The Unknown Revolution, Book Two : Part 03, Chapter 02
(1882 - 1945) ~ Bolshevik-Aligned Leader of the Russian Nabat Anarchists : March of 1920 saw him taken to Moscow, where he would remain prisoner until October, when he and many other anarchists were released by virtue of a treaty between the Soviet Union and Makhno's army. Voline then returned to Kharkov, resuming his old activities... (From : Rudolph Rocker Bio.)
• "Socialism, so mighty in Germany, Austria and Italy, has proved powerless. 'Communism', itself very strong, especially in Germany, has proved powerless. The trade unions have proved powerless. How are we to account for this?" (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "Yet there is consolation to be had. The masses learn through all too palpable first hand experience. And the experience is there." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "As we know, there it was an authoritarian state communism (Bolshevism) that scored a stunning and rather easy victory in the events of 1917. Now, these days, nearly seventeen years on from that victory, not only is communism proving powerless to resist fascism abroad, but, where the regime within the USSR itself is concerned, the latter is more and more often being described more and more deliberately as 'red fascism'." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
Part 03, Chapter 02
To see what has since become of the Russian Revolution, to understand the real role of Bolshevism, and discern the reasons which — again in human history — transformed a magnificent and victorious popular revolt into a lamentable failure, it is necessary, clearly and ahead of anything else, to comprehend fully two truths, which, unfortunately, are still not yet widely enough known, and the misunderstanding of which deprives the majority of those interested of a true comprehension.
Here is the first truth:
There is an explicit and irreconcilable contradiction, an opposition between the true Revolution, which, on the one hand, tends to expand — and could expand in an unlimited way to conquer definitively — and on the other hand, the theory and practice of authoritarianism and statism. There is an explicit, irreconcilable contradiction, a struggle between the very essence of State Socialist power (if it triumphs) and that of the true Social Revolutionary process. The very substance of the real Social Revolution is the recognition and achievement of a vast and free creative movement of the laboring masses freed from all servile work. It is the affirmation and expansion of an immense process of construction based on emancipated labor, on natural co-ordination and fundamental equality.
At bottom, the true Social Revolution is the beginning of true human evolution, that is to say, a free creative ascension of the human masses, based on the vast and frank initiative of millions of men in all branches of activity. This essence of the Revolution is instinctively felt by the revolutionary people. It is more or less precisely understood and formulated by the Anarchists.
What results “automatically” from this definition of the Social Revolution (a definition which cannot be refuted) is not the idea of an authoritarian direction (dictatorial or other) of the masses — an idea belonging entirely to the old bourgeois, capitalist, exploiting world — but that of a collaboration to bring forward their evolution. And from it also flows the necessity of an absolutely free circulation of all revolutionary ideas and finally the need for undisguised truth, for free and general seeking of it, experimenting with it, and putting it into practice as an essential condition of a fertile action of the masses and of the complete triumph of the Revolution.
But the basis of State Socialism and delegated power is the explicit non-recognition of these principles of the Social Revolution. The characteristic traits of Socialist ideology and practice (authority, power, State, dictatorship) do not belong to the future, but are wholly a part of the bourgeois past. The “statist” conception of the Revolution, the idea of a limit, of a “termination” of the revolutionary process, the tendency to dam it, to “petrify” this process, and especially (instead of allowing the laboring masses all the possibilities for an adequate and autonomous movement and action) to concentrate once more in the hands of the State and of a handful of new masters all future evolution — all that rests on old traditions of a circumscribed routine, on a worn-out model, which has nothing in common with the real Revolution.
Once this model has been applied, the true principles of the Revolution are fatally abandoned. Then follows, inevitably, the rebirth, under another name, of the exploitation of the laboring masses, with all its consequences.
Therefore, beyond doubt, the forward march of the revolutionary masses toward real emancipation, toward the creation of new forms of social life, is incompatible with the very principle of State power. And it is clear that the authoritarian principle and the revolutionary principle are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive — and that the revolutionary principle is essentially turned toward the future, while the other is tied by all its roots to the past, and thus is reactionary.
The authoritarian Socialist revolution and the [true] Social Revolution follow two opposite procedures. Consequently, one must conquer and the other perish. Either the true Revolution with its vast free and creative flood, breaking definitely with the roots of the past, triumphs on the ruins of the authoritarian principle, or it is the authoritarian principle which wins, and then the roots of the past “strangle” the real Revolution, which no longer can be achieved.
