From: Hunter, R. (1914). Violence and the Labor Movement. New York: The Macmillan Company.
The Father of Terrorism
"DANTE tells us," writes Macaulay, "that he saw, in Malebolge, a strange encounter between a human form and a serpent. The enemies, after cruel wounds inflicted, stood for a time glaring on each other. A great cloud surrounded them, and then a wonderful metamorphosis began. Each creature was transfigured into the likeness of its antagonist. The serpent's tail divided into two legs; the man's legs intertwined themselves into a tail. The body of the serpent put forth arms; the arms of the man shrank into his body. At length the serpent stood up a man, and spake; the man sank down a serpent, and glided hissing away." (I) Something, I suppose, not unlike this appalling picture of Dante's occurs in the world whenever a man's soul becomes saturated with hatred. It will be remembered, for instance, that even Shelley's all-forgiving and sublime Prometheus was forced by the torture of the furies to cry out in anguish,
"Whilst I behold such execrable shapes,
Methinks I grow like what I contemplate."
It would not be strange, then, if here and there a man's entire nature were transfigured when he sees a monster appear, cruel, pitiless, and unyielding, crushing to the earth the weak, the weary, and the heavy-laden. Nor is it strange that in Russia-the blackest Malebolge in the modern world-a litter of avengers is born every generation of the savage brutality, the murderous oppression, the satanic infamy of the Russian government. And who does not love those innumerable Russian youths and maidens, driven to acts of defiance-hopeless, futile, yet necessary-if for no other reason than to fulfill their duty to humanity and thus perhaps quiet a quivering conscience? There is something truly Promethean in the struggle of the Russian youth against their overpowering antagonist. They know that the price of one single act of protest is their lives. Yet, to the eternal credit of humanity, thousands of them have thrown themselves naked on the spears of their enemy, to become an example of sacrificial revolt. And can any of us wonder that when even this tragic seeding of the martyrs proved unfruitful, many of the Russian youth, brooding over the irremediable wrongs of their people, were driven to insanity and suicide? And, if all that was possible, would it be surprising if it also happened that at least one flaming rebel should have developed a philosophy of warfare no less terrible than that of the Russian bureaucracy itself ? I do not know, nor would I allow myself to suggest, that Michael Bakounin, who brought into Western Europe and planted there the seeds of terrorism, came to be like what he contemplated, or that his philosophy and tactics of action were altogether a reflection of those he opposed. Yet, if that were the case, one could better understand that bitter and bewildering character.
That there is some justification for speculation on these grounds is indicated by the heroes of Bakounin. He always meant to write the story of Prometheus, and he never spoke of Satan without an admiration that approached adoration. They were the two unconquerable enemies of absolutism. He was "the eternal rebel," Bakounin once said of Satan, "the first free-thinker and emancipator of the worlds." (2) In another place he speaks of Proudhon as having the instinct of a revolutionist, because "he adored Satan and proclaimed anarchy." (3) In still another place he refers to the proletariat of Paris as "the modern Satan, the great rebel, vanquished, but not pacified." (4) In the statutes of his secret organization, of which I shall speak again later, he insists that "principles, programs, and rules are not nearly as important as that the persons who put them into execution shall have the devil in them." (5) Although an avowed and militant atheist, Bakounin could not subdue his worship of the king of devils, and, had anyone during his life said that Bakounin was not only a modern Satan incarnate, but the eight other devils as well, nothing could have delighted him more. And no doubt he was inspired to this demon worship by his implacable hatred of absolutism-whether it be in religion, which he considered as tyranny over the mind, or in government, which he considered as tyranny over the body. To Bakounin the two eternal enemies of man were the Government and the Church, and no weapon was unworthy of use which promised in any measure to assist in their entire and complete obliteration.
