question is so posed, any reasonable and sensitive man who has even the least idea of how the popular conscience is developed, can answer only in the negative. Ultimately, no propaganda has ever artificially created a source or basis for a people’s aspirations and ideas, which are always the product of their spontaneous development and the actual conditions of life. What, then, can propaganda do? It can, in general, express the proletariat’s own instincts in a new, more definite and more apt form. It can sometimes precipitate and facilitate the awakening consciousness of the masses themselves. It can make them conscious of what they are, of what they feel, and of what they already instinctively wish; but never can propaganda make then what they are not, nor awaken in their hearts passions which are foreign to their own history.
“Now to discuss the question whether by means of propaganda it is possible to make a people politically conscious for the first time, we must specify what political consciousness is for the masses of the people. I emphasize for the masses of the people. For we know very well that for the privileged classes, political consciousness is nothing but the right of conquest, guaranteed and codified, of the exploiter of the labor of the masses and the right to govern them so as to assure this exploitation. But for the masses, who have been enslaved, governed, and exploited, of what does political consciousness consist? It can be assured by only one thing – the goddess of revolt. This mother of all liberty, the tradition of revolt, is the indispensable historical condition for the realization of any and all freedoms.
”We see then that this phrase political consciousness, throughout the course of historical development, possesses two absolutely different meanings corresponding to two opposing viewpoints. From the viewpoint of the privileged classes, political consciousness means conquest, enslavement, and the indispensable mechanism for this exploitation of the masses: the coextensive organization of the State. From the viewpoint of the masses, it means the destruction of the State. It means, accordingly, two things that are diametrically and inevitably opposed.
“Now it is absolutely certain that there has never existed a people, no matter how low-spirited or maltreated by circumstances, who did not feel at least at the beginning of their slavery some spark of revolt. To revolt is a natural tendency of life. Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it. In general, the vitality and relative dignity of an animal can be measured by the intensity of its instinct to revolt. In the world of beasts as in the human world there is no habit more degrading, more stupid, or more cowardly than the habit of supine submission and obedience to another’s oppression. I contend that there has never existed a people so depraved that they did not at some time, at least at the beginning of their history, revolt against the yoke of their slave drivers and their exploiters, and against the yoke of the State.
“But it must be acknowledged that since the bloody wars of the Middle Ages, the State has crushed all popular revolts. With the exception of Holland and Switzerland, the State reigns triumphant in all the countries of Europe…. All the so-called revolutions of the past – including the great French Revolution, despite the magnificent concepts that inspired it – all these revolutions have been nothing but the struggle between rival exploiting classes for the exclusive enjoyment of the privileges granted by the State. They express nothing but a fight for the domination and exploitation of the masses.
“And the masses? Alas! It must he acknowledged that the masses have allowed themselves to become deeply demoralized, apathetic, not to say castrated, by the pernicious influence of our corrupt, centralized, statist civilization. Bewildered, debased, they have contracted the fatal habit of obedience, of sheepish resignation. They have been turned into an immense herd, artificially segregated and divided into cages for the greater convenience of their various exploiters.”
Critique of Economic Determinism
and Historical Materialism
A key point from the next quote is that Bakunin feels that statism, even if an inevitable development and in some ways an improvement over conditions preceding it, need not be praised as something good as several Marxists had done, since it is contrary to the ultimate “triumph of humanity, the most complete conquest and establishment of personal freedom and development – material, intellectual, and moral – for every individual, through the absolutely unrestricted and spontaneous organization of economic and social solidarity.”
“The Marxist sociologists, men like Engels and Lassalle, in objecting to our views contend that the State is not at all the cause of the poverty, degradation, and servitude of the masses; that both the miserable condition of the masses and the despotic power of the State are, on the contrary, the effect of a more general underlying cause. In particular, we are told that they are both the products of an inevitable stage in the economic evolution of society; a stage which, historically viewed, constitutes an immense step forward to what they call the ‘Social Revolution.’ To illustrate how far the obsession with this doctrine has already gone: the crushing of the formidable revolts of the peasants in Germany in the sixteenth century led inevitably to the triumph of the centralized, despotic State, from which dates the centuries-old slavery of the German people. This catastrophe is hailed by Lassalle as a victory for the coming Social Revolution! Why? Because, say the Marxists, the peasants are the natural representatives of reaction, while the modern, military, bureaucratic state, beginning in the second half of the sixteenth century, initiated the slow, but always progressive, transformation of the ancient feudal and land economy into the industrial era of production, in which capital exploits labor. This State, therefore, has been an essential condition for the coming Social Revolution.