Socialist power and the Social Revolution are contradictory elements. It is impossible to reconcile them, still less to unite them; the triumph of the one means the endangering of the other with all the logical consequences, in either case. A revolution inspired by State Socialism and which entrusts its fate to it, even if only provisionally or transitionally, is lost. It is started on a false course, on an increasingly steep slope, which leads straight to the abyss.
Here is the second truth — or rather a logical ensemble of truths — which completes the first and makes it more specific:
1. All political power inevitably creates a privileged situation for the men who exercise it. Thus it violates, from the beginning, the equalitarian principle and strikes at the heart of the Social Revolution — which is largely inspired by that principle.
2. All political power inevitably becomes a source of other privileges, even if it does not depend on the bourgeoisie. Having taken over the Revolution, having mastered it, and bridled it, power is compelled to create a bureaucratic and coercive apparatus, indispensable to all authority which wants to maintain itself, to command, to order — in a word, to “govern”. Rapidly it attracts and groups around itself all sorts of elements eager to dominate and exploit.
Thus it forms a new privileged caste, at first politically and later economically: directors, functionaries, soldiers, policemen, et cetera — individuals dependent on it, and accordingly ready to support it and defend it against all others, without caring in the least about “principles” or “justice”. It sows everywhere the seed of inequality and soon infects the whole social organism, which, being more and more passive to the extent that it feels the impossibility of fighting the infection, becomes itself favorable to the return to bourgeois principles in a new guise.
3. All power seeks more or less to take in its hands the reins of social life. It predisposes the masses to passivity, and all spirit of initiative is stifled by the very existence of power, in the extent to which it is exercised.
The “Communist” power, which, in principle, has concentrated 1 everything in its own hands, is, in this connection, a veritable trap. I Puffed up with its own “authority” and filled with its pretended “responsibility” (with which, at bottom, it endowed itself), it is afraid of all independent action. All autonomous initiative imme-diately appears suspect [in its eyes] and threatens it; so it tries to I diminish and thwart any such action. For it wants to hold the tiller and to hold it alone. Initiative by anyone else seems to it 1 to be an invasion of its territory and its prerogatives. Such [independent motion] is insupportable to that power. And it is disregarded, rejected, and stamped out, or carefully supervised and I controlled, with a “logic” and persistence that is abominable and 1 pitiless.
The tremendous new creative forces which are latent in the masses thus remain unused. This applies as much to the field 1 of action as to that of thought. With respect to the latter, the “Communist” power has distinguished itself everywhere by abso- i lute intolerance, which can be compared only to that of the Holy Inquisition. For, on another plane, this power also has considered itself to be the only bearer of truth and safety, neither accepting nor tolerating any contradiction, or any way of conceiving or think-« ing other than its own.
4. No political power is capable of solving effectively the gigantic constructive problems of the Revolution. The “Com- I munist” power which took over this enormous task and pretended to accomplish it, demonstrated itself, in this respect, to be par- [I ticularly inept. In fact, its pretensions consisted of wanting, and j being in a position, to “direct” the whole titanic activity, infinitely varied, of millions of human beings. To do this successfully, it would have had to be able to embrace at all times the incommen- 1 surable and moving immensity of life: to have been able to know everything, supervise everything, arrange everything, organize everything, lead everything. It is a question of an incalculable number of needs, interests, activities, situations, combinations, and transformations — and therefore of problems of all kinds, in con- 9 tinual motion.
Soon, not knowing any more where to give leeway, the power S ended by no longer embracing anything, arranging anything, or “directing” anything at all. And, in the first place, it showed itself absolutely powerless to organize effectively the disoriented economic life of Russia. This quickly disintegrated. Completely dislocated, jt floundered, in a disorderly way, between the ruins of the fallen regime and the powerlessness of the newly proclaimed system.
Under these circumstances, the incompetence of the [“Communist”] power [in Russia] led, in a short time, to an economic collapse. This meant the stopping of industrial activity, the ruin of agriculture, the destruction of all connections between the various branches of the [national] economy, and the destruction of all economic and social equilibrium.
