The Unknown Revolution, Book Two

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(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.)
• "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.)
• "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.)


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The Unknown Revolution, 1917–1921. Book Two. Bolshevism and Anarchism | The Anarchist Library Voline The Unknown Revolution, 1917–1921. Book Two. Bolshevism and Anarchism Part I: Two Conceptions of the Revolution Chapter 1. Two Opposing Conceptions of Social Revolution Chapter 2. Causes and Consequences of the Bolshevik Conception Part II. About the October Revolution Chapter 1. Bolsheviks and Anarchists Before October Chapter 2. Anarchist Position on the October Revolution &nbs... (From :

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Chapter 4. The Unknown Anarchist Press in the Russian Revolution We have quoted earlier some editorials from Golos Truda, organ of the Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda, showing the attitude of that organization toward the taking of power by the Bolsheviki, the peace of Brest-Litovsk, and the Constituent Assembly. It is proper to supplement these with other quotations, which will give the reader details of the various points of disagreement between the Bolsheviks and the Anarchists, and [will be enlightening] on the position of the latter concerning the problems of the Revolution, and finally, on the very spirit of the two conceptions. The Anarchist press in Russia during the revolutionary period being practically unknown outside of that country, some of these extracts will provide distinct revelations [for many who read them in the following pages]. Golos Truda appeared first on... (From :

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Part I: Two Conceptions of the Revolution Chapter 1. Two Opposing Conceptions of Social Revolution Our principal task herein is to examine and establish, to the extent of our ability, what is unknown or little known about the Russian Revolution. We begin by emphasizing a fact which, without being ignored, is considered only superficially in the western world. This: In October, 1917, this revolution entered upon wholly new terrain — that of the great Social Revolution. Thus it advanced on a very special route which was totally unexplored. It follows that the subsequent development of the Revolution assumed an equally new and original character. Therefore, our account will not resemble any of the existing histories of that revolt. Its general appearance, the factors it comprised, its very language, will change, taking on an unaccustomed and singular aspect. We go on to another fa... (From :

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Chapter 2. Causes and Consequences of the Bolshevik Conception It was, as is well known, the political, governmental, statist, centralist conception which won in Russia in 1917. And at this point two preliminary questions arise which need to be clarified before we deal with the events there in that year. What were the fundamental reasons that permitted Bolshevism to triumph over Anarchism in the Russian Revolution? How is thai triumph to be evaluated? The numerical difference between the two groups and the poor organization of the Anarchists is not enough to explain their lack of success. In the course of developments their numbers could have been increased and their organization improved. Violence alone also is not a sufficient reason. If the masses could have been won over to Anarchist ideas in time, violence could not have been used against that movement. Moreover, as will be seen, the... (From :

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And now, our philosophical parenthesis concluded, let us return to the events [involved in all this]. Part II. About the October Revolution Chapter 1. Bolsheviks and Anarchists Before October Here we find occasion to go back and review the respective positions of the Bolsheviks and the Anarchists prior to the October Revolution. The position of the Bolsheviki on the eve of that revolution was characteristic. It is well to recall, however, that Lenin’s ideology and the position of his party had changed considerably since 1900. Aware that the Russian laboring masses, once started in revolt, would go far and would not stop at a bourgeois solution — especially in a country where the bourgeoisie hardly existed as a class — Lenin and his party, in their desire to anticipate and dominate the masses in order to lead them, ended by formulating an extremely advanced revolutionary program. They... (From :

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Chapter 2. Anarchist Position on the October Revolution On the same day, the Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda published a statement in Golos Truda in which it indicated clearly its position on the question of political power. It summed up the situation in two compact paragraphs: 1. Inasmuch as we give the slogan All power to the Soviets, an entirely different meaning from that which, in our opinion, is given by the Social Democratic Bolshevik Party, called upon by events to lead the movement; inasmuch as we do not believe in the broad perspectives of a revolution which begins with a political act, that is, by the taking of power; inasmuch as we do not support any action of the masses for political goals and under the control of a political party; and finally, inasmuch as we conceive of an entirely different way, both for the beginning and the subsequent development of a real social r... (From :

