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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
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head, at the very time when I was fully immersed in revolutionary organisation, and it completely paralysed my activities for several weeks. All my German and Slav friends fought shy of me. I was the first Russian to concern himself actively with revolutionary work, and it is needless for me to tell you what feelings of traditional mistrust were accustomed to arise in western minds when the words Russian revolutionist were mentioned. In the first instance, therefore, I wrote to Madame Sand."

Bakunin's life as an agitator, his insecurity of existence, his entire manner of living rendered it easy to undermind his prestige by sowing suspicion. This was also the policy of the Russian Embassy. In order to reply to Marx and the Czarist traducers, Bakunin wrote to George Sand. The text of George Sand's letter to the Zeitung, dated August 3, 1948, is reproduced in my Pioneers of Anti-Parliamentarism ("Word" Library, 1st Series, No.7). Her declaration rehabilitated Bakunin as a revolutionary and a victim of slanderous conspiracy.

Slander never dies. In 1863, when he was about to enter Switzerland, a Basle paper declared that he has involved Polish refugees in disaster whilst remaining immune. German Socialist (sic) periodicals constantly slandered him. Marx never missed a chance of speaking against him.

Otto Ruhle has described how Marx wrote to a young Russian seeking information regarding Bakunin. For reasons of conspiracy, Marx referred to Bakunin as "my old friend, Bakunin-I don't know if he is still my friend ." Marx persuaded too well: for his correspondent forwarded the letter to Bakunin. Marx complained of the result: "Bakunin availed himself of the circumstances to excuse a sentimental entree."

Ruble comments:-

"This sentimental entree not only redounded to Bakunin's credit, not only showed his good feeling and his insight, but deserved a better reception from Marx than the biting cynicism and the derogatory insolence which it was encountered (cynicism and insolence which were only masks for embarrassment)."

Bakunin wrote:-

"you ask whether I am still your friend. Yes, more than ever, my dear Marx, for I understand better than ever how right you were to walk along the broad road of the economic revolution, to invite us all to follow you, and to denounce all those who wandered off into the byways of nationalist or exclusively political enterprise. I am now doing what you began to do more than twenty years ago. Since I formally and publicly said good-bye to the bourgeois of the Berne congress, I know no other society, no other milieu than the world of the workers. My fatherland is now the International, whose chief founder you have been. You see, then, dear friend, that I am your pupil— and I am proud to be this. I think I have said enough to make my personal position and feelings clear to you."



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