Inevitably, this resulted, in the beginning, in a policy of constraint — especially in relation to the peasants. They were forced, in spite of everything, to feed the cities. But that procedure proved ineffective, because the peasants had recourse to passive resistance, and poverty became the mistress of the whole country. Work, production, transport, and exchange were disorganized and fell into a chaotic state.
5. To maintain the economic life of the country at an endurable level, power has, in the last analysis, only constraint, violence, and terror as its agents. It resorts to these more and more widely and methodically. But the country continues to flounder in frightful poverty, to the point of famine.
The flagrant impotence of power to establish a healthy economic life, the manifest sterility of the Revolution, the physical and moral suffering created by this situation for millions of individuals, a violence which increased every day in despotism and intensity — such are essential factors which soon fatigue and disgust the population, making it antagonistic to the Revolution, and thus favoring the recrudescence of anti-revolutionary spirit and movements. This situation incites the very numerous neutral or unconscious elements — who up to now have been hesitant and rather favorable to the Revolution — to take a firm stand against it. And finally it kills the faith of many of its own partizans.
6. Such a state of affairs not only diverts the march of the Revolution, but also compromises the work of defending it.
In place of having active social organizations (unions, cooperatives, associations, federations, et cetera) active, alive, healthily co-ordinated, capable of assuring the economic development of themselves against the danger of reaction (relatively mild under these circumstances) there exists, once more, a few months after the beginning of the disastrous statist practice, a handful of careerists and adventurers in power, incapable of “justifying” and substantially fortifying the Revolution that they have horribly mutilated and sterilized. Now they are obliged to defend themselves (and their partizans) against increasingly numerous enemies, whose appearance and growing activity are primarily the consequence of their own failure. Thus, instead of a natural and easy defense of the Social Revolution, which gradually affirms itself, one witnesses once more the disconcerting spectacle of failing power defending, by any means, and often the most ferocious, its own life.
This false defense is naturally organized from above, with the help of old and monstrous political and military methods “which have been proven”, absolute control by the Government over the whole population, formation of a regular army blindly disciplined, creation of professional police institutions and of fanatical special bodies, suppression of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and especially of action, inauguration of a regime of repression and terror, et cetera.
It is a question, once more, of the training and brutalization j of individuals to obtain a wholly submissive force. With the abnormal conditions under which events occur, all these procedures rapidly acquire an aspect of violence and despotism. The decay of the Revolution continues apace.
8. The “revolutionary power” in bankruptcy inevitably runs up against not only enemies of “the right”, but also opponents of the left, all those who feel themselves supporters of the true revolutionary idea which has sprained its foot, those who fight for it and who draw themselves up in its defense. These attack the power in the interest of the true Revolution.
But having tasted the poison of domination, of authority and its prerogatives, having persuaded itself and seeking to persuade the world that it is the only really revolutionary force able to act in the name of the “proletariat”, believing itself “obliged” and “responsible” for the Revolution, confusing through an inevitable aberration the fate of the latter with its own, and finding pretentious explanations and justifications for all of its acts, the power neither can nor will admit its failure and disappear. On the contrary, the more it feels itself at fault and threatened, the more it sets about furiously to defend itself. It wants to remain master 0f the situation at any price. It even hopes, still and always, to “straighten things out”.
Knowing perfectly that it is a question, one way or another, of its very existence, the power ends by no longer discriminating its adversaries: it no longer distinguishes its own enemies from those of the Revolution. More and more guided by a simple instinct of self-preservation, and less and less capable of withdrawing, it begins to strike, with a crescendo of blindness and impudence, in all directions, left as well as right. It strikes without distinction all those who are not with it. Tremblmg for its own fate, it destroys the best forces of the future. It stifles the revolutionary movements which, inevitably, have arisen once more. It suppresses en masse the revolutionaries and the simple workers guilty of wanting to raise the banner of the Social Revolution again.
Acting thus, fundamentally impotent, strong only through terror, it is obliged to conceal its hand, to deceive, to lie, and to slander, since it considers it a good idea not to break openly with the Revolution and to maintain its prestige intact at least abroad.
9. But while crushing the Revolution it is not possible to lean on it. Also it is impossible to remain suspended in the void, supported by the precarious force of bayonets and circumstances. Therefore, in strangling the Revolution, the power is obliged to insure itself, more and more clearly and firmly, with the aid and support of reactionary and bourgeois elements, disposed through expediency to be of service to it and to deal with it.
