Reproduzimos aqui a primeira parte dum "paper" escrito por um tal Graham Gamblin mentres fazia a sua tese de doutoramento na Universidade de Birmingham, cuja versom completa está disponível de balde em formato pdf. O trabalho centra-se no uso do terrorismo por parte dos anarquistas e populistas russos da década de 1870, se bem a parte que podedes ler a continuaçom é mais geral e fai umha presentaçom bastante ampla de ambos movementos. De feito, ao começo cita-se a definiçom de anarquismo que deu Kropotkin na Encyclopaedia Britannica e que já recolhéramos aqui num post recente.
Hai moito que dizer sobre estas correntes da esquerda, hoje marginais pero incrivelmente influíntes noutro tempo. O carácter antiautoritário do anarquismo lastrou o seu desenvolvemento organizativo, de jeito que cedeu a iniciativa revolucionária a outras tendências, que frequentemente se obstinárom em acabar com el. E tamém o populismo -umha original e, quando menos, razonável contribuiçom à estrategia revolucionária- foi aniquilado pola ortodóxia marxista-leninista, que o considerava umha desviaçom inmadura própia de pequenoburgueses, como tantas outras cousas. Porém, a sua tentativa de adoptar umha via cara o socialismo que partisse da realidade dum país eminentemente labrego como Rússia nom deveu ser despreçada tam facilmente. Pero já seguiremos falando disto noutra ocasiom.
O zar Alexandre II, executado em 1881 pola organizaçom populista Narodnaya volya ("vontade popular").
Sic Semper tyrannis!
Terrorism in Russian Populism and European Anarchism in the 1870s: a Comparative Analysis
Russian populism and European anarchism as they developed in the second half of the nineteenth century shared some common features, and some common ideological bases. Both hoped to bring about the destruction of the current political and economic order in their respective geographical areas by means of a violent revolution. Both looked to peasants and workers as the makers of the revolution and as the beneficiaries the social justice which would follow. There was a powerful mistrust within the populist movement of the state and government, which was one of the central tenets of anarchism. Neither movement, however, was monolithic, and within both there were debates over tactics, organisational forms, and constituencies. The arguments among the populists over centralist or federalist organisation, for example, was the same issue which divided Marxists and anarchists in the West. Tactical debates over written and spoken propaganda of socialism and revolution as against violent insurrectionism went on in both movements. However, in the late 1870s, within both populism and anarchism a strain came to the fore which advocated bringing about change by means of terrorism. By 1881, the Tsar of Russia had been killed by Narodnaya volya "People’s Will", and the anarchist congress in London had adopted the study of "technical, chemical and military sciences" to aid the revolutionary case alongside the "less effective" methods of written and spoken propaganda. The aim of this paper is to discuss the roots of the terrorist policy in both movements, to clarify whether or not there were common reasons for the turn to terror, to explain what the two movements hoped to achieve by it, and to examine the debates which surrounded the policy in both movements. A comparison of the rise of terrorism within populism and anarchism will, I hope, help to place the former more firmly in the context of the European socialist movement as a whole.
1. Populism and Anarchism to the mid 1870s
1. Populism and Anarchism to the mid 1870s
Anarchism: the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being.
Thus reads Kropotkin's definition of the anarchist ideal, written for the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1910. While anarchism embraces many different currents of thought and strategy, certain basic assumptions and themes are common to all anarchists. All reject the legitimacy of external government and the state, and condemn imposed political authority, hierarchy and domination. They seek to establish the condition of anarchy, that is to say, a decentralised and self-regulating society consisting of a federation of voluntary associations of free and equal individuals.