”It is now understandable why Mr. Engels, following this logic, wrote in a letter to our friend Carlo Cafiero that Bismarck as well as King Victor Emmanuel of Italy (inadvertently) had greatly helped the revolution because both of them created political centralization in their respective countries. I urge the French allies and sympathizers of Mr. Marx to carefully examine how this Marxist concept is being applied in the International.
“We who, like Mr. Marx himself, are materialists and determinists, also recognize the inevitable linking of economic and political facts in history. We recognize, indeed, the necessity and inevitable character of all events that occur but we no longer bow before them indifferently, and above all we are very careful about praising them when, by their nature, they show themselves in flagrant contradiction to the supreme end of history. This is a thoroughly human ideal which is found in more or less recognizable form in the instincts and aspirations of the people and in all the religious symbols of all epochs, because it is inherent in the human race, the most social of all the species of animals on earth. This ideal, today better understood than ever, is the triumph of humanity, the most complete conquest and establishment of personal freedom and development – material, intellectual, and moral – for every individual, through the absolutely unrestricted and spontaneous organization of economic and social solidarity.
”Everything in history that shows itself conformable to that end, from the human point of view – and we can have no other – is good; all that is contrary to it is bad.”
Following that last quote, Bakunin goes on to considering some specific historical events supporting his argument that inevitable events of history need not be praised by determinists. I am omitting much of that consideration, but now come to an important observation by Bakunin:
“Then I see two friends, as ancient as history itself, approaching: the same two serpents which up till now have devoured everything beautiful and virtuous that mankind has created. They are called the Church and the State, the papacy and the empire. Eternal evils and inseparable allies, embracing each other and together devouring that unfortunate, most beautiful Italy, condemning her to three centuries of death. Well, though I again find it all natural and inevitable, I nevertheless curse both emperor and pope.”
After the above, Bakunin continues with his recitation and interpretation of events in Europe. With regard to France, he discusses the danger of losing political consciousness and the inclination toward liberty. With regard to Poland, of which both Bakunin and Marx opposed partition, Bakunin points to an inconsistency in Marx’s position, namely that Marx by condemning the partition of Poland violates his own determinist’s policy of not condemning events that have already occurred. Then Bakunin comes to Germany, whose ruler Bismarck had been given considerable praise from Marx’s confidante, Engels. Bakunin tells how Bismarck and Marx are both different and alike. They are alike in that both support the “out-and-out cult of the state.” They are both statists. Here is that section.
“Now let us examine the particular character of Mr. Marx’s policy. Let us ascertain the essential points in which it differs from the policy of Bismarck. The principal point and, one might say, the only one, is this: Mr. Marx is a democrat, an authoritarian socialist, and a republican. Bismarck is an out-and-out aristocratic, monarchical Junker. The difference is therefore very great, very serious, and both sides are sincere in their differences. On this point, there is no agreement or reconciliation possible between Bismarck and Mr. Marx. Even apart from Marx’s lifelong dedication to the cause of social democracy, which he has demonstrated on numerous occasions, his very position and his ambitions are a positive guarantee on this point. In a monarchy, however liberal, or even in a conservative republic like that of Thiers there can be no role for Mr. Marx, and much less so in the Prussian Germanic Empire founded by Bismarck, with a militarist and bigoted bugbear of an emperor as chief, and all the barons and bureaucrats as guardians. Before he can come to power, Mr. Marx will have to sweep all that away. He is therefore forced to be a revolutionary.
“The concepts of the form and the conditions of the government, these ideas separate Bismarck from Mr. Marx. One is an out-and-out monarchist and the other is an out-and-out democrat and republican and, into the bargain, a socialist democrat and socialist republican.