Feeling the ground slipping from beneath its feet, becoming more and more detached from the masses, having broken its last connections with the Revolution and created a whole privileged caste of big and little dictators, servitors, flatterers, careerists, and parasites, but impotent to achieve anything really revolutionary and positive, after having rejected and destroyed the new forces, the power feels obliged to consolidate itself, to make overtures to the forces of reaction. It is their company that it seeks more and more frequently and more and more willingly. It is with them that it gives ground, not having any other way of insuring its life. Having lost the friendship of the masses, it seeks new sympathies. It hopes that it can some day betray them. But meanwhile it becomes further involved every day in anti-revolutionary and anti-social activity.
The Revolution attacks it more and more energetically. And the power, with a fury all the more violent, helped by arms that it has forged, and by forces which it has drawn up, fights the Revolution. Soon the latter is completely defeated in this unequal struggle. It is at the point of death and disintegration. The agony ends in a corpse-like immobility. The slide has reached the bottom of the slope. [Here] is the abyss. The Revolution has had its day. Reaction is triumphant — hideously painted, arrogant, brutal, bestial.
Those who have not yet understood these truths and their implacable logic have understood nothing about the Russian Revolution. And that is why all these blind men, the “Leninists”, the “Trotskyists”, and all their kind are incapable of explaining plausibly the bankruptcy of the Russian Revolution and of Bolshevism — the bankruptcy which they are forced to admit. (We are not speaking here of the Western “Communists”. They want . to remain blind).
Having understood nothing about the Russian Revolution, * having learned nothing from it, they are ready to repeat the same sequence of evil errors: political party, conquest of power, government (“workers and peasants”!), State (“Socialists”), Dictatorship (“of the Proletariat”) — stupid platitudes, criminal contradictions, disgusting nonsense! It will be unfortunate for the next revolution if it re-animates these stinking corpses, if again it succeeds in dragging the laboring masses into this macabre game. It can only give rise to other Hitlers which grow in the decay of its ruins. And once more “its light will go out for the world”.
Let us recapitulate the elements of the situation here:
The “revolutionary” government (“Socialist” or “Communist”) is inaugurated. Naturally it wants full and complete power for -I itself. It is a command. (Otherwise what purpose has it?)
It is only a question of time until the first disagreement between the governors and the governed will arise. This disagreement crops up all the more inevitably inasmuch as a government, whatever it may be, is impotent to solve the problems of a great revolution, yet in spite of this, it wants to be right in everything, monopolize everything, retain for itself the initiative, the truth, and responsibility of action. This disagreement is always turned to the advantage of the rulers, who quickly learn to impose their authority by various means. And subsequently all initiative passes inevitably to these rulers, who become, little by little, the masters of the governed.
That accomplished, the “masters” cling to power, despite their incapacity, their inadequacy, their incompetency. They believe themselves, on the contrary, the only bearers of the Revolution. “Lenin (or Stalin), like Hitler, is always right”... “Workers, obey your leaders! They know what they are doing and they are working for you”... “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” (“so we can command you better”.) But this latter part of the slogan is never uttered aloud by the “genial leaders” of the “workers’ parties”.
Thus, inch by inch, the rulers become the absolute masters of the country. They create privileged classes on which they base themselves. They organize forces capable of sustaining them, and defend themselves fiercely against all opposition, all contradiction, all independent initiative. Monopolizing everything, they take over the whole life and activity of the country. And having no other way of acting, they oppress, subjugate, enthralled, exploit. They repress all resistance. They persecute and wipe out, in the name of the Revolution, everyone who will not bend to their will.
To justify themselves, they lie, deceive, slander.
To stifle the truth, they are brutal. They fill the prisons and places of exile; they torture, kill, execute, assassinate.
That is what happened, exactly and inevitably, to the Russian Revolution.
Once well established in power, having organized its bureaucracy, its Army, its police, having found the money and built a new State called “Workers’”, the Bolshevik government, absolute master, took into its own hands completely the fate of the Revolution. Progressively — to the extent that it increased its forces of demagogic propaganda, coercion, and repression — the Government nationalized and monopolized everything, including speech and thought.
