Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev (or Nyechayev; Russian: Серге́й Генна́диевич Неча́ев) was a Russian revolutionary associated with the Nihilist movement and known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including terrorism. He was the author of the radical Catechism of a Revolutionary.
He fled Russia in 1869 after having been involved in the murder of a former comrade. Complicated relationships with fellow revolutionaries caused him to be expelled from the
"First International". Arrested in Switzerland in 1872, he was sent back to Russia, received a 20-year sentence and died in
Despised the masses and wanted to drag them forcibly to revolution
In connection with the extreme maximalist tendencies of the end of the 'sixties the sinister, grim, and characteristically Russian figure of Nechaev is of particular interest. He was the founder of the revolutionary society called 'The Axe or the People's Justice'. Nechaev composed the 'Revolutionary Catechism', a document of unusual interest, unique of its kind. In this document is to be found the extreme expression of the principles of atheistic revolutionary asceticism. They are the rules by which the genuine revolutionary should be guided, his manual, as it were, of the spiritual life. Nechaev’s catechism is reminiscent to a grim degree of Orthodox asceticism turned inside out and mixed with Jesuitism. He was a sort of Isaac the Syrian and Ignatius Loyola of revolutionary socialism, the extremist form of the revolutionary ascetic denial of the world. Nechaev was, of course, absolutely sincere, and his fanaticism was of the extremest kind. His was the psychology of the sectarian. He was prepared to burn his neighbour, but he was ready at any moment to be burned himself. Nechaev alarmed everybody. Revolutionaries and socialists of all shades rejected him and found that he was compromising the work of revolution and socialism. Even Bakunin repudiated Nechaev. … It is of special interest to us that Nechaev to a large extent anticipated the bolshevik type of party organization, in which everything comes from above, the extreme of centralized and despotic organization. Nechaev desired to cover the whole of Russia with those small revolutionary cells, with an iron discipline for which everything would be permissible for the sake of achieving the revolutionary purpose. Nechaev despised the masses and wanted to drag them forcibly to revolution. He rejected democracy. How does Nechaev characterize the revolutionary? 'The revolutionary is the doomed man. He has no personal interests, business, feelings, connections, property, or even name. Everything in him is in the grip of the one exclusive interest, one thought, one passion, revolution.'The revolutionary has broken with civil order, with the civilized world, and with the morals of the world. He Hves in this world in order to destroy it. He must not even love the sciences of this world. He knows one science only, the science of destruction. To the revolutionary everything is moral which serves the revolution — words which Lenin repeated later. The revolutionary destroys everything which hinders the attainment of his purpose. He is no revolutionary who holds anything in this world dear. The revolutionary should penetrate even the secret poHce and have his agents everywhere. It is necessary to increase suffering and violence in order to arouse the masses to rebellion. He must associate with outlaws, who are the real revolutionaries. He must focus this world into one invincible destructive force. According to Nechaev the psychology of the revolijtionary requires the rejection of the world and personal life, exceptional efficiency, exceptional concentration upon the one thing needful, readiness to face the pain and suffering which he must expect.
The Origin of Russian Communism