Submitted by libcom on April 4, 2005


In I. Berlin's Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (Home University Library) are reprinted some passages of Bakunin's writing which I have not seen elsewhere and which emphasise his views on the State, and other passages on the character of Marx. The first selection is as follows:

"We revolutionary anarchists are the enemies of all forms of State and State organisations ... we think that all State rule, all governments being by their very nature placed outside the mass of the people, must necessarily seek to subject it to customs and purposes entirely foreign to it. We therefore declare ourselves to be foes ... of all State organisations as such, and believe that the people can only be happy and free, when, organised from below by means of its own autonomous and completely free associations, without the supervision of any guardians, it will create its own life."

"We believe power corrupts those who wield it as much as those who are forced to obey it. Under its corrosive influence some become greedy and ambitious tyrants, exploiting society in their own interest, or in that of their class, while others are turned into abject slaves. Intellectuals, positivists,[22] doctrinaires, all those who put science before life ... defend the idea of the state as being the only possible salvation of society--quite logically since from their false premises that thought comes before life, that only abstract theory can form the starting point of social practice ... they draw the inevitable conclusion that since such theoretical knowledge is at present possessed by very few, these few must be put in possession of social life, not only to inspire, but to direct all popular movements, and that no sooner is the revolution over than a new social organisation must at once be set up; not a free association of popular bodies ... working in accordance with the needs and instincts of the people, but a centralised dictatorial power, concentrated in the hands of this academic minority, as if they really expressed the popular will. ... The difference between such revolutionary dictatorship and the modern State is only one of external trappings. In substance both are a tyranny of the minority over a majority in the name of the people--in the name of the stupidity of the many and the superior wisdom of the few; and so they are equally reactionary, devising to secure political and economic privilege to the ruling minority and the ... enslavement of the masses, to destroy the present order only to erect their own rigid dictatorship on its ruins." (pp. 205-6)