File: secH6.html

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anarchism 9.5-1
  • links: PTS
  • area: main
  • in suites: woody
  • size: 12,192 kB
  • ctags: 493
  • sloc: makefile: 40; sh: 8
file content (7340 lines) | stat: -rw-r--r-- 387,434 bytes parent folder | download
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<html>
<head>
<title>H.6 Why does the Makhnovist movement show there is an alternative to Bolshevism?</title>
</head>
<H1>H.6 Why does the Makhnovist movement show there is an alternative to Bolshevism?
</H1>
<p>
The key Leninist defence of the actions of the Bolsheviks in the
Russian revolution is that they had no other choice. Complaints
against the Bolshevik attacks on the gains of the revolution and
the pro-revolutionary Left in Russia are met with a mantra
involving the white terror, the primitive state of Russia and
the reactionary peasantry, the invading imperialist armies (although
the actual number can, and does, vary depending on who you are
talking to) and other such <i>"forces of nature"</i> which we are to believe
could only be met by a centralised authoritarian regime that would
flinch at nothing in order to survive.
<p>
However, this is not the case. This is for three reasons.
<p>
Firstly, there is the slight problem that many of the attacks
on the revolution (disbanding soviets, undermining the factory
committees, repressing socialists and anarchists, and so on)
started <b>before</b> the start of the civil war. As such, its
difficult to blame the degeneration of the revolution on
an event which had yet to happen.
<p>
Secondly, Leninists like to portray their ideology as "realistic,"
that it recognises the problems facing a revolution and can
provide the necessary solutions. Some even claim, flying in the
face of the facts, that anarchists think the ruling class will
just <i>"disappear"</i> (see 
<a href="secH2.html#sech21">section H.2.1</a>
) or that we think <i>"full-blown"</i>
communism will appear <i>"overnight"</i> (see 
<a href="secH2.html#sech25">section H.2.5</a>). Only
Bolshevism, it is claimed, recognises that civil war is inevitable
during a revolution and only it provides the necessary solution,
namely a <i>"workers state."</i> Lenin himself argued that <i>"[n]ot a
single great revolution in history has escaped civil war. No one
who does not live in a shell could imagine that civil war is
conceivable without exceptionally complicated circumstances."</i>
[<b>Will the Bolsheviks Maintain Power?</b>, p. 81] As such, its
incredulous that modern day followers of Lenin blame the
degeneration of the Russian Revolution on the very factors
(civil war and exceptional circumstances) that they claim to
recognise an inevitable!
<p>
Thirdly, and even more embarrassingly for the Leninists, numerous
examples exist both from revolutionary Russia at the time and from
earlier and later revolutions that suggest far from Bolshevik
tactics being the most efficient way of defending the revolution
other methods existed which looked to the massive creative energies
of the working masses unleashed by the revolution.
<p>
During the Russian Revolution the biggest example of this is
found in South-Eastern Ukraine. For much of the Civil War
this area operated without a centralised state apparatus of the
Bolshevik type and was, instead, based on the anarchist idea of
Free Soviets. There <i>"the insurgents raised the black flag of 
anarchism and set forth on the anti-authoritarian road of the
free organisation of the workers."</i> [Arshinov, <b>The History of
the Makhnovist Movement</b>, p. 50] The space in which this 
happened was created by a partisan force that instead of 
using the <i>"efficiency"</i> of executions for desertion, tsarist 
officers appointed over the rank and file soldiers' wishes 
and saluting so loved by the Bolsheviks instead operated as 
a volunteer army with elected officers and voluntary discipline. 
This movement was the Makhnovists, named after its leader, the 
Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno. The Black Flag which floated 
over the lead wagon of the Insurgent Army was inscribed with the 
slogans <b><i>"Liberty or Death"</i></b> and 
<b><i>"The Land to the Peasants, the
Factories to the Workers."</i></b> These slogans summarised what the 
Makhnovist were fighting for -- a libertarian socialist society.
At its height in the autumn of 1919, the Maknovists numbered 
around 40,000 and its extended area of influence corresponded 
to nearly one third of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, comprising 
a population of over seven million. 
<p>
It is this that explains the importance of the Makhnovists. As
historian Christopher Reed notes, the <i>"Bolsheviks' main claim to
legitimacy rested on the argument that they were the only ones
capable of preventing a similar disaster [counter-revolution]
for the workers and peasants of Russia and that their harsh
methods were necessary in the face of a ruthless and unrelenting
enemy."</i> However, Reed argues that <i>"the Makhno movement in the
Ukraine suggests that there was more than one way to fight against
the counter-revolution."</i> [<b>From Tsar to Soviets</b>, pp. 258-9] This
is why the Makhnovist movement is so important, why it shows that
there was, and is, an alternative to the ideas of Bolshevism. Here
we have a mass movement operating in the same <i>"exceptional
circumstances"</i> as the Bolsheviks which did <b>not</b> implement the
same policies. Indeed, rather than suppress soviet, workplace
and military democracy in favour of centralised, top-down party
power and modify their political line to justify their
implementation of party dictatorship, the Makhnovists did all
they could to implement and encourage working-class self-government.
<p>
As such, it is difficult to blame the development of Bolshevik
policies towards state-capitalist and party-dictatorship directions
on the problems caused during the revolution when the Makhnovists,
facing similar conditions, did all they could to protect working-
class autonomy and freedom. Indeed, it could be argued that the
problems facing the Makhnovists were greater in many ways. The
Ukraine probably saw more fighting in the Russian Civil War
then any other area. Unlike the Bolsheviks, the Makhnovists lost
the centre of their movement and had to re-liberate it. To do so
they fought the Austrian and German armies, Ukrainian Nationalists,
Bolsheviks and the White Armies of Denikin and then Wrangel. There
were smaller skirmishes involving Cossacks returning to the Don and
independent <i>"Green"</i> bands. The anarchists fought all these various
armies over the four years their movement was in existence. This
war was not only bloody but saw constant shifts of fronts, advances
and retreats and changes from near conventional war to mobile
partisan war. The consequences of this was that no area of the
territory was a safe <i>"rear"</i> area for any period of time and so
little constructive activity was possible. 
<a href="secH6.html#sech64">Section H.6.4</a>
presents a summary of the military campaigns of these years.
A brief idea of the depth of fighting in these years can be
seen by considering the town at the centre of the Makhnovists,
Hulyai Pole which changed hands no less then 16 times in the
period from 1917-1921.
<p>
Clearly, in terms of conflict (and the resulting disruption
caused by it), the Makhnovists did not have the relative peace
the Bolsheviks had (who never once lost their main bases of
Petrograd or Moscow, although they came close). As such, the
problems used to justify the repressive and dictatorial
policies of the Bolsheviks also apply to the Makhnovists.
Despite this, the activity of the Makhnovists in the Ukraine
demonstrated that an alternative to the supposedly necessary
methods of the Bolsheviks did exist. Where the Bolsheviks
suppressed freedom of speech, assembly and press, the Makhnovists
encouraged it. Where the Bolsheviks turned the soviets into
mere cyphers of their government and undermined soviet power,
the Makhnovists encouraged working-class participation and
free soviets. As we discuss in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>, 
the Makhnovists
applied their ideas of working class self-management whenever
and wherever they could.
<p>
Sadly, the Makhnovist movement is a relatively unknown event
during the revolution. There are few non-anarchist accounts of
it and the few histories which do mention it often simply slander
it. However, as the Cohn-Bendit brothers correctly argue, the
movement, <i>"better perhaps than any other movement, shows that
the Russian Revolution could have been a great liberating force."</i> 
Equally, the reason why it has been almost totally ignored (or
slandered, when mentioned) by Stalinist and Trotskyist writers
is simple: <i>"It shows the Bolsheviks stifling workers and peasants
with lies and calumnies, and then crushing them in a bloody massacre."</i> 
[Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, <b>Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing
Alternative</b>, p. 200]
<p>
This section of our FAQ will indicate the nature and history of this
important social movement. As we will prove, <i>"the Makhnovshchina . . .
was a true popular movement of peasants and workers, and . . . its
essential goal was to establish the freedom of workers by means of
revolutionary self-activity on the part of the masses."</i> [Arshinov,
<b>The History of the Makhnovist Movement</b>, p. 209] They achieved this
goal in extremely difficult circumstances and resisted all attempts
to limit the freedom of the working class, no matter where it came
from. As Makhno himself once noted:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Our practice in the Ukraine showed clearly that the peasant problem
had very different solutions from those imposed by Bolshevism. If our
experience had spread to the rest of Russia, a pernicious division
between country and city would not have been created. Years of
famine would have been avoided and useless struggles between
peasant and workers. And what is more important, the revolution
would have grown and developed along very different lines . . .
We were all fighters and workers. The popular assembly made the
decisions. In military life it was the War Committee composed of
delegates of all the guerrilla detachments which acted. To sum up,
everyone took part in the collective work, to prevent the birth
of a managing class which would monopolise power. And we were
successful. Because we had succeeded and gave lie to Bolshevik
bureaucratic practices, Trotsky, betraying the treaty between
the Ukraine and the Bolshevik authorities, sent the Red Army to
fight us. Bolshevism triumphed militarily over the Ukraine
and at Kronstadt, but revolutionary history will acclaim us one
day and condemn the victors as counter-revolutionary grave-diggers
of the Russian Revolution."</i> [quoted by Abel Paz, <b>Durruti: The
People Armed</b>, p. 88-9]
</blockquote><p>
Two distinct aspects of the anarchist movement existed in the
Ukraine at this time, a political and non-military structure
called the Nabat (Alarm) federation which operated through the
soviets and collectives and a military command structure usually
known after is commander Nestor Makhno as the <b><i>Makhnovshchina</b></i>
(which means the <i>"Makhno movement"</i>) although its proper name was
the <b><i>Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine</b></i>. This section
of the FAQ will cover both, although the Makhnovshchina will be
the main focus.
<p>
For more information on the Makhnovist movement, consult the
following books. Anarchist accounts of the movement can be
found in Peter Arshinov's excellent <b>The History of the
Makhnovist Movement</b> and Voline's <b>The Unknown Revolution</b> 
(Voline's work is based on extensive quotes from Arshinov's
work, but does contain useful additional material). For
non-anarchist accounts, Michael Malet's <b>Nestor Makhno in
the Russian Revolution</b> is essential reading as it contains
useful information on both the history of the movement, its
social basis and political ideas. Malet considers his work as
a supplement to Michael Palij's <b>The Anarchism of Nestor Makhno,
1918-1921</b> which is primarily a military account of the movement
but which does cover some of its social and political aspects.
Unfortunately, both books are rare. Paul Avrich's <b>The Russian
Anarchists</b> contains a short account of the movement and his
<b>Anarchist Portraits</b> has a chapter on Nestor Makhno. Makhnovist
source material is included in Avrich's <b>The Anarchists in the
Russian Revolution</b>. Daniel Guerin includes a section on Makhno 
and the Makhnovist Movement in volume 2 of <b>No Gods, No Masters</b>. 
As well as extracts from Arshinov's book, it has various 
manifestos from the movement as well as Makhno's account of 
his meeting with Lenin. Christopher Read's <b>From Tsar to 
Soviets</b> has an excellent section on the Makhnovists. Serge 
Cipko presents an excellent overview of works on the Makhnovists
in his <i>"Nestor Makhno: A Mini-Historiography of the Anarchist 
Revolution in Ukraine, 1917-1921"</i> (<b>The Raven</b>, no. 13). 
Alexander Skirda presents an overview of perestroika soviet
accounts of Makhno in his essay <i>"The Rehabilitation of 
Makhno"</i> (<b>The Raven</b>, no. 8). Skirda's biography <b>Nestor
Makhno: Le Cosaque de l'anarchie</b> is by far the best account
of the movement available.
<p>
Lastly, a few words on names. There is a large variation on the
spelling of names within the source material. For example,
Makhno's home town has been translated as Gulyai Pole, Gulyai
Polye Huliai-Pole and Hulyai Pole. Similarly, with other place
names. The bandit Grigor'ev has been also translated as Hryhor'iv 
and Hryhoriyiv. We generally take Michael Malet's translations
of names as a basis (i.e. we use Hulyai Pole and Hryhoriyiv,
for example). 
<p>
<a name="sech61"><h2>H.6.1 Who was Nestor Makhno?</h2>
<p>
The Makhnovist movement was named after Nestor Makhno, a
Ukrainian anarchist who played a key role in the movement
from the start. Indeed, Makhnoshchina literally means <i>"Makhno
movement"</i> and his name is forever linked with the revolution
in the South-East of the Ukraine. So who was Makhno?
<p>
Nestor Ivanovich Makhno was born on the 27th of October, 1889
in Hulyai Pole, which is situated in Katerynoslav province,
in the south east of the Ukraine between the Dnieper River
and the Sea of Azov. While it seems to be conventional for
many historians to call Hulyai Pole a "village," it was in
fact a town with a population of about 30,000 and boasted
several factories and schools.
<p>
Makhno was the son of a poor peasant family. His father died
when he was ten months old, leaving him and his four brothers
in the care of their mother. Due to the extreme poverty of
his family, he had to start work as a shepherd at the age
of seven. At eight he started to attend the Second Hulyai
Pole primary school in winter and worked for local landlords
during the summer. He left school when he was twelve and
took up full-time employment as a farmhand on the estates
of nobles and on the farms of the German colonist <b>kulaks.</b> 
At the age of seventeen, he started to work in Hulyai Pole
itself, first as an apprentice painter, then as an unskilled
worker in a local iron foundry and, finally, as a founder in 
the same establishment.
<p>
It was when he was working in the iron foundry that he became
involved in revolutionary politics. In the stormy years following
the 1905 revolution, Makhno got involved in revolutionary
politics. This decision was based on his experiences of injustice
at work and seeing the terror of the Russian regime during the
1905 events (in Hulyai Pole there had been no serious disorder,
yet the regime sent a detachment of mounted police to suppress
gatherings and meetings in the town, terrorising the population
by whipping those caught in the streets and beating prisoners
with rifle butts). In 1906, Makhno decided to join the anarchist
group in Hulyai Pole (which had been formed the previous year
and consisted mainly of sons of poorer peasants).
<p>
At the end of 1906 and in 1907, Makhno was arrested and accused of
political assassinations, but was released due to lack of evidence.
In 1908, due to the denunciation of a police spy within the
anarchist group, he was arrested and put in jail. In March, 1910,
Makhno and thirteen others were tried by a military court and
sentenced to death by hanging. Due to his youth and the efforts
of his mother, the death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment
with hard labour. He served his time at the Butyrki prison in
Moscow, resisting the prison authorities by every means available
to him. Due to this resistance, he spent much of his time in
chains or in damp and freezing confinement. This experience
ensured that Makhno developed an intense hatred of prisons
(later, during the revolution, his first act in entering a
town or city was to release all prisoners and destroy the
prison).
<p>
It was during his time in Butykri that Makhno met Peter Arshinov,
a fellow anarchist prisoner and later activist and historian of
the Makhnovist movement. Arshinov was born in 1887 in the Ukrainian
industrial town of Katerinoslav. His father was a factory worker
and he was a metal worker. Originally a Bolshevik, he had become
an anarchist in 1906, taking a leading part in organising factory
workers and actions against the regime. In 1907 he was arrested
and sentenced to death, escaping to Western Europe. In 1909, he
returned to Russia and was again arrested and again escaped. In
1910, he was arrested and placed in the Butykri prison where he 
met Makhno. The two anarchists established a close personal and
political friendship, with Arshinov helping Makhno develop and
deepen his anarchist ideas.
<p>
On March 2nd, 1917, after eight years and eight months in prison,
Makhno was released along with all other political prisoners as
a result of the February Revolution. After spending three weeks
in Moscow with the Moscow anarchists, Makhno returned to Hulyai
Pole. As the only political prisoner who was returned to his
family by the revolution, Makhno became very well-respected
in his home town. After years of imprisonment, suffering but
learning, Makhno was no longer an inexperienced young activist,
but a tested anarchist militant with both a powerful will and
strong ideas about social conflict and revolutionary politics.
Ideas which he immediately set about applying.
<p>
Once home in Hulyai Pole, Makhno immediately devoted himself
to revolutionary work. Unsurprisingly, the remaining members
of the anarchist group, as well as many peasants, came to
visit him. After discussing ideas with them, Makhno proposed
beginning organisational work immediately in order to strengthen
links between the peasants in Hulyai Pole and its region with
the anarchist group. On March 28-29, a Peasant Union was
created with Makhno as its chairman. Subsequently, he organised
similar unions in other villages and towns in the area. Makhno
also played a large part in a successful strike by wood and
metal workers at a factory owned by his old boss (this defeat
led to the other bosses capitulating to the workers as well).
At the same time, peasants refused to pay their rent to the
landlords. [Michael Malet, <b>Nestor Makhno in the Russian Civil
War</b>, p. 4] Regional assemblies of peasants were called, both
at Hulyai Pole  and elsewhere, and on August 5-7, the provincial
congress at Katerinoslav decided to reorganise the Peasant Unions
into Soviets of Peasants' and Workers' Deputies.
<p>
In this way, <i>"Makhno and his associates brought socio-political
issues into the daily life of the people, who in turn supported
his efforts, hoping to expedite the expropriation of large
estates."</i> [Michael Palij, <b>The Anarchism of Nestor Makhno</b>,
p. 71] In Hulyai Pole, the revolution was moving faster than
elsewhere (for example, while the Aleksandrovsk soviet supported
the actions of the Provisional Government during the July days
in Petrograd, a meeting in Hulyai Pole saluted the rebellious
soldiers and workers). Peasants were drawn to Hulyai Pole for
advice and help from the neighbouring <b>volosts</b> (administrative
districts). The peasantry wanted to seize the land of the large
landowners and the kulaks (rich peasants). Makhno presented this
demand at the first sessions of the regional Soviet, which were
held in Hulyai Pole. In August, Makhno called all the local
landlords and rich peasants (kulaks) together and all documents
concerning ownership (of land, livestock and equipment) were
taken from them. An inventory of this property was taken and
reported to the session of the local soviet and then at a
regional meeting. It was agreed that all land, livestock and
equipment was to be divided equally, the division to include
the former owners. This was the core of the agrarian program
of the movement, namely the liquidation of the property of the
landowners and kulaks. No-one could own more land than they
could work with their own labour. All this was in flat defiance
to the Provisional Government which was insisting that all such
questions be left to the Constituent Assembly. Free communes
were also created on ex-landlord estates.
<p>
Unsurprisingly, the implementation of these decisions was
delayed because of the opposition of the landlords and
kulaks, who organised themselves and appealed to the
provisional authorities. When General Kornilov tried
to march on Petrograd and take power, the Hulyai Pole soviet
took the initiative and formed a local <i>"Committee for the
Salvation of the Revolution"</i> headed by Makhno. The real
aim was to disarm the potential local enemy -- the landlords,
bourgeoisie, and kulaks -- as well as to expropriate their
ownership of the people's wealth: the land, factories, plants,
printing shops, theatres and so on. On 25 September a volost
congress of Soviets and peasant organisations in Hulyai Pole
proclaimed the confiscation of the landowners' land and its
transformation into social property. Raids on the estates of
landlords and rich peasants, including German colonists,
began and the expropriation of the expropriators began.
<p>
Makhno's activities came to a halt the following spring when
Lenin's government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This
treaty gave sizeable parts of the Russian Empire, including
the Ukraine, to Germany and Austria in return for peace. The
Treaty also saw the invasion of the Ukraine by large numbers
of German and Austrian troops, who conquered the entire
country in less than three months. Makhno succeeded in forming
several military units, consisting of 1700 men, but could
not stop Hulyai Pole being taken. After an anarchist congress
at the end of April in Taganrog, it was decided to organise
small combat units of five to ten peasants and workers, to
collect arms from the enemy and to prepare for a general peasant
uprising against the Austro-German troops and, finally, to
send a small group to Soviet Russia to see at first hand what
was happening there to both the revolution and to the anarchists
under Bolshevik rule. Makhno was part of that group.
<p>
By June, Makhno had arrived in Moscow. He immediately visited
a number of Russian anarchists (including his old friend Peter
Arshinov). The anarchist movement in Moscow was cowed, due to
a Cheka raid in April which broke the backbone of the movement,
so ending a political threat to the Bolsheviks from the left.
To Makhno, coming from an area where freedom of speech and
organisation was taken for granted, the low level of activity
came as a shock. He regarded Moscow as the capital of the
<i>"paper revolution,"</i> whose red tape and meaninglessness had
affected even the anarchists. Makhno also visited Peter
Kropotkin, asking his advice on revolutionary work and the
situation in the Ukraine. To Makhno, <i>"Moscow appeared as 
'the capital of the Paper Revolution,' a vast factory turning 
out empty resolutions and slogans while one political party, 
by means of force and fraud, elevated itself into the position 
of a ruling class."</i> [David Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 252]
<p>
While in Moscow, Makhno met with Lenin. This meeting came
about by chance. Visiting the Kremlin to obtain a permit
for free board and lodging, he met the chairman of the
All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets,
Jakov M. Sverdlov, who arranged for Makhno to meet Lenin.
Lenin asked Makhno, <i>"How did the peasants of your region
understand the slogan ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS IN THE
VILLAGES?"</i> Makhno states that Lenin <i>"was astonished"</i> at
his reply:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The peasants understood this slogan in their own way.
According to their interpretation, all power, in all
areas of life, must be identified with the consciousness
and will of the working people. The peasants understand
that the soviets of workers and peasants of village, country
and district are neither more nor less than the means of
revolutionary organisation and economic self-management of
working people in the struggle against the bourgeoisie and
its lackeys, the Right socialists and their coalition
government."</i>
</blockquote><p>
To this Lenin replied: <i>"Well, then, the peasants of your region
are infected with anarchism!"</i> [Nestor Makhno, <b>My Visit to the
Kremlin</b>, p. 18] Later in the interview, Lenin stated: <i>"Do the 
anarchists ever recognise their lack of realism in present-day 
life? Why, they don't even think of it."</i> Makhno replied:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"But I must tell you, comrade Lenin, that your assertion that
the anarchists don't understand 'the present' realistically,
that they have no real connection with it and so forth, is
fundamentally mistaken. The anarchist-communists in the
Ukraine . . . the anarchist-communists, I say, have already
given many proofs that they are firmly planted in 'the present.'
The whole struggle of the revolutionary Ukrainian countryside
against the Central Rada has been carried out under the
ideological guidance of the anarchist-communists and also
in part by the Socialist Revolutionaries . . . Your Bolsheviks
have scarcely any presence in our villages. Where they have
penetrated, their influence is minimal. Almost all the communes
or peasant associations in the Ukraine were formed at the
instigation of the anarchist-communists. The armed struggle
of the working people against the counter-revolution in
general and the Austro-German invasion in particular has
been undertaken with the ideological and organic guidance
of the anarchist-communists exclusively.
<p>
"Certainly it is not in your party's interest to give us
credit for all this, but these are the facts and you can't
dispute them. You know perfectly well, I assume, the
effective force and the fighting capacity of the free,
revolutionary forces of the Ukraine. It is not without
reason that you have evoked the courage with which they
have heroically defended the common revolutionary conquests.
Among them, at least one half have fought under the anarchist
banner. . .
<p>
"All this shows how mistaken you are, comrade Lenin, in alleging
that we, the anarchist-communists, don't have our feet on the
ground, that our attitude towards 'the present' is deplorable
and that we are too fond of dreaming about the future. What I
have said to you in the course of this interview cannot be
questioned because it is the truth. The account which I have
made to you contradicts the conclusions you expressed about
us. Everyone can see we are firmly planted in 'the present,'
that we are working and searching for the means to bring about
the future we desire, and that we are in fact dealing very
seriously with this problem."</i>
</blockquote><p>
Lenin replied: <i>"Perhaps I am mistaken."</i> [Makhno, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 24-5]
<p>
The Bolsheviks helped Makhno to return to the Ukraine. The
trip was accomplished with great difficulty. Once Makhno
was almost killed. He was arrested by Austro-German troops
and was carrying libertarian pamphlets at the time. A
Jewish inhabitant of Hulyai Pole, who had know Makhno
for some time, succeeded in saving him by paying a 
considerable sum of money for his liberation. Once back
in Hulyai-Pole, he started to organise resistance to the 
occupying forces of the Austro-Germans and their puppet regime
led by Hetman Skoropadsky. With the resistance, the Makhno
movement can be said to have arisen (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech63">section H.6.3</a> 
on way it was named after Makhno). From July 1918 to
August 1921, Makhno led the struggle for working class
freedom against all oppressors, whether Bolshevik, White
or Nationalist. During the course of this struggle, he
proved himself to be <i>"a guerrilla leader of quite outstanding 
ability."</i> [David Footman, <b>Civil War in Russia</b>, p. 245] The 
military history of this movement is discussed in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech64">section H.6.4</a>, 
while other aspects of the movement are discussed 
in other sections.
<p>
After the defeat of the Makhnovist movement in 1921, Makhno
was exiled in Western Europe. In 1925 he ended up in Paris,
where he lived for the rest of his life. While there, he 
remained active in the anarchist movement, with the pen
replacing the sabre (to use Alexander Skirda's colourful
expression). Makhno contributed articles to various
anarchist journals and in particular to <b>Delo Truda</b>, 
an anarchist-communist paper started in Paris by Peter 
Arshinov (many of these articles have been published 
in the book <b>The Struggle Against the State and Other 
Essays</b>). He remained active in the anarchist movement 
to the end.
<p>
In Paris, Makhno met the famous Spanish anarchists
Buenaventura Durruti and Francisco Ascaso in 1927. He
argued that in Spain <i>"conditions for a revolution with
a strong anarchist content are better than in Russia"</i>
because not only was there <i>"a proletariat and a peasantry
with a revolutionary tradition whose political maturity
is shown in its reactions,"</i> the Spanish anarchists had
<i>"a sense of organisation which we lacked in Russia. It is
organisation which assures the success in depth of all
revolutions."</i> Makhno recounted the activities of the
Hulyai Pole anarchist group and the events in revolutionary
Ukraine:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Our agrarian commune was at once the economic and political
vital centre of our social system. These communities were
not based on individual egoism but rested on principles of
communal, local and regional solidarity. In the same way
that the members of a community felt solidarity among
themselves, the communities were federated with each
other . . . It is said against our system that in the
Ukraine, that it was able to last because it was based
only on peasant foundations. It isn't true. Our communities
were mixed, agricultural-industrial, and, even, some of them
were only industrial. We were all fighters and workers. The
popular assembly made the decisions. In military life
it was the War Committee composed of delegates of all the
guerrilla detachments which acted. To sum up, everyone
took part in the collective work, to prevent the birth
of a managing class which would monopolise power. And we
were successful."</i> [quoted by Abel Paz, <b>Durruti: The People
Armed</b>, p. 88-9]
</blockquote><p>
As can be seen from the social revolution in Aragon, Durruti
took Makhno's advice seriously (see 
<a href="secI8.html">section I.8</a> for more
on the Spanish Revolution). Unsurprisingly, in 1936 a number
of veterans of Makhno's Insurgent Army went to fight in the
Durruti column. Sadly, Makhno's death in 1934 prevented his
own concluding statement to the two Spaniards: <i>"Makhno has
never refused to fight. If I am alive when you start your
struggle, I will be with you."</i> [quoted by Paz, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 90]
<p>
Makhno's most famous activity in exile was his association
with, and defence of, the <b>Organisational Platform of
the Libertarian Communists</b> (known as the <i>"Platform"</i>). 
As discussed in 
<a href="secJ3.html#secj33">section J.3.3</a>, 
the Platform was an attempt
to analyse what had gone wrong in the Russian Revolution
and suggested a much tighter anarchist organisation in
future. This idea provoked intense debate after its
publication, with the majority of anarchists rejecting
it (for Makhno's discussion with Malatesta on this issue,
see <b>The Anarchist Revolution</b> published by Freedom Press).
This debate often resulted in bitter polemics and left Makhno
somewhat isolated as some of his friends, like Voline,
opposed the Platform. However, he remained an anarchist
to his death in 1934.
<p>
Makhno died on the morning of July 25th and was cremated three
days later and his ashes placed in an urn within Pere Lachaise,
the cemetery of the Paris Commune. Five hundred Russian, French,
Spanish and Italian comrades attended the funeral, at which the
French anarchist Benar and Voline spoke (Voline used the occasion
to refute Bolshevik allegations of anti-Semitism). Makhno's wife,
Halyna, was too overcome to speak.
<p>
So ended the life of one great fighters for working-class freedom.
Little wonder Durruti's words to Makhno:
<p><blockquote><i>
"We have come to salute you, the symbol of all those revolutionaries
who struggled for the realisation of Anarchist ideas in Russia.
We also come to pay our respects to the rich experience of the
Ukraine."</i> [quoted by Abel Paz, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 88]
</blockquote><p>
For fuller details of Makhno's life, see the accounts by Peter
Arshinov (<b>The History of the Makhnovist Movement</b>), Paul Avrich
(<i>"Nestor Makhno: The Man and the Myth,"</i> in <b>Anarchist Portraits</b>),
Michael Palij, (<b>The Anarchism of Nestor Makhno</b>) and Michael Malet
(<b>Nestor Makhno in the Russian Revolution</b>).
<p>
<a name="sech62"><h2>H.6.2 Why was the movement named after Makhno?</h2>
<p>
Officially, the Makhnovist movement was called the <b>Revolutionary
Insurrectionary Army of the Ukraine</b>. In practice, it was usually
called the <i>"Makhno movement"</i> (<b><i>"Makhnovshchina"</i></b> 
in Russian) or the
Makhnovists. Unsurprisingly, Trotsky placed great significance on
this:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The anti-popular character of the Makhno movement is most clearly
revealed in the fact that the army of Hulyai Pole is actually
called 'Makhno's Army'. <b>There, armed men are united not around a
programme, not around an ideological banner, but around a man.</b>"</i>
[<b>The Makhno Movement</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Ignoring the irony of a self-proclaimed Marxist (and later
Leninist and founder of Trotskyism!) making such a comment, 
we can only indicate why the Makhnovists called themselves 
by that name:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Because, first, in the terrible days of reaction in the
Ukraine, we saw in our ranks an unfailing friend and leader,
MAKHNO, whose voice of protest against any kind of coercion
of the working people rang out in all the Ukraine, calling
for a battle against all oppressors, pillagers and political
charlatans who betray us; and who is now marching together
with us in our common ranks unwavering toward the final
goal: liberation of the working people from any kind of
oppression."</i> [contained in Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 272]
</blockquote><p>
The two of the anarchists who took part in the movement 
and later wrote its history concur. Voline argues that 
the reason why the movement was known as the <i>"Makhnovist
movement"</i> was because the <i>"most important role in this
work of unification [of the peasant masses] and in the 
general development of the revolutionary insurrection in
the southern Ukraine was performed by the detachment of
partisans guided by a peasant native to the region:
Nestor Makhno."</i> [<b>The Unknown Revolution</b>, p. 551] 
<i>"From the first days of the movement,"</i> Arshinov notes, 
<i>"up to its culminating point, when the peasants vanquished
the landowners, Makhno played a preponderant and central
role to such an extent that the whole insurgent region
and the most heroic moments of the struggle are linked
to his name. Later, when the insurrection had triumphed
completely over the Skoropadsky counter-revolution and
the region was threatened by Denikin, Makhno became the
rallying point for millions of peasants in several regions."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 50]
<p>
It must be stressed that Nestor Mahkno was not the boss of
the Mahknovista. He was not their ruler or general. As such,
the fact that the Makhnovists were (unofficially) named after
Makhno does not imply that it was his personal fiefdom, nor
that those involved followed him as an individual. Rather,
the movement was named after him because he was universally
respected within it as a leading militant. This fact also
explains why Makhno was nicknamed <i>"Batko"</i> (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech63">next section</a>).
<p>
This can be seen from how the movement was organised and was
run. As we discuss in <a href="secH6.html#sech65">section H.6.5</a>, 
it was organised in a
fundamentally democratic way, by means of mass assemblies
of insurgents, elected officers, regular insurgent, peasant
and worker congresses and an elected <i>"Revolutionary Military 
Soviet."</i> The driving force in the Makhnovist movement was not, 
therefore, Makhno but rather the anarchist ideas of 
self-management. As Trotsky himself was aware, the 
Makhnovists were influenced by anarchist ideas:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Makhno and his companions-in-arms are not non-party people
at all. They are all of the Anarchist persuasion, and send
out circulars and letters summoning Anarchists to Hulyai Pole
so as to organise their own Anarchist power there."</i> [Trotsky,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>]
</blockquote><p>
As part of this support for anarchist theory, the Makhnovists
organised insurgent, peasant and worker conferences to discuss
key issues in the revolution and the activities of the Makhno
movement itself. Three such conferences had been before Trotsky
wrote his diatribe <b>The Makhno Movement</b> on June 2nd, 1919. A
fourth one was called for June 15th, which Trotsky promptly
banned (on pain of death) on June 4th (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a> for
full details). Unlike the Bolshevik dictatorship, the Makhnovists
took every possibility of ensuring the participation of the working
people they were fighting for in the revolution. The calling
of congresses by the Makhnovists shows clearly that the movement
did not, as Trotsky asserted, follow a man, but rather ideas.
<p>
As Voline argued, <i>"the movement would have existed without
Makhno, since the living forces, the living masses who 
created and developed the movement, and who brought Makhno
forward merely as their talented military leader, would
have existed without Makhno."</i> Ultimately, the term 
<i>"Makhnovshchina"</i> is used <i>"to describe a unique, completely
original and independent revolutionary movement of the working
class which gradually becomes conscious of itself and steps
out on the broad arena of historical activity."</i> [<i>"preface,"</i>
Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 19]
<p>
<a name="sech63"><h2>H.6.3 Why was Makhno called <i>"Batko"</i>?</h2>
<p>
Nestor Makhno was often called in the movement <i>"Batko"</i>,
which is Ukrainian for <i>"father."</i> Peter Arshinov explains
how and in what circumstances Makhno was given this
name:
<p><blockquote><i>
"It was . . . in September 1918, that Makhno received
the nickname <b>Batko</b> -- general leader of the revolutionary
insurrection in the Ukraine. This took place in the
following circumstances. Local <b>pomeshchiks</b> [landed gentry]
in the major centres, the <b>kulaks</b> [rich peasants], and
the German authorities [the Ukraine being occupied by them
at the time], decided to eliminate Makhno and his
detachment [of partisans] at any cost. The <b>pomeshchiks</b> 
created a special volunteer detachment consisting of their
own sons and those of <b>kulaks</b> for the decisive struggle
against Makhno. On the 30th of September this detachment,
with the help of the Austro-Germans, corned Makhno in the
region of Bol'shaya Mihhailovka, setting up strong military
posts on all roads. At this time Makhno found himself with
only 30 partisans and one machine gun. He was forced to
make a fighting retreat, manoeuvring in the midst of
numerous enemy forces. Arriving in the forest of Dibrivki,
Makhno found himself in an extremely difficult situation.
The paths of retreat were occupied by the enemy. It was
impossible for the detachment to break through, and
escaping individually was beneath their revolutionary
dignity. No-one in the detachment would agree to abandon
their leader so as to save himself. After some reflection,
two days later, Makhno decided to return to the village
of Bol'shaya Mikhailovka (Dibrivki). Leaving the forest
the partisans met peasants who came to warn them that
there were large enemy forces in Dibrivki and that they
should make haste to go elsewhere. This information did
not stop Makhno and his partisans . . . [and] they set
out for Bol'shaya Mikhailovka. They approached the village
guardedly. Makhno himself and a few of his comrades went
on reconnaissance and saw a large enemy camp on the
church square, dozens of machine guns, hundreds of
saddle horses, and groups of cavalry. Peasants informed
them that a battalion of Austrians and a special
<b>pomeshchik</b> detachment were in the village. Retreat
was impossible. Then Makhno, with his usual stubbornness
and determination, said to his companions: 'Well, my
friends! We should all be ready to die on this spot . . .'
The movement was ominous, the men were firm and full of
enthusiasm. All 30 saw only one path before them -- the
path toward the enemy, who had about a thousand well-armed
men, and they all realised that this meant certain death
for them. All were moved, but none lost courage.
<p>
"It was at this movement that one of the partisans, Shchus',
turned to Makhno and said:
<p>
"'From now on you will be <b>Batko</b> to all of us, and we
vow to die with you in the ranks of the insurgents.'
<p>
"Then the whole detachment swore never to abandon the
insurgent ranks, and to consider Makhno the general
<b>Batko</b> of the entire revolutionary insurrection. Then
they prepared to attack. Shchus' with five to seven
men was assigned to attack the flank of the enemy.
Makhno with the others attacked from the front. With
a ferocious 'Hurrah!' the partisans threw themselves
headlong against the enemy, smiting the very centre
with sabres, rifles and revolvers. The attack had a
shattering effect. The enemy, who were expecting nothing
of the kind, were bowled over and began to flee in panic,
saving themselves in groups and individually, abandoning
arms, machine guns and horses. Without leaving them
time to come to themselves, to become aware of the
number of attacking forces, and to pass to a
counter-attack, the insurgents chased them in separate
groups, cutting them down in full gallop. A part of
the <b>pomeshchik</b> detachment fled to the Volchya River,
where they were drowned by peasants who had joined
the battle. The enemy's defeat was complete.
<p>
"Local peasants and detachments of revolutionary insurgents
came from all directions to triumphantly acclaim the heroes.
They unanimously agreed to consider Makhno as <b>Batko</b> of
the entire revolutionary insurrection in the Urkaine."</i>
[Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 59-60]
</blockquote><p>
This was how Makhno acquired the nickname <i>"Batko,"</i> which
stuck to him thereafter.
<p>
It should be stressed that <i>"Batko"</i> was a nickname and
did not signify any form of autocratic or hierarchical
position within the movement:
<p><blockquote><i>
"During the civil war, it signified the leadership and control
of a specific area and its population in both civil and
military fields. The central point of the use of the word,
rather than 'leader' or 'dictator' is that the leadership
is usually based on respect, as in Makhno's case, and
always on intimate knowledge of the home territory."</i>
[Michael Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 17]
</blockquote><p>
That this was a nickname can be seen from the fact that
<i>"[a]fter 1920 he was usually called 'Malyi' ('Shorty'),
a nickname referring to his short stature, which was
introduced by chance by one of the insurgents."</i> [Peter
Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 226] To attach significance to
the fact that the peasants called Makhno <i>"Batko"</i> (as
the Bolsheviks did) simply signifies an ignorance of
the Makhnovist movement and its social environment.
<p>
<a name="sech64"><h2>H.6.4 Can you give a short overview of the Makhnovist movement?</h2>
<p>
This section of the FAQ gives a short overview of the Makhnovists
from July 1918 (when Makhno returned to the Ukraine) and August
1921, when it was finally defeated by Bolshevik armed force.
It will be primarily a military history, with the socio-political
aspects of the movement discussed in sections 
<a href="secH6.html#sech66">H.6.6</a> (its theory)
and 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">H.6.7</a> (its practice). For details of the rise of influence
of Makhno after his release from prison in 1917, see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech61">section H.6.1</a>.
<p>
The history of the Makhno movement can be broken up into 
roughly four periods -- from July 1918 to February 1919, then 
the rest of 1919, then January to October 1920 and, finally,
from October 1920 to August 1921. This section will give an
overview of each period in turn.
<p>
By the time Makhno arrived back in the Ukraine in July, 1918,
opposition to the German-backed Hetman's regime was mounting and
was frequently met with brutal repression, including reprisal
executions. Makhno was forced to live underground and on the
move, secretly meeting with others, with the Austrians always
close behind. Voline recounts Makhno's activities at this
time:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Back in Hulyai Pole, Makhno came to the decision to die or
obtain victory for the peasants . . . He did not delay starting
his mission openly among the great masses of peasants,
speaking at improvised meetings, writing and distributing
letters and tracts. By pen and mouth, he called on the peasants
for a decisive struggle against the power of Skoropadsky and
the landlords. He declared tirelessly that the workers should
now take their fates into their own hands and not let their
freedom to act be taken from them . . .
<p>
"Besides his appeals, Makhno proceeded immediately to direct
action. His first concern was to form a revolutionary military
unit, sufficiently strong to guarantee freedom of propaganda
and action in the villages and towns and at the same time
to begin guerrilla operations. This unit was quickly organised
.. . .
<p>
"His first unit undertook two urgent tasks, namely, pursuing
energetically the work of propaganda and organisation among
the peasants and carrying out a stubborn armed struggle against
all their enemies. The guiding principle of this merciless
struggle was as follows. No lord who persecuted the peasants,
no policeman of the Hetman, no Russian or German officer who
was an implacable enemy of the peasants, deserved any pity;
he must be destroyed. All who participated in the oppression
of the poor peasants and workers, all who sought to suppress
their rights, to exploit their labour, should be executed.
