Aldred, Guy A. Michel Bakunin, Communist. Pg 3-4.
"A spectre," wrote Karl Marx In 1847, "is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of Old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre."
But the exorcism has failed. In vain does the holy alliance reconstitute itself in order to perform its chosen task. The spectre of 1847 is a mere sprite no longer. It has emerged from the darkness in which it was wont formerly to play the part of a miserable shadow. It has become an embodied spirit, a power incarnate; and to-day it boldly and bravely assumes its place in history as the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet Republic. "The Red Peril" is a shapeless ideal no longer. It is a stern reality. It is a living consequence, an established social fact. It is a thrilling, feeling, striving human institution. It has descended from heaven to earth, put aside its godhead, and become possessed of body, parts, and passions. How came this transformation to be effected?
The answer is not a difficult one to be sure. Economic development played its part-and also the boundless audacity of a few brave pioneers, among whom Michel Bakunin deserves a place for his tireless zeal and tremendous enthusiasm.
How far persons may be deemed the embodiment of epochs is a debateable question. It is, at least, certain that history, gains in fascination from being treated as a constant succession of biographies. Assuredly, more than Luther and his circle were necessary to effect the Reformation. But who will deny that to glean the characters of Luther, Melancthon, and Zwingl gives charm to our knowledge of the period? And do not the boldness of the men and certain notable sayings remain with us as matters of consequence to be remembered in song and story, whilst the abstract principles for which they stood bore us not a-little" Who of us will care to follow all the technical work accomplished by Wicklif when he pioneered the public reading of the Bible in English or turned aside from his scholarly Latin to bold writing in our native tongue? We remember only that he did these things. Forgetting his errors, -far as he -inclined towards orthodoxy, we linger with admiration over his brave declaration when he stood alone against interest and prejudice: " I believe that the Truth will prevail." And so, when we speak of the Free Press, we think of one man, Richard Carlile, as typifying and embodying the struggle though assuredly his work was made possible only by the devoted band of men and women who rallied round in the historic battle for the free press.
In like fashion, when we speak of the Russian Revolution and Communism our thoughts turn to Michel Bakunin and Alexander Herzen. The latter ,vas the lather of revolutionary Nihilism. But he repented of his offspring. Bakunin never repented.
much in the freedom of capital which they confuse with the freedom of the individual. And knowing that Herzen and Bakunin believed strenuously in individual freedom, they applaud Nihilism as a sort of improvement on Bolshevism. But there can be nothing in common between the haves and the have nots. The phrase " Nihilism" or " Liberty " can no more reconcile opposing interests than the phrase " Democracy " or " Religion." Economic interests are realities. Phrases are only abstractions.
That they may be convinced on this point, I invite their attention to the present memoir. I have not told the story in all the detail that I might have done. Several essays by Bakunin, and an appreciation by Wagner, that I intended to reprint from the " Herald of Revolt " and the " Spur " I have reserved for separate publication. I have compiled and selected from essays I have published since 1910, under various circumstances in prison, military detention, etc. I have added a little new writing, ruthlessly eliminated repetition, and endeavoured to give a true portrait of Bakunin in relation to the revolution and his epoch. My aim has been to picture the man as he was--a mighty elemental force, often at fault, always in earnest, strenuous and inspiring.
GUY A. ALDRED.
Bakunin House, Glasgow, W., Nov., 1920.