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Works of Karl Marx 1853

Michael Bakunin

Source: MECW Volume 12, p. 284;
First published: in The Morning Advertiser, September 2, 1853.


On August 23, 1853 The Morning Advertiser published a note under the heading “The Russian Agent Bakunin” signed with the initials F. M. (the author was Francis Marx, an English conservative journalist, and supporter of Urquhart); it accused Bakunin of being connected with the Tsarist Government. On the following day, August 24, the paper published a letter by Golovin (the author of the anonymous article on Bakunin in The Morning Advertiser for August 14 which prompted F. M.’s note), Herzen and the Polish refugee Worcell refuting F. M.’s note. On August 27 the latter replied with a statement in which he said that revolutions in Europe were always fomented by Tsarist agents. On August 29 Golovin and Herzen published another letter entitled “Who Is F. M.?” Herzen abstained from further polemic on the subject, which was carried on by Golovin alone.

In the letter of August 24 a “certain German newspaper” was mentioned, in which Bakunin had allegedly been first accused. The authors of the letter hinted at the New Rheinische Zeitung. In this connection Marx decided to send his letter to the editor of The Morning Advertiser.

To the Editor of The Morning Advertiser

Sir, — Messrs. Herzen and Golovine have chosen to connect the New Rhenish Gazette, edited by me in 1848 and 1849, with the polemics going on between them and “F.M.,” with regard to Bakunin. They tell the English public that the calumny against Bakunin took origin in that paper, which had even ventured to appeal to the testimony of George Sand. Now, I care nothing about the insinuations of Messrs. Herzen and Golovine. But, as it may contribute to the settlement of the question raised about Michael Bakunin, permit me to state the real facts of the case:

On July 5th, 1848, the New Rhenish Gazette received two letters from Paris — the one being the authographic correspondence of the Havas-Bureau, and the other a private correspondence, emanating from a Polish refugee, quite unconnected with that concern — both stating that George Sand was in possession of papers compromising Bakunin as having lately entered into relations with the Russian Government.

The New Rhenish Gazette, on July 6th, published the letter of its Paris correspondent.

Bakunin, on his part, declared in the Neue Oder-Zeitung (a Breslau paper), that, before the appearance of the Paris correspondence in the New Rhenish Gazette, similar rumours had been secretly colported at Breslau, that they emanated from the Russian embassies, and that he could not better answer them than by appealing to George Sand. His letter to George Sand was published simultaneously with his declaration. Both the declaration and the letter were reprinted immediately by the New Rhenish Gazette, (vide New Rhenish Gazette, July 16, 1848). On August 3, 1848, the New Rhenish Gazette received from Bakunin, through the means of M. Koscielski, a letter addressed by George Sand to its editor, which was published on the same day, with the following introductory remarks: —

“In number 36, of this paper, we communicated a rumour circulating in Paris, according to which George Sand was stated to be possessed of papers which placed the Russian refugee, Bakunin, in the position of an agent of the Emperor Nicholas. We gave publicity to this statement, because it was communicated to us simultaneously by two correspondents wholly unconnected with each other. By so doing, we only accomplished the duty of the public press, which has severely to watch public characters. And, at the same time we gave to Mr. Bakunin an opportunity of silencing suspicions thrown upon him in certain Paris circles. We reprinted also from the Neue Oder-Zeitung Mr. Bakunin’s declaration, and his letter addressed to George Sand, without waiting for his request. We publish now a literal translation of a letter addressed to the Editor of the New Rhenish Gazette by George Sand, which perfectly settles this affair.” — (Vide New Rhenish Gazette, Aug. 3, 1848.)'

In the latter part of August, 1848, I passed through Berlin, saw Bakunin there, and renewed with him the intimate friendship which united us before the outbreak of the revolution of February.

In its number of October 13, 1848, the New Rhenish Gazette attacked the Prussian ministry for having expelled Bakunin, and for having threatened him with being delivered up to Russia if he dared to re-enter the Prussian States.

In its number of February 15, 1849, the New Rhenish Gazette brought. out a leading article on Bakunin’s pamphlet — Aufruf an die Slaven, which article commenced with these words — “Bakunin is our friend. This shall not prevent us from subjecting his pamphlet to a severe criticism.”

In my letters, addressed to the New-York Daily Tribune on “Revolution and Contre-revolution in Germany,” I was, as far as I know, the first German writer who paid to Bakunin the tribute due to him for his participation in our movements, and, especially in the Dresden insurrection, denouncing, at the same time, the German press and the German people for the most cowardly manner in which they surrendered him to his and their enemies.

As to “F.M.” proceeding, as he does, from the fixed idea, that continental revolutions are fostering the secret plans of Russia, he must, if he pretend to anything like consistency, condemn not only Bakunin, but every continental revolutionise as a Russian agent. In his eyes revolution itself is a Russian agent. Why not Bakunin?

London, August 30, 1853.

Karl Marx