<p>
"Within two or three weeks, the unit had already become the
terror, not only of the local bourgeoisie, but also of the
Austro-German authorities."</i> [<b>The Unknown Revolution</b>, p. 558]
</blockquote><p>
The night of 26 September saw Hulyai Pole briefly liberated
from Hetman and Austrian troops by the actions of Makhno's
troops in association with local people. On the retreat
from this Makhno's small band grew when he met the partisan
troops headed by Schus. When the Austrians cornered them,
they launched a surprise counter attack and routed the
opposition. This became known as the battle of Dibrivki
and it is from this date, 5 October 1918 that Makhno is
given the nickname 'Batko', meaning <i>"father"</i> (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech63">section H.6.3</a> 
for details). For the next two months already-
existing partisan groups sought out and joined the growing
army.
<p>
In this period, Makhno, with portable printing equipment, was
raiding the occupying garrisons and troop trains in the
Southern Ukraine. Normal practice was to execute the
officers and free the troops. In this period the moral of
the occupying troops had crumbled and revolutionary propaganda
had made inroads into many units. This was also affecting the
nationalist troops and on 20 November the first nationalist
unit defected to the Makhnovists. This encouraged them to
return to Hulyai Pole on 27 December and there the
insurrectionary Staff was formed, this body was to lead the
army in the coming years and consisted initially of four old
and trusted friends and three political comrades. The Makhnovist
presence allowed the setting up of a local soviet and the
re-opening of the anarchist clubs. German forces started
pulling back to the major cities and on December 14 the
Hetman fled Kiyiv. In the resulting vacuum, the Makhnovists
rapidly expanded taking in most of the South East Ukraine
and setting up fronts against local whites. The Ukrainian
nationalists had taken power in the rest of the Ukraine under
Petliura and on the 15th December the Makhnovists agreed to
make common cause with them against the Whites. In return
for arms and ammunition they allowed the nationalists to
mobilise in the Makhnovist area (while engaging in propaganda
directed at the mobilised troops on their way by train to
Katerynoslav).
<p>
This was a temporary and pragmatic arrangement directed against
the greater enemy of the Whites. However, the nationalists were
no friends of working-class autonomy. The nationalists banned
elections to the Katerynoslav soviet on 6th of December and the
provincial soviet at Kharkiv meet with a similar fate on the 22nd.
[Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 22] At the same time as their agreement
with the nationalists, the Makhnovista had set up links with
Bolshevik partisans to the south and before dawn on the 26th
the Bolshevik and Makhnovista forces launched a joint attack
on the nationalists at Katerynoslav. The city was taken but
held only briefly when a nationalist attack on the 29th drove
out all the insurgent forces with heavy losses. In the south,
White reinforcements led to the insurgents being pushed North
and losing Hulyai Pole.
<p>
1919 opened with the Makhnovists organising a congress of front-
unit delegates to discuss the progress of the struggle. Over
forty delegates attended and a committee of five was elected,
along with an operational staff to take charge of the southern
front and its rear. It was agreed that local soviets were to
be supported in every way, with no military violence directed
towards them permitted. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 25]
<p>
By the end of January, white reinforcements were landing in the
ports of the south. On January 22nd, a worker, peasant and insurgent
congress was held at Velyka Mykhailivka. A resolution was passed
urging an end to conflict between Makhnovists, Nationalists and
Bolsheviks. An alliance was signed between the Makhnovists and
the Bolsheviks in early February. This agreement ensured that
the Partisan units entered the Red Army as distinct formations,
with their internal organisation (including the election of
commanders) intact, and the Red Army in the area formed a brigade
to be known as <i>"the third Transdnieper Batko Makhno brigade"</i> with
Makhno as commander. The Whites were repulsed and Hulyai Pole
retaken and the front pushed some distance eastwards.
<p>
Thus the military situation had improved by the time of the
second worker, peasant and insurgent congress held at Hulyai
Pole on February 12th. This congress set up a <i>"Revolutionary
Military Soviet"</i> to co-ordinate civilian affairs and execute
its decisions. The congress resolved that <i>"the land belongs
to nobody"</i> and should be cultivated without the use of hired
labour. It also accepted a resolution opposing anti-Jewish
pogroms. Also passed was a resolution which sharply attacked
the Bolsheviks, caused by their behaviour since their arrival
in the Ukraine. [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 154-5] A report by the
commander of the 2nd Red Army, Skatchco, indicates the nature
of this behaviour:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Little local Chekas are undertaking a relentless campaign
against the Makhnovists, even when they are shedding their
blood at the front. They are hunting them down from the rear
and persecuting them solely for belonging to the Makhnovist
movement . . . It cannot continue like this: the activity of
the local Chekas is deliberately ruining the front, reducing
all military successes to nothing, and contributing to the
creation of a counter-revolution that neither Denikin nor
Krasnov [Hetman of the Don Cossacks] could have achieved. . ."</i>
[quoted by Alexander Skirda, <b>The Rehabilitation of Makhno</b>,
p. 346]
</blockquote><p>
Unsurprisingly, the peasants reacted strongly to the
Bolshevik regime. Their <i>"agricultural policy and terrorism"</i> 
ensured that <i>"by the middle of 1919, all peasants, rich and 
poor, distrusted the Bolsheviks."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 156]
In April alone, there were 93 separate armed rebellions 
against the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine. The <i>"more oppressive
the Bolshevik policy, the more the peasants supported Makhno.
Consequently, the Bolsheviks began to organise more 
systematically against the Makhno movement, both as an
ideology and as a social movement."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 157]
<p>
In mid-March the Red Army attacked eastwards. In the course of
this Dybenko, commander of the Trandneiper division, recommended
one of Makhno's commanders for a medal. Then the Makhnovists
attacked the Donbas (east) to relieve the pressure on the Soviet
8th Army caused by a White advance. They took Mariupol following
a White incursion at the beginning of April. A White
counter-offensive resulted in the Red 9th division panicking,
allowing the Whites into Makhno's rear. Red Commander Dybenko
refused orders to come to the Makhnovists aid as he was more
interested in the Crimea (south). [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 31]
<p>
This period saw the most sustained freedom for the region around
Hulyai Pole. It had been free of enemy occupation since January,
allowing constructive activity to restart. The inhabitants of
the free region <i>"created new forms of social organisation: 
free workers' communes and Soviets."</i> [Voline, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 574]  
The Revolutionary Military Soviet (RMS) called a third 
regional worker, peasant and insurgent congresses had on 
April 10th to review progress and to look forward. This 
was the largest congress to date, with delegates from 72 
volosts containing two million people. The Bolshevik military 
commander Dybenko tried to ban it. The Makhnovists, needless 
to say, ignored him and the RMS made a famous reply to his 
arrogance (see <a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a> 
for more details). 
<p>
It was during this period (late 1918 and early 1919), that
the <b><i>Nabat</i></b> anarchist federation was organised. <i>"Anarchist 
influence was reported from Aleksandrovsk and other centres,"</i>
notes David Footman, <i>"Anarchists were holding a conference 
in Kursk at about the same time and in one of their resolutions 
it was stated that 'the Ukrainian Revolution will have great 
chances of rapidly becoming Anarchist in its ideas.' The 
position called for renewed Bolshevik measures against
the Anarchists. <b>Nabat</b>, the main Anarchist newspaper in the
Ukraine, was suppressed, and its editorial board dispersed
under threat of arrest."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 270] Daniel Guerin
has reproduced two documents from the Nabat federation in
volume II of his <b>No Gods, No Masters</b>.
<p>
The anarchist influence in and around Hulyai Pole also worried
the Bolsheviks. They started a slander campaign against the
Makhnovists, to the alarm of Antonov, the overall front commander,
who replied in response to an article in Kharkiv Izvestiya:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The article is the most perverted fiction and does not in
the least correspond to the existing situation. The insurgents
fighting the whites are on a level with the Red Army men, but
are in a far worse condition for supplies."</i> [quoted by Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 33]
</blockquote><p>
In a postscript, Antonov added that the press campaign had
certainly helped turn Makhno anti-Soviet (i.e. anti-Bolshevik,
as Makhno supported free soviets).
<p>
At the beginning of May, another partisan commander,
Hryhoriyiv, revolted against the Bolsheviks in the
central Ukraine. Hryhoriyiv, like the Makhnovists, had
joined with the Bolsheviks when they had re-entered the
Ukraine, however his social and political background was
totally different. Hryhoriyiv was a former Tsarist officer,
who had commanded numerous troops under the Petliurist
authority and joined the Bolsheviks once that that regime's
armed forces had disintegrated. Arshinov notes that he had 
<i>"never been a revolutionary"</i> and that there had been a 
<i>"great deal of adventurism in his joining the ranks of 
the Petliurists and then the ranks of the Red Army."</i> His 
temperament was mixed, consisting of <i>"a certain amount 
of sympathy for oppressed peasants, authoritarianism, 
the extravagance of a Cossack chieftain, nationalist 
sentiments and anti-Semitism."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 110]
<p>
Hryhoriyov started his revolt by issuing a Universal, or
declaration to the Ukrainian people, which contained a
virulent attack on the Bolsheviks as well as one explicit
anti-Semitic reference, but without mention of Makhno.
The height of the revolt was his appearance in the
suburbs of Katerynoslav, which he was stopped from
taking. He started a pogrom in Yelyzavethrad which
claimed three thousand victims.
<p>
Once the Makhnovists had been informed of this rebellion,
an enlarged staff and RMS meeting was held. A telegram was
sent to the soldiers at the front urging them to hold the
front and another to the Bolsheviks with a similar message.
A few days latter, when more information had been received, 
a proclamation was issued against Hyyhoriyiv attacking him 
for seeking to impose a new authority on the working class, 
for encouraging toiling people to attack each other, and 
for inciting pogroms. [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 112 and 
pp. 114-7]
<p>
While it took a fortnight for Red forces to contain Hryhoriyiv
without trouble, this involved using all available reverses
of all three Ukrainian armies. This left none for Makhno's
hard-pressed forces at the front. In addition, Dybenko withdrew
a front-line regiment from Makhno for use against the revolt
and diverted reinforcements from the Crimea which were
intended for Makhno. Despite this Makhnos forces (now numbering
20,000) were ordered to resume the attack on the whites. This
was due to <i>"unremitting pressure from Moscow to take Taganrog
and Rostov."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 36] The Makhnovist advance
stopped due to the non-fulfilment of an urgent order for 
ammunition.
<p>
On the 19th of May, a White counter-attack not only stopped 
the advance of the Red Army, it forced the 9th division 
(and then the Makhnovists) to retreat. On the 29th, the Whites 
launched a further offensive against the northern Donblas, 
opening a gap between the 13th and 8th Red Armies. Due 
to the gravity of the situation, the RSV summoned a 
fourth congress for June 15th. Trotsky not only banned 
this congress but took the lead in slandering the 
Makhnovists and calling for their elimination (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a> 
for details). As well as <i>"this deliberately 
false agitational campaign, the [Bolshevik] blockade of 
the region was carried to the limit . . . The provisioning 
of shells, cartridges and other indispensable equipment
which was used by daily at the front, ceased completely."</i>
[Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 118] Palij confirms this, noting
that <i>"the supplies of arms and other war material to
Makhno was stopped, thus weakening the Makhno forces
vis-a-vis the Denikin troops."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 175] David
Footman also notes that the Bolshevik <i>"hold-back of supplies
for the Insurgents developed into a blockade of the area.
Makhnovite units at the front ran short of ammunition."</i>
He also mentions that <i>"[i]n the latter part of May the
<b>Cheka</b> sent over two agents to assassinate Makhno."</i>
[<b>Civil War in Russia</b>, p. 271] 
<p>
Needless to say, Trotsky blamed this White success to the
Makhnovists, arguing it was retreating constantly before 
even the slightest attack by the Whites. However, this was
not the case. Analysing these events in July 1919, Antonov
(the commander of the Southern Front before Trotsky replaced
him) wrote:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Above all, the facts witness that the affirmations about the
weakness of the most contaminated region -- that from Hulyai
Pole to Berdiansk -- are without foundation . . . It is not
because we ourselves have been better organised militarily,
but because those troops were directly defending their native
place . . . Makhno stayed at the front, in spite of the flight
of the neighbouring 9th division, following by the whole of
the 13th army . . . The reasons for the defeat on the
southern front do not rest at all in the existence of
'Ukrainian partisans' . . . above all it must be attributed
to the machinery of the southern front, in not keeping its
fighting spirit and reinforcing its revolutionary discipline."</i>
[quoted by Alexander Skirda, <b>The Rehabilitation of Makhno</b>,
p. 348]
</blockquote><p>
This, incidentally, tallies with Arshinov's account that
<i>"hordes of Cossacks had overrun the region, <b>not through
the insurrectionary front but from the left flank where
the Red Army was stationed.</b>"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 126] 
For what it is worth, General Denikin himself concurs with this
account of events, noting that by the 4th of June his
forces <i>"repulsed the routed and demoralised contingents
of the Eight and Thirteenth Soviet Armies . . . The
resistance of the Thirteenth Army being completely 
broken."</i> He notes that an attempt by the Fourteenth
Army (which Makhno's troops were part of) to attack on 
the flank came to nothing. He only mentions Makhno when 
he recounts that <i>"General Shkuro's division routed Makhno
at Hulyai Pole."</i> [<b>The White Armies</b>, p. 272] With 
Whites broken through on their flank and with limited 
ammunition and other supplies (thanks to the Bolsheviks),
the Makhnovists had no choice but to retreat.
<p>
It was around this time that Trotsky, in a public meeting 
in Kharkov, <i>"announced that it were better to permit the 
Whites to remain in the Ukraine than to suffer Makhno. The 
presence of the Whites, he said, would influence the Ukrainian 
peasantry in favour of the Soviet Government, whereas Makhno 
and his <b>povstantsi</b>, would never make peace with the 
Bolsheviki; they would attempt to possess themselves of 
some territory and to practise their ideas, which would be 
a constant menace to the Communist Government."</i> [Emma Goldman,
<b>My Disillusionment in Russia</b>, p. 63]
<p>
Due to this Bolshevik betrayal, the Makhnovist sector was
in very grave danger. At Hulyai Pole, a peasant regiment
was scraped together in 24 hours in an attempt to save the
town. It encountered White Cossacks ten miles away from
the town and was mown down. The Whites entered Hulyai
Pole the next day (June 6th) and gave it a good going over.
On the same day, the Bolsheviks issued an order for Makhno's
arrest. Makhno was warned and put in his resignation, arguing
that it was <i>"an inviolable right of the workers and peasants,
a right won by the revolution, to call congresses on their
own account, to discuss their affairs."</i> Combined with the
<i>"hostile attitude"</i> of the Bolshevik authorities towards him,
which would lead <i>"unavoidably to the creation of a special
internal front,"</i> Makhno believed it was his duty to do
what he could to avert it, and so he left his post. [quoted
by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 129] While Makhno escaped, his
staff was not so lucky. Five of them were arrested the
same day and shot as a result of Trotsky's order to ban
the fourth congress.
<p>
Leaving his troops in the frontline, Makhno left with a small
cavalry detachment. While leaving the rest under Red command,
Makhno made a secret agreement with his regimental
commanders to await a message from him to leave the Red
Army and join up against with the partisans. On the 9th and
10th of June, Hulyai Pole was retaken by Bolshevik forces,
who took the opportunity to attack and sack the Makhnovist
communes. [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 86f]
<p>
After intense fighting, the Whites finally split the Southern
Front into three on June 21st. Needless to say, Trotsky and
the Bolsheviks blamed this on the partisan forces (even
stating that they had <i>"opened the front"</i> to the 
Whites). This was nonsense, as noted above. 
<p>
After leaving the front, Makhno took refuge in the
Chorno-Znamenski forest before continuing the retreat north
and skirmishing with Red Army units. This brought him into
the territory held by Hryhoriyiv and this, in turn, meant
they had to proceed carefully. While the Makhnovists had
made a public denunciation of Hryhoriyiv, Makhno was
approaching the centre of Hryhoriyov's remaining influence.
Surrounded by enemies, Makhno had little choice but to
begin discussions with Hryhoriyiv. This was problematic
to say the least. Hryhoriyiv's revolt had been tinged with
anti-Semitism and had seen at least one major pogrom. Being
faced with Hryhoriyov's anti-Semitism and his proposal for 
an alliance with the Whites against the Reds led the
Makhnovists to plot his downfall at a meeting planned
for the 27th July.
<p>
This meeting had originally been called to discuss the
current tasks of the insurgents in the Ukraine and was
attended by nearly 20,000 insurgents and local peasants.
Hryhoriyiv spoke first, arguing that the most urgent
task was to chase out the Bolsheviks and that they
should ally themselves with any anti-Red forces available
(a clear reference to the Whites under Denikin). The
Makhnovist Chubenko spoke next, declaring that the
<i>"struggle against the Bolsheviks could be revolutionary
only if it were carried out in the name of the social
revolution. An alliance with the worst enemies of
the people -- with generals -- could only be a
counter-revolutionary and criminal adventure."</i>
Following him, Makhno <i>"demanded before the entire congress"</i>
that Hryhoriyiv <i>"immediately answer for the appalling
pogrom of Jews he had organised in Elisavetgrad in May,
1919, as well as other anti-Semitic actions."</i> [Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 136]
<p>
Seeing that things were going badly, Hryhoriyiv went
for his revolver, but was shot by a Makhnovist. Makhno
finished him off. Makhnovist guards disarmed the leading
Hryhoriyivists. Then Makhno, Chubenko and others justified
the killing before the mass meeting, which approved the
act passing a resolution that stated that Hryhoriyiv's
death was <i>"an historical and necessary fact, for his 
policy, acts and aims were counter-revolutionary and mainly
directed to helping Denikin and other counter-revolutionaries,
as is proved by his Jewish pogroms."</i> [quoted by Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 42] The troops under Hryhoriyiv became part
of the general Insurrectionary Army.
<p>
At the end of July, Makhno recalled the troops he had earlier
left in the Red Army and by mid-August the forces met up,
becoming an army of some 15,000. At Mykolaiv, the Red Army units
were defecting to Makhno in large numbers due in part to the
feeling that the Red Army were abandoning the defence of the
Ukraine. This was the start of Denikin's massive push north and
Petliura's push east. By the end of August, Makhno felt strong
enough to go on the offensive against the Whites. Superior
White forces pushed the Makhnovists further and further west,
away from their home region. <i>"Denikin,"</i> in Voline's words, 
<i>"not only made war on the army as such, but also on the whole
peasant population. In addition to the usual persecutions
and beatings, the villages he occupied were burnt and
wrecked. The greater part of the peasants' dwellings were
looted and wrecked. Hundreds of peasants were shot. The
women maltreated, and nearly all the Jewish women . . .
were raped."</i> This repression <i>"obliged the inhabitants of the
villages threatened by the approach of the Denikinists to
abandon their hearths and flee. Thus the Makhnovist army
was joined and followed in their retreat by thousands of
peaant families in flight from their homes with their
livestock and belongings. It was a veritable migration.
An enormous mass of men, women and children trailed after
the army in its slow retreat towards the west, a retreat
which gradually extended over hundreds of kilometres."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 607]
<p>
Meeting the Nationalists in mid-September, it was agreed on both
sides that fighting would only aid the Whites and so the Makhnovists
entered a non-aggression pact with Petliura. This enabled them to
offload over 1,000 wounded. The Makhnovists continued their
propaganda campaign against the Nationalists, however. By the
24th of September, intelligence reports suggested that White forces
had appeared to the west of their current position (i.e. where
the Nationalists where). The Makhnovists concluded that the only
way this could have happened was if the Nationalists had allowed
the Whites to cross their territory (the Nationalists disputed
this, pointing to the fighting that had started two days before
between them and the Whites).
<p>
This meant that the Makhnovists were forced to fight the 
numerically superior Whites. After two days of desperate fighting, 
the Whites were routed and two regiments were destroyed at the 
battle of Peregonovka village. Makhno's forces then conducted an 
incredibly rapid advance in three directions helped by their 
mobile cart-transported infantry, in three days smashing three 
reserve regiments and at the greatest point advancing 235 miles 
east. On the 6th October a drive to the south started which took 
key White ports and captured a huge quantity of equipment including 
600 trucks of British-supplied ammunition and an aeroplane. This 
was disastrous for Denikin whose forces had reached the northernmost 
point on their advance on Moscow, for these ports were key for his 
supply routes. The advance continued, cutting the railway route 
and so stopping all shells reaching Denikin's Moscow front.
<p>
Denikin was forced to send some of his best troops from the Moscow
front to drive back the Makhnovists and British boats were sent to
towns on the coast where Makhno might retreat through. The key
city of Katerinoslav was taken with the aid of a workers' uprising on
November 9th and held for a month before the advancing Whites and a
typhoid epidemic which was to devastate the Makhnovista ranks by the
end of the year forced them out of the city. In December, the Red Army
advance made possible by Makhno's devastation of Denikin's supply lines
continued.
<p>
Thus Voline:
<p><blockquote><i>
"It is necessary to emphasise here the historic fact that the
honour of having annihilated the Denikinist counter-revolution
in the autumn of 1919, belongs entirely to the Makhnovist
Insurrectionary Army. If the insurgents had not won the decisive
victory of Peregonovka, and had not continued to sap the bases
in Denikin's rear, destroying his supply service for artillery,
food and ammunition, the Whites would probably have entered
Moscow in December 1919 at the latest."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 625]
</blockquote><p>
In December the Red Army advance made possible by Makhno's
devastation of Denikin's supply lines continued. By early
January the Reds had split White forces into three and their
troops had reached Katerynoslav. The attitude of the Bolsheviks
to the Makhnovists had already been decided. On December 
12th, 1919, Trotsky stated that when the two 
forces met, the Bolsheviks had <i>"an order . . . from which 
we must not retreat one single step."</i> While we discuss this 
secret order in more depth in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a>, we will note 
here that it gave partisans the option of becoming <i>"fully 
subordinate to [Bolshevik] command"</i> or <i>"be subjected to
ruthless punishment."</i> [<b>How the Revolution Armed</b>, 
vol. II., pp. 110-1 and p. 442] Another secret order to
the 45th division issued on January 4th instructed them to
<i>"annihilate Makhnovist bands"</i> and <i>"disarm the population."</i>
The 41st was sent <i>"into reserve"</i> to the Hulyai Pole region.
This was <i>"five days before Makhno was outlawed, and shows that
the Bolshevik command had a clear view of Makhno's future,
even if the latter did not."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 54]
<p>
Unaware of this, the Makhnovista put out propaganda leaflets
directed at the Red Army rank and file, appealing to them as
comrades. At Aleksandrovsk on December 5th talks occurred
between a representative of the Makhnovists and the commander
of the 45th division's 1st brigade. These broke down when
Makhno was ordered to the Polish front, which the Makhnovists
refused. On January 9th, Yegorov, commander of the Red Army
southern front, used this pretext to outlaw Makhno. This
outlawing was engineered deliberately by the Bolsheviks:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The author of the order realised at that time there was no
real war between the Poles and the Bolsheviks at that time
and he also knew that Makhno would not abandon his region
.. . . Uborevich [the author] explained that 'an appropriate
reaction by Makhno to this order would give us the chance
to have accurate grounds for our next steps' . . . [He]
concluded: 'The order is a certain political manoeuvre and,
at the very least, we expect positive results from Makhno's
realisation of this.'"</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
</blockquote><p>
In addition, war with Poland did not break out until the
end of April, over three months later.
<p>
Needless to say, the Makhnovists <b>did</b> realise the political
motivations behind the order. As Arshinov notes, <i>"[s]ending
the insurrectionary army to the Polish front meant
removing from the Ukraine the main nerve centre of the
revolutionary insurrection. This was precisely what the
Bolsheviks wanted: they would then be absolute masters of
the rebellious region, and the Makhnovists were perfectly
aware of this."</i> Moreover, the Makhnovists considered the
move <i>"physically impossible"</i> as <i>"half the men, the entire
staff and the commander himself were in hospital with
typhus."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 163]
<p>
This was the signal for nine months of bitter fighting between
the Red Army and the Makhnovists. Military events in this period
are confused, with the Red Army claiming victory again and again,
only for the Makhnovists to appear somewhere else. Hulyai Pole
changed hands on a couple of occasions. The Bolsheviks did not
use local troops in this campaign, due to fear of fraternisation.
In addition, they used <i>"new tactics,"</i> and <i>"attacked not only
Makhno's partisans, but also the villages and towns in which
the population was sympathetic toward Makhno. They shot
ordinary soldiers as well as their commanders, destroying
their houses, confiscating their properties and persecuting
their families. Moreover the Bolsheviks conducted mass arrests
of innocent peasants who were suspected of collaborating in
some way with the partisans. It is impossible to determine
the casualties involved."</i> They also set up <i>"Committees of
the Poor"</i> as part of the Bolshevik administrative apparatus,
which acted as <i>"informers helping the Bolshevik secret police
in its persecution of the partisans, their families and
supporters, even to the extent of hunting down and executing
wounded partisans."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 212-3]
<p>
In addition to this suffering, the Bolshevik decision to
attack Makhno rather than push into the Crimea was also to
prolong the civil war by nine more months. The Whites
re-organised themselves under General Wrangel, who began a
limited offensive in June. Indeed, the Bolshevik <i>"policy of
terror and exploitation turned almost all segments of Ukrainian
society against the Bolsheviks, substantially strengthened
the Makhno movement, and consequently facilitated the
advance of the reorganised anti-Bolshevik force of General
Wrangel from the Crimea into South Ukraine, the Makhno
region."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 214]
<p>
It was widely believed on the White side that Makhno was ready
to co-operate with them and, desperate for men, Wrangel decided
to appeal to the Makhnovists for an alliance. Their response
was simple and direct, they decided to immediately execute his
delegate and publish both his letter and a response in the
Makhnovist paper <i>"The Road to Freedom."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 60] Of course, this did not stop the Bolsheviks later
claiming such an alliance existed!
<p>
Ironically enough, at a general assembly of insurgents, it
was decided that <i>"the destruction of Wrangel"</i> would <i>"eliminate
a threat to the revolution"</i> and so free <i>"all of Russia"</i>
from <i>"the counter-revolutionary barrage."</i> The mass of workers
and peasants <i>"urgently needed an end to all those wars"</i> and
so they proposed <i>"to the Communists that hostilities between
them and the Makhnovists be suspended in order that they
might wipe out Wrangel. In July and August, 1920, telegrams
to this effect were sent to Moscow and Kharkov."</i> There was
no reply and the Bolsheviks <i>"continued their war against the
Makhnovists, and they also continued their previous campaign
of lies and calumnies against them."</i> [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 176]
<p>
In July and August the Makhnovists went on the offensive,
raiding the Bolsheviks in three provinces and attacking the
Red Army infrastructure. Wrangel began another offensive in
September, driving the Red Army back again and again and
threatening the Makhnovist area. Faced with Wrangel's
success, the Bolsheviks started to rethink their position
on Makhno, although on the 24th of September the Bolshevik
commander-in-chief Kamenev was still declaring the need
for <i>"the final liquidation of the Makhno band."</i> [Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 62] A few days later, the Bolsheviks changed
their mind and negotiations began.
<p>
So, by October 1920, the success of the Wrangel offensive was
again forcing the Bolsheviks and Makhnovists to put aside
their differences and take on the common enemy. A deal was
reached and on October 2nd, Frunze, the new Red Army commander
of the Southern Front, ordered a cessation of hostilities
against the Makhnovists. A statement from the Soviet of
the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (Makhnovists)
explained the treaty as necessitated by the White offensive
but also representing a victory over the <i>"high-handed
communists and commissars"</i> in forcing them to recognise
the <i>"free insurrection."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 64]
<p>
The agreement was signed between October 10th and 15th.
It consisted of two parts, a Political and a Military
agreement (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a> 
for full details). The
Political agreement simply gave the Makhnovists and
anarchists the rights they should have had according to the
Soviet Constitution. The Military agreement resulted in
the Makhnovists becoming part of the Red Army, keeping
their established internal structure and, significantly,
stopped them from accepting into their ranks any Red Army
detachments or deserters therefrom. According to
Bolshevik sources, <i>"there was never the slightest
intention on the Bolshevik side of keeping to the
agreement once its military value had passed."</i>
[David Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 296]
<p>
Even before the agreement came into effect, the Makhnovists
were fighting alongside the Bolsheviks and between October
4 and 17, Hulyai Pole was retaken by the Aleksandrovsk group,
which included 10,000 Makhnovista. On October 22, Aleksandrovsk
was taken with 4,000 white prisoners and from then to early
November the Makhnovists cut through Wrangel's rear, hoping to
cut off his retreat by seizing the Crimean passes. The Whites
fought a skilful rearguard which together with the new White
fortifications on the peninsula held up the advance. But by
the 11th, his hold in the Crimea gone, Wrangel had no choice
but to order a general retreat to the ports and an evacuation.
Even the Bolsheviks had to acknowledge that the <i>"Makhnovist
units fulfilled their military tasks with no less heroism
than the Red Army units."</i> [quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 69]
<p>
On hearing this success on 16th November, the reaction of the
Makhnovista still at Hulyai Pole was cynical but realistic:
<i>"It's the end of the agreement. I'll bet you anything that
the Bolsheviks will be on us within the week."</i> [quoted by
Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 70] They were not wrong. Already Frunze,
the Red Army commander, had ordered two entire cavalry armies
to concentrate near Hulyai Pole at the same time as he ordered
the Makhnovist forces to the Caucasus Front! By 24th November
Frunze was preparing for the treachery to come, in Order 00149
(which was not sent to the Makhnovist units) saying if they
had not departed to the Caucasus front by the 26th <i>"the Red
regiments of the front, who have now finished with Wrangel,
will start speaking a different language to these Makhnovist
youths."</i> [quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 71]
<p>
Of course this treachery went right to the top, just before the
26th <i>"deadline"</i> (which Makhno, not having seen the orders, 
was unaware of), Lenin urged Rakovski, head of the Ukrainian
government to <i>"[k]eep a close watch on all anarchists and
prepare documents of a criminal nature as soon as possible,
on the basis of which charges can be preferred against them."</i>
[quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 71] Indeed, it later appeared
the treachery had been prepared from at least 14th or 16th
November, as prisoners captured later stated they had
received undated anti-Makhnovist proclamations on that
date. [Malet, <b>Ibid.</b>]
<p>
At 3am on the 26th the attacks on the Makhnovists started.
Alongside this one of the Makhnovist commanders was lured
to a meeting by the Bolsheviks, seized and shot. Some
Makhnovist forces managed to break through the encircling
Bolsheviks but only after taking heavy losses -- of the
2,000-4,000 cavalry at Simferopol, only 250 escaped. By the
1st December, Rakovsi reported the imminent demise of the
Makhnovists to the Kharkiv soviet only to have to eat his
words when Makhno routed the 42nd division on the 6th,
retaking Hulyai Pole and 6,000 prisoners, of whom 2,000
joined his forces. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 72] Simultaneously 
with the attack on the Makhnovists, the Bolsheviks rounded 
up all known anarchists in the Ukraine (many of whom were 
in Kharkiv waiting for a legally organised <b>Nabat</b> conference
to begin).
<p>
In the resulting struggle between the two forces, 
as Palij notes, the <i>"support of the population was a
significant advantage to Makhno, for they supplied 
the partisans with needed material, including horses
and food, while the Red troops operated among a foreign
and hostile people."</i> The Bolsheviks found that the peasants 
not only refused to supply them with goods, they also 
refused to answer their questions or, at best, gave 
answers which were vague and confusing. <i>"In contrast
to the Bolsheviks, Makhno partisans received detailed,
accurate information from the population at all times."</i>
[Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 236-7] 
<p>
Frunze brought in extra forces and ordered both the
<i>"annihilation of the Makhnovists"</i> and total disarming of
the region. Plagued by desertions, it was also ordered that
all Makhnovist prisoners were to be shot, to discourage
the local population and Red Army soldiers thinking of
joining them. There is also evidence of unrest in the
Azov fleet, with acts of sabotage being carried out by
sailors to prevent their weapons being used against the
Makhnovists. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 73] While it was common 
practice for the Bolsheviks to shoot all Makhnovist prisoners, 
the <i>"existence of roundup detachments at the end of 1920, 
whose task was to re-collect prisoners freed by the Makhnovists"</i> 
shows that the Makhnovists did not reciprocate in kind. 
[Malet <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 129]
<p>
At the end of 1920, the Makhnovists had ten to fifteen
thousand troops and the <i>"growing strength of the Makhno
army and its successes caused serious concern in the
Bolshevik regime, so it was decided to increase the
number of troops opposing Makhno."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 237] All the pressure exerted by the Bolsheviks was
paying off. Although Makhno repeatedly broke through
numerous mass encirclements and picked up deserters from
the Red Army, his forces were being eroded by the far
greater numbers employed against them. In addition,
<i>"the Red command worked out new plans to fight Makhno
by stationing whole regiments, primarily cavalry, in
the occupied villages, to terrorise the peasants and
prevent them from supporting Makhno. . . Also the
Cheka punitive units were constantly trailing the
partisans, executing Makhno's sympathisers and the
partisans' families."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 238] In
spite of the difficult conditions, Makhno was still
able to attract some Red Army soldiers and even whole
units to his side. For example, <i>"when the partisans
were fighting Budenny's Fourth Cavalry Division, their
First Brigade, commanded by Maslak, joined Makhno."</i> 
[Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 239]
<p>
Makhno was forced to leave his home areas of operations
and flee east, then west again. By early January his
forces had fought 24 battles in 24 days. This pattern
continued throughout March and April into May. In June, the
Bolsheviks changed their strategy to one of predicting where
Makhno was heading and garrisoning troops in that area. In
one battle on 15 June, Frunze himself was almost captured.
Despite this, the insurgents were very weak and their
peasant base was exhausted by years of war and civil war.
In the most sympathetic areas, Red Army troops were garrisoned
on the peasants. Thus Palij:
<p><blockquote><i>
"[T]hrough combat losses, hardship, and sickness, the
number of Makhno partisans was diminishing and they 
were cut off from their main sources of recruits and 
supplies. The Ukrainian peasants were tried of the endless
terror caused by successive occupation of village after
village by the Red troops and the Cheka. The continuous
fighting and requisitions were leaving the peasants 
with little food and horses for the partisans. They could
not live in a state of permanent revolution. Moreover, 
there was extreme drought and consequently a bad harvest
in Ukraine, especially in the region of the Makhno movement."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 240-1]
</blockquote><p>
The state terrorism and the summer drought caused Makhno 
to give up the struggle in mid-August and instead fight
his way to the Dniester with the last of his forces and
cross into Romania on August 26. Some of his forces
which stayed behind were still active for a short time.
In November 1921 the Cheka seized 20 machine guns and
2,833 rifles in the new Zaporizhya province alone.
<p>
For more details of the history of the movement, Michael
Malet's <b>Nestor Makhno in the Russian Revolution</b> is
an excellent summary. Michael Palij's <b>The Anarchism of
Nestor Makhno</b> is also worth consulting, as are the
anarchist histories of Voline and Arshinov.
<p>
<a name="sech65"><h2>H.6.5 How were the Makhnovists organised?</h2>
<p>
Being influenced by anarchist ideas, the Makhnovists were
organised along libertarian lines. This meant that in both
civilian and military areas, self-management was practised.
This section discusses the military organisation, while
the next discusses the social aspect of the movement.
<p>
By practising self-management, the Makhnovists offered a
completely different model of military organisation to that
of both the Red Army and traditional military forces. While
the army structure changed depending on its circumstances,
the core ideas remained. These were as follows:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Makhnovist insurrectionary army was organised according
to three fundamental principles: voluntary enlistment, the
electoral principle, and self-discipline.
<p>
"<b>Voluntary enlistment</b> meant that the army was composed
only of revolutionary fighters who entered it of their
own free will.
<p>
"<b>The electoral principle</b> meant that the commanders of
all units of the army, including the staff, as well as
all the men who held other positions in the army, were
either elected or accepted by the insurgents of the unit
in question or by the whole army.
<p>
"<b>Self-discipline</b> meant that all the rules of discipline
were drawn up by commissions of insurgents, then approved
by general assemblies of the various units; once approved,
they were rigorously observed on the individual responsibility
of each insurgent and each commander."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 96]
</blockquote><p>
Voline paints a similar picture. He also notes that the
electoral principle was sometimes violated and commanders
appointed <i>"in urgent situations by the commander himself,"</i>
although such people had to be <i>"accepted without reservation"</i>
by <i>"the insurgents of the unit in question or by the whole
army."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 584]
<p>
Thus the Makhnovist army, bar some deviation provoked
by circumstances, was a fundamentally democratic organisation.
The guerrillas elected the officers of their detachments, and,
at mass assemblies and congresses, decided policy and discipline
for the army. In the words of historian Michael Palij:
<p><blockquote><i>
"As the Makhno army gradually grew, it assumed a more
regular army organisation. Each tactical unit was
composed of three subordinate units: a division consisted
of three brigades; a brigade, of three regiments; a
regiment, of three  battalions. Theoretically commanders
were elected; in practice, however, the top commanders
were usually carefully selected by Makhno from among his
close friends. As a rule, they were all equal and if
several units fought together the top commanders
commanded jointly. The army was nominally headed by
a Revolutionary Military Council of about ten to
twenty members . . . Like the commanders, the council
members were elected, but some were appointed by Makhno
.. . . There also was an elected cultural section in the
army. Its aim was to conduct political and ideological
propaganda among the partisans and peasants."</i> [Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 108-9]
</blockquote><p>
The Revolutionary Military Council was elected and directly
accountable to the regional workers, peasants and insurgent
congresses. It was designed to co-ordinate the local
soviets and execute the decisions of the regional congresses.
<p>
Hence Voline:
<p><blockquote><i>
"This council embraced the whole free region. It was supposed
to carry out all the economic, political, social and military
decisions made at the congress. It was thus, in a certain
sense, the supreme executive of the whole movement. <b>But it
was not at all an authoritarian organ.</b> Only strictly
executive functions were assigned to it. It confined itself
to carrying out the instructions and decisions of the
congress. At any moment, it could be dissolved by the
congress and cease to exist."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 577]
</blockquote><p>
As such, when Palij notes that this council <i>"had no decisive
voice in the army's actions,"</i> he misses the point of the
council. [Palij, <b>Ibid.</b>] It did not determine the military
affairs of the army, but rather the interaction of the
military and civilians and made sure that the decisions of
congresses were executed. Thus the whole army was nominally
under the control of the regional congresses of workers,
peasants and insurgents. At these congresses, delegates of
the toiling people decided upon the policy to be pursued by
the Makhnovist Army. The Revolutionary Military Soviet existed
to oversee that decisions were implemented, not to determine
the military activities of the troops.
<p>
It should also be noted that women not only supported the
Makhnovists, they also <i>"fought alongside the men."</i> [Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 145] However, <i>"the participation of women in
the movement (by all accounts, quite substantial)"</i> needs
<i>"further investigation."</i> [Serge Cipko, <i>"Nestor Makhno: A
Mini-Historiography of the Anarchist Revolution in Ukraine,
1917-1921,"</i> pp. 57-75, <b>The Raven</b>, no. 13, p. 75]
<p>
At its height, the army was made up of infantry, cavalry,
artillery, machine-gun units, and special branches, including
an intelligence service. As the success of partisan warfare
depends upon mobility, the army gradually mounted its
infantry in light carts (called <i>"tachanka"</i>) during 1918-19.
As Michael Malet notes, this was a <i>"novel tactic"</i> and Makhno
<i>"could be described as the inventor of the motorised division
before the car came into general use."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 85] The
tachanka was used to transport as many troops as possible,
giving the Makhnovists mobile infantry which could keep up
with the cavalry. In addition, a machine-gun was sometimes
mounted in the rear (in autumn 1919, the 1st machine-gun
regiment consisted of 120 guns, all mounted on tachanki).
<p>
For the most part the Makhnovist army was a volunteer army,
unlike all others operating in the Russian Civil War. However,
at times of crisis attempts were made to mobilise troops.
