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Chapter 1 – Bakunin: Genesis of German liberalism
Chapter 1 of “Bakounine politique, Révolution et contre-révolution en Europe centrale” Éditions du Monde libertaire, 1991.

From Chapter 1 of
Bakounine politique, révolution et contre révolution en Europe centrale,
René Berthier,
Éditions du Monde libertaire, 1991

Article published on 13 October 2017
last modification on 3 January 2018

by Eric Vilain


Genesis of German liberalism

“The amiable knight, the virtuous priest, and
the honest bourgeois”

The passages in which Bakunin deals with the the Middle Ages provides
one of the keys to his analysis of the failure of German liberalism. It is from
this period onwards that appears a pattern of relations between classes
characteristic of Germany, and this pattern is linked mainly to the
geopolitical situation of the country, situated at the marches of the Slavic
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when an extraordinary development
took place throughout Europe, Germany produced only the order of the
Teutonic knights and the order of the Livonian sword-bearers, who pushed
German expansion towards the North and the North-East. The process of
Germanization of these territories described by Bakunin is interesting in that
it shows a first example of subordination of the interests of the bourgeoisie to
the existence of a nobiliary class. It is this particular type of subordination
which, according to the Russian revolutionary, constitutes one of the
principal characteristics of Germanic society. German cities were formed
around the entrenched camps of the “armed civilizers”. Then came the clergy
and the bourgeois.