The Underground Anarchists and the 1919 bombing of the Bolshevik Moscow HQ

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Battlescarred
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Aug 28 2009 11:09

Lenin " A good Communist is at the same time a good Chekist". April 3rd 1920.
If the ICC rejects the use of terror ( which it seems to do couched in terms that appear extremely liberal!!) then they have to reject Bolshevism because the use of terror is an intrinsic part of Bolshevism

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Demogorgon303
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Aug 28 2009 14:11

At the risk of oversimplifying this is simply a "baby and bathwater" approach. It's possible to acknowledge that a political current got some things right, while getting others disastrously wrong. The ICC has written reams criticising almost every Bolshevik policy because we think we can learn from their mistakes.

What would be more useful would be for other people to state where they stand on the use of terror or terrorism. (It seems to me that to pillory the Bolsheviks for their application of terror while still advocating beating up scabs is somewhat contradictory).

In a future revolutionary situation, what are the anarchists going to do if the revolution begins to retreat and the future soviets start to elect bourgeois delegates? We've learnt from the Bolsheviks that trying to substitute the party for the class ends in dreadful failure - we also learned from the Bolsheviks success in 1917 the methods of "explaining patiently" and this is the tradition that Miaskinov and the Left attempted to continue even as state structures around Lenin were abandoning it.

What have the anarchists learned from the various assassination attempts, blowing up foreign ambassadors and bombings that parts of their milieu carried out?

Battlescarred
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Aug 28 2009 15:20

I think you'll find that the attacks on foreign ambassadors were carried out by the SRs in every instance.
As to Miasnikov patiently trying to explain to a regime that soon ended up brutally torturing him is risible, the same sort of logic that led Luxemburg to continue to remain in the Social Democratic Party far too late, and the same kind of logic that some Trotskyists still justify in remaining in the Labour Party.
The bomb attacks on the Bolsheviks were a failure, unfortunately.I 'd far rather develop mass movements to counter the Bolsheviks, but when this was tried it was crushed viciously. Asking anarchists, hundreds of whom had already been killed and even greater numbers imprisoned, to justify armed attacks on a murderous and counter-revolutionary regime is plain daft.These attacks were not on the scale of the State terrr used by the Bolsheviks, the systematic and institutional use of force to crush all opposition to the Bolsheviks within the working masses.

Dave B
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Aug 28 2009 17:42

RE Post 26;

Irrespective of what you might think about the quote that Anarcho gave from ‘On Authority’ the context is important, it was given in relation to the Paris commune and is followed immediately by;

Quote:
Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/authority.htm

The meaning is pretty clear I think, the anarchists eg Bakunin supported the Paris Commune and as much as that is true; Engels is accusing the Anarchists of hypocrisy in as much as they supported the armed resistance or repression of the bourgeoisie or reactionists as well.

I am not interesting in entering into a mudslinging exercise with the Anarchists, but.

Although not all anarchist supported the Boshevik state from the start, many did, eg Berkman and Goldman as a ‘historic necessity’, and the pseudo anarchist Serge.

Something Lenin himself acknowledged.

V. I. Lenin, Letter to Sylvia Pankhurst, 28 August, 1919

Quote:
If we take the problem in its general form, theoretically, then it is this very programme, i.e., the struggle for Soviet power, for the Soviet republic, which is able to unite, and today must certainly unite, all sincere, honest revolutionaries from among the workers. Very many anarchist workers are now becoming sincere supporters of Soviet power, and that being so, it proves them to be our best comrades and friends, the best of revolutionaries, who have been enemies of Marxism only through misunderstanding, or, more correctly, not through misunderstanding but because the official socialism prevailing in the epoch of the Second International (1889-1914) betrayed Marxism, lapsed into opportunism, perverted Marx’s revolutionary teachings in general and his teachings on the lessons of the Paris Commune of 1871 in particular

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/aug/28.htm

The people who opposed the Bolsheviks from the beginning and even made Cassandra like prophecies about what they would do given the opportunity called themselves Marxists, or Mensheviks.

Including of all people Leon Trotsky as in;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1904/tasks/ch05.htm

And from chapter 2 volume one, ’The Bolshevik Revolution ’, E.H. Carr;

Quote:
The party printing press, now under Menshevik auspices, published a brilliantly vituperative pamphlet by Trotsky entitled ‘Our Political Tasks’; the present Menshevik affiliations of the author were proclaimed by the dedication..…….Lenins methods were attacked as a ‘dull characture of the tragic intransigence of jacobinism’ and a situation predicted in which , ‘the party is replaced by the organisation of the party, the organisation by the central committee and finally the central committee the dictator’.

