Bakunin’s Conceptions of Revolutionary Organisations and Their Role: A Study of His ‘Secret Societies’

  • Arthur Lehning


After the failure of the Polish insurrection in 1863, Bakunin no longer believed in national liberation movements as a social and revolutionary force. From now on he advocated a social revolution on an international scale. He was of the opinion that the fall of the Second Empire would inaugurate a new 1848 and that one should be prepared for these events. His main task he saw from now on as finding revolutionaries who would work together intimately to influence the coming events and avoid the mistakes of 1848. To this end he created in 1864 in Florence a secret society, to which he soon gave international ramifications. In one way or another, such a society existed for ten years. It consisted only of those men and women who temporarily worked together with Bakunin on the basis of his programme, though remnants were left long after his death.1 These societies express rather the evolution of his ideas than the functioning of an organisation. Most of the drafts, programmes and projects Bakunin wrote for those rather ephemeral, or even non-existent, bodies are a fundamental source of his political and social ideas. They were not meant to be ideological or theoretical discourses; they reflect and are connected with his revolutionary activities for a decade.


Social Revolution General Council Secret Society Secret Organisation International Alliance 
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    A. A. Kornilov, Molodye gody Mikhaila Bakunina. Iz istorii russkogo romantizma (Moscow, 1915) pp. 195–7.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The ‘Slav Friends’, made up of a few people who shared his ideas, chiefly spokesmen of the Slovak, Croat and Slav movements. Cf. Franco Venturi, Roots of Revolution: A History of the Populist and Socialist Movements in Nineteenth Century Russia (New York, 1966) p. 55.Google Scholar
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© Arthur Lehning 1974

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  • Arthur Lehning

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