The First Socialist Schism: Bakunin vs. Marx

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ajjohnstone
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Dec 29 2017 08:40
The First Socialist Schism: Bakunin vs. Marx

Might be worth a read

https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=674&utm_source=2017+Holiday+Sale,+third+email&utm_campaign=Holiday+Sale+2017+v3&utm_medium=email

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Agent of the In...
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Dec 29 2017 19:58

I've read it in full, and I have to say, it's one of the few works by someone from 'our' tradition of recent times that I can call "great". The author embraces a documentary approach that is simply quite exhaustive of the conflict/disagreements between and within both sides of the First International; its use of primary sources, pure facts, extensive quotations from participants, letters, meeting minutes, etc is magnificent. There's not a lot of biased commentary in the text, no filling in the blanks. It's an approach that is actually quite fitting to this history.

It also serves as a good way for readers to learn the ideas of anarchism and syndicalism (if they aren't already familiar with these traditions). This is far better than something like Black Flame, and the unreleased Global Fire, which conceived approach is flawed for a number of reasons, not just in terms of telling history, but in terms of serving the anarchist tradition. In fact, I think a lot of anarchist writers can learn from this book. I feel like this approach to history and ideas is lacking among most other writers.

Anarcho
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Dec 29 2017 20:41

I would agree -- it is a very good work. The amount of research is impressive. It is big, but worth it.

Obviously, it does not present Marx and Engels in a good light -- but I think it is an accurate one. Both were willing to use any means to stop currents they disapproved of gaining ground in the International. More, they were willing to do whatever they could to impose their platform on the body -- ironically while proclaiming Bakunin was trying to do that.

Not their best period. But, then, neither Marx nor Engels were what I would call role-models in terms of criticising others or organisational activity. They both regularly distorted the ideas of others (most obviously Proudhon, as I've noted recently).

Shame, for these activities really undermine their many genuine contributions to socialist theory.

And, yes, Bakunin was not perfect either -- but he was more right, I would say. Particularly given Marxism as a movement simply confirmed his warnings.

zugzwang
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Dec 30 2017 04:20

I saw this on amazon and was thinking 'bout getting it at some point, looks neat. It seems to be available here in pdf format, http://libgen.io/book/index.php?md5=391026A448D14484E3DBD750AA50EFB4.

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Sike
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Dec 30 2017 22:45

fyi.

https://libcom.org/history/first-socialist-schism-bakunin-vs-marx-international-working-mens-association-wolfgang-e

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Dec 31 2017 19:56
Anarcho wrote:
And, yes, Bakunin was not perfect either -- but he was more right, I would say. Particularly given Marxism as a movement simply confirmed his warnings.

Both had telling insights of the other.

Bakunin understood the pact with that devil that Social Democracy represented. He understood that Marx was vague and inconsistent on matters of strategy, One minute Marx is a Communard, the next a staunch party builder. Bakunin understood that that left ample room for everyone from Bernsteinian reformists to authoritarian cabalists like Lenin to lay claim to the throne once the revolution was half completed.

Marx understood the brazen hypocrisy of Bakunin's "anti-authority" rhetoric. Bakunin understood realpolitik as well as anyone and was not just prepared but committed to the capture of power as the figure head, guarantor and brainstrust of the revolution. Marx also, rightly, condemned the suicidal and adventurist nature of Bakunin's tactics in practice - leading a number of failed Focoist insurrections that had no hope success.

Its tempting to wonder if the synthesis they could have achieved if they'd overcome their mutual hostility and their towering egos would have made a difference to the millions of revolutionaries that followed them. In all likelihood not.

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Sike
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Jan 1 2018 15:20
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Marx also, rightly, condemned the suicidal and adventurist nature of Bakunin's tactics in practice - leading a number of failed Focoist insurrections that had no hope success.

As for the exact timeline of Bakunin's revolutionary activities my memory of what I've read may be a bit rusty and there might be something that I'm overlooking but didn't this “Focoist” period (if it truly ever existed as such?) of Bakunin's revolutionary activities, largely occur during the period in which he was primarily a supporter of the national liberation struggles of Pan-Slavic nationalism and had yet to adopt explicitly anarchist positions?

