René Berthier – Science and Society
The Anarchist Library
Title: Science and Society
Subtitle: Mr. A. H. Nimtz and Bakunin
Notes: Publication of the Cercle d’Études libertaires Gaston-Leval; firstname.lastname@example.org; visit our website: monde-nouveau.net
Source: Retrieved on 2/22/2022 from monde-nouveau.net
“Marxist analysis of Bakunin is, it appears, predetermined by the less than flattering analysis of the master (…). Indeed, Marxist arguments against Bakunin are clearly identifiable as arguments from authority (every possible pun intended). Thus Bakunin emerges as a ‘voluntarist’ with no understanding of political economy or the workings of capital, that is to say, as an impatient and ‘apolitical’ ‘bandit’ and a theoretical ‘ignoramus’ — for the simple reason that he dares to disagree with the historically disputed and, as I will argue, philosophically tenuous doctrine, as he dared to cross Marx in his revolutionary activity. This damning indictment of Bakunin is made in spite of the fact that not one Marxist has actually conducted an in-depth analysis of the theoretical writings of Bakunin. Hence one might accuse Marxist scholars of being, at the very least, uninformed.”
Paul McLaughlin. Mikhail Bakunin:
the philosophical basis of his anarchism.
The translation and publication of Social-democracy and Anarchism faced me with a situation I had no longer been used to. I found myself confronted on several occasions to the antiquated communist argument on the relations between Marx and Bakunin. There was for instance this sulphurous review, which I qualified as “brezhnevian”, on the website of the Communist party of Great Britain. I had not been faced to this sort of argument for years. In France the debates between Marxists and Anarchists have taken a different turn, except in certain particularly dogmatic extreme left groups. The French Communists are beginning to consider the possibility that after all, when you think about it, and all things considered, the crushing of the Kronstadt insurrection could have been after all a mistake. There is a similar timid evolution concerning Marx and the International: perhaps after all did he act in a slightly bureaucratic way…
Then during a visit to London to present my book, Tony Zurbrugg, publisher and translator of Social Democracy & Anarchism, gave me the issue of Science & Society in which Mr A.H. Nimtz wrote an article titled “Another ‘Side’ to the ‘Story’”. I found in this article the same type of argument that anarchists were confronted with in the 70’s and 80’s when they were debating with “orthodox” (“brezhnevian”) communists or with Trotskyists.
Reading Mr Nimtz reminded me of Jacques Duclos, late well known leader of the French Communist party. Duclos published a book in 1974, Bakounine et Marx. Ombre et lumière (“Bakunin and Marx, Shadow and Light”) , of which Marianne Enckell, a Swiss historian, said that “in five hundred pages it contains only one idea and one thousand falsehoods” . The one idea – one of Marx’s obsessions – is that Bakunin was an agent of the Tsar. Enckell adds that this book throws a light on the limits of the spirit of orthodoxy. To give an idea of the “scientific” approach to which this very Stalinist leader resorted to, Duclos summed up the constructive work of the socialization of the economy in Spain, during the civil war, saying that the anarchists had collectivized hairdressers’ salons. I don’t know what Mr Nimtz thinks about this particular topic, and I’m not certain I want to know, but the fact is that he manages to focus on three pages all the stereotyped arguments of Marxism against Bakunin.
Although much shorter (3 pages) than Duclos’ book (336 pages), Mr Nimtz’s article follows the same method, it “complies with the one-sided truth proposed by the governing body of the IWA. As if in a hundred years historians had never done research, nothing had been completed, reassessed, refuted.” What Mr. Nimtz writes is even well below what had written a perfectly orthodox (but nevertheless honest) Marxist historian, a contemporary of Marx: Franz Mehring. The problem is that Mehring, who dared to make some criticisms against Marx and granted Ferdinand Lassalle a role in the foundation of German socialism [which is the least a historian could do], hasn’t got the commendation of an Anglo-Saxon Marxist mandarin, Hal Draper. Proclaimed interpreter of Marxist doctrine, Draper is the author of a voluminous work, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution in five volumes, which became a sort of English-language Marxist Bible. Needless to say that Draper’s method in dealing with the Marx/Bakunin relationship is strictly consistent with Marxist orthodoxy and does not deviate from the path set by the master – that is to say it is perfectly polemical and perfectly un-scientific.
I felt the need to write a few pages to complete somehow my Social-democracy and Anarchism, freeing myself from the requirements an author is obliged to comply to in a published book. So one must on no account take what follows as a response to Mr. Nimtz, because his article actually does not call for an answer. Besides, I realize that there is something unfair and disproportionate in answering 80 pages to a three-page article. But, as I have said, I do not seek to reply to Mr Nimtz but to comment on his argument which is, in my opinion, quite paradigmatic of the pre- and misconceptions within academic and Marxist circles.