Letter to Herzen and Ogareff, August 17, 1863

By Mikhail Bakunin (1863)

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(1814 - 1876) ~ Father of Anarcho-Collectivism : The originality of his ideas, the imagery and vehemence of his eloquence, his untiring zeal in propagandism, helped too by the natural majesty of his person and by a powerful vitality, gave Bakunin access to all the socialistic revolutionary groups, and his efforts left deep traces everywhere... (From : The Torch of Anarchy.)
• "What would be the main purpose and task of the organization? To help the people achieve self-determination on a basis of complete and comprehensive human liberty, without the slightest interference from even temporary or transitional power..." (From : "Bakunin to Nechayev on the Role of Secret Revolut....)
• "The great bulk of mankind live in a continual quarrel and apathetic misunderstanding with themselves, they remain unconscious of this, as a rule, until some uncommon occurrence wakes them up out of their sleep, and forces them to reflect on themselves and their surroundings." (From : "The Church, the State, and the Commune," by Mikha....)
• "The State is the authority, the rule, and organized power of the possessing class, and the make-believe experts over the life and liberty of masses. The State does not want anything other than the servility of the masses. At once it demands their submission." (From : "The Organization of the International," by Mikhai....)


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Letter to Herzen and Ogareff, August 17, 1863

From La Correspondance de Michel Bakounine, published and prefaced by Michel Dragmanov, 1896, Paris, France, pages 180-183.

Letter from Bakunin to Herzen and Ogareff1

 Photo by Patrice CALATAYU, CC BY-NC License

Photo by Patrice CALATAYU,
CC BY-NC License

August 17, 1863
My dear friends,

This is the third letter I am sending you from this place. Two months ago, I had the opportunity to send you the first directly, the second by your agent in Switzerland who, on your command, was supposed to come to Stockholm, but who was likely sidetracked by unexpected occurrences and contented himself with sending me a letter through Nordstrom. I immediately responded, with an extended letter attached, pleading with him to immediately send you the letter; I would be very angry if it was not sent to you. However, I can reassure you with the utmost confidence that the loss of these two letters is not at all dangerous, considering that they contained neither names, nor addresses, nor anything else which could be incriminating.

More than once, I have tried to return to Poland. I had no luck. Currently, the feelings in Poland towards us are altogether different, such that in wishing them success, we Russians have the duty to abstain from all direct participation in their affairs, which have become very complicated because of the interests of Western Europe, always hostile to both the imperialist system and even more so to the Russian people. This is why I stayed in Sweden and I devoted myself to finding friends sympathetic to our Russian cause, who are ready to struggle with us. My efforts have been rewarded with success. From now on, Stockholm and all of Sweden will be a secure refuge for Russian revolutionary action and immigration. The Russian publicity and propaganda will find here solid footing, supporters and a wealth of resources. And with that nothing could be easier than communicating from Stockholm to St. Petersburg during summer. I learned to like the stalwart men who you can confide in and count on. Thanks to them and to the resources I have found here, I was able to spread throughout Northern Russia (the Arkhangelsk and Olonetzk governments) approximately 7,000 pamphlets of different proclamations, comparable to your proclamations to the officers and soldiers. I would also be able to send some to St. Petersburg if I had the addresses. It is true that Provensoff sent some to me, but I cannot use them before he returns to St. Petersburg, and it looks like he is still abroad. Therefore, above all, I beg of you to send me a reliable address and I propose that propose that you correspond with me through the bearer of this letter. It is a Finnish who was recommended to me by the patriots of his country as a reliable and trustworthy man; he can be the intermediary to maintain regular communications between myself and the Finnish organization, to whom I am allied; understand very well our reciprocal interests, the members of this organization are very sympathetic towards us and our cause. I hope that you will not be displeased by the thought of working with this group. If you think that my participation in common work could be useful, please let me know.

Just like my friends in London, I happily recognize the committee of Saint Petersburg, and I am ready to mobilize under his orders, only I must first know the status of your affairs and the direction that you are currently following. In the name of God, write me and send me your address, so that I can respond to you.

Is it necessary to finally believe that having explored all means of organizing a regular correspondence between us, that we are incapable of doing it?

The situation of miserable Poland is horrible, but she will not perish. Europe is too divided at the current time and the hopes of St. Petersburg are founded on this general disagreement. However, the Polish affair is already pushed so far that for the powers of Europe it is just as dangerous to do nothing for her as to come to her in aid. I think that after a second refusal by the chancellery of Saint Petersburg, France, England and Austria will recognize Poland "as a belligerent party." I hope that the Polish will be able to hold out throughout winter for the armaments and other aid that the Galicie will bring to them. In spring, it seems, war will be imminent. Must we do nothing up until then, should we not at least approach ourselves to the action? The false addresses sent to the czar from all corners of Russia and the patriotic rage from Moscow resounding in emphatic exclamations, hardly scare me and could never disconcert me or cause me to renounce my faith. And, as always, the government, in so much as it tries to create an agitation in the people directed towards us, works to our advantage.

In the name of God, tell me what is going on in your life; give me orders for useful foreign work. Let me unite with you more harmoniously, and therefore more intimately. Our work here will only be profitable in union with you; so write me, and send addresses. I am working on an article for the Cloche, in the form of a letter to Herzen, in which I respond to Slavic attacks and policemen directed at me.

Perhaps, in two weeks, you will be visited by a man in secrecy who, sent by me, will bring to your home news from Browni and greetings from Magnus Bering.

Write to me using the bearer of this letter. But if you would like, send me your letters through the post. My address is Stockholm, Doctor Alinton, Stora Vattugaton.

Until we meet again.

M. Bakunin

1. Translated from the French by Rory Van Loo

From : Anarchy Archives


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August 17, 1863
Letter to Herzen and Ogareff, August 17, 1863 — Publication.

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January 26, 2017; 5:05:09 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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