Bakounine Michel – The Bern Bears and the Saint Petersburg Bears
Bakounine Michel – The Bern Bears and the St. Petersburg Bears: In this essay, Bakunin puts himself in the shoes of a Swiss patriot disappointed to see that his homeland obeys orders to expel foreign dictatorships. He cites three examples in the news of the time when Switzerland hunts down and expels people who have come to seek asylum in Switzerland, at the request of foreign governments. With great irony, Bakunin describes those cases where the very principles of the Helvetic Republic are flouted: “Will he (the Swiss government) really have the courage to deliver him to the Tsar of Russia? We are going to give him some advice: Let him throw it into Bern’s bear hole instead. It will be more frank, more honest, shorter, and above all more humane. ”
Then he questions the democratic effectiveness of parliamentarism and the “new” Swiss constitution of 1848 which establishes federalism rather than a confederation of more or less autonomous states. After 1848, once universal suffrage was established, it was thought to have ensured the freedom of the people. Well, it was a big illusion! Indeed the whole lie of the representative system is based on this fiction, that a power and a legislative chamber out of the popular election must absolutely or even can represent the real will of the people. But the instincts of those who govern are, because of their exceptional position, diametrically opposed. Whatever their feelings and their democratic intentions, from the height where they are placed they can not consider the society other than as a guardian considers its pupil. But between the guardian and the pupil equality can not exist. On one side there is the feeling of superiority, necessarily inspired by a superior position; on the other, that of an inferiority which results from the superiority of the tutor, exercising either the executive power or the legislative power. An issue that remains relevant today …
Bakunin acknowledges that 1848 brought a necessary economic and political centralization, but he has the disadvantages. Referring to the popular uprisings which, canton by canton, brought to the power the radicals, he writes: These revolutions, these popular uprisings such is still today the only form of control which really exists in Switzerland, the only terminal which stops the overflow of ambitious passions. By destroying the autonomy of the cantons, subordinating the cantonal governments to the federal power. From now on, the cantonal revolutions, this unique means that the cantonal people had to exercise a real and serious control over their governments, and to keep in check the despotic tendencies inherent in each government, these salutary uprisings of the popular outrage, became impossible . Today, the Federal Council has not only the right, it has the duty to send as many federal troops, taken in the other cantons, that it will be necessary to restore public order.
Does all political power, whatever its origin and form, necessarily lead to despotism? this is the opinion of the anarchist Bakunin. It is necessary to abolish completely, he writes, in the principle and in the facts, all that is called political power; because as long as political power exists, there will be dominators and dominions, masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited. Political power once abolished, it must be replaced by the organization of productive forces and economic services.