Engels also predicted to Vera Zasulich that the Russian revolution would follow the course of a Jacobin-Blanquist adventure, and it is hard to imagine that that did not influence the Mensheviks criticism of the Bolsheviks.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885/letters/85_04_23.htm

Engels appreciation of the Blanquists can be understood from;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm

And his synopsis of them, as if the hat fits the Bolsheviks;

Quote:
Brought up in the school of conspiracy, and held together by the strict discipline which went with it, they started out from the viewpoint that a relatively small number of resolute, well-organized men would be able, at a given favorable moment, not only seize the helm of state, but also by energetic and relentless action, to keep power until they succeeded in drawing the mass of the people into the revolution and ranging them round the small band of leaders. this conception involved, above all, the strictest dictatorship and centralization of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary government.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm

The anarchists, as well as the Mensheviks, were obviously suspicious about what some people who called themselves ‘Marxists’ would do if they got the opportunity.

A pamphlet riddled with historic irony, by non other than uncle Joe, gave short shrift to these ‘absurd prophecies’.

It is worth I think ploughing through it, it sort of gets better as it goes along.

http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/AS07.html#c3

The support of the working class in 1917 for the Bolsheviks was probably based on the kind of platform that they campaigned under for the constituent assembly, that reads a bit like the demands of the Kronstadt rebellion several years later.

http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/CAE17.html

Perhaps to end up with I can find some common ground with anarcho, ‘you’ can get swept into power or elected or whatever on the basis of a load of false, duplicitous and unrealisable promises etc and then sell out or betray your ‘supporters’ or dupes later on, as nothing corrupts likes power.

Wellclose Square
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Aug 28 2009 18:34

Demogorgon303 wrote:

Quote:
(It seems to me that to pillory the Bolsheviks for their application of terror while still advocating beating up scabs is somewhat contradictory).

Is there really a contradiction between 'pillorying' the Bolsheviks for what Demogorgon303 describes as 'their application of terror' - the systematic and institutional use of force to crush all opposition to the Bolsheviks within the working masses, as Battlescarred puts it - and supporting the violent methods ('red armies', hit squads, flying pickets) sometimes used in the proletarian offensive against the bourgeoisie and its stooges (like scabs)? Sorry to get hung up on the use of language where no 'hidden meaning' may have been intended, but there's almost an implication of a value judgment in that quoted phrase, in that the Bolsheviks applied terror (a clinical turn of phrase, like 'surgical strikes'), while 'undisciplined' workers (lacking the state apparatus of the bourgeoisie - 'red' or white) just beat up scabs. Is there an implicit approval of the force wielded by the Bolsheviks (the 'red' bourgeoisie - in the making at the very least) - which is regarded as in some way 'legitimate' because elections have taken place (rigged or not), while proletarians are just undisciplined hooligans (to use a pejorative phrase popular in the 'Soviet' era)? (I know I'm indulging in a bit of cheeky wordplay of my own, but it's an open goal waiting to be shot at).

Don't ask me for proofs and detailed argumentation - I'm sure others will step in with that - but I see an 'unbroken line' - a consistency - between the Bolshevik appropriation of power from 1917 onwards and the state capitalist regime exemplified by Stalin and the terror he was able to exert. I think Otto Ruhle had something to say about all of that - I'll have to read him up again...

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mikail firtinaci
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Aug 28 2009 21:03

then could please somebody answer me; why the party was physically liquidated?... Actually it was even liquidated from memories-history books... Why? Of course here I mean the real living party, lots of its members and its living history... So Why these machivelians let themselves killed if that was their plan from the beggining? Or did stalin and lenin was planning for that even in 1902? Then again why?

I think before going too far by questioning and speculating on the intentions of certain individualsu (which will not lead anywhere but conspiracies), it is necessary to check in all its complicity and whole, the real process and situation calmly and without prejudices. It should not be forgotten that questioning intentions is the way of cheka. And even cheka people might have thought they were doing this for good reasons. This ended in torture chambers. And anarchists are not that innocent when it comes to being dungeon masters. Remember the spain. I remember from Ronald Fraiser's book about anarcko-guardians. So were anarchists also machivelians in Spain? Since they (at least their "leaders" and organisations) betrayed by allying themselves with burgeoisie...

I think this distrust for theoretical and historical analysis that is trying to grasp the complexities of situations and actions is a dead end. I am saying that sincerely since it is not going to help anarchists either.

So if you really want to know why working class supported the bolsheviks in the revolution, you should look for someplace else. For instance, you should look for the ones who relentlessly discussed the questions of epoch, class, and its struggle and tried to clarify them basing themselves on the worker's living experiences (for instance 1871, 1905) in order to reach a worker's revolution and ultimately communism. You should look for who did opposed the material and spiritual destruction of working class in the hands of a self cannibalised capitalism.. Then you should also look for who fought within working class to end this, with the methods that working class itself showed -however these were limited.

When I myself look at the history of Russian Revolution, I only see Bolsheviks and probably some internationalist anarchists and marxists. Am I really that wrong?

Wellclose Square
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Aug 28 2009 22:25

mikail firtinaci wrote:

Quote:
then could please somebody answer me; why the party was physically liquidated?... Actually it was even liquidated from memories-history books... Why? Of course here I mean the real living party, lots of its members and its living history... So Why these machivelians let themselves killed if that was their plan from the beggining? Or did stalin and lenin was planning for that even in 1902? Then again why?