Although anarchists like to trace their heritage back to ancient times, anarchism finds its first modern expression in William Godwin's "Enquiry Concerning Political Justice" of 1793 which accompanied the upsurge of radicalism surrounding the French Revolution, and called for the abolition of the "brute engine" of political government. Anarchism as a fully-fledged political and social movement emerged in the nineteenth century in the form of mutualist socialism as advocated by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; direct exchange of products of labour based on "labour value" was the goal, bypassing capitalists, merchants and all who profited from the labour of others. Proudhon called on peasants and workers to avoid electoral politics, and to assert themselves directly by putting their ideas into practice themselves. Like many others, Proudhon's experience of the revolution of 1848 in France and the betrayal of workers' interests strengthened his mistrust of bourgeois radicals and his belief that politics and the state were incapable of offering real liberation to the masses. 1848 had convinced him that palliatives like suffrage were no solution to the problems faced by the exploited classes, for which the entire economic and social edifice would have to be radically changed. Governments, he claimed, always served an elite; he looked to a federation of independent producers and other groups for the new social organisation. His criticism of government and centralism applied equally to the socialist state and the dictatorship of the proletariat advocated by Marxists. Indeed, Proudhon claimed that peasants and workers had the same interests, as the have-nots in society, and assigned no leading role to the proletariat in social change. This represents an obvious difference with Marx, who discounted the peasantry as petty-bourgeois and reactionary and furthermore, destined to die out as a class as capitalism advanced.
With the advent of the first International Workingmen's Association in 1864, Proudhonist mutualists came to see important differences between their position and that of Marx's followers. While Marxists looked to the industrial proletariat as the vanguard of revolution, the mutualists included peasants, artisans and small traders in their constituency; where Marxists valued the conquest of political power for the benefit of workers, Proudhon's followers favoured its abolition; and while Marxists favoured a strong centralised organisation to accomplish revolution, mutualists advocated federalism. These differences created two wings within the International during the course of the 1860s and sowed the seeds of the split which was to come later.
Proudhon's position was shared and developed in a more rigorous and revolutionary form by Mikhail Bakunin. Bakunin insisted that the new society had to be based on, and spring from, autonomous groups working freely together, a society organised from the bottom up. Bakunin opposed Marx's centralism, which was gathering power in the International at the expense of the autonomy of local sections. His opposition was based on his critique of political authority; for Bakunin, the very existence of powerful centralised institutions would encourage some group or other to use them for their own benefit. Basically, while for Marx the state was evil because it was run by and for the bourgeoisie, and could be used to positive advantage when in the hands of the workers' representatives, for Bakunin and the anarchists the state was evil per se and could only serve to institutionalise privilege; thus their refusal to engage in "politics". This critique applied to the International as much as to the state; a centralised and hierarchical International would create a new set of political leaders, in effect a ruling elite in waiting. The anti-authoritarian society could only be created through an anti-authoritarian revolutionary organisation.
Like Proudhon, and unlike Marx, Bakunin and the anarchists included peasants, artisans and poorly-paid, unskilled workers in the revolutionary army, since they were in a more antagonistic position to the existing order than skilled, well-paid urban workers.8 In terms of tactics, as well as constituency, the anarchists were opposed to Marxists' ideas of participation in electoral struggles and in revolutionary seizure of state power. Instead, they began to advocate seizure of land and the means of production directly by the peasants and workers themselves; a network of revolutionaries was necessary only to provide organisation and to co-ordinate actions of various groups. As soon as the peasants and workers gave up the revolution into the hands of representatives or to a revolutionary government, they would find themselves in the hands of a new oppressor. Furthermore, since the anarchists ascribed no leading role in the revolution to the industrial proletariat, they denied the necessity of a bourgeois revolution and capitalist phase of development, believing that it was possible, or even desirable, for societies to pass directly to socialism. This position was shared by Russia’s Populists, who saw socialist potential in the mir or peasant commune, which the advance of capitalism would destroy.