For example, the Second regional congress agreed that a
<i>"general voluntary and equalitarian mobilisation"</i> should
take place. This meant that this appeal, <i>"sanctioned by the
moral authority of the congress, emphasised the need for
fresh troops in the insurrectionary army, no-one was compelled
to enlist."</i> [Voline, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 577] The Congress itself
passed a resolution after a long and passionate debate that
stated it <i>"rejected 'compulsory' mobilisation, opting for
an 'obligatory' one; that is, each peasant who is able to
carry arms, should recognise his obligation to enlist in
the ranks of the partisans and to defend the interests of
the entire toiling people of Ukraine."</i> [quoted by Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 155] There were far more volunteers than
arms, the opposite of what occurred to both the Reds
and Whites during the Civil War. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 106]
<p>
The third Congress decided to conduct a voluntary mobilisation
all those born between 1889 and 1898. This congress told them
to assemble at certain points, organise themselves and elect
their officers. Another mobilisation decided at the Aleksandrovsk
congress never took place. How far the Makhnovists were forced
to conscript troops is still a matter of debate. Paul Avrich,
for example, states that <i>"voluntary mobilisation"</i> in reality
<i>"meant outright conscription, as all able-bodied men were
required to serve."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 114] On the other side,
surviving leaflets from 1920 <i>"are in the nature of appeals
to join up, not instructions."</i> [Malet,<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 105]
Trotsky, ironically, noted that <i>"Makhno does not have
general mobilisations, and indeed these would be impossible,
as he lacks the necessary apparatus."</i> [quoted by Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 106] It is probably right to say that the
Congresses desired that every able-bodied man join the
Makhnovist army, but they simply did not have the means
to enforce that desire and that the Makhnovists tried their
best to avoid conscription by appealing to the peasants'
revolutionary conscience, with some success.
<p>
As well as the military organisation, there was also an 
explicitly anarchist federation operating in the Ukraine 
at the same time. The first conference to organise a
<i>"Confederation of Anarchist Organisations of the Ukraine"</i>
was held between November 12th to 16th, 1918. The new
federation was named <i>"Nabat"</i> (Alarm) and had a six-person
Secretariat. Kharkiv was chosen as its headquarters, while
it had groups in other major Ukrainian cities (including
Kyiv, Odessa and Katerynoslav). The final organisation of
the Nabat was accomplished at a conference held in April
2-7, 1919. The federation aimed to form a <i>"united anarchism"</i>
and guaranteed a substantial degree of autonomy for every
participating group and individual. A number of newspapers 
appeared in a Ukrainian towns and cities (mostly entitled
<b>Nabat</b>), as did leaflets and pamphlets. There was a main
weekly paper (called <b>Nabat</b>) which was concerned largely
with anarchist theory. This completed the Makhnovist 
papers <b>Road to Freedom</b> (which was often daily, sometimes
weekly and dealt with libertarian ideas, everyday problems 
and information on partisan activities) and <b>The Makhnovist 
Voice</b> (which dealt primarily with the interests, problems,
and tasks of the Makhnovist movement and its army). The
Nabat organisation was also published a pamphlet dealing 
with the Makhnovist movement's problems, the economic 
organisation of the region, the free soviets, the social
basis of the society that was to be built, and the 
problem of defence. 
<p>
Unsurprisingly, the Nabat federation and the Makhnovists
worked together closely, with Nabat members worked in
the army (particularly its cultural section). Some of
its members were also elected to the Makhnovist Revolutionary
Military Soviet. It should be noted that the Nabat federation
gained a number of experienced anarchists from Soviet Russia,
who fled to the Ukraine to escape Bolshevik repression. The
Nabat shared the fortunes of the Makhno movement. It carried
on its work freely as long as the region was controlled by
the Makhnovist Army, but when Bolshevik or White forces 
prevailed, the anarchists were forced underground. The
movement was finally crushed in November 1920, when the
Bolsheviks betrayed the Makhnovists. 
<p>
As can be seen, the Makhnovists implemented to a large degree 
the anarchist idea of self-managed, horizontally federated
associations (when possible, of course). Both the two major
organisational layers to the Makhnovist structure (the army
and the congresses) were federated horizontally and the "top"
structure was essentially a mass peasant, worker and guerrilla
decision-making coalition. In other words, the masses took
decisions at the "top" level that the Revolutionary Military
Soviet and the Makhnovist army were bound to follow. The army
was answerable to the local Soviets and to the congresses of
soviets and, as we discuss in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>, the Makhnovists
called working-people and insurgent congresses whenever they
could.
<p>
The Makhnovist movement was, fundamentally, a working class
movement. It was <i>"one of the very few revolutionary movements
to be led and controlled throughout by members of 'the toiling
masses.'"</i> [David Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 245] It applied its
principles of working class autonomy and self-organisation
as far as it could. Unlike the Red Army, it was predominantly
organised from the bottom up, rejecting the use of Tsarist
officers, appointed commanders, and other "top-down" ways of
the Red Army (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">section H.6.14</a> 
for further discussion of
the differences between the two forces).
<p>
The Makhnovist army was not by any means a perfect model
of anarchist military organisation. However, compared to
the Red Army, its violations of principle are small and
hardly detract from their accomplishment of applying
anarchist ideas in often extremely difficult circumstances.
<p>
<a name="sech66"><h2>H.6.6 Did the Makhnovists have a constructive social programme?</h2>
<p>
Yes, they did. The Makhnovists spent a great deal of energy and
effort in developing, propagating and explaining their ideas on
how a free society should be created and run. As Michael Malet
noted, the <i>"leading Makhnovists had definite ideas about the ideal
form of social organisation."</i> [<b>Nestor Makhno in the Russian
Civil War</b>, p. 107] Moreover, as we discuss in the 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">next section</a>,
they also successfully applied these ideas when and where they
could.
<p>
So what was their social programme? Being anarchists, it comprised
two parts, namely political and economic aspects. The Makhnovists
aimed for a true social revolution in which the working classes
(both urban and rural) could actively manage their own affairs and 
society. As such, their social programme reflected the fact 
that oppression has its roots in both political and economic power 
and so aimed at eliminating both the state and private property. 
As the core of their social ideas was the simple principle of 
working-class autonomy, the idea that the liberation of 
working-class people must be the task of the working-class
people themselves. This vision is at the heart of anarchism
and was expressed most elegantly by Makhno:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Conquer or die -- such is the dilemma that faces the Ukrainian
peasants and workers at this historic moment . . . But we will
not conquer in order to repeat the errors of the past years,
the error of putting our fate into the hands of new masters;
we will conquer in order to take our destinies into our own
hands, to conduct our lives according to our own will and
our own conception of the truth."</i> [quoted by Peter Arshinov,
<b>The History of the Makhnovist Movement</b>, p. 58]
</blockquote><p>
As such, the Makhnovists were extremely hostile to the idea
of state power, recognising it simply as a means by which the
majority are ruled by the few. Equally, they were opposed to
wage slavery (to private or state bosses), recognising that as
long as the workers do not manage their own work, they can
never be free. As they put it, their goals could only be
achieved by an <i>"implacable revolution and consistent struggle
against all lies, arbitrariness and coercion, wherever they
come from, a struggle to the death, a struggle for free
speech, for the righteous cause, a struggle with weapons
in hand. Only through the abolition of all rulers, through
the destruction of the whole foundation of their lies, in
state affairs as well as in political and economic affairs.
And only through the social revolution can the genuine
Worker-Peasant soviet system be realised and can we arrive
at SOCIALISM."</i> [contained in Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 273]
They, like other anarchists and the Kronstadt rebels, termed
this programme of working class self-management the <b><i>"third
revolution."</i></b>
<p>
We will discuss the political aspect of the Makhnovist programme
first, then its economic one. However, the Maknovists considered
(correctly) that both aspects could not be separated. As they
put it: <i>"We will not lay down our arms until we have wiped out
once and for all every political and economic oppression and
until genuine equality and brotherhood is established in the
land."</i> [contained in Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 281] We split the
aspects simply to aid the presentation of their ideas.
<p>
At the core of their ideas was what they termed the <i><b>"Free
Soviet System"</b></i> (or <b><i>"free soviets"</i></b> for short). It was this
system which would allow the working class to create and run
a new society. As they put it:
<p><blockquote><i>
"[The] Makhnovists realise that the working people are no
longer a flock of sheep to be ordered about by anyone. We
consider the working people capable of building, on their
own and without parties, commissars or generals, their own
FREE SOVIET SYSTEM, in which those who are elected to the
Soviet will not, as now [under the Bolsheviks], command
and order us, but on the contrary, will be only the
executors of the decisions made in our own workers'
gatherings and conferences."</i> [contained in Peter Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 280-1]
</blockquote><p>
Thus the key idea advocated by the leading Makhnovista for
social organisation and decision-making was the <i>"free toilers'
soviet of peasant and worker organisations."</i> This meant they
were to be independent of all central authority and composed
of those who worked, and not political parties. They were to
federate on a local, then regional and then national level,
and power within the federation was to be horizontal and not
vertical. [Michael Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 107] Such a system
was in opposition to the Bolshevik practice of Soviets defined
and dominated by political parties with a vertical decision-
making structure that reached its highest point in the Bolshevik
Central Committee.
<p>
Thus, for the Makhnovists, the soviet system would be a "bottom-up"
system, one designed not to empower a few party leaders at the
centre but rather a means by which working people could manage
their own affairs. As the put it, the <i>"soviet system is not the
power of the social-democratic Communist-Bolsheviks who now
call themselves a soviet power; rather it is the supreme form
of non-authoritarian anti-state socialism, which expresses itself
in the organisation of a free, happy and independent system of
social life for the working people."</i> This would be based on the
<i>"principles of solidarity, friendship and equality."</i> This
meant that in the Makhnovist system of free soviets, the 
<i>"working people themselves must freely choose their own soviets,
which will carry out the will and desires of the working
people themselvs, that is to say, ADMINISTRATIVE, not ruling
soviets."</i> [contained in Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 272-3]
<p>
As David Footman summarises, Makhno's <i>"ultimate aims were
simple. All instruments of government were to be destroyed.
All political parties were to be opposed, as all of them
were working for some or other form of new government in
which the party members would assume the role of a ruling
class. All social and economic affairs were to be settled
in friendly discussion between freely elected representatives
of the toiling masses."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 247]
<p>
Hence the Makhnovist social organisation was a federation of
self-managed workers' and peasants' councils (soviets), which
would <i>"be only the executors of the decisions made in our
workers' gatherings and conferences."</i> [contained in Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 281] In other words, an anarchist system based
on mass assemblies and decision-making from the bottom up.
<p>
Economically, as is to be expected, the Makhnovists opposed 
private property, capitalism and wage-slavery. Their economic 
ideas were summarised in a Makhnovist declaration as follows:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The lands of the service gentry, of the monasteries, of the
princes and other enemies of the toiling masses, with all
their livestock and goods, are passed on to the use of those
peasants who support themselves solely through their own
labour. This transfer will be carried out in an orderly
fashion determined in common at peasant assemblies, which
must remember in this matter not only each of their own
personal interests, but also bear in mind the common
interest of all the oppressed, working peasantry.
<p>
"Factories, workshops, mines and other tools and means of
production become the property of the working class as a
whole, which will run all enterprises themselves, through
their trade unions, getting production under way and striving
to tie together all industry in the country in a single,
unitary organisation."</i> [contained in Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 266]
</blockquote><p>
They continually stressed that the <i>"land, the factories, the
workshops, the mines, the railroads and the other wealth of
the people must belong to the working people themselves,
to those who work in them, that is to say, they must be
socialised."</i> This meant a system of use-rights, as <i>"the
land, the mines, the factories, the workshops, the
railroads, and so on, will belong neither to individuals
nor to the government, but solely to those who work with
them."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 273 and p. 281]
<p>
In industry, such a system clearly implied a system of
worker's self-management within a system of federated
factory committees or union branches. On the land, it
meant the end of landlordism, with peasants being entitled
to as much land and equipment as they could cultivate
without the use of hired labour. As a Makhnovist congress
in 1919 resolved:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The land question should be decided on a Ukraine-wide
scale at an all-Ukrainian congress of peasants on the
following basis: in the interests of socialism and the
struggle against the bourgeoisie, all land should be
transferred to the hands of the toiling peasants. According
to the principle that 'the land belongs to nobody' and
can be used only by those who care about it, who cultivate
it, the land should be transferred to the toiling peasantry
of Ukraine for their use without pay according to the norm
of equal distribution."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 155]
</blockquote><p>
In addition to advocating the abolition of private property
in land and the end of wage labour by distributing land to
those who worked it, the Makhnovists also supported the
forming of <i>"free"</i> or <i>"working"</i> communes. Like their policy
of land distribution, it also aimed to benefit the poorer
peasants and rural wage labourers. The <i>"free commune"</i> was
a voluntary association of rural workers who took over an
expropriated estate and managed the land in common. The
commune was managed by a general meeting of all its members
and based on the liberty, equality and solidarity of its members.
<p>
Clearly, in terms of their economic policies, the Makhnovists
proposed a clear and viable alternative to both rural and
urban capitalism, namely workers' self-management. Industry
and land would be socialised, with the actual management of
production resting in the hands of the workers themselves
and co-ordinated by federated workers' organisations. On the
land, they proposed the creation of voluntary communes which
would enable the benefits of co-operative labour to be applied.
Like their political ideas, their economic ideas were designed
to ensure the freedom of working people and the end of hierarchy
in all aspects of society.
<p>
In summary, the Makhnovist had a constructive social ideas which
aimed to ensure the total economic and political emancipation of
the working people. Their vision of a free society was based on
a federation of free, self-managed soviets, the socialisation of 
the means of life and workers' self-management of production by
a federation of labour unions or factory committees. As the
black flags they carried into battle read, <i>"liberty or death"</i>
and <i>"the land to the peasants, the factories to the workers."</i>
<p>
<a name="sech67"><h2>H.6.7 Did they apply their ideas in practice?</h2>
<p>
Yes, the Makhnovists consistently applied their political and social
ideas when they had the opportunity to do so. Unlike the Bolsheviks,
who quickly turned away from their stated aims of soviet democracy
and workers' control in favour of dictatorship by the Bolshevik party,
the Makhnovists did all in their power to encourage, create and defend
working-class freedom and self-management (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">section H.6.14</a> for
further discussion). In the words of historian Christopher Reed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"there can be no question that the anarchists did everything
they could to free the peasants and workers and give them the
opportunity to develop their own forms of collective control
over land and factories . . . [T]he Ukrainian anarchists fought
under the slogan of land to the peasants, factories to the
workers and power to the soviets. Wherever they had influence
they supported the setting up of communes and soviets. They
introduced safeguards intended to protect direct self-government
from organised interference . . . They conducted relentless
class war against landlords, officers, factory owners and the
commercial classes could expect short shrift from Makhno and
his men, especially if they had taken up arms against the
people or, like the Whites . . ., had been responsible for
looting, pogroms and vicious reprisals against unarmed peasants
on a colossal scale."</i> [<b>From Tsar to Soviets</b>, p. 263]
</blockquote><p>
As we discussed in the 
<a href="secH6.html#sech66">last section</a>, the core ideas which
inspired the Makhnovists were working-class self-determination
and self-management. They aimed at the creation of a <i>"free
soviet system"</i> and the end of capitalism by rural and industrial
self-management. It is to the credit of the Makhnovists that
they applied these ideas in practice rather than talking about
high principles and doing the exact opposite.
<p>
In practice, of course, the war left little room for much
construction work. As Voline pointed out, one of the key
disadvantages of the movement was the <i>"almost continual
necessity of fighting and defending itself against all
kinds of enemies, without being able to concentrate on
peaceful and truly positive works."</i> [<b>The Unknown Revolution</b>,
p. 571] However, in the disruption of the Civil War the
Makhnovists applied their ideas when and where they could.
<p>
Within the army, as we discussed in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech65">section H.6.5</a>, the
insurgent troops elected their own commanders and had
regular mass assemblies to discuss policy and the agreed
norms of conduct within it. In civilian matters, the
Makhnovists <b>from the start</b> encouraged working-class
self-organisation and self-government. By late 1917,
in the area around Hulyai Pole <i>"the toiling masses
proceeded . . . to consolidate their revolution. The
little factories functioned . . . under the control of
the workers. The estates were split up . . . among the
peasants . . . a certain number of agricultural communes
were formed."</i> [David Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 248]
<p>
The aim of the Makhnovists was to <i>"transfer all the lands
owned by the gentry, monasteries, and the state into the
hands of peasants or to organise, if they wished, peasant
communes."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 70] This policy was
introduced from the start, and by the autumn of 1917, all
land, equipment and livestock around Hulyai Pole had been
expropriated from the gentry and kulaks and placed in the
hands of working peasants. Land reform had been achieved
by the direct action of the peasantry.
<p>
However, <i>"many of the peasants understood that the task
was not finished, that it was not enough to appropriate
a plot of land and be content with it. From the hardships
of their lives they learned that enemies were watching
from all sides, and that they must stick together. In
several places there were attempts to organise social
life communally."</i> [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 86]
<p>
In line with social anarchist theory, the Makhnovists
also tried to introduce collective forms of farming. These
experiments in collective working and living were called
<i>"free communes."</i> Despite the difficult military situation
communes were established, principally near Hulyai Pole, in
the autumn of 1917. This activity was resumed in February to
March of 1918. They re-appeared in early 1919, once the threat
of counter-revolution had been (temporarily) defeated.
<p>
There were four of these communes within five miles of Hulyai
Pole itself and many more further afield. According to Makhno,
these agricultural communes <i>"were in most cases organised by
peasants, though sometimes their composition was a mixture
of peasants and workmen [sic!]. Their organisation was based
on equality and solidarity of the members. All members of
these communes -- both men and women -- applied themselves
willingly to their tasks, whether in the field or the household."</i>
Unlike many communes, people were given the personal space
they desired, so <i>"any members of the commune who wanted
to cook separately for themselves and their children, or
to take food from the communal kitchens and eat it in their
own quarters, met with no objection from the other members."</i>
The management of each commune <i>"was conducted by a general
meeting of all its members."</i> In addition, the communes
decided to introducing anarchist schooling based on the
ideas of Franciso Ferrer (see 
<a href="secJ5.html#secj513">section J.5.13</a> for details).
Makhno himself worked on one for two days a week for a
period. [Makhno, quoted by Paul Avrich, <b>Anarchists in
the Russian Revolution</b>, pp. 131]
<p>
They were set up on the former estates of landlords, and
consisted of around 10 families or 100 to 300 people and
although each had peasant anarchist members not all the
members were anarchists. Makhno worked on Commune No. 1,
which was on the estate of former landlord Klassen. When
re-founded in 1919 this commune was named after Rosa
Luxemburg, the Marxist revolutionary who had recently
been murdered in the German revolution. It was a success,
for by the spring sowing it had grown from nine families
to 285 members working 340 acres of land. The communes
represented a way that poor and middle peasants could
pool resources to work estates that they could not have
worked otherwise and, as Michael Malet points out, <i>"they
were organised from the bottom up, not the top down."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 121]
<p>
However, as Makhno himself acknowledged, while the <i>"majority
of the toiling population saw in the organisation of rural
communes the healthy germ of a new social life"</i> which
could provide a <i>"model of a free and communal form of
life,"</i> the <i>"mass of people did not go over to it."</i> They
cited as their reasons <i>"the advance of the German and
Austrian armies, their own lack of organisation, and their
inability to defend this order against the new 'revolutionary'
[Bolshevik] and counter-revolutionary authorities. For
this reason the toiling population of the district limited
their revolutionary activity to supporting in every way
those bold springs."</i> [Makhno, quoted by Avrich, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 132] Given that the communes were finally destroyed
by White and Red forces in June 1919, their caution
was justified. After this, peace did not return long
enough for the experiment to be restarted.
<p>
As Michael Malet argues:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Very few peasant movements in history have been able to
show in practice the sort of society and type of landholding
they would like to see. The Makhnovist movement is proof
that peasant revolutionaries can put forward positive,
practical ideas."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 121]
</blockquote><p>
The Makhnovist experiments, it should be noted, have strong
similarities to the rural revolution during the Spanish
Revolution of 1936 (see sections 
<a href="secI8.html#seci85">I.8.5</a> and 
<a href="secI8.html#seci86">I.8.6</a> for more
details).
<p>
As well as implementing their economic ideas on workers'
self-management, land reform and free communes, the
Makhnovists also organised regional congresses as well
as local soviets. Most of the activity happened in and
around Hulyai Pole, the focal point of the movement.This
was in accord with their vision of a <i>"free soviet system."</i>
Needless to say, the congresses could only be called
during periods of relative calm (i.e. the Makhnovist
home area was not occupied by hostile forces) and so
congresses of insurgents, peasants and workers were
called in early 1919 and another in October of that
year. The actual dates of the regional congresses were:
<p><blockquote>
23 January 1919 at Velyka Mykhailivka
<p>
12 February 1919 at Hulyai Pole
<p>
10 April 1919 at Hulyai Pole
<p>
20 October 1919 at Aleksandrovsk
</blockquote><p>
A congress for the fifteenth of June 1919 never met because
Trotsky unilaterally banned it, under pain of death to
anyone even <b>discussing</b> it, never mind calling for it
or attending as a delegate. Unlike the third congress,
which ignored a similar ban by Dybenko, the fourth congress
could not go ahead due to the treacherous attack by the
Red Army that preceded it. Four Makhnovist commanders were
executed by the Red Army for advertising this congress.
Another congress planned for Aleksandrovsk in November
1920 was also prevented by Bolshevik betrayal, namely the
attack after Wrangel had been defeated. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 108] See 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a> for further details.
<p>
The reason for these regional congresses was simple, to
co-ordinate the revolution. <i>"It was indispensable,"</i> Arshinov
notes, <i>"to establish institutions which unified first a
district composed of various villages, and then the
districts and departments which composed the liberated
region. It was indispensable to find general solutions for
problems common to the entire region. It was indispensable
to create organs suitable for these tasks. And the peasants
did not fail to create them. These organs were the regional
congresses of peasants and workers."</i>  [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 87-8]
These congresses <i>"were composed of delegates of peasants,
workers and of the insurgent army, and were intended to
clarify and record the decisions of the toiling masses and to
be regarded as the supreme authority for the liberated area."</i>
[David Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 266]
<p>
The first congress, which was the smallest, discussed the
strengthening of the front, the adoption of a common
nomenclature for popular organisations (soviets and the
like) and to send a delegation to convince the draftees
in the Nationalist forces to return home. It was also
decided to organise a second congress. The second congress
was larger, having 245 delegates from 350 districts. This
congress <i>"was strongly anti-Bolshevik and favoured a
democratic socio-political way of life."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 153] One delegate made the issue clear:
<p><blockquote><i>
"No party has a right to usurp governmental power into
its own hands . . . We want life, all problems, to be
decided locally, not by order from any authority above;
and all peasants and workers should decide their own
fate, while those elected should only carry out the
toilers' wish."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 154]
</blockquote><p>
A general resolution was passed, which acknowledged the
fact that the Bolshevik party was <i>"demanding a monopoly of
the Revolution."</i> It also stated:
<p><blockquote><i>
"With deep regret the Congress must also declare that
apart from external enemies a perhaps even greater danger,
arising from its internal shortcomings, threatens the
Revolution of the Russian and Ukrainian peasants and
workers. The Soviet Governments of Russia and of the
Ukraine, by their orders and decrees, are making efforts
to deprive local soviets of peasants and workers'
deputies of their freedom and autonomy."</i> [quoted by
Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 267]
</blockquote><p>
As noted in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech65">section H.6.5</a>, 
the congress also decided to
issue an <i>"obligatory"</i> mobilisation to gather troops for
the Army. It also accepted a resolution on land reform,
stating that the land <i>"belongs to nobody"</i> and could be
used by anyone as long as they did not use wage labour
(see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech66">section H.6.6</a> 
for the full resolution). The
congress accepted a resolution against plunder,
violence, and anti-Jewish pogroms, recognising it as
an attempt by the Tsarist government to <i>"turn the
attention of all toiling people away from the real
reason for their poverty,"</i> namely the Tsarist regime's
oppression. [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 155]
<p>
The second congress also elected the Revolutionary Military
Soviet of Peasants, Workers and Insurgents, which had <i>"no
powers to initiate policy but designed merely to implement
the decisions of the periodic congresses."</i> [Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 267]
<p>
The third congress was the largest and most representative,
with delegates from 72 volosts (in which two million
people lived). This congress aimed to <i>"clarify the
situation and to consider the prospects for the future
of the region."</i> It decided to conduct a voluntary
mobilisation of men to fight the Whites and <i>"rejected,
with the approval of both rich and poor peasants, the
Bolshevik expropriations."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 158]
Toward the end of the congress, it received a telegram
from the Bolshevik commander Dybenko calling it
<i>"counter-revolutionary,"</i> its organisers <i>"outlaws"</i> 
and dissolving it by his order. The congress immediately
voted an indignant resolution in rely. This corrected
Dybenko's factual mistakes on who called it, informed
him why it was called, gave him a history lesson on
the Makhnovist region and asked him:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Can there exist laws made by a few people who call
themselves revolutionaries which permit them to
outlaw a whole people who are more revolutionary
than they are themselves? . . .
<p>
"Is it permissible, is it admissible, that they should
come to the country to establish laws of violence,
to subjugate a people who have just overthrown all
lawmakers and all laws?
<p>
"Does there exist a law according to which a revolutionary
has the right to apply the most severe penalties to a
revolutionary mass, of which he calls himself the
defender, simply because this mass has taken the good
things which the revolution promised them, freedom
and equality, without his permission?
<p>
"Should the mass of revolutionary people perhaps be
silent when such a revolutionary takes away the
freedom which they have just conquered?
<p>
"Do the laws of the revolution order the shooting of
a delegate because he believes he ought to carry out
the mandate given him by the revolutionary mass
which elected him?
<p>
"Whose interests should the revolutionary defend;
those of the Party or those of the people who set
the revolution in motion with their blood?"</i> [quoted
by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 103]
</blockquote><p>
As we discuss in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a>, 
Trotsky's order to
ban the fourth congress indicates that such laws
do exist, with the <i>"entire peasant and labouring
population are declared guilty of high treason
if they dare participate in their own free congress."</i>
[Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 123]
<p>
The last congress was held between 20th and 26th of October
in Aleksandrovsk. One delegate was to be elected per 3000
people and one delegate per military unit. This gave 270
mostly peasant delegates. Only 18 were workers, of which 6
were Mensheviks, who walked out after Makhno called them
<i>"lapdogs of the bourgeoisie"</i> during the discussion on
<i>"free socio-economic organisations"</i>! [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 109] The congress passed a number of resolutions,
concentrating on the care of the wounded and the poorest
part of the population, a voluntary mobilisation, voluntary
peasant contributions to feed the army and forced levies on
the bourgeoisie.
<p>
According to Voline, the chairman, Makhnovist ideas were
freely discussed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The idea of free Soviets, genuinely functioning in the
interests of the working population; the question of
direct relationships between peasants and city workers,
based on mutual exchange of the products of their
labour; the launching of a libertarian and egalitarian
social organisation in the cities and the country; all
these question were seriously and closely studied by
the delegates themselves, with the assistance and
co-operation of qualified comrades."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 640]
</blockquote><p>
He notes that the congress <i>"decided that the workers,
without any authority, would organise their economic,
political and administrative life for themselves, by
means of their own abilities, and through their own
direct organs, united on a federative basis."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 641]
<p>
It is significant to note that the congress also discussed
the activities of the Makhnovists within the city itself.
One delegate raised the issue of the activities of the
Kontrrazvedka, the Makhnovist <i>"counter-intelligence"</i>
section. As noted in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech65">section H.6.5</a>, 
the Makhnovists,
like all the armies in the Russian Civil War, had its
intelligence service. It combined a number of functions,
such as military reconnaissance, arrest and holding of
prisoners, counter-insurgency (<i>"Originally it had a
punitive function, but because of improper treatment
of prisoners of war, it was deprived of its punitive
function."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 300]). The delegate
stated that this <i>"counter-espionage service"</i> was
engaged in <i>"arbitrary acts and uncontrolled actions
-- of which some are very serious, rather liike the
Bolshevik Cheka."</i> [quoted by Voline, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 643]
Immediately a commission of several delegates was
created to investigate the situation. Voline argues
that <i>"[s]uch an initiative on the part of workers'
delegates would not have been possible under the
Bolshevik regime. It was by activity of this kind that
the congress gave a preview of the way in which a
society should function from the beginning if it
is based on a desire for progress and self-realisation."</i>
[Voline, <b>Ibid.</b>] Sadly, the commission could not
complete its work due to the city being evacuated
soon after the congress.
<p>
Another incident shows that under the Makhnovists the
civilian population was in control. A delegate noted
that Klein, the Makhnovist military commander in the
city, had become publicly and riotously drunk after
issuing proclamations against drunkenness. Klein was
called before the congress, which accepted his apology
and his request to be sent to the front, away from
the boredom of desk work which had driven him to drink!
This, according to Voline, showed that the workers and
their congress were the masters and the army its servant.
[Voline, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 645-7]
<p>
Outside of the congresses the work of local Soviets was to be
co-ordinated through the Revolutionary Military Soviet (RMS), the
first RMS was set up by the 2nd congress and consisted of one
delegate for each of the 32 volsts the Makhnovista had liberated.
The RMS was to be answerable to the congresses and limited to
implementing their decisions but the difficult military situation
meant this seldom happened. When it did (the 3rd Congress) the
Congress had no problems with its actions in the previous period.
After the Aleksandrovsk congress, the RMS consisted of 22 delegates
including three known Bolsheviks and four known Makhnovists, the
Bolsheviks considered the remaining delegates <i>"anarchists or
anarchist sympathisers".</i>
<p>
The military chaos of 1920 saw the RMS dissolved and replaced by
the Soviet of Revolutionary Insurgents of the Ukraine, which
consisted of seven members elected by the insurgent army. Its
secretary was a left Socialist Revolutionary. The RMS in addition
to making decisions between Congresses carried out propaganda work
including the editing of the Makhnovist paper <i>"The Road to Freedom"</i>
and collected and distributed money.
<p>
Lastly, we must discuss what happened when the Makhnovists
applied their ideas in any cities they liberated as this
gives a clear idea of the way they applied their ideas in
practice. Anarchist participant Yossif the Emigrant
stated that it was <i>"Makhno's custom upon taking a city
or town to call the people together and announce to
them that henceforth they are free to organise their
lives as they think best for themselves. He always proclaims
complete freedom of speech and press; he does not fill
the prisons or begin executions, as the Communists do."</i>
He stressed it was <i>"the expression of the toilers themselves"</i>
and <i>"the first great mass movement that by its own efforts
seeks to free itself from government and establish economic
self-determination. In that sense it is thoroughly
Anarchistic."</i> [Alexander Berkman, <b>The Bolshevik Myth</b>,
pp. 193-5]
<p>
Arshinov paints a similar picture:
<p><blockquote><i>
"As soon as they entered a city, they declared that they
did not represent any kind of authority, that their armed
forces obliged no one to any sort of obligation and had
no other aim than to protect the freedom of the working
people. The freedom of the peasants and the workers,
said the Makhnovists, resides in the peasants and workers
themselves and may not be restricted. In all fields of
their lives it is up to the workers and peasants themselves
to construct whatever they consider necessary. As for the
Makhnovists -- they can only assist them with advice, by
putting at their disposal the intellectual or military
forces they need, but under no circumstances can the
Makhnovists prescribe for them in any manner."</i> [Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 148]
</blockquote><p>
In addition, the Makhnovists <i>"fully applied the revolutionary
principles of freedom of speech, of thought, of the press,
and of political association. In all cities and towns
occupied by the Makhnovists, they began by lifting all
the prohibitions and repealing all the restrictions
imposed on the press and on political organisations by
one or another power."</i> Indeed, the <i>"only restriction that
the Makhnovists considered necessary to impose on the
Bolsheviks, the left Socialist-Revolutionaries and other
statists was a prohibition on the formation of those
'revolutionary committees' which sought to impose a
dictatorship over the people."</i> They also took the
opportunity to destroy every prison they got their
hands on, believing that free people <i>"have no use
for prisons"</i> which are <i>"always built only to subjugate
the people, the workers and peasants."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 153,
p. 154 and p. 153]
<p>
The Makhnovists encouraged self-management. Looking
at Aleksandrovsk:
<p><blockquote><i>
"They immediately invited the working population to
participate in a general conference of the workers
of the city. When the conference met, a detailed
report was given on the military situation in the
region and it was proposed that the workers organise
the life of the city and the functioning of the factories
with their own forces and their own organisations, basing
themselves on the principles of labour and equality. The
workers enthusiastically acclaimed all these suggestions;
but they hesitated to carry them out, troubled by their
novelty, and troubled mainly by the nearness of the
front, which made them fear that the situation of the
town was uncertain and unstable. The first conference was
followed by a second. The problems of organising life
according to principles of self-management by workers
were examined and discussed with animation by the masses
of workers, who all welcomed these ideas with the greatest
enthusiasm, but who only with difficulty succeeded in
giving them concrete forms. Railroad workers took the first
step in this direction. They formed a committee charged
with organising the railway network of the region . . .
 From this point, the proletariat of Aleksandrovsk began
to turn systematically to the problem of creating organs 
of self-management."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 149]
</blockquote><p>
Unfortunately, the Makhnovists occupied only two cities
(Alexandrovsk for four weeks and Katerinoslav for two
periods of one and five weeks respectively). As a rule
the Makhnovist rank and file had little or no
experience of life in the cities and this placed severe
limits on their ability to understand the specific problems
of the workers there. In addition, the cities did not
have a large anarchist movement, meaning that the Mensheviks
and Bolsheviks had more support then they did. Both parties
were, at best, neutral to the Makhnovists and anarchists,
so making it likely that they would influence the city
workers against the movement. As Voline noted, the
<i>"absence of a vigorous organised workers' movement which
could support the peasant insurgents"</i> was a disadvantage.
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 571]
<p>
There were minor successes in both cities. In Alexandrovsk,
some trains were got running and a few factories reopened.
In Katerinoslav (where the city was under a state of siege
and constant bombardment by the Whites), the tobacco workers
won a collective agreement that had long been refused and
the bakers set themselves to preparing the socialisation of
their industry and drawing up plans to feed both the army
and the civilian population. Unsurprisingly, the bakers
had long been under anarcho-syndicalist influence. [Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 124]
<p>
Clearly, whenever they could, the Makhnovists practised their
stated goals of working-class self-management and supported
the organisational structures to ensure the control of and
participation in the social revolution by the toiling masses.
Equally, when they liberated towns and cities they did not
impose their own power upon the working-class population but
rather urged it to organise itself by setting up soviets,
unions and other forms of working-class power. They urged
workers to organise self-management of industry. True to the
anarchist vision of a free society, they advocated and practised
freedom of assembly, speech and organisation. In the words
of historian Christopher Reed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Makhno's Insurgent Army . . . was the quintessence of a
self-administered, people's revolutionary army. It arose
from the peasants, it was composed of peasants, it handed
power to the peasants. It encouraged the growth of communes,
co-operatives and soviets but distrusted all permanent
elites attempting to take hold within them. It would be
foolish to think that Makhno was supported by every
peasant or that he and his followers could not, on
occasions, direct their cruelty towards dissidents within
their own ranks, but, on the whole, the movement perhaps
erred on the side of being too self-effacing, of handing
too much authority to the population at key moments."</i>
[<b>From Tsar to Soviets</b>, p. 260]
</blockquote><p>
As such, Makhnovist practice matched its theory. This can
be said of few social movements and it is to their credit
that this is the case.
<p>
<a name="sech68"><h2>H.6.8 Weren't the Makhnovists just Kulaks?</h2>
<p>
According to Trotsky (and, of course, repeated by his followers),
<i>"Makhno created a cavalry of peasants who supplied their
own horses. These were not the downtrodden village poor whom
the October revolution first awakened, but the strong and
well-fed peasants who were afraid of losing what they had.
The anarchist ideas of Makhno (ignoring of the state,
non-recognition of the central power) corresponded to the
spirit of this kulak cavalry as nothing else could."</i> He
argued that the Makhnovist struggle was not the anarchist
struggle against the state and capitalism, but rather <i>"a
struggle of the infuriated petty property owner against the
proletarian dictatorship."</i> The Makhno movement, he stressed,
was just an example of the <i>"convulsions of the peasant petty
bourgeoisie which desired, of course, to liberate itself from
capital but at the same time did not consent to subordinate
itself to the dictatorship of the proletariat."</i> [Lenin and
Trotsky, <b>Kronstadt</b>, p. 80, p. 89 and pp. 89-90]
<p>
Unfortunately for those who use this kind of argument against
the Makhnovists, it fails to stand up to any kind of scrutiny.
Ignoring the sophistry of equating the Bolshevik party's
dictatorship with the "dictatorship of the proletariat,"
we can easily refute Trotsky's somewhat spurious argument
concerning the background of the Makhnovists.
<p>
Firstly, however, we should clarify what is meant by the term
<i>"kulak."</i> According to one set of Trotskyist editors, it was
<i>"popularly used to refer to well-to-do peasants who owned land
and hired poor peasants to work it."</i> [<i>"glossary,"</i> Lenin 
and Trotsky,
<b>Kronstadt</b>, p. 146] The term itself derives from the Russian
for <i>"fist,"</i> with appropriate overtones of grasping and meanness.
In other words, a rural small-scale capitalist (employer of wage
labour and often the renter of land and loaner of money as well)
rather than a well-off peasant as such. Trotsky, however, muddies
the water considerably by talking about the <i>"peasant petty
bourgeoisie"</i> as well. Given that a peasant <b>is</b> <i>"petty"</i> (i.e.
petit) bourgeois (i.e. own and use their own means of production),
Trotsky is blurring the lines between rural capitalist (kulak)
and the middle peasantry, as occurred so often under Bolshevik
rule.
<p>
Secondly, we could just point to the eyewitness accounts of
the anarchists Arshinov and Voline. Both stress that the
Makhno movement was a mass revolutionary movement of the
peasant and working poor in the Southern Ukraine. Arshinov
states that after Denikin's troops had been broken in 1919,
the Makhnovists <i>"literally swept through villages, towns
and cities like an enormous broom"</i> and the <i>"returned
<b>pomeshchiks</b> [landlords], the <b>kulaks</b> , the police,
the priests"</i> were destroyed, so refuting the <i>"the myth
spread by the Bolsheviks about the so-called <b>kulak</b> 
character of the Makhnovshchina."</i> Ironically, he states
that <i>"wherever the Makhnovist movement developed, the
<b>kulaks</b> sought the protection of the Soviet authorities,
and found it there."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 145] Yossif the Emigrant,
another anarchist active in the movement, told anarchist
Alexander Berkman that while there was a <i>"kulak"</i> element
within it, <i>"the great majority are not of that type."</i>
[quoted by Berkman, <b>The Bolshevik Myth</b>, p. 187] According
to Gallina Makhno (Makhno's wife), when entering a town
or village it was <i>"always Makhno's practice to compel
the rich peasants, the <b>kulaki</b> , to give up their surplus
wealth, which was then divided among the poor, Makhno keeping
a share for his army. Then he would call a meeting of the
villagers, address them on the purposes of the <b>povstantsi</b> 
[partisan] movement, and distribute his literature."</i> [Emma
Goldman, <b>My Disillusionment in Russia</b>, p. 149]
<p>
However, this would be replying to Trotsky's assertions
with testimony which was obviously pro-Makhnovist. As such,
we need to do more than this, we need to refute Trotsky's
assertions in depth, drawing on as many non-anarchist
sources and facts as possible.
<p>
The key to refuting Trotsky's argument that the Makhnovists
were just kulaks is to understand the nature of rural life
before and during 1917. Michael Malet estimates that in 1917,
the peasantry could be divided into three broad categories.
