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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
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  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets


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"Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony,' was played at a general repetition before a concert of the Saxon Court-Orchestra. When the music was finished, Bakunin came running over and declared: 'If music should perish in the coming world upheaval, we must risk our lives to save the 'Ninth Symphony.'

"More than once Bakunin remained with us to supper. On one of these occasions he exclaimed to my wife: 'A real man must not think beyond the satisfaction of his first needs. The only true worthy passion for man is love.'

"Bakunin longed after the highest ideals of humanity. His nature reflected a strangeness to all the conventionalities of civilisation. That is why the impression of my association with him is so mixed. I was repelled by an instinctive fear of him; yet he drew me like a magnet."

Wagner tells many stories of Bakunin's activities in exile. In his hiding corner, he received men from all sections of the revolutionary movement. The Slavonian revolutionists were his favourites. For the French, as individuals, he had no particular sympathy in spite of his eulogy of the French spirit and his endorsement of Proudhon's socialism. Of the Germans he never spoke. He despised them beyond words. He was not interested in democracy or the republic because he deemed them the political shadows of class-society. He wanted economic democracy; a producers' and not a joint stock republic. He hated every scheme for the reconstruction of the social order because it meant the prolonging of slavery. He saw that, one day, the very pretence of reformism would have to break down. His sole aim was the complete overthrow of the existing regime, and the evolution was a completely new social order.

Once a Pole, who was afraid of such ideas, remarked that some State organisation was necessary, in order that the individual might be assured of the full results of his labour. Bakunin replied: "You mean that you would fence in your piece of land to afford a living for the police. Is that getting the full results of our labours? Organisations for the new social order will rise in any case. Our task is to destroy parasitism."

This was Bakunin's actual attitude towards life. It summarises all his thought and work. He hated the petty bourgeoisie, the men and women of the suburbs, with their back-gardens and train time tables. With them, everything was a narrow mean routine. Bakunin knew that these small people were the great drawback to the revolutionary change. He hated their smug politeness and called them Philistines. He found their true embodiment in the Protestant clergymen and declared that it was impossible to make a man of this contemptible creature. He wrote: "Of the tyrants we need have no fear; the real menace consists of the Philistines. Kings would often abdicate but for the lackeys who prey through them."

Bakunin acquired a glory at the Dresden uprising which his enemies have not denied. From the 6th to the 9th May he was the very life and soul of its defence against the Prussian


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