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Mikhail Bakunin was a Russian who considered himself a political-social anarchist. Actually he was one of the early European existentialists too. Bakunin preceded Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre by a century.

Bakunin preached Collectivist Anarchism, advocating the abolition of both the state and private ownership of the means of production. Instead, it envisions the means of production being owned collectively, and controlled, and managed by the producers themselves – who are - the people.

Bakunin was born to a Russian nobility family in 1814. He died in Switzerland in1876. He started as a revolutionary socialist. Later he borrowed from and contributed to, and opposed Marx’s “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. In his sixty-two years he lived a life-style of a twentieth century existentialist. To be accurate he created and exemplified the personal life style of the later century existentialists.

His subversive ideologies turned him into a political nomad as a political refugee because so many countries wanted him jailed for agitating, threatening, and preaching anarchistic revolutionary social movements. Wherever there was political unrest Bakunin found his fertile grounds to thrive on.

By liberty, Bakunin meant a concrete reality based on the equal liberty of all others.

To him liberty consists of "the fullest development of all the faculties and powers of every human being, by education, by scientific training, and by material prosperity."

Bakunin was a creative writer who committed to print and published his ideology into articles and books.

Bakunin defined his anarchist freedom this way: I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect, nor savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognize no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person.

(Source: Written 1871. Online Version: Essays by Bakunin and Bakunin Internet Archive, 1999.)

Simone De Beauvoir, was a French “do it my way feminist”, body-hugging friends with Jean Paul Sartre and Nelson Algren.

She defined her existentialist credo of freedom this way:

We regarded any situation as raw material for our joint efforts,

And not as a factor conditioning them.

We had no external limitations; No overriding authority;

And no imposed pattern of existence.

We created our own links with the world,

And freedom was the very essence of our existence.

(Source: Simone de Beauvoir: The Prime of Life, 1963.)

That was eighty-six years after Bakunin’s death.

Watch the similarity of their credos. Both were libertarians. None was a Marxist.

More to come.

Mikhail Bakunin


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