“Let us now see what unites them. It is the out-and-out cult of the State. I have no need to prove it in the case of Bismarck. The proofs are there. He is completely a state’s man, and nothing but a state’s man. But neither is it difficult to prove that Mr. Marx is also a state’s man.”
Now, having said that Marx is a statist (because Marx has praised the formation of states as a positive development, has advocated for some states, has allowed Engels to praise Bismarck, and has encouraged participation in political processes useful to states), Bakunin goes on to what he sees as some of the inevitable consequences of statism. Unless one is dreaming of one universal state, there must be plural states which history has shown will be in competition with each other. Their very existence divides mankind, with serious negative impacts on morality and freedom of thought and expression. It is hard to argue with Bakunin here. Sadly, history’s progression since Bakunin’s time has served well to support Bakunin’s analysis. In the following quote, Bakunin will be building up to his analysis of what a “State of Marx” would be like.
“But whoever says state necessarily says a particular limited state, doubtless comprising, if it is very large, many different peoples and countries, but excluding still more. For unless he is dreaming of a universal state, as did Napoleon and the Emperor Charles the Fifth, or the papacy, which dreamed of the Universal Church, Marx will have to content himself with governing a single state. Consequently, whoever says state says a state, and whoever says a state affirms by that the existence of other states, and whoever says other states immediately says: competition, jealousy, truceless and endless war. The simplest logic as well as all history bears witness to this truth.
“Any state, under pain of perishing and seeing itself devoured by neighboring states, must tend toward complete power, and having become powerful, it must embark on a career of conquest so that it will not itself be conquered; for two similar but competing powers cannot coexist without trying to destroy each other. Whoever says ‘conquest,’ under whatever form or name, says conquered peoples, enslaved and in bondage.
”It is in the nature of the State to break the solidarity of the human race. The State cannot preserve itself as an integrated entity and in all its strength unless it sets itself up as the supreme be-all and end-all for its own subjects, though not for the subjects of other unconquered states. This inevitably results in the supremacy of state morality and state interests over universal human reason and morality, thus rupturing the universal solidarity of humanity. The principle of political or state morality is very simple. The State being the supreme objective, everything favorable to the growth of its power is good; everything contrary to it, however humane and ethical, is bad. This morality is called patriotism. The International is the negation of patriotism and consequently the negation of the State. If, therefore. Mr. Marx and his friends of the German Social Democratic party should succeed in introducing the State principle into our program, they would destroy the International.
“The State, for its own preservation, must necessarily be powerful as regards foreign affairs, but if it is so in regard to foreign relations, it will unfailingly be so in regard to domestic matters. The morality of every state must conform to the particular conditions and circumstances of its existence, a morality which restricts and therefore rejects any human and universal morality. It must see to it that all its subjects think and, above all, act in total compliance with the patriotic morality of the State and remain immune to the influence and teachings of true humanistic morality. This makes state censorship absolutely necessary; for too much liberty of thought and opinion is incompatible with the unanimity of adherence demanded by the security of the State, and Mr. Marx, in conformity with his eminently political point of view, considers this censorship reasonable. That this is in reality Mr. Marx’s opinion is sufficiently demonstrated by his attempts to introduce censorship into the International, even while masking these efforts with plausible pretexts.
“But however vigilant this censorship may be…the State can never be sure that prohibited and dangerous thoughts may not somehow be smuggled into the consciousness of its subjects. Forbidden fruit has such an attraction for men, and the demon of revolt, that eternal enemy of the State, awakens so easily in their hearts when they are not entirely stupefied, that neither the education nor the instruction nor even the censorship of the State sufficiently guarantees its security. It must still have a police, devoted agents who watch over and direct, secretly and unobtrusively, the current of the people’s opinions and passions. We have seen that Mr. Marx himself is so convinced of this necessity that he planted his secret agents in all the regions of the International, above all in Italy, France, and Spain. Finally, however perfect from the point of view of preserving the State, of organizing the education and indoctrination of its citizens, of censorship, and of the police, the State cannot be secure in its existence while it does not have an armed force to defend itself against its enemies at home.”
