Mikhail Bakunin 1862

The Cloche and the Polish People

Source: La Correspondance de Michel Bakounine, published and prefaced by Michel Dragmanov, 1896, Paris, France, pages 133-135.

October 3, 1862


I completely disagree with you; I do not think it would be possible to reply to the letter written by the Varsovie Committee only by publishing my "Proclamation to Russian officers" in the Cloche. I hold a firm conviction that we must respond to this official Polish document with a document, more precisely a letter addressed to the Committee itself, in which we will summarize our principles and our hopes for Russia and Little Russia, countersigned by the three of us. It seems to me that justice and our dignity demand it. We take full responsibility for the " practical" results of this alliance with the Polish, therefore it is our duty not to hide it. After all, something we would do out of modesty could be seen as cowardice, such as the fear of not compromising. In my opinion, this letter to the Committee should not be long; it must succinctly describe our political agenda. And why not, in the same edition of the Cloche, insert the "Proclamation to the Russian Officers," which would serve, in this manner, as a commentary to the first document.

I was shocked yesterday upon seeing you accept the insinuations in Mieroslawski's paper so graciously, considering he says the Cloche has abstract and destructive tendencies, that it produces no plan for the future and that its goals are impractical. First of all, this is unfair. For a long time now, the Cloche has shown itself to be in defense of communal principles and the administrative control by the general council in all of the country; in support of the self-government of communes and of provinces, based on the electoral principal; and finally, for a free federation of all Russian provinces. Therefore, the principal itself and the goal it supports are closely related and completely suffice in satisfying the most rigorous demands of a practical agenda. God wants the Poland to be in the position to elaborate a program that, by its own practical merits, can be compared to ours. But what if it could be as such, if Mieroslawski could be correct? You know as well as I do, Herzen, that that would be absolutely shameful! I am telling you once more; our modesty will be considered cowardice if, from now on, you do not decide to act more frankly, in the most practical meaning of the word. It is true that you will not be able to avoid the reproaches for having presumptuousness and a tendency towards usurpation – for that there are enemies and those who are jealous – but you will not have the honor of a daring and frank action. You have created a force, a quite formidable one at that, and no one can contest this honor. Currently, we seek to find out how to best use this force. Today, Russia needs practical direction to guide it towards practical goals. Will the Cloche be this guide? If not, in about six months, or at the latest a year, it will have lost all influence and purpose for existing. So, this mammoth force you created will deteriorate with the coming of the first greenhorn, who, not knowing how to think better than you, will know how to be more daring than you. Call us therefore into action, Herzen; raise your flag! Let it glide carefully, with the wisdom and tact that only you have, but raise it with audacity. You know that we will follow you and courageously work with you.

When will we see one another again? Write back in response to this letter.

M. Bakunin


Note: Next to Bakunin’s suggestion of three signatures, Herzen wrote "I formally oppose this."