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Bakunin, Mikhail (1814-1876). Bakunin was a collectivist anarchist who opposed authority from the point of view of peasants and workers. He thought that a spontaneous uprising would sweep away the state, but his belief in the cleansing benefits of violence was mystical:

Let us then put our trust in the eternal spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternally creative source of all life. The lust of destruction is also a creative lust.’

(The Reaction in Germany, 1842. Note that the last sentence is often mistranslated as ‘The urge to destroy is also a creative urge’.)

Revolutionary violence, it is claimed, would create a new society organised as a federation of communes with an individual’s income being equal to their work. Bakunin’s conspiratorialism and adventurism brought him into conflict with Marx in the First International. It ended with Bakunin being expelled in 1872. One consequence of this was that, to this day, anarchist criticism of Marxism centres on the alleged authoritarianism Marx displayed in the dispute. But the dispute was much more than a mere clash of personalities. In the first place, Bakunin rejected all forms of political action; Marx’s insistence on the need to gain political power was anathema. Secondly, Bakunin believed that the state must be destroyed by conspiratorial violence; Marx’s proposed ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was rejected on the grounds that it would result in a new form of tyranny.

Since Marx’s day, however, the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ has taken on a meaning which he never intended and anarchists have seized on it as proof of the authoritarian nature of Marxian socialism. But this is due to Lenin’s distortion of the concept in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. For Marx the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ meant democratic control of the state by a politically organised working class; it didn’t mean rule by a vanguard party, as Lenin claimed. Nevertheless, Marx put forward this concept in the circumstances prevailing in the nineteenth century, which in certain respects no longer apply.

In his Conspectus of Bakunin’s ‘Statism and Anarchy’ (1874), Marx argued that, so long as a class of capitalists exist, the working class must make use of the state (‘the general means of coercion’) to dispossess them of the means of production. This would be the most effective way of changing society because it minimises any potential for violence. With a socialist working class in control of the states through their use of their socialist parties, international capitalism can be replaced by world socialism. It is of course a great irony that anarchists should condemn this proposed course of action as potentially authoritarian, given their recipe for bloody civil war by waging violence against the state. In this respect they are closer to the Leninists than they might realise. (See also ANARCHISM; MARXISM.)


Bakunin Archive: http://dwardmac.pitzer.du/anarchist_archives/bakunin/Bakuninarchive.html

Mark Leier, Bakunin: The Creative Passion, 2006


Banks. Financial intermediaries which accept deposits and lend money. Banks and other financial institutions do not create wealth: their profits are ultimately derived from surplus value created in the production process.

Capitalist economics mostly maintains that banks can create money by making loans. But if this were true then no bank would ever get into financial difficulty; they would simply pull themselves up by their own bootstraps by creating the required credit and money. The history of the collapse of banks shows that they cannot create money. (See also INTEREST; LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE.)


Bolshevism. At the second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), held in London in 1903, a vote was taken on the composition of the editorial board of Iskra, the Party newspaper. The vote gave a majority to Lenin’s group, who then assumed the name ‘Bolsheviki’ (the majority). The other wing of the RSDLP were known as the ‘Mensheviki’ (the minority), led by Julius Martov. These two titles are misleading, however, since what really separated the two wings of the RSDLP were the Party’s conditions of membership. Under Lenin’s influence, the Bolsheviks believed that, because the working class by themselves could only achieve a trade union consciousness, workers needed to be led to socialism by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries. The Mensheviks, especially Martov, were critical of the elitist and highly undemocratic nature of Bolshevism. The Bolsheviks seized power in Russia during the October 1917 revolution. (See also LENINISM.)


Paul Mattick, Anti-Bolshevik Communism, 1978

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