Absolutism was to Bakounin a universal destroyer of the best and the noblest qualities in man. And, as it stands as an effective barrier to the only social order that can lift man above the beast-tbat of perfect liberty-so must the sincere warrior against absolutism become the universal destroyer of any and everything associated with tyranny. How far such a crusade leads one may be gathered from Bakounin's own words: "The end of revolution can be no other," he declares, "than the destruction of all powers-religious, monarchical, aristocratic, and bourgeois-in Europe. Consequently, the destruction of all now existing States, with all their institutions-political, juridical, bureaucratic, and financial." (6) In another place he says: "It will be essential to destroy everything, and especially and before all else, all property and its inevitable corollary, the State." (7) "We want to destroy all States," he repeats in still another place, "and all Churches, with all their institutions and their laws of religion, politics, jurisprudence, finance, police, universities, economics, and society, in order that all these millions of poor, deceived, enslaved, tormented, exploited human beings, delivered from all their official and officious directors and benefactors, associations, and individuals, can at last breathe, with complete freedom." (8) All through life Bakounin clung tenaciously to this immense idea of destruction, "terrible, total, inexorable, and universal," for only after such a period of destructive terror-in which every vestige of "the institutions of tyranny" shall be swept from the earth-can "anarchy, that is to say, the complete manifestation of unchained popular life," (9) develop liberty, equality, and justice. These were the means, and this was the end that Bakounin had in mind all the days of his life from the time he convinced himself as a young man that "the desire for destruction is at the same time a creative desire." (10)
Even so brief a glimpse into Bakounin's mind is likely to startle the reader. But there is no fiction here; he is what Carlyle would have called "a terrible God's Fact." He was a very real product of Russia's infamy, and we need not be surprised if one with Bakounin's great talents, worshiping Satan and preaching ideas of destruction that comprehended Cosmos itself, should have performed in the world a unique and never-to-be-forgotten role. It was inevitable that he should have stood out among the men of his time as a strange, bewildering figure. To his very matter-of-fact and much annoyed antagonist, Karl Marx, he was little more than a buffoon, the "amorphous pan- destroyer, who has succeeded in uniting in one person Rodolphe, Monte Cristo, Karl Moor, and Robert Macaire." (ii) On the other hand, to his circle of worshipers he was a mental giant, a flaming titan, a Russian Siegfried, holding out to all the powers of heaven and earth a perpetual challenge to combat. And, in truth, Bakounin's ideas and imagination covered a field that is not exhausted by the range of mythology. He juggled with universal abstractions as an alchemist with the elements of the earth or an astrologist with the celestial spheres. His workshop was the universe, his peculiar task the refashioning of Cosmos, and he began by declaring war upon the Almighty himself and every institution among men fashioned after what he considered to be the absolutism of the Infinite.
It is, then, with no ordinary human being that we must deal in treating of him who is known as the father of terrorism. Yet, as he lived in this world and fought with his faithful circle to lay down the principles of universal revolution, we find him very human indeed. Of contradictions, for instance, there seems to be no end. Although an atheist, he had an idol, Satan. Although an eternal enemy of absolutism, he pleaded with Alexander to become the Czar of the people. And, although he fought passionately and superbly to destroy what he called the "authoritarian hierarchy" in the organization of the International, he planned for his own purpose the most complete hierarchy that can well be imagined. His only tactic, that of lex talionis, also worked out a perfect reciprocity even in those common affairs to which this prodigy stooped in order to conquer, for he seemed to create infallibly every institution he combated and to use every weapon that he execrated when employed by others. The most fertile of law-givers himself, he could not tolerate another. Pope of Popes in his little inner circle, he could brook no rival. Machiavelli's Prince was no richer in intrigue than Bakounin; yet he always fancied himself, with the greatest self-compassion, as the naive victim of the endless and malicious intrigues of others. However affectionate, generous, and open he seemed to be with those who followed him worshipfully, even they were not trusted with his secrets, and, if he was always cunning and crafty toward his enemies, he never had a friend that he did not use to his profit. Volatile in his fitful changes toward men and movements, rudderless as he often seemed to be in the incoherence of his ideas and of his policies, there nevertheless burned in his soul throughout life a great flaming, and perhaps redeeming, hatred of tyranny. At times he would lead his little bands into open warfare upon it, dreaming always that the world once in motion would follow him to the end in his great work of destruction. At other times he would go to it bearing gifts, in the hope, as we must charitably think, of destroying it by stealth.
