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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
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  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
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  Anarchist History
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  Art and Anarchy
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  Anarchist Poets


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in the wake of parliamentary socialism has been justified. The subjection of the French proletariat to demands of Napoleon III. was not the correct revolutionary answer to Prussian militarism. It was the continuation of militarism and the surrender of socialism to reaction. The problem may have been difficult. It was Bakunin's business to find a correct revolutionary answer or else to keep silent. Instead, he shaved history shamefully so as to oppose the France of 1793 to the Germany of Bismarck. The France of Napoleon, of Bourbon royalism and of bourgeoisie republicanism was dismissed from view. He pictured the world as waiting on the initiation of France for its advance towards liberty, equality and fraternity. France was to drive back Germany, exile her traitor officials and inaugurate socialism. Said Bakunin: —

"What I would consider a great misfortune for the whole of humanity would be the defeat and death of France as a great national manifestation: the death of its great national character, the French spirit; of the courageous, heroic instincts, of the revolutionary daring, which took with storm, in order to destroy, all authorities that had been made holy by history, all power of heaven and earth. If that great historical nature called France should be missed at this hour, if it should disappear from the world scene; or—what would be much worse—if the spirited and developed nature should fall suddenly from the honoured height which she has attained, thanks to the work of heroic genius of past generations — into the abyss, and continue her existence as Bismarck's slave: a terrible emptiness will engulf the whole world. It would be more than a national catastrophe. It would be a world- wide misfortune, a universal defeat."

It is only necessary to add that Bakunin had to attack the great "French spirit" that murdered in cold blood the Communards in the May-June days of 1871. On the other side, Marx, who also eulogised the Communards, had declared for the German spirit of order and saw in the French disaster not so much the defeat of Napoleon III. or the triumph of the Prussian Kaiser but the defeat on the international field of thought of Proudhon and the triumph of Marx. These Gods! How they nod!

Bakunin believed in the Russian nationalism, bound on the east by the Tartars, and on the west by the Germans. This meant believing in the German nation, bounded on the west by France, and on the est by Russia. It meant the status quo. He was upholding the States of Europe. Yet he wrote: —

"Usurpation is not only the outcome, but the highest aim of all states, large or small, powerful or weak, despotic or liberal, monarchic, aristocratic, or democratic . . . It follows that the war of one State upon another is a necessity and common fact, and every pence is only a provisional truce."

This idea was not worked out at some other time, under different circumstances, but in these "Letters to a Frenchman" eulogising the national spirit. He asserted that all States were bad, and there could be no virtuous State: —



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