About 40 percent could no longer make a living off their land
or had none, another 40 per cent who could make ends meet,
except in a bad year, and 20 per cent who were relatively
well off, with a fraction at the very top who were very well
off. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 117] Assuming that <i>"kulak"</i> simply meant
<i>"rich"</i> or <i>"well-off"</i> peasant, then Trotsky is arguing that 
the Makhnovist movement represented and was based on this 
top 20 per cent. However, if we take the term <i>"kulak"</i> to 
mean <i>"small rural capitalist"</i> (i.e. employer of wage labour) 
then this figure would be substantially smaller as few within
this group would employ hired labour or rent land. In fact, 
the percentage of peasant households in Russia employing 
permanent wage-labour was 3.3% in 1917, falling to 1% in
1920. [Teodor Shanin, <b>The Awkward Class</b>, p. 171] 
<p>
In 1917, the peasants all across the Russian Empire took 
back the land stolen by the landlords. This lead to two 
developments. Firstly, there was a <i>"powerful levelling 
effect"</i> in rural life. [Shanin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 159] Secondly, 
the peasants would only support those who supported their 
aspirations for land reform (which was why the Bolsheviks 
effectively stole the Socialist-Revolutionary land policy 
in 1917). The Ukraine was no different. In 1917 the class 
structure in the countryside changed when the Hulyai Pole 
peasants were amongst the first to seize the landlords' 
land. In August 1917 Makhno assembled all the landed gentry 
(<i>"<b>pomeshchiks</b>"</i>) of the region <i>"and made them give him 
all the documents relating to lands and buildings."</i> After 
making an exact inventory of all this property and 
presenting a report to the local and then district 
congress of soviets, he <i>"proceeded to equalise the rights 
of the <b>pomeshchiks</b> and <b>kulaks</b> with those of the poor 
peasant labourers in regard to the use of the land . . . 
the congress decided to let the <b>pomeshchiks</b> and <b>kulaks</b> 
have a share of the land, as well as tools and livestock, 
equal to that of the labourers."</i> Several other peasant 
congresses nearby followed this example and adopted the 
same measure. [Peter Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 53-4]
<p>
Most of this land, tools and livestock was distributed to poor
peasants, the rest was used to set up voluntary communes where
the peasants themselves (and not the state) self-managed the
land. Thus the peasants' <i>"economic conditions in the region of 
the Makhno movement were greatly improved at the expense of 
the landlords, the church, monasteries, and the richest 
peasants."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 214] This redistribution was 
based on the principle that every peasant was entitled to as 
much land as their family could cultivate without the use of 
hired labour. The abolition of wage labour in the countryside 
was also the method the anarchists were to use in Spain to 
divide up the land some 20 years later.
<p>
We should also note that the Makhnovist policy of land reform
based on the abolition of wage labour was, as we noted in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>, 
the position agreed at the second regional congress called
in 1919. The Makhnovists specifically argued with regards to
the kulaks:
<p><blockquote><i>
"We are sure that . . . the kulak elements of the village will
be pushed to one side by the very course of events. The toiling
peasantry will itself turn effortlessly on the kulaks, first by
adopting the kulak's surplus land for general use, then naturally
drawing the kulak elements into the social organisation."</i> [cited
by Michael Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 118-9]
</blockquote><p>
As such, when Trotsky talks about the <i>"downtrodden village poor
whom the October revolution first awakened,"</i> he is wrong. In the
area around Hulyai Pole it was <b>not</b> the October revolution which
<i>"first awakened"</i> them into action, it was the activities of
Makhno and the anarchists during the summer and autumn of 1917
which had done that (or, more correctly, it was their activities
which aided this process as the poor peasants and landless workers
needed no encouragement to expropriate the landlords).
<p>
Needless to say, this land redistribution reinforced Makhno's
popularity with the people and was essential for the army's 
later popularity and its ability to depend on the peasants for
support. However, the landlords and richer kulaks did not
appreciate it and, unsurprisingly, tried to crush the movement
when they could. Once the Austro-Germans invaded, the local
rich took the opportunity to roll back the social revolution
and the local <b>pomeshchiks</b> and <b>kulaks</b> formed a <i>"special
volunteer detachment"</i> to fight Makhno once he had returned
from exile in July 1918. [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59]
<p>
This system of land reform did not seek to divide the village.
Indeed, the Makhnovist approach is sometimes called the <i>"united
village"</i> theory. Rather than provoke unnecessary and damaging
conflict behind the frontlines, land reform would be placed
in the hands of the village community, which would ensure that
even the kulaks would have a fair stake in the post-revolutionary
society as everyone would have as much land as they could till
without using hired labour. The Bolshevik policy, as we will see, 
aimed at artificially imposing "class conflict" upon the villages 
from without and was a disaster as it was totally alien to the 
actual socio-economic situation. Unsurprisingly, peasant
communities <b>as a whole</b> rose up against the Bolsheviks all
across Russia.
<p>
As such, the claim that the Makhnovists were simply <i>"kulaks"</i>
is false as it fails to, firstly, acknowledge the actual
pre-revolutionary composition of the peasantry and, secondly,
to understand the social-revolution that had happened in
the region of Hulyai Pole in 1917 and, thirdly, totally ignores
the actual Makhnovist position on land reform. As Michael Malet
argues, the Bolsheviks <i>"totally misconstrued the nature of the
Makhno movement. It was not a movement of kulaks, but of the
broad mass of the peasants, especially the poor and middle
peasants."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 122]
<p>
This was sometimes acknowledged by Bolsheviks themselves.
IAkovlev acknowledged in 1920 that in 1919 Makhno <i>"was a
real peasant idol, an expression of all peasant spontaneity
against . . . Communists in the cities and simultaneously
against city capitalists and landowners. In the Makhno movement
it is difficult to distinguish where the poor peasant begins
[and] the 'kulak' ends. It was a spontaneous peasant movement
.. . . In the village we had no foothold, there was not one
element with which we could join that would be our ally in
the struggle against the bandits [sic!]."</i> [quoted by Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 157]
<p>
According to a Soviet author present at the Makhnovist regional
congresses on January 23 and February 12: <i>"In 1919 when I asked
the chairman of the two Congresses (a Jewish farmer) whether
the 'kulaks' were allowed to participate in the Congress, he
angrily responded: 'When will you finally stop talking about
kulaks? Now we have no kulaks among us: everybody is tilling
as much land as he wishes and as much as he can.'"</i> [quoted
by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 293]
<p>
According to Christian Rakovskii, the Bolshevik ruler of
Ukraine, <i>"three-fourths of the membership of the [partisan]
bands were poor peasants."</i> He presented a highly original
and inventive explanation of this fact by arguing that <i>"rich
peasants stayed in the village and paid poor ones to fight. 
Poor peasants were the hired army of the kulaks."</i> [Vladimir
N. Brovkin, <b>Behind the Front the Lines of the Civil War</b>,
p. 112 and p. 328]
<p>
Even Trotsky (himself the son of a rich peasant!) let the cat
out of the bag in 1919:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The liquidation of Makhno does not mean the end of the
Makhnovschyna, which has its roots in the ignorant popular
masses."</i> [quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 122]
</blockquote><p>
Ultimately, all sources (including Bolshevik ones) accept that 
in the autumn of 1919 (at the very least) Makhno's support was
overwhelming and came from all sections of the population.
<p>
Even ignoring the fact there was a social revolution and the
eye-witness Bolshevik accounts (including Trotsky's!) which
contradict Trotsky's assertions, Trotsky can be faulted for
other reasons.
<p>
The most important issue is simply that the Makhnovist movement
could not have survived four years if (at best) 20 per cent of
the population supported it. As Christopher Reed notes, when
the Makhnovists were <i>"in retreat they would abandon their weapons
and merge with the local population. The fact that they were able
to succeed shows how closely they were linked with the ordinary
peasants because such tactics made Makhno's men very vulnerable
to informers. There were very few examples of betrayal."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 260] If Makhno's social base was as weak as claimed there
would have been no need for the Bolsheviks to enter into alliances
with him, particularly in the autumn of 1920 when the Makhnovists
held no significant liberated area. Even after the defeat of
Wrangel and the subsequent Bolshevik betrayal and repression,
Makhno's mass base allowed him to remain active for months.
Indeed, it was only when the peasants themselves had become
exhausted in 1921 due to worsening economic conditions and
state repression, were the Makhnovists finally forced into
exile.
<p>
In the attempt to <i>"eradicate his influence in the countryside"</i> the
Bolsheviks <i>"by weight of numbers and consistent ruthlessness they
achieved a partial success."</i> This was achieved by state terrorism:
<p><blockquote><i>
"On the occupation of a village by the Red Army the <b>Cheka</b> would
hunt out and hang all active Makhnovist supporters; an amenable
Soviet would be set up; officials would be appointed or imported
to organise the poor peasants . . . and three or four Red militia
men left as armed support for the new village bosses."</i> [David
Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 292]
</blockquote><p>
Moreover, in these <i>"military operations the Bolsheviks shot all
prisoners. The Makhnovists shot all captured officers unless the
Red rank and file strongly interceded for them. The rank and file
were usually sent home, though a number volunteered for service
with the Insurgents. Red Army reports complain of poor morale . . .
The Reds used a number of Lettish and Chinese troops to decrease
the risk of fraternisation."</i> [Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 293] If the
Makhnovists were made up of kulaks, why would the Bolsheviks
fear fraternisation? Equally, if the Makhnovists 
were "kulaks" then how could they have such an impact on 
Red Army troops (who were mostly poor peasants)? After all, 
Trotsky had been complaining that "Makhnovism" had been 
infecting nearby Red Army troops and in August 1919 was 
arguing that it was <i>"still a poison which has infected 
backward units in the Ukrainian army."</i> In December 1919, 
he noted that <i>"disintegration takes place in unstable 
units of our army when they came into contact with 
Makhno's forces."</i> It seems unlikely that a movement 
made up of "kulaks" could have such an impact. Moreover,
as Trotsky noted, not all Makhnovists were anarchists,
<i>"some of them wrongly regard themselves as Communists."</i>
Again, why would people who regarded themselves as 
Communists join a movement of "kulaks"? [<b>How the 
Revolution Armed</b>, vol. II, p. 367, p. 110 and p. 137]
<p>
In addition, it seems highly unlikely (to say the least!) that a
movement which is alleged to be either made up of or supported
by the kulaks could have had a land policy which emphasised and
implemented an equal share for the poorest peasantry, not just
of land but also of live and dead stock as well as opposing the
hiring of labour. This fact is reinforced when we look at the
peasant reaction to the Bolshevik (and, presumably, anti-kulak
and pro-"downtrodden village poor") land policy. Simply put,
their policies resulted in massive peasant unrest directed
against the Bolsheviks.
<p>
The Bolshevik land decrees of the 5th and 11th of February,
1919, stated that large landlord holdings would become
state farms and all stock was to be taken over by the
Ministry of Agriculture, with only between one third and
one half of the land being reserved for poor peasants.
This was <i>"largely irrelevant, since the peasantry had
expected, and in some cases already controlled, all
of it. To them, the government was taking away their
land, and not seizing it from the landlords, then keeping
some of it and handing the rest over to its rightful
owners."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 134] Thus the land was
to expropriated by the state, <b>not</b> by the peasants.
The result of this policy soon became clear:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Bolsheviks expropriation policy was countervailed by
the peasants' resistance based upon their assumption that
'the land belongs to nobody . . . it can be used only by
those who care about it, who cultivate it.' Thus the
peasants maintained that all the property of the former
landlords was now by right their own. This attitude was
shared not only by the rich and middle peasants but also
the poor and landless, for they all wished to be independent
farmers. The poorer the areas, the more dissatisfied were
the peasants with the Bolshevik decrees.
<p>
"Thus Communist agricultural policy and terrorism brought
about a strong reaction against the new Bolshevik regime.
By the middle of 1919, all peasants, rich and poor,
distrusted the Bolsheviks."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 156]
</blockquote><p>
The Bolshevik inspired Poor Peasant Committees were
<i>"associated with this disastrous policy, were discredited,
and their reintroduction would need the aid of troops."</i>
[Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 135] The Makhnovists, in contrast,
did not impose themselves onto the villages, nor did they
attempt to tell the peasants what to do and how to divide
the land. Rather they advocated the formation of Free Soviets
through which these decisions could be made. This, along
with their support for land reform, helped win them mass
support.
<p>
After evacuating the Ukraine in mid-1919 due to the success
of Denikin's counter-revolution, the Ukrainian Communists
took time to mull over what had happened. The Central
Committee's November 1919 resolution on the Ukraine
<i>"gave top priority to the middle peasant -- so often and
so conveniently lumped in together with the kulak and
dealt with accordingly -- the transfer of landlord land
to the poor peasants with only minimum exceptions for
state farms."</i> These points were the basis of the new
Ukrainian land law of 5th of February, 1920. [Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 135] This new law reflected long standing
Makhnovist theory <b>and</b> practice. Therefore, the changing
nature of Bolshevik land policy in the Ukraine indicates
that Trotsky's claims are false. The very fact that the
Bolsheviks had to adjust their policies in line with
Makhnovist theory indicates that the later appealed to
the middle and poor peasants.
<p>
Equally, it seems strange that the <i>"kulaks"</i> who apparently
dominated the movement should have let themselves be led
by poor peasants and workers. Voline presents a list of
some of the participants of the movement and the vast
majority are either peasants or workers. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 688-91] As historian Michael Palij notes, <i>"[a]lmost
to a man, they [the Makhnovist leadership] were of poor
peasant origin, with little formal education."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 254] Exceptions to the general rule were usually
workers. Most were Anarchists or Socialist-Revolutionaries.
[Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 254-62]
<p>
Of course, it can be argued that the leadership of a
movement need not come from the class which it claims to
lead. The leadership of the Bolsheviks, for example, had
very few actual proletarians within it. However, it seems
unlikely that a class would select as its leaders members
of the population it oppressed! Equally, it seems as unlikely
that poor peasants and workers would let themselves lead a
movement of kulaks, whose aims would be alien to theirs.
After all, poor peasants would seek land reform while kulaks
would view this as a threat to their social position. As
can be seen from the Makhnovist land policy, they argued
for (and implemented) radical land reform, placing the land
into the hands of peasants who worked the land without hiring
labour (see <a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>)
<p>
As regards Trotsky's argument that the Makhnovists had to be
kulaks because they originally formed a cavalry unit, it is 
easy to refute. Makhno himself was the son of poor peasants,
an agricultural labourer and a worker in a factory. He was
able to ride a horse, so why could other poor peasants not do
so? Ultimately, it simply shows that Trotsky knew very little
of Ukrainian peasant life and society.
<p>
Given that the Bolshevik government was meant to be a "worker-peasant"
power, it seems strange that Trotsky dismisses the concerns of the
peasantry so. He should have remembered that peasant uprisings
against the Bolshevik government occurred constantly under the
Bolsheviks, forcing them (eventually) to, first, recognise the
false nature of their peasant policies in 1919 and, second, to
introduce the NEP in 1921. As such, it seems somewhat ironic for
Trotsky to attack the Makhnovists for not following flawed Bolshevik
ideology as regards the peasantry!
<p>
The Bolsheviks, as Marxists, saw the peasants as "petit bourgeoisie"
and uninterested in the revolution except as a means to grab their
own plot of land. Their idea of land collectivisation was limited to
state ownership. The initial Bolshevik land strategy can be summed up
as mobilising the poor peasantry against the rest on the one hand and
mobilising the city worker against the peasants (through forced grain
confiscation on the other). The lack of knowledge of peasant life
was the basis of this policy, which was abandoned in 1919 when it
was soon proven to be totally wrong. Rather than see wealth extremes
rise, the 1917 revolution saw a general levelling. 
<p>
As regards the peasantry, here as elsewhere the Bolsheviks claimed
their strategy was the objectively necessary (only possible) one
in the circumstances. And here again the Makhnovists demonstrate
this to be false, as the Bolsheviks themselves acknowledged in
practice by changing their agricultural policies and bringing 
them closer to the Makhnovist position.
<p>
Clearly, both factually and logically, Trotsky's arguments
are false. Ultimately, like most Bolsheviks, Trotsky uses
the term <i>"kulak"</i> as a meaningless term of abuse, with no
relation to the actual class structure of peasant life. It 
simply means a peasant opposed to the Bolsheviks rather than 
an actual social strata. Essentially, he is using the standard 
Leninist technique of specifying a person's class (or ideas) 
based on whether they subscribe to (or simply follow without 
question) Leninist ideology (see 
<a href="secH2.html#sech212">section H.2.12</a> for further
discussion of this). This explains why the Makhnovists went 
from being heroic revolutionaries to kulak bandits (and back 
again!) depending on whether their activity coincided with 
the needs of Bolshevik power or not. Expediency is not a sound 
base to build a critique, particularly one based simply on 
assertions like Trotsky's.
<p>
<a name="sech69"><h2>H.6.9 Were the Makhnovists anti-Semitic and pogromists?</h2>
<p>
No, they were not. Anyone who claims that the Mahnovist
movement was anti-Semitic or conducted pogroms against
Jews simply shows ignorance or a desire to deceive. As
we will show, the Makhnovists were both theoretically
and practically opposed to anti-Semitism and progroms.
<p>
Unsurprisingly, many Leninists slander the Makhnovists on
this score. Trotsky, for example, asserted in 1937 that
Makhno's followers expressed <i>"a militant anti-Semitism."</i>
[Lenin and Trotsky, <b>Kronstadt</b>, p. 80] Needless to say, the
Trotskyist editors of the book in question did not indicate
that Trotsky was wrong in the accusation. In this way a
slander goes unchecked and becomes "accepted" as being
true. As the charge of <i>"militant anti-Semitism"</i> is a
serious one, so it is essential that we (unlike Trotsky)
provide evidence to refute it.
<p>
To do so we will present a chronological overview of the
evidence against it. This will, to some degree, result in
some duplication as well as lengthy quotations, however
it is unavoidable. We are sorry to labour this point,
but this allegation is sadly commonplace and it is
essential to refute it fully.
<p>
Unsurprisingly, Arshinov's 1923 account of the movement takes
on the allegations that the Makhnovists were anti-Semitic. He
presents extensive evidence to show that the Makhnovists opposed
anti-Semitism and pogroms. It is worth quoting him at length:
<p><blockquote><i>
"In the Russian press as well as abroad, the Makhnovshchina was
often pictured as a very restricted guerrilla movement, foreign
to ideas of brotherhood and international solidarity, and even
tainted with anti-Semitism. Nothing could be more criminal than
such slanders. In order to shed light on this question, we will
cite here certain documented facts which relate to this subject.
<p>
"An important role was played in the Makhnovist army by
revolutionaries of Jewish origin, many of whom had been
sentenced to forced labour for participation in the 1905
revolution, or else had been obliged to emigrate to Western
Europe or America. Among others, we can mention:
<p>
"<b>Kogan</b> -- vice-president of the central organ of the
movement, the Regional Revolutionary Military Council of
Hulyai Pole. Kogan was a worker who, for reasons of principle,
had left his factory well before the revolution of 1917, and
had gone to do agricultural work in a poor Jewish agricultural
colony. Wounded at the battle of Peregonovka, near Uman, against 
the Denikinists, he was seized by them at the hospital at Uman 
where he was being treated, and, according to witnesses, the 
Denikinists killed him with sabres.
<p>
"<b>L. Zin'kovsky (Zadov)</b> -- head of the army's counter espionage 
section, and later commander of a special cavalry regiment. A 
worker who before the 1917 revolution was condemned to ten years 
of forced labour for political activities. One of the most active
militants of the revolutionary insurrection.
<p>
"<b>Elena Keller</b> -- secretary of the army's cultural and
educational section. A worker who took part in the syndicalist
movement in America. One of the organisers of the 'Nabat'
Confederation.
<p>
"<b>Iosif Emigrant (Gotman)</b> -- Member of the army's cultural and
educational section. A worker who took an active part in the
Ukrainian anarchist movement. One of the organisers of the 'Nabat'
Confederation, and later a member of its secretariat.
<p>
"<b>Ya. Alyi (Sukhovol'sky)</b> -- worker, and member of the army's
cultural and educational section. In the Tsarist period he was
condemned to forced labor for political activity. One of the
organisers of the 'Nabat' Confederation and a member of its
secretariat.
<p>
"We could add many more names to the long list of Jewish
revolutionaries who took part in different areas of the Makhnovist
movement, but we will not do this, because it would endanger their
security.
<p>
"At the heart of the revolutionary insurrection, the Jewish working
population was among brothers. The Jewish agricultural colonies
scattered throughout the districts of Mariupol, Berdyansk,
Aleksandrovsk and elsewhere, actively participated in the regional
assemblies of peasants, workers and insurgents; they sent delegates
there, and also to the regional Revolutionary Military Council.
<p>
"Following certain anti-Semitic incidents which occurred in the
region in February, 1919, Makhno proposed to all the Jewish colonies
that they organise their self-defence and he furnished the necessary
guns and ammunition to all these colonies. At the same time Makhno
organised a series of meetings in the region where he appealed to the
masses to struggle against anti-Semitism.
<p>
"The Jewish working population, in turn, expressed profound
solidarity and revolutionary brotherhood toward the revolutionary
insurrection. In answer to the call made by the Revolutionary
Military Council to furnish voluntary combatants to the Makhnovist
insurgent army, the Jewish colonies sent from their midst a large
number of volunteers.
<p>
"In the army of the Makhnovist insurgents there was an exclusively
Jewish artillery battery which was covered by an infantry detachment,
also made up of Jews. This battery, commanded by the Jewish insurgent
Shneider, heroically defended Hulyai Pole from Denikin's troops in
June, 1919, and the entire battery perished there, down to the last
man and the last shell.
<p>
"In the extremely rapid succession of events after the uprising of
1918-19, there were obviously individuals who were hostile to Jews,
but these individuals were not the products of the insurrection; they
were products of Russian life. These individuals did not have any
importance in the movement as a whole. If people of this type took
part in acts directed against Jews, they were quickly and severely
punished by the revolutionary insurgents.
<p>
"We described earlier the speed and determination with which the
Makhnovists executed Hryhoriyiv and his staff, and we mentioned
that one of the main reasons for this execution was their
participation in pogroms of Jews.
<p>
"We can mention other events of this nature with which we are
familiar.
<p>
"On May 12, 1919, several Jewish families - 20 people in all -
were killed in the Jewish agricultural colony of Gor'kaya, near
Aleksandrovsk. The Makhnovist staff immediately set up a special
commission to investigate this event. This commission discovered that
the murders had been committed by seven peasants of the neighbouring
village of Uspenovka. These peasants were not part of the
insurrectionary army. However, the Makhnovists felt it was impossible
to leave this crime unpunished, and they shot the murderers. It was
later established that this event and other attempts of this nature
had been carried out at the instigation of Denikin's agents, who had
managed to infiltrate the region and had sought by these means to
prepare an atmosphere favourable for the entry of Denikin's troops
into the Ukraine.
<p>
"On May 4th or 5th, 1919, Makhno and a few commanders hurriedly
left the front and went to Hulyai Pole, where they were awaited by
the Extraordinary Plenipotentiary of the Republic, L. Kamenev, who
had arrived from Khar'kov with other representatives of the Soviet
government. At the Verkhnii Tokmak station, Makhno saw a poster with
the words: 'Death to Jews, Save the Revolution, Long Live Batko
Makhno.'
<p>
"'Who put up that poster?' Makhno asked.
<p>
"He learned that the poster had been put up by an insurgent whom
Makhno knew personally, a soldier who had taken part in the battle
against Denikin's troops, a person who was in general decent. He
presented himself immediately and was shot on the spot.
<p>
"Makhno continued the journey to Hulyai Pole. During the rest of
the day and during his negotiations with the Plenipotentiary of the
Republic, he could not free himself from the influence of this event.
He realised that the insurgent had been cruelly dealt with, but he
also knew that in conditions of war and in view of Denikin's advance,
such posters could represent an enormous danger for the Jewish
population and for the entire revolution if one did not oppose them
quickly and resolutely.
<p>
"When the insurrectionary army retreated toward Uman in the summer
of 1919, there were several cases when insurgents plundered Jewish
homes. When the insurrectionary army examined these cases, it was
learned that one group of four or five men was involved in all
these incidents -- men who had earlier belonged to Hryhoriyiv's
detachments and who had been incorporated into the Makhnovist
army after Hryhoriyiv was shot. This group was disarmed and
discharged immediately. Following this, all the combatants who
had served under Hryhoriyiv were discharged from the Makhnovist
army as an unreliable element whose re-education was not possible
in view of the unfavorable conditions and the lack of time. Thus
we see how the Makhnovists viewed anti-Semitism. Outbursts of
anti-Semitism in various parts of the Ukraine had no relation
to the Makhnovshchina.
<p>
"Wherever the Jewish population was in contact with the
Makhnovists, it found in them its best protectors against
anti-Semitic incidents. The Jewish population of Hulyai Pole,
Aleksandrovsk, Berdyansk, Mariupol, as well as all the Jewish
agricultural colonies scattered throughout the Donets region, can
themselves corroborate the fact that they always found the
Makhnovists to be true revolutionary friends, and that due to the
severe and decisive measures of the Makhno visits, the anti-Semitic
leanings of the counter-revolutionary forces in this region were
promptly squashed.
<p>
"Anti-Semitism exists in Russia as well as in many other countries.
In Russia, and to some extent in the Ukraine, it is not a result of
the revolutionary epoch or of the insurrectionary movement, but is on
the contrary a vestige of the past. The Makhnovists always fought it
resolutely in words as well as deeds. During the entire period of the
movement, they issued numerous publications calling on the masses to
struggle against this evil. It can firmly be stated that in the
struggle against anti-Semitism in the Ukraine and beyond its borders,
their accomplishment was enormous."</i> [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 211-215]
<p></blockquote>
Arshinov then goes on to quote an appeal published by Makhnovists
together with anarchists referring to an anti-Semitic incident
which took place in the spring of 1919. It is called <b>WORKERS,
PEASANTS AND INSURGENTS FOR THE OPPRESSED, AGAINST THE OPPRESSORS
-- ALWAYS!</b>:
<p><blockquote><i>
"During the painful days of reaction, when the situation
of the Ukrainian peasants was especially difficult and
seemed hopeless, you were the first to rise as fearless and
unconquerable fighters for the great cause of the liberation
of the working masses. . . This was the most beautiful and
joyful moment in the history of our revolution. You marched
against the enemy with weapons in your hands as conscious
revolutionaries, guided by the great idea of freedom and
equality. . . But harmful and criminal elements succeeded
in insinuating themselves into your ranks. And the
revolutionary songs, songs of brotherhood and of the
approaching liberation of the workers, began to be disrupted
by the harrowing cries of poor Jews who were being tormented
to death. . . On the clear and splendid foundation of the
revolution appeared indelible dark blots caused by the
parched blood of poor Jewish martyrs who now, as before,
continue to be innocent victims of the criminal reaction,
of the class struggle . . . Shameful acts are being carried
out. Anti-Semitic pogroms are taking place.
<p>
"Peasants, workers and insurgents! You know that the workers
of all nationalities -- Russians, Jews, Poles, Germans, Armenians,
etc. -- are equally imprisoned in the abyss of poverty. You know
that thousands of Jewish girls, daughters of the people, are sold
and dishonoured by capital, the same as women of other nationalities.
You know how many honest and valiant revolutionary Jewish fighters
have given their lives for freedom in Russia during our whole
liberation movement. . . The revolution and the honour of workers
obliges all of us to declare as loudly as possible that we make war
on the same enemies: on capital and authority, which oppress all
workers equally, whether they be Russian, Polish, Jewish, etc. We
must proclaim everywhere that our enemies are exploiters and
oppressors of various nationalities: the Russian manufacturer,
the German iron magnate, the Jewish banker, the Polish aristocrat
.. . . The bourgeoisie of all countries and all nationalities is
united in a bitter struggle against the revolution, against the
labouring masses of the whole world and of all nationalities.
<p>
"Peasants, workers and insurgents! At this moment when the
international enemy -- the bourgeoisie of all countries --
hurries to the Russian revolution to create nationalist hatred
among the mass of workers in order to distort the revolution and
to shake the very foundation of our class struggle - the solidarity
and unity of all workers -- you must move against conscious and
unconscious counter-revolutionaries who endanger the emancipation
of the working people from capital and authority. Your revolutionary
duty is to stifle all nationalist persecution by dealing ruthlessly
with all instigators of anti-Semitic pogroms.
<p>
"The path toward the emancipation of the workers can be reached by
the union of all the workers of the world."</i> [quoted by Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 215-7]
</blockquote><p>
Arshinov also quotes an order issued by Makhno to <i>"all
revolutionary insurgents without exception"</i> which states,
in part, that the <i>"goal of our revolutionary army, and
of every insurgent participating in it, is an honourable
struggle for the full liberation of the Ukrainian workers
from all oppression."</i> This was <i>"why every insurgent should
constantly keep in mind that there is no place among
us for those who, under the cover of the revolutionary
insurrection, seek to satisfy their desires for personal
profit, violence and plunder at the expense of the peaceful
Jewish population."</i> [quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 217-8]
<p>
Unsurprisingly, as an anarchist, Makhno presents a class
analysis of the problem of racism, arguing as follows:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Every revolutionary insurgent should remember that his
personal enemies as well as the enemies of all the people
are the rich bourgeoisie, regardless of whether they be
Russian, or Jewish, or Ukrainian. The enemies of the
working people are also those who protect the unjust
bourgeois regime, i.e., the Soviet Commissars, the
members of repressive expeditionary corps, the Extraordinary
Commissions which go through the cities and villages
torturing the working people who refuse to submit to
their arbitrary dictatorship. Every insurgent should
arrest and send to the army staff all representatives
of such expeditionary corps, Extraordinary Commissions
and other institutions which oppress and subjugate the
people; if they resist, they should be shot on the spot.
As for any violence done to peaceful workers of whatever
nationality - such acts are unworthy of any revolutionary
insurgent, and the perpetrator of such acts will be punished
by death."</i> [quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 218]
</blockquote><p>
It should also be noted that the chairmen of three Makhnovist
regional congresses were Jewish. The first and second congresses
had a Jewish chairman [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 293], while Voline
was the chair for the fourth one held at Aleksandrovsk.
Similarly, one of the heads of the army's counter-espionage
section was Jewish. [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 212] Little wonder
both Arshinov and Voline stress that an important role was
played by Jews within the movement.
<p>
The Jewish American anarchists Alexander Berkman and Emma
Goldman were also in Russia and the Ukraine during the
revolution. Between 1920 and 1921, they were in contact
with anarchists involved with the Makhnovists and were
concerned to verify what they had heard about the movement
from Bolshevik and other sources. Berkman recounts meeting
the Jewish anarchist Yossif the Emigrant (shot by the
Bolsheviks in late 1920). Yossif stated that <i>"Nestor
is merciless toward those guilty of Jew-baiting. Most
of you have read his numerous proclamations against
pogroms, and you know how severely he punishes such
things."</i> He stressed that any stories of atrocities and
pogroms committed by the Makhnovists were <i>"lies wilfully
spread by the Bolsheviks"</i> who <i>"hate Nestor worse than
they do Wrangel."</i> For Yossif, <i>"Makhno represents the
real spirit of October."</i> [quoted by Berkman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 187-9] He also notes that Gallina Makhno, Nestor's
wife, would <i>"slightly raise her voice in indignation
when reports of Jew-baiting by <b>povstantsi</b> [partisans]
were mentioned. These stories were deliberately spread
by the Bolsheviki, she averred. No-one could be more
severe in punishing such excesses than Nestor. Some of
his best comrades are Jews; there are a number of them
in the Revolutionary Soviet and in other branches of
the army. Few men are so loved and respected by the
<b>povstantsi</b> as Yossif the Emigrant, who is a Jew, and
Makhno's best friend."</i> [Berkman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 238-9]
Both Goldman and Berkman became friends with Makhno
during his exile in Paris.
<p>
After his exile, Makhno himself spent time refuting
allegations of anti-Semitism. Two articles on this
subject are contained in <b>The Struggle Against the
State and other Essays</b>, a collection of Makhno's
exile writings. In the article <i>"The Makhnovshchina
and Anti-Semitism"</i> he recounts various examples of
the <i>"uncompromising line on the anti-Semitism of
pogromists"</i> which the Makhnovists took <i>"throughout
its entire existence."</i> This was <i>"because it was
a genuinely revolutionary toilers' movement in the
Ukraine."</i> He stressed that <i>"[a]t no time did the
movement make it its business to carry out pogroms
against Jews nor did it ever encourage any."</i> [<b>The
Struggle Against the State and Other Essays</b>, p. 38
and p. 34] He wrote another article (called <i>"To the
Jews of All Countries"</i>):
<p><blockquote><i>
"In my first 'Appeal to Jews, published in the French
libertarian newspaper, <b>Le Libertaire</b>, I asked Jews in
general, which is to say the bourgeois and the socialist
ones as well as the 'anarchist' ones like Yanovsky, who
have all spoken of me as a pogromist against Jews and
labelled as anti-Semitic the liberation movement of the
Ukrainian peasants and workers of which I was the leader,
to detail to me the specific facts instead of blathering
vacuously away: just where and just when did I or the
aforementioned movement perpetrate such acts? . . .
Thus far, no such evidence advanced by Jews has come to
my attention. The only thing that has appeared thus far
in the press generally, certain Jewish anarchist organs
included, regarding myself and the insurgent movement I
led, has been the product of the most shameless lies and
of the vulgarity of certain political mavericks and their
hirelings."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 28]
</blockquote><p>
It should be noted that Yanovsky, editor of the Yiddish language
anarchist paper <b>Freie Arbeiter Stimme</b> later admitted that 
Makhno was right. Yanovsky originally believed the charges of
anti-Semitism made against Makhno, going so far as ignoring
Makhno's appeal to him out of hand. However, by the time of
Makhno's death in 1934, Yanovsky had learned the truth:
<p><blockquote><i>
"So strongly biased was I against him [Makhno] at that time I did
not think it necessary to find out whether my serious accusation
was founded on any real facts during the period of his great
fight for real freedom in Russia. Now I know that my accusations
of anti-Semitism against Makhno were built entirely on the lies
of the Bolsheviks and to the rest of their crimes must be added
this great crime of killing his greatness and the purity of
this fighter for freedom."</i>
</blockquote><p>
Due to this, he could not forgive himself for <i>"so misjudg[ing]
a man merely on the basis of calumny by his bitter enemies who
more than once shamefully betrayed him, and against whom he
fought so heroically."</i> He also notes that it had <i>"become
known to me that a great many Jewish comrades were heart and
soul with Makhno and the whole Makhno movement. Amongst them
was one whom I knew well personally, Joseph Zutman of Detroit,
and I know that he would not have had anything to do with
persons, or a movement, which possessed the slightest leaning
towards anti-Semitism."</i> [<i>"appendix,"</i> <b>My Visit to the Kremlin</b>,
pp. 36-7]
<p>
However, by far the best source to refute claims of anti-Semitism
the work of the Jewish anarchist Voline. He summarises the
extensive evidence against such claims:
<p><blockquote><i>
"We could cover dozens of pages with extensive and irrefutable
proofs of the falseness of these assertions. We could mention
articles and proclamations by Makhno and the Council of
Revolutionary Insurgents denouncing anti-Semitism. We could
tell of spontaneous acts by Makhno himself and other insurgents
against the slightest manifestation of the anti-Semitic spirit
on the part of a few isolated and misguided unfortunates in
the army and the population. . . One of the reasons for the
execution of Grigoriev by the Makhnovists was his anti-Semitism
and the immense pogrom he organised at Elizabethgrad . . .
<p>
"We could cite a whole series of similar facts, but we do not
find it necessary . . . and will content ourselves with
mentioning briefly the following essential facts:
<p>
"1. A fairly important part in the Makhnovist movement was
played by revolutionists of Jewish origin.
<p>
"2. Several members of the Education and Propaganda Commission
were Jewish.
<p>
"3. Besides many Jewish combatants in various units of the
army, there was a battery composed entirely of Jewish
artillery men and a Jewish infantry unit.
<p>
"4. Jewish colonies in the Ukraine furnished many volunteers
to the Insurrectionary Army.
<p>
"5. In general the Jewish population, which was very numerous
in the Ukraine, took an active part in all the activities of
the movement. The Jewish agricultural colonies which were
scattered throughout the districts of Mariupol, Berdiansk,
Alexandrovsk, etc., participated in the regional assemblies
of workers, peasants and partisans; they sent their delegates
to the regional Revolutionary Military Council.
<p>
"6. Rich and reactionary Jews certainly had to suffer from
the Makhnovist army, not as Jews, but just in the same way
as non-Jewish counter-revolutionaries."</i> [<b>The Unknown
Revolution</b>, pp. 967-8]
</blockquote><p>
However, it could be claimed that these accounts are from
anarchists and so are biased. Ignoring the question of why
so many Jewish anarchists should defend Makhno if he was, in
fact, a pogromist or anti-Semite, we can turn to non-anarchist
sources for confirmation of the fact that Makhno and the
Makhnovist movement were not anti-Semites.
<p>
First, we turn to Voline, who quotes the eminent Jewish
writer and historian M. Tcherikover about the question
of the Makhnovists and anti-Semitism. Tcherikover had, for
a number of years, had specialised in research on the
persecutions of the Jews in Russia. The Jewish historian
states <i>"with certainty that, on the whole, the behaviour of
Makhno's army cannot be compared with that of the other armies
which were operating in Russian during the events 1917-21.
Two facts I can certify absolutely explicitly.
<p>
"1. It is undeniable that, of all these armies, including
the Red Army, the Makhnovists behaved best with regard
the civil population in general and the Jewish population
in particular. I have numerous testimonies to this. The
proportion of <b>justified</b> complaints against the Makhnovist
army, in comparison with the others, is negligible.
<p>
"2. Do not speak of pogroms alleged to have been organised by
Makhno himself. That is a slander or an error. Nothing of the
sort occurred. As for the Makhnovist Army, I have had hints
and precise denunciations on this subject. But, up to the
present, every time I have tried to check the facts, I have
been obliged to declare that on the day in question no
Makhnovist unit could have been at the place indicated, the
whole army being far away from there. Upon examining the
evidence closely, I established this fact, every time, with
absolute certainty, at the place and on the date of the
pogrom, no <b>Makhnovist</b> unit was operating or even located
in the vicinity. <b>Not once</b> have I been able to prove the
existence of a Makhnovist unit at the place a pogrom
against the Jews took place. Consequently, the pogroms
in question could not have been the work of the Makhnovists."</i> 
[quoted by Voline, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 699]
<p>
This conclusion is confirmed by later historians. Paul
Avrich notes that <i>"[c]harges of Jew-baiting and of
anti-Jewish pogroms have come from every quarter, left,
right, and centre. Without exception, however, they are
based on hearsay, rumour, or intentional slander, and
remain undocumented and unproved."</i> He adds that the
<i>"Soviet propaganda machine was at particular pains to
malign Makhno as a bandit and pogromist."</i> Wishing to
verify the conclusions of Tcherikover proved by Voline,
Avrich examined several hundred photographs in the
Tcherikover Collection, housed in the YIVO Library in
New York and depicting anti-Jewish atrocities in the
Ukraine during the Civil War. He found that <i>"only one
[was] labelled as being the work of the Makhnovists,
though even here neither Makhno himself nor any of his
recognisable subordinates are to be seen, nor is there
any indication that Makhno had authorised the raid or,
indeed, that the band involved was in fact affiliated
with his Insurgent Army."</i> Avrich then states that
<i>"there is evidence that Makhno did all in his power
to counteract anti-Semitic tendencies among his
followers"</i> and that <i>"a considerable number of Jews took
part in the Makhnovist movement."</i> He also points out
that the Jewish anarchists Alexander Berkman, Emma
Goldman, Sholem Schwartzbard, Voline, Senya Fleshin,
and Mollie Steimer did not criticise Makhno as an
anti-Semite, they also <i>"defended him against the
campaign of slander that persisted from all sides."</i>
[<b>Anarchist Portraits</b>, pp. 122-3] It should be noted
that Schwartzbard assassinated the Nationalist leader
Petliura in 1926 because he considered him responsible
for pogroms conducted by Nationalist troops during the
civil war. He shot Petliura the day after he, Makhno
and Berkman had seen him at a Russian restaurant in 
Paris. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 189]
<p>
Michael Malet, in his account of the Makhnovists, states
that <i>"there is overwhelming evidence that Makhno himself
was not anti-Semitic."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 168] He indicates
that in the period January to September 1919, the Central
Committee of Zionist Organisations in Russia listed the
Nationalists as creating 15,000 victims of pogroms, then
the Denikinists with 9,500 followed by Hryhoriyiv,
Sokolovsky, Struk, Yatsenko and Soviet troops (500
victims). Makhno is not mentioned. Of the pogroms listed,
almost all took place on the western Ukraine, where the
local otamany (warlords) and the Nationalists were strong. 
