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Introducing Bakunin by Guy A. Aldred.

Introducing Bakunin by Guy A. Aldred.

Introducing Bakunin. Guy A. Aldred. Short introductory essay on Russian Anarchist  Mikhail Bakunin. Serves as a great taster to ‘Bakunin Parts 1 & 2’.

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If one accepts the premise that politics exists only in relation to government, then to say an anarchist had a political theory is oxymoronic. Anarchists reject the validity of the state and governmental authority. In essence, the only political theory any anarchist can have is the destruction of government; any of the anarchist's ideas about what should come about after the destruction of the state cannot properly be called political theory. These ideas are closer to theories about post-governmental social organizations than to political theories. Anarchists seek, not to implement political theories, but to make them obsolete. But their ideas about how to make political theories obsolete, are themselves political theories.

The inherent contradiction in anarchism -- that government must be destroyed and then replaced without the creation of an authoritative body -- has led to misinterpretations of what anarchy is. Anarchy is not a theory that preaches chaos. The closest anarchist theory comes to chaos, is nihilism. Nihilists believe that all forms of compulsory organization should be destroyed and once they are destroyed mankind's natural form of organization will emerge. Even this is not chaos, for it is assumed that there will be some sort of organization. Most anarchists do have some idea of what will come after the destruction of the state and governments. Though it is not proper to call these ideas political theories, that is what best describes what they are. They are theories about how society will be run without government and for lack of a better term -- non-political theory? -- political theory is closest to what they propose. The most famous anarchist was Michael Alexandrovich Bakunin.


Introduction

Michael Alekxandrovich Bakunin (1814-1876) was one of the most interesting political thinkers of the Nineteenth Century. Bakunin, though known more as a political activist than a theorist, did have what could be called a coherent political philosophy. It was a philosophy of anarchy; a theory in which there would be no politics as such because there would be no state. Bakunin argued that society should be built from the bottom up by means of voluntary organizations. For Bakunin, the state -- the organization of society from the top down -- was the ultimate evil. Before discussing Bakunin's political theory and the influences that helped him formulate it, it is necessary to briefly discuss what anarchy actually is.

Political anarchy is not chaos. Instead it is a philosophy that rejects organized authority and particularly the authority of the state. "All anarchists agree, however, on the need to dispense with compulsory forms of authority, . . . ". Anarchists believe that compulsory authority negates man's freedom. Bakunin's anarchy is much harsher than this; he sees organized authority as inherently evil and the principle of command as the devil itself. "If there is a devil in human history, that devil is the principle of command". Built upon the principle of command, the state is the ultimate evil and negation of humanity. "The State, therefore, is the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity". Bakunin saw the state as a repulsive factory that destroyed everything in man that makes him human. "The State is like a vast slaughterhouse or an enormous cemetery, where all real aspirations, all the living force of a country enter generously and happily, . . . , to let themselves be slain and buried". Because the state robbed man of his humanity, to become human again, man must free himself from the state and the principle of command. Bakunin's version of anarchy is best summed up in his own words: "In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed and legal powers over us, . . . ".

Bakunin was not born an anarchist and did not always reject the power of the state. It is, therefore, necessary to briefly discuss Michael's life and the various influences that helped make him an anarchist. Due to the complexity of Michael's life, it is necessary first to briefly discuss the key moments in his political development and then to discuss the thinkers that helped shape his ideas. This is done to show that the events in Michael's life were just as responsible for his political thought as were those thinkers whom he was influenced by. Furthermore, the events in Michael's life made him willing to seek new ideas as an attempt to explain why things were the way they were.

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