Library update: April 2016

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[June update: See the posts on “Strategies of Interpretation” and “Strategies of Presentation” for some additional information on the edition.]

The hardest thing about assembling an edition like the Bakunin Library is knowing when you can safely stop planning and exploring, and finally settle down to the work itself. Ideally, it would have been wonderful to take ten years to work through everything and then prepare the reader as a summary volume. But it’s been necessary to be realistic about where the English-speaking community is with respect to Bakunin and about my most useful role as an editor of the edition.

We still have a lot to learn, and a bit to unlearn, about Bakunin. Under those circumstances, my greatest strengths are arguably not as an expert, either regarding Bakunin or the early anarchist period within which he worked, but as an advanced scout of sorts. I recognized that early on, while working hard to also patch up the gaps in my expertise, and I think the approach has served the project well. This blog was launched just about four years ago. By the end of October, 2012 I had settled on the project of “an anarcho-collectivist view of collectivist anarchism” and sketched out six essential volumes for the Library. Since then, the exact design and number of the volumes has fluctuated a bit, as I have delved deeper in Bakunin’s works and dealt with the messy logistics of actually organizing texts into volumes, but the project is still essentially an expansion of Guillaume’s edition. The number of volumes proposed has crept back up again to the ten I proposed in July, 2012, but very differently arranged, taking into account the helpful advice of some colleagues overseas. Here is the current, and probably final, rearrangement of the Bakunin Library:

  1. God and the State (an expanded edition)
  2. Preaching Life’s Revolt: A Mikhail Bakunin Reader (featuring key texts and significant variants of familiar material)
  3. 1864-66: “Principles and Organization of the International Revolutionary Society” (the “Revolutionary Catechism,” etc), together with the “Fragments concerning Freemasonry” (which anticipates many of the concerns of “Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism”) and perhaps also an earlier “catechism.”
  4. 1867-68: “Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism,” together with Bakunin’s speeches from the League of Peace and Liberty, correspondence, etc.
  5. 1868-69: A volume documenting the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy
  6. 1868-72: A volume specifically dedicated to Bakunin’s involvement in the International prior to the complete break with Marx
  7. 1870-71: The “Letter to a Frenchman,” “The Political Situation in France,” and correspondence relating to the Paris Commune and the Franco-Prussian War
  8. 1870-71: The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution, with the “Writing against Marx,” etc.
  9. 1871-72: The Political Theology of Mazzini and the International, including the unpublished second part
  10. 1873-75: A volume dealing with the anti-authoritarian international, the Jura Federation and Bakunin’s final writings

This is essentially the plan I announced last July, with the major difference that I have decided that James Guillaume’s The International: Documents and Recollections cannot practically be part of the project. The Collectivism Reader is progressing nicely and I am leaving open the option of translating some other works by Guillaume, Schwitzguébel, etc., but I decided that a serious edition of Guillaume’s documentary history would demand more scholarly care and attention than I can guarantee it with the resources available.

I currently expect to spread the production of the Library over the next ten years and to proceed roughly in chronological order. Several volumes are already partially prepared. Some, like The Knouto-Germanic Empire, are larger and more demanding in scholarly terms. It would be nice to time the Paris Commune volume with the upcoming anniversary. And chronological order is a little jumbled in the middle volumes anyway, so expect a bit of jumping around, but also expect that the constant criterion will be making sure that each volume is really finished before we bring it to press.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for the expanded edition of God and the State. I wanted a chance to celebrate the best of the previous translations and clear up some “old business,” before kicking the Bakunin Library in earnest, so I’ve gathered the most useful bits I could find on the genesis and initial reception of the text. The contents will include:

  • Introduction to the Expanded Edition—Shawn P. Wilbur
  • Introductory Remark—Max Nettlau
  • Preface—Carlo Cafiero and Elisée Reclus
  • God and the State (Revised translation, 1910)—Mikhail Bakunin (Benjamin R. Tucker, et al, translators)
  • Extracts from unpublished manuscripts—Bakunin (Nettlau, translator)
  • Appendix to the Commonweal edition—Nettlau
  • Biographical accounts—Nettlau and Tucker
  • Bakunin in “Liberty” and “Truth”—Tucker and Marie Le Compte
  • Note on the Bakunin Library—Wilbur

Things may remain a bit quiet on the blog for the next few months, as the Reader comes together, but I expect I’ll start posting some bits from Knouto-Germanic Empire soon, along with more of the “Fragments concerning Freemasonry.”


About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

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