The Nature of the State, the Inevitability
of Dissatisfied Citizens, and how States
Deal with Discontent
Bakunin, in the following three-paragraph section, continues to build toward his analysis of a “State of Marx.”
“The State is the government from above downwards of an immense number of men, very different from the point of view of the degree of their culture, the nature of the countries or localities that they inhabit, the occupations they follow, the interests and aspirations directing them – the State is the government of all these by one or another minority. This minority, even if it were a thousand times elected by universal suffrage and controlled in its acts by popular institutions, unless it were endowed with omniscience, omnipresence, and the omnipotence which the theologians attribute to God, could not possibly know and foresee the needs of its people, or satisfy with an even justice those interests which are most legitimate and pressing. There will always he discontented people because there will always be some who are sacrificed.
“Besides, the State, like the Church, is by its very nature a great sacrificer of living beings. It is an arbitrary being in whose heart all the positive, living, unique, and local interests of the people meet, clash, destroy each other, become absorbed into that abstraction called the common interest or the common good or the public welfare, and where all the real wills cancel each other in that abstraction that bears the name will of the people. It follows from this that the so-called will of the people is never anything but the negation and sacrifice of all the real wills of the people, just as the so-called public interest is nothing but the sacrifice of their interests. But in order for this omnivorous abstraction to impose itself on millions of men, it must be represented and supported by some real being, some living force. Well, this force has always existed. In the Church it is called the clergy, and in the State the ruling or governing class.
“And, in fact, what do we find throughout history? The State has always been the patrimony of some privileged class: a priestly class, an aristocratic class, a bourgeois class. And finally, when all the other classes have exhausted themselves, the State then becomes the patrimony of the bureaucratic class and then falls – or, if you will, rises – to the position of a machine. But in any case it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of the State that there should be some privileged class devoted to its preservation.”
The Promised “People’s State of Marx”
Here is Bakunin summarizing much of the above as it would apply to, and be evident in, a state under the control of a Marxist party.
“But in the People’s State of Marx there will be, we are told, no privileged class at all. All will be equal, not only from the juridical and political point of view but also from the economic point of view. At least this is what is promised, though I very much doubt whether that promise could ever be kept. There will therefore no longer be any privileged class, but there will be a government and, note this well, an extremely complex government. This government will not content itself with administering and governing the masses politically, as all governments do today. It will also administer the masses economically, concentrating in the hands of the State the production and division of wealth, the cultivation of land, the establishment and development of factories, the organization and direction of commerce, and finally the application of capital to production by the only banker – the State. All that will demand an immense knowledge and many heads ‘overflowing with brains’ in this government. It will be the reign of scientific intelligence, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant, and elitist of all regimes. There will be a new class, a new hierarchy of real and counterfeit scientists and scholars, and the world will be divided into a minority ruling in the name of knowledge, and an immense ignorant majority. And then, woe unto the mass of ignorant ones!
“Such a regime will not fail to arouse very considerable discontent in the masses of the people, and in order to keep them in check, the ‘enlightened’ and ‘liberating’ government of Mr. Marx will have need of a not less considerable armed force. For the government must be strong, says Engels, to maintain order among these millions of illiterates whose mighty uprising would be capable of destroying and overthrowing everything, even a government ‘overflowing with brains.’
“You can see quite well that behind all the democratic and socialistic phrases and promises in Marx’s program for the State lies all that constitutes the true despotic and brutal nature of all states, regardless of their form of government. Moreover, in the final reckoning, the People’s State of Marx and the aristocratic-monarchic state of Bismarck are completely identical in terms of their primary domestic and foreign objectives. In foreign affairs there is the same deployment of military force, that is to say, conquest. And in home affairs the same employment of armed force, the last argument of all threatened political leaders against the masses who, tired of always believing, hoping, submitting, and obeying, rise in revolt.
