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Wagner on Bakunin vs Bakunin on Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 6 August 2016 | 7:40:00 pm

Reading a biography of revolutionary anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, our editor  came across a discussion that, in the last few days of his life, he had about Wagner -  who he had meet  many years previously. And of course that lead to going  back to Wagner's thoughts on Bakunin - which are far better known. We thought you might be interested. Call it Wagner on Bakunin vs Bakunin on Wagner:

"First of all, however, with the view of adapting himself to the most Philistine culture, he had to submit his huge beard and bushy hair to the tender mercies of the razor and shears. As no barber was available, Rockel had to undertake the task. A small group of friends watched the operation, which had to be executed with a dull razor, causing no little pain, under which none but the victim himself remained passive. We bade farewell to Bakunin with the firm conviction that we should never see him again alive. But in a week he was back once more, as he had realised immediately what a distorted account he had received as to the state of things in Prague, where all he found ready for him was a mere handful of childish students. These admissions made him the butt of Rockel's good-humoured chaff, and after this he won the reputation among us of being a mere revolutionary, who was content with theoretical conspiracy. Very similar to his expectations from the Prague students were his presumptions with regard to the Russian people."

My Life: Vol 1 - Richard Wagner

"The old anarchist could fight the laws of capital and the state, but the inexorable laws of nature ground away. A few friends visited regularly, including Vogt and Adolf Reichel, a musician Bakunin had known since the Berlin days of the early 1840s. Reichel wrote to Gambuzzi at length about Bakunin’s last days. The two talked philosophy, and Bakunin read Schopenhauer in his hospital bed. He showed some of the old spirit when he remarked to Reichel that “all of our philosophy starts from a false premise. It always begins by taking man as an individual, rather than a being who is part of a community. That’s where most of the philosophical errors that lead to either pie in the sky [literally, happiness in the clouds] or the pessimism of Schopenhauer and Hartman come from.” As he declined, however, they abandoned philosophy for reminiscences. “It’s a pity, Bakunin, you never found time to write your memoirs,” Reichel gently chided one day. “Why would you want me to write them?” he responded. “It is not worth wasting the breath. Today, the people of all nations have lost the instinct of revolution. They are all too content with their situation and the fear of losing what they have makes them harmless and inert. No, if I regained some of my health, I would write an ethic based on the principles of collectivism, without reference to philosophical or religious phrases.” They spoke of music, and Bakunin expressed his preference still for Beethoven, opining that Wagner, whom he remembered from the Dresden barricades, was deficient in both character and musical taste. At the end, he slept more and more; even his famous appetites left him. The man who had once looked as though he could devour the world could now manage only some spoonfuls of kasha, or groats, prepared in the Russian manner by Reichel’s wife, Maria. He refused bouillon, murmuring without opening his eyes, “I have no need; I have finished my task.” At noon 1 July 1876, Bakunin died an ordinary death in stark counterpoint to an extraordinary life"
Bakunin: The Creative Passion - Mark Leier