In general outline, this is the father of terrorism as I see him. How he developed his views is not entirely clear, as very little is known of his early life, and there are several broken threads at different periods both early and late in his career. The little known of his youth may be quickly told. He was born in Russia in 1814, Of a family of good position, belonging to the old nobility. He was well educated and began his career in the army. Shortly after the Polish insurrection had been crushed, militarism and despotism became abhorrent to him, and the spectacle of that terrorized country made an everlasting impression upon him. In 1834 he renounced his military career and returned to Moscow, where he gave himself up entirely to the study of philosophy, and, as was natural at the period, he saturated himself with Hegel. From Moscow he went to St. Petersburg and later to Berlin, constantly pursuing his studies, and in 1842 he published under the title, "La reaction en Allemagne, fragment, par un Francais," an article ending with the now famous line: "The desire for destruction is at the same time a creative desire." (12) This article appeared in the Deutsche Jahrbucher, in which publication he soon became a collaborator. The authorities, however, were hostile to the paper, and he went into Switzerland in 1843, only to be driven later to Paris. There he made the acquaintance of Proudhon, "the father of anarchism," and spent days and nights with him discussing the problems of government, of society, and of religion. He also met Marx, "the father of socialism," and, although they were never sympathetic, yet they came frequently in friendly and unfriendly contact with each other. George Sand, George Herwegh , Arnold Ruge, Frederick Engels, William Weitling, Alexander Herzen, Richard Wagner, Adolf Reichel, and many other brilliant revolutionary spirits of the time, Bakounin knew intimately, and for him, as for many others, the period of the forties was one of great intellectual development.
In the insurrectionary period that began in 1848 he became active, but he appears to have done little noteworthy before January, 1849, when he went secretly to
Leipsic in the hope of aiding a group of young Czechs to launch an uprising in Bohemia. Shortly afterward an insurrection broke out in Dresden, and he rushed there to become one of the most active leaders of the revolt. It is said that he was "the veritable soul of the revolution," and that he advised the insurrectionists, in order to prevent the Prussians from firing upon the barricades, to place in front of them the masterpieces from the art museum. (13) When that insurrection was: suppressed, he, Richard Wagner, and some others hurried to Chemnitz, where Bakounin was captured and condemned to death. Austria, however, demanded his extradition, and there, for the second time, he was condemned to be hanged. Eventually he was handed over to Russia, where he again escaped paying the death penalty by the pardon of the Czar, and, after six years in prison, he was banished to Siberia. Great efforts were made to secure a pardon for him, but without success. However, through his influential relatives, he was allowed such freedom of movement that in the end he succeeded in escaping, and, returning to Europe through Japan and America, he arrived in England in 1861.
The next year is notable for the appearance of two of his brochures, "Aux amis russes, polonais, et a tous les amis slaves," and "La Cause du Peuple, Romanoff, Pougatchoff, ou Pestel?" One would have thought that twelve years in prison and in Siberia would have made him more bitter than ever against the State and the Czar; but, curiously, these writings mark a striking departure from his previous views. For almost the only time in his life he expressed a desire to see Russia develop into a magnificent "State," and he urged the Russians to drive the Tartars back to Asia, the Germans back to Germany, and to become a free people, exclusively Russian. By cooperative effort between the military powers of the Russian Government and the insurrectionary activities of the Slavs subjected to foreign governments, the Russian peoples could wage a war, he argued, that would create a great united empire. The second of the above-mentioned volumes was addressed particularly to Alexander II. In this Bakounin prophesies that Russia must soon undergo a revolution. It may come through terrible and bloody uprisings on the part of the masses, led by some fierce and sanguinary popular idol, or it will come through the Czar himself, if he should be wise enough to assume in person the leadership of the peasants. He declared that "Alexander 11. could so easily become the popular idol, the first Czar of the peasants. . . . By leaning upon the people he could become the savior and master of the entire Slavic world." (14) He then pictures in glowing terms a united Russia, in which the Czar and the people will work harmoniously together to build up a great democratic State. But he threatens that, if the Czar does not become the "savior of the Slavic world," an avenger will arise to lead an outraged and avenging people. He again declares, "We prefer to follow Romanoff (the family name of the Czar), if Romanoff could and would transform himself from the Petersbourgeois emperor into the Czar of the peasants." (15) Despite much flattery and ill-merited praise, the Czar refused to be converted, and Bakounin rushed off the next year to Stockholm, in the hope of organizing a band of Russians to enter Poland to assist in the insurrection which had broken out there.
