Bakunin : Chapter 9 : In Exile and Action

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(1886 - 1963) ~ Scottish Bakuninist and Anarcho-Communist from Glasgow : Guy Alfred Aldred had worked ceaselessly at his propaganda, writing, publishing and public speaking, he took on injustices wherever he saw it. He had spoken at every May Day for 60 years except the years he spent in prison. (From : Glasgow Caledonian University.)
• "To dream of a society not founded on the 'law of constructive murder,' of a social state in which all are brethren and peace and good fellowship prevail, of a society founded on truth and freedom, is to become an enemy of the society that is, and to be regarded as a dreamer of the most fanatical type." (From : Studies in Communism.)
• "Anti-Parliamentarism is now the recognized Socialism of the Proletariat." (From : Socialism and Parliament.)
• "It is only the effect of this menace, only the fear of the power of the revolutionary agitator outside parliament, that persuades the capitalist class to tolerate the presence of Labor members inside." (From : Socialism and Parliament.)


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Chapter 9

Bakunin was compelled to quit Prague. He fled to Germany and was received with open arms by the Radical element. Everywhere pursued and expelled whenever the police discovered his place of concealment, he wandered from town to town till the end of April, 1849. In this fashion he lived first at Berlin, then at Dessau, Cothen, and various towns in Saxony. At last, under an assumed name, he found employment at the university of Leipsig. He organized a revolutionary circle of Bohemian students, and formed a revolutionary alliance of Slavonian democrats, Hungarian rebels and German revolutionists.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner, the great composer, lived in Paris from 1839 to 1842. He returned to Dresden that year. In Paris, he made the acquaintance of Bakunin. The friendship was renewed when Bakunin came to Saxony. When Bakunin took command at the defense of Dresden, Wagner was his close associate. When Bakunin was arrested in 1849 the great composer fled from Germany. He remained in exile in Zurich, in Switzerland, till 1862. That was the very year that Bakunin returned to his life and propaganda after weary years of imprisonment and exile under the Czar. Wagner has given us a picture of Bakunin in exile and action during the Saxony period. He writes: —

“With Bakunin everything was colossal, and of a primitive negative power. He liked to discuss; and lying on the not too comfortable sofa of his friend, Rockel, in whose house he was hiding, he was pleased always to talk with others over various revolutionary problems. In those discussions, Bakunin was usually the victor. It was impossible to refute his logical arguments and radical conclusions. From every word he uttered one could feel the depth of his innermost convictions...

“His many startling remarks naturally made an extraordinary impression on me. On the other hand, I saw that this all-destroyer was the love-worthiest, tender-hearted man one could possibly imagine. Noticing once that my eyes could not endue the bright light of the lamp, he shaded for me with his broad hand for about an hour, although I begged him not to trouble. All the while, he calmly developed his most dangerous theories.

“He knew my most secret troubles, about the ever present danger to my ideal desires for art. Nothing was incomprehensible to him; yet he did not wish me to affront him with my art projects. I wanted to explain to him, my nibelung work, but he refused to listen... As regards the music, he always advised me to repeat the same text in various melodies: Struggle and Destruction. The tenor was to urge the need from strife to chaos. The soprano was to do so, and the baritone also.

“I remember, even yet, with pleasure, that I once persuaded him to listen to the first act of my ‘Flying Dutchman.’ He listened most attentively to the music and when I stopped for a moment, exclaimed ‘that is wonderfully beautiful.’ He loved music and wanted to hear more and more.

“Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony,’ was played at a general repetition before a concert of the Saxon Court-Orchestra. When the music was finished, Bakunin came running over and declared: ‘If music should perish in the coming world upheaval, we must risk our lives to save the ‘Ninth Symphony.’

“More than once Bakunin remained with us to supper. On one of these occasions he exclaimed to my wife: ‘A real man must not think beyond the satisfaction of his first needs. The only true worthy passion for man is love.’

“Bakunin longed after the highest ideals of humanity. His nature reflected a strangeness to all the conventionalities of civilization. That is why the impression of my association with him is so mixed. I was repelled by an instinctive fear of him; yet he drew me like a magnet.”

