Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bakunin on Serbia

Here is a section of Russian Anarchist Mikhail Bakunin's critique of the state in his work 'Statism and Anarchy', written in 1873, which concerns 19th century Serbia. And being a good Balkan Anarchist, I had to share this on my blog!

In this text, Bakunin observes how young, intelligent Serbs, who left their towns and villages full of patriotism and love of freedom, returned from various European centres of education to their homeland, only to become no better than self-serving bureaucrats sponging off the very people they originally intended to liberate from centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule!

Bakunin mentions "Turkish Serbia" a couple of times, which judging by the context of these five paragraphs, refers to the then Principality of Serbia, which enjoyed a certain level of autonomy within the Ottoman Empire at the time he wrote this.

Some Preconditions for a Social Revolution

The Serbian people shed their blood in torrents and finally freed themselves from Turkish slavery, but no sooner did they become an independent principality than they were again and perhaps even more enslaved by what they thought was their own state, the Serbian nation. As soon as this part of Serbia took on all the features – laws, institutions, etc. – common to all states, the national vitality and heroism which had sustained them in their successful war against the Turks suddenly collapsed. The people, though ignorant and very poor, but passionate, vigorous, naturally intelligent, and freedom-loving, were suddenly transformed into a meek, apathetic herd, easy victims of bureaucratic plunder and despotism.

There are no nobles, no big landowners, no industrialists, and no very wealthy merchants in Turkish Serbia. Yet in spite of this there emerged a new bureaucratic aristocracy composed of young men educated, partly at state expense, in Odessa, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, Germany, and Switzerland. Before they were corrupted in the service of the State, these young men distinguished themselves by their love for their people, their liberalism, and lately by their democratic and socialistic inclinations. But no sooner did they enter the state’s service than the iron logic of their situation, inherent in the exercise of certain hierarchical and politically advantageous prerogatives, took its toll, and the young men became cynical bureaucratic martinets while still mouthing patriotic and liberal slogans. And, as is well known, a liberal bureaucrat is incomparably worse than any dyed-in-the-wool reactionary state official.

Moreover, the demands of certain positions are more compelling than noble sentiments and even the best intentions. Upon returning home from abroad, the young Serbs are bound to pay back the debt owed to the State for their education and maintenance; they feel that they are morally obliged to serve their benefactor, the government. Since there is no other employment for educated young men, they become state functionaries, and become members of the only aristocracy in the country, the bureaucratic class. Once integrated into this class, they inevitably become enemies of the people…

And then the most unscrupulous and the shrewdest manage to gain control of the microscopic government of this microscopic state, and immediately begin to sell themselves to all corners, at home to the reigning prince or a pretender to the throne. In Serbia, the overthrow of one prince and the installation of another one is called a “revolution.” Or they may peddle their influence to one, several, or even all the great domineering states – Russia, Austria, Turkey, etc.

One can easily imagine how the people live in such a state! Ironically enough, the principality of Serbia is a constitutional state, and all the legislators are elected by the people. It is worth noting that Turkish Serbia differs from other states in this principal respect: there is only one class in control of the government, the bureaucracy. The one and only function of the State, therefore, is to exploit the Serbian people in order to provide the bureaucrats with all the comforts of life. [My emphasis in bold and underline]

You can read the rest of Bakunin's critique of the state here hosted by the Marxists Internet Archive at, home to a library of literature by a number of social thinkers including Karl Marx, whose theories Bakunin criticised at great length! Indeed, it was precisely the intellectual and philosophical dispute between these two revolutionaries, which gave rise to the ideological distinctions between Marxism and Anarchism.

However, what I find so prophetic about Bakunin's observations of Serbia in the 19th century, is how relevant it is to — and very descriptive of — today's Serbia in the 21st century! Although this was written before Serbia secured its independence from Turkey, before the Balkan Wars, the World wars, the Monarchic and Communist Yugoslav states and the break-up of the latter, today more than ever, especially following the nationalistic and statist wars and political turmoil of the 1990s, Serbia is still home to a freedom-loving yet ever-apathetic people, who have fallen — and can still fall — victim to bureaucratic plunder and despotism, while listening to patriotic and liberal slogans being touted by a variety of politicians, some of whom have questionable scruples to say the least!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Economics of Anarchy

'The Economics of Anarchy', at Anarchist Writers

This article from a couple of years ago offers an informative insight into various economic concepts and recommendations promoted by Anarchism, along with Anarchism's long-standing and fundamental critique of Capitalism. Referring regularly to French Anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's timeless quote "Property is theft!", the article reminds the reader what is meant by that radical phrase and how it applies to the world of work. Particular attention is given to how self-Management, Mutualism and libertarian Communism would function differently from Capitalism once workers take control, while treating Collectivism as a bridge between Mutualism and Communism "with elements of both".