The next few years were spent mostly in Italy, and it was here that he conceived his plan of a secret international organization of revolutionists. Little is known of how extensive this secret organization actually became, but Bakounin said in 1864 that it included a number of Italian, French, Scandinavian, and Slavic revolutionists. As a scheme this secret organization is remarkable. It included three orders: I. The International Brothers; II. The National Brothers; III. The semi-secret, semipublic organization of the International Alliance of Social Democracy. Without Bakounin's intending it, doubtless, the International Brothers resembled the circle of gods in mythology; the National Brothers, the circle of heroes; while the third order resembled the mortals who were to bear the burden of the fighting. The International Brothers were not to exceed one hundred, and they were to be the guiding spirits of the great revolutionary storms that Bakounin thought were then imminent in Europe. They must possess above all things " revolutionary passion," and they were to be the supreme secret executive power of the two subordinate organizations. In their hands alone should be the making of the programs, the rules, and the principles of the revolution. The National Brothers were to be under the direction of the International Brothers, and were to be selected because of their revolutionary zeal and their ability to control the masses. They were "to have the devil in them." The semi-secret, semi-public organization was to include the multitude, and sections were to be formed in every country for the purpose of organizing the masses. However, the masses were not to know of the secret organization of the National Brothers, and the National Brothers were not to know of the secret organization of the International Brothers. In order to enable them to work separately but harmoniously, Bakounin, who had chosen himself as the supreme law-giver, wrote for each of the three orders a program of principles, a code of rules, and a plan of methods all its -own. The ultimate ends of this movement were not to be communicated to either the National Brothers or to the Alliance, and the masses were to know only that which was good for them to know, and which would not be likely to frighten them. These are very briefly the outlines of the extraordinary hierarchy that was to form throughout' all Europe and America an invisible network of "the real revolutionists."
This organization was "to accelerate the universal revolution," and what was understood by the revolution was "the unchaining of what is to-day called the bad passions and the destruction of what in the same language is called 'public order.' We do not fear, we invoke anarchy, convinced that from this anarchy, that is to say, from the complete manifestation of unchained popular life, must come forth liberty, equality, justice..."(16) It was clearly foreseen by Bakounin that there would be opponents to anarchy among the revolutionists themselves, and, he declared: "We are the natural enemies of these revolutionists . . . who . .. dream already of the creation of new revolutionary States." (17) It was admitted that the Brothers could not of themselves create the revolution. All that a secret and well-organized society can do is "to organize, not the army of the revolution-the army must always be the people-but a sort of revolutionary staff composed of individuals who are devoted, energetic, intelligent, and especially sincere friends of the people, not ambitious nor self-conceited-capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the popular instincts. The number of these individuals does not have to be immense. For the international organization of all Europe, one hundred revolutionists, strongly and seriously bound together, are sufficient. Two or three hundred revolutionists will be sufficient for the organization of the largest country." (18)
The idea of a secret organization of revolutionary leaders proved to be wholly repugnant to many of even the most devoted friends of Bakounin, and by 1868 the organization is supposed to have been dissolved, because, it was said, secrets had leaked out and the whole affair had been subjected to much ridicule. (19) The idea of the third order, however, that of the International Alliance, was not abandoned, and it appears that Bakounin and a number of the faithful Brothers felt hopeful in 1867 of capturing a great "bourgeois" congress, called the "League of Peace and of Liberty," that had met that year in Geneva. Bakounin, Elisee Reclus, Aristide Rey, Victor Jaclard, and several others in the conspiracy undertook to persuade the league to pass some revolutionary resolutions. Bakounin was already a member of the central committee of the league, and, in preparation for the battle, he wrote the manuscript afterward published under the title, "Federalisme, Socialisme, et Antitheologisme." But the congress of 1868 dashed their hopes to the ground, and the revolutionists separated from the league and founded the same day, September 25th, a new association, called L'Alliance Internationale de la Democratie Socialiste. The program now adopted by the Alliance, although written by Bakounin, expressed quite different views from those of the International Brothers. But it, too, began its revolutionary creed by declaring itself atheist. Its chief and most important work was "to abolish religion and to substitute science for faith; and human justice for divine justice." Second, it declared for "the political, economic, and social equality of the classes" (which, it was assumed, were to continue to exist), and it intended to attain this end by the destruction of government and by the abolition of the right of inheritance. Third, it assailed all forms of political action and proposed that, in place of the community, groups of producers should assume control of all industrial processes. Fourth, it opposed all centralized organization, believing that both groups and individuals should demand for themselves complete liberty to do in all cases whatever they desired. (20) The same revolutionists who a short time before had planned a complete hierarchy now appeared irreconcilably opposed to any form of authority. They now argued that they must abolish not only God and every political State, but also the right of the majority to rule. Then and then only would the people finally attain perfect liberty.