Marx’s Conflict of Interest and its Resolution
“Let us now consider the real national policy of Marx himself. Like Bismarck, he is a German patriot. He desires the greatness and glory of Germany as a state. No one in any case will count it a crime for him to love his country and his people, and he is so profoundly convinced that the State is the condition sine qua non for the prosperity of his country and the emancipation of his people. Thus he naturally desires to see Germany organized into a very powerful state, since weak and small states always run the risk of being swallowed up. Therefore Marx, as a clear and ardent patriot, must wish for the power and expansion of Germany as a state.
“But, on the other hand, Marx is a celebrated socialist and, what is more, one of the principal initiators of the International. He does not content himself with working only for the emancipation of the German proletariat. He feels honor bound to work at the same time for the emancipation of the proletariat of all countries. As a German patriot, he wants the power and glory, the domination by Germany; but as a socialist of the International he must wish for the emancipation of all the peoples of the world. How can this contradiction be resolved?
“There is only one way – that is to proclaim that a great and powerful German state is an indispensable condition for the emancipation of the whole world, that the national and political triumph of Germany is the triumph of humanity.
“This conviction, once vindicated, is not only permissible but, in the name of the most sacred of causes, mandatory, to make the International, and all the federations of other countries serve as a very powerful, effective, and, above all, popular means for establishing the great pan-Germanic state. And that is precisely what Marx tried at the London Conference in 1871 and with the resolutions passed by his German and French friends at the Hague Congress . If he did not succeed more fully, it is assuredly not for lack of zeal or great skill on his part, but probably because his fundamental idea was false and its realization impossible.
Excerpts from Marx’s letter to
November 23, 187164
In his November 23, 1871, letter to Friedrich Bolte, Marx relates the difficulties experienced in the IWMA due to various “scoundrels”. He has very little good to say about anybody, but he is particular vicious toward Bakunin. Note what Marx says in this paragraph about the source of the General Council’s problems and how the General Council had to conduct the struggle against the scoundrels in its private [mostly secret] dealings.
And the history of the International was a continual struggle on the part of the General Council against the sects and amateur experiments which attempted to assert themselves within the International itself against the genuine movement of the working class. This struggle was conducted at the Congresses, but far more in the private dealings of the General Council with the individual sections.
The longest condemnations are reserved for Bakunin. Here is a five-paragraph section. There is some clear unfairness here. Note the emphasis Marx placed on the call in the Program of the Alliance for Socialist Democracy for “EQUALIZATION OF CLASSES(!)”. While there was a little bit of legitimacy in making an issue of this point in 1868, when Marx first read the Alliance’s Program and commented on it, there was absolutely no reason to place such emphasis on it in November of 1871 when it was clear that Marx’s and Bakunin’s ultimate goals with respect to abolition or equalization of the classes was virtually the same. Note well the extremely contemptuous language. Bakunin did this to Marx at times as well, but the difference was that Bakunin also frequently discussed the issues between him and Marx fairly and in great detail.
At the end of 1868 the Russian, Bakunin, entered the International with the aim of forming inside it a second International called the "Alliance of Social-Democracy," with himself as leader. He--a man devoid of theoretical knowledge--put forward the pretension that this separate body was to represent the scientific propaganda of the International, which was to be made the special function of this second International within the International.
His programme was a superficially scraped together hash of Right and Left--EQUALITY Of CLASSES (!), abolition of the right of inheritance as the starting point of the social movement (St. Simonistic nonsense), atheism as a dogma to be dictated to the members, etc., and as the main dogma (Proudhonist), abstention from the political movement.
This infant's spelling-book found favour (and still has a certain hold) in Italy and Spain, where the real conditions of the workers' movement are as yet little developed, and among a few vain, ambitious and empty doctrinaires in French Switzerland and Belgium.
For Mr. Bakunin the theory (the assembled rubbish he has scraped together from Proudhon, St. Simon, etc.) is a secondary affair--merely a means to his personal self-assertion. If he is a nonentity as a theoretician he is in his element as an intriguer.
For years the General Council had to fight against this conspiracy (which was supported up to a certain point by the French Proudhonists, especially in the south of France). At last, by means of Conference resolutions I (2) and (3), IX, XVI, and XVII, it delivered its long prepared blow.
