Notes on Bakunin's book 'Statehood and anarchy' - Karl Marx

Marx responds to Bakunin's criticisms of Marx and Marxism. Marx's comments were written at the end of 1874 as he read Bakunin's book as part of his efforts to learn Russian and to study Russian society.

Submitted by Red Marriott on June 13, 2007

Marx's late writings on the Russian 'mir' (peasant commune) were influenced by Bakunin's description and analysis of communal peasant society in 'Statehood and Anarchy'.

From Volume 24 of 'Marx & Engels - Collected Works'; Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1989.

Comments

Endish

10 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Endish on March 2, 2013

Are there any properly formatted transcriptions of this?

adri

10 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on April 6, 2023

Marx's late writings on the Russian 'mir' (peasant commune) were influenced by Bakunin's description and analysis of communal peasant society in 'Statehood and Anarchy'.

Do you mind if I ask in what ways Marx's writings on Russia were influenced by Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy? As far as I'm aware (I could of course be wrong), both Marx and Engels criticized Herzen, Bakunin, Tkachev and others for having discovered the communal nature of the Russian peasantry in the works of Haxthausen, as well as for portraying this common property as something uniquely Russian. Engels for instance writes in his pamphlet On Social Relations in Russia:

Engels wrote: The communal property of the Russian peasants was discovered in 1845 by the Prussian Government Councillor Haxthausen and trumpeted to the world as something absolutely wonderful, although Haxthausen could still have found survivals enough of it in his Westphalian homeland and, as a government official, it was even part of his duty to know them thoroughly. It was from Haxthausen that Herzen, himself a Russian landowner, first learned that his peasants owned the land in common, and he made use of the fact to describe the Russian peasants as the true vehicles of socialism, as born communists, in contrast to the workers of the aging, decayed European West, who would first have to go through the ordeal of acquiring socialism artificially. From Herzen this knowledge came to Bakunin, and from Bakunin to Mr. Tkachov [or Tkachev].

It's also a shame that Marx doesn't seem to have actually written anything about Bakunin's Appendix to Statism and Anarchy, in which he actually discusses the Russian peasantry at length and calls on Russian radicals to "go to the people" (which directly influenced the "Going to the People Movement," as the translator/editor Marshall Shatz describes in the introduction to Statism and Anarchy). It seems Marx, under the section "Appendix" at the very end of his Notes on Bakunin's Book (p. 526), only quotes some passages from this part of Bakunin's work.

adri

10 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on April 7, 2023

I've come across this passage in Teodor Shanin's (quite informative) book on Marx's Russian writings (p. 55),

Shanin wrote: In the period from 1875 to 1876, Marx made further progress in his Russian studies. He read Die Agrarverfassung Russlands [The Agrarian Constitution of Russia—Shanin] by Haxthausen, Communal Ownership of Land in Russia by A.I. Koshelev, Appendix A of Statism and Anarchy by Bakunin, an article by A.N. Engel'gardt entitled 'Various problems of Russian agriculture', a voluminous Report of the Committee of Direct Tax, and other materials, and made careful notes of their contents. Of these, Marx was particularly impressed by the criticisms which Bakunin directed at the patriarchal aspect and the closed character of the village communes.

If I'm not mistaken, it seems that Shanin is basing his claim that Marx was "impressed" by Bakunin's criticisms of aspects of the Russian mir on the fact that Marx simply quoted these passages in his Notes on Bakunin's Book. I'm not really convinced that simply quoting someone in your notes is the same as being "impressed" by them, especially when Marx is mostly criticizing Bakunin and his attacks on him throughout his notes. Some of what Bakunin writes about Russian peasants also seems like common knowledge, such as peasants' admiration for the tsar, and hardly something that Bakunin had "discovered" or "brought to Marx's or Engels' attention." Nonetheless, I suppose it is possible that Marx was influenced to some extent by Bakunin's Appendix, though one should really substantiate such claims by showing how.

Red Marriott

10 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Red Marriott on April 7, 2023

Having submitted this in 2007 I don't remember what I based that statement on. But the Shanin quote is probably the most likely source. (I have a vague memory that it's been said elsewhere too.) That Marx copied parts of Bakunin's Appendix suggests those facts and analysis interested and informed him and so influenced his wider understanding of the issue; but I don't know if there's direct evidence of that in his other writings on the mir.

Red Marriott

10 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Red Marriott on April 7, 2023

As far as I'm aware (I could of course be wrong), both Marx and Engels criticized Herzen, Bakunin, Tkachev and others for having discovered the communal nature of the Russian peasantry in the works of Haxthausen, as well as for portraying this common property as something uniquely Russian.

According to Paul Thomas;

Much nonsense has been written about Bakunin's view of the Russian peasantry. Bakunin did say that 'if the workers of the West delay too long it will be the Russian peasant who will set them an example'; but to infer from this, as Lichtheim does, that Bakunin's collectivism was based upon 'the Slavophil worship of the village commune he shared with Herzen', is to commit an egregious error. Bakunin was pan-Slav, not Slavophile; he advocated the complete destruction of the rural commune, the mir, and broke with Herzen largely on this issue. He would have agreed with Herzen that 'centralization is contrary to the Slav genius... The historical form of the state has never answered to the national ideal of the Slavs', but not because of the mir and its 'absolute slavery of custom, thought, feeling and will'. (Ironically, it was Marx, who detested Herzen's idea that Russia could rejuvenate the West, who came round to a view of the mir as a possible agent of Russian regeneration.) Bakunin's views on the mir should be sharply distinguished not only from Herzen but also from those of Lavrov, not least because Bakunin transferred his revolutionary hopes, as no Lavrist or Populist or Slavophile would have done, to Italy and to Spain.
https://libcom.org/library/karl-marx-anarchists-paul-thomas