These were the chief ideas that Bakounin wished to introduce into the International Working Men's Association. That organization, founded in 1864 in London, had already become a great power in Europe, and Bakounin entered it in 1869, not only for the purpose of forwarding the ideas just mentioned, but also in the hope of obtaining the leadership of it. Failing in 1862 to convert the Czar, in 1864-1867 to organize into a hierarchy the revolutionary spirits of Europe, in 1868 to capture the bourgeoisie, he turned in 1869 to seek the aid of the working class. On each of these occasions his views underwent the most magical of transformations. With more bitterness than ever he now declared war upon the political and economic powers of Europe, but he was unable to prosecute this war until he had destroyed every committee or group in the International which possessed, or sought to possess, any power. He assailed Marx, Engels, and all those who he thought wished to dominate the International. The beam in his
own eye he saw in theirs, and he now expressed an unspeakable loathing for all hierarchical tendencies and authoritarian methods. The story of the great battle between him and Marx must be left for a later chapter, and we must content ourselves for the present with following the history of Bakounin as he gradually developed in theory and in practice the principles and tactics of terrorism.
While struggling to obtain the leadership of the working classes of Western Europe, Bakounin was also busy with Russian affairs. "I am excessively absorbed in what is going on in Russia," he writes to a friend, April 13, 1869. "Our youth, the most revolutionary in the world perhaps, in theory and in practice, are so stirred up that the Government has been forced to close the universities, academies, and several schools at St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kazan. I have here now a specimen of these young fanatics, who hesitate at nothing and who fear nothing. . . . They are admirable. . . . believers without God and heroes without phrase!" (21) He who called forth this eulogy was the young Russian revolutionist, Sergei Nechayeff. Whether admirable or not we shall leave the reader to judge. But, if Bakounin bewilders one, Necbayeff staggers one. And, if Bakounin was the father of terrorism, Nechayeff was its living embodiment. He was not complex, mystical, or sentimental. He was truly a revolutionist without phrase, and he can be described in the simplest words. He was a liar, a thief, and a murderer-the incarnation of Hatred, Malice, and Revenge, who stopped at no crime against friend or foe that promised to advance what he was pleased to call the revolution. Bakounin had for a long time sought his cooperation, and now in Switzerland they began that collaboration which resulted in the most extraordinary series of sanguinary revolutionary writings known to history.
In the summer of 1869 there was printed at Geneva "Words Addressed to Students," signed by them both; the "Formula of the Revolutionary Question"; "The Principles of the Revolution"; and the "Publications of the People's Tribunal"--the three last appearing anonymously. All of them counsel the most infamous doctrines of criminal activity. In "Words Addressed to Students," the Russian youth are exhorted to leave the universities and go among the people. They are asked to follow the example of Stenka Razin, a robber chieftain who, in the time of Alexis, placed himself at the head of a popular insurrection. "Robbery," declare Bakounin and Nechayeff, "is one of the most honorable forms of Russian national life. The brigand is the hero, the defender, the popular avenger, the irreconcilable enemy of the State, and of all social and civil order established by the State. He is the wrestler in life and in death against all this civilization of officials, of nobles, of priests, and of the crown. . . . He who does not understand robbery can understand nothing in the history of the Russian masses. He who is not sympathetic with it , cannot sympathize with the popular life, and has no heart for the ancient, unbounded sufferings of the people; he belongs in the camp of the enemy, the partisans of the State . . . It is through brigandage only that the vitality, passion, and force of the people are established undeniably . . . The brigand in Russia is the veri table and unique revolutionist-revolutionist without phrase, without rhetoric borrowed from books, a revolutionist indefatigable, irreconcilable, and irresistible in action . . . The brigands scattered in the forests, the cities, and villages of all Russia, and the brigands confined in the innumerable prisons of the empire, form a unique and indivisible world, strongly bound together, the world of the Russian revolution. In it, in it alone, has existed for a long time the veritable revolutionary conspiracy." (22)
