Bakunin Biography

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Aug 21 2008 05:28
Bakunin Biography

I'd be interested in acquiring a decent life summary of the bearded revolutionary. I've read a few brief biographical texts on Bakunin, usually prior to his main works. After having read into his theory I'd prefer to know a bit more about the man himself, though I've heard he led quite a dodgy life. Anyway, I'd be grateful if anyone could recommend something.

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Aug 21 2008 06:11

The three biographies in English all have their weaknesses. The most detailed biography, MICHAEL BAKUNIN by E. H. Carr, gives short shrift to Bakunin's political thought (he has a Marxist bias against it) and indulges in amateur psychoanalysis. It was published in the 1930s. Next is BAKUNIN, THE FATHER OF ANARCISM by Anthony Masters, and it's more sympathetic but has many factual errors and a superficial understanding of Bakunin's thought. The latest biography, BAKUNIN: THE CREATIVE PASSION by Mark Leier is pretty good but doesn't cover certain aspects of Bakunin's thought with the depth they deserve. The chapters on Bakunin in ANARCHIST PORTRAITS by Paul Avrich are the best short pieces to read on Bakunin. Hope this was useful.

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Aug 21 2008 10:12

Wow, doesn't sound like I have much to choose from. Thanks for your help though!

tigersiskillers
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Aug 21 2008 11:08

I've almost finished the Leier book, and I'd recommend it on the basis of being a good read. Fave passage:

Quote:
A glorious death, or even better, a glorious though not disfiguring wound acquired while leading valiant and snappily dressed troops in the service of the Tsar of All the Russias was one thing. Facing death while doubled over a makeshift latrine while shitting your guts out with dysentery or typhoid or cholera was something else again.
ronan
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Aug 21 2008 15:30

james guillaume has an account of the man at this link and there is a good account of his life in Peter Marshall's 'Demanding the Impossible'. I think most of the controversy is about 1) his relations with Nechaev 2) just how nutty he was.

also there is a review of Leier's book at Anarkismo

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Aug 21 2008 16:01

Well I'm getting the impression the Leier book is the best one to pick up. The review on Anarkismo seems pretty positive anyway.

As for the controversy, aside from Nechaev, was there not some accusation of him lusting after his sister? Some guy in the SP told me that, so it could be complete bollox.

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Aug 21 2008 16:28

The Nechaev episode is covered by Avrich in a chapter in his ANARCHIST PORTRAITS and is based on the latest research. Lusting after his sister? Nothing but jive as we say in the hood. He wrote typically 19th sentimental letters to his sister and that's about all there is to it.

ronan
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Aug 21 2008 19:40

Well, that is also implied in Marshall's book, it is also mentioned that he was more or less impotent and he allowed his wife to become pregnant by a friend. All that said, I'm not really sure how important his sex life is to his contribution to the revolutionary tradition. I think it is something picked up on by Marxists who seek to continue their master's battle with Bakunin long after both of their deaths. It is really unfortunate that Marxists typically dismiss Bakunin, when in fact he was proved correct on his critiques of Marx. Anarchists generally have no problem with recognising the vast contribution of Marx, it is a pity that this doesn't carry both ways.

devil hoof
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Aug 21 2008 22:09

I'm no expert, but I would recommend Leier's book as well, having just finished it. And of course all of Avrich's works are wonderful, for their honest scholarship and great writing. As far as Bakunin's sex-life, what the hell could that matter? Marx' disciples should be wary of casting stones, though (fathering your servant's child and then pawning the baby off on your benefactor is hardly exemplary behavior). What troubles me more is the annoying anti-semitic shit, as well as the Nechaev thing. One advantage anarchists have is being honest about anarchist history and historical figures. We don't have to agree with everything Bakunin or anyone else said or did, but can take what is useful or relevant of their thought and experience. I guess this goes without saying here, though sometimes bears repeating...

