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By Mark Leier
Published by Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2006

Reviewed by Cardinal Cox

'Bakunin: The Creative Passion by Mark Leier'
Bakunin: The Creative Passion by Mark Leier (Hardcover) available from


Write Dope on Pnuk part 62

Michael Bakunin (1814-1876) is one of the fathers of modern anarchist theory and practice. He wrote much and because of that it has been possible for critics to selectively use passages to show him in whatever light they chose. This biography looks not only at the man himself but also his life and the world through which he moved to put him into context.

It starts by looking at his family background in Tsarist Russia as both minor lords of a manor (Priamkhino) in an almost feudal society, a country forcing itself into the Eighteenth Century as a result of the wars against Napoleon and other Europeans, but not wanting to offer liberty to any of its citizens. Michael passes through military school and falls into circles of radicals attempting to introduce freedom to Russia. Bakunin travelled through Europe, became imprisoned upon his return to Russia, escaped and travelled more. Living most of his life in poverty, he experienced the revolutionary fervour of 1848, and the reactionary response thereafter. He met, and became the enemy of Karl Marx, and I get the feeling that this was as much down to their similarities as to minor ideological differences. He died as he had lived, espousing the cause of freedom and liberty for all.

The book, though, is very heavy going. It does have lighter moments, some even laugh-out-loud-funny, but these are few and far between. I took the book with me on a short break and I was awoken in the hotel at 5:15am by noisy guests. After reading a few pages I was safely asleep again. Ultimately, though, I am glad that I read it.

Bakunin is a man as much of these times - he would have had much to say against global capitalism, indeed he said much that is relevant when he was alive - as of his own. Not an easy read, but a rewarding one for its ability to put so much in focus.


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