Once again the principles of the revolution appear to be complete and universal destruction. "There must 'not rest . . . one stone upon a stone.' It is necessary to destroy everything, in order to produce 'perfect amorphism,' for, if 'a single one of the old forms' were preserved, it would become 'the embryo' from which would spring all the other old social forms." (23) The same leaflet preaches systematic assassination and declares that for practical revolutionists all speculations about the future are "criminal, because they hinder pure destruction and trammel the march of the revolution. We have confidence only in those who show by their acts their devotion to the revolution, without fear of torture or of imprisonment, and we disclaim all words unless action should follow immediately." . . . (24) "Words have no value for us unless followed at once by action. But all is not action that goes under that name: for example, the modest and too-cautious orgamzation of secret societies without some external manifestations is in our eyes merely ridiculous and intolerable child's play. By external manifestations we mean a series of actions that positively destroy something-a person, a cause, a condition that hinders the emancipation of the people. Without sparing our lives, without pausing before any threat, any obstacle, any danger, etc., we must break into the life of the people with a series of daring, even insolent, attempts, and inspire them with a belief in their own power, awake them, rally them, and drive them on to the triumph of their own cause." (25)
The most remarkable of this series of writings is "The Revolutionary Catechism." This existed for several years in cipher, and was guarded most carefully by Nechayeff. Altogether it contained twenty-six articles, classified into four sections. Here it is declared that if the revolutionist continues to live in this world it is only in order to annihilate it all the more surely. "The object remains always the same: the quickest and surest way of destroying this filthy order." . . . "For him exists only one single pleasure, one single consolation, one reward, one satisfaction: the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, but one aim-implacable destruction ... . . . .. For this end of implacable destruction a revolutionist can and often must live in the midst of society, feigning to be altogether different from what he really is. A revolutionist must penetrate everywhere: into high society as well as into the middle class, into the shops, into the church, into the palaces of the aristocracy, into the official, military, and literary worlds, into the third section (the secret police), and even into the imperial palace." (26)
"All this unclean society must be divided into several categories, the first composed of those who are condemned to death without delay." (Sec. 15.) ... "In the first place must be destroyed the men most inimical to the revolutionary organization and whose violent and sudden death can frighten the Government the most and break its power in depriving it of energetic and
intelligent agents." (Sec. 16.) "The second category must be composed of people to whom we concede life provisionally, in order that by a series of monstrous acts they may drive the people into inevitable revolt." (Sec. 17.) "To the third category belong a great number of animals in high position or of individuals who are remarkable neither for their mind nor for their energy, but who, by their position, have wealth, connections, influence, power. We must exploit them in every possible manner, overreach them, deceive them, and, getting hold of their dirty secrets, make them our slaves." (Sec. 18.) . . . "The fourth class is composed of sundry ambitious persons in the service of the State and of liberals of various shades of opinion. With them we can conspire after their own program, pretending to follow them blindly. We must take them in our hands, seize their secrets, compromise them completely, in such a way that retreat becomes impossible for them, so as to make use of them in bringing about disturbances in the State." (Sec. ig.) "The fifth category is composed of doctrinaires, conspirators, revolutionists, and of those who babble at meetings and on paper. We must urge these on and draw them incessantly into practical and perilous manifestations, which will result in making the majority of them disappear, while making some of them genuine revolutionists." (Sec. 20.) "The sixth category is very important. They are the women, who must be divided into three classes: the first, frivolous women, without mind or heart, which we must use in the same manner as the third and fourth categories of men; the second, the ardent, devoted, and capable women, but who are not ours because they have not reached a practical revolutionary understanding, without pbrase-we must make use of these like the men of the fifth category; finally, the women who are entirely with us, that is to say, completely initiated and having accepted our program in its entirety. We ought to consider them as the most precious of our treasures, without whose help we can do nothing." (Sec. 21.) (27)
The last section of the "Catechism" treats of the duty of the association toward the people. "The Society has no other end than the complete emancipation and happiness of the people, namely, of the laborers. But, convinced that this emancipation and this happiness can only be reached by means of an all-destroying popular revolution, the Society will use every means and every effort to increase and intensify the evils and sorrows, which must at last exhaust the patience of the people and excite them to insurrection en masse. By a popular revolution the Society does not mean a movement regulated according to the classic patterns of the West, which, always restrained in the face of property and of the traditional social order of so-called civilization and morality, has hitherto been limited merely to exchanging one form of political organization for another, and