Gutman, [Gotman] Iosif I. aka Iosif the Emigrant, 1890-1920

A short biography of Russian Jewish anarchist Iosif the Emigrant who was a strong advocate of close cooperation between the anarchist movement and the Makhnovists

Submitted by Battlescarred on August 26, 2009

“A short, slender man of thirty, with lustrous dark eyes set wide apart, and a face of peculiar sadness. The expression of his eyes still haunts me: now mournful, now irate, they reflect all the tragedy of his Jewish descent. His smile speaks the kindliness of a heart that has suffered and learned to understand”. The Bolshevik Myth, Alexander Berkman.

Iosif Izaakovitch Gutman was one of many thousands who during 1905-1907 engaged in armed actions against the Tsarist regime in Russia. In 1907 he emigrated to the United States and participated in the Russian and Russian-Jewish anarcho-syndicalist Union of Russian Workers, along with his comrade Lea. In 1917 he returned to Russia.

He was a member of anarchist groups in Odessa, and was involved in workplace organising. With the start of the German occupation of Ukraine he joined the guerrilla bands, and fought against the authority of the German puppet, Hetman Skoropadsky.

In late 1918 he participated in the creation of the Confederation of Anarchists of the Ukraine – Nabat (Alarm) at a conference from the 12th-16th November 1918. He was elected to its Secretariat. From January 1919 together with the Secretariat he was located in Kharkov.

In Kharkov he helped establish the Nabat bookshop Volnoye Bratstvo (Free Brotherhood). At the end of January - February and again in March 1919 on behalf of the organization he twice travelled to Gulyai Polye and established a link between Nabat and the Makhnovist movement.

This link was maintained by him between Nabat and the Makhnovists and the Gulyai-Polye anarchist group. He was a delegate of the 1st Congress of Nabat at Elizavetgrad between 2nd -7th April 1919. In winter-spring 1919, he was arrested several times by the Cheka. In May and June 1919 he participated in illegal activities in Kharkov. In August 1919 he joined the Makhnovist forces.

From 1st September 1919 he was a member of the cultural-educational division of the Military Revolutionary Council (PRC) of the Makhnovists, doing intensive work among the peasants. He became a close friend of Makhno. In November 1919 he was given the task of developing the manufacture of counterfeit money. He had experience of such work in the anarchist movement from 1905 onwards, but due to a lack of relevant technology this idea failed.

In early January 1920 he led anarchist agitation