All I can say is it's not a matter of individual intentions or opinions (after all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions).

mikail firtinaci wrote:

Quote:
I think this distrust for theoretical and historical analysis that is trying to grasp the complexities of situations and actions is a dead end.

. Speaking for myself

Quote:
Don't ask me for proofs and detailed argumentation

it's not about the 'dead end' of distrusting the complexities of the theoretical and historical analysis of particular situations, I'm just acknowledging the fact that I don't know everything there is to know and that there are those who are better informed than me who can argue the toss in a 'finer-grained manner'.

anon
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Aug 30 2009 17:45

Hi to Akai and Battlescarred

Hi there, I really liked your contributions and am thankful for them. It's very rare to find qualitative information on the net, especially regarding an issue like this. One way or another there always seem to be someone who wants to turn it into a discussion, as if this was the place to have discussions... So, to all the ernies in this world, contribute or go out and play.

Now the more serious question: I'm writing an article on individualist anarchism during the Russian Revolution, more or less from the perspective of Lev Chernyi, and I have the impression the two of you could offer me some more information on the subject. I would be very thankful for that. I don't know how this site works and how we could get in touch more easily, but I hope to get an answer to my question or a suggestion on where and how we can share a bit more references on this forum.

Warm greetings,

Dave B
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Aug 30 2009 19:06

MY FURTHER DISILLUSIONMENT IN RUSSIA, By Emma Goldman, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company; 1924, CHAPTER VII

PERSECUTION OF ANARCHISTS

Quote:
Among the ten victims were two of the best known Russian Anarchists, whose idealism and life-long devotion to the cause of humanity had stood the test of Tsarist dungeons and exile, and persecution and suffering in other countries. They were Fanya Baron, who several months before had escaped from the Ryazan prison, and Lev Tcherny who had spent many years of his life in katorga and exile, under the old regime.

The Bolsheviki did not have the courage to say that they had shot Lev Tcherny; in the list of the executed he appeared as "Turchaninoff," which-though his real name-was unfamiliar to some even of his closest friends. Tcherny was known throughout Russia as a gifted poet and writer. In 1907 he had published an original work on "Associational Anarchism," and since his return from Siberia in 1917 he had enjoyed wide popularity among the workers of Moscow as a lecturer and founder of the "Federation of Brain Workers." He was a man of great gifts, tender and sympathetic in all his relationships. No person could be further from banditism.

The mother of Tcherny had repeatedly called at the Ossoby Otdel (Special Department of the Tcheka) to learn the fate of her son. Every time she was told to come next day; she would then be permitted to see him. As established later, Tcherny had already been shot when these promises were being made. After his death the authorities refused to turn his body over to his relatives or friends for burial. There were persistent rumours that the Tcheka had not intended to execute Tcherny, but that he died under torture.

Fanya Baron was of the type of Russian woman completely consecrated to the cause of humanity. While in America she gave all her spare time and a goodly part of her meagre earnings in a factory to further Anarchist propaganda.

Blah blah blah

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/further/mfdr_7.html

anon
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Aug 31 2009 06:04

Dave B, Thanks for the quote, it offers me some good elements...

Dave B
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Aug 31 2009 09:25

There is a wiki entry in some Romance lingua at;

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Chorni

That can be auto translated and it looks a bit different to 'English' entry

Anarcho
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Aug 31 2009 20:08
mikail firtinaci wrote:
then could please somebody answer me; why the party was physically liquidated?... Actually it was even liquidated from memories-history books... Why?

The party was liquidated in the 1930s (although repression against the Trotskyist opposition started in the mid-1920s). The revolution was liquidated by mid-1918. Why did one section of the ruling elite liquidate another long after it had liquidated the revolution? To secure its position. Just as it had liquidated threats from outside, such as the Mensheviks, SRs and anarchists.

There really is nothing to explain. There is no big problem here. The Bolsheviks destroyed the Russian Revolution, imposing their party dictatorship and state capitalist regime on the Russian masses by mid-1918. They did so because they thought it was essential in building "socialism". By the mid-1920s, the reality of power had corrupted sections of the party and the bureaucracy and it turned on those who may have undermined (somewhat) its privileges and power.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
And anarchists are not that innocent when it comes to being dungeon masters. Remember the spain.

Except, of course, the Spanish anarchists did not impose a dictatorship! The jails (Fraser presents just one example) were organised in the immediate aftermath of the fascist coup.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
I think this distrust for theoretical and historical analysis that is trying to grasp the complexities of situations and actions is a dead end.

Actually, the only person who is ignoring historical analysis is yourself. Your critics, such as myself, have noted the actual history of the revolution. That you ignore it is not convincing.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
So if you really want to know why working class supported the bolsheviks in the revolution, you should look for someplace else.

No one is denying the Bolsheviks had mass support in 1917. They lost it by early 1918 and destroyed soviet democracy to remain in power.

mikail firtinaci wrote:
For instance, you should look for the ones who relentlessly discussed the questions of epoch, class, and its struggle and tried to clarify them basing themselves on the worker's living experiences (for instance 1871, 1905) in order to reach a worker's revolution and ultimately communism.

