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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
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Bakunin and his place in Russian literature and European thought and struggle. Masaryk's book is a wonderful work of scholarship. It is not concerned with the personal life of Bakunin but with his literary life, with his political career, with his entire scholastic background. I would advice every person who wishes to understand Bakunin's life to read this book. This does not mean that I endorse all its conclusions.

Masaryk depicts Bakunin as a zealot, a fanatical autocrat, a revolutionary Czar. He shows that Bakunin is not merely a theorist but a would-be man of action limited in his capacity to achieve by the force of his own zeal.

Masaryk discusses very completely the history of Russian Socialism and the ideals that moved the exiles under the Czardom. He considers fully Lavrov's relationship with Herzen; relates the breach between Katkov and Bakunin (1840) and describes how they came to blows in Belinksi's house. He shows the influence on Bakunin of Marx. Contrasting Bakunin against Kropotkin, Masaryk concludes the difference consisted in the fact that Bakunin aimed solely at disorganisation and never gave any heed to re-organisation. It may be that Kropotkin stands in relation to Bakunin as Edward Carpenter does to Walt Whitman. There is a roughness and an original force about Whitman that is lacking in Carpenter. The latter is cultured and essentially the disciple, but the disciple who has refined the strength of the master. Bakunin lacks much of the culture that finds expression in Kropotkin's writings. Nowhere does Kropotkin express himself with the energy and force that is to be found in Bakunin. Especially in this the case when we compare Kropotkin's tracing of the anarchist idea in England back to the Whigs, ignoring entirely the Radical Republicans whom the Whigs persecuted, with Bakunin's analysis of the Liberals in Russia. Masaryk deals very thoroughly with his analysis. To Bakunin, as to Dobroljubov, the Liberals are superfluous persons; cultured and hyper-cultured persons suffering form the paralysis and morbidity of civilisation. They are superfluous weaklings as contrasted against the Muzik.

As I have referred the reader to Masaryk's work I do not need to analyse it at great length in the present appendix. He discuses the relation of Cernysevskii to Herzen and Bakunin as interpreters of Russian literature and thought. He describes how Cernysevskii had Marx's writings sent to him during his exile in Siberia but displayed no interest whatever in the philosophy of Marx. Masaryk concludes that Cernysevskii continued the literary work of Belinski, whereas Herzen and Bakunin departed form Russian traditions and supplied the younger generation with revolutionary ardour. He quotes Bakunin's definition of government and of the reactionaries who maintain the government as privileged persons in point of political blindness. He concludes from Bakunin's severity that he served as the model for Turgenev's "Dmitri Rudin," and also



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