Following his conversion to anarchist ideas there certainly seems nothing “Focoist” in the manner in which Bakunin had dispatched anarchist emissaries such as Giuseppe Fanelli to Spain and other countries to share their libertarian-socialist ideals and establish nationally controlled libertarian-socialist organizations.

I'm not accusing you of doing so but it would appear a bit of a stretch to refer to Bakunin's involvement in the failed Lyon's uprising of 1870 as "Focoist" since his activities; seizing the City Hall, etc., were proceed by popular demonstrations calling for “a levy on the rich and the appointment of army officers by free election,” and was apparently one of but many attempts to establish revolutionary communes throughout various parts of France. The Lyon's Uprising also "presaged" the Paris Commune of 1871, as the following paragraph from Robert Graham's website touches upon:

Quote:
Despite attempts by Marxists and some historians to portray the Lyon uprising as a tragicomic farce, as Paul Avrich points out, news “of the Lyon Commune touched off a chain reaction up and down the Rhone valley and through Provence.” There were attempts to establish revolutionary communes in “Toulouse, Narbonne, Cette, Perpignan, Limoges, Saint-Etienne, Le Creusot, and other towns” (Avrich, Anarchist Portraits: 236). The most significant attempts were made at the end of October in Marseilles and Paris, presaging the revolutionary Paris Commune of March 1871.

Certainly Bakunin had his faults; his antisemitism and his lack of good sense in some of his associations (Nechaev) being among the most glaring, and he shouldn't be idolized but I don't see him as adopting what could be called "Focoist" methods in the sense that Regis Debray used the term to describe the strategies adopted by Stalinists such Che Guevara. The Focoist strategy of the Stalinist consists of establishing small cadres of paramilitaries to carry out protracted armed struggles which they in turn hope will attract the discontented masses to their leadership (sort of what we see with the likes of the PKK/PYD in the Middle East today) and to an eventual victory of the paramilitary forces and to the seating of the Vanguardist hierarchy at the head of the new 'revolutionary' state. By contrast, Bakunin's "focoism", in Lyons for example, seems more aligned with that of the strategies adopted by the likes of the anarcho-syndicalist Defense Committees that played a vanguardist role in such activities as seizing strategic objectives during the July revolution in Spain in 1936. A big difference in my opinion.

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rubra
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Jan 9 2018 16:59

From what little I know of the 1st Internationale, Marx seemed to be a giant ass towards the anarchists. He didnt seem to want to work Bakunin's side whatsoever, even kicking them out. It's like Marx was the one who created the seperation of red and black, and it was from this that all the backstabs and hatred of eachother would start later on, from the ussr backstabbing ukraine free territory, to stalin sabotaging the efforts of the republic in the spanish civil war.

correct me if im wrong, but all this seems to MARX'S fault

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Jan 9 2018 21:03
Sike wrote:
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Marx also, rightly, condemned the suicidal and adventurist nature of Bakunin's tactics in practice - leading a number of failed Focoist insurrections that had no hope success.

As for the exact timeline of Bakunin's revolutionary activities my memory of what I've read may be a bit rusty and there might be something that I'm overlooking but didn't this “Focoist” period (if it truly ever existed as such?) of Bakunin's revolutionary activities, largely occur during the period in which he was primarily a supporter of the national liberation struggles of Pan-Slavic nationalism and had yet to adopt explicitly anarchist positions?

Following his conversion to anarchist ideas there certainly seems nothing “Focoist” in the manner in which Bakunin had dispatched anarchist emissaries such as Giuseppe Fanelli to Spain and other countries to share their libertarian-socialist ideals and establish nationally controlled libertarian-socialist organizations.

I'm not accusing you of doing so but it would appear a bit of a stretch to refer to Bakunin's involvement in the failed Lyon's uprising of 1870 as "Focoist" since his activities; seizing the City Hall, etc., were proceed by popular demonstrations calling for “a levy on the rich and the appointment of army officers by free election,” and was apparently one of but many attempts to establish revolutionary communes throughout various parts of France. The Lyon's Uprising also "presaged" the Paris Commune of 1871, as the following paragraph from Robert Graham's website touches upon:

Quote:
Despite attempts by Marxists and some historians to portray the Lyon uprising as a tragicomic farce, as Paul Avrich points out, news “of the Lyon Commune touched off a chain reaction up and down the Rhone valley and through Provence.” There were attempts to establish revolutionary communes in “Toulouse, Narbonne, Cette, Perpignan, Limoges, Saint-Etienne, Le Creusot, and other towns” (Avrich, Anarchist Portraits: 236). The most significant attempts were made at the end of October in Marseilles and Paris, presaging the revolutionary Paris Commune of March 1871.