You mean the anarchists? Bakunin predicted key elements of the Paris Commune while the Russian anarchists argued that they should be the framework of a socialist society in 1907, a mere 10 years before Lenin...

On 1905: http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/1905

On 1871: http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/the-paris-commune-marxism-and-anarchism

mikail firtinaci wrote:
When I myself look at the history of Russian Revolution, I only see Bolsheviks and probably some internationalist anarchists and marxists. Am I really that wrong?

Yes! Read some history books on the subject! Or section H.6 of An Anarchist FAQ: http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secH6.html

Anarcho
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Aug 31 2009 20:17
Dave B wrote:
Irrespective of what you might think about the quote that Anarcho gave from ‘On Authority’ the context is important, it was given in relation to the Paris commune and is followed immediately by;

Ah, yes, when Engels said "terror" he meant something else than when everyone else uses the word "terror", including Lenin. Handy that...

Dave B wrote:
The meaning is pretty clear I think, the anarchists eg Bakunin supported the Paris Commune and as much as that is true; Engels is accusing the Anarchists of hypocrisy in as much as they supported the armed resistance or repression of the bourgeoisie or reactionists as well.

Nope, that is not it at all. Engels was pretty clear: the Paris Commune failed because it failed to use enough terror. That was obviously the lesson Lenin drew from "On Authority", if his actions are anything to go by.

And Engels is just showing in "On Authority" that he did not know how industry actually worked (he was a capitalist, after all) nor what a revolution was like from a working class perspective. His whole argument was logically and factually flawed:

H.4 Didn't Engels refute anarchism in "On Authority"?

It did, however, provide the Bolsheviks with lots of rationales for abandoning workers' self-management (after all, industry needs authority and any form of organisation is "authoritarian" so why not have authority in the hands of one manager?). Not to mention the need for terror...

3 How did Engels' essay "On Authority" affect the revolution?

There are many interesting and useful things in Marx and Engels. "On Authority" is not one of them...

dave c
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Sep 1 2009 06:51
Anarcho wrote:
Dave B wrote:
The meaning is pretty clear I think, the anarchists eg Bakunin supported the Paris Commune and as much as that is true; Engels is accusing the Anarchists of hypocrisy in as much as they supported the armed resistance or repression of the bourgeoisie or reactionists as well.

Nope, that is not it at all. Engels was pretty clear: the Paris Commune failed because it failed to use enough terror. That was obviously the lesson Lenin drew from "On Authority", if his actions are anything to go by.

Engels could be "accusing the Anarchists of hypocrisy" as well as saying that the Commune "failed to use enough terror." What is the disagreement? Anarcho originally responded to Ernie's comment regarding anarchist terrorism:

Anarcho wrote:
Ernie wrote:
Terror is an expression of desperation not strength.

So Engels was wrong: "and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists"? ROTFL...

For Marx and Engels, "terror" clearly meant forms of coercion through intimidation. But there are different types of terror, and they did not use the word narrowly to describe bloodthirsty or anti-democratic forms of intimidation, as it is most commonly used today. Engels, for example, distinguished between the necessary "terror" of the Great French Revolution and its degeneration: of Robespierre he writes, "terror became for him a means of self-preservation and thereby became absurd..." He describes the terror as "essentially a war measure as long as it had any sense." (see Hal Draper's "Special Note C: The Meaning of 'Terror' and 'Terrorism'" in Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Volume III, p. 364-365) So there are sorts of terror that Engels supports, and sorts that he does not support. What Ernie was describing was the isolated terrorism of individual actions, and his rejection of this is obviously distinct from whether he rejects the revolutionary terror of the proletariat that Marx and Engels advocated, i.e. measures that undercut the bourgeoisie's class power. It is strange how Anarcho pretends that he is talking about the same thing as Ernie, and somehow finds this exercise hilarious (ROTFL)!? The bad faith is transparent. Just because I may disagree with Ernie's perspective does not mean I can't read what he is saying.

Anarcho wrote:
Dave B wrote:
Irrespective of what you might think about the quote that Anarcho gave from ‘On Authority’ the context is important, it was given in relation to the Paris commune and is followed immediately by;

Ah, yes, when Engels said "terror" he meant something else than when everyone else uses the word "terror", including Lenin. Handy that...

Well, the sort of "terror" that Engels clearly supported (Dave B gives the explicit reference to the Commune as the relevant example in this case) is quite distinct from the repressive maneuvers of a ruling minority that you are referencing with Lenin. With regard to the Commune, Marx and Engels' advocated further "terror" such as the seizure of the assets of the Bank of France, but had no enthusiasm for the terroristic excesses of the Communards. "In every revolution some follies are inevitably committed. . . ." Engels wrote. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm) And consistent with Marx's politics, the Communards closest to him such as Serraillier and Frankel were, toward the end of the Commune, members of the Minority opposed to creating a controlling "Committee of Public Safety." Marx and Engels did not advocate Jacobinical or Bolshevik-type terror. This explanation is not just "handy," it is consistent with the facts. I would not say that the meaning of the words "terror" and "terrorism" have changed as much as the word "dictatorship," (Draper draws a parallel) but there has certainly been a narrowing of their usage, and it is irresponsible (although perhaps "handy") to assume that Engels uses the word in the same way as "everyone else" over a few centuries.