Very few took place where Makhno's influence predominated, 
the nearest being in Katerinoslav town and Kherson province; 
none in the provinces of Katerinoslav or Tavria. It should
also be noted that the period of January to June of that
year was one of stability within the Makhnovist region,
so allowing them the space to apply their ideas. Malet 
summarises:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Even granted the lower level of Jewish involvement in
left-bank trade, the almost total lack of anti-Semitic
manifestations would show that Makhno's appeals, at a
time when anti-Semitism was fast becoming fashionable,
did not go unheeded by the population. There were a
number of Jewish colonies in the south-east Ukraine."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 169]
</blockquote><p>
Unsurprisingly, Malet notes that apart from certain
personal considerations (such as his friendship with
a number of Jews, including Voline and Yossif the
Emigrant), <i>"the basis of Makhno's hostility to
anti-Semitism was his anarchism. Anarchism has always
been an international creed, explicitly condemning
all forms of racial hatred as incompatible with the
freedom of individuals and the society of equals."</i>
And like other serious historians, he points to <i>"the
continual participation in the movement of both
intellectual Jews from outside, and Jews from the
local colonies"</i> as <i>"further proof . . . of the low
level of anti-Semitism within the Makhnovshchina."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 171 and pp. 171-2]
<p>
Anarchist Serge Cipko summarises the literature by
stating that the <i>"scholarly literature that discusses
Makhno's relationships with the Jewish population
is of the same opinion [that the Makhnovists were
not anti-Semitic] and concur that unlike the Whites,
Bolsheviks and other competing groups in Ukraine
during the Revolution, the Makhnovists did not engage
in pogroms."</i> [<i>"Nestor Makhno: A Mini-Historiography of
the Anarchist Revolution in Ukraine, 1917-1921,"</i> pp. 57-75,
<b>The Raven</b>, no. 13, p. 62]
<p>
Historian Christopher Reed concurs, noting that <i>"Makhno
actively opposed anti-Semitism . . . Not surprisingly,
many Jews held prominent positions in the Insurgent
movement and Jewish farmers and villagers staunchly
supported Makhno in the face of the unrestrained
anti-Semitism of Ukrainian nationalists like Grigoriev
and of the Great Russian chauvinists like the Whites."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 263-4] Arthur E. Adams states that 
<i>"Makhno protected Jews and in fact had many serving 
on his own staff."</i> [<b>Bolsheviks in the Urkaine</b>, p. 402]
<p>
We apologise again for labouring this point, but the lie
that Makhno and the Makhnovists were anti-Semitic is 
relatively commonplace and needs to be refuted. As noted, 
Trotskyists repeat Trotsky's false assertions without 
correction. Other repeat the lie from other sources. 
It was essential, therefore, to spend time making the 
facts available and to nail the lie of Makhnovist anti-
Semitism once and for all!
<p>
<a name="sech610"><h2>H.6.10 Did the Makhnovists hate the city and city workers?</h2>
<p>
According to Trotsky, <i>"the followers of Makhno"</i> were marked by
"hatred for the city and the city worker."</i> He later gives some
more concrete examples of this <i>"hostility to the city"</i> which,
as with the general peasant revolt, also <i>"nourished the movement
of Makhno, who seized and looted trains marked for the factories,
the plants, and the Red Army; tore up railway tracks, shot
Communists, etc."</i> [Lenin and Trotsky, <b>Kronstadt</b>, p. 80 and
p. 89]
<p>
Unsurprisingly, Trotsky simply shows his ignorance of the
Makhno movement by these statements. To refute Trotsky's
claim we can simply point to how the Makhnovists acted
once they occupied a city. As we discuss in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>,
the first thing the Makhnovists did was to call a conference
of workers and urge them to organise their own affairs
directly, using their own class organs of self-management
(soviets, unions, etc.). Hardly the activity of a group of
people who allegedly <i>"hated"</i> city workers!
<p>
We can also point to the fact that the Makhnovists arranged
direct exchanges of goods between the towns and country. In early
1918, for example, corn was shipped directly to a Moscow factory
in return for textiles (without state interference). In 1919, 1500
tons of grain (and a small amount of coal) was sent by train to
Petrograd and Moscow where the commander of the train was to
exchange it again for textiles. The initiative in both cases
came from the Hulyai Pole peasants. Again, hardly the work of
city-hating peasants. 
<p>
Peter Arshinov indicates the underlying theory behind the
Makhnovists as regards the relations between city and
country:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Makhnovshchina . . . understands that the victory and
consolidation of the revolution . . . cannot be realised
without a close alliance between the working classes of
the cities and those of the countryside. The peasants
understand that without urban workers and powerful
industrial enterprises they will be deprived of most
of the benefits which the social revolution makes possible.
Furthermore, they consider the urban workers to be their
brothers, members of the same family of workers.
<p>
"There can be no doubt that, at the moment of the victory
of the social revolution, the peasants will give their
entire support to the workers. This will be voluntary and
truly revolutionary support given directly to the urban
proletariat. In the present-day situation [under the
Bolsheviks], the bread taken by force from the peasants
nourishes mainly the enormous governmental machine. The
peasants see and understand perfectly that this expensive
bureaucratic machine is not in any way needed by them or
by the workers, and that in relation to the workers it
plays the same role as that of a prison administration
toward the inmates. This is why the peasants do not have
the slightest desire to give their bread voluntarily to
the State. This is why they are so hostile in their
relations with the contemporary tax collectors -- the
commissars and the various supply organs of the State.
<p>
"But the peasants always try to enter into <b>direct</b> relations
with the urban workers. The question was raised more than
once at peasant congresses, and the peasants always resolved
it in a revolutionary and positive manner."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 258]
</blockquote><p>
Simply put, Trotsky misinterprets hostility to the repressive
policies of the Bolshevik dictatorship with hostility to the
city.
<p>
Moreover, ignoring the <b>actual</b> relationships of the Makhnovists
with the city workers, we can fault Trotsky's arguments without
resource to such minor things as facts. This is because every one
of his "examples" of <i>"hatred for the city and the city worker"</i>
can be explained by more common sense arguments.
<p>
As regards the destruction of trains and railway tracks,
a far simpler and more plausible explanation can be found
than Trotsky's <i>"hostility to the city."</i> This is the fact
that a civil war was taking place. Both the Reds and Whites
used armoured trains to move troops and as bases of operations.
To destroy the means by which your enemy attacks you is
common sense! Equally, in the chaotic times of the war,
resources were often in low supply and in order to survive
the Makhnovists had to <i>"loot"</i> trains (needless to say, Trotsky
does not explain how the Makhnovists knew the trains were
<i>"marked for the factories."</i>). It should be noted that the
Bolsheviks <i>"looted"</i> the countryside, can we surmise that
the Bolsheviks simply expressed <i>"hostility to the village"</i>?
<p>
As regards the shooting of Communists, a far simpler and more
plausible explanation also exists. Rather than show <i>"hostility
to the city,"</i> it shows <i>"hostility"</i> to the Communist Party,
its policies and its authoritarian ideas. Given that the
Bolsheviks had betrayed the Makhnovists on 
<i><b>three</b></i> occasions
(see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a>) and attacked them, <i>"hostility"</i> to
Communists seems a sensible position to take! Equally, the
first Bolshevik attack on the Makhnovists occurred in
mid-1919, when the Bolsheviks began justifying their party
dictatorship as essential for the success of the revolution.
The other two occurred in 1920, when the Bolsheviks were announcing
to the whole world at the Communist International (to quote
Zinoviev) that <i>"the dictatorship of the proletariat is at the
same time the dictatorship of the Communist Party."</i> [<b>Proceedings
and Documents of the Second Congress 1920</b>, vol. 1, p. 152] 
Given this, perhaps the fact that the Makhnovists shot Communists 
can be explained in terms of defence against
Bolshevik betrayal and opposition to the dictatorship of the
Communist Party rather than <i>"hostility to the city."</i> Needless to
say, the Communists shot Makhnovists and anarchists. What does
that suggest a <i>"hostility"</i> to by the Bolsheviks? Working-class
autonomy and freedom?
<p>
Clearly, Trotsky was clutching at straws in his smearing of
the Makhnovist movement as haters of the city worker. The
<i>"hostility"</i> Trotsky speaks of can be far more easily explained
in terms of the necessities imposed upon the Makhnovists by
the civil war and the betrayals of the Bolsheviks. As such,
it would be fairer to state that the Makhnovists showed
<i>"hostility"</i> or <i>"hatred"</i> to the city or city workers only if
you equate both with the Bolshevik party dictatorship. In
other words, the Makhnovists showed <i>"hostility"</i> to the new
ruling class of the Communist Party hierarchy.
<p>
All this does not mean that there were not misunderstandings
between the Makhno movement, a predominantly rural movement,
and the workers in the cities. Far from it. Equally, it can
be said that the Makhnovists did not understand the workings
of an urban economy and society as well as they understood
their own. However, they made no attempt to <b>impose</b> their
world-view on the city workers (unlike the Bolsheviks, who
did so on both urban and rural workers). However, ignorance of
the city and its resulting misunderstandings do not constitute
<i>"hostility"</i> or <i>"hatred."</i>
<p>
Moreover, where these misunderstandings developed show that the
claims that the Makhnovists hated the city workers are simply
false. Simply put, the misunderstanding occurred when the
Makhnovists had liberated cities from the Whites. As we
discussed in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>, the first thing the Makhnovists
did was to call a conference of workers' delegates to discuss
the current situation and to urge them to form soviets, unions
and co-operatives in order to manage their own affairs. This
hardly shows <i>"hatred"</i> of the city worker. In contrast, the
first thing the Bolsheviks did in taking a city was to
form a <i>"revolutionary committee"</i> to govern the town and
implement Bolshevik policy.
<p>
This, needless to say, shows a distinct <i>"hostility"</i> to the
city workers on the part of the Bolsheviks.  Equally, the
Bolshevik advocacy of party dictatorship to overcome the
<i>"wavering"</i> of the working class. In the words of Trotsky
himself (in 1921):
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Workers' Opposition has come out with dangerous
slogans, making a fetish of democratic principles!
They place the workers' right to elect representatives 
above the Party, as if the party were not entitled
to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship
temporarily clashed with the passing moods of the workers'
democracy. It is necessary to create amongst us the
awareness of the revolutionary birthright of the party.
which is obliged to maintain its dictatorship, regardless
of temporary wavering even in the working classes. This
awareness is for us the indispensable element. The
dictatorship does not base itself at every given moment
on the formal principle of a workers' democracy."</i>
[quoted by Samuel Farber, <b>Before Stalinism</b>, p. 209]
</blockquote><p>
Opposing workers' democracy because working people could
make decisions that the party thought were wrong shows a
deep <i>"hostility"</i> to the <b>real</b> city workers and their
liberty and equality. Equally, Bolshevik repression of
workers' strikes, freedom of speech, assembly, organisation
and self-determination shows far more <i>"hostility"</i> to the
city worker than a few Makhnovist misunderstandings!
<p>
All in all, any claim that the Makhnovists <i>"hated"</i> city
workers is simply false. While the Makhnovists may not
have liked the city nor really understood the complexities
of an urban economy, they did recognise the importance of
encouraging working-class autonomy and self-organisation
within them and building links between the rural and urban
toilers. While the lack of a large-scale anarcho-syndicalist
movement hindered any positive construction, the Makhnovists
at least tried to promote urban self-management. Given
Bolshevik authoritarianism and its various rationalisations, it
would be fairer to say that it was the Bolsheviks who expressed
<i>"hostility"</i> to the city workers by imposing their dictatorship
upon them rather than supporting working-class self-management
as the Makhnovists did!
<p>
<a name="sech611"><h2>H.6.11 Were the Makhnovists nationalists?</h2>
<p>
Some books on the Makhnovist movement try to present the
Makhnovists as being Ukrainian nationalists. A few discuss
the matter in order, perhaps, to increase the respectability
of the Makhnovist movement by associating it with a more
<i>"serious"</i> and <i>"respectable"</i> political theory than anarchism,
namely <i>"Nationalism."</i> Those who seriously investigate the
issue come to the same conclusion, namely that neither
Makhno nor the Makhnovist movement was nationalist (see,
for example, Frank Sysyn's essay <b>Nestor Makhno and the
Ukrainian Revolution</b> which discusses this issue).
<p>
Therefore, any claims that the Makhnovists were nationalists
are incorrect. The Makhnovist movement was first and foremost
an internationalist movement of working people. This is to be
expected as anarchists have long argued that nationalism is a
cross-class movement which aims to maintain the existing class
system but without foreign domination (see 
<a href="secD6.html">section D.6</a> for
details). As such, the Makhnovists were well aware that
nationalism could not solve the social question and would
simply replace a Russian ruling class and state with a
Ukrainian one.
<p>
This meant that the aims of the Makhnovists went further
than simply national liberation or self-determination.
Anarchists, rather, aim for working-class self-liberation
and self-determination, both as individuals and as groups,
as well as politically, economically and socially. To quote
Makhno's wire to Lenin in December 1918, the Makhnovist
<i>"aims are known and clear to all. They are fighting against
the authority of all political governments and for liberty
and independence of the working people."</i> [quoted by Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 80]
<p>
From this class and anti-hierarchical perspective, it is
not unsurprising that the Makhnovists were not nationalists.
They did not seek Ukrainian independence but rather working-
class autonomy. This, of necessity, meant they opposed all
those who aimed to govern and/or exploit the working class.
Hence Arshinov:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Composed of the poorest peasants, who were united by the
fact that they all worked with their own hands, the Makhnovist
movement was founded on the deep feeling of fraternity which
characterises only the most oppressed. During its entire history
it did not for an instant appeal to national sentiments. The
whole struggle of the Makhnovists against the Bolsheviks was
conducted solely in the name of the rights and interests of
the workers. Denikin's troops, the Austro-Germans, Petliura,
the French troops in Berdyansk, Wrangel -- were all treated by
the Makhnovists as enemies of the workers. Each one of these
invasions represented for them essentially a threat to the
workers, and the Makhnovists had no interest in the national
flag under which they marched."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
</blockquote><p>
He stressed that <i>"national prejudices had no place in the
Makhnovshchina. There was also no place in the movement
for religious prejudices . . . Among modern social movements,
the Makhnovshchina was one of the few in which an individual had
absolutely no interest in his own or his neighbour's religion or
nationality, in which he respected only the labour and the
freedom of the worker."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 211]
<p>
The Makhnovists made their position on nationalism clear
in the 'Declaration' published by the Revolutionary Military
Council of the army in October, 1919:
<p><blockquote><i>
"When speaking of Ukrainian independence, we do not mean national 
independence in Petliura's sense but the social independence of 
workers and peasants. We declare that Ukrainian, and all other, 
working people have the right to self-determination not as an 
'independent nation' but as 'independent workers'"</i> [quoted by
Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
</blockquote><p>
In other words, the Makhnovists <i>"declared, that in their
option <b>Petlurovtchina</b> [the Petliura movement, Petliura
being the leader of the Nationalists] was a bourgeois
nationalist movement whose road was entirely different from
that of the revolutionary peasants, that the Ukraine should
be organised on a basis of free labour and the independence
of the peasants and the workers . . . and that nothing but
struggle was possible between the <b>Makhnovitchina</b> , the
movement of the workers, and the <b>Petlurovtchina</b> , the 
movement of the bourgeoisie."</i> [Voline, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 572]
<p>
This does not mean that anarchists are indifferent to
cultural and national domination and oppression. Far from 
it! As we discussed in sections 
<a href="secD6.html">D.6</a> and 
<a href="secD7.html">D.7</a>, anarchists
are against foreign domination and cultural imperialism,
believing that every community or national group has the
right to be itself and develop as it sees fit. This means
that anarchists seek to transform national liberation
struggles into <b>human</b> liberation struggles, turning any
struggle against foreign oppression and domination into
a struggle against <b>all</b> forms of oppression and domination.
<p>
This means that the Makhnovists, like anarchists in general,
seek to encourage local culture and language while opposed
nationalism. As Frank Sysyn argues, it <i>"would be a mistake
. . . to label the Makhnivtsi as 'anti-Ukrainian.' Although
they opposed the political goals of most 'svidomi ukraintsi'
(nationally conscious Ukrainians), they accepted the existence
of a Ukrainian nation and used the terms 'Ukraine' and
'Ukrainian.'"</i> [<b>Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian Revolution</b>,
p. 288] It should be noted that opponents of Ukrainian
independence generally called it the <i>"south of Russia"</i> or
<i>"Little Russia."</i> 
<p>
Thus an opposition to nationalism did not imply a rejection
or blindness to foreign domination and free cultural expression.
On the question of the language to be taught in schools, the
Cultural-Educational Section of the Makhnovist Insurgent Army
wrote the following in October, 1919:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The cultural-educational section of the Makhnovist army
constantly receives questions from school teachers asking
about the language in which instruction should be given in
the schools, now that Denikin's troops have been expelled.
<p>
"The revolutionary insurgents, holding to the principles of
true socialism, cannot in any field or by any measure do
violence to the natural desires and needs of the Ukrainian
people. This is why the question of the language to be
taught in the schools cannot be solved by our army, but can
only be decided by the people themselves, by parents, teachers
and students
<p>
"It goes without saying that all the orders of Denikin's
so-called 'Special Bureau' as well as General Mai-Maevsky's
order No. 22, which forbids the use of the mother tongue
in the schools, are null and void, having been forcibly
imposed on the schools.
<p>
"In the interest of the greatest intellectual development
of the people, the language of instruction should be that
toward which the local population naturally tends, and
this is why the population, the students, the teachers
and the parents, and not authorities or the army, should
freely and independently resolve this question."</i> [quoted by
Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 210-1]
</blockquote><p>
They also printed a Ukrainian version of their paper (<i>"The 
Road to Freedom"</i>).
<p>
Clearly their opposition to Ukrainian nationalism did not
mean that the Makhnovists were indifferent to imperialism
and foreign political or cultural domination. This explains
why Makhno criticised his enemies for anti-Ukrainian actions
and language. Michael Malet summarises, for the Makhnovists
<i>"Ukrainian culture was welcome, but political nationalism
was highly suspect."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 143]
<p>
Given anarchist support for federal organisation from below
upwards, working-class self-determination and autonomy, plus
a healthy respect for local culture, it is easy to see why
some historians have fostered a nationalist perspective onto
the Makhnovists where none existed. This means that when
they agitated with the slogan <i>"All to whom freedom and
independence are dear should stay in the Ukraine and
fight the Denikinists,"</i> it should be noted that <i>"[n]owhere
.. . . nationalism openly advocated, and the line of
argument put forward can more easily be interpreted as
libertarian and, above all, anti-White."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 146]
<p>
In 1928, Makhno wrote a rebuttal to a Soviet historian's
claim that Makhno became a Ukrainian Nationalist during
the 1920-21 period. He <i>"totally dismissed the charges"</i>
and argued that the historian <i>"distorted anarchism's
espousal of local autonomy so as to create trumped-up
charges of nationalism."</i> As Sysyn argues, while Makhno
<i>"never became a nationalist, he did to a degree become
a Ukrainian anarchist."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 292 and p. 303]
<p>
Thus while neither Makhno nor the movement were nationalists,
they were not blind to national and cultural oppression. They
considered nationalism as too narrow a goal to satisfy the
<b>social</b> aspirations of the working classes. As Makhno
argued in exile, the Ukrainian toilers had <i>"asserted their
rights to use their own language and their entitlement
to their own culture, which had been regarded before the
revolution as anathema. They also asserted their right to
conform in their lives to their own way of life and specific
customs."</i> However, <i>"[i]n the aim of building an independent
Ukrainian State, certain statist gentlemen would dearly love
to arrogate to themselves all natural manifestations of
Ukrainian reality."</i> Yet the <i>"healthy instincts of the
Ukrainian toilers and their baleful life under the Bolshevik
yoke has not made them oblivious of the State danger in
general"</i> and so they <i>"shun the chauvinist trend and do not
mix it up with their social aspirations, rather seeking their
own road to emancipation."</i> [<b>The Struggle Against the State
and Other Essays</b>, pp. 24-5]
<p>
In summary, the Makhnovists were opposed to nationalism
but supported culture diversity and self-determination
within a free federation of toilers communes and councils.
They did not limit their aims to national liberation, but
rather sought the self-liberation of the working classes
from every oppression -- foreign or domestic, economic or
political, cultural or social.
<p>
<a name="sech612"><h2>H.6.12 Did the Makhnovists support the Whites?</h2>
<p>
No, they did not. However, black propaganda by the Bolsheviks
stated they did. Victor Serge wrote about the <i>"strenuous
calumnies put out by the Communist Party"</i> against him
<i>"which went so far as to accuse him of signing pacts with
the Whites at the very moment when he was engaged in a
life-and-death struggle against them."</i> [<b>Memoirs of a
Revolutionary</b>, p. 122]
<p>
According to Arshinov, <i>"Soviet newspapers spread the false
news of an alliance between Makhno and Wrangel"</i> and in the
summer of 1920, a representative of the Kharkov government
<i>"declared at the Plenary Session of the Ekaterinoslav
Soviet, that Soviet authorities had written proof of the
alliance between Makhno and Wrangel. This was obviously
an intentional lie."</i> Wrangel, perhaps believing these
lies had some basis, sent a messenger to Makhno in July,
1920. <i>"Wrangel's messenger was immediately executed"</i>
and the <i>"entire incident was reported in the Makhnovist
press. All this was perfectly clear to the Bolsheviks.
They nevertheless continued to trumpet the alliance
between Makhno and Wrangel. It was only after a
military-political agreement had been concluded between
the Makhnovists and the Soviet power that the Soviet
Commissariat of War announced that there had never been
an alliance between Makhno and Wrangel, that earlier
Soviet assertions to this effect were an error."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 173-5]
<p>
Needless to say, while the Bolsheviks spread the rumour
to discredit Makhno, the Whites spread it to win the
confidence of the peasants. Thus when Trotsky stated
that Wrangel had <i>"united with the Ukrainian partisan
Makhno,"</i> he was aiding the efforts of Wrangel to learn
from previous White mistakes and build some kind of
popular base. [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 220] By
October, Trotsky had retracted this statement:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Wrangel really tried to come into direct contact with
Makhno's men and dispatched to Makhno's headquarters
two representatives for negotiations . . . [However]
Makhno's men not only did not enter into negotiations
with the representatives of Wrangel, but publicly
hanged them as soon as they arrived at the headquarters."</i>
[quoted by Palij, <b>Ibid.</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Trotsky, of course, still tried to blacken the Makhnovists.
In the same article he argued that <i>"[u]ndoubtedly Makhno
actually co-operated with Wrangel, and also with the Polish
<b>szlachta</b>, as he fought with them against the Red Army.
However, there was no formal alliance between them. All
the documents mentioning a formal alliance were fabricated
by Wrangel . . . All this fabrication was made to deceive
the protectors of Makhno, the French, and other imperialists."</i>
[quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 225]
<p>
It is hard to know where to start in this amazing piece of
political story-telling. As we discuss in more detail in
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">section H.6.13</a>, 
the Makhnovists were fighting the Red Army
from January to September 1920 because the Bolsheviks had
engineered their outlawing! As historian David Footman points
out, the attempt by the Bolsheviks to transfer Makhno to Polish
front was done for political reasons:
<p><blockquote><i>
"it is admitted on the Soviet side that this order was primarily
'dictated by the necessity' of liquidating <b>Makhnovshchina</b> as an
independent movement. Only when he was far removed from his home
country would it be possible to counteract his influence"</i> [<b>Op.
Cit.</b>, p. 291]
</blockquote><p>
Indeed, it could be argued that by attacking Makhno in January
helped the Whites to regroup under Wrangel and return later
in the year. Equally, it seems like a bad joke for Trotsky to
blame the victim of Bolshevik intrigues for defending themselves.
And the idea that Makhno had <i>"protectors"</i> in any imperialist
nation is a joke, which deserves only laughter as a response!
<p>
It should be noted that it is <i>"agreed that the initiative for
joint action against Wrangel came from the Makhnovites."</i> This was
ignored by the Bolsheviks until after <i>"Wrangel started his big
offensive"</i> in September 1920 [Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 294 and
p. 295]
<p>
So while the Bolsheviks claimed that the Makhnovists had made a
pact with General Wrangel, the facts are that Makhnovists fought
the Whites with all their energy. Indeed, they considered the
Whites so great a threat to the revolution they even agreed to
pursue a pact with the Bolsheviks, who had betrayed them twice
already and had subjected both them and the peasantry to
repression.  As such, it could be argued that the Bolsheviks
were the only counter-revolutionaries the Makhnovists can be
accurately accused of collaborating with.
<p>
Every historian who has studied the movement has refuted
claims that the Makhnovist movement made any alliance with
the counter-revolutionary White forces. For example, Michael
Palij notes that Denikin <i>"was the main enemy that Makhno fought,
stubbornly and uncompromising, from the end of 1918 to the end
of 1919. Its social and anti-Ukrainian policies greatly
antagonised all segments of Ukrainian society. The result
of this was an increased resistance to the Volunteer Army
and its regime and a substantial strengthening of the Makhno
movement."</i> He also notes that after several months of <i>"hard 
fighting"</i> Denikin's troops <i>"came to regard Makhno's army as 
their most formidable enemy."</i> Makhno's conflict with Wrangel 
was equally as fierce and <i>"[a]lthough Makhno had fought both 
the Bolsheviks and Wrangel, his contribution to the final 
defeat of the latter was essential, as is proved by the 
efforts of both sides to have him as an ally."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 177, p. 202 and  p. 228] According to Footman, Makhno 
<i>"remained to the end the implacable enemy of the Whites."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 295] Malet just states the obvious: <i>"The 
Makhnovists were totally opposed to the Whites."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 140] 
<p>
We will leave the last word to the considered judgement of 
the White General Denikin who, in exile, stated that the 
Makhno movement was <i>"the most antagonistic to the idea of 
the White movement."</i> [quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 140]
<p>
In summary, the Makhnovists fought the White counter-revolution
with all their might, playing a key role in the struggle and
defeat of both Denikin and Wrangel. Anyone who claims that
they worked with the Whites is either ignorant or a liar.
<p>
<a name="sech613"><h2>H.6.13 What was the relationship of the Bolsheviks to the movement?</h2>
<p>
The Makhnovists worked with the Bolsheviks in three periods. The
first (and longest) was against Denikin after the Red Army had
entered the Ukraine after the withdrawal of the Austro-Germans.
The second was an informal agreement for a short period after
Denikin had been defeated. The third was a formal political and
military agreement between October and November 1920 in the
struggle against Wrangel. Each period of co-operation ended
with Bolshevik betrayal and conflict between the two forces.
<p>
As such, the relationship of the Bolsheviks to the 
Makhnovists was one of, at best, hostile co-operation 
against a common enemy. Usually, it was one of conflict. 
This was due, fundamentally, to two different concepts of 
social revolution. While the Makhnovists, as anarchists,
believed in working-class self-management and autonomy,
the Bolsheviks believed that only a centralised state
structure (headed by themselves) could ensure the success 
of the revolution. By equating working-class power with 
Bolshevik party government (and from 1919 onwards, with 
the dictatorship of the Bolshevik party), they could not
help viewing the Makhnovist movement as a threat to their 
power (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">section H.6.14</a> 
for a discussion of the political
differences and the evolving nature of the Bolshevik's
conception of party rule).
<p>
Such a perspective ensured that they could only co-operate
during periods when the White threat seemed most dangerous.
As soon as the threat was defeated or they felt strong enough,
the Bolsheviks turned on their former allies instantly. This
section discusses each of the Bolshevik betrayals and the
subsequent conflicts. As such, it is naturally broken up into
three parts, reflecting each of the betrayals and their
aftermath.
<p>
Michael Malet sums up the usual Bolshevik-Makhnovist relationship 
by arguing that it <i>"will be apparent that the aim of the Soviet 
government from the spring of 1919 onwards was to destroy the 
Makhnovists as an independent force, preferably killing Makhno 
himself in the process . . . Given the disastrous nature of 
Bolshevik land policy . . . this was not only unsurprisingly,
it was inevitable."</i> He also adds that the <i>"fact that Makhno 
had a socio-political philosophy to back up his arguments only
made the Bolsheviks more determined to break his hold over
the south-east Ukraine, as soon as they realised that Nestor
would not surrender that hold voluntarily."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 128
and p. 129]
<p>
The first betrayal occurred in June 1919. The Makhnovists had
been integrated with the Red Army in late January 1919,
retaining their internal organisation (including the election
of commanders) and their black flags. With the Red Army they
fought against Denikin's Volunteer Army. Before the arrival
of Red forces in their region and the subsequent pact, the
Makhnovists had organised a successful regional insurgent,
peasant and worker congress which had agreed to call a
second for February 12th. This second congress set up a
Revolutionary Military Soviet to implement the decisions
of this and following congresses. This congress (see
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>) 
passed an anti-Bolshevik resolution, which
urged <i>"the peasants and workers to watch vigilantly the
actions of the Bolshevik regime that cause a real danger
to the worker-peasant revolution."</i> Such actions included
the monopolisation of the revolution, centralising power
and overriding local soviets, repressing anarchists and
Left Socialist Revolutionaries and <i>"stifling any
manifestation of revolutionary expression."</i> [quoted by
Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 154]
<p>
This change from the recent welcome was simply the behaviour
of the Bolsheviks since their arrival. The (unelected)
Ukrainian Bolshevik government had tried to apply the
same tactics as its Russian equivalent, particularly as
regards the peasants. In addition, the Bolshevik land
policy (as indicated in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech68">section H.6.8</a>) was a complete
disaster, alien to the ideas and needs of the peasants
and, combined with grain requisitioning, alienating them.
<p>
The third congress was held on the 10th of April. By 
this time, Communist agricultural policy and terrorism
had alienated all the peasantry, who <i>"rich and poor alike"</i>
were <i>"united in their opposition"</i> to the Bolsheviks.
[Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 269] Indeed, the <i>"poorer the
areas, the more dissatisfied were the peasants with the
Bolshevik decrees."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 156] 
As we indicated in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>, 
the third congress was informed that it was
<i>"counter-revolutionary"</i> and banned by the Bolshevik
commander Dybenko, provoking a famous reply which stressed
the right of a revolutionary people to apply the gains
of that revolution when they see fit. It is worth re-quoting
the relevant section:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Can there exist laws made by a few people who call
themselves revolutionaries which permit them to
outlaw a whole people who are more revolutionary
than they are themselves? . . .
<p>
"Is it permissible, is it admissible, that they should
come to the country to establish laws of violence,
to subjugate a people who have just overthrown all
lawmakers and all laws?
<p>
"Does there exist a law according to which a revolutionary
has the right to apply the most severe penalties to a
revolutionary mass, of which he calls himself the
defender, simply because this mass has taken the good
things which the revolution promised them, freedom
and equality, without his permission?
<p>
"Should the mass of revolutionary people perhaps be
silent when such a revolutionary takes away the
freedom which they have just conquered?
<p>
"Do the laws of the revolution order the shooting of
a delegate because he believes he ought to carry out
the mandate given him by the revolutionary mass
which elected him?
<p>
"Whose interests should the revolutionary defend;
those of the Party or those of the people who set
the revolution in motion with their blood?"</i> [quoted
by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 103]
</blockquote><p>
After the 3rd congress, the Bolsheviks started to turn
against Makhno:
<p><blockquote><i>
"It was now that favourable mention of Makhno ceased to
appear in the Soviet Press; an increasingly critical 
note became apparent. Supplies failed to get through to 
Makhnovite units and areas."</i> [Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 271]
</blockquote><p>
Lenin himself advised local Bolshevik leaders on Makhno,
stating in early May that <i>"temporarily, while Rostov is
not yet captured, it is necessary to be diplomatic."</i> 
[quoted by Arthur E. Adams, <b>Bolsheviks in the Ukraine</b>,
pp. 352-3] Thus, as long as the Bolsheviks needed cannon
fodder, Makhno was to be tolerated. Things changed when 
Trotsky arrived. On May 17th he promised a <i>"radical and
merciless liquidation of partisanshchina [the partisan
movement], independence, hooliganism, and leftism."</i> 
[quoted by Adams, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 360] According to one
historian, Trotsky <i>"favoured a thorough-going annihilation 
of the partisan's ideological leaders as well as men like
Hryhoriyov who wielded political power."</i> [Adams, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 360] Unsurprisingly, given Trotsky's stated mission,
Bolshevik hostility towards the Makhnovists became more
than mere words. It took the form of both direct and 
indirect aggression. <i>"In the latter part of May,"</i> states 
Footman, <i>"the <b>Cheka</b> sent over two agents to assassinate 
Makhno."</i> Around the same time, the Red <i>"hold-back of supplies 
for the Insurgents developed into a blockade of the area. 
Makhnovite units at the front ran short of ammunition."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 271 and p. 272] This, obviously, had a 
negative impact the Makhnovists' ability to fight the
Whites. 
<p>
Due to the gravity of the military and political situations both
at and behind the front, the Makhnovist Revolutionary Military
Soviet decided to call an extraordinary congress of peasants,
workers, insurgents and Red soldiers. This congress was to
determine the immediate tasks and the practical measures to
be taken by the workers to remedy the mortal danger represented
by the Whites. On May 31st, a call was sent out which stated,
in part, <i>"that only the working masses themselves can find a
solution [to the current problem], and not individuals or
parties."</i> The congress would be based as follows: <i>"elections of 
delegates of peasants and workers will take place at general 
assemblies of villages, towns, factories and workshops."</i> 
[quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 121]
<p>
The Bolshevik reply came quickly, with Trotsky issuing his
infamous Order no. 1824 on June 4th:
<p><blockquote><i>
"This Congress is directed squarely against the Soviet Power
in the Ukraine and against the organisation of the southern
front, where Makhno's brigade is stationed. This congress can
have no other result then to excite some new disgraceful revolt
like that of Grigor'ev, and to open the front to the Whites,
before whom Makhno's brigade can only retreat incessantly on
account of the incompetence, criminal designs and treason of
its commanders.
<p>
"1. By the present order this congress is forbidden, and will
in no circumstances be allowed to take place.
<p>
"2. All the peasant and working class population shall be warned.
orally and in writing, that participation in the said congress
will be considered an act of high treason against the Soviet
Republic and the Soviet front.
<p>
"3. All delegates to the said Congress shall be arrested
immediately and bought before the Revolutionary Military
Tribunal of the 14th, formerly 2nd, Army of the Ukraine.
<p>
"4. The persons spreading the call of Makhno and the Hulyai
Pole Executive Committee to the Congress shall likewise be
arrested.
<p>
"5. The present order shall have the force of law as soon as
it is telegraphed. It should be widely distributed, displayed
in all public places, and sent to the representatives of the
executive committees of towns and villages, as well as to all
the representatives of Soviet authority, and to commanders and
commissars of military units."</i> [quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 122-3]
</blockquote><p>
Arshinov argues that this <i>"document is truly classic"</i> and
<i>"[w]hoever studies the Russian revolution should learn it by
heart."</i> He compares Trotsky's order to the reply the Makhnovists
had sent to the Bolsheviks' attempt to ban the third congress.
Clearly, Order No. 1824 shows that laws did exist <i>"made by a
a few people who call themselves revolutionaries which permit
them to outlaw a whole people who are more revolutionary than
they are themselves"</i>! Equally, the order shows that <i>"a
revolutionary has the right to apply the most severe penalties
to a revolutionary mass . . . simply because this mass has
taken the good things which the revolution has promised them,
freedom and equality, without his permission"</i>! Little wonder
Arshinov states that this order meant that the <i>"entire peasant
and labouring population are declared guilty of high treason
if they dare to participate in their own free congress."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 123] 
<p>
According to Voline, in Alexandrovsk <i>"all workers meetings 
planned for the purpose of discussing the call of the 
Council and the agenda of the Congress were forbidden under
pain of death. Those which were organised in ignorance of
the order were dispersed by armed force. In other cities
and towns, the Bolsheviks acted in the same way. As for 
the peasants in the villages, they were treated with still
less ceremony; in many places militants and even peasants
'suspected of acting in favour of the insurgents and the
Congress' were seized and executed after a semblance of 
a trial. Many peasants carrying the call were arrested,
'tried' and shot, before they could even find out about
Order No. 1824."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 599-600]
<p>
As Arshinov summarises:
<p><blockquote><i>
"This entire document represents such a crying usurpation of
the rights of the workers that it is pointless to comment
further on it."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 124]
</blockquote><p>
Trotsky continued his usurpation of the rights of the workers
in a later order on the congress. In this, Trotsky called 
this openly announced workers, peasant and insurgent congress 
a <i>"conspiracy against Soviet power"</i> and a <i>"congress of 
Anarchist-kulaks delegates for struggle against the Red 
Army and the Soviet power"</i> (which explains why the congress 
organisers had asked that hotbed of kulakism, the Red Army
troops, to send delegates!). Trotsky indicated the fate of 
those workers and peasants who dared participate in their 
own revolution: <i>"There can be only one penalty for these 
individuals: shooting."</i> [<b>How the Revolution Armed</b>, 
vol. II, p. 293]
<p>
Trotsky also ordered the arrest of Makhno, who escaped but who
ordered his troops to remain under Bolshevik command to ensure
that the front against Denikin was maintained. However, five
members of his staff were shot for having distributed literature
concerning the banned fourth congress. This order was the first
step in the Bolshevik attempt to <i>"liquidate the Makhnovist
movement."</i> This campaign saw Bolshevik regiments invade the
insurgent area, shooting militants on the spot and destroying
the free communes and other Makhnovist organisations. [Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 121] It should be noted that during the Spanish
Revolution, the Stalinists acted in the same way, attacking
rural collectives while the anarchist troops fought against
Franco at the front.
<p>
Thus the participating event for the break between the
Makhnovists and Bolsheviks was Trotsky's banning of the
fourth regional congress. However, this was preceded by
an intense press campaign against the Makhnovists as well
as holding back of essential supplies from the frontline
troops. Clearly the Bolsheviks considered that the soviet
system was threatened if soviet conferences were called
and that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was undermined
if the proletariat took part in the revolutionary process!
<p>
With the Makhnovist front weakened, they could not hold against
Denikin's attacks, particularly when Red Army troops retreated on
their flank. Thus, the front which the Makhnovists themselves had 
formed and held for more than six months was finally broken. 
[Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 124] The Red Army was split into three 
and the Whites entered the Ukraine, which the Bolsheviks promptly 
abandoned to its fate. The Makhnovists, drawing stray Red Army 
and other forces to it, continued to fight the Whites, ultimately 
inflicting a decisive defeat on them at Peregonovka, subsequently 
destroying their supply lines and ensuring Denikin's defeat 
(see <a href="secH6.html#sech64">section H.6.4</a>).
<p>
The Red Army re-entered the Ukraine at the end of 1919. 
Bolshevik plans with regard to the Makhnovists had already
been decided in a secret order written by Trotsky on 
December 11th. Red Army troops had to <i>"be protected 
against infection by guerrilla-ism and Makhnovism"</i> by 
various means, including <i>"extensive agitation"</i> which 
used <i>"examples from the past to show the treacherous role 
played by the Makhnovites."</i> A <i>"considerable number of 
agents"</i> would be sent <i>"ahead"</i> of the main forces 
to <i>"join the
guerrilla detachments"</i> and would agitate against <i>"guerrilla-ism."</i>
Once partisan forces meet with Red Army troops, the former 
<i>"ceases to be a military unit after it has appeared on our
side of the line . . . From that moment it becomes merely 
material for processing, and for that purpose is to be sent
to our rear."</i> To <i>"secure complete subordination of the
detachments,"</i> the Red forces <i>"must make use of the agents
previously set to these detachments."</i> The aim, simply put,
was to ensure that the partisans became <i>"fully subordinate 
to our command."</i> If the partisans who had been fighting for
revolution and against the Whites opposed becoming <i>"material
for processing"</i> (i.e cannon fodder), <i>"refuses to submit to 
orders, displays unruliness and self-will,"</i> then it <i>"must
be subjected to ruthless punishment."</i> Recognising the 
organic links the partisans had with the peasants, Trotsky
argues that <i>"in the Ukraine, guerrilla detachments appear
and disappear with ease, dissolving themselves into the
mass of the armed peasant population"</i> and so <i>"a fundamental
condition for the success against guerrilla-ism is 
<b>unconditional disarmament of the rural population, 
without exception.</b>"</i> [Trotsky, <b>How the Revolution Armed</b>, 
vol. II, pp. 440-2] As events would show, the Bolsheviks
implemented Trotsky's order to the letter.
<p>
On December 24th, Makhno's troops met with the Bolshevik 14th
army and its commander <i>"admitted Makhno's service in defeating
Denikin."</i> However, while <i>"the Bolsheviks fraternised with the
Makhno troops . . . they distrusted Makhno, fearing the
popularity he had gained as a result of his successful
fighting against Denikin."</i> The Bolsheviks had <i>"no intention
of tolerating Makhno's independent policy, but hoped first to
destroy his army by removing it from its own base. With this
in mind, on January 8th, 1920, the Revolutionary Military
Council of the Fourteenth Army ordered Makhno to move to the
Polish Front . . . The author of the order realised that there
was no real war between the Poles and the Bolsheviks at the
time and he also knew that Makhno would not abandon his region.