Certainly Bakunin had his faults; his antisemitism and his lack of good sense in some of his associations (Nechaev) being among the most glaring, and he shouldn't be idolized but I don't see him as adopting what could be called "Focoist" methods in the sense that Regis Debray used the term to describe the strategies adopted by Stalinists such Che Guevara. The Focoist strategy of the Stalinist consists of establishing small cadres of paramilitaries to carry out protracted armed struggles which they in turn hope will attract the discontented masses to their leadership (sort of what we see with the likes of the PKK/PYD in the Middle East today) and to an eventual victory of the paramilitary forces and to the seating of the Vanguardist hierarchy at the head of the new 'revolutionary' state. By contrast, Bakunin's "focoism", in Lyons for example, seems more aligned with that of the strategies adopted by the likes of the anarcho-syndicalist Defense Committees that played a vanguardist role in such activities as seizing strategic objectives during the July revolution in Spain in 1936. A big difference in my opinion.

Like you my Bakunin history is touch rusty, I'm going from memory of several passages in Marx & Engels' letters to each other on the subject of Bakunin's latest folly. If I've over-egged the comparison of Fociosm and Bakunin's insurrectionarysim then I'll humbly backtrack. I was meant more in illustrative bombast than technical similarity.

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Jan 9 2018 21:18
rubra wrote:
From what little I know of the 1st Internationale, Marx seemed to be a giant ass towards the anarchists. He didnt seem to want to work Bakunin's side whatsoever, even kicking them out. It's like Marx was the one who created the seperation of red and black, and it was from this that all the backstabs and hatred of eachother would start later on, from the ussr backstabbing ukraine free territory, to stalin sabotaging the efforts of the republic in the spanish civil war.

correct me if im wrong, but all this seems to MARX'S fault

Its impossible to say that without being accused of being partisan.

They were both deeply suspicious of the other. Both viewed the other as having devious motives and machinations for absolute power. They were both more or less right. I don't think that Bakunin was any less of an egotist, control freak or Machiavellian then Marx. They both had clear ideas about what the International should be. They both believed passionately that they had the correct ideas for the coming revolution. They both scorned anyone who thought differently. They both distrusted anyone who threatened their authority. They interpreted any attempt to usurp their power and influence as an attempt to thwart and/or betray the revolution. They were both willing to go behind peoples backs, sew intrigue and whatever else it took to maintain the power and influence that they exerted over their fellow members. They're seen as the godfathers of the International for a reason because THEY, the men themselves, their personalities dominated. They were domineering men.

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Jan 10 2018 15:38
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Its impossible to say that without being accused of being partisan.

They were both deeply suspicious of the other. Both viewed the other as having devious motives and machinations for absolute power. They were both more or less right. I don't think that Bakunin was any less of an egotist, control freak or Machiavellian then Marx. They both had clear ideas about what the International should be. They both believed passionately that they had the correct ideas for the coming revolution. They both scorned anyone who thought differently. They both distrusted anyone who threatened their authority. They interpreted any attempt to usurp their power and influence as an attempt to thwart and/or betray the revolution. They were both willing to go behind peoples backs, sew intrigue and whatever else it took to maintain the power and influence that they exerted over their fellow members. They're seen as the godfathers of the International for a reason because THEY, the men themselves, their personalities dominated. They were domineering men.

You should definitely take the time to read this book.

doug
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Jan 30 2018 20:29

I'm currently going through the new Bakunin anthology edited by A.W. Zurbrugg. It's an excellent English-language chronological reader, probably better than previous anthologies. So I was thinking I need to follow it up with 'that recent (or recently translated) history of the International'.

But now I realise I've been confusing two histories. Zurbrugg cites (and translated) Social-Democracy and Anarchism in the International Workers' Association, 1864-1877, by Rene Berthier. It got a good review by Anarcho.

Anyone know how this compares to Eckhardt's history, and how they differ in their arguments?