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

  • Arthur Lehning

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Social Revolution General Council Secret Society Secret Organisation International Alliance 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    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
  3. 5.
    E. H. Carr, Michael Bakunin (New York, 1961) pp. 439, 456 (1st ed., London, 1938 ).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    A. I. Herzen, ‘Bakunin i pol’skoe delo’, in ‘Byloe i dumy’, Sobranie sochineniya, xi (Moscow, 1957) 359.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    See Arthur Lehning, From Buonarroti to Bakunin: Studies in International Socialism (Leiden, 1970) pp. 30–90.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Michel Bakounine, CEuvres, v (Paris, 1911) 336–8; i (Paris, 1895) 36–7, 215.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Elio Conti, Le Origini del socialismo a Firenze (1860–1880) (Rome, 1950) pp. 69–97.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    M. A. Bakunin, Sobranie sochineniya i pisem 1818–1876 (Moscow, 1934) III 538–9; Carr, Michael Bakunin p. 233.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    See in general Max Nettlau, Bakunin e l’Internazionale in Italia dal 1864 al 1872, preface by Errico Malatesta (Geneva, 1928) chaps. v-viii. Giuseppe Mazzoni (1808–80) founded in 1863, with Giuseppe Dolfi, a ‘democratic society’ in Florence, with a strongly anticlerical character.Google Scholar
  10. 30.
    Michel Bakounine, CEuvres, II (Paris, 1907) 107–8.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Michel Bakounine, CEuvres, III (Paris, 1908) 121; V 318–19.Google Scholar
  12. 49.
    Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe, 3. Abteilung: Der Briefwechsel zwischen Marx und Engels 1868–1883, iv (Berlin, 1931) 213.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Arthur Lehning 1974

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  • Arthur Lehning

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