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fChapter 3. Other Disagreements Beside the great divergences of principle which separated the Anarchists and the Bolsheviks, there existed differences of detail between them. Let us mention the two most important incidental points of variance — the question of the purported “workers’ control of production” and that of the Constituent Assembly. Contemplating the workers’ problem, the Bolshevik Party prepared to begin [moving toward a solution] by instituting the so-called workers’ control of production — that is, the introduction of workers into the management of private enterprises. The Anarchists objected that if this “control” were not to remain a dead letter, and if the workers’ organizations were capable 6f exercising effective control, then they also were capable of guaranteeing all production. In such an event, private industry could be elimi... (From :

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Chapter 4. Some Reflections Naturally the popular masses could not recognize all the subtleties of these different interpretations. It was impossible for them even when they had made some contact with our ideas to understand the real significance of the differences in question. The Russian workers, of all the workers in the world, were the least familiar with political matters. They could not be aware either of the machiavellianism or the danger of the Bolshevik interpretation. I recall the desperate efforts with which I tried to warn the city workers, in so far as it was possible, by word of mouth and by writing, of the imminent danger for the true Revolution in the event that the masses let the Bolshevik Party entrench itself solidly in power. In vain I argued; the masses did not recognize the danger. How many times did they object in words like these: Comrade, we understand you well. And moreover, we ar... (From :

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Part III. After October Chapter 1. The Bolsheviks in Power; Differences Between the Bolsheviks and the Anarchists Struggle between the two concepts of the Social-Revolution — the statist-centralist and the libertarian-federalist ideas -was unequal in the Russia of 1917. The statist conception won, and the Bolshevik government took over the vacant throne. Lenin was its undisputed leader. And to him and his party fell the task of liquidating the war, facing up to all the problems of the Revolution, and leading it onto the course of the real Social Revolution. Having the upper hand, the political idea was going to prove itself. We shall see how it did this. The new Bolshevik regime was in fact a government of intellectuals, of Marxist doctrinaires. Installed in power, claiming to represent the workers, and to be the only group that knew the correct way to lead them to Socialism, they expected to govern, ab... (From :

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Chapter 2. The Fatal Descent 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 st... (From :

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Chapter 3. The Anarchist Organizations Participation of the Anarchists in the Revolution was not confined to combatant activity. They also endeavored to spread among the working masses their ideas about the immediate and progressive construction of a non-authoritarian society, as an indispensable condition for achieving the desired result. To accomplish this task, they created their libertarian organizations, set forth their principles in full, put them into practice as much as possible, and published and circulated their periodicals and literature. We shall mention some of the most active Anarchist organizations at that time: 1. The Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda, which bore the name of Golos Truda, meaning The Voice of Labor. It had as its object the dissemination of Anarcho-Syndicalist ideas among the workers. This activity was carried on at first in Petrograd from the summer of 1917 to the spring... (From :

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Chapter 5. Some Personal Experiences Certain personal experiences, chosen from among thousands like them, will serve as illustrations to make the particular nature of this period in Russia more understandable. One evening near the end of 1917, in Petrograd, two or three workers from the former Nobel oil refinery (it had employed about 4,000) came to the meeting place of our Union and told us the following: The refinery having been abandoned by the owners, the workers there decided, after numerous meetings and discussions, to operate it collectively. They had begun to take steps toward this end, and, among other moves, had addressed themselves to “their government” (the Bolshevist regime), asking for aid in the realization of that project. But the Commissariat of the People at Work informed them that unfortunately it could do nothing for them under the prevailing conditions. It could get them n... (From :

