Enemy of the State, Actually of All of Them

In the Moscow Times,a review of Mark Leier’s new biography of Bakunin:

In his new biography of Bakunin, Mark Leier concentrates less on the anarchist’s mesmerizing personality “or his appetites for tobacco, food, and alcohol, inevitably described as voluminous” and more on his ideas and the context in which they developed. This approach, featuring an in-depth analysis of Bakunin’s writings in chronological order, as well as a detailed examination of Bakunin’s relationship with Karl Marx, is less entertaining than Carr’s biography. But Leier hopes it is more enlightening, for he is critical of most earlier presentations of Bakunin, including that by the playwright Tom Stoppard in his recent trilogy “The Coast of Utopia,” due to be performed in Moscow next year. Leier directs the Centre for Labour Studies at Canada’s Simon Fraser University and has written books on labor history. He views Bakunin favorably as one who was sympathetic to working men and women and critical of capitalism, which Leier also often criticizes with such terminology as “the particularly brutal capitalism we face today.” He believes that Bakunin’s writings still offer valuable insights and advice for modern-day rebels against capitalism, and his biography is filled with references to contemporary subjects, mainly American ones. For example, after referring to Tsar Nicholas I as “the leader of reaction and destroyer of nationalities,” he adds, “roughly analogous, some argue, to George W. Bush at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”