It was the State — and therefore the Government — which took possession of the soil, of all the lands. It became the true landlord. The peasants, as a mass, were little by little transformed, first into State farmers, and later, as will be seen, into veritable serfs. It was the Government which expropriated the works, factories, mines — in short, all the means of production, communication, and exchange. And finally, it was the Government which became the sole master of the nation’s press and of all other means of spreading ideas. All publications, all printed matter in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — including even visiting cards — are produced, or at least rigorously controlled, by the State.
In short, the State — therefore the [Bolshevik] government finally became the only repository of all truths [in the Russian domain], the sole proprietor of all material and spiritual goods therein, and the sole initiator, organizer, and animator of the whole life of the country, in all of its ramifications.
The 150,000,000 “inhabitants” were progressively transformed into simple fulfillers of the Government’s orders, into veritabte slaves of the Government and its innumerable agents. “Workers, obey your leaders!”
All the economic, social, and other organizations, without exception, beginning with the Soviets and ending with the smallest-cells, became the simple administrative organs of the State enterprise, [forming in effect] a sort of “exploiting corporation of the State”: organs wholly subordinated to its “central administrative council” (the Government), supervised closely by agents of the latter (the official and secret police) and deprived of all semblance of independence.
The authentic detailed history of this evolution, completed twelve years ago — an extraordinary history, unique in the world-would require a volume in itself. We will return to it later in these pages to give some indispensable details.
The reader already knows that the stifling of the Revolution, with its disastrous logical consequences, inevitably incited a reaction more and more intense, and sustained by the elements on the left, who did not envisage the Revolution in the same way [as the Bolsheviki] and drew themselves up to defend it and enable it to progress. The most important of these refractory movements grew up in the ranks of the left Social Revolutionaries and among the Anarchists.
This rebellion of the left Social Revolutionary Party was that 0f a rival political and statist party. Its differences with the Communist Party and its disillusionment because of the disastrous results of the Bolshevik Revolution finally compelled it to oppose the Bolsheviks. Forced to leave the government in which it had collaborated for some time with [Lenin’s party], it launched an increasingly violent struggle against it. Anti-Bolshevik propaganda, attempted uprisings, and terrorist acts were used.
The left Social Revolutionaries participated in the famous assassination in Leontievsky Alley. And they organized the assassination of the German General Eichhorn in the Ukraine and of the German Ambassador Mirbach in Moscow — two violent demonstrations against the dealings of the Bolshevik government with that of Germany. Later they inspired some local uprisings, which were quickly put down. In that struggle they sacrificed some of their best forces.
Their leaders, Maria Spiridonova, B. Kamkov, A. A. Kareline, and others, as well as certain anonymous militants, behaved with much courage ia these occurrences. However, if the left Social Revolutionaries had achieved power, their actions inevitably would have been exactly like those of the Bolshevik Party. The same political system inescapably would have led to the same results.
Fundamentally, the left Social Revolutionaries rose up primarily against the hegemony and the monopoly of the Communist Party. They claimed that if power were shared equally by two or more parties, instead of being monopolized by a single one, everything would be for the best. In the nature of things, this was a distinct error.
The active elements of the laboring masses, who, having understood the reasons for the bankruptcy of Bolshevism, attempted a battle against it, knew this well. They only supported the left Social Revolutionaries in a very restricted way. Their resistance was quickly broken, and they did not create any great echo in Russia.
Resistance of the Anarchists, however, was in places much farther-reaching, despite a swift and terrible repression. Having as its goal the realization of the other idea of the Revolution, and having taken everywhere, in the course of events, an important place, this struggle and its vicissitudes merit the reader’s full attention.
We must add that, deliberately distorted and later suppressed by the Bolsheviks, on the one hand, and by-passed by subsequent events on the other, this epic has remained unknown (except in interested circles), not only by the public at large but even by those who have more or less studied the Russian Revolution. Despite its importance, it remains outside of their investigations and their documentation. Rarely in the course of human history has an idea been so disfigured and slandered as Anarchism has been.