.. . . Uborevich [the author] explained that 'an appropriate
reaction by Makhno to this order would give us the chance
to have accurate grounds for our next steps' . . . [He]
concluded: 'The order is a certain political manoeuvre and,
at the very least, we expect positive results from Makhno's
realisation of this.'"</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 209 and p. 210]
As can be seen, these actions fit perfectly with Trotsky's
secret order and with Bolshevik desire for a monopoly of
power for itself (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">next section</a>).
<p>
As expected, the Makhnovists refused to leave their territory.
They realised the political motivations behind the order. As
Arshinov notes, <i>"[s]ending the insurrectionary army to the
Polish front meant removing from the Ukraine the main nerve
centre of the revolutionary insurrection. This was precisely
what the Bolsheviks wanted: they would then be absolute masters
of the rebellious region, and the Makhnovists were perfectly
aware of this."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 163] As well as political
objections, the Makhnovists listed practical reasons for
not going. Firstly, <i>"the Insurrectionary Army was subordinate
neither to the 14th Corps nor to any other unit of the Red Army.
The Red commander had no authority to give orders to the
Insurrectionary Army."</i> Secondly, <i>"it was materially impossible
to carry it out, since half the men, as well as nearly all
the commanders and staff, and Makhno himself, were sick
[with typhus]."</i> Thirdly, <i>"the fighting qualities and
revolutionary usefulness of the Insurrectionary Army were
certainly much greater on their own ground."</i> [Voline, <b>Op.
Cit.</b>, pp. 650-1]
<p>
The Bolsheviks refused to discuss the issue and on the 14th
of January, they declared the Makhnovists outlawed. They
then <i>"made a great effort to destroy"</i> Makhno. [Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210] In summary, the Bolsheviks <b>started</b> the
conflict in order to eliminate opposition to their power.
This led to nine months of bitter fighting between the
Red Army and the Makhnovists. To prevent fraternisation,
the Bolsheviks did not use local troops and instead imported
Latvian, Estonian and Chinese troops. They also used other
<i>"new tactics,"</i> and <i>"attacked not only Makhno's partisans,
but also the villages and towns in which the population
was sympathetic toward Makhno. They shot ordinary soldiers
as well as their commanders, destroying their houses,
confiscating their properties and persecuting their families.
Moreover the Bolsheviks conducted mass arrests of innocent
peasants who were suspected of collaborating in some way
with the partisans. It is impossible to determine the
casualties involved."</i> They also set up <i>"Committees of
the Poor"</i> as part of the Bolshevik administrative apparatus,
which acted as <i>"informers helping the Bolshevik secret police
in its persecution of the partisans, their families and
supporters, even to the extent of hunting down and executing
wounded partisans."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 212-3]
<p>
This conflict undoubtedly gave time for the Whites to
reorganise themselves and encouraged the Poles to invade
the Ukraine, so prolonging the Civil War. The Makhnovists
were threatened by both the Bolsheviks <b>and</b> Wrangel. By
mid-1920, Wrangel appeared to be gaining the upper hand
and the Makhnovists <i>"could not remain indifferent to
Wrangel's advance . . . Everything done to destroy him
would in the last analysis benefit the revolution."</i> This
lead the Makhnovists to consider allying with the Bolsheviks
as <i>"the difference between the Communists and Wrangel
was that the Communists had the support of the masses
with faith in the revolution. It is true that these masses
were cynically misled by the Communists, who exploited
the revolutionary enthusiasm of the workers in the interests
of Bolshevik power."</i> With this in mind, the Makhnovists
agreed at a mass assembly to make an alliance with the
Bolsheviks against Wrangel as this would eliminate the
White threat and end the civil war. [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 176]
<p>
The Bolsheviks ignored the Makhnovist offer using
mid-September, when <i>"Wrangel's success caused the Bolsheviks
leaders to reconsider."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 223] Sometime
between the 10th and 15th of October the final agreement was
signed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Part I -- Political Agreement.
<p>
"1. Immediate release of all Makhnovists and anarchists imprisoned
or in exile in the territories of the Soviet Republic; cessation
of all persecutions of Makhnovists or anarchists, except those
who carry on armed conflict against the Soviet Government.
<p>
"2. Complete freedom in all forms of public expression and
propaganda for all Makhnovists and anarchists, for their
principles and ideas, in speech and the press, with the
exception of anything that might call for the violent
overthrow of the Soviet Government, and on condition that
the requirements of military censorship be respected. For
all kinds of publications, the Makhnovists and anarchists,
as revolutionary organisations recognised by the Soviet
Government may make use of the technical apparatus of the
Soviet State, while naturally submitting to the technical
rules for publication.
<p>
"3. Free participation in elections to the Soviets; and the
right of Makhnovists and anarchists to be elected thereto.
Free participation in the organisation of the forthcoming
Fifth Pan-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets . . .
<p>
"Part II -- Military Agreement.
<p>
"1. The Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army (Makhnovist)
will join the armed forces of the Republic as a partisan army,
subordinate, in regard to operations, to the supreme command of
the Red Army; it will retain its established internal structure,
and does not have to adopt the bases and principles of the
regular Red Army.
<p>
"2. When crossing Soviet territory at the front, or going between
fronts, the Insurrectionary Army will not accept into its ranks
neither any detachments of, nor deserters from, the Red Army . . .
<p>
"3. For the purpose of destroying the common enemy -- the White
Army -- the Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army
(Makhnovists) will inform the working masses that collaborate
with it the agreement that has been concluded; it will call upon
the people to cease all military actions hostile to the Soviet
power; and for its part, the Soviet power will immediately
publish the clauses of the agreement.
<p>
"4. The families of combatants of the Makhnovist Revolutionary
Insurrectionary Army living in the territory of the Soviet
Republic shall enjoy the same rights as those of soldiers of
the Red Army . . ."</i> [quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 178]
</blockquote><p>
This agreement was agreed by both sides, although the Bolsheviks
immediately broke it by publishing the military agreement first,
followed by the political agreement a week later, so obscuring
the real meaning of the pact. As it stands, the political clause
simply gave anarchists and Makhnovists the rights they should
have already had, according to the constitution of the Soviet
state. This shows how far the Bolsheviks had applied that
constitution.
<p>
The agreement is highly significant as in itself it disproves
many of the Bolsheviks slanders about the Makhnovists and it
proves the suppression of the anarchist press to have been on
political grounds.
<p>
However, the Makhnovists desired to add a fourth clause to
the Political Agreement:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Since one of the essential principles of the Makhnovist movement
is the struggle for the self-management of the workers, the
Insurrectionary Army (Makhnovist) believes it should insist on
the following fourth point of the political agreement: in the
region where the Makhnovist Army is operating, the population
of workers and peasants will create its own institutions of
economic and political self-management; these institutions will
be autonomous and joined in federation, by means of agreement,
with the government organs of the Soviet Republic,"</i> [quoted by
Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 179-80]
</blockquote><p>
Unsurprisingly, the Bolsheviks refused to ratify this clause.
As one Bolshevik historian pointed out, the <i>"fourth point was
fundamental to both sides, it meant the system of free Soviets,
which was in total opposition to the idea of the dictatorship
of the proletariat."</i> [quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 108] As
we discuss in the 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">next section</a>, 
the Bolsheviks had equated
the <i>"dictatorship of the proletariat"</i> with the dictatorship
of their party and so working-class self-management could not
be allowed. It should be noted that this fourth clause was the
cause of Lenin and Trotsky's toying with the idea of allowing
the Makhnovists south-eastern Ukraine as an anarchist
experiment (as mentioned by both Victor Serge and Trotsky in
later years).
<p>
Once Wrangel had been defeated by Makhnovist and Red Army
units, the Bolsheviks turned on the movement. Makhno had
<i>"assumed that the coming conflict with the Bolsheviks could
be limited to the realm of ideas, feeling that the strong
revolutionary ideas and feelings of the peasants, together
with their distrust of the foreign invaders, were the best
guarantees for the movement's territory. Moreover, Makhno
believed that the Bolsheviks would not attack his movement
immediately. A respite of some three months would have
allowed him to consolidate his power [sic!] and to win
over much of the Bolshevik rank and file."</i> [Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 231] From the wording of the second clause
of the military agreement (namely, to refuse Red Army
deserters or units), it is clear that the Bolsheviks were
aware of the appeal of Makhnovist politics on the Red
Army soldiers. As soon as Wrangel was defeated, the Red
Army attacked. Makhnovist commanders were invited to
meetings, arrested and then shot. The Red Army surrounded
Makhnovist units and attacked them. At the same time,
anarchists were arrested all across the Ukraine. Hulyai
Pole itself was attacked (Makhno, despite overwhelming
odds, broke out). [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 71-2]
<p>
In the words of Makhno:
<p><blockquote><i>
"In this difficult and responsible revolutionary position
the Makhno movement made one great mistake: alliance with
the Bolsheviks against a common enemy, Wrangel and the
Entente. In the period of this alliance that was morally
right and of practical value for the revolution, the Makhno
movement mistook Bolshevik revolutionism and failed to
secure itself in advance against betrayal. The Bolsheviks
and their experts treacherously circumvented it."</i> [quoted
by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 234]
</blockquote><p>
While the Bolsheviks continuously proclaimed the final defeat
of the Makhnovists, they held out for nearly a year before
being forced to leave the Ukraine in August 1921. Indeed,
by the end of 1920 his troops number ten to fifteen thousand
men and the <i>"growing strength of the Makhno army and its
successes caused serious concern in the Bolshevik regime."</i>
More Red troops were deployed, <i>"stationing whole regiments,
primarily cavalry, in the occupied villages to terrorise
the peasants and prevent them from supporting Makhno. . .
Cheka punitive units were constantly trailing the partisans,
executing Makhno's sympathisers and the partisans' families."</i>
[Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 237 and p. 238] Combined with this
state terrorism, economic conditions in the villages got
worse. The countryside was exhausted and 1921 was a famine
year. With his rural base itself barely surviving, the
Makhnovists could not survive long.
<p>
It should be noted that during the periods after the Bolsheviks
had turned on the Makhnovists, the latter appealed to rank-and-file 
Red Army troops not to attack them. As one of their leaflets
put it: <i>"Down with fratricidal war among the working people!"</i>
They urged the Red Army troops (with some success) to rebel
against the commissars and appointed officers and join with
the Makhnovists, who would <i>"greet [them] as our own brothers
and together we will create a free and just life for workers
and peasants and will struggle against all tyrants and 
oppressors of the working people."</i> [contained in Arshinov,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 276 and p. 283] 
<p>
Even after the defeat of the Makhnovists, the Bolsheviks did not
stop their campaign of lies. For example, Trotsky reported to
the Ninth Congress of Soviets on December 26th, 1921, that
the Makhnovists were <i>"in Romania,"</i> where Makhno had <i>"received
a friendly welcome"</i> and was <i>"liv[ing] comfortably in Bucharest."</i>
The Makhnovists had picked Romania because it was, like Poland,
<i>"a country where they . . . felt secure"</i> due to the way they
treated <i>"Russian counter-revolutionary bands."</i> [<b>How the 
Revolution Armed</b>, vol. IV, p. 404] In reality, the <i>"Romanian
authorities put Makhno, his wife, and his followers in an
internment camp."</i> The Bolsheviks were not unaware of this, 
as they <i>"sent a series of sharp diplomatic notes demanding 
Makhno's extradiction."</i> They expelled Makhno and his wife
to Poland on April 11, 1922. The Poles also interned them
and, again, the Bolsheviks demanded Makhno's extradition 
<i>"on the ground that he was a criminal and not entitled to
political asylum."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 242] Trotsky's lies
come as no surprise, given his and his party's track record
on slandering anarchists.
<p>
As can be seen, the relationship of the Makhnovists to the
Bolsheviks was one of constant betrayal of the former by the
latter. Moreover, the Bolsheviks took every opportunity to
slander the Makhnovists, with Trotsky going so far as to 
report Makhno was living well while he was rotting in a
capitalist prison. This is to be expected, as the aims of the 
two groups were at such odds. As we discuss in the 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">next section</a>, 
while the Makhnovists did whatever they could to encourage 
working-class self-management and freedom, the Bolsheviks had 
evolved from advocating the government of their party as the 
expression of "the dictatorship of the proletariat" to stating 
that only the dictatorship of their party could ensure the success of
a social revolution and so <b>was</b> "the dictatorship of the
proletariat." As the Makhnovist movement shows, if need be,
the party would happily exercise its dictatorship <b>over</b> the
proletariat (and peasantry) if that was needed to retain its
power.
<p>
<a name="sech614"><h2>H.6.14 How did the Makhnovists and Bolsheviks differ?</h2>
<p>
Like chalk and cheese.
<p>
Whereas the Bolsheviks talked about soviet democracy while
exercising a party dictatorship, the Makhnovists not only
talked about <i>"free soviets,"</i> they also encouraged them with
all their ability. Similarly, while Lenin stated that
free speech was <i>"a bourgeois notion"</i> and that there could
be <i>"no free speech in a revolutionary period,"</i> the Makhnovists
proclaimed free speech for working people. [Lenin quoted by
Goldman, <b>My Disillusionment in Russia</b>, p. 33] While the
Bolsheviks ended up arguing for the necessity of party
dictatorship during a revolution, the Makhnovists introduced
free soviets and organised peasant, worker and insurgent
congresses to conduct the revolution.
<p>
We have discussed the Makhnovist ideas in both theory and
practice in sections 
<a href="secH6.html#sech65">H.6.5</a>, 
<a href="secH6.html#sech66">H.6.6</a> and 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">H.6.7</a>. In spite of
the chaos and difficulties imposed upon the movement by
having to fight the counter-revolution, the Makhnovists
applied their ideals constantly. The Makhnovists were a mass
movement and its constructive efforts showed that there was
an alternative route the Russian revolution could have followed
other than the authoritarian dictatorship that Leninists, then
and now, claimed was inevitable if the revolution was to be saved.
<p>
To see why, we must compare Bolshevik ideology and practice
to that of the Makhnovists in three key areas. Firstly, on
how a revolution should be defended. Secondly, on the role of
the soviets and party in the revolution. Thirdly, on the question
of working-class freedom.
<p>
Early in 1918, after the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty the
Bolsheviks re-introduced Tsarist officers into the army alongside
bourgeois military discipline. As Maurice Brinton correctly
summarises:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Trotsky, appointed Commissar of Military Affairs after
Brest-Litovsk, had rapidly been reorganising the Red Army. The
death penalty for disobedience under fire had been restored. So,
more gradually, had saluting, special forms of address, separate
living quarters and other privileges for officers. Democratic
forms of organisation, including the election of officers, had
been quickly dispensed with."</i> [<b>The Bolsheviks and Workers'
Control</b>, p. 37]
</blockquote><p>
Officers were appointed rather then elected. They argued this had to
be done to win the war. The <i>"principle of election,"</i> stated Trotsky,
<i>"is politically purposeless and technically inexpedient and has been,
in practice, abolished by decree."</i> Thus the election of officers
and the creation of soldiers' committees was abolished from the top,
replaced by appointed officers. Trotsky's rationale for this was
simply that <i>"political power is in the hands of the same working
class from whose ranks the Army is recruited."</i> In other words, the
Bolshevik Party held power as power was actually held by it, <b>not</b>
the working class. Trotsky tried to answer the obvious objection:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Once we have established the Soviet regime, that is a system
under which the government is headed by persons who have been
directly elected by the Soviets of Workers', Peasants' and
Soldiers' Deputies, there can be no antagonism between the
government and the mass of the workers, just as there is no
antagonism between the administration of the union and the
general assembly of its members, and, therefore, there cannot
be any grounds for fearing the <b>appointment</b> of members of the
commanding staff by the organs of the Soviet Power."</i> [<b>Work,
Discipline, Order</b>]
</blockquote><p>
He repeated this argument in his 1919 diatribe against the
Makhnovists:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Makhnovites shout raucously: 'Down with appointed commanders!'
This they do only so as to delude the ignorant element among their
own soldiers. One can speak of 'appointed' persons only under the
bourgeois order, when Tsarist officials or bourgeois ministers
appointed at their own discretion commanders who kept the soldier
masses subject to the bourgeois classes. Today there is no authority
in Russia but that which is elected by the whole working class and
working peasantry. It follows that commanders appointed by the
central Soviet Government are installed in their positions by the
will of the working millions. But the Makhnovite commanders reflect
the interests of a minute group of Anarchists who rely on the kulaks
and the ignorant."</i> [<b>The Makhno Movement</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Of course, most workers are well aware that the administration
of a trade union usually works against them during periods of struggle.
Indeed, so are most Trotskyists as they often denounce the betrayals
by that administration. Thus Trotsky's own analogy indicates the
fallacy of his argument. Equally, it was not <i>"the will of the working
millions"</i> which appointed anyone, it was a handful of leaders of the
Bolshevik party (which had manipulated the soviets to remain in
power). Needless to say, this was a vast change from Lenin's
comments in <b>State and Revolution</b> opposing appointment and calling
for election of <b>all</b> officials!
<p>
Moreover, the explanation that <i>"the ignorant"</i> were to blame for
Makhnovist opposition to appointed officers had a long legacy
with Trotsky. In April 1918, when justifying Bolshevik introduction
of appointed officers, he had argued that the <i>"Soviet government
is the same as the committee of a trade union. It is elected by
the workers and peasants and you can at the All-Russian Congress
of Soviets, at any moment you like, dismiss that government and
appoint another. But once you have appointed it, you must give
it the right to choose the technical specialists."</i> He stressed
that this applied <i>"in military affairs, in particular."</i> Using the
trade union analogy, he argued that the workers had <i>"entrusted
us [the Bolshevik leaders] with the direction of the union"</i> and
this meant that the Bolshevik leaders, not the workers, should
decide things as <i>"we are better able to judge in the matter"</i> than
them! The workers role was stated clearly: <i>"if our way of conducting
the business is bad, then throw us out and elect another committee!"</i>
[<b>Leon Trotsky Speaks</b>, p. 113] In other words, like any bureaucrat,
for Trotsky working-class participation in the affairs of the
revolution  was seen as irrelevant: the masses had voted and
their role was now that of obeying those who <i>"are better able to
judge."</i>
<p>
Using an argument the Tsar could have been proud of, Trotsky defended
the elimination of soldier democracy:
<p><blockquote><i>
"How could soldiers who have just entered the army choose the
chiefs! Have they any vote to go by? They have none. And therefore
elections are impossible."</i> [<b>Ibid.</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Equally, how could workers and peasants who have just entered
political or economic struggle in 1917 choose the chiefs? Had
they any vote to go by? They had none. And therefore political
and workplace elections are impossible. Unsurprisingly, Trotsky
soon ended up applying this logic to politics as well, defending
(like all the leaders of Bolshevism) the dictatorship of the
party <b>over</b> working class. How could the <i>"ignorant"</i> workers
be expected to elect the best <i>"chiefs"</i> never mind manage their
own affairs!
<p>
Ironically, in 1936 the Stalinist Communist Party in Spain was
to make very similar arguments about the need for a regular army
and army discipline to win the war. As Aileen O'Carroll in her
essay <i>"Freedom and Revolution"</i> argues:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The conventional army structure evolved when feudal kings or
capitalist governments required the working class to fight its
wars for them. These had to be authoritarian institutions, because
although propaganda and jingoism can play a part initially in
encouraging enlistment, the horrors of war soon expose the futility
of nationalism. A large part of military organisation is aimed at
ensuring that soldiers remain fighting for causes they do not
necessarily believe in. Military discipline attempts to create an
unthinking, unquestioning body of soldiers, as fearful of their
own side as of the other."</i> [<b>Red & Black Revolution</b>, no. 1]
</blockquote><p>
In short in both Russia and Spain the Bolsheviks wanted an army
that would obey them regardless of whether the individual soldiers
felt they were doing the correct thing, indeed who would obey
through fear of their officers even when they knew what they were
doing was wrong. Such a body would be essential for enforcing
minority rule over the wishes of the workers. Would a self-managed
army be inclined to repress workers' and peasants' strikes and
protests? Of course not.
<p>
The Makhnovists show that another kind of revolutionary army
was possible in the Russian Revolution and that the <i>"ignorant"</i> 
masses could choose their own officers. In other words, the
latter-day justifications of the followers of Bolshevism are
wrong when they assert that the creation of the top-down,
hierarchical Red Army was a result of the <i>"contradiction
between the political consciousness and circumstantial
coercion"</i> and <i>"a retreat"</i> because <i>"officers were appointed
and not elected,"</i> it was a conscript army and <i>"severe
military discipline."</i> [John Rees, <i>"In Defence of October"</i>,
<b>International Socialism</b>, no. 52, pp. 3-82, p. 46] As can
be seen, Trotsky did not consider it as a <i>"retreat"</i> or caused
by <i>"circumstances."</i> Equally, the Makhnovists managed to
organise themselves relatively democratically in the
circumstances created by the same civil war.
<p>
As such, the differences between the Makhnovists and the
Bolsheviks as regards the internal organisation of a
revolutionary army are clear. The Bolsheviks applied
top-down, bourgeois methods of internal organisation and
discipline. The Makhnovists applied democratic internal
organisation and discipline as far as possible.
<p>
From our discussion of the Bolshevik justifications for its
system of appointed officers in the Red Army, it will come
as no surprise that as regards the relationship of the
soviets to the revolutionary organisation (party) the
Makhnovists and Bolsheviks were (again) miles apart. While
we discuss this in greater detail in 
<a href="secH4.html">section H.4</a>, we will give
a flavour of Bolshevik ideology on this subject here.
<p>
From the start, Lenin identified soviet (or working class)
power with the power of their own party. In October 1917,
Lenin was equating party and class: <i>"the power of the
Bolsheviks -- that is, the power of the proletariat."</i>
[<b>Will the Bolsheviks Maintain Power?</b>, p. 102] After the
October Revolution, the Bolsheviks were clear that the
soviets would not have <i>"all power."</i> Rather, the first act
of soviet sovereignty was to alienate it into the hands of
a Bolshevik government. In response to a few leading
Bolsheviks who called for a coalition government, the
Bolshevik Central Committee stated that it was <i>"impossible
to refuse a purely Bolshevik government without treason
to the slogan of the power of the Soviets, since a majority
at the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets . . .
handed power over to this government."</i> [quoted by
Robery V. Daniels, <b>A Documentary History of Communism</b>,
vol. 1, pp. 127-8] How can the <i>"power of the Soviets"</i>
exist when said soviets immediately <i>"handed power"</i> over
to another body? Thus the only <i>"power"</i> the soviets had
was simply the <i>"power"</i> to determine who actually held
political power.
<p>
The question of who held power, the soviets or the party,
came into focus when the soviet elections resulted
in non-Bolshevik majorities being elected. After the
initial honeymoon period, soviet elections started to go
badly for the Bolsheviks. Ever since taking power in 1917,
the Bolsheviks had become increasingly alienated from the
working class. The spring and summer of 1918 saw <i>"great
Bolshevik losses in the soviet elections"</i> in all provincial
city elections that data is available for. The Mensheviks were
the main beneficiaries of these election swings (Socialist
Revolutionaries also gained) The Bolsheviks forcibly
disbanded such soviets. They continually postponed elections
and <i>"pack[ed] local soviets once they could no longer count
on an electoral majority"</i> by giving representation to the
organisations they dominated which made workplace elections
meaningless. [Samuel Farber, <b>Before Stalinism</b>, pp. 22-4
and p. 33] In Petrograd, such packing swamped the actual
number of workplace delegates, transforming the soviets and
making elections irrelevant. Of the 700-plus deputies to the
"new" soviet, over half were elected by Bolshevik dominated
organisations so ensuring a solid Bolshevik majority even
before the factory voting began.
<p>
Thus, the regime remained "soviet" in name only. Faced with a
defeat in the soviets, the Bolsheviks simply abolished them
or changed them to ensure their position. This process, it
should be noted, started <b>before</b> the outbreak of Civil War
in late May 1918, implying that Bolshevik authoritarianism
cannot be explained as reactions to difficult objective
circumstances.
<p>
Unsurprisingly, Bolshevik ideology started to adjust to the
position the party found itself in. As Samuel Farber argues,
in the <i>"period of March to June 1918, Lenin began to make
frequent distinctions <b>within</b> the working class, singling
out workers who could still be trusted, denouncing workers
whom he accused of abandoning the working class and
deserting to the side of the bourgeoisie, and complaining
about how the working class had become 'infected with the
disease of petty-bourgeois disintegration.'"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 25] Combined with the vision of "working-class" or
"soviet" power expressed by the power of his party, this
laid the foundations for what came next. In 1919 Lenin
fully and explicitly argued that the "dictatorship of
the proletariat" was, in fact, the dictatorship of the
Bolshevik party:
<p><blockquote><i>
"we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of
one party . . . we say, 'Yes, it is a dictatorship of one
party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift
from that position . . . '"</i> [<b>Collected Works</b>, vol. 29,
p. 535]
</blockquote><p>
This quickly become Bolshevik orthodoxy. Trotsky argued in
his infamous work <b>Terrorism and Communism</b> that there was
<i>"no substitution at all"</i> when <i>"the power of the party"</i>
replaces <i>"the power of the working class."</i> Zinoviev argued
this point at the Second Congress of the Communist International.
As he put it:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Today, people like Kautsky come along and say that in Russia
you do not have the dictatorship of the working class but the
dictatorship of the party. They think this is a reproach against
us. Not in the least! We have a dictatorship of the working
class and that is precisely why we also have a dictatorship of
the Communist Party. The dictatorship of the Communist Party
is only a function, an attribute, an expression of the
dictatorship of the working class . . . [T]he dictatorship
of the proletariat is at the same time the dictatorship of
the Communist Party."</i> [<b>Proceedings and Documents of the
Second Congress, 1920</b>, vol. 1, pp. 151-2]
</blockquote><p>
Neither Lenin nor Trotsky disagreed. By the end of the civil
war, Lenin was arguing that <i>"the dictatorship of the proletariat
cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole
of the class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only
over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still
so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts . . . that
an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly
exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by
a vanguard . . . the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be
exercised by a mass proletarian organisation."</i> [<b>Collected Works</b>,
vol. 32, p. 21]
<p>
This places the Bolshevik betrayals of the Makhnovists in 1919
and 1920 into <b>political</b> context. It also explains the Bolshevik
opposition to the proposed fourth clause of the 1920 political
and military agreement (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech613">last section</a>). Simply put, at the
time (and long afterwards) the Bolsheviks equated the revolution
with their own power. As such, Makhnovist calls for soviet
self-management threatened the "dictatorship of the proletariat"
(i.e. dictatorship of the party) by encouraging working people
to participate in the revolution and giving the radically false
idea that working-class power could be exercised by working
people and their own class organisations.
<p>
Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev held this position until their deaths.
Trotsky, for example, was arguing in 1923 that <i>"[i]f there is one
question which basically not only does not require revision but
does not so much as admit the thought of revision, it is the
question of the dictatorship of the Party, and its leadership
in all spheres of our work."</i> [<b>Leon Trotsky Speaks</b>, p. 158]
Even after the rise of Stalinism, he was still arguing for the
<i>"objective necessity"</i> of the <i>"revolutionary dictatorship of a
proletarian party"</i> in 1937. He stressed that the <i>"revolutionary
party (vanguard) which renounces its own dictatorship surrenders
the masses to the counter-revolution . . . Abstractly speaking,
it would be very well if the party dictatorship could be replaced
by the 'dictatorship' of the whole toiling people without any
party, but this presupposes such a high level of political
development among the masses that it can never be achieved
under capitalist conditions."</i> [Trotsky, <b>Writings 1936-37</b>,
pp. 513-4]
<p>
This suggests that the later Trotskyist argument that the Bolsheviks
were forced by <i>"objective factors"</i> to replace the dictatorship of
the proletariat by that of the party is false. At the time, and
afterwards, the Bolsheviks did not argue in these terms. The
end of soviet democracy was not considered a problem or a retreat
for the revolution. The opposite was the case, with the elimination
of democracy being raised to an ideological truism to be applied
everywhere. Equally, the fact that the Makhnovists did all they
could to promote soviet self-management and actually called
regional congresses of workers, peasants and insurgents suggests
that <i>"objective factors"</i> simply cannot explain Bolshevik actions.
Simply put, like the Bolshevik betrayals of the Makhnovists, the
Bolshevik elimination of soviet democracy by party dictatorship
can only be fully understood by looking at Bolshevik ideology.
<p>
Little wonder the Makhnovists argued as followed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Since the arrival of the Bolsheviks the dictatorship of their
party has been established here. As a party of statists, the
Bolshevik Party everywhere has set up state organs for the
purpose of governing the revolutionary people. Everything has
to be submitted to their authority and take place under their
vigilant eye. All opposition, protest, or even independent
initiative has been stifled by their Extraordinary Commissions
[the secret police, the Cheka]. Furthermore, all these
institutions are composed of people who are removed from
labour and from revolution. In other words, what has been
created is a situation in which the labouring and
revolutionary people have fallen under the surveillance
and rule of people who are alien to the working classes,
people who are inclined to exercise arbitrariness and
violence over the workers. Such is the dictatorship of the
Bolshevik-Communist Party  . . .
<p>
"We again remind the working people that they will liberate
themselves from oppression, misery and violence only
through their own efforts. No change in power will help
them in this. Only by means of their own free worker-peasant
organisations can the workers reach the summit of the
social revolution -- complete freedom and real equality."</i>
[quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b> pp. 116-7]
</blockquote><p>
Which brings us to the next issue, namely working-class
freedom. For anarchists, the key point of a revolution is
to increase working-class freedom. It means the end of
hierarchy and the direct participation in the revolution
by the working classes themselves. As Bakunin put it,
<i>"revolution is only sincere, honest and real in the hands
of the masses, and that when it is concentrated in those
of a few ruling individuals it inevitably and immediately
becomes reaction."</i> [<b>Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings</b>,
p. 237] For this reason, the Makhnovists (like Bakunin)
argued for a revolutionary society based on free federations
of worker and peasant organisations (free soviets).
<p>
This means that actions which consolidated rule by a few
cannot be revolutionary, even if the few are made up of
the most revolutionary of the revolutionaries. Thus working
class power cannot be equated to the power of a political
party, no matter how <i>"socialist"</i> or <i>"revolutionary"</i> its
ideas or rhetoric. This means that Bolshevik restrictions
on working class freedom (of speech, assembly, press,
organisation) struck at the heart of the revolution. It
did not signify the defence of the revolution, but rather
its defeat. Ultimately, as Emma Goldman quickly recognised,
what the Bolsheviks called <i>"defence of the Revolution"</i>
was <i>"really only the defence of [the] party in power."</i>
[<b>My Disillusionment in Russia</b>, p. 57]
<p>
Anarchists had long argued that, to quote Goldman again,
there is <i>"no greater fallacy than the belief that aims
and purposes are one thing, while methods and tactics
are another. This conception is a potent menace to social
regeneration. All human experience teaches that methods
and means cannot be separated from the ultimate aim.
The means employed become, through individual practice,
part and parcel of the final purpose; they influence it,
modify it, and presently the aims and means become
identical."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 260] The evolution of Bolshevik
practice and theory reinforces this argument. The means
used had an impact on the course of events, which in turn
shaped the next set of means and the ideology used to
justify it.
<p>
This explains the Makhnovist and Bolshevik differences in
relationship to working-class freedom. For anarchists, only
freedom or the struggle for freedom can teach people to be
free (and so is genuinely revolutionary). This explains why
the Makhnovists not only proclaimed freedom of election, speech, 
press, assembly and organisation for working people, which
was an essential revolutionary position, they also implemented
it (see 
<a href="secH6.html#sech67">section H.6.7</a>). The Bolsheviks did the reverse, clamping
down on the opposition at every occasion (including workers'
strikes and protests). For the Makhnovists, working-class freedom
was the key gain of the revolution, and so had to be introduced,
practised and defended. Hence Makhno:
<p><blockquote><i>
"I consider it an inviolable right of the workers and peasants,
a right won by the revolution, to call congresses on their
own account, to discuss their affairs. That is why the
prohibitions of such congresses, and the declaration
proclaiming them illegal . . . , represent a direct and
insolent violation of the rights of the workers."</i> [quoted
by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 129]
</blockquote><p>
For the Bolsheviks, working-class freedom was something to
fear. Back in 1903, Lenin laid the groundwork for this by
arguing that the <i>"<b>spontaneous</b> development of the labour
movement leads to it being subordinated to bourgeois ideology."</i>
He stressed that <i>"the working class, exclusively by their own
effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness . . .
the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose quite
independently of the spontaneous growth of the labour movement;
it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of ideas among the
revolutionary socialist intelligentsia."</i> This meant that <i>"Social
Democratic [i.e. socialist] consciousness . . . could only be
brought to them from without."</i> [<b>Essential Works of Lenin</b>,
p. 82 and pp. 74-5] Clearly, if the workers turned against
the party, then the workers were <i>"being subordinated to
bourgeois ideology."</i> It was in their own interests, therefore,
for the party to subordinate the workers and so soviet
democracy became not an expression of working-class power
but rather something which undermined it!
<p>
This perspective can be seen when the Makhnovists liberated
cities. In Alexandrovsk and Katerinoslav, the Bolsheviks
proposed to the Makhnovists spheres of action - their <b>Revkom</b> 
(Revolutionary Committee) would handle political affairs and
the Makhnovists military ones. Makhno advised them <i>"to go and
take up some honest trade instead of seeking to impose their
will on the workers."</i> Instead, the Makhnovists called upon
<i>"the working population to participate in a general conference
.. . . and it was proposed that the workers organise the life
of the city and the functioning of the factories with their
own forced and their organisations."</i> [Arshinov <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 154
and p. 149] The differences between the Bolsheviks and
Makhnovists could not be clearer.
<p>
Lastly, we should note that while Lenin and the leading
Bolsheviks wholeheartedly opposed working-class economic
self-management by factory committees and instead urged
"efficient" top-down one-man management, the Makhnovists
supported working-class self-management of production.
Under the Bolsheviks, as Arshinov argued, the 
<i>"nationalisation of industry, [while] removing the 
workers from the hands of individual capitalists, 
delivered them to the yet more rapacious hands of a 
single, ever-present capitalist boss, the State. The 
relations between the workers and this new boss are 
the same as earlier relations between labour and capital, 
with the sole difference that the Communist boss, the 
State, not only exploits the workers, but also punishes
them himself . . . Wage labour has remained what it was
before, except that it has taken on the character of an
obligation to the State . . . It is clear that in all this
we are dealing with a simple substitution of State 
capitalism for private capitalism."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 71]
The Makhnovist propaganda, in contrast, stressed the 
need for workers to socialise the means of production 
and place it under their direct management by their own 
class organs. In other words, the abolition of wage 
slavery by workers' self-management of production.
<p>
Unsurprisingly, the Makhnovists supported the Kronstadt rebellion
(see 
<a href="secH5.html">section H.5</a> 
for more on Kronstadt). Indeed, there is
significant overlap between the Kronstadt demands and the
ideas of the Makhnovist movement. For example, the Makhnovist
idea of free soviets is almost identical to the first three
points of the Kronstadt programme and their land policy the
same as point 11 of the Kronstadt demands. The Kronstadt
rebels also raised the idea of <i>"free soviets"</i> and the <i>"third
revolution,"</i> common Makhnovist slogans (see 
<a href="secH5.html#sech53">section H.5.3</a> 
for details). As one Bolshevik writer notes, it is <i>"characteristic
that the anarchist-Makhnovists in the Ukraine reprinted the appeal
of the Kronstadters, and in general did not hide their sympathy
for them."</i> [quoted by Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 108] Voline also
noted that the <i>"ideas and activities of the Makhnovist peasants
were similar in all respects to those of the Kronstadt rebels
in 1921."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 575]
<p>
In summary, the major difference between the Makhnovists and
the Bolsheviks is that the former stuck by and introduced their
stated aims of <i>"soviet power"</i> and working-class freedom while
the latter rejected them once they clashed with Bolshevik party
policies.
<p>
<a name="sech615"><h2>H.6.15 How do the modern followers of Bolshevism slander the Makhnovists?</h2>
<p>
Many modern-day supporters of Bolshevism, on the rare occasions
when they do mention the Makhnovist movement, simply repeat the
old Bolshevik (and Stalinist) slanders against them.
<p>
For example, this is what Joseph Seymour of the U.S. <b>Spartacus
League</b> did. Their newspaper <b>Workers Vanguard</b> ran a series
entitled <i>"Marxism vs. Anarchism"</i> and in part 7, during his
discussion of the Russian Revolution, Seymour claimed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The most significant counter-revolutionary force under the banner
of anarchism was the Ukrainian peasant-based army of Nestor Makhno,
which carried out pogroms against Jewish communities and collaborated
with White armies against the Bolsheviks."</i> [<b>Workers Vanguard</b>,
8/30/1996, p. 7]
</blockquote><p>
Seymour, needless to say, made these accusations without providing
any documentation, and with good reason, for outside of Stalinist
hagiographies, no evidence exists to support his claims. As we
indicated in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech69">section H.6.9</a>, 
the Makhnovists opposed anti-Semitism
and did <b>not</b> conduct pogroms. Equally, 
<a href="secH6.html#sech612">section H.6.12</a> proves
that the Makhnovists did <b>not</b> collaborate with the Whites in
any way (although this did not stop the Bolshevik press deliberately
spreading the lie that they had).
<p>
However, more sophisticated slanders, lies and distortions have
been levelled at the Makhnovists by the supporters of Bolshevism.
This is to be expected, as the experience of the Makhnovists
effectively refute the claim that the Bolsheviks had no choice
but to act as they did. It is hard to maintain a position that
"objective conditions"</i> made the Bolsheviks act as they did
when another mass revolutionary army, operating in the same
environment, did not act in the same way. This means that the
Makhnovists are strong evidence that Bolshevik politics played
a key role in the degeneration of the Russian Revolution.
Clearly such a conclusion is dangerous to Bolshevism and so
the Maknovist movement must be attacked, regardless of the
facts.
<p>
A recent example of this is John Rees' essay <i>"In Defence of
October"</i> (<b>International Socialism</b>, no. 52, pp. 3-82). Rees,
a member of the UK Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) is at
pains to downplay the role of Bolshevik ideology in the
degeneration of the Russian Revolution. He argues that
"objective factors"</i> ensured that the Bolsheviks acted
as they did. The <i>"subjective factor"</i> was simply a choice
between defeat and defence against the Whites: <i>"Within
these limits Bolshevik policy was decisive."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 30] This explains his attack on the Makhnovist movement.
Faced with the same <i>"objective factors"</i> as the Bolsheviks,
the Makhnovists did not act in the same way. As such, the
<i>"subjective factor"</i> amounts to more than Rees' stark
choice and so objective conditions cannot explain everything.
<p>
Clearly, then, the Makhnovists undermine his basic thesis.
As such, we would expect a less than honest account of the
movement and Rees does not disappoint. He talks about the
<i>"muddled anarchism"</i> of Makhno, dismissing the whole movement
as offering no alternative to Bolshevism and being without
<i>"an articulated political programme."</i> Ultimately, for Rees,
Makhno's <i>"anarchism was a thin veneer on peasant rebellion"</i>
and while <i>"on paper"</i> the Makhnovists <i>"appeared to have a more
democratic programme"</i> there were <i>"frauds."</i> [p. 57, p. 58, p. 61
and p. 70]
<p>
The reality of the situation is totally different. Ignoring
the obvious contradiction (i.e. how can the Makhnovists have
the appearance of a <i>"democratic programme"</i> and, simultaneously,
not articulate it?) we shall analyse his account of the
Makhnovist movement in order to show exactly how low the
supporters of Bolshevism will go to distort the historical
record for their own aims (see 
<a href="secH5.html">section H.5</a> for Rees's
distortions about the Kronstadt revolt). Once the selective
and edited quotations provided by Rees are corrected, the
picture that clearly emerges is that rather than the
Makhnovists being <i>"frauds,"</i> it is Rees' account which
is the fraud (along with the political tradition which
inspired it).
<p>
Rees presents two aspects of his critique of the Makhnovists.
The first is a history of the movement and its relationships
(or lack of them) with the Bolsheviks. The second is a
discussion of the ideas which the Makhnovists tried to put
into practice. Both aspects of his critique are extremely
flawed. Indeed, the errors in his history of the movement
are so fundamental (and, indeed, so at odds with his
references) that it suggests that ideology overcame objectivity
(to be polite). The best that can be said of his account is that
at least he does not raise the totally discredited accusation
that the Makhnovists were anti-Semitic or <i>"kulaks."</i> However,
he more than makes up for this by distorting the facts and
references he uses (it would be no exaggeration to argue
that the only information Rees gets correct about his sources
is the page number).