As disputes grew in the International between Marxists and Anarchists over differing policies of centralism/federalism, conquest of political power/destruction of power and nationalisation/workers' control, a split became inevitable, and with the increased powers granted to the General Council and the expulsion of Bakunin and James Guillaume, anarchists, trade unionists and others formed a breakaway "anti-authoritarian" International on a federalist basis in 1872. However, as this organisation went into decline from the mid-1870s, some anarchists sought new ways to bring about the revolution, as government repressions across Europe made it hard for the International to survive as a mass organisation. As the Russian terrorist movement grew in the late 1870s and achieved organised form in Narodnaya volya, terrorist attacks against heads of state were also on the rise in Western Europe. Governments and the press raised the spectre of the International and the anarchist menace to frighten populations into supporting programs of repression. But how far was terrorism a part of anarchist policy? The attempts on the lives of European royalty which took place in the late 1870s do not appear to have been connected with anarchist groups, although they were generally sympathetically received by anarchists. Nevertheless a strong current grew up within the anarchist movement during the late 1870s which favoured a policy of terrorism, with the aims of inspiring further acts of revolt, retaliating against repression and spreading confusion and fear among governments and ruling classes. This policy was associated with the idea of "propaganda by deed"; however it is not correct to conflate propaganda by deed and terrorism, nor indeed anarchism and terrorism. There were debates surrounding propaganda by deed and the growth of terrorism within the anarchist movement, and some parallels with the populist movement in Russia in this regard.
Until the 1870s, socialism in Russia remained largely confined to the universities and intellectuals, and insofar as it had revolutionary content, took the form of conspiratorial circles of students, and did not on the whole reach out to the masses. The Petrashevtsy in 1848-9 were one such group; this circle entertained ideas ranging from reform in collaboration with the Tsarist government to Jacobinism, their desire for change fanned by the revolutionary winds blowing from France and Germany, which also led to a fearful Russian government ruthlessly disbanding the group. However such circles grew in number as the student movement of the early sixties became more political. Hopes for liberal reform which had grown in the 1860s with the coronation of Alexander II and were fired by the Emancipation, faded as the regime became more repressive. The brutal suppression of the Polish uprising in 1863 further turned young radicals away from the government as the vehicle for change; increasingly radical intellectuals looked to the people, the narod; hence the tag narodniki, or Populists. In particular, the peasants, with their semi-collective communes, seemed to them to offer hope for a socialist future for Russia. Groups like Zemlya i volya in the early 1860s hoped to guide and speak for a peasant movement and called for freedom with land, local self-government and a national assembly. They tried to co-operate with the Polish rising of 1863, which brought about their suppression. Other radicals turned to Jacobinism; Zaichnevskii's Society of Communists for example aimed to lead a popular rising and implement change via a central government. Their ideal, common to most Russian socialists of the time, was an agrarian socialism based on the commune; the difference was their ruthless conspiratorial program to bring this about.
This Jacobin trend in populism, and the political conditions of Tsarism, led to an early turn to conspiracy and terrorism to bring about change. Nikolai Ishutin's Organisatsiya opposed all liberal reforms, which would only delay the revolution, believing that popular revolt could be sparked by an assassination of the Tsar. When Dmitrii Karakozov's attempt failed in 1866, the severe repressions that followed stamped out all meaningful socialist activity inside Russia for the next couple of years. When activity did re-emerge, it reflected the two main strands of Populism that had grown up in the 1860s: the creation of a strong elite organisation to head a revolt, and a propaganda movement to spread knowledge and socialist ideas to create a popular movement. From the first the Populist movement was divided between "actionism" and propagandism, a divide which was to persist through the 1870s. At the turn of the decade, the urge to action was embodied in Sergei Nechaev, who had some links with Polish revolutionaries and produced programs in conjunction with the Jacobin P. Tkachev and later the anarchist M. Bakunin, calling for "revolutionary prototypes", dedicated and ruthless professional revolutionaries, and a tight disciplined organisation. Both Tkachev and Nechaev called for a strong, centralised party of conspirators subject to strict discipline, which could seize power during a popular rising and effectively administer the social revolution. Nechaev's Machiavellism, his willingness to deceive his comrades, regarding them as expendable revolutionary capital, and his "Jesuitical schemes" as Bakunin called them, aroused the disgust of most radicals when they came to light after the murder by Nechaev and a few comrades of one of his followers. This had the effect of strengthening for the next few years the propaganda and popular movement tendency of Populism. The largest and most effective organisation of this tendency was the Chaikovskii circle.