Here is another five-paragraph section is which Bakunin is mentioned, and in which Marx cleverly attempts to make a point that Bakunin’s methods also constitute political action. But Marx ignores the crucial issues. First, Bakunin’s main objection within the IWMA was to writing a particular political philosophy into the IWMA’s official program. He wanted liberty for the IWMA’s sections to make their own decisions. Second, Marx implies that his program for the “conquest of political power for the working class” is not hindered by workers’ direct actions. In fact, Marx suggests, they may help build up the strength necessary for Marx’s program to succeed. Marx here is ignoring the possibility offered by Bakunin that direct actions alone, other than participating in elections controlled by the state (which encourage parties and divisions and provide only false hopes), might effectively achieve the ultimate goal Bakunin and Marx both want.
In London they attempted to establish a French section, of whose activities you will find an example in No. 42 of Qui Vive? which I enclose. (Also the number which contains the letter from our French Secretary, Seraillier). This section, consisting of twenty people (including a lot of spies), has not been recognised by the General Council, but another much more numerous section has been.
Actually, despite the intrigues of this bunch of scoundrels, we are carrying on great propaganda in France--and in Russia, where they know what value to place on Bakunin and where my book on capital is just being published in Russian....
N.B. as to political movement: The political movement of the working class has as its object, of course, the conquest of political power for the working class, and for this it is naturally necessary that a previous organisation of the working class, itself arising from their economic struggles, should have been developed up to a certain point.
On the other hand, however, every movement in which the working class comes out as a class against the ruling classes and attempts to force them by pressure from without is a political movement. For instance, the attempt in a particular factory or even a particular industry to force a shorter working day out of the capitalists by strikes, etc., is a purely economic movement. On the other hand the movement to force an eight-hour day, etc., law is a political movement. And in this way, out of the separate economic movements of the workers there grows up everywhere a political movement, that is to say a movement of the class, with the object of achieving its interests in a general form, in a form possessing a general social force of compulsion. If these movements presuppose a certain degree of previous organisation, they are themselves equally a means of the development of this organisation.
Where the working class is not yet far enough advanced in its organisation to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e., the political power of the ruling classes, it must at any rate be trained for this by continual agitation against and a hostile attitude towards the policy of the ruling classes. Otherwise it will remain a plaything in their hands, as the September revolution in France showed, and as is also proved up to a certain point by the game Messrs. Gladstone & Co. are bringing off in England even up to the present time.
from Marx's Letter to Edward Beesly,
October 17, 187065
Here are two paragraphs from a letter from Marx to Edward Beesly, written on October 19, 1870. The paragraphs do not pertain to the Paris commune, which didn’t occur until 1871. The Lyons event was a declaration of a French Republic to replace the Bonapartist government. Again, note the contempt for Bakunin.
As to Lyons, I have received letters not fit for publication. At first everything went well. Under the pressure of the "International" section, the Republic was proclaimed before Paris had taken that step. A revolutionary government was at once established--La Commune--composed partly of workmen belonging to the "International," partly of Radical middle class Republicans. The octrois [internal customs dues] were at once abolished, and rightly so. The Bonapartist and Clerical intriguers were intimidated. Energetic means were taken to arm the whole people. The middle class began if not really to sympathise with, at least to quietly undergo, the new order of things. The action of Lyons was at once felt at Marseilles and Toulouse, where the "International" sections are strong.
But the asses, Bakunin and Cluseret, arrived at Lyons and spoiled everything. Belonging both to the "International," they had, unfortunately, influence enough to mislead our friends. The Hotel de Ville was seized for a short time--a most foolish decree on the abolition de l'etat [abolition of the state] and similar nonsense were issued. You understand that the very fact of a Russian--represented by the middle class papers as an agent of Bismarck--pretending to impose himself as the leader of a Comite de Salut de la France [Committee for the Safety of France] was quite sufficient to turn the balance of public opinion. As to Cluseret, he behaved both as a fool and a coward. These two men have left Lyons after their failure.
from Marx’s letter to Nikolai
signed by Marx pseudonymously as A. Williams,
August 19, 187266
The Hague Congress was to begin in early September. Mark wrote this urgent appeal in his effort to build up the case against Bakunin. The charge regarding the fee for translating Das Kapital, which Bakunin did not do, would be raised against Bakunin at the Congress. The “most infamous and compromising letter” was believed to contain threats made against the punblisher.