<p>
Rees starts by setting the tone, stating that the <i>"methods used
by Makhno and Antonov [a leader of the "Greens" in Tambov]
in their fight against the Red Army often mirrored those
used by the Whites."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 57] Strangely enough,
while he lists some for Antonov, he fails to specify any
against Makhno. However, the scene is set. His strongest
piece of evidence as regards Makhno's <i>"methods"</i> against
the Red Army come from mid-1920 after, it should be noted,
the Bolsheviks had engineered the outlawing of the
Makhnovist movement and needlessly started the very conflict
Rees uses as evidence against Makhno. In other words, he
is attacking the Makhnovists for defending themselves
against Bolshevik aggression!
<p>
He quotes reports from the Ukrainian Front to blacken the
Makhnovists, using them to confirm the picture he extracts
from <i>"the diary of Makhno's wife."</i> These entries, from
early 1920, he claims <i>"betray the nature of the movement"</i>
(i.e. after, as we shall see, the Bolsheviks had engineered
the outlawing of the Makhnovists). [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 58] The
major problem for Rees' case is the fact that this diary
is a fake and has been known to be a fake since Arshinov
wrote his classic account of the Makhnovists in 1923:
<p><blockquote><i>
"After 1920, the Bolsheviks wrote a great deal about the
personal defects of Makhno, basing their information on
the diary of his so-called wife, a certain Fedora Gaenko
.. . . But Makhno's wife is Galina Andreevna Kuz'menko. She
has lived with him since 1918. She <b>never</b> kept, and therefore
never lost, a diary. Thus the documentation of the Soviet
authorities is based on a fabrication, and the picture
these authorities draw from such a diary is an ordinary
lie."</i> [Arshinov, <b>History of the Makhnovist Movement</b>,
p. 226f]
</blockquote><p>
Ironically enough, Rees implicitly acknowledges this by lamely
admitting (in an end note) that <i>"Makhno seems to have had two
'wives'"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 78] And we should note that the source
Rees uses for the fake diary entries (W.H. Chamberlin's <b>The
Russian Revolution</b>) uses as <b>his</b> source the very Bolshevik
documentation that Arshinov quite correctly denounced over
70 years before Rees put pen to paper. Little wonder Michael
Palij, in his detailed account of the movement (<b>The Anarchism
of Nestor Makhno, 1918-1921</b>), fails to use it. So, in summary,
a major part of his account is based on falsehoods, falsehoods
exposed as such decades ago. This indicates well the quality
of his case against the Makhnovist movement.
<p>
As regards the "evidence" he extracts from this fake diary
and Red Army reports, it simply shows that Bolsheviks were
shot by Makhno's troops and Red Army troops died in combat.
This went both ways, of course. In <i>"military operations the
Bolsheviks shot all prisoners. The Makhnovists shot all
captured officers unless the Red rank and file strongly
interceded for them. The rank and file were usually sent
home, though a number volunteered for service with the
Insurgents."</i> Equally, <i>"[o]n the occupation of a village by
the Red Army the Cheka would hunt out and hang all active
Makhnovite supporters; an amenable Soviet would be set up;
officials would be appointed or imported to organise the
poor peasants . . . and three or four Red militia men left
as armed support for the new village bosses."</i> [David Footman,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 292-3] As such, Rees' account of Makhnovist
"terror" against the Bolsheviks seems somewhat hypocritical.
We can equally surmise that the methods used by the Bolsheviks 
against the Makhnovists also <i>"often mirrored those used by the 
Whites"</i>! And Rees lambastes socialist Samuel Farber for 
mentioning the <i>"Red Terror, but not the Green Terror"</i> in 
Farber's discussion of the Tambov revolt! All in all, pretty 
pathetic.
<p>
Rees' concern for the truth can be seen from the fact that
he asserts that Makhno's <i>"rebellion"</i> was <i>"smaller"</i> than
the Tambov uprising and distinguished from it <i>"only by
the muddled anarchism of its leader."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 58]
In fact, the Makhnovist movement was the bigger of the
two. As Michael Malet notes:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The differences between them explain why the Makhnovshchina
lasted over four years, the Antonovshchina less than one
year. The initial area of the Makhno movement was larger,
and later expanded, whereas the Antonov region was restricted
to the southern half of one province throughout its existence.
The Makhno movement became established earlier, and was
well-known before its break with the soviet regime. A
crucial factor was the period of peace between the Bolsheviks
and Makhno during the first half of 1919, something Antonov
never had. It allowed for political and social development
as well as military build-up. It followed from this that
Makhno attracted much more support, which was increased
and deepened by the positive ideology of Makhno and the
anarchists who came to help him. This was not a matter of
being anti-State and anti-town -- all the Greens, including
Antonov, shared this view in a less sophisticated form --
but a positive land policy and a realisation of the need
to link up with the towns on a federal basis in the
post-revolutionary society."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 155]
</blockquote><p>
Even in terms of troops, the Makhno movement was larger.
The Antonov rebellion had <i>"a peak of around 20,000"</i> troops.
[Read, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 268] Makhno, in comparison, had a peak 
of about 40,000 in late 1919 [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 112] (Read
states a peak of around 30,000 [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 264]). Even by 
the end of 1920, a few months into the Tambov rebellion 
(it started in August of that year), the Makhnovists still 
had 10 to 15 thousand troops. [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 237]
<p>
In summary, the movement which lasted longer, covered a
larger area and involved more troops is classed by Rees
as the smaller of the two! Incredible -- but it does give
a flavour of the scholarship involved in his essay. Perhaps 
by <i>"smaller"</i> Rees simply meant that Makhno was physically 
shorter than Antonov?
<p>
After getting such minor details as size wrong, Rees
turns to the actual history of the movement. He looks at
the relations between the Makhnovists and the Bolsheviks,
accurately stating that they <i>"were chequered."</i> However,
he is wrong when he tries to explain what happened by
stating they <i>"reflect[ed] the fast changing military
situation in the Ukraine throughout the civil war."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 58] In fact, as we will prove, the
relationships between the two forces reflected the
military situation refracted through the ideology and
needs of Bolshevik power. To ignore the ideological
factor in the Makhnovist-Bolshevik relationships cannot
be justified as the military situation does <b>not</b> fully
explain what happened.
<p>
The Makhnovists co-operated with the Red Army three times.
Only two of these periods were formal alliances (the first
and last). Discussing the first two pacts, Rees alleges that
the Makhnovists broke with the Bolsheviks. The truth is the
opposite -- the Bolsheviks turned on the Makhnovists and
betrayed them in order to consolidate their power. These
facts are hardly unknown to Rees as they are contained in
the very books he quotes from as evidence for his rewritten
history.
<p>
The first pact between the Makhnovists and the Red Army
ended June 1918. According to Rees, <i>"[c]o-operation
continued until June 1919 when the Insurgent Army broke
from the Red Army"</i> and quotes Michael Palij's book <b>The
Anarchism of Nestor Makhno</b> as follows: <i>"as soon as Makhno
left the front he and his associates began to organise new
partisan detachments in the Bolsheviks' rear, which
subsequently attacked strongholds, troops, police, trains
and food collectors."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 58] Rees is clearly
implying that Makhno attacked the Bolsheviks, apparently
for no reason. The truth is totally different. It is easy
to show this -- all we need to do is look at the book he
uses as evidence.
<p>
Rees quotes Palij on page 177. This page is from chapter
16, which is called <i>"The Bolsheviks Break with Makhno."</i>
As this was not enough of a clue, Palij presents some
necessary background for this Bolshevik break. He notes
that before the break, <i>"the Bolsheviks renewed their
anti-Makhno propaganda. Trotsky, in particular, led a
violent campaign against the Makhno movement."</i> He also
mentions that <i>"[a]t the same time, the supplies of arms
and other war materials to Makhno were stopped, thus
weakening the Makhno forces vis-a-vis the Denikin troops."</i>
In this context, the Makhnovists Revolutionary Military
Council <i>"decided to call a fourth congress of peasants,
workers, and partisans"</i> for June 15th, 1919, which Trotsky
promptly banned, warning the population that <i>"participation
in the Congress shall be considered an act of state treason
against the Soviet Republic and the front."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 175
and p. 176]
<p>
The Bolsheviks had, of course, tried to ban the third
congress in April but had been ignored. This time, they
made sure that they were not. Makhno and his staff
were not informed of Trotsky's dictatorial order and
learned of it three days later. On June 9th, Makhno
sent a telegram informing the Bolsheviks that he was
leaving his post as leader of the Makhnovists. He
<i>"handed over his command and left the front with a
few of his close associates and a cavalry detachment"</i>
while calling upon the partisans to <i>"remain at the
front to hold off Denikin's forces."</i> Trotsky ordered
his arrest, but Makhno was warned in advance and
escaped. On June 15-16th, members of Makhno's staff
<i>"were captured and executed the next day."</i> <b>Now</b> Palij
recounts how <i>"[a]s soon as Makhno left the front he
and his associates began to organise new partisan
detachments in the Bolsheviks' rear, which
subsequently attacked strongholds, troops, police,
trains and food collectors."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 177]
<p>
Palij <i>"subsequently"</i> refers to Makhno after Denikin's
breakthrough and his occupation of the Ukraine. <i>"The
oppressive policy of the Denikin regime,"</i> he notes,
<i>"convinced the population that it was as bad as the
Bolshevik regime, and brought a strong reaction that
led able young men . . . to leave their homes and join
Makhno and other partisan groups."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 190]
As Makhno put it, <i>"[w]hen the Red Army in south Ukraine
began to retreat . . . as if to straighten the front
line, but in reality to evacuate Ukraine . . .  only
then did my staff and I decide to act."</i> [quoted by
Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 190] After trying to fight Denikin's
troops, Makhno retreated and called upon his troops to leave
the Red Army and rejoin the fight against Denikin. He <i>"sent
agents amongst the Red troops"</i> to carry out propaganda
urging them to stay and fight Denikin with the Makhnovists,
which they did in large numbers. This propaganda was
<i>"combined with sabotage."</i> Between these two events,
Makhno had entered the territory of pogromist warlord
Hryhoryiv (which did <b>not</b> contain Red troops as they
were in conflict) and assassinated him. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 191
and p. 173]
<p>
It should also be noted that Palij states that it was the
Whites who <i>"were the main enemy that Makhno fought, stubbornly
and uncompromisingly, from the end of 1918 to the end of 1919."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 177]
<p>
Clearly, Rees's summary leaves a lot to be desired! Rather
than Makhno attacking the Bolsheviks, it was they who broke
with him -- as Palij, Rees's source, makes clear. Indeed,
Makhno made no attempt to undermine the Red Army's campaign
against Denikin (after all, that would have placed his troops
and region in danger). Rather, he waited until the Bolsheviks
showed that they would not defend the Ukraine against the
Whites before he acted. As such, Rees misuses his source
material and used Palij as evidence for a viewpoint which is
the exact opposite of the one he recounts. The dishonesty is
obvious. But, then again, it is understandable, as Trotsky
banning a worker, peasant and partisan congress would
hardly fit into Rees' attempt to portray the Bolsheviks
as democratic socialists overcome by objective circumstances!
Given that the Makhnovists had successfully held three such
congresses to discuss the war against reaction, how could
objective circumstances be blamed for the dictatorial
actions of Trotsky and other leading Red Army officers in
the Ukraine? Better not to mention this and instead rewrite
history by making Makhno break with the Bolsheviks and attack
them for no reason!
<p>
Rees moves onto the period of co-operation between the
insurgents and the Bolsheviks. His version of what happened
is that <i>"Denikin's advance against Makhno's territory in
autumn 1919 quickly forced a renewal of the treaty with the
Bolsheviks. Makhno harassed Denikin's troops from the
rear, making their advance more difficult."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 58]
<p>
A more accurate account of what happened would be that
Makhno reorganised his troops after the Bolsheviks had
retreated and evacuated the Ukraine. These troops included
those that had been left in the Red Army in June, who now
left to rejoin him (and brought a few Red Army units along
too). After conducting quick and demoralising raids against
Denikin's forces, the Makhnovists were forced to retreat to
the West (followed by White forces). In late September, near
Peregonovka, Makhno inflicted a major defeat against the
following Whites and allowed the Makhnovists to attack
across Denikin's supply lines (which stopped his attack
on Moscow thus, ironically, saving the Bolshevik regime).
Makhno's swift attack on the rear of the Whites ensured
their defeat. As the correspondent of <b>Le Temps</b> observed:
<p><blockquote><i>
"There is no doubt that Denikin's defeat is explained
more by the uprising of the peasants who brandished
Makhno's black flag, then by the success of Trotsky's
regular army. The partisan bands of 'Batko' tipped
the scales in favour of the Reds."</i> [quoted by Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 208]
</blockquote><p>
Palij argues that it was the <i>"rapidly changing military
situation [which] soon caused a change in the Bolsheviks'
attitude toward Makhno."</i> The two forces meet up on
December 24th, 1919. However, <i>"[a]lthough the Bolsheviks
fraternised with the Makhno troops and the commander
even offered co-operation, they distrusted Makhno,
fearing the popularity he had gained as a result of
his successful fight against Denikin."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 209]
It should also be stressed that <b>no</b> formal treaty
was signed.
<p>
Clearly, Rees' summary leaves a lot to be desired!
<p>
This is not the end of it. Rees even attempts to blame
the Makhnovists for the attack of General Wrangel. He
argues that <i>"by the end of 1919 the immediate White
threat was removed. Makhno refused to move his troops to
the Polish front to meet the imminent invasion and
hostilities with the Red Army began again on an even
more widespread scale."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 58]
<p>
This, needless to say, is a total distortion of the facts.
Firstly, it should be noted that the <i>"imminent"</i> invasion
by Poland Rees mentions did not, in fact, occur until
<i>"the end of April"</i> (the 26th, to be precise). The break
with Makhno occurred as a result of an order issued in
early January (the 8th, to be precise). [Michael Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 219 and p. 210] Clearly, the excuse of
<i>"imminent"</i> invasion was a cover, as recognised by a
source Rees himself uses, namely Palij's work:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The author of the order realised at that time there was no
real war between the Poles and the Bolsheviks at that time
and he also knew that Makhno would not abandon his region
.. . . Uborevich [the author] explained that 'an appropriate
reaction by Makhno to this order would give us the chance
to have accurate grounds for our next steps' . . . [He]
concluded: 'The order is a certain political manoeuvre and,
at the very least, we expect positive results from Makhno's
realisation of this.'"</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
</blockquote><p>
This is confirmed by Rees' other references. David Footman,
whom Rees also uses for evidence against the Makhnovist
movement, notes that while it was <i>"true there were military
reasons for reinforcing"</i> the Polish frontier (although he
also notes the significant fact that the war <i>"was not to
break out for another four months"</i>), it was <i>"admitted on
the Soviet side that this order was primarily 'dictated
by the necessity' of liquidating <b>Makhnovshchina</b> as an
independent movement. Only when he was far removed from
his home country would it be possible to counteract his
influence, and to split up and integrate his partisans
into various Red Army formations."</i> He notes that there
were <i>"other occasions (notably in Siberia) of the Soviet
authorities solving the problem of difficult partisan
leaders by sending them off to fight on distant fronts"</i>
and, of course, that <i>"Makhno and his staff . . . were
perfectly aware of the underlying Soviet motives."</i> Footman
recounts how the Makhnovist staff sent a <i>"reasoned reply"</i> to
the Bolsheviks, that there <i>"was no immediate response"</i> from
them and in <i>"mid-January the Central Committee of the
Ukrainian Communist Party declared Makhno and his force
to be outside the law, and the Red Army attacked."</i> [<b>The
Russian Civil War</b>, pp. 290-1]
<p>
In other words, according to the sources Rees himself
selects, the Bolsheviks <b>started</b> the conflict in order
to eliminate opposition to their power!
<p>
Needless to say, the Makhnovists <b>did</b> realise the political
motivations behind the order. As Arshinov notes, <i>"[s]ending
the insurrectionary army to the Polish front meant removing
from the Ukraine the main nerve centre of the revolutionary
insurrection. This was precisely what the Bolsheviks wanted:
they would then be absolute masters of the rebellious region,
and the Makhnovists were perfectly aware of this."</i> In addition,
<i>"neither the 14th Corps nor any other unit of the Red Army
had any ties with the Makhnovist army; least of all were
they in a position to give orders to the insurrectionary
army."</i> Nor does Rees mention that the Makhnovists considered
the move <i>"physically impossible"</i> as <i>"half the men, the entire
staff and the commander himself were in hospital with typhus."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 163]
<p>
Consider what Rees is (distortedly) accounting. The beginning
of 1920 was a time of peace. The Civil War looked like it was
over. The White Generals had been defeated. Now the Bolsheviks
turn on their allies after issuing an ultimatum which they
knew would never be obeyed. Under the circumstances, a stupider
decision cannot be easily found! Moreover, the very logic of
the order was a joke. Would be it wise to leave the Ukraine
undefended? Of course not and if Red Army units were to stay
to defend the region, why not the Makhnovists who actually
came from the area in question? Why provoke a conflict when
it was possible to transfer Red Army units to the Polish
front? Simply put, Rees presents a distorted picture of
what was happening in the Ukraine at the time simply so he
can whitewash the Bolshevik regime and blacken the Makhnovists.
As he himself later notes, the Bolshevik-Makhnovist conflict
gave the White General Wrangel the space required to restart
the Civil War. Thus the Bolshevik decision to attack the
Makhnovists helped prolong the Civil War -- the very factor
Rees blames the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and
Bolshevik ideology and practice on!
<p>
It is <b>now</b> that Rees presents his evidence of Makhnovist
violence against the Bolsheviks (the Red Army reports and
entries from the fake diary of Makhno's wife). Arguing
that the entries from the fake diary <i>"betray the nature
of the movement in this period,"</i> he tries to link them
with Makhnovist theory. <i>"These actions,"</i> he argues, <i>"were
consistent with an earlier resolution of the Insurgent
Army which declared that it was 'the actions of the
Bolshevik regime which cause a real danger to the
worker-peasant revolution."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59]
<p>
Firstly, given a true account of the second break between the
Makhnovists and Bolsheviks, it would be fair to conclude that
the resolution was, in fact, correct! However, such facts
are not mentioned by Rees, so the reader is left in ignorance.
<p>
Secondly, to correct another of Rees' causal mistakes, it
should be noted that this resolution was <b>not</b> passed by
the Insurgent Army. Rather it was passed at the Second
Regional Congress of Peasants, Workers and Insurgents held
at Hulyai Pole on February 12th, 1919. This congress had
245 delegates, representing 350 districts and was one of
four organised by the Makhnovists. Unsurprisingly, these
regional congresses are not even mentioned by Rees in his
account. This is for obvious reasons -- if the Makhnovists
could organise congresses of workers, peasants and
insurgents to discuss the progress of the revolution, then
why could the Bolsheviks not manage it? Equally, to mention
them would also mean mentioning that the Bolsheviks tried to
ban one and succeeded in banning another.
<p>
Thirdly, the tone of the congress was anti-Bolshevik simply
because the Ukraine had had a taste of Bolshevik rule. As Rees
himself acknowledges in a roundabout way, the Bolsheviks
had managed to alienate the peasantry by their agricultural
policies.
<p>
Fourthly, the Bolsheviks had engineered the outlawing of
the Makhnovists. Thus the actions of the Makhnovists were
<b>not</b> <i>"consistent"</i> with the earlier resolution. They were,
in fact, <i>"consistent"</i> with self-defence against a repressive
state which had attacked them first!
<p>
Looking at the congress where the resolution was passed,
we find that the list of <i>"real dangers"</i> was, quite
simply, sensible and, in fact, in line with Leninist
rhetoric. The resolution acknowledged the fact that 
the Bolshevik party was <i>"demanding a monopoly of the
Revolution."</i> As we discussed in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">section H.6.14</a>, it
was during this period that the Bolsheviks explicitly
started to argue that the "dictatorship of the party"
<b>was</b> the "dictatorship of the proletariat." The
resolution also stated:
<p><blockquote><i>
"With deep regret the Congress must also declare that
apart from external enemies a perhaps even greater danger,
arising from its internal shortcomings, threatens the
Revolution of the Russian and Ukrainian peasants and
workers. The Soviet Governments of Russia and of the
Ukraine, by their orders and decrees, are making efforts
to deprive local soviets of peasants and workers'
deputies of their freedom and autonomy."</i> [quoted by
Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 267]
</blockquote><p>
It also stated:
<p><blockquote><i>
"the political commissars are watching each step of the
local soviets and dealing ruthlessly with those friends
of peasants and workers who act in defence of peoples'
freedom from the agency of the central government . . .
The Bolshevik regime arrested left Socialist Revolutionaries
and anarchists, closing their newspapers, stifling any
manifestation of revolutionary expression."</i>
</blockquote><p>
Delegates also complained that the Bolshevik government
had not been elected, that it was <i>"imposing upon us its
party dictatorship"</i> and <i>"attempting to introduce its
Bolshevik monopoly over the soviets."</i> [quoted by Palij,
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 154]
<p>
The resolution noted that the current situation was
<i>"characterised by the seizure of power by the political
party of Communists-Bolsheviks who do not balk at anything
in order to preserve and consolidate their political power
by armed force acting from the centre. The party is
conducting a criminal policy in regard to the social
revolution and in regard to the labouring masses."</i> To
top it off, point number three read:
<p><blockquote><i>
"We protest against the reactionary habits of Bolshevik
rulers, commissars, and agents of the Cheka, who are
shooting workers, peasants, and rebels, inventing all
kinds of excuses . . . The Cheka which were supposed to
struggle with counterrevolution . . . have turned in the
Bolsheviks' hands into an instrument for the suppression
of the will of the people. They have grown in some cases
into detachments of several hundred armed men with a
variety of arms. We demand that all these forces be
dispatched to the front."</i> [quoted by Vladimir N. Brovkin,
<b>Behind the Front Lines of the Civil War</b>, pp. 109-10]
</blockquote><p>
We should also point out that Rees selectively quotes the
resolution to distort its meaning. The resolution, in fact,
<i>"urges the peasants and workers to watch vigilantly the
actions of the Bolshevik regime that cause a real danger
to the worker-peasant revolution."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Op.
Cit.</b>, p. 154] We have listed some of the actions of the
Bolsheviks that the congress considered as a <i>"real danger."</i>
Considering the truth of these complaints, only someone
blinded by Bolshevik ideology would consider it strange
that worker and peasant delegates should agree to <i>"watch
vigilantly"</i> those actions of the Bolsheviks which were
a <i>"real danger"</i> to their revolution!
<p>
Lenin (before taking power, of course) had argued that
elections and recall to soviets were essential to ensure
that the workers control the "workers' state" and that
socialism required the elimination of <i>"special bodies of
armed men"</i> by an armed population. To this day, his followers
parrot his claims (while, simultaneously, justifying the exact
opposite in Lenin's Russia). Now, is Rees <b>really</b> arguing
that the Bolshevik monopoly of power, the creation of a
secret police and the clamping down on working people's
freedom were <b>not</b> dangers to the Russian Revolution
and should not be watched <i>"vigilantly"</i>? If so, then his
conception of revolution includes the strange notion that
dictatorship by a party does not threaten a revolution!
Then again, neither did the Bolsheviks (indeed, they
thought calling worker, peasant and partisan congresses
to discuss the development of the revolution as the real
danger to it!). If not, then he cannot fault the regional
congress resolution for pointing out the obvious. As such,
Rees' misquoting of the resolution backfires on him.
<p>
Significantly, Rees fails to mention that during this period
(the first half of 1920), the Bolsheviks <i>"shot ordinary 
soldiers as well as their commanders, destroying their houses, 
confiscating their properties, and persecuting their families. 
Moreover the Bolsheviks conducted mass arrests of innocent 
peasants who were suspected of collaborating in some way 
with the partisans. It is impossible to determine the 
casualties involved."</i> The hypocrisy is clear. While Rees 
presents information (some of it, we stress, from a fake
source) on Makhnovist attacks against the Bolshevik 
dictatorship, he remains silent on the Bolshevik tactics,
violence and state terrorism. Given that the Bolsheviks had 
attacked the Makhnovists, it seems strange that that Rees 
ignores the <i>"merciless methods"</i> of the Bolsheviks (to use 
Palij's phrase) and concentrates instead on the acts of
self-defence forced onto the Makhnovists. Perhaps this 
is because it would provide too strong a <i>"flavour"</i> of
the Bolshevik regime? [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 212-3 and p. 213]
<p>
Rees makes great play of the fact that White forces took
advantage of the conflict between the Makhnovists and the
Bolsheviks, as would be expected. However, it seems like
an act of ideological faith to blame the victims of this
conflict for it! In his attempts to demonise the Makhnovists,
he argues that <i>"[i]n fact it was Makhno's actions against
the Red Army which made 'a brief return of the Whites possible.'"</i>
In defence of his claims, Rees quotes from W. Bruce Lincoln's
<b>Red Victory</b>. However, looking at Lincoln's work we discover
that Lincoln is well aware who is to blame for the return
of the Whites. Unsurprisingly, it is <b>not</b> the Makhnovists:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Once Trotsky's Red Army had crushed Iudenich and Kolchak and
driven Deniken's forces back upon their bases in the Crimea
and the Kuban, it turned upon Makhno's partisan forces with
a vengeance . . . [I]n mid-January 1920, after a typhus
epidemic had decimated his forces, a re-established Central
Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party declared Makhno
an outlaw. Yet the Bolsheviks could not free themselves
from Makhno's grasp so easily, and it became one of the
supreme ironies of the Russian Civil War that his attacks
against the rear of the Red Army made it possible for the
resurrected White armies . . . to return briefly to the
southern Ukraine in 1920."</i> [<b>Red Victory</b>, p. 327]
</blockquote><p>
Ignoring the fact that Rees does not bother to give the
correct quote (a problem that re-occurs frequently in his
essay), it can be seen that he does paraphrase the last
sentence of Lincoln's work correctly. Strange, then, that
he ignores the rest of his account which clearly indicates
that the Bolsheviks <i>"turned upon"</i> the Makhnovists and
<i>"declared Makhno an outlaw."</i> Obviously such trivial facts
as the initial Bolshevik attacks against the Makhnovists
are unimportant to understanding what actually happened in
this period. Informing his readers that it was the Bolsheviks'
betrayal of the Makhnovists which provoked the resistance
that <i>"made it possible for . . . the White armies . . . to
return briefly"</i> would confuse them with facts and so it
goes unmentioned.
<p>
Lincoln, it must be stressed, concurs with Rees's other main
sources (Palij and Footman) on the fact that the Bolsheviks
betrayed the Makhnovists! Clearly, Rees has rewritten history
and distorted <b>all</b> of his main references on the Makhnovist
movement. After reading the same fact in three different
sources, you would think that the Bolshevik betrayal of the
Makhnovists which provoked their resistance against them would
warrant <b>some</b> mention, but no! In true Stalinist fashion,
Rees managed to turn a Bolshevik betrayal of the Makhnovists
into a stick with which to beat them with! Truly amazing.
<p>
Simply put, if the Bolsheviks had not wanted to impose their
rule over the Ukraine, then the conflict with the Makhnovists
need not have taken place and Wrangel would not have been in a
position to invade the Ukraine. Why did the Bolsheviks act
in this way? There was no <i>"objective factor"</i> for this action
and so we must turn to Bolshevik ideology.
<p>
As we proved in 
<a href="secH6.html#sech614">section H.6.14</a>, 
Bolshevik ideology by this time
identified Bolshevik party dictatorship as the only expression
of "the dictatorship of the proletariat." Does Rees <b>really</b> 
believe that such perspectives had no impact on how the Bolsheviks
acted during the Revolution? The betrayal of the Makhnovists can
only be understood in terms of the <i>"subjective factor"</i> Rees seeks
to ignore. If you think, as the Bolsheviks clearly did, that the
dictatorship of the proletariat equalled the dictatorship of
the party (and vice versa) then anything which threatened the
rule of the party had to be destroyed. Whether this was soviet
democracy or the Makhnovists did not matter. The Makhnovist idea
of worker and peasant self-management, like soviet democracy,
could not be reconciled with the Bolshevik ideology. As such,
Bolshevik policy explains the betrayals of the Makhnovists.
<p>
Not satisfied with distorting his source material to present
the Makhnovists as the guilty party in the return of Wrangel,
he decides to blame the initial success of Wrangel on them
as well. He quotes Michael Palij as follows: <i>"As Wrangel
advanced . . . Makhno retreated north . . . leaving behind
small partisan units in the villages and towns to carry out
covert destruction of the Bolshevik administrative apparatus
and supply bases."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59] He again sources Palij's
work on the <i>"effective"</i> nature of these groups, stating
that White Colonel Noga reported to headquarters that
Makhno was critical to Wrangel's advance.
<p>
As regards the claims that Makhno was <i>"critical"</i> to Wrangel's
advance, Colonal Noga actually states that it was <i>"peasant
uprisings under Makhno and many other partisan detachments"</i>
which gave <i>"the Reds no rest."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 214] However, what Rees fails to mention is that Palij
argues that it was the Bolshevik <i>"policy of terror and
exploitation"</i> which had <i>"turned almost all segments of
Ukrainian society against the Bolsheviks, substantially
strengthened the Makhno movement, and consequently
facilitated the advance of the reorganised anti-Bolshevik
force of General Wrangel from the Crimea into South Ukraine,
the Makhno region."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 214] Again, Makhno
is blamed for the inevitable results of Bolshevik policies
and actions!
<p>
It should also be reported that Noga's comments are dated
25th March 1920, while Palij's summary of Makhno's activities
retreating from Wrangel was about June 1920 -- 2 months
later! As regards this advance by Wrangel, Palij argues
that it was the <i>"outbreak of the Polish-Bolshevik war
at the end of April"</i> which <i>"benefited Wrangel"</i> and
<i>"enabled him to launch an offensive against the Bolsheviks
in Tavriia on June 6th."</i> Indeed, it was after a <i>"series
of battles"</i> that Wrangel <i>"penetrated north, forcing a
general Bolshevik retreat."</i> Now, <i>"[a]s Wrangel advanced
deeper into the Left Bank, Makhno retreated north to
the Kharkiv region, leaving behind small partisan units
in the villages and towns to carry on covert destruction
of the Bolshevik administrative apparatus and supply
bases."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 219] Again, Rees' account has
little bearing to reality or the source material he
uses.
<p>
Rees continues to re-write history by arguing that <i>"Makhno did
not fight with the Reds again until October 1920 when Wrangel
advanced on Makhno's base."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59] In fact, it
was the <b>Makhnovists</b> who contacted the Bolsheviks in July
and August in 1920 with a view to suspending hostilities
and co-operating in the fight against Wrangel. This decision
was made at a mass assembly of insurgents. Sadly, the
Bolsheviks made no response. Only in September, after
Wrangel had occupied many towns, did the Bolsheviks
enter into negotiations. [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 176-7]
This is confirmed by Footman, who states that it is <i>"agreed
that the initiative for joint action against Wrangel came
from the Makhnovists"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 294], as well as by Palij,
who notes that <i>"Makhno was compelled to seek an understanding
with the Bolsheviks"</i> but <i>"no reply was received."</i> It was
<i>"Wrangel's success [which] caused the Bolshevik leaders to
reconsider Makhno's earlier proposal."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 222-3]
Obviously indicating that the Makhnovists placed the struggle
against the White counter-revolution above their own politics
would place the Bolsheviks in a bad light, and so Rees fails
to give the details behind the agreement of joint action
against Wrangel.
<p>
As regards this third and final break, Rees states that it was
(<i>"unsurprisingly"</i>) a <i>"treaty of convenience on the part of both
sides and as soon as Wrangel was defeated at the end of the
year the Red Army fought Makhno until he have up the struggle."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59] Which, as far as it goes, is true. Makhno,
however, <i>"assumed [that] the forthcoming conflict with the
Bolsheviks could be limited to the realm of ideas"</i> and that
they <i>"would not attack his movement immediately."</i> [Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 231] He was wrong. Instead the Bolsheviks
attacked the Makhnovists without warning and, unlike the
other breaks, without pretext (although leaflets handed
out to the Red Army stated that <b>Makhno</b> had <i>"violat[ed]
the agreement"</i>! [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 236]).
<p>
It would be a good idea to reproduce the agreement which the
Bolsheviks ripped up. There were two parts, a military and a
political one. The military one is pretty straight forward
(although the clause on the Makhnovists refusing to accept
Red Army detachments or deserters suggests that the
Makhnovists' democratic army was seen by many Red Army
soldiers as a better alternative to Trotsky's autocratic
structure). The political agreement was as follows:
<p><blockquote><i>
"1. Immediate release, and an end to the persecution of
all Makhno men and anarchists in the territories of the
Soviet Republics, except those who carry on armed
resistance against Soviet authorities.
<p>
"2. Makhno men and anarchists were to have complete
freedom of expression of their ideas and principles,
by speech and the press, provided that nothing was
expressed that tended to a violent overthrow of
Soviet government, and on condition that military
censorship be respected. . .
<p>
"3. Makhno men and anarchists were to enjoy full rights
of participation in elections to the soviets, including
the right to be elected, and free participation in the
organisation of the forthcoming Fifth All-Ukrainian
Congress of Soviets . . ."</i> [cited by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 224]
</blockquote><p>
Needless to say, the Bolsheviks delayed the publication
of the political agreement several until several days
after the military one was published -- <i>"thus blurring
its real meaning."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 225] Clearly,
as it stands, the agreement just gave the Makhnovists
and anarchists the rights they should have had according
to the Soviet Constitution! Little wonder the Bolsheviks
ignored it -- they also ignored their own constitution.
However, it is the fourth point of the political agreement
which gives the best insight into the nature of Bolshevism.
This last point was never ratified by the Bolsheviks as
it was <i>"absolutely unacceptable to the dictatorship of
the proletariat."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Ibid.</b>] This clause
was:
<p><blockquote><i>
"One of the basic principles of the Makhno movement
being the struggle for the self-administration of the
toilers, the Partisan Army brings up a fourth point:
in the region of the Makhno movement, the worker and
peasant population is to organise and maintain its
own free institutions for economic and political
self-administration; this region is subsequently
federated with Soviet republics by means of agreements
freely negotiated with the appropriate Soviet
governmental organ."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 224]
</blockquote><p>
Clearly, this idea of worker and peasant self-management,
like soviet democracy, could not be reconciled with the
Bolshevik support for party dictatorship as the expression
of <i>"the dictatorship of the proletariat"</i> which had become
a Bolshevik ideological truism by that time. Little wonder
the Bolsheviks failed to ratify the fourth clause and
violated the other agreements. Simply put, a libertarian
alternative to Bolshevism would give the Russian and
Ukrainian working masses hope of freedom and make them
harder to control. It is unsurprising that Rees fails to
discuss the treaty -- it would, yet again, undermine his case
that the Bolsheviks were forced by objective circumstances
to be dictatorial.
<p>
And, of course, let us not forget the circumstances in
which this betrayal took place. The country was, as Rees
reminds us, in a state of economic disruption and collapse.
Indeed, Rees blames the anti-working class and dictatorial
actions and policies of the Bolsheviks on the chaos caused
by the civil war. Yet here are the Bolsheviks prolonging
this very Civil War by turning (yet again!) on their allies.
After the defeat of the Whites, the Bolsheviks preferred
to attack the Makhnovists rather than allow them the freedom
they had been fighting for. Resources which could have been
used to aid the economic rebuilding of Russia and the Ukraine
were used to attack their former allies. The talents and
energy of the Makhnovists were either killed or wasted in a
pointless conflict. Should we be surprised? After all, the
Bolsheviks had preferred to compound their foes during the
Civil War (and, indirectly, aid the very Whites they were
fighting) by betraying their Makhnovist allies on two
previous occasions (once, because the Makhnovists had
dared call a conference of working people to discuss the
civil war being fought in their name). Clearly, Bolshevik
politics and ideology played a key role in all these
decisions. They were <b>not</b> driven by terrible objective
circumstances (indeed, they made them worse).
<p>
Rees obviously distorted the truth about the first two
agreements between the Makhnovists and the Bolsheviks. He
portrayed the Makhnovists as the guilty party, "breaking"
with the Bolsheviks when in fact it was (in both cases)
the Bolsheviks who broke with and betrayed the Makhnovists.
That explains why he fails to present any information on
<b>why</b> the first break happened and why he distorts the
events of the second. It cannot be said that he was unaware
of these facts -- they are in the very books he himself
references! As such, we have a clear and intended desire
to deceive the reader. As regards the third agreement,
while he makes no pretence that the Makhnovists were the
guilty party however, he implies that the Bolsheviks had
to act as they did before the Makhnovists turned on them.
Little wonder, then, that he does not provide the details
of the agreement made between the Bolsheviks and Makhnovists
-- to do so would have been to expose the auuthoritarianism
of the Bolsheviks. Simply put, Rees'distortions of the
source material he uses comes as no surprise. It undermines
his basic argument and so cannot be used in its original
form. Hence the cherry-picking of quotations to support his
case.
<p>
After distorting Makhnovist relations with the Bolsheviks,
Rees moves on to distorting the socio-political ideas and
practice of the Makhnovists. As would be expected from his
hatchet-job on the military history of the movement, his
account of its social ideas leaves much to be desired.
However, both aspects of his critique have much in common.
His account of its theoretical ideas and its attempts to
apply them again abuse the source material in disgraceful
ways.
<p>
For example, Rees states that under the Makhnovists
<i>"[p]apers could be published, but the Bolshevik and Left
Socialist Revolutionary press were not allowed to call for
revolution"</i> and references Michael Palij's book. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 60] Looking at the page in question, we discover a somewhat
different account. According to Palij's work, what the
Makhnovists <b>actually</b> <i>"prohibited"</i> was that these parties 
should <i>"propagate armed uprisings against the Makhnovist 
movement."</i> A clear rewriting of the source material and an 
indication of how low Leninists will sink. Significantly, 
Palij also notes that this <i>"freedom of speech, press, assembly 
and association"</i> was implemented <i>"[i]n contrast to the Bolshevik
regime"</i> and its policy of crushing such liberties. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>
pp. 152-3] Ironically, the military-political agreement of
late 1920 between the Reds and Makhnovists included a similar
clause, banning expression that <i>"tended to a violent overthrow
of the Soviet government."</i> [quoted by Palij, <B>OP. Cit.</b>, p. 224]
Which means, to use Rees' distorted terminology, that the
Bolsheviks banned calls for revolution!
<p>
However, this distortion of the source material <b>does</b> give
us an insight into the mentality of Leninism. After all,
according to Palij, when the Makhnovists entered a city
or town they <i>"immediately announced to the population that
the army did not intend to exercise political authority."</i>
The workers and peasants were to set up soviets <i>"that would
carry out the will and orders of their constituents"</i> as well
as <i>"organis[e] their own self-defence force against
counter-revolution and banditry."</i> These political changes
were matched in the economic sphere as well, as the
<i>"holdings of the landlords, the monasteries and the state,
including all livestocks and goods, were to be transferred
to the peasants"</i> and <i>"all factories, plants, mines, and other
means of production were to become property of all the workers
under control of their professional unions."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 151]
<p>
In such an environment, a call for <i>"revolution"</i> (or, more
correctly, <i>"armed uprisings against the Makhno movement"</i>)
could only mean a Bolshevik coup to install a Bolshevik party
dictatorship. As the Makhnovists were clearly defending working-
class and peasant self-government, then a Bolshevik call for
<i>"armed uprisings"</i> against them also meant the end of such free
soviets and their replacement with party dictatorship. Little
wonder Rees distorts his source! Arshinov makes the situation
clear:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The only restriction that the Makhnovists considered
necessary to impose on the Bolsheviks, the left
Socialist Revolutionaries and other statists was a
prohibition on the formation of those 'revolutionary
committees' which sought to impose a dictatorship over
the people. In Aleksandrovsk and Ekaterinoslav, right
after the occupation of these cities by the Makhnovists,
the Bolsheviks hastened to organise <b>Revkoms</b> 
(<b>Revolutionary Committees</b> ) seeking to organise their
political power and govern the population . . .
Makhno advised them to go and take up some honest trade
instead of seeking to impose their will on the
workers . . . In this context the Makhnovists' attitude
was completely justified and consistent. To protect the
full freedom of speech, press, and organisation, they
had to take measures against formations which sought to
stifle this freedom, to suppress other organisations,
and to impose their will and dictatorial authority on
the workers."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 154]
</blockquote><p>
Little wonder Rees distorts the issues and transforms
a policy to defend the <b>real</b> revolution into one which
banned a <i>"call for revolution"</i>! We should be grateful
that he distorted the Makhnovist message for it allows
us to indicate the dictatorial nature of the regime
and politics Rees is defending.