The Chaikovskii circle began as a student self-education group, which merged with a women's group in St. Petersburg in 1871 with the aim of spreading socialist ideas among the intelligentsia. Branches of this organisation quickly sprang up in Moscow and in the provinces. Their ideas at the beginning of the 1870s were roughly in line with those of the émigré P. Lavrov, who called for a long-term development of a socialist intelligentsia which could spread knowledge among the people. Within a few years however, with the influx of more radical members like Petr Kropotkin and Sergei Kravchinskii, and as contact was made with workers, they began to look for a more radical program and the building of a popular movement based on peasants and workers. By 1873, Lavrov's more moderate program of propaganda and intellectual and moral preparation among the intelligentsia was being left behind by events; when illegal literature from socialist circles abroad began to arrive, it was Bakunin's "Statism and Anarchy", with its radical program of peasant insurrection, which found favour over Lavrov's journal "Forward!" among the Chaikovtsy.11 With the Jacobins out of favour for the time being, debate was between those who favoured a long, slow propaganda campaign, and those who believed that what the peasants needed was not theory but help to organise revolts. The Chaikovskists covered a broad spectrum of ideas between these extremes; they were not anarchists, having no clear-cut ideological position, but found themselves in a similar position to Bakunin and the anarchists in the West. Furthermore, more extreme and explicitly Bakuninist groups grew up, known as buntari, or "rebels" for their desire to organise and co-ordinate peasant bunts. The buntari were always stronger in the South of Russia and in Ukraine, particularly in Kiev and Odessa. There were certainly Bakuninist circles in St. Petersburg and elsewhere; however it is not entirely clear how active these were, and in the early 1870s they were overshadowed by the Chaikovtsy.
Pressure to go to the peasants to spread socialism spilled over in 1874 during the so-called "mad Summer", when thousands of students left the towns to propagandise in the countryside. Some anarchists and Chaikovskists hoped to learn a trade and settle in the villages, others made "flying" visits. The more extreme Bakuninists, like V. Debagorii-Mokrievich and Ya. Stefanovich, denied the need to learn a trade in order to settle among the narod, or of teaching literacy or propagandising, so literally did they take Bakunin's idea that the people were instinctively revolutionary. The buntari opted for immediate practical action. Studying was a waste of time; some even claimed it would be better to forget all they had learned in the past since their intellectualism only hindered them from joining the popular mass. However, the movement was on the whole the effort of uncoordinated individuals, and eluded organisation. No peasant movement resulted, many students were arrested and those Populists still at large returned to the towns to consider their next move.
In the debates within the Populist movement especially during the early 1870s, a number of issues were at stake regarding theory and tactics which were also points of dispute among Europe's anarchists, both within their movement and in the broader socialist movement and the First International. These debates were closely connected in both movements with the rise of political terrorism at the end of the decade. Firstly was the question of constituency; while the Populists in theory looked to the peasants to make the revolution, in practice their first sustained contact with the narod was with the workers of St. Petersburg and other large towns. Within this group they noted two sub-groups; the skilled and more or less urbanised zavodskie and the unskilled semi-peasant fabrichnye. Memoir accounts express a preference for the latter, but in fact extensive propaganda work went on in the zavody also. Europe's anarchists were in a similar position; they looked particularly to poor peasants and labourers, unskilled workers and the unemployed. While the strand of anarchism that would later become anarcho-syndicalism tried to build a labour and strike movement, others suspected that better-paid and skilled workers could be satisfied with making gains within the capitalist system.
Other issues affecting both movements included the question of social vs. political revolution, or whether to concentrate on the destruction of the prevailing order or to try to win political freedoms from it; federalist or centralist organisation of the revolutionary movement, which was a major bone of contention in the split in the First International, and became an issue in the Russian movement from the mid-1870s with the increasingly centralist character of Zemlya i volya; tactics of propaganda, agitation, insurrection (or buntarstvo in the Russian context), economic terror, propaganda by deed, and attacks on heads of state and officials as opposed to the economic system and institutions that allowed them to exercise power. All of these debates in the anarchist and Populist movements fed into the growth of political terror in both, and left its opponents fighting a rearguard action against an apparent obsession with violence and a growing distance between the revolutionaries and the masses.