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Chapter 8. The Extinguisher How is it that this frightful history is not known abroad? The reader will learn. From the beginning, and through the years, the Bolshevik government did its utmost to conceal its hideous deeds from the workers and revolutionaries of other countries, by systematically and brazenly deceiving them, employing the classical methods of silence, lying, and slander. Its fundamental procedure has been that of all impostors in ail times: after extinguishing an idea and a movement, to extinguish their history as well. The Soviet press never has spoken of the struggles that Bolshevism had to wage against the liberty of the Russian people nor the means to which it had to have recourse to win. Nowhere in Soviet literature will the reader find the story of these facts. And when the authors of such literature cannot avoid speaking of them, they confine themselves to mentioning, in a... (From :

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Part IV. Repression Chapter 1. The Preparations One notable task had been successfully performed by the “Soviet power”: in the spring of 1918 it already had pushed the organization of its governmental and statist cadres — cadres of police, the Army, and those of the “Soviet” bureaucracy — fairly far. Thus the base of the dictatorship was created, sufficiently solid, and completely subordinated to those who had established it and who were maintaining it. It was possible to count on it. It was with these forces of coercion, disciplined and blindly obedient, that the Bolshevik government crushed several attempts at independent action which were made here and there. Also it was with the help of those forces, rapidly enlarging, that it ended by submitting the Russian masses to its fierce dictatorship. And it was with those same forces, once it was sure of the unres... (From :

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Chapter 2. The Discharge In the spring of 1918 persecutions of the Anarchists by the Russian “Communist” government began in a general, systematic, and decisive way. The peace of Brest-Litovsk concluded, the Lenin regime felt itself sufficiently solid to undertake a fundamental struggle against its adversaries “on the left” — the left Social Revolutionaries and the Anarchists. It had to act methodically and prudently. . At first the Communist press, on orders from the Government, started a campaign of slander and false accusations against the Anarchists, growing more violent from day to day. At the same time, they actively prepared the ground in the factories, in the Army, and among the public, through meetings and lectures. Everywhere they sounded the spirit of the public. Soon the regime was certain that it could rely on its troops, and that the masses would remain more or less indiffe... (From :

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Chapter 3. Unrestrained Fury 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 “Com... (From :

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Chapter 4. The Case of Leon Tchorny and Fanny Baron Thirteen Anarchists, held for no plausible reason in the Taganka prison in Moscow, inaugurated a hunger strike in July, 1921, demanding either to be arraigned or set free. This action happened to coincide with the gathering of the International Congress of Red Trade Unions (the Profinterri) in the capital city. A group of foreign Syndicalist delegates (mainly French) questioned the ..“Soviet” government about the strike, having learned of it, with full details, from the prisoners’ relatives. The questioning also bore on other analogous cases, and even on the Bolshevik policy of repressing Anarchists and Syndicalists. In the name of the Government, Leon Trotsky cynically answered: “We do not imprison the real Anarchists. Those whom we hold in prison are not Anarchists, but criminals and bandits who cover themselves by claiming to be Anarchists.&rdq... (From :

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Chapter 5. The Case of Lefevre, Vergeat and Lepetit Three French militants vanished without trace in another outstanding case. They were: Raymond Lefevre, Vergeat, and Lepetit, delegates to the Congress of the Communist International which took place in Moscow in the summer of 1920. Raymond Lefevre, though a member of the Communist Party, repeatedly voiced gloomy sentiments at that time, and was fully aware of the false route his ideological comrades had taken. And Vergeat and Lepetit, both Anarcho-Syndicalists, openly displayed their anger, and did not conceal their criticism of the state of things in Russia. More than once, Lepetit, his head in his hands, said, while weighing the report he would have to make to his French Syndicalist comrades: But what do I want to say to them? The Congress over, the three worked for several days and nights getting their notes and documents together. Then, repressive measures... (From :

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Chapter 6. A Personal Experience Let me tell here of an experience of my own, of a less tragic nature, but one which throws light on certain Bolshevik procedures worthy /of being written up among the high exploits of State Communism. LAt the time of which I speak, this happening was far from unique in Russia. But since then it could not be repeated in a country wholly subjugated by its new masters. In November, 1918, I arrived in the city of Kursk, in the Ukraine, to attend a congress of Ukrainian libertarians. In those days, such an assemblage was still possible in Ukrainia, in view of the special conditions in that region, then struggling against both the reaction and the German invasion. The Bolsheviki tolerated the Anarchists there, while utilizing and supervising them. From the beginning of the Revolution, the laboring population in Kursk never had heard a lecture on Anarchism, the small local group not h... (From :