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Aug 22 2008 04:17

If you can get it, richard Saltman's The Social and Political Thought of Michael Bakunin it's really good. Costs a fortune new. But is by far the best thing I've read. Havn't read Leier's book yet.

yaya2020
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Aug 22 2008 04:53

bakunin doesn't deserve to be fetishized any more than marx or anyone else. life not history. sure it's useful to learn about the stuff, but these are completely different times and i have a hard time understanding why the life of bakunin has any revolutionary potential now, only entertainment interest...
that said, here's a link to aldred's "bakunin" from the labadie collection.
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=labadie;cc=labadie;q1=bakunin;rgn=full%20text;view=image;seq=00000001;idno=2916944.0001.001;didno=2916944.0001.001

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Aug 23 2008 01:22
yaya2020 wrote:
bakunin doesn't deserve to be fetishized any more than marx or anyone else. life not history. sure it's useful to learn about the stuff, but these are completely different times and i have a hard time understanding why the life of bakunin has any revolutionary potential now, only entertainment interest...
that said, here's a link to aldred's "bakunin" from the labadie collection.
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=labadie;cc=labadie;q1=bakunin;rgn=full%20text;view=image;seq=00000001;idno=2916944.0001.001;didno=2916944.0001.001

Are you trying to antagonise people?

mikus
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Aug 24 2008 18:12
x359594 wrote:
The most detailed biography, MICHAEL BAKUNIN by E. H. Carr, gives short shrift to Bakunin's political thought (he has a Marxist bias against it) and indulges in amateur psychoanalysis. It was published in the 1930s.

I don't think E.H. Carr was a Marxist. He wrote a not-so-friendly biography of Marx (from what I hear, and judging by the title), called "Karl Marx: a Study in Fanaticism". Hal Draper refers to him as a liberal. According to the wikipedia article about him, he was some kind of British diplomat. The article does say that his books on the USSR were very heavily biased in its favor, but that doesn't mean he was a Marxist, even of a Marxist-Leninist variety. From my understanding, support of the Soviet Union became very popular for a lot of liberal, non-Marxist types in the 1930's and 40's.

But I could just be way off. Does anyone know more about him or has anyone read his bio of Marx?

ernie
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Aug 26 2008 12:29

I think he was the editor of the Times at one stage. His books on the Russian Revolution and up to the late 1920's are interesting, they are not unabashed defense of Stalin and Stalinism, a lot of interesting information can be gained from these books.

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Aug 26 2008 19:57

Can recommend short pamphlets written between 1920 and 1940 by Guy Aldred. Currently back in print by Hobnail Press. PM me for further details.

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Aug 26 2008 22:37
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I don't think E.H. Carr was a Marxist....The article does say that his books on the USSR were very heavily biased in its favor, but that doesn't mean he was a Marxist, even of a Marxist-Leninist variety...

You could be right about that. I made the assumption on the basis of his treatment of the Marx-Bakunin conflict and his history of the Russian revolution which he titled The Bolshivik Revolution. I suspect that he was a fellow traveler, and he was certainly without doubt a statist.

By the way, Carr put forward the thesis that Bakunin was impotent, and Bakunin's hostile critics have used it ever since to discredit Bakunin and his theory of anarchism. Leier disputes that in his biography.

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 26 2008 23:10
x359594 wrote:
By the way, Carr put forward the thesis that Bakunin was impotent, and Bakunin's hostile critics have used it ever since to discredit Bakunin and his theory of anarchism. Leier disputes that in his biography.

That's an argument against anarchism?! lol

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Aug 27 2008 03:51

That's an argument against anarchism?! lol

It is for people who subscribe to the "psychological" interpretation of history. Anarchism is the product of maladjusted people like Bakunin (or Godwin, or Proudhon, or Kropotkin) who invented a political philosophy to compensate for their deficiencies, etc. In other words, it's another form of the ad hominem attack.

Returning to studies of Bakunin, Bakunin,The Philosopy of Freedom by Brian Morris is a good short biography and introduction to Bakunin's thought and it addresses recent critics who denigrate Bakunin and anarchism.

mikus
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Aug 27 2008 06:52

Does he side with Marx in the Marx biography, or the Bakunin biography? I skimmed the section dealing with the First International in the Bakunin biography, and my impression was that he was friendlier to Bakunin. But then again, it was just a skim.

gwry
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Aug 28 2008 15:18

Leier's biography is probably the best in English available at the moment ,in my view. For those of you who have yet to read it,it can be obtained, in the hard-back version, for the knock down price of £3.95 from Foyles second hand department in Charring Cross Rd; London.

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Sep 7 2016 14:43

in german @ https://archive.org/ :
Michael Bakunin : Eine biographische Skizze - von Max Nettlau - Nachwort von Gustav Landauer: https://bit.ly/2bY1hF1

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Dec 22 2018 21:09

An old topic but I have compiled a list here
http://libcom.org/library/biographies-works-about-mikhail-bakunin-reading-guide