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Demogorgon303
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Sep 1 2009 08:04
Quote:
I think you'll find that the attacks on foreign ambassadors were carried out by the SRs in every instance.

I will admit I do sometimes tend to lump the SRs in with anarchists. Point taken.

Quote:
As to Miasnikov patiently trying to explain to a regime that soon ended up brutally torturing him is risible, the same sort of logic that led Luxemburg to continue to remain in the Social Democratic Party far too late, and the same kind of logic that some Trotskyists still justify in remaining in the Labour Party.

Hardly. The ICC carries out its work in the same tradition and it does so by working outside of movements and groups that we consider bourgeois, including the trade unions (for which we are regularly taken to task by said Trotskyists ... and anarchists).

Luxemburg was certainly mistaken in remaining in the SDP but that's a separate discussion.

Quote:
The bomb attacks on the Bolsheviks were a failure, unfortunately.

Why did they fail? In my opinion, it would have been impossible for them to succeed because bombings don't build mass movements.

Quote:
I'd far rather develop mass movements to counter the Bolsheviks, but when this was tried it was crushed viciously. Asking anarchists, hundreds of whom had already been killed and even greater numbers imprisoned, to justify armed attacks on a murderous and counter-revolutionary regime is plain daft.

This isn't simply a moral question, it's a question of effectiveness. Bombing regimes (however murderous or counter-revolutionary they may be) is always hopeless when it comes to building a mass movement. It is an expression of weakness and despair, a product of the failure of the mass movement. It does not represent an alternative to it.

Quote:
These attacks were not on the scale of the State terror used by the Bolsheviks, the systematic and institutional use of force to crush all opposition to the Bolsheviks within the working masses.

This isn't the point I am making. The scale isn't the question, it's the methods and principles that matter. To take a slightly different example, 9/11 was a pinprick compared to the mass destruction that the US and its allies have meted out in the past few years in Iraq and Afghanistan or in the various conflicts that supposedly justified the attack - the fact is that it was fundamentally the same method.

I'm certainly not condoning the Bolsheviks' use of state terror to crush dissent, but this doesn't justify the anarchists attacks, any more than the agitation of White agents justifed the Bolsheviks' actions.

I agree with you that the only way to resist the growing cancer of the regime was a mass movement. Miaskinov showed there was a way to do this. The reason why he (and others) didn't leave the Bolsheviks is because they remembered what it was (a proletarian, revolutionary organ of the working class) and they still saw some remnants of this life within it, even as it was dying. They saw it as their responsibility to bring it back to its roots.

Like the rest of the Communist Lefts, many of whom gave their lives for that struggle, he wouldn't have seen that effort as wasted.

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Demogorgon303
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Sep 1 2009 08:12

A quick reply to Wellclose.

The point about violence against scabs (who are hardly stooges of the bourgeoisie except in very exceptional circumstances) is that its about using violence rather than argument to enforce unity on the proletariat.

Scabs are not, in most cases, active supporters of the bourgeoisie. They're workers who are too scared to take up the struggle. Personally, I can empathise with people in those situations.

To compare beating scabs with Red Guards who are formed to counter the bourgeoisie's organs of oppression (the police, freikorps, Pinkertons, etc.) and not to intimidate other workers, is ridiculous. It was exactly the transformation of the Red Guards, Army, and the CHEKA from organs of proletarian defence into organs that the Bolshevik state used to intimidate other currents within the workers' movement which is being criticised here.

Wellclose Square
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Sep 1 2009 13:54

Demogorgon303 wrote:

Quote:
To compare beating scabs with Red Guards who are formed to counter the bourgeoisie's organs of oppression (the police, freikorps, Pinkertons, etc.) and not to intimidate other workers, is ridiculous. It was exactly the transformation of the Red Guards, Army, and the CHEKA from organs of proletarian defence into organs that the Bolshevik state used to intimidate other currents within the workers' movement which is being criticised here.

Presumably, the biggest objection is to these two extracts:

Quote:
even in 'non-revolutionary situations' like strikes, there are measures undertaken by combative workers - against employers, police and scabs (the latter 'within the working class') - which may be construed as forms of 'terror' (without drawing on the bizarre expansion of its definition within the current 'anti-terrorist' climate). Therefore 'principled rejections' of aspects of proletarian offensivity are a non-runner really, especially if such criticisms are couched in the language of bourgeois civility

and

Quote:
Is there really a contradiction between 'pillorying' the Bolsheviks for what Demogorgon303 describes as 'their application of terror' - the systematic and institutional use of force to crush all opposition to the Bolsheviks within the working masses, as Battlescarred puts it - and supporting the violent methods ('red armies', hit squads, flying pickets) sometimes used in the proletarian offensive against the bourgeoisie and its stooges (like scabs)? Sorry to get hung up on the use of language where no 'hidden meaning' may have been intended, but there's almost an implication of a value judgment in that quoted phrase, in that the Bolsheviks applied terror (a clinical turn of phrase, like 'surgical strikes'), while 'undisciplined' workers (lacking the state apparatus of the bourgeoisie - 'red' or white) just beat up scabs. Is there an implicit approval of the force wielded by the Bolsheviks (the 'red' bourgeoisie - in the making at the very least) - which is regarded as in some way 'legitimate' because elections have taken place (rigged or not), while proletarians are just undisciplined hooligans (to use a pejorative phrase popular in the 'Soviet' era)?

