The Unknown Revolution, Book Two : Part 04, Chapter 03
(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.)
• "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.)
• "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.)
Part 04, Chapter 03
In 1919–1920 the protests and movements of the Russian workers and peasants against the monopolistic and terroristic procedures of the “Soviet” power toward them were notably intensified. The Government, more and more cynical and implacable in its despotism, replied with increasingly accentuated reprisals.
Naturally the Anarchists again were body and soul with the deceived and oppressed masses in the open conflict. Supporting the workers, they demanded for them and their organizations the right to control production [of commodities] themselves, without the intervention of politicians. Supporting the peasants, they demanded for them independence, self-rule, and the right to deal directly and freely with the workers. In the names of both, they demanded the restitution of what the workers had achieved through the Revolution, and which had been “frustrated” by the “Communist” power, particularly the restoration of “a real free Soviet regime”, reestablishment of “political liberties” for all revolutionary tendencies, et cetera. In short, they demanded that the gains of October, 1917, be returned to the people themselves — to the free workers’ and peasants’ organizations.
Naturally, too, the Anarchists unmasked and combatted, in the names of these principles, both in writing and by word of mouth, the policy of the Government.
As they had foreseen, the Bolshevik regime ended by making war on them also. After the first major operation in that direction in the spring of 1918, the persecutions continued in an almost uninterrupted manner, taking on a more and more brutal and decisive character. And by the end of that year, several libertarian organizations in the provinces were sacked once more. Those which by chance escaped this were not permitted by the authorities to do anything.
In 1919, about the same time as the repression in Great Russia, persecutions also began in the Ukraine. (For several reasons, the Bolshevik dictatorship was installed there much later than elsewhere). In every area where the Bolsheviki set foot, the libertarian groups were liquidated, their militants arrested, their publications suspended, their bookstores destroyed, lectures forbidden.
It is unnecessary to say that all these measures were carried out by police, military, or administrative order, and were wholly arbitrary, without accusation, explanation, or any judicial procedure. The model for such action had been established, once and for all, by the, “precedent” instituted by Trotsky himself in the spring of 1918.
[Another fateful action] by Trotsky was his issuance, in the summer of 1919, of his now famous order No. 1824, declaring the so-called Makhnovist movement outside the law. Following that, Anarchists were arrested almost everywhere in Russia, at the same time as Nestor Makhno’s partizans were. And very often they were immediately shot, simply on the order of a Red officer.
In the majority of cases, the suppression of the libertarian organizations was accompanied by acts of savage violence, and of senseless vandalism by the Chekists (Communist secret police) and the deceived, unnerved, or over-excited Red soldiers. The militants, men and women alike, were brutally treated, as “criminals”. Their quarters were demolished, their books burned. It was a furious repression.
At the close of that summer, a general sacking of Anarchist organizations took place in the Ukraine. And by the end of the same year, there remained only remnants of an Anarchist movement in Russia.
[Here is an odd turn in Bolshevik history].
Early in October, 1920, the “Soviet” power, having need of the assistance of the revolutionary Makhnovist partizans in fighting Baron Peter Wrangel’s “White” troops, effected an alliance with Makhno. According to the agreement on which that alliance was based, all imprisoned and exiled Anarchists were to have their freedom restored and be given the right to work openly in the Ukraine and anywhere in Russia.
Though naturally holding back on the fulfillment of that provision, the Bolsheviks had, however, to interrupt the prosecutions and release several militants. But as soon as Wrangel was defeated, the “Soviet” government treacherously attacked Makhno and again struck out violently at the libertarian movement in the Ukraine.
At the end of November, with Wrangel just vanquished, the authorities arrested in Kharkov many Anarchists gathered from many parts of Russia for a legal congress. At the same time, they tracked down libertarians all over the Ukraine, organizing a regular hunt, with beaters and ambushes, and taking as “hostages” parents, wives, and children — as if they wanted to have revenge for the recent forced concession and to make up for lost time, seeking now to exterminate “the wicked race of Anarchists” down to the children.
To justify this disgraceful action, the Bolshevik regime explained its break with Makhno on the ground of so-called treason by the latter, and invented a fantastic “great Anarchist plot against the Soviet power”.
The real story of this purported plot is fantastic and deserves to be told. Thus:
Several days before the decisive victory over Wrangel, when the defeat of the latter was no longer in doubt, the central telegraph station in Moscow ordered all the stations in the provinces to shut off their receiving apparatus, and accordingly not to take an urgent and absolutely secret message from Lenin, which was supposed to be received only by two other main stations — the one in Kharkov and the other in Crimea.
This order was not obeyed by a libertarian sympathizer in charge of one of the stations in the provinces. And he took down the following telegram:
Determine the Anarchist strength in the Ukraine, particularly in the Makhnovist region.
Several days later another telegram was sent under the same conditions:
Exercise active supervision over all Anarchists. Prepare documents as much as possible of a criminal nature of which they can be accused. Keep orders and documents secret. Send the necessary instructions everywhere.