Generally, too, they are not even concerned with Anarchism. They exclusively attack “Anarchists”, considered by all governments as “No. 1 Public Enemies”, and everywhere presented in an exceptionally unfavorable manner. In the best cases, they are accused of being madmen, “plain crazy”, or “half-crazy”. More often they are portrayed as “bandits”, “criminals”, senseless terrorists, indiscriminate bomb-throwers. To be sure, there have been, and are, terrorists among the Anarchists, as there are among the followers of other political and social organizations and tendencies. But, precisely because they regard the Anarchist idea as being too seductive and dangerous to tolerate the masses becoming interested in it and understanding it, the governments of all countries and of all shades of opinion take advantage of certain acts of violence committed by Anarchist terrorists to compromise that idea itself, and they smear not only those terrorists but also all the militants, whatever their methods.
As for the Anarchist thinkers and theoreticians, they arc treated most frequently as “Utopians”, “irresponsible dreamers”, “abstract philosophers”, or “extravagants”, whose ideas are dangerously interpreted by their “followers”, and as “mystics”, whose ideas, even if they are beautiful, have nothing in common with real life, nor with men as they are. (It is claimed, on the bourgeois side, that the capitalist system is stable and “real”, and on the Socialist side, that the authoritarian Socialist idea is not Utopian — this in spite of the inextricable chaos and enormous social calamities, accumulated for centuries by the first, and in spite of the memorable bankruptcies “achieved” in a half century of application by the second).
Very often they simply seek to ridicule the [Anarchist] idea. po they not try to make the ignorant masses believe that Anarchism is a system “renouncing all society and all organization”, according to vvhich “everybody can do what he likes”? Do they not say to the public that anarchy is synonymous with disorder, and this in the face of the real and inconceivable chaos of all the non-Anarchist systems that have been tried up to now?
That policy towards Anarchism, due primarily to its integrity and the impossibility of taming it (a technique which has worked very well with Socialism), in view of its refraining from all “political” activity, bears its own fruits: a mistrust, even a fear and general hostility — or at least indifference, ignorance, and ingrained incomprehension — which spring up wherever it appears. This situation long rendered it isolated and impotent. But for some time, slowly, and owing to the force of events and propaganda, public opinion has evolved in relation to Anarchism and Anarchists. The deception is beginning to be recognized. Perhaps the day is not far off when the vast masses, having understood the Anarchist idea, will turn against the “deceivers” (I had almost written “hangmen”) by taking an increased interest in the martyred idea and following a natural psychological reaction.
(Certain admissions and truths that the press was obliged to publish during the events in Spain [the civil war there], as well as certain other facts more or less well known already have produced a salutary effect and helped the libertarian idea to gain ground).
As for the Russian Revolution, the attitude of the Bolshevik government with regard to the Anarchists surpassed by far, in deception, slander, and repression, that of all other former and present governments. The role that the libertarian concept played in the Revolution and the fate that it met there will eventually be widely known, despite the customary stifling. For a fairly long period, that role was considerable.
The revelations, which have been accumulating, bit by bit, not only throw a new light on past and current events but also a bright light on the course to be followed. And they permit one to foresee and better understand certain important phenomena which, beyond any doubt, will occur in the course of happenings in the near future.
For all these reasons the reader has the right — and even the duty — to understand the facts which will be disclosed here. What was the activity of the Anarchists in the Russian Revolution? What exactly was their role and their fate? What was the real “weight” and what was the destiny of “this other idea of the Revolution” represented and defended by the Anarchists? Our study will answer these questions at the same time as it gives indispensable details about the true role, the activity, and the system of Bolshevism. We hope that this presentation will help the reader to orient himself in relation to serious current and future events.
Despite their irreparable retardation and their extreme weakness, despite also all sorts of obstacles and difficulties, and finally, notwithstanding the sweeping and implacable repression of which they were the object, the Anarchists were able, here and there, and especially after October, 1917, to win lively and profound sympathy. Their ideas achieved prompt success in certain regions. And their numbers increased rapidly, despite the heavy sacrifices in men, which were inflicted on them by events.
In the course of the Revolution the activity of the Anarchists exercised a strong influence. It had marked effects in the first place, because they were the only ones who opposed a new concept of the Social Revolution to the thesis and action of the Bolshevists, more or less discredited in the eyes of the masses — and then, because they [the Anarchists] propagated and defended that concept, to the extent of their strength and despite inhuman persecution, with a disinterested and sublime devotion to the end, until a time when the overwhelming numbers, frenzied demagogy, knavery, and unprecedented violence of their adversaries forced them to succumb.