Working class violence against those who would render its immediate struggles ineffective has been a recurrent feature of class struggle for centuries, and no amount of handwringing about 'disunity within the working class' is going to alter that reality. Although I didn't explicitly draw a one-to-one equivalence between 'beating up scabs' and autonomous proletarian organisation of defence/attack against bourgeois power (other than mentioning in the same sentence), these acts can still be seen as occurring as part of a range, an 'escalating' spectrum of responses which may shade into the other, with Demogorgon's 'Red Guards' at the upper end of the spectrum, perhaps (though I'd like to know more about the proletarian nature of organs such as the 'Red Guards' and 'Cheka' and what it was about them that rendered them amenable to the application of terror by the 'red' bourgeoisie).

Dave B
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Sep 1 2009 17:51

Unfortunately I am going to have to first waste some words on the use of organised (state) coercion or ‘terror’ to counter ‘bourgeois counter revolutionary reaction’ etc.

Personally I don’t like the idea of giving any ‘body’ some kind autonomous mandate to roam around dispensing revolutionary justice and control over a recalcitrant minority bourgeoisie or whoever etc.

I think if the idea had any validity in 1871, as it was understood then, it is that much more anachronistic now because now there probably isn’t the problem of petty bourgeois peasants teaming up with the capitalist class. Who were probably a bit thicker on the ground numerically than now.

I did try to distance myself from this a bit with an ‘irrespective about what you might think about it’ but that was probably wasted as well.

Anyway it is a huge subject and it probably needs another thread.

We also need a bit of background on the Paris Commune.

At the time and for quite some time afterwards ‘irrespective about what you might think about it’ everybody supported the Paris Commune as a noble working class attempt of throwing off the yoke of the ruling class etc etc. In fact to criticise it in anyway in public was considered treachery, heresy and excommunication from the left in toto.

(In fact Karl opposed the idea as a folly just before it kicked off in a letter to Fred and despite joining in with the general spirit of ‘post communard’ hero worship, and expressed reservations about it on several occasions.)

During the Paris Commune various atrocities or terror was committed by the communards against the forces of reaction etc.

There was a tendency for the left to dismiss this as nothing compared to the atrocities perpetuated by the ruling class on the workers later and thus to brush it under the carpet.

Not only that but that every ‘reactionary’ that died at the hands of the communard terror deserved it etc.

At a time when it must have taken real courage to publicly disown any action of the communards including the use of terror, Engels did.

Works of Frederick Engels 1874, The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune

Quote:
In this line, so far as big words are concerned, we know that the Bakounists have reached the limit; but the Blanquists feel that it is their duty to excel them in this. And how do they do this? It is well known that the entire socialist proletariat, from Lisbon to New York and Budapest to Belgrade has assumed the responsibility for the actions of the Paris Commune without hesitation. But that is not enough for the Blanquists. "As for us, we claim our part of the responsibility for the executions of the enemies of the people" (by the Commune), whose names are then enumerated; "we claim our part of the responsibility for those fires, which destroyed the instruments of royal or bourgeois oppression or protected our fighters."

In every revolution some follies are inevitably committed, just as they are at any other time, and when quiet is finally restored, and calm reasoning comes, people necessarily conclude: We have done many things which had better been left undone, and we have neglected many things which we should have done, and for this reason things went wrong.

But what a lack of judgment it requires to declare the Commune sacred, to proclaim it infallible, to claim that every burnt house, every executed hostage, received their just dues to the dot over the i! Is not that equivalent to saying that during that week in May the people shot just as many opponents as was necessary, and no more, and burnt just those buildings which had to be burnt, and no more? Does not that repeat the saying about the first French Revolution: Every beheaded victim received justice, first those beheaded by order of Robespierre and then Robespierre himself! To such follies are people driven, when they give free rein to the desire to appear formidable, although they are at bottom quite goodnatured.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm

When ‘On Authority’ was written in 1872 there is an historical context that is may be less obvious now.

The Paris Commune was sacrosanct and beyond criticism by Anarchists and Marxist alike.

For me what Fred does in ‘On Authority’ is to deliberately put the Marxist position in its most ugly, egregious and pejorative way possible, to save on ambiguity and ambivalence.

And then to ask, is this not what the ‘Paris commune’, which you whole-heartedly support, did?

I have my principles as well and can be as self righteous, moral and sanctimonious as the next person, but hypocrisy is a moral position as well.

I quite like Berkman and I have to admit that he did show moral courage, but to be even asked to translate and thus endorse Lenin’s ‘infantile sickness’ would have been an insult.

