Mikhail Bakunin and Collectivist Anarchism

Mikhail Bakunin was the Russian father of the strain of anarchism known as collectivist anarchism. He was initially loosely associated with both Karl Marx and Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and eventually he developed anarcho-collectivism using both of them as influences while deviating from them both at the same time. Bakunin's anarcho-collectivism, which wasn't completely developed until towards the end of Bakunin's life, differs from mutualism and individualist anarchism in certain significant ways, but it also differs from Marxist communism in certain ways as well. While it does call for collective worker ownership of the means of production, Bakunin's anarcho-collectivism is more along the lines of a half-way point towards communism since it still allows the renumeration of labor.

However, there are certainly some similarities between communism and Bakunin's ideas. Like the communists, Bakunin emphasized anti-theism. He reversed Voltaire's quote that "if god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent" him to "if god really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him". And like the communists, Bakunin had a materialist basis for his philosophy, which makes his economic analysis similar to that of Marx. The Russian, Polish and generally pan-slavic cultural context that Bakunin was working with was primarily a reaction to the royal or noble classes which were much more prevailent in such a context than in America and certain parts of Europe at the time. This helps explain the cultural trends towards collectivism that took place around Bakunin.

But beyond this, Bakunin was actually a critic of Marx. He rejected the notion of a "dictatorship of the proletariet" and supported the notion of decentralization or federalism, and hence there is supposed to be free association between the communes in an anarcho-collectivist society. While the goals between anarcho-collectivism and Marxism were quite similar, Bakunin fundamentally clashed with the Marxist communists over questions of strategy, rejecting formal political strategy in favor of a more social form of revolution and what he called "the propaganda of the deed". However, some controversy exists over the degree to which Bakunin's notion of "the propaganda of the deed" is dangerous and has been used to justify violence, and individualist anarchists tended to shy away from the revolutionary methods of many collectivist anarchists.

Bakunin is known to have been a strong supporter of the Paris Commune of 1871, which was surpressed by the French government. Bakunin persisted in favoring social revolution over political strategies, which eventually lead him to be purged by Marx from The First International. The difference between Marx and Bakunin over how to go about reaching their mutually held goals became irreconcilable. Bakunin thought that Marx's strategies would just lead to another despotism, which turned out to be a wise foresight. He strongly opposed the idea of seizing the power of the state as a method of revolution. In this regaurd, Bakunin must be credited as the first thinker to effectively try to depoliticize communism.

Bakunin's historical significance in anarchism more or less represents the planting of the seeds for all forthcoming collectivistic variants of anarchism such as anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism. At the same time, it must be said that he also represents the initial cause of a fragmenting of communism between Marxist and anarchistic strains. In either case, Bakunin was most definitely a key figure in the history of anarchism.


# atrickpay said on 01 March, 2009 01:28 AM

Good article man! It's the first I've read on Bakunin. He sounds like he was MUCH more sensible that Karl!

Good for him!!: "He strongly opposed the idea of seizing the power of the state as a method of revolution."