Mikhail Bakunin (30 May 1814 – 1 July 1876) was a Russian anarchist and opponent of Karl Marx in the First International. Like his fellow anarchist Proudhon and some other prominent early socialists, Bakunin was anti-Jewish.
Born in the Russian Empire to a family of Russian nobles, Bakunin spent his youth as a junior officer in the Russian army but resigned his commission in 1835. He went to school in Moscow to study philosophy and began to frequent radical circles where he was greatly influenced by Alexander Herzen. Bakunin left Russia in 1842 for Dresden, and eventually arrived in Paris, where he met George Sand, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx.
He was eventually deported from France for speaking against Russia's oppression of Poland. In 1849 he was apprehended in Dresden for his participation in the Czech rebellion of 1848. He was turned over to Russia where he was imprisoned in Peter-Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg. He remained there until 1857, when he was exiled to a work camp in Siberia.
He was able to escape via Japan and the USA, and ended up in London for a short time, where he worked with Herzen on the radical journal Kolokol ("The Bell"). In 1863, he left to join the insurrection in Poland, but he failed to reach his destination and spent some time in Switzerland and Italy. Despite his criminal status, Bakunin gained great influence with radical youth in Russia, and all of Europe. In 1870, he was involved in the insurrection in Lyon, which foreshadowed the Paris Commune.
In 1868, Bakunin joined the International Working Men's Association, a federation of radical and trade union organizations with sections in most European countries. The 1872 Congress was dominated by a fight between a faction around Marx who argued for participation in parliamentary elections and a faction around Bakunin who opposed it. Bakunin's faction lost the vote on this issue, and at the end of the congress, Bakunin and several of his faction were expelled for supposedly maintaining a secret organisation within the international. The anarchists insisted the congress was rigged, and so held their own conference of the International at Saint-Imier in Switzerland in 1872. Bakunin remained very active in this and the European socialist movement. From 1870 to 1876, he wrote much of his seminal work such as Statism and Anarchy and God and the State. Despite his declining health, he tried to take part in an insurrection in Bologna, but was forced to return to Switzerland in disguise, and settled in Lugano. He remained active in the radical movement of Europe until further health problems caused him to be moved to a hospital in Bern, where he died in 1876.
Bakunin is remembered as a major figure in the history of anarchism and an opponent of Marxism, especially of Marx's idea of dictatorship of the proletariat. He continues to be an influence on modern-day anarchists, such as Noam Chomsky.
Opinion on Jews and Marxian communism
Bakunin is famous for his opinion on Jews, particularly in relation to his political conflict with Karl Marx, who was his main rival in international revolutionary circles. In particular he associated Marxian communism, with Jewish financing houses. Probably his most notable comment comes from a piece called Profession de foi d’un démocrate socialiste russe précédé d’une étude sur les juifs allemands (Lettre au Le Réveil, Paris, 1869). This is sometimes incorrectly refered to as Polemique contre les juifs (1872)—perhaps a later reprint.
"Marx is a Jew and is surrounded by a crowd of little, more or less intelligent, scheming, agile, speculating Jews, just as Jews are everywhere, commercial and banking agents, writers, politicians, correspondents for newspapers of all shades; in short, literary brokers, just as they are financial brokers, with one foot in the bank and the other in the socialist movement, and their arses sitting upon the German press. They have grabbed hold of all newspapers, and you can imagine what a nauseating literature is the outcome of it.
Now this entire Jewish world, which constitutes an exploiting sect, a people of leeches, a voracious parasite, Marx feels an instinctive inclination and a great respect for the Rothschilds. This may seem strange. What could there be in common between communism and high finance? Ho ho! The communism of Marx seeks a strong state centralization, and where this exists there must inevitably exist a state central bank, and where this exists, there the parasitic Jewish nation, which speculates upon the labor of the people, will always find the means for its existence.In reality, this would be for the proletariat a barrack regime, under which the workingmen and the working closely and intimately connected with one another, regarless not only of frontiers but of political differences as well - this Jewish world is today largely at the disposal of Marx or Rothschild. I am sure that, on the one hand, the Rothschilds appreciate the merits of Marx, and that on the other hand, women, converted into a uniform mass, would rise, fall asleep, work and live at the beat of the drum; the privilege of ruling would be in the hands of the skilled and the learned, with a wide scope left for profitable crooked deals carried on by the Jews, who would be attracted by the enormous extension of the international speculations of the national banks."
—Mikhail Bakunin, Etude sur les juifs allemands, 1869
- Chomsky, Noam (1970). For Reasons of State. New York: Pantheon Books. (See especially title page and "Notes on Anarchism".)