To-day I write in all haste, for one special purpose which is of the most urgent character.
Bakunin has worked secretly since years to undermine the International and has now been pushed by us so far as to throw away the mask and secede openly with the foolish people led by him — the same man who was the manager in the Nechayev affair. Now this Bakunin was once charged with the Russian translation of my book [of Volume I of Capital], received the money for it in advance, and instead of giving work, sent or had sent to Lubanin (I think) who transacted for the publisher with him the affair, a most infamous and compromising letter. It would be of the highest utility for me, if this letter was sent me immediately. As this is a mere commercial affair and as in the use to be made of the letter no names will be used, I hope you will procure me that letter. But no time is to be lost. If it is sent, it ought to be sent at once as I shall leave London for the Haag Congress at the end of this month.
Yours very truly,
Marx’s letter to Nikolai
signed by Marx pseudonymously as A. Williams,
December 12, 187267
Here are three paragraphs from a letter Marx set to Nikolai Danielson on December 12, 1872. Marx is reporting to Danielson regarding the Hague Congress, the use of the letter he had requested [and obtained] from Danielson, and his [Marx’s perception of some of the aftermath of the Hague Congress as pertaining to Bakunin.
From the enclosed you can see the results of the Hague Congress. I read out the letter to Lyubavin to the Commission d'enquête on the Alliance in the strictest confidence and without divulging the name of the addressee. Nevertheless, the secret was not kept, firstly because the Commission included Splingard, the Belgian lawyer, among its numbers, and he was in reality no more than an agent of the Alliancists; secondly, because Zhuhovsky, Guillaume et Co. had already earlier — as a preventive measurere — counted the story all over the place in their own way and with apologist interpretations. This was how it came about that, in its report to the Congress, the Commission was compelled to pass on the facts relative to Bakunin that were contained in the letter to Lyubavin (of course, I had not revealed his name, but Bakunin’s friends had already been informed on that score by Geneva). The question that presents itself now is whether the Commission appointed by the Congress to publish the minutes (of which I am a member) may make public use of that letter or not? That is for Lyubavin to decide. However, I may note that — ever since the Congress — the facts have been going the rounds of the European press, and this was none of our doing. I found the whole business all the more distasteful since I had reckoned on the strictest discretion and solemnly demanded it.
As a consequence of the expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume, the Alliance, which had control of the Association in Spain and Italy, has unleashed a campaign of vilification, etc., against us everywhere. It is joining forces with all the disreputable elements and attempting to force a split into two camps. However, its ultimate defeat is assured. Indeed, the Alliance is only helping us to purge the Association of the unsavoury or feeble-minded elements who have pushed their way in here and there.
It is a fact that Bakunin’s friends in Zurich have tried to murder poor Outine. Outine himself is in a very critical state of health at the moment. This scurvy deed has already been reported in a number of papers belonging to the Association (including the Emancipación in Madrid) and will figure in detail in our official Compte rendu of the Hague Congress. The same scurvy gang has made two similar attempts on the lives of their opponents in Spain. Its misdeeds will soon be exposed to the view of the world at large.
such Bakunin Archives are at:
5Journal Officiel", May 29, 1871 (official journal of IWA)
founding of the Anarchist St. Imier International within a month of the
IWMA's September, 1872, Hague Congress, go to:
For the Anarchist St. Imier International's duration until 1877, go to:
Bakunin's attendance at the 1872 Anarchist St. Imier Congress, go to:
1876 demise of the IWMA at its Philadelphia Conference, go to:
9All three tables of figures are from: http://fractal-vortex.narod.ru/International/First_Int.htm
IWMA's inaugural Address by Marx is at:
11The year 1848 had been notable for an unusually large number of revolutions and/or
rebellions in several different countries. The revolutions were undertaken by different
classes; some, for example, involved the property class rebelling against royal privilege.
