Catechism of a Revolutionist

Nechaev, Sergei

Year Published:  1869  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19284

a program for the "merciless destruction" of society and the state, written by the anarchist Sergey Nechayev.


In late spring 1869, Sergey Nechayev, a close collaborator of Mikhail Bakunin, wrote Catechism of a Revolutionary, a program for the "merciless destruction" of society and the state. There continues to be dispute about where Nechayev wrote the document alone, or whether Bakunin was the co-author.

According to Wikipedia:
The main principle of the "Catechism" -- "the ends justify the means" -- became Nechayev's slogan throughout his revolutionary career. He saw ruthless immorality in the pursuit of total control by Church and State, and believed that the struggle against them must therefore be carried out by any means necessary, with an unwavering focus on their destruction. The individual self is to be subsumed by a greater purpose in a kind of spiritual asceticism, which for Nechayev was far more than just a theory, but the guiding principle by which he lived his life. According to the Catechism,

" A revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no private interests, no affairs, sentiments, ties, property nor even a name of his own. His entire being is devoured by one purpose, one thought, one passion -- the revolution. Heart and soul, not merely by word but by deed, he has severed every link with the social order and with the entire civilized world; with the laws, good manners, conventions, and morality of that world. He is its merciless enemy and continues to inhabit it with only one purpose -- to destroy it.

A revolutionary "must infiltrate all social formations including the police. He must exploit rich and influential people, subordinating them to himself. He must aggravate the miseries of the common people, so as to exhaust their patience and incite them to rebel. And, finally, he must ally himself with the savage word of the violent criminal, the only true revolutionary in Russia".

The book was to influence generations of radicals, and was re-published by the Black Panther Party in 1969 – one hundred years after its original publication. It also influenced the formation of the militant Red Brigades in Italy the same year.

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