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Chapter 7. The Final Settlement After all that we have said about the nature of State Socialism and its inevitable evolution, the reader will easily understand the reasons which led this Socialism into a relentless conflict with the libertarian idea. For an informed person there is of course nothing surprising or unexpected in the fact that the Socialist power in Russia persecuted Anarchism and Anarchists. This was foreseen by the Anarchists themselves (and as early as Mikhail Bakunin) long before the Russian Revolution, in the event that the latter should become statist and authoritarian. Repression of the libertarian concept, persecution of its followers, and suppression of the independent movements of the masses: such are the inevitable consequences of the opposition between the true Revolution advancing and the statist principle, which, momentarily triumphant, does not accept this advance, doe... (From :

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Chapter 9. The Deception of Visiting Delegations Here we must devote some paragraphs to a special procedure of skull-stuffing utilized by the Soviets on a vast scale the systematic deception of foreign workers delegations. The facts are clearly known. One of the clinching arguments of the Bolsheviks to disprove unfavorable revelations about their administration of the affairs of Russia and its satellites, consists in calling upon the testimony of delegations sent to the U.S.S.R. by organizations, factories, or institutions of various other countries. After a stay of a few weeks in the land of Socialism such delegates, almost without exception, have called everything that was said abroad to the discredit of the Soviet regime lies and slanders. In the beginning the trick of the delegations was infallible. Later it lost its efficacy. For some time now it has been almost aba... (From :

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Chapter 10. Bolshevik Justice It remains for us to cast a quick glance at the administrative and judiciary procedures of the Bolshevik regime during that period. Moreover, these procedures, essentially, have hardly changed at all. If, in our days, they are less frequently employed, it is because all those who were subjected to them in the past have been exterminated. But still, fairly recently, the same principles and measures have been applied to the Trotskyists, to the anti-Stalinist old Bolsheviks, to functionaries fallen into disgrace: officers, policemen, and others. As we have stated, there exists in Russia a political police system which works in secret, which has the right to arrest people secretly, without any formal arraignment, to try them secretly without witnesses or lawyers, to condemn them secretly to various penalties, including death, or to renew their detention or exile for as long as it m... (From :

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Part V. The Bolshevik State Chapter 1. Nature of the Bolshevik State By the end of 1921, the Communist power felt itself completely master of the situation. At least it could consider itself safe from any immediate danger. Its enemies and opponents, both external and internal, and of both the right and the left, were now no longer able to combat it. From 1922 onward, it could devote itself entirely to dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s and consolidating its State. On the one hand the present Russian State is, in its fundamental aspects, a logical development of what was founded and established in 1918–1921. The subsequent modifications were merely repairs, or the completion of details. We will specify them as they come up. The Bolshevist State has now existed for 20 years. What exactly is the nature of that State? What are its bases, its structure, its... (From :

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Chapter 2. Situation of the Workers Socially, the basis of the system in the domain ruled by Stalin lies in the following facts: As in all other countries, the worker in the U.S.S.R. is an employee. But he is a State employee. The State is his only employer. Instead of having thousands of “choices”, as is the case in the nations where private capitalism prevails, in the U.S.S.R. (the U.S.C.R.) the worker has only one. Any change of employer is impossible there. It is pretended that, this State being a “Workers’ State”, it is not an employer in the usual sense of the word. The profits it realizes from production of commodities do not go into the pockets of capitalists, [so the Stalin regime asserts], but in the last analysis, serve the interests of the workers, returning to them in forms other than money. Subtle as it may sound, this reasoning is purely theoretical. The &ld... (From :