Although the revolutions occurred for many different reasons, they were sometimes
referred to in the singular, as the “Revolution of 1848.” [Marx used both the singular and
plural.] These revolutions left at least two important legacies: First, the conditions of
1848 became a benchmark against which the conditions of later years were compared.
The benchmark idea was: the Revolution of 1848 should have been taken as a warning;
let’s look at whether things have improved for us since then. The second legacy of the
Revolution of 1848 was that revolution became to many people a much more plausible
way of reacting to grievances than it had seemed to them before 1848. The first of these
legacies, the “benchmark” legacy, is seen six times in the IWMA’s “Inaugural Address”
written by Marx. Marx repeatedly compared conditions in 1864 with those in 1848.
18New York World
interview of Karl Marx by R. Landor, July
19For information on individualist anarchism, go to:
November 4, 1864, letter from Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, reporting his
having joined the IWMA, and describing the earliest meetings and activities of the IWMA,
can be found at: http://www.ts.org/archive/marx/works/1864/letters/64_11_04-abs.htm
21Payne, Robert. "Marx: A Biography". Simon and Schuster. New York, 1968. p372
a list of Trotskyist Internationals, go to:
28The letter by Marx is at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/09/02.htm
29Marx's appeal to The
People's Paper, Golovin's letter accusing Marx of being a "stupid
friend" of Bakunin and worse than a "wise enemy," and Marx's answer to Golovin are all
found at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1853/09/10.htm
30A reference to the Convention decrees adopted in 1793 (spring-autumn) at the height of
the struggle against counter-revolutionary conspiracies and revolts. The law on suspects
(lois des suspects), promulgated on September 17, 1793, provided for the arrest of all
persons “who by their conduct or their connections, their talks or writings proved to be
adherents of tyranny”.
account of the founding of the IWMA in September& October of 1864, go to:
an account of the Geneva Congress, go to:
an account of the Lausanne Congress, go to:
quote is from The Bee–Hive [Newspaper] of August 17, 1867, reporting on a
meeting of the IWMA General Council.
38"Works and plays well with others” is a phrase well-known in the
United States for having
been used on primary grade pupils’ reports to parents.
39For an account of the Brussels
Congress, go to:
40For the Rules and Program of the
Alliance for Socialist Democracy, as established in
October, 1868, go to:
45For an account of the Basel
Congress, go to:
46See http://www.endusmilitarism.org/fictitious_splits_in_the_international.html and
58Bakunin on Anarchy,
by Sam Dolgoff, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin, Paul
Avrich Collection (Library of Congress) Hardcover, A. A. Knopf
"Nechayev Affair" began with an attempt to recruit [mostly] Russian Youth
into an unauthorized section of the International for the purpose of starting a
revolution in Russia. The youth were allegedly encouraged by letters signed by
Bakunin, some under slightly altered signatures, which pretended to have the
backing of the
IWMA, but didn't. The group's schemes multiplied and grew until
a murder investigation resulted in the Tsar's police discovering its activities and
membership. Many participants were given a very public trial, the purpose of
which was to serve as an example and warning to all supporters (and potential
supporters) of the group. The charges were a lose-lose situation for Bakunin. He
was charged with instituting the plot to begin with, and he was also heavily
criticized for not going back to Russia to personally take part in the risky venture.
A. For excellent archives of Bakunin materials,
B. For an excellent archive of materials relating to Marx and Engels' on anarchism, go to:
C. For an excellent archive of materials relating to the First International, go to:
D. For some replies to attacks on
Bakunin, go to:
Will the real Bakunin please stand up? - A reply to Leninists' distortions about Bakunin
A few comments on "Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy: A review by Chris Gray"
A reply to Louis Proyect's "A Marxist Critique of Bakunin," – Or, "How Not to Critique Anarchism"
E. For Bakunin Quotes on many topics, go to:
F. For Minutes and Documents
Published by the Hague Congress in August 1873,
(and some other documents related to the IWMA and Hague Congress), go to:
"Bakunin and the Historians," an article
in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
"Power Corrupts the Best," Mikhail
"The Immorality of the State," Mikhail
"Stateless Socialism: Anarchism,"