And after a few more days, the third and last laconic message:
Arrest all the Anarchists and incriminate them.
All these telegrams were addressed to Christian Rakovsky, then president of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukraine, and to other military and civil authorities.
On receipt of the third telegram, the sympathetic telegraphist warned an Anarchist comrade, who hastened to Kharkov to apprize the libertarians there of the repression in preparation. But he arrived too late: the action already had been taken. Nearly all of the Kharkov Anarchists, and also those who had come for the congress, were in prison. Their quarters were closed.
Such was the “plot” of the Ukrainian Anarchists against the Soviet power.
At the time of the agreement between the government “of the Soviets” and Nestor Makhno, the Makhnovist delegation [which negotiated it] had officially established the number of persons imprisoned or exiled and requiring liberation at more than 200,000. For the most part, these were peasants arrested en masse for sympathizing with the Makhnovist movement. We do not know how many conscious Anarchists there were among them. And we will never know how many persons, in this period, were shot or disappeared without leaving any trace, in the various local prisons, many of which were secret and unknown to the public.
During the Kronstadt uprising in March, 1921, the Bolshevik government made new mass arrests of Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists. Again they organized a sweeping man-hunt across the country, seeking to capture every remaining militant who dared raise his voice. For, contrary to the lies spread by the “Soviet” power, inside Russia and elsewhere, the Kronstadt revolt and the movements which accompanied it were strongly imbued with libertarian spirit.
Any mass movement — a workers’ strike, peasants’ protests, or discontent among the soldiers or sailors, invariably had repercussions affecting the Anarchists. And after the Bolsheviki threw into prison individuals having no other connection with the libertarians except a community of ideas, or were relatives, or casual acquaintances. To admit openly having the same viewpoint as the Anarchists sufficed to send one to prison, from which one got out with difficulty, or generally not at all.
The circles of Anarchist youth were brutally suppressed in 1919 and again in 1921. These groups were engaged in teaching and studying communally, among other things, the Anarchist doctrine, with which it had most sympathy. The Bolshevik action was impelled simply by the desire to cut short the interest of the youth in libertarian ideas. Only the Marxian dogma remained acceptable [to the Government].
In the summer of 1921 the Soviet press announced that in the vicinity of Zhmerinka (a small city in the province of Podolia, in the Ukraine) 30 or 40 Anarchists living in that area and having connections in other cities in the Southern region, had been “discovered and liquidated” — that is to say, shot. This bit of candor by the Bolsheviks was an extremely rare phenomenon, explainable only by assuming an intention of cautioning such youth and discouraging them from continuing their activity. The names of all those who perished thus never could be determined. But it was established that they included some of the best militants among the libertarian youth.
Around the same time, and again according to the Soviet press itself, the Lenin government imprisoned (and shot some of them) in Odessa, the members of a fairly large and important Anarchist group which, among other action, was spreading propaganda in Soviet institutions and circles (even in the Odessa Soviet and in the Bolshevik Party’s local committee). That constituted, the party press said, the crime of “high treason”.
Official dispatches stated that 92 Tolstoyan (absolute pacifist) Anarchists were shot up to the end of 1922, chiefly for refusal to serve in the Army. And many Tolstoyans languished in prison.
One of these good pacifists found himself one day face to face with J. Peters, the infamous executioner of the Cheka (secret Communist police) in one of the Offices of that force. Miraculously he was about to be set free. Waiting his turn, he was peacefully picking lice out of his heavy beard and throwing them on the floor. (In that period, lice were the most intimate friends of man in Russia. They were commonly referred to affectionately as semashki, from the name of Nikolai Semashko, People’s Commissar of Public Health — stinging but suggestive irony).
“Why do you throw them down like that instead of killing them?” the astonished Peters asked.
“I never kill living creatures.”
“Oh,” said Peters, highly amused. “That’s funny, really. You let yourself be bitten by lice, bed-bugs, and fleas? I must say you are crazy, my friend. I myself have suppressed several hundred men — bandits, that is — and it didn’t bother me at all.”
He could not get over his amazement and kept looking curiously at the peaceful Tolstoyan, taking him surely for a harmless idiot.
I could continue this list of martyrs to great length.
I could cite hundreds of instances where the victims were drawn into snares to be shot, either after “interrogation” and torture, or even on the spot, sometimes in a field, or at the edge of a forest, or in a railway car at an abandoned station.
I could cite hundreds of cases of brutal and disgraceful searches and arrests, accompanied by violence and all sorts of torments.
I could give a long list of libertarians, many of them very young, who were thrown into prison or exiled into unhealthy regions, where they died after extended and terrible sufferings.
I could tell of revolting cases of individual repression resulting from shameless informing, cynical treachery, or repugnant provocation.
The Bolsheviki suppressed men for upholding an idea if it was not exactly that of the Government and its privileged clique. They sought to suppress the idea itself, and to wipe out all independent thought. Also they frequently suppressed men who knew and who could reveal certain facts.
I shall confine myself to a few individual examples, particularly odious.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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