Wagner tells many stories of Bakunin’s activities in exile. In his hiding corner, he received men from all sections of the revolutionary movement. The Slavonian revolutionists were his favorites. For the French, as individuals, he had no particular sympathy in spite of his eulogy of the French spirit and his endorsement of Proudhon’s socialism. Of the Germans he never spoke. He despised them beyond words. He was not interested in democracy or the republic because he deemed them the political shadows of class-society. He wanted economic democracy; a producers’ and not a joint stock republic. He hated every scheme for the reconstruction of the social order because it meant the prolonging of slavery. He saw that, one day, the very pretense of reformism would have to break down. His sole aim was the complete overthrow of the existing regime, and the evolution was a completely new social order.

Once a Pole, who was afraid of such ideas, remarked that some State organization was necessary, in order that the individual might be assured of the full results of his labor. Bakunin replied: “You mean that you would fence in your piece of land to afford a living for the police. Is that getting the full results of our labors? Organizations for the new social order will rise in any case. Our task is to destroy parasitism.”

This was Bakunin’s actual attitude towards life. It summarizes all his thought and work. He hated the petty bourgeoisie, the men and women of the suburbs, with their back-gardens and train time tables. With them, everything was a narrow mean routine. Bakunin knew that these small people were the great drawback to the revolutionary change. He hated their smug politeness and called them Philistines. He found their true embodiment in the Protestant clergymen and declared that it was impossible to make a man of this contemptible creature. He wrote: “Of the tyrants we need have no fear; the real menace consists of the Philistines. Kings would often abdicate but for the lackeys who prey through them.”

Bakunin acquired a glory at the Dresden uprising which his enemies have not denied. From the 6th to the 9th May he was the very life and soul of its defense against the Prussian he had found few there whom he could count on in a rebel emergency. At first he was an indifferent spectator of the Dresden uprising. On the third day he was fighting on the barricades. The Provisional Government consisted of three members. Two of these lost their heads completely when they learned that the Prussian troops were advancing. The third member was the courageous and energetic Hybner. He appeared in the most dangerous places to encourage the fighters. The Dresden movement had made a comic impression on Bakunin by its folly. But the noble endurance and example of Hybner resolved him to fight by the latter’s side. Bakunin thereupon took command of the principal barricade and repulsed one of the worst attacks. The Prussians were forced to retreat. Bakunin became the hero of the uprising. He was active day and night, and hardly ever closed his eyes. He showed less fatigue than any of the other defenders. For strategical purposes he ordered the “lovely tress” along the promenade to be cut down. The good citizens of Dresden protested. Bakunin remarked: “The tears of the Philistines make no wine for the gods.” When Bakunin saw that it was impossible to defend Dresden any longer, he suggested that the revolutionaries should retreat to the hills, and carry the battle over to the provinces. The uprising would assume then the character of a real national movement.

Through the negotiation of the Chemnitz town guard, the Provisional Government settled there. On the way to Chemnitz, they stopped for a while in Freiburg, Hybner’s home. Hybner, who very much admired Bakunin’s courage, at the same time entertained a certain fear of his ideas. He asked Bakunin if it would not be more practical to dissolve the small revolutionary army, instead of continuing the battle, which had no more prospects of victory. Bakunin was against it. “If the people have been brought so far,” he said, “that they revolt, we must go with them to the end. If we meet with death, honor at least is saved. If this is not the case, then no person will, in future, have any faith in such undertakings.” The conversation ended with Bakuin’s suggestion being accepted.

In Chemnitz, something happened that nobody expected. Hybner, Bakunin, and Martin stopped in a hotel. As they were dead-tired, they soon went to sleep. Through the night, the were arrested in the name of the Saxony Government. The whole invitation to come Chemnitz was only a disgraceful deception. From the date of this seizure, May 10th, 1849, Bakunin’s long martyrdom commenced.

Bakunin’s proud and courageous demeanor did not desert him, although he must have known that he was facing either death or else a long and terrible imprisonment. Twenty-seven years afterwards, one of the Prussian officers who had guarded the prisoner on the way through Altenburg, still remembered the calmness and intrepidity with which the tall man in fetters replied to a lieutenant who interpolated him, “that in politics the issue alone can decide which is a great action and what is a crime.”

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November 30, 1939 :
Chapter 9 -- Publication.

September 13, 2021 13:42:49 :
Chapter 9 -- Added to

September 14, 2021 09:48:30 :
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