We should not be at all astonished by this [initial] success nor by its non-fulfillment. On the one hand, thanks to their integrated courageous, and self-sacrificing attitude, thanks also to their constant presence and action in the midst of the masses, and not in the “ministries” or bureaux; and thanks, finally, to the striking vitality of their ideas in the face of the practice of the Bolsheviki, which soon became questionable, the Anarchists found — in every area where they could act — friends and adherents. (One has the right to suppose that if the Bolsheviks, fully aware of the danger that this success represented to them, had not put an end, immediately, to the activity and propaganda of the libertarians, the Revolution might have taken a different turn and led to different results).
But on the other hand, their retardation in relation to events, the greatly restricted number of their militants capable of carrying on an extensive oral and written propaganda in an immense country, the lack of preparation of the masses, the generally unfavorable conditions, the persecutions, and the considerable loss in men — all these circumstances limited drastically the extent and continuity of the Anarchists’ work, and facilitated the repressive action by the Bolshevik regime.
Let us go on to the facts.
In Russia the Anarchists have always been the only ones who spread among the masses the idea of the true, popular, integral, emancipating Social Revolution.
The Revolution of 1905, with the exception of the Anarchist component, marched under such slogans as “democracy” (bourgeois), “Down with Czarism!”, “Long live the democratic Republic!”. Bolshevism itself did not go farther at that time. Anarchism was then the only doctrine which went to the root of the problem and warned the masses of the danger of a political solution.
As weak as the libertarian forces were then, in comparison to the democratic parties, the [Anarchist] idea already had gathered around it a little group of workers and intellectuals who protested, here and there, against the snare of “democracy”. True, their voices were sounding in the desert. But that did not discourage them. And soon a few sympathizers and a movement of sorts grew up around them.
The Revolution of 1917 grew and spread, in the beginning, like a flood. It was difficult to foresee its limits. Having overthrown absolutism, the people “made their entry into the arena of historical action”.
In vain did the political parties try to stabilize their positions I and adapt themselves to the revolutionary movement. Steadily I the working people went forward against their enemies, leaving I behind them, one after another, the different parties with their I “programs”. The Bolsheviks themselves — who formed the best I organized party, the most ardent and determined aspirant to power I — were obliged to alter their slogans repeatedly to be able to follow I the rapid development of events, and of the masses. (Remember I their first slogans: “Long live the Constituent Assembly!” and “Long live workers’ control of production!”
As in 1905 the Anarchists were, in 1917, the only defenders I of the true and integral Social Revolution. They held constantly to their course, despite their restricted numbers, their financial weakness, and their lack of organization.
During the summer of 1917 they supported, both by word and action, the agrarian movements of the peasants. They also stood with the workers when, long before the October coup, the latter took over industrial enterprises in various places and tried to organize production on a basis of autonomy and workers’ collec- f tivity.
The Anarchists fought in the front ranks of the workers’ and sailors’ movement of Kronstadt and Petrograd on July 3, 4, and 5. In Petrograd they set an example by taking over the printing houses in order that workers’ and revolutionary journals should appear.
When, in that summer, the Bolsheviki displayed towards the bourgeoisie a more audacious attitude than the other political parties, the Anarchists approved this, and considered it their revolutionary duty to combat the lies of bourgeois and Socialist governments which called Lenin and the other Bolsheviks “agents of the German government”.
The Anarchists also fought in the advance guard in Petrograd, Moscow, and elsewhere, in October, 1917, against the Kerensky coalition government [the fourth provisional regime]. It of course goes without saying that they marched, not in the name of any other power, but exclusively in the name of the conquest by the masses of their right to construct, on truly new bases, their own economic and social life. For many reasons which the reader knows, that idea was not put into practice, but the Anarchists fought, and to the end, alone for this just cause.
If, in this regard, there are grounds for reproaching them, it is only because they did not take time to reach an agreement among themselves and did not present, to a satisfactory degree, the elements of a free organization among the masses. But we know that they had to take account of their small numbers, their exceedingly slow concentration, and especially, of the absence of all Syndicalist and libertarian education of the masses themselves. Time was needed to remedy this situation. But the Bolsheviks, deliberately and specifically, did not allow either the Anarchists or the masses the time in which to overcome these retardations.