There is also for me this stuff of being me stuck between a rock and a hard place. Of anarchists meekly and without question accepting the standard Leninist interpretation of Marx and then throwing it in my teeth.

Battlescarred
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Sep 2 2009 10:43

It's ludicrous to compare the Red Guards to the Cheka . The Red Guards were originally an organic development among the the urban working class and were organised to defend the Revolution ( see the bio on Zhuk for one example). The Bolsheviks made strenuous efforts to institutionalise them and incorporate them into the Red Army, although there was resistance to this within the Red Guards.
The Cheka on the other hand was from the start a Statist excrescence thought up by Lenin and operated by Dzerzhinsky with the express aim of carrying out terror against the enemies of the Bolsheviks. Initially the Left SRs were also involved but with the vain hope of tempering the Cheka's excesses.

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Demogorgon303
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Sep 2 2009 12:57
Quote:
It's ludicrous to compare the Red Guards to the Cheka . The Red Guards were originally an organic development among the the urban working class and were organised to defend the Revolution ( see the bio on Zhuk for one example). The Bolsheviks made strenuous efforts to institutionalise them and incorporate them into the Red Army, although there was resistance to this within the Red Guards.

The CHEKA was not just a state excresence, similar organs were created by local Soviets
both before and after the "official" CHEKA was created. In fact, one of the big problems faced by the central CHEKA in its early days was the actions of many of these local branches, not to mention the number of bandit groups that also called themselves CHEKA. It was a big battle to centralise all these different organs into a disciplined, centralised unit - and although this took place parallel to the development of political repression, it was not an inevitable consequence of it.

The stated function of the CHEKA was to root out agents of counter-revolution, a function which was an absolute necessity, as the uncovering of many plots during the period showed. A similar organ will absolutely be required again in the future. But this organ should be subservient to the workers' councils themselves, not to any one political current.

The problem with the CHEKA, as you rightly say, was that it was an instrument of the Bolshevik state. Given that we reject the idea of the party taking state power, it is clear we don't agree with the way the CHEKA was used as a weapon against other parts of the working class.

Battlescarred
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Sep 2 2009 15:42

See here for a refutation of the Cheka not being originally a centralised State body created by the Bolsheviks and that it was used primarily to suppress other revolutionary groups
http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/talks/cheka.html
It was the central Cheka NOT "local" Chekas, for example, that had a key role in the attacks on the anarchist movement in Moscow in 1918

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Demogorgon303
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Sep 3 2009 12:27

I never denied that the CHEKA attacks on the anarchists weren't directed by the Bolsheviks, so I'm somewhat mystified by what point this demonstrates. The fact remains that there were - at times - local branches of the CHEKA that operated largely without central control and that there was a battle to centralise these branches. You seem to completely underestimate the chaos that dominated the Bolshevik state in its early days.

But you don't acknowledge the key point I made: the CHEKA was created to serve a distinct function (the prevention of sabotage by the bourgeoisie and its agents). The fact that this (completely legitimate) aim became conflated with attacking the political enemies of the Bolsheviks is not in dispute - in fact, it is a key component of our analysis of the degeneration of the revolution. This is why we completely reject the notion that such an organ (or any state organ) should be under the direction of any one political party i.e. the party should not take power. This is what the Bolsheviks got completely wrong and this misconception, even if it wasn't solely responsible for the defeat of the revolution, certainly contributed to the transformation of the Bolsheviks from the initiators of the revolution into its executors.

But regardless of the rights-and-wrongs of Bolshevik policy - and there were many, many wrongs - none of this goes any further to examine the effectiveness of the anarchist response. It doesn't matter what the class nature of the Bolshevik regime was - what matters is whether the anarchist response was a proletarian one and whether the actions of small groups in blowing up government buildings can ever push forward the development of conscious, mass organisation within the proletariat.

In the end, the "terrorism" of the underground anarchists and the "terror" unleashed by the Bolsheviks were both completely ineffective in building this development. Both spring from the same roots - the weakness of the wider class and the desire of minorities to substitute their own actions for that weakness. Both, in fact, contributed to the dehumanisation and degeneration of the revolution. And both - while acknowledging the extreme circumstances and confusions that drove them - should be recognised for the grevious errors that they are.

Battlescarred
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Sep 3 2009 14:12

No, no, no. The counter-revolutionary State terror of the Bolsheviks cannot be bracketed with the defensive violence of the anarchists, that is just plain obscene.To say that the defensive actions of the anarchists contributed to the dehumanisation and degeneration of the revolution when it was precisely the anarchists DEFENDING that revolution from dehumanisation and degeneration completely misses the point.
As regards the Cheka and trying to get off the hook by referring to "local" maverick Chekas acting as a law unto themselves ignores the fact that Lenin was in good contact with many local Chekas and encouraged them in their violence against the class, as can be seen by fairly recently revealed correspondence from him in the archives.
And you seem to want to have your cake and eat it by implying that if only the Cheka had been more centralised and under State control. Apart from your underplaying the actual centralisation of the Cheka, who controlled this State? The Bolsheviks- certainly not the working class.

akai
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Sep 4 2009 09:21

Anarcho is right here.