The writer of this article in 2009 observes:

Capitalism in crisis (again!) and the failure of state socialism could not be more clear. Social democracy has become neo-liberal (New Labour? New Thatcherites!) while this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. With its state capitalism and party dictatorship, Stalinism made the disease (capitalism) more appealing than the cure (socialism)! In this anarchists should be feel vindicated – the likes of Bakunin predicted both these outcomes decades before they became reality.

The prediction the above writer is referring to is embodied in Russian Anarchist Mikhail Bakunin's likewise timeless quote: "…[F]reedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice… Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality".

Here is the link again: 'The Economics of Anarchy', at Anarchist Writers

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Activist Post: Anarchist Utopia

Activist Post: Anarchist Utopia, by Milo Nickels

This is an interesting review of what the word Anarchy means and what Anarchism stands for. The writer Milo Nickels does an honourable job dispelling the myth that Anarchy is synonymous with "chaos", for which I, as a self-proclaimed Anarchist, take my hat off to him. However, Milo does go on to remind the reader that Anarchy is an "impossibility" due to "human nature", which he describes as being "fraught with greed, aggression, lust, and ignorance". Nevertheless, I particularly like these paragraph:

Although the vast majority of societal ideals [including Anarchism] and visions of utopia [like Anarchy] are unobtainable, simply because they are bound by human nature, this does not mean that we should stop striving for those societal ideals or seeking those utopias. Just as we will never wipe out all racism, all terrorism, all poverty, or all greed, we will never be able to eliminate all government. But the grim reality that we can never be perfect, should not stop us from striving as a people to be better. We can always have less racism, less terrorism, less poverty, less greed, and less government.

The real road to achieving an anarchist utopia is not through violence, disrespect, and chaos. All of these activities only lead to more government. An entirely free society, where government is no longer necessary, can only exist where people respect one another, accept responsibility, treat each other fairly, and have compassion for their fellow man. In short: we don't need government if humans are humane. [My emphasis in bold and underline]

Here is the link again: Activist Post: Anarchist Utopia, by Milo Nickels

You Don’t Own Other People

You Don’t Own Other People

An honest article by Kevin Carson from the Center for a Stateless Society, which subscribes to the market Anarchist school of thought. I definitely agree with the morality of these four paragraphs:

We anarchists don’t believe other people are our property. We don’t believe we have the authority to tell other people what to eat, drink, smoke, or who to have sex with. We’re not their boss. We don’t own them. And we have no right to act through the government to do things we have no legitimate authority to do as individuals. In other words, we anarchists actually believe the things the authors of your civics texts claimed to believe [i.e. "…government exercis[es] only powers delegated by the governed, government’s function [is] to protect the rights of the individual…"].

The big difference is, we’re consistent about it. We judge all groupings of individuals, even groupings that claim to represent a majority of people in a community and call themselves a “government,” by the same moral principles that govern individuals. The legiminate powers an individual possesses — the right to life, liberty and property, and the consequent power to defend those rights without harm to innocents — can be exercised cooperatively by any number of individuals in concert.

But even if they comprise a majority of people in a community, they have no rightful authority to bind those who did not freely join their cooperative venture. No group, including a group made up of a majority of individuals in a community, has any powers or rights beyond those already possessed by its individual members. Individuals cannot delegate any powers to a government that they do not possess as individuals.

Like any other association, a government exists for the ends of its members, and has no authority over anyone outside it. The state has no aura of majesty, and exercises no divine power. Like any other human association, it has only those legitimate powers which individual human beings can rightfully grant in the first place.
[My emphasis in bold]

Here is the link again: You Don’t Own Other People

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Facebook's Zuckerberg pledges to give away wealth - Economic Times

Here is an article from the end of last year on The Economic Times website explaining how the founders of Facebook and other very wealthy Americans have promised to part from a significant portion of their great wealth to charities and other good causes!

Facebook's Zuckerberg pledges to give away wealth - Economic Times

'Against The State, Part 1', on

Here is an interesting look at the history of Anarchism in 19th century France presented by Philip Coulter on CBC Radio, paying a visit to Paris and tracing the footsteps of the Anarchist movement there!

Against The State, Part 1 on