In Petrograd, it was again the sailors from Kronstadt, who, coming to the capital for the decisive struggle in October, played a particularly notable part. And among them were numerous Anarchists.
In Moscow, the most perilous and critical tasks during the hard fighting in October, fell upon the famous Dvintsi (the Dvinsk regiment). Under Kerensky, this whole regiment was imprisoned for refusal to take part in the offensive on the Austro-German front in June, 1917. It was always the Dvintsi who acted when it was necessary to dislodge the “Whites” (the Kadets, as they were known in that period) from the Kremlin, from the “Metropole”, or from other sections of Moscow, and in the most dangerous places. When the Kadets, reinforced, resumed the offensive, it was always the Dvintsi who exerted themselves to the utmost to defeat them, during the ten days of struggle. All of [the Dvintsi] called themselves Anarchists, and marched under the command of two old libertarians, Gratchov and Fedotov.
The Anarchist Federation of Moscow, with a part of the Dvinsk regiment, marched first, in order of combat, against the forces of the Kerensky government. The workers of Presnia, of Sokolniki, of Zamoskvoretchia, and other districts of Moscow, went into battle with libertarian groups in the vanguard. Presnia’s workers lost a fighter of great valor: Nikitin, an Anarchist worker, invariably in the front rank, was mortally wounded toward the end of the battle, in the center of the city. Several dozen other Anarchist workers also lost their lives in these struggles and lie in the common grave in Red Square in Moscow.
After the October Revolution, the Anarchists, despite the divergence of ideas and methods which separated them from the new “Communist” power, continued to serve the cause of the Revolution with the same perseverance and devotion. We should remember that they were the only ones who rejected the principle of the Constituent Assembly, and that when the latter became an obstacle to the Revolution, as they had foreseen and predicted, I they took the first step towards its dissolution. Subsequently they I fought with an energy and self-abnegation recognized even by their opponents, on all the fronts against the repeated offensives of reaction. In the defense of Petrograd against General Lavr G. Kornilov (August, 1917), in the fight against General Kaledin in the South (1918), and elsewhere, the Anarchists played a distin- a guished role.
Numerous detachments of partizans, large and small, formed by the Anarchists or led by them (the detachments of Mokrusov, Tcherniak, Maria Nikiforova, and others, without speaking for the moment of Makhno’s partizan Army), and including in their ranks a great number of libertarians, fought in the South without j a rest from 1918 to 1920 against the reactionary armies. And isolated Anarchists were on all the fronts as simple combatants, lost among the mass of worker and peasant insurgents.
In places, the Anarchist strength quickly grew. But Anarchism lost many of its best forces in that fearful fighting. This sublime sacrifice, which contributed powerfully to the final victory of the Revolution, materially weakened the libertarian movement in Russia, then scarcely formed. And unfortunately, its forces being employed on the various fronts against the counter-revolution, the rest of the country was deprived of them. Meanwhile Anarchist activity and propaganda suffered notably.
In 1919 especially, the counter-revolution led by General Denikin, and later by General Wrangel, made still greater inroads into libertarian ranks. For it was primarily the libertarians who contributed to the defeat of the “White” Army. The latter was put to flight not by the Red Army in the North, but rather in the South, in the Ukraine, by the insurgent peasant mass, whose principal force was the partizan Army called Makhnovist, which was strongly impregnated with libertarian ideas and led by the Anarchist, Nestor Makhno. And as for revolutionary organizations, the libertarian groups of the South were the only ones who fought •n the Makhnovist ranks against Denikin and Wrangel.
Here is a piquant detail: While in the South, the Anarchists, momentarily free to act, were heroically defending the Revolution, and paying with their lives, the “Soviet” government, really saved by this action, was furiously repressing the libertarian movement in the rest of the country. And as the reader will see, as soon as the danger in the South was ended, the repression also fell on the Anarchists in that region.
Likewise the Anarchists played a large part in the struggles against Admiral Alexander Kolchak in Eastern Russia and in Siberia, where they lost more militants and sympathizers.
Everywhere the partizan forces, including in their ranks a certain number of libertarians, did more of the job than the regular Red Army, and everywhere the Anarchists defended the fundamental principle of the Social Revolution: the independence and freedom of action of the workers on the march toward their true emancipation.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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