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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
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The 1848 upheaval failed. The crushing of the French Labour Movement angered and disheartened Herzen. Sorrow at the general check received by the revolution throughout Europe disturbed his outlook. He repented, as an illusion, his temporary affection for Western culture. He returned to Russia in thought but not in body. He felt weary and aged. "We were young two years ago; to-day we are old," he wrote in 1850. He poured out his sense of hopelessness and despair in his work, "From The Other Shore."

He could not give up his faith in revolution. The West had failed--but there was Russia. Why should not Russia become a Socialist Republic without passing through capitalism? Why should not Russia emancipate the world? Herzen saw no reason and so, in 1851, he penned the prophetic words: "The man of the future in Russia is the Moujik, just as in France he is the artisan." Herzen foresaw the workers' and peasants' republic. He continued in this faith down to the renewal of his association with Bakunin in London. He developed his ideas in "The Old World and Russia." The coming revolution, starting from Russia, would destroy the basis of all the States--the Roman, Christian, and feudal institutions, the parliamentary, monarchial, and republican centres. All would perish but the people of Europe would live. Faith in Russia renewed Herzen's optimism. He opposed himself against reformism anew in the following words:--

"We can do more plastering and repairing. It has become impossible to move in the ancient forms without breaking them. Our revolutionary idea is incompatible entirely with the existing state of things."

"A constitution is only a treaty between master and slave." This declaration was made by Herzen also. It at once became the motto of the minority of the Russian extremists. Herzen's desire now became the speeding up of the Russian Revolution. Disheartened by failure he turned opportunist. Intrigue replaced insurrection and finally he repudiated revolutionary measures for liberalism. He identified himself with the constitutionalists and left his colleague Bakunin to spread the flame of universal destruction. He declared that Bakunin mistook the passion for destruction for the passion for creation. For himself, he no longer wished to march ahead of the bulk of mankind. He would not remain behind but would keep in step with the needs of constitutional progress.

There was nothing wrong with Herzen's revolutionary programme. It was his impatience that drove him to reaction. The fire did not blaze quickly enough and so he denounced the dampness of the wood and declared that the burning must end in smoke. The vapour was Herzen's impatience turned to pessimism and not his work nor yet his ideal.

Herzen retreated from Nihilism to the reform of Russian officialdom. He urged this in the Kolokol. Bakunin opposed him. He identified the Kolokol more and more with the applause of the


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