<p>
All of which disproves Rees' assertion that <i>"the movement
never had any real support from the working class. Neither
was it particularly interested in developing a programme
which would appeal to the workers."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59] Now,
Rees had obviously read Palij's summary of Makhnovist ideas.
Is he claiming that workers' self-management and the
socialisation of the means of production do not <i>"appeal"</i>
to workers? After all, most Leninists pay lip-service to
these ideas. Is Rees arguing that the Bolshevik policies
of the time (namely one-man management and the militarisation
of labour) <i>"appealed"</i> to the workers more than workers'
self-management of production? Equally, the Makhnovists
argued that the workers should form their own free soviets
which would <i>"carry out the will and orders of their
constituents."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 151] Is Rees <b>really</b> 
arguing that the Bolshevik policy of party dictatorship
<i>"appealed"</i> to the workers more than soviet democracy?
If so, then heaven help us if the SWP ever get into power!
<p>
Luckily, as Jonathan Aves' book <b>Workers Against Lenin</b> proves,
this was not the case. Working-class resistance to Bolshevik
policies was extremely widespread and was expressed by strikes.
It should be noted that the wave of strikes all across Russia
which preceded the Kronstadt revolt also raised the demand
for soviet democracy. The call for <i>"free soviets"</i> was raised
by the Kronstadt revolt itself and during the "mini-Kronstadt"
in Katerinoslav in June 1921 where the demands of the workers
<i>"were very similar in content with the resolutions of the
Kronstadt rebels"</i> and telegraph operators sent <i>"messages 
throughout the Soviet Republic calling for 'free soviets.'"</i>
[Jonathan Aves, <b>Workers Against Lenin</b>, p. 172 and p. 173]
<p>
Clearly, the Makhnovists <b>did</b> create a <i>"programme that would
appeal to the workers."</i> However, it is true that the Makhnovists
did fail win over more than a minority of workers. This may
have been due to the fact that the Makhnovists only freed two
cities, both for short periods of time. As Paul Avrich notes,
"he found little time to implement his economic programs."</i>
[<b>Anarchist Portraits</b>, p. 121] Given how Rees bends over
backwards to justify Bolshevik policies in terms of <i>"objective
factors,"</i> it is significant that in his discussion of the
Makhnovists such <i>"objective factors"</i> as time fail to get a
mention!
<p>
Thus Rees's attempt to paint the Makhnovists as anti-working
class fails. While this is the core of his dismissal of them
as a possible <i>"libertarian alternative to the Bolsheviks,"</i>
the facts do not support his assertions. He gives the example
of Makhno's advice to railway workers in Aleksandrovsk <i>"who
had not been paid for many weeks"</i> that they should <i>"simply
charge passengers a fair price and so generate their own
wages."</i> He states that this <i>"advice aimed at reproducing
the petit-bourgeois patterns of the countryside."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 59] Two points can be raised to this argument.
<p>
Firstly, we should highlight the Bolshevik (and so,
presumably, <i>"proletarian"</i>) patterns imposed on the
railway workers. Trotsky simply <i>"plac[ed] the railwaymen
and the personnel of the repair workshops under martial
law"</i> and <i>"summarily ousted"</i> the leaders of the railwaymen's
trade union when they objected."</i> The Central Administrative
Body of Railways (Tsektran) he created was run by him
<i>"along strictly military and bureaucratic lines."</i> In other
words, he applied his ideas on the <i>"militarisation of
labour"</i> in full. [M. Brinton, <b>The Bolsheviks and Workers'
Control</b>, p. 67] Compared to the Bolshevik pattern, only
an ideologue could suggest that Makhno's advice (and it
was advice, not a decree imposed from above, as was
Trotsky's) can be considered worse. Indeed, by being
based on workers' self-management it was infinitely
more socialist than the militarised Bolshevik state
capitalist system.
<p>
Secondly, Rees fails to understand the nature of
anarchism. Anarchism argues that it is up to working
class people to organise their own activities. This
meant that, ultimately, it was up to the railway
workers <b>themselves</b> (in association with other
workers) to organise their own work and industry.
Rather than being imposed by a few leaders, <b>real</b> 
socialism can only come from below, built by working
people, through their own efforts and own class 
organisations. Anarchists can suggest ideas and solutions,
but ultimately its up to workers (and peasants) to organise
their own affairs. Thus, rather than being a source of
condemnation, Makhno's comments should be considered as
praiseworthy as they were made in a spirit of equality
and were based on encouraging workers' self-management.
<p>
Ultimately, the best reply to Rees is simply the fact
that after holding a <i>"general conference of the workers
of the city"</i> at which it was <i>"proposed that the workers
organise the life of the city and the functioning of the
factories with their own forces and their own organisations"</i>
based on <i>"the principles of self-management,"</i> the <i>"[r]ailroad
workers took the first step in this direction"</i> by <i>"form[ing]
a committee charged with organising the railway network of
the region."</i> [Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 149]
<p>
Even more amazing (if that is possible) is Rees' account of
the revolution in the countryside. Rees argues that the <i>"real
basis of Makhno's support was not his anarchism, but his
opposition to grain requisitioning and his determination not
to disturb the peasant economy"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59] and quotes
Palij as follows:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Makhno had not put an end to the agricultural inequalities.
His aim was to avoid conflicts with the villages and to
maintain a sort of united front of the entire peasantry."</i>
[M. Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 214]
</blockquote><p>
However, here is the actual context of the (corrected) quote:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Peasants' economic conditions in the region of the Makhno
movement were greatly improved at the expense of the estates
of the landlords, the church, monasteries, and the richest
peasants, but Makhno had not put an end to the agricultural
inequalities. His aim was to avoid conflicts within the
villages and to maintain a sort of united front of the
entire peasantry."</i> [M. Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 214]
</blockquote><p>
Clearly, Rees has distorted the source material, conveniently
missing out the information that Makhno had most definitely
"disturbed"</i> the peasant economy at the expense of the rich!
And, we are sure that Rees would have a fit if it were suggested
that the real basis of Bolshevik support was not their socialism,
but their opposition to the war and the Whites!
<p>
Amazingly, Rees also somehow manages to forget to mention the
peasant revolution which had started in 1917 in his attack
against Makhno:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Makhno and his associates brought socio-political issues
into the daily life of the people, who in turn supported the
expropriation of large estates . . . On the eve of open
conflict [in late 1917], Makhno assembled all the landowners
and rich peasants (kulaks) of the area and took from them
all official documents relating to their land, livestock,
and equipment. Subsequently an inventory of this property
was taken and reported  to the people at the session of
the local soviet, and then at the regional meeting, It
was decided to allow the landlords to share the land,
livestock, and tools equally with the peasants."</i> [Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 71]
</blockquote><p>
Obviously, Rees considers the expropriating of the
landlords and kulaks as an act which <i>"did not disturb
the age-old class structure of the countryside"</i>!
<p>
Let us not forget that the official Makhnovist position was
that the <i>"holdings of the landlords, the monasteries, and
the state, including all livestock and goods, were to be
transferred to the peasants."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 151]
At the second congress of workers, peasants and insurgents
held in February, 1919, it was resolved that <i>"all land be
transferred to the hands of toiling peasants . . . according
to the norm of equal distribution."</i> [quoted by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 155] This meant that every peasant family had as much
land as they could cultivate without the use of hired labour.
The Makhnovists argued with regards to the kulaks:
<p><blockquote><i>
"We are sure that . . . the kulak elements of the village
will be pushed to one side by the very course of events.
The toiling peasantry will itself turn effortlessly on the
kulaks, first by adopting the kulak's surplus land for
general use, then naturally drawing the kulak elements
into the social organisation."</i> [cited by Michael Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 118-9]
</blockquote><p>
Thus, just to stress the point, the Makhnovists <b>did</b> 
<i>"disturb"</i> the <i>"age-old class structure of the countryside."</i>
<p>
Clearly, Rees is simply taking nonsense. When he states that
Makhnovist land policies <i>"did not disturb the age-old class
structure of the countryside,"</i> he is simply showing his utter
and total disregard for the truth. As the Bolsheviks themselves
found out, no mass movement could possibly exist among the
peasants without having a positive and levelling land policy.
The Makhnovists were no exception.
<p>
Rees then states that <i>"[i]n 1919 the local Bolshevik
authorities made mistakes which played into Makhno's hands."</i>
Unsurprisingly enough, he argues that this was because
they <i>"tried to carry through the socialisation of the
land, rather than handing it over to the peasants."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 60] In fact, the Bolsheviks did <b>not</b> try
to implement the <i>"socialisation"</i> of land. Rather, they
tried to <b>nationalise</b> the land and place it under state
control -- a radically different concept. Indeed, it was
the Makhnovists who argued that the <i>"land, the factories,
the workshops, the mines, the railroads and the other
wealth of the people must belong to the working people
themselves, to those who work in them, that is to say,
they must be socialised."</i> [contained in Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 273] The Bolsheviks, in contrast, initially <i>"decreed
that all lands formerly belonging to the landlords should
be expropriated and transformed into state farms."</i> [Palij,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 156] The peasants quite rightly thought that
this just replaced one set of landlords with another,
stealing the land which rightfully belonged to them.
<p>
After distorting the source material by selective quoting,
Rees does it again when he argues that <i>"by the spring of 1920
they [the Bolsheviks] had reversed the policy towards the
peasants and instituted Committees of Poor Peasants, these
'hurt Makhno . . . his heart hardened and he sometimes ordered
executions.' This policy helped the Bolshevik ascendancy."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 60]
<p>
Rees quotes Palij as evidence. To refute his argument we need
simply quote the same pages:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Although they [the Bolsheviks] modified their agricultural
policy by introducing on February 5, 1920, a new land law,
distributing the former landlords', state and church lands
among the peasants, they did not succeed in placating them
because of the requisitions, which the peasants considered
outright robbery . . . Subsequently the Bolsheviks decided
to introduce class warfare into the villages. A decree was
issued on May 19, 1920, establishing 'Committees of the
Poor' . .  . Authority in the villages was delegated to the
committees, which assisted the Bolsheviks in seizing the
surplus grain . . . The establishment of Committees of the
Poor was painful to Makhno because they became not only
part of the Bolshevik administrative apparatus the
peasants opposed, but also informers helping the Bolshevik
secret police in its persecution of the partisans, their
families and supporters, even to the extent of hunting
down and executing wounded partisans . . .  Consequently,
Makhno's 'heart hardened and he sometimes ordered
executions where some generosity would have bestowed
more credit upon him and his movement. That the Bolsheviks
preceded him with the bad example was no excuse. For he
claimed to be fighting for a better cause.' Although the
committees in time gave the Bolsheviks a hold on every
village, their abuse of power disorganised and slowed
down agricultural life . . . This policy of terror and
exploitation turned almost all segments of Ukrainian
society against the Bolsheviks, substantially strengthened
the Makhno movement, and consequently facilitated the
advance of the reorganised anti-Bolshevik force of General
Wrangel from the Crimea into South Ukraine, the Makhno
region."</i> [M. Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 213-4]
</blockquote><p>
Amazing what a <i>". . ."</i> can hide, is it not! Rees turns
an account which clearly shows the Bolshevik policy was
based on informers, secret police and the murder of
rebels as well as being a total disaster into a victory.
Moreover, he also transforms it so that the victims are
portrayed as the villains. Words cannot do this re-writing
of history justice. Yes, indeed, an organisation of
informers to the secret police in every village can aid
the <i>"ascendancy"</i> of a one-party dictatorship (aided,
of course, by overwhelming military force), but it
cannot aid the ascendancy of freedom, equality and
socialism.
<p>
Given the actual record of the Bolsheviks' attempts to break
up what they considered the <i>"age-old class structure"</i> of the
villages with the <i>"Committees of the Poor,"</i> it is clear why
Rees distorts his source.
<p>
It does seem ironic that Rees attacks the Makhnovists for not
pursuing Bolshevik peasant policies. Considering the absolute
<b>failure</b> of those policies, the fact that Makhno did not follow
them is hardly cause for condemnation! Indeed, given the numerous
anti-Bolshevik uprisings and large-scale state repression they
provoked, attacking the Makhnovists for not pursuing such insane
policies is equally insane. After all, who, in the middle of a
Civil War, makes matters worse for themselves by creating more
enemies? Only the insane -- or the Bolsheviks!
<p>
That Makhnovist land policy was correct and the Bolshevik
one wrong can be seen from the fact that the latter
changed their policies and brought them into line with
the Makhnovist ones. As Palij notes, the Bolsheviks
<i>"modified their agricultural policy by introducing on
February 5, 1920, a new land law, distributing the
formers landlords', state, and church lands among the
peasants."</i> This, of course, was a vindication of
Makhnovist policy (which dated from 1917!). Makhno
<i>"initiated the peasants' movement, confiscating and
distributing landlords' land and goods"</i> (and, unlike
the Bolsheviks, <i>"encouraging the workers to take over
factories and workshops"</i>). As regards the Bolsheviks
attempts to break up what they considered the <i>"age-
old class structure"</i> of the villages with the <i>"Committees
of the Poor,"</i> it was, as noted above, a complete
disaster and counter-productive. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 213
and p. 250] All in all, the Makhnovist policies were
clearly the most successful as regards the peasantry.
They broke up the class system in the countryside
by expropriating the ruling class and did not create
new conflicts by artificially imposing themselves
onto the villages.
<p>
Lastly, we must also wonder just how sensible it is to
<i>"disturb"</i> the economy that produces the food you eat.
Given that Rees, in part, blames Bolshevik tyranny on
the disruption of the economy, it seems incredible that
he faults Makhno for not adding to the chaos by failing
to <i>"disrupt the peasant economy"</i>! However, why let logic
get in the way of a good rant!
<p>
As well as ignoring the wealth of information on Makhnovist
land policy, Rees turns to their attempts to form free agrarian
communes. He argues that Makhno's attempts <i>"to go beyond the
traditional peasant economy were doomed"</i> and quotes Makhno's
memoirs which state <i>"the mass of the people did not go over"</i>
to his peasant communes, which only involved a few hundred
families. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 59]
<p>
Looking at Makhno's memoirs a somewhat different picture appears.
Firstly, Makhno states that there were <i>"four such agricultural
communes within a three- or four-mile radius of Hulyai-Pole,"</i>
but in the whole district <i>"there were many"</i> in 1918 (the period
being discussed in his memoirs). Makhno recounts how each <i>"commune
consisted of ten families of peasants and workers, totalling a
hundred, two hundred or three hundred members"</i> and the <i>"management
of each commune was conducted by a general meeting of all its
members."</i> He does state that <i>"the mass of people did not go over
to it"</i> but, significantly, he argues that this was because of
<i>"the advance of the German and Austrian armies, their own lack
of organisation, and their inability to defend this order against
the new 'revolutionary' and counter-revolutionary authorities.
For this reason the toiling population of the district limited
their real revolutionary activity to supporting in every way
those bold spirits among them who had settled on the old estates
[of the landlords] and organised their personal and economic life
on free communal lines."</i> [quoted by Paul Avrich, <b>The Anarchists
in the Russian Revolution</b>, pp. 130-2]
<p>
Of course, failing to mention the time period Makhno was
recounting does distort the success of the communes. The
Bolsheviks were evacuating the Ukraine as part of their
treaty with German and Austrian Imperialism when the
communes were being set up. This left them in a dangerous
position, needless to say. By July, 1918, the area was
occupied by Austrian troops and it was early 1919 before
the situation was stable enough to allow their
reintroduction. One commune was named <i>"Rosa Luxemburg"</i>
(after the Marxist revolutionary martyr) and was
mostly destroyed by the Bolsheviks in June 1919 and
completely destroyed by the Whites a few days later.
In such circumstances, can it be surprising that only
a minority of peasants got involved in them? Rather
than praise the Makhnovists for positive social
experimentation in difficult circumstances, Rees shows
his ignorance of the objective conditions facing the
revolution. Perhaps if the peasants did not have to
worry about the Bolsheviks as well as the Whites,
they would have had more members?
<p>
All in all, Rees account of Makhnovist ideas on the peasant
economy are, to put it mildly, incorrect. They paint a
radically different picture of the reality of both Makhnovist
ideas and practice as regards the peasantry. Ironically, the
soundness of Makhnovist policy in this area can be seen from
the fact that the Bolsheviks changed their land policy to
bring it into line with it. Not, of course, that you would know
that from Rees' account. Nor would you know what the facts
of the Bolsheviks' land policy were either. Indeed, Rees
uses Michael Palij's book to create a picture of events
which is the exact opposite of that contained in it! Very
impressive!
<p>
Intent on driving the final nail into the coffin, he tries
to apply "class analysis" to the Makhnovists. Rees actually
states that <i>"given this social base [i.e the Makhnovists'
peasant base] . . . much of Makhno's libertarianism amounted
to little more than paper decrees."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 60]
<p>
Ironically enough, the list of <i>"paper decrees"</i> Rees presents
(when not false or distorted) are also failings associated with
the Bolsheviks (and taken to even more extreme measures by the
Bolsheviks)! As such, his lambasting of the Makhnovists seems
deeply hypocritical. Moreover, his attempt to ground the few
deviations that exist between Makhnovist practice and Makhnovist
theory in the peasant base of the army seems an abuse of class
analysis. After all, these deviations were also shared by the
Bolsheviks. As such, how can Rees justify the Bolshevik deviations
from socialist theory in terms of <i>"objective factors"</i> yet
blame Makhnovist ones on their <i>"social base"</i>? Do <i>"objective
factors"</i> only afflict Leninists?
<p>
Take for example his first <i>"paper"</i> decree, namely the election
of commanders. He states that <i>"in practice the most senior
commanders were appointed by Makhno."</i> In other words, the
Makhnovists applied this principle extensively but not
completely. The Bolsheviks abolished it by decree (and did
not blame it on <i>"exceptional circumstances"</i> nor consider it
as a <i>"retreat"</i>, as Rees asserts). Now, if Rees' "class analysis"
of the limitations of the Makhnovists were true, does this mean
that an army of a regime with a proletarian base (as he considers
the Bolshevik regime) cannot have elected commanders? This
is the logical conclusion of his argument.
<p>
Equally, his attempt to <i>"give a flavour of the movement"</i> by
quoting one of the resolutions adopted by a mass meeting of
partisans also backfires (namely, <i>"to obey the orders of
the commanders if the commanders are sober enough to give 
them"</i>). Firstly, it should be noted that this was, originally, 
from a Red Army source. Secondly, drunkenness was a big 
problem during the civil war (as in any war). It was one of 
the easiest ways of forgetting reality at a time when life 
was often unpleasant and sometimes short. As such, the 
<i>"objective factor"</i> of civil war explains this resolution 
rather than the social base of the movement! Thirdly, Rees 
himself quotes a Central Committee member's comment to the 
Eighth Party Congress that there were so many <i>"horrifying 
facts about drunkenness, debauchery, corruption, robbery 
and irresponsible behaviour of many party members that 
one's hair stands on end."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 66] The Eighth
Congress was in 1919. Does this comment give a <i>"flavour"</i>
of the Bolshevik regime under Lenin? Obviously not, as Rees
defends it and blames this list of horrors on the objective
factors facing the Bolsheviks. Why does the drunkenness of
the Makhnovists come from their <i>"social base"</i> while that of
the Bolsheviks from <i>"objective factors"</i>? Simply put, Rees is
insulting the intelligence of his readers.
<p>
The Makhnovist resolution was passed by a mass assembly
of partisans, suggesting a fundamentally democratic
organisation. Rees argues that the civil war resulted in
the Bolshevik vices becoming institutionalised in the power
of the bureaucracy. However, as can be seen, the Makhnovists
practised democracy during the civil war, suggesting that
the objective factors Rees tries to blame for the Bolshevik
vices simply cannot explain everything. As such, his own
example (yet again) backfires on his argument.
<p>
Rees claims that <i>"Makhno held elections, but no parties
were allowed to participate in them."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 60]
This is probably derived from Palij's comment that the
free soviets would <i>"carry out the will and orders of their
constituents"</i> and <i>"[o]nly working people, not representatives
of political parties, might join the soviets."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 151] This, in turn, derives from a Makhnovist proclamation
from January 1920 which stated:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Only labourers who are contributing work necessary to
the social economy should participate in the soviets.
Representatives of political organisations have no place
in worker-peasant soviets, since their participation in
a workers' soviet will transform the latter into deputies
of the party and can lead to the downfall of the soviet
system."</i> [contained in Peter Arshinov's <b>History of the
Makhnovist Movement</b>, p. 266]
</blockquote><p>
Rees' comments indicate that he is not familiar with the
make-up of the Russian Soviets of 1917. Unlike the soviets
from the 1905 revolution, those in 1917 allowed <i>"various
parties and other organisations to acquire voting
representation in the soviet executive committees."</i>
Indeed, this was <i>"often how high party leaders became
voting delegates to"</i> such bodies. It should <i>"be
underlined that these party delegates were selected
by the leadership of each political organisation, and
not by the soviet assembly itself. In other words, these
executive committee members were not directly elected by
the representatives of the producers"</i> (never mind by the
producers themselves). [Samuel Farber, <b>Before Stalinism</b>,
p. 31]
<p>
In addition, Russian Anarchists had often attacked the
use of <i>"party lists"</i> in soviet elections, which turned
the soviets from working-class organs into talking-shops.
[Paul Avrich, <b>The Russian Anarchists</b>, p. 190] This use
of party lists meant that soviet delegates could be anyone.
For example, the leading left-wing Menshevik Martov recounts
that in early 1920 a chemical factory <i>"put up Lenin against
me as a candidate [to the Moscow soviet]. I received seventy-six
votes he-eight (in an open vote)."</i> [quoted by Israel Getzler,
<b>Martov</b>, p. 202] How would either of these two intellectuals
actually know and reflect the concerns and interests of the
workers they would be "delegates" of? If the soviets were
meant to be the delegates of working people, then why should
non-working class members of political parties be elected
to a soviet?
<p>
Given that the people elected to the free soviets would be
<b>delegates</b> and <b>not</b> representatives, this would mean that
they would reflect the wishes of their workmates rather
than the decisions of the party's central committee. As
such, if a worker who was a member of a political party
could convince their workmates of their ideas, the delegate
would reflect the decisions of the mass assembly. As such,
the input of political parties would not be undermined in any
way (although their domination would be!).
<p>
As such, the Makhnovist ideas on soviets did not, in fact,
mean that workers and peasants could <b>not</b> elect or send
delegates who were members of political parties. They had
no problems as such with delegates who happened to be working-
class party members. They did have problems with delegates
representing only political parties, delegates who were not
workers and soviets being mere ciphers covering party rule.
<p>
That this was the case can be seen from a few facts.
Firstly, the February 1919 congress resolution <i>"was
written by the anarchists, left Socialist Revolutionaries,
and the chairman."</i> [Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 155] Similarly,
the Makhnovist Revolutionary Military Soviet created
at the Aleksandrovsk congress in late 1919 had three
Communists elected to it. There were 18 delegates
from workers at that congress, six were Mensheviks
and the remaining 12 included Communists [Malet,
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 111, p. 124] Clearly, members of political
parties were elected to both the congresses and
the Revolutionary Military Soviet. As such, the idea
that free soviets excluded members of political
parties is false -- they simply were not dominated
by them (for example, having executives made up of
members of a single party or delegating their power
to a government as per the national soviet in Russia).
This could, of course, change. In the words of the
Makhnovist reply to Bolshevik attempts to ban one of
their congresses:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Revolutionary Military Council . . . holds itself
above the pressure and influence of all parties and only
recognises the people who elected it. Its duty is to
accomplish what the people have instructed it to do,
and to create no obstacles to any left socialist party
in the propagation of ideas. Consequently, if one day
the Bolshevik idea succeeds among the workers, the
Revolutionary Military Council . . . will necessarily
be replaced by another organisation, 'more revolutionary'
and more Bolshevik."</i> [quoted by Arshinov, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 103-4]
</blockquote><p>
As such, the Makhnovists supported the right of working-
class self-determination, as expressed by one delegate
to Hulyai Pole conference in February 1919:
<p><blockquote><i>
"No party has a right to usurp governmental power
into its hands . . . We want life, all problems,
to be decided locally, not by order from any
authority above; and all peasants and workers
should decide their own fate, while those elected
should only carry out the toilers' wish."</i> [quoted
by Palij, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 154]
</blockquote><p>
Thus, Rees fails to present an accurate account of Makhnovist
theory and practice as regards <i>"free soviets."</i> Rather than
oppose party participation within their soviets and congresses,
the Makhnovists opposed the domination of soviets and
congresses by political parties, a radically different
concept. Like the Kronstadt rebels, they argued for all
power to the soviets and not to parties.
<p>
Lastly, Rees attacks the Makhnovists for having two security
forces, the Cheka-like <b>razvedka</b> and the Punitive Commission.
How this is an expression of the Makhnovist <i>"social base"</i>
is hard to explain, as both the Bolsheviks and Whites also
had their security forces and counter-intelligence agencies.
<p>
While Rees quotes Footman's statement that <i>"we can safely
assume [!] these services were responsible for frequent
injustices and atrocities,"</i> he fails to mention that
Footman does not provide any examples (hence his comment
that we can <i>"assume"</i> they occurred!). Footman himself
notes that <i>"[o]f the Makhnovite security services . . .
we know very little."</i> [David Footman, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 288]
Rees himself only lists one, namely the summary shooting
of a Bolshevik cell discovered in the Army. Given the
bloody record of the Bolshevik Cheka (which, again, Rees
defends as necessary to defend against the Whites!), this
suggests that the crimes of the Makhnovist counter-intelligence
pale in comparison.
<p>
Rees also quotes the historian Chamberlin that <i>"Makhno's 
private Cheka . . . quickly disposed of anyone who was 
suspected of plotting against his life."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, 60] 
Strangely enough, Rees fails to mention the Bolshevik 
attempts to assassinate Makhno, including the one in the 
latter part of May 1919 when, it should be noted, the 
Makhnovists and Bolsheviks were meant to be in alliance. 
Nor does he mention that the Cheka <i>"would hunt out and 
hang all active Makhnovites."</i> [David Footman, <b>Civil War 
in Russia</b>, p. 271 and p. 293] 
<p>
As regards the last conflict with the Red Army, it should 
be noted that while <i>"generalised accusations of Makhnovist 
atrocities are common"</i> the facts are it was <i>"the Makhnovists 
who stood to gain by liberating prisoners, the Bolsheviks by 
shooting them."</i> This was because <i>"the Red Army soldiers had 
been conscripted from elsewhere to do work they neither liked 
nor understood"</i> and the <i>"insurgents had their own homes to 
defend."</i> [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 130] Thus, while Rees quotes 
Footman's opinion that <i>"Makhno's later campaigns [were] 
among the most bloody and vindictive,"</i> these facts suggest 
that we <b>cannot</b> <i>"safely assume that these [security] services 
were responsible for frequent injustices and atrocities."</i> 
Clearly, if the Makhnovists were releasing Red Army prisoners
(and many of whom were joining Makhno), the picture of an 
atrocity inflicting army can hardly be a valid picture.
<p>
And it should be stressed that Bolshevik terror and violence 
against the Makhnovists is strangely absent from Rees's account.
<p>
Rees presents just <b>one</b> concrete example of Makhnovist 
<i>"Cheka-like"</i> violence, namely, the execution of a 
Bolshevik cell in December, 1919. It should be noted 
that the Bolsheviks had been explicitly arguing for
Party dictatorship for some time by then. The reason why
the Bolsheviks had been <i>"denied an open trial"</i> was because
they had already been shot. Unfortunately, Makhno gave two
contradictory reasons why the Bolsheviks had been killed.
This led to the Makhnovist Revolutionary Military Soviet
setting up a commission of three to investigate the issue.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the commission exonerated Makhno
although Voline, out of the members, seemed to have been
genuinely embarrassed by the affair. [Malet, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
pp. 51-2] Needless to say, Rees fails to comment on the
Bolshevik summary killing of Makhnovist staff in June
1919 or, indeed, any other summary executions conducted
by the Bolsheviks against the Makhnovists (including the
shooting of prisoners).
<p>
Given the summary justice handed out by the Bolshevik Cheka,
it seems strange that Rees dismisses the Makhnovist movement
on assumptions and one event, yet he does. Obviously, the
large-scale and continuous Bolshevik killings of political
enemies (including Makhnovists) is irrelevant compared to
this one event.
<p>
All in all, Rees' attempts to blame the few deviations
the Makhnovists had from anarchist theory on the <i>"social
base"</i> of the movement are a joke. While justifying the
far more extreme deviations of Bolshevik theory and practice
in terms of <i>"objective factors,"</i> he refuses to consider this
possibility for the Makhnovists. The hypocrisy is clear, if
not unexpected.
<p>
One last point. Taking Rees' "class analysis" of the Makhnovists
seriously, the logical conclusion of his argument is clear.
For Rees, a movement which compromises slightly with its
principles in the face of extreme <i>"objective factors"</i> is
<i>"petty bourgeois."</i> However, a movement which compromises
totally (indeed introduces and justifies the exact opposite
of its original claims) in face of the same <i>"objective
factors"</i> is <i>"proletarian."</i> As such, his pathetic attempt
at "class analysis" of the Makhnovists simply shows up
the dictatorial nature of the Bolsheviks. If trying to
live up to libertarian/democratic ideals but not totally
succeeding signifies being <i>"petty-bourgeois"</i> while dismissing
those ideals totally in favour of top-down, autocratic
hierarchies is <i>"proletarian"</i> then sane people would
happily be labelled <i>"petty-bourgeois"</i>!
<p>
And Rees states that <i>"[n]either Makhno's social programme
nor his political regime could provide an alternative
to the Bolsheviks"</i>! [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 60] Little wonder he
distorts that social programme and political regime -- an
honest account of both would see that Rees is wrong. The 
Makhnovist movement clearly shows that not only did Bolshevik 
policies have a decisive impact on the development of the
Russian Revolution, there was a clear alternative to 
Bolshevik authoritarianism and party dictatorship.
<p>
In summary, Rees' attack on the Makhnovists fails. It can
be faulted on both factual and logical grounds. His article
is so riddled with errors, selective quoting and downright
lies that it is factually unreliable. Similarly, his attempt
to attack the Makhnovist political theory and practice is
equally factually incorrect. His attempt to explain the
deviations of Makhnovist practice from its theory in terms
of the <i>"social base"</i> is simply an insult to the intelligence
of the reader and an abuse of class analysis.
<p>
A far more compelling analysis would recognise that the
Makhnovists were not a perfect social movement but that
the deviations of its practice from its theory can be
explained by the objective factors it faced. Equally, the
example of the Makhnovists shows the weakness of Rees'
main argument, namely that the objective factors that
Bolshevism faced can solely explain its authoritarian
politics. That the Makhnovists, facing the same objective
factors, did not act in the same manner as the Bolsheviks
shows that Bolshevik ideology played a key role in the
failure of the revolution. This explains Rees' clumsy
attempts to rewrite the history and theory of the
Makhnovshchina.
<p>
<a name="sech616"><h2>H.6.16 What lessons can be learned from the Makhnovists?</h2>
<p>
The Makhnovist movement was one of the most important
events of the Russian Revolution. It was a mass movement
of working people who tried and succeeded to implement
libertarian ideas in extremely difficult circumstances.
<p>
As such, the most important lesson gained from the experience
of the Makhno movement is simply that <i>"objective factors"</i> cannot
and do not explain the degeneration of the Russian Revolution or
Bolshevik authoritarianism. Here was a movement which
faced the same terrible circumstances as the Bolsheviks faced
(White counter-revolution, economic disruption, and so on)
and yet did not act in the same manner as the Bolsheviks.
Where the Bolsheviks completely abolished army democracy,
the Makhnovists extensively applied it. Where the Bolsheviks
implemented party dictatorship <b>over</b> the soviets, the Makhnovists
encouraged and practised soviet self-management. While the
Bolsheviks eliminated freedom of speech, press, assembly, the
Makhnovists defended and implemented them. The list is endless
(see <a href="secH6.html#sech614">section H.6.14</a>).
<p>
This means that one of the key defences of the Bolshevik Myth,
namely that the Bolsheviks had no choice but to act as they
did due to <i>"objective factors"</i> or <i>"circumstances"</i> is totally
undermined. As such, it points to the obvious conclusion:
Bolshevik ideology influenced the practice of the party,
as did their position within the <i>"workers' state,"</i> and so
influenced the outcome of the Revolution. This means that to
play down Bolshevik ideology or practice in favour of <i>"objective
factors"</i>, one fails to understand that the actions and ideas
generated during the revolution were not "objectively"
determined but were <b>themselves</b> important and sometimes
decisive factors in the outcome.
<p>
Take, for example, the Bolshevik decision to betray the Makhnovists
in 1920. Neither betrayal was "objectively determined" before-
hand. However, it did make perfect sense from a perspective
which equated the revolution with the <i>"dictatorship of the
party."</i> That the first betrayal undoubtedly extended the length
of the Civil War by allowing the Whites the space to reorganise
under Wrangel also had its impact on Bolshevik theory and
practice as well as the <i>"objective factors"</i> it had to face.
<p>
As such, the Makhnovists give a counter-example to the common
pro-Bolshevik argument that the horrors of the Civil War
were responsible for the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party
and the revolution. In the words of one historian:
<p><blockquote><i>
"[The] Insurgent Army . . . was organised on a voluntary basis
and respected the principle of election of commanders and
staff. The regulations governing conduct were drawn up by
commissions of soldiers and approved by general meetings of
the units concerned. In other words, it embodied the principles
of the soldiers' movement of 1917, principles rejected by
the Bolsheviks when they set up the Red Army, supposedly
because of their harmful effects on fighting efficiency, a
characteristic of them discovered by the Bolsheviks only
after they had come to power on the basis of promoting them.
But the Insurgent Army, given its size and equipment, was
very effective. Some have even credited it with greater
responsibility than the Red Army for the defeat of Denikin.
It took enormous efforts by the Bolsheviks, including the
arrest or shooting of thousands of people, in order to
pacify the region . . . even after the Insurgent Army
was militarily broken, it took six months to mop up the
remnants. . . Within its area of operations, which consisted
of only two to three per cent of the total population of
European Russia, the Insurgent Army was undoubtedly highly
effective. While one can never know how history might have
turned out had things been different, the Insurgent Army
gives plenty of grounds for thinking that a people's
revolutionary war of the kind it represented might have
been at least as effective on a national scale with
nationwide resources at its disposal as Trotsky and the
Red Army's ruthless centralisation. It would not, however,
have been compatible with the imposition from above of
the Bolshevik leadership's vision of revolution. When
the Insurgent Army drove the enemy out of an area they
encouraged the local population to solve their own
problems. Where the Red Army took over, the Cheka quickly
followed. The Bolsheviks themselves were energetically
snuffing out the ideals of 1917.
<p>
"Given such considerations it may be, though it cannot be
logically proven one way or the other, that the Bolsheviks'
deeply rooted authoritarianism rather than the civil war
itself led to the construction of a highly centralised
system that aimed at 'complete control' over political and
many other aspects of social life. It could even be argued,
though it is equally unprovable, that the tendency to
authoritarianism, far from ensuring victory, nearly led
to catastrophe. For one thing, it helped alienate many
workers who felt cheated by the outcome of the revolution,
and support for the regime was . . . far from even in this
core group . . . [It] may, indeed, have been becoming
more alienated as a result of Bolshevik measures depriving
it of the means of expression of its growing catalogue of
grievances. . . Far from being 'necessary' or even functional,
the Bolshevik leadership's obsession with externally imposed
discipline and authority might even have made the task of
victory in the war more difficult and more costly. If the
counter-example of Makhno is anything to go by then it
certainly did."</i> [Christopher Read, <b>From Tsar to Soviets</b>,
pp. 264-5]
</blockquote><p>
As such, another key lesson to be learned from the Makhno
movement is the importance of practising during a
revolution the ideas you preach before it. Means and ends
are linked, with the means shaping the ends and the ends
inspiring the means. As such, if you argue for working-class
power and freedom, you cannot dump these aims during a
revolution without ensuring that they are never applied
after it. As the Makhnovist movement showed, even the most
difficult situations need not hinder the application of
revolutionary ideas.
<p>
The importance of encouraging working-class autonomy also
shines through the Makhnovist experience. The problems
facing a social revolution are many, as are the problems
involved in constructing a new society. The solutions to
these problems cannot be found without the active and full
participation of the working class. As the Makhnovist
congresses and soviets show, free debate and meaningful
meetings are the only means, firstly, to ensure that
working-class people are <i>"the masters of their own lives,"</i>
that <i>"they themselves are making the revolution,"</i> that
they <i>"have gained freedom."</i> <i>"Take that faith away,"</i>
stressed Alexander Berkman, <i>"deprive the people of power
by setting up some authority over them, be it a political
party or military organisation, and you have dealt a fatal
blow to the revolution. You will have robbed it of its
main source of strength, the masses."</i> [<b>ABC of Anarchism</b>,
p. 82]
<p>
Secondly, it allows the participation of all in solving
the problems of the revolution and of constructing
the new society. Without this input, <b>real</b> socialism
cannot be created and, at best, some form of oppressive
state capitalist regime would be created (as Bolshevism
shows). A new society needs the freedom of experimentation,
to adapt freely to the problems it faces, to adjust to the
needs and hopes of those making it. Without working-class
freedom and autonomy, public life becomes impoverished,
miserable and rigid as the affairs of all are handed over
to a few leaders at the top of a social hierarchy, who cannot
possibility understand, let alone solve, the problems affecting
society. Freedom allows the working class to take an active
part in the revolution. Restricting working-class freedom
means the bureaucratisation of the revolution as a few
party leaders cannot hope to direct and rule the lives of
millions without a strong state apparatus. Simply put,
the emancipation of the working class is the task of the
working class itself. Either working class people create
socialism (and that needs workers' autonomy and freedom
as its basis), or some clique will and the result will
not be a socialist society.
<p>
As the experience of the Makhnovist movement shows, working-
class freedom can be applied during a revolution and when
it is faced with the danger of counter-revolution.
<p>
Another key lesson from the Makhnovist movement is that of
the need for effective anarchist organisation. The Makhnovists
did not become anarchist-influenced by chance. The hard
effort by the local anarchists in Hulyai Pole before and
during 1917 paid off in terms of political influence
afterwards. Therefore, anarchists need to take a leading
role in the struggles of working people (as we indicated
in 
<a href="secI8.html#seci82">section I.8.2</a>, 
this was how the Spanish anarchists gained
influence as well). As Voline noted, one of the advantages
the Makhnovist movement had was <i>"the activity of . . .
libertarian elements in the region . . . [and the] rapidity
with which the peasant masses and the insurgents, despite
unfavourable circumstances, became acquainted with libertarian
ideas and sought to apply them."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 570]
<p>
Arshinov expands on this issue in a chapter of his history
(<i>"The Makhnovshchina and Anarchism"</i>), arguing that many
Russian anarchists <i>"suffered from the disease of
disorganisation,"</i> which led to <i>"impoverished ideas and
futile practice."</i> Moreover, most did not join the
Makhnovist movement, <i>"remained in their circles and
<b>slept through</b> a mass movement of paramount importance."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 244 and p. 242]
<p>
Indeed, it was only in May 1919 that the <i>"Nabat"</i> Ukrainian
anarchist confederation was organised. This federation
worked closely with the Makhnovists and gained influence
in the villages, towns and cities within and around the
Makhnovist region. In such circumstances, the anarchists
were at a disadvantage compared to the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks
and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had been organised far
longer and so had more influence within the urban workers.
<p>
While many anarchists did participate effectively and
organisationally within many areas of Russia and the
Ukraine (gaining influence in Moscow and Petrograd, for
example), they were much weaker than the Bolsheviks. This
meant that the Bolshevik idea of revolution gained influence
(by, it should be noted, appropriating anarchist slogans and
tactics). Once in power, the Bolsheviks turned against their
rivals, using state repression to effectively destroy the
anarchist movement in Russia in April 1918 (see 
<a href="secH4.html">section H.4</a> 
for details). This, incidentally, led to many anarchists
coming to the Ukraine to escape repression and many joined
the Makhnovists. As Arshinov notes, the Bolsheviks <i>"knew
perfectly well that . . . anarchism in Russia, lacking any
contact with a mass movement as important as the
Makhnovshchina, did not have a base and could not threaten
nor endanger them."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 248] Waiting till <b>after</b> 
a revolution starts to build such a base is a dangerous
tactic, as the experience of the Russian anarchists shows.
As the experience of the Moscow anarchists active in the
bakers' union shows, organised working-class su