Happy 200th, Bakunin!

156749aToday is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bakunin, and I’m personally celebrating by starting a new translation push. With one exception, the texts for the Bakunin Reader have been translated in draft form for a couple of months now, and I’ve been working on other aspects of the project while I’m waiting for that lone, but central translation to come in. There has been no shortage of relevant work to do, of course. The recent digitization project at the International Institute of Social History has made a number of related archives available online (Bakunin PapersMax Nettlau Papers, Fédération Jurassienne Archives, etc.) and I’ve spent a great deal of the last two months combing through those resources (and parts of the equally exciting Proudhon manuscripts recently made available by the Ville de Besançon.) Work on the Collectivist Reader has benefited particularly from the newly accessible material. I’ve also been doing some research in various newspaper archives, piecing together some of the history of Bakunin’s reputation in North America, for the introduction to the Bakunin Reader, which I would like to focus on, among other things, the reasons why we are only now attempting a major translation project and the changes in our understanding of Bakunin that are likely to emerge from it.

So work has continued, even while postings have been a little slow. A certain amount of time was required to move the Bakunin Library to this new home, where it is much more closely integrated with the rest of my archival and scholarly work. And I continue sorting text and letters, trying to make the most useful divisions of the works, which is a sort of maddening puzzle, but one which I’m gradually getting worked out.

The next phase of translation will involve revision and annotation of the material for the Reader, along with new translation of the uncompleted parts of Principles and Organization of the International Revolutionary Society (revolutionary and national catechisms, etc.) and The Political Theology of Mazzini and the International. Once the catechisms are complete, I’ll probably be turning almost immediately to The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution, which is both the most exciting part of the whole project and the biggest logistical nightmare, in terms of producing a truly useful edition under these labor-of-love conditions. At some point in the near future, I’ll also be working to complete the untranslated portions of Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism, which I expect will be the heart of the first of the major writings collections we complete. The second half of 2014 promises to involve a lot of moving from one aspect of the project to another, but by the end of the year it should be possible to have a fairly clear picture of what our schedule should be over the next few years. And then there’s just a lot of work to do.

A lot of work.

But I find that this is one of those projects where my enthusiasm for the material has only grown as I’ve continued to work with it. Even in those instances when I think Bakunin was probably dead wrong, I find his expression of the ideas in question well worth my translation time.

Anyway, today is one of those milestones well worth marking. Happy Birthday, Bakunin!

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2607 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

1 Comment

  1. Just to say a bit “Thank you” for all the work you are putting in — this will be an amazing benefit to both the movement and libertarian scholarship. It will help us understand far better the arguments and evolution of anarchism.


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