Bakunin on Life, Harmony and Struggle (1872)

These are excerpts from a letter written by Bakunin to Celso Ceretti, in Locarno, Switzerland, March 13-27, 1872. There is a great deal more in the letter worth examining, but the translation will have to wait for another day.

I have been very distressed to see that the General [Garibaldi?], dismayed by the clashing of democratic and socialist opinions in Italy, has ended, so to speak, by giving up the idea of assembling this Congress, or else putting it off to an undetermined time, when there will be more harmony in ideas. I believe that if you wish to wait so long you will wait a long time, wait always, and that you will die without having seen that absolute harmony achieved. My dear friend, let me tell you, that harmony is unachievable and it is not even desirable. That harmony is the absence of struggle, the absence of life. It is death.—In politics, it is despotism. Examine the whole of history and you will be persuaded that at all times and in all countries, when there has been development and exuberance of life, of thought, of creative and free action, there has been dissension, intellectual and social struggle, struggle of political parties—and that it is precisely in the midst of these struggles and thanks to them that the nations have been happiest and most powerful in the human sense of that word.

[…]

I will never tire of repeating it: Uniformity is death. Diversity is life. The disciplinary unity that can only be established in any social milieu to the detriment of spontaneous creativity and life, kills nations. The living, truly powerful unity, the unity we all want, is that which liberty creates in the very heart of the free and diverse manifestations of life, expressing itself through struggle: it is the balancing and harmonization of all living forces.

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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2300 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.