Some points on this thread are completely twisted. Instead of looking at this as "terrorism", I'd see it as self-defense against the upcoming terror which was to be discussed at the meeting and, most probably, implemented.

The most typical "expression of the proletariat" for years to come would be terrified resignation so certainly this "vanguard action" of self-defense was better than subsequent acts of surrender and collaboration with real mass terror.

Boris Badenov
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Sep 8 2009 22:03

I continue to be puzzled by the ICC's position on Bolshevik state terror; on the one hand Kronstadt was clearly a sign of the Bolshevik 'betrayal', on the other the Bolsheviks were clearly the true elected voice of the working class only 3 years before.
Of course there are many criticisms to be made of "justified terrorism" and propaganda by the deed type strategies, but the fact remains that the anarchist attacks were never unprovoked and were quite rational and logical responses to the Bolsheviks' actions.
The Underground Anarchists appear to have been only the self-appointed shock troops of a much wider Russian anarchist movement; to say that the UA's actions were somehow automatically representative of the inherently violent nature of Russian anarchism (or even of all anarchism in general) seems highly disingenuous.
As for the view that the Bolshevik leadership was an unfortunate victim of anarchist terror in 1919, I think it is utterly indefensible. Less than a year after, on 29 January 1920, Lenin sent a telegram to Vladimir Smirnov, head of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Fifth Army, instructing him to make an example (or to "execute large numbers," in his own words) of the striking railway workers of Izhevsk; this if of course only one example of the kind of "pro-working class" politics the Bolsheviks were practicing even before Kronstadt.

ernie
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Sep 9 2009 17:08

The bolsheviks were in a position that no revolutionary party had been in before. The working class has elected them to a majority in the soviets and they and the class was faced with the historically unprecedented task of trying to impose the dictatorhip of the proletariat. Unless you think that revolutionaries are gods with pure understanding, mistakes were going to be made. The Bolsheviks and the class made them a plenty. Thus we see no contradication between the betrayal of Kronstadt and the working class nature of the party. To betray you need to be 'on the right side' in the first place.
On the Cheka, there appears to be some limited historical understanding here, there were anarchists in the Cheka.

ernie
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Sep 9 2009 17:09

Dave C

Thanks very much for clarifying what I was saying about terror. Good to see that even if we disagree we can still try to ensure that each others positions are not misunderstood. Cheers

S2W
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Sep 17 2009 18:42
Dave B wrote:
Not wanting to be misunderstood I would just like to say that it was a stupid idea to try and blow up Nikolai Bukharin.

Actually they were expecting to hit Lenin who was supposed to be there, according to some sources he was late.

One must remember these events in the context that vast majority of Moscow anarchists betrayed the cause and cooperated with the Bolsheviks, even in Cheka as ICC guy rightly pointed out. These underground anarchists were pearls in middle of a rotten bunch.

Building in Leonteevsky side street is now embassy of Ukraine. It has a memorial plate with list of "victims of terrorist act". Check it out if you come across to Moscow, taking photos from embassy is not allowed but you may do it discreetly.

Dave B
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Sep 17 2009 20:58

Just in case it isn’t already obvious I think Lenin and his Bolsheviks were shits.

There were people in 1917 and after who opposed Bolshevism who now have no intellectual friends or those who can appreciate, despite their faults, the principled positions that they took.

They have been thrown into the dustbin of history as Trotsky wished it.

So for instance we hear about the SR’s, but what were they about?

I have been reading a book by Jane Burbank called ‘Intelligentsia and Revolution’ which throws a little bit of interesting light on the situation. No doubt that it was all a bit muddled and confused, but they were not exactly the total bunch of shits as the standard interpretation would have it.

Towards the end of chapter two and on page 109 she describes a classic Lenininst/Stalinist show trial of the SR leadership in 1922. It was in fact a little bit of a turning point as independent observers from the western socialist movement were in attendance etc and ended walking out in disgust at the charade etc

She appears to quote from the the memo that Lenin wrote at the time that I actually dug out myself independently in the process of trawling through Lenins own filth.

http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/lenin/works/1922/feb/20c.htm

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Demogorgon303
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Sep 18 2009 06:50
Quote:
One must remember these events in the context that vast majority of Moscow anarchists betrayed the cause and cooperated with the Bolsheviks, even in Cheka as ICC guy rightly pointed out. These underground anarchists were pearls in middle of a rotten bunch.

The debate about the use of terrorism had created a schism in the anarchist movement long before the Revolution. And many anarchists, who were just as implacable in their resistance to the Bolshevik regime, condemned the bombings against the Bolsheviks as a return to the atavistic nonsense of the past. The anarcho-syndicalists were particularly vociferous in their condemnation, but they were also joined by Kropotkinites as well.

The syndicalists, in particular, for all their confusions, waged a determined campaign to reactivate the Factory Committees and, to a lesser extent, the Soviets.

So this isn't a communist vs anarchist debate, but one that also took place within anarchism.