- "Do you want to make it impossible for anyone to oppress his fellow-man? Then make sure that no one shall possess power."—Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (1814-1876) was a Russian political philosopher, revolutionary, and labor activist and is one of the foremost figures in modern Anarchism and the one who first developed modern Anarcho-Collectivism. Born to a lesser noble family in Tsarist Russia, young Bakunin quickly found that the privileged life of a nobleman was not for him, instead swiftly radicalizing first to Communism, before eventually developing his own anarchistic principles which he eventually put down in his seminal work God and the State as well as several pamphlets and articles written in the last years of his life. However, Bakunin was not just a theorist but also took direct roles in several armed insurrections in Europe throughout his life, for which he was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and later the Shlisselburg Fortress dungeons, in his native Russia and made him persona non grata among the leadership of Europe. Eventually, time and the lingering health issues caused by his imprisonment led to Bakunin retiring to Switzerland where he died of old age in 1876.
Politically speaking, Bakunin is most famous for his development of what would become the basis of Collectivist Anarchism, as well as his bitter rivalry with his former ally and fellow Communist Karl Marx. Indeed, it is the division between Bakunin and Marx, including the former's expulsion from the First International by Marx and his allies, is what drove a permanent wedge between Anarcho-Collectivists and Statist Revolutionary Socialists with the latter becoming the mainstream revolutionary view after Anarchism's decline in the later nineteenth century. However, as Anarchism sees a resurgence in popularity in the twenty-first century, Bakunin's ideology is being consumed by a new generation of radicals and may yet foment a new wave of Anarchist revolution.
Tropes that applied to Mikhail Bakunin:
- Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Was, and is, infamous among socialist circles due to his views on revolutionary violence, including his first putting forward what would be known as "Propaganda of the Deed" which precipitated the examples of anarchist terror which gave rise to this trope.
- It should be noted, however, that Bakunin wrote most extensively on how anarchism would lead to a more peaceful, equal, and free society rather than simply about the violent aspects of revolution.
- Defector from Decadence: Was born into nobility, including having several hundred serfs under his family, but chose to give it up to be a revolutionary for a freer world.
- The Exile: After being released from prison, Bakunin spent nearly a decade in exile in Siberia, but eventually managed to flee back to Western Europe.
- Genius Bruiser: Bakunin was easily one of the most influential political philosophers of the mid-19th century, he was also built like a tank and fought on the frontlines of several insurrections.
- Hollywood Atheist: Bakunin took a militant stance against all religion, feeling that it only served to justify hierarchy and thus was damaging to the complete liberation of the world's peoples."A Boss in Heaven is the best excuse for a boss on earth, therefore If God did exist, he would have to be abolished."
- Teacher/Student Romance: Met his (much younger) wife as her French tutor. By all accounts though their marriage was happy and she accompanied him throughout his revolutionary exploits in Europe in his later years.
- We Used to Be Friends: As a young radical in Paris, Bakunin immediately fell in with Marx as well another early Anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. However, Bakunin and Marx had a bitter falling-out due to their irreconcilable ideological differences, ultimately culminating in Bakunin and his supporters being ejected from the First International by its Marxist faction, a movement Bakunin himself had a key role in building.