to the creating of a so-called revolutionary State. The only revolution that can do any good to the people is that which utterly annihilates every idea of the State and overthrows all traditions, orders, and classes in Russia. With this end in view, the Society has no intention of imposing on the people any organization whatever coming from above. The future organization will, without doubt, proceed from the movement and life of the people; but that is the business of future generations. Our task is terrible, total, inexorable, and universal destruction." (28) These are in brief the tactics and principles of terrorism, as understood by Bakounin and Nechayeff. As only the criminal world shared these views in any degree, the "Catechism" ends: "We have got to unite ourselves with the adventurer's world of the brigands, who are the veritable and unique revolutionists of Russia." (29)
It is customary now to credit most of these writings to Nechayeff, although Bakounin himself, I believe, never denied that they were his, and no one can read them without noting the ear-marks of both Bakounin's thought and style. In any case, Nechayeff was constantly with Bakounin in the spring and summer of 1869, and the most important of these brochures were published in Geneva in the summer of that year. And, while it may be said for Bakounin that he nowhere else advocates all the varied criminal methods advised in these publications, there is hardly an argument for their use that is not based upon his well-known views. Furthermore, Nechayeff was primarily a man of action, and in a letter, which is printed hereafter, it appears that he urgently requested Bakounin to develop some of his theories in a Russian journal. Evidently, then, Nechayeff had little confidence in his own power of expression. We must, however, leave the question of paternity undecided and follow the latter to Russia, where he went late in the summer, loaded down with his arsenal of revolutionary literature and burning to put into practice the principles of the "Catechism."
Without following in detail his devious and criminal work, one brief tale will explain how his revolutionary activities were brought quickly to an end. There was in Moscow, so the story runs, a gentle, kindly, and influential member of Nechayeff's society. Of ascetic disposition, this Iwanof spent much of his time in freely educating the peasants and in assisting the poorer students. He starved himself to establish cheap eating houses, which became the centers of the revolutionary groups. The police finally closed his establishments, because Nechayeff had placarded them with revolutionary appeals. Iwanof, quite unhappy at this ending of his usefulness, begged Nechayeff to permit him to retire from the secret society. Necbayeff was, however, in fear that Iwanof might betray the secrets of the society, and he went one night with two fellow conspirators and shot Iwanof and threw the corpse into a pond. The police, in following up the murder, sought out Nechayeff, who had already fled from Russia and was hurrying back to Bakounin in Switzerland.
From January until July, 187o, he was constantly with Bakounin, but quarrels began to arise between them in June, and Bakounin writes in a letter to Ogaref: "Our boy (Nechayeff) is very stubborn, and I, when once I make a decision, am not accustomed to change it. Therefore, the break with hirn, on my side at least seems inevitable." (30) In the middle of July it was discovered that Nechayeff was once more carrying out the ethics they had jointly evolved, and, in order to make Bakounin his slave, had recourse to all sorts of "Jesuitical maneuvers, of lies and of thefts." Suddenly he disappeared from Geneva, and Bakounin and other Russians discovered that they had been robbed of all their papers and confidential letters. Soon it was learned that Nechayeff had presented himself to Talandier in London, and Bakounin hastened to write to his friend an explanation of their relations. "It may appear strange to you that we advise you to repulse a man to whom we gave letters of recommendation, written in the most cordial terms. But these letters date from the month of May, and there have happened since some events so serious that they have forced us to break all connections with Nechayeff." . . . "It is perfectly true that Nechayeff is more persecuted by the Russian Government than any other man. . . . It is also true that Nechayeff is one of the most active and most energetic men that I have ever met. When it is a question of serving what he calls the cause, he does not hesitate, he stops at nothing, and is as pitiless toward himself as toward all others. That is the principal quality which attracted me to him and which made me for a long time seek his cooperation. There are those who pretend that he is nothing but a sharper, but that is a lie. He is a devoted fanatic, but at the same time a dangerous fanatic, with whom an alliance could only prove very disastrous for everyone concerned. This is the reason: He first belonged to a secret society which, in reality, existed in Russia. This society exists no more; all its members have been arrested. Nechayeff alone remains, and alone he constitutes to-day what he calls the 'Committee.' The Russian organization in Russia having been destroyed, he is forced to create a new one in a foreign country. All that was perfectly natural, legitimate, very useful-but the means by which he undertakes