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Chapter 3. Situation of the Peasants Four successive periods must be distinguished. At first, seeking to gain and consolidate the sympathies of Russia’s vast laboring masses and the Army, the Bolshevik government practiced a “laissez faire” policy toward the peasants. And the peasants — as the reader knows — began to take the land, the landlords either being in flight or having been driven out long before the October Revolution. The Lenin regime had only to approve this state of affairs. “By themselves, the soldiers stopped the war, while the peasants took over the land and the workers the factories,” we are told by Paul Milioukov, well-known Russian historian and writer, and ex-Foreign Minister of the first provisional government. “Lenin had only to sanction the accomplished fact to make sure of the sympathies of the soldiers, the peasants, and the wo... (From :

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Chapter 5. Political Structure In our analysis of the role of the functionaries, we touch upon the political structure of the U.S.S.R. Politically it is governed by the high State functionaries (as France, according to a time-honored formula, is governed by the prefects), and administered by an innumerable army of subordinate functionaries under their command. It remains for us to support this statement with certain indispensable details. Ahead of everything else, it is necessary to distinguish between two absolutely different elements. The one consists of appearance, decorations, the stage setting, (the sole heritage of the glorious October Revolution); the other is the reality. In appearance, the U.S.S.R. is governed by the soviets. (“The Soviets everywhere!” shout the French Communists, without knowing what to believe about the “soviets”, without having t... (From :

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Chapter 6. General View To complete the picture that I have just sketched, here are a few last brush strokes. The Bolshevik system wants the State-employer to be, for every citizen, the provider, the moral guide, and the distributor of rewards and penalties. The State provides work for the citizen and assigns him to a job. The State feeds and pays him! The State supervises him; the State uses and manipulates him as it likes; the State educates and trains him; the State judges him; the State recompenses or punishes him. So [in one embodiment we find] employer, provider, protector, supervisor, educator, instructor, judge, jailer, and executioner all these [embodied] in a State, which, with the help of its functionaries, wants to be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. Let him who seeks to escape it, beware! We want to emphasize the point that the Bolshevik State (the Government) not only possesses all... (From :

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Chapter 7. Achievements Despite the numerous works and studies containing abundant documentation and irrefutable details of the pretense of “Soviet achievements”, many persons continue to believe obstinately in this myth. For many such pretend to know and understand things without examining them closely, and without taking the trouble to read what has been published [about the questions before them]. Various naive individuals, with complete confidence in the statements made by partizans of the U.S.S.R., sincerely believe that the marvelous “achievements” of the only “Socialist State” prepare the ground for the coming of true and integral Communism. But we who know that country, we who follow closely what is happening there, and what is revealed there, can appreciate the real value of the Bolshevik “conquests” and their “feats of valor” up to the present. (From :

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Chapter 8. Counter-Revolution The creative impotence of the Bolshevik government, the economic chaos into which Russia was plunged, the despotism and unheard-of violence, the bankruptcy of the Revolution, and the tragic situation which resulted from it provoked first a far-flung discontent, and later wide-sweeping backwaters, and finally forceful movements against the insupportable state of affairs imposed by the dictatorship. As always in such cases, those movements came from two opposite poles — from the side of Reaction, from the “right”, which hoped to regain power and reestablish the old order, and from the side of the Revolution, from the “left”, which hoped to redeem the situation and resume revolutionary action. We shall not dwell long upon the counter-revolutionary movements — on the one hand, because they are more or less well known, and on the other, because in themselve... (From :

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Chapter 4. Situation of the Functionaries The third social stratum in the U.S.S.R., the importance of which has become enormous, is that of the bureaucrats, the functionaries. From the moment when direct relations between the various categories of workers were suppressed, as well as their initiative and freedom of action, the functioning of the State machine, of necessity, had to be assured by intermediaries dependent on the central direction of the machine. The name which has been given to these intermediaries — — describes perfectly their role, which consists of making [something] function. In the “liberal” countries the functionaries make function what relates to the State. But in a country where the State is all, they are called upon to make everything function. This means that they are responsible for organizing, coordinating, supervising; in short with making the whole life... (From :


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