Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mikhail Bakunin

The great Russian revolutionary agitator and political writer, Mikhail Bakunin, was a contemporary of Karl Marx. It was the disagreements between these two great figures that lead to a split in the revolutionary movement that continues to the present day. He is one of the foremost anarchist thinkers in history and wrote favourably of a free and liberatory national identity outside of state control:

"Fatherland and nationality are, like individuality, each a natural and social fact, physiological and historical at the same time; neither of them is a principle. Only that can be called a human principle which is universal and common to all men; and nationality separates men, therefore it is not a principle. What is a principle is the respect which everyone should have for natural facts, real or social. Nationality, like individuality, is one of those facts. Therefore we should respect it. To violate it is to commit a crime, and, to speak the language of Mazzini, it becomes a sacred principle each time it is menaced and violated. And that is why I feel myself always sincerely the patriot of all oppressed fatherlands.

The Essence of Nationality. A fatherland represents the incontestable and sacred right of every man, of every human group, association, commune, region, and nation to live, to feel, to think, to want, and to act in its own way, and this manner of living and feeling is always the incontestable result of a long historic development.

Nationality and Universal Solidarity: There is nothing more absurd and at the same time more harmful, more deadly for the people than to uphold the fictitious principle of nationality as the ideal of all the people’s aspirations. Nationality is not a universal human principle: it is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance.

Every people and the smallest folk-unit has its own character, its own specific mode of existence, its own way of speaking, feeling, thinking, and acting; and it is this idiosyncrasy that constitutes the essence of nationality, which is the result of the whole historic life and the sum total of the living conditions of that people. Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. Therein consists the so-called national rights. But if a certain people or person exists in fact in a determinate form, it does not follow that it or he has a right to uphold nationality in one case and individuality in the other as specific principles, and that they have to keep on forever fussing over them. On the contrary, the less they think of themselves and the more they become imbued with universal human values, the more vitalised they become, the more charged with meaning nationality becomes in one instance, and individuality in the other.

The Historic Responsibility of Every Nation: The dignity of every nation, like that of every individual, should consist mainly in each accepting full responsibility for its acts, without seeking to shift it to others. Are they not very foolish, all these lamentations of a big boy complaining with tears in his eyes that someone has corrupted him, and put him on the evil path? And what is unbecoming in the case of a boy is certainly out of place in the case of a nation, whose very feeling of self-respect should preclude any attempts to shift the blame for its own mistakes upon others.

Patriotism and Universal Justice: Every one of us should rise above the narrow, petty patriotism to which one’s own country is the centre of the world, and which deems itself great in so far as it makes itself feared by its neighbours. We should place human, universal justice above all national interests. And we should once and for all time abandon the false principle of nationality, invented of late by the despots of France, Russia and Prussia for the purpose of crushing the sovereign principle of liberty. Nationality is not a principle: it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."

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