it are detestable. . . . He will spy on you and will try to get possession of all your secrets, and to do that, in your absence, left alone in your room, he will open all your drawers, will read all your correspondence, and whenever a letter appears interesting to him, that is to say, compromising you or one of your friends from one point of view or another, he will steal it, and will guard it carefully as a document against you or your friend. . . . If you have presented him to a f riend, his first care will be to sow between you seeds of discord, scandal, intrigue-in a word, to set you two at variance. If your friend has a wife or a daughter, he will try to seduce her, to lead her astray, and to force her away from the conventional morality and throw her into a revolutionary protest against society. . . . Do not cry out that this is exaggeration. It has all been fully developed and proved. Seeing himself unmasked, this poor Nechayeff is indeed so childlike, so simple, in spite of his systematic perversity, that he believed it possible to convert me. He has even gone so far as to beg me to consent to develop this theory in a Russian journal which he proposed to me to establish. He has betrayed the confidence of us all, he has stolen our letters, he has horribly compromised us-in a word, he has acted like a villain. His only excuse is his fanaticism. He is a terribly ambitious man without knowing it, because he has at last completely identified the revolutionary cause with his own person. But he is not an egoist in the worst sense of that word, because he risks his own person terribly and leads the life of a martyr, of privations, and of unheard-of work. He is a fanatic, and fanaticism draws him on, even to the point of becoming an accomplished Jesuit. At moments he becomes simply stupid. Most of his lies are sewn with white thread. . . . In spite of this relative naivete, he is very dangerous, because lie daily commits acts, abuses of confidence, and treachery, against which it is all the more difficult to safeguard oneself because one hardly suspects the possibility. With all that, Nechayeff is a force, because he is an immense energy. It is with great pain that I have separated from him, because the service of our cause demands much energy, and one rarely finds it developed to such a point." (31)
The irony of fate rarely executes itself quite so humorously. Although perfectly familiar with Nechayeff's philosophy of action for over a year, the viciousness of it appeared to Bakounin only when he himself became a victim. When Nechayeff arrived in London he began the publication of a Russian journal, the Commune, where he bitterly attacked Bakounin and his views. Early in the seventies, he was arrested and taken back to Russia, where he and over eighty others, mostly young men and women students, were tried for belonging to secret societies. For the first time in Russian history the court proceeding took place before a jury and in public. Most of those arrested were condemned for long periods to the mines of Siberia at forced labor, while Nechayeff was kept in solitary imprisonment until his death, some years later.
Bakounin, on the other hand, remained in Switzerland and became the very soul of that element in Italy, Spain, and Switzerland which fought the policies of Marx in the International. At the same time he was training a group of youngsters to carry out in Western Europe the principles of revolution as laid down in his Russian publications. Over young middle-class youths, especially, Bakounin's magnetic power was extraordinary, and his followers were the faithful of the faithful. A very striking picture of Bakounin's hypnotic influence over this circle is to be found in the memoirs of Madame A. Bauler. She tells us of some Sundays she spent with Bakounin and his friends.
"At the beginning," she says, "being unfamiliar with the Italian language, I did not even understand the general drift of the conversation, but, observing the faces of those present, I had the impression that something extraordinarily grave and solemn was taking place. The atmosphere of these conferences imbued me; it created in me a state of mind which I shall call, for want of a better term, an 'stat de grace.' Faith increased; doubts vanished. The value of Bakounin became clear to me. His personality enlarged. I saw that his strength was in the power of taking possession of human souls. Beyond a doubt, all these men who were listening to him were ready to undertake anything, at the slightest word from him. I could picture to myself another gathering, less intimate, that of a great crowd, and I realized that there the influence of Bakounin would be the same. Only the enthusiasm, here gentle and intimate, would become incomparably more intense and the atmosphere more agitated by the mutual contagion of the human beings in a crowd.
"At bottom, in what did the charm of Bakounin consist? I believe that it is impossible to define it exactly. It was not by the force of persuasion that he agitated. It was not his thought which awakened the thought of others. But he aroused every rebellious heart and awoke there an 'elemental' anger. And this anger, transplendent with beauty, became creative and showed to the exalted thirst for justice and happiness an issue and a possibility of accomplishment. 'The desire for destruction is at the same time a creative desire,' Bakounin has repeated to the end of his life." (32)