A Marxist critique of Bakunin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Sep 28 05:21:23 MDT 2001

On Thu, 27 Sep 2001 19:48:54 -0400, Jim Farmelant wrote:
>If you ever return to the study of Bakunin, you
>should do something about his relationship to
>Nechaev, the study of which should prove

Nechaev was a "nihilist" who served as the fictional inspiration for
Dostoievski's "The Possessed" (just as Bakunin served as the
satirical butt for Turgenev's "Rudin".) Apparently he murdered an
associate in the course of one of his plots which led to Bakunin
breaking ranks with him. Critics of Bakunin, such as Aileen Kelly,
fault him for making an alliance with Nechaev to begin with. Much of
this is of interest to Bakunin scholars, both pro and con. I am much
more interested in anarchist ideology, which does not necessarily
entail making such alliances. This is an exchange I just had with an
anarchist on a scholarly list that addresses what I feel is the more
important concern:

From: JessEcoh at cs.com
>at the same
>time, it's not merely anything anyone wants it
>to be: instead of a *theoretical* center, it has
>an *ethical* center -- a core commitment to
>opposing all forms of hierarchy and domination.

The same thing can be said about Christianity. In fact, an important
segment of the post-WWII anti-Stalinist left drew from both anarchist
and Christian traditions, especially in the Bay Area. While this was
a necessary corrective to the kind of cynical 'realpolitic' of the
CP, it did not and could not address the need for a revolutionary
theory. While one can draw inspiration from the life of a Carlo
Tresca or an Emma Goldman, I doubt if one would be able to use their
texts as a guide to developing revolutionary theory. Anarchism
fundamentally lacks an approach to the problem of transition, which
is essential to making a revolution. By dwelling in moral absolutes
("opposing all forms of hierarchy and domination"), it fails to
address the essence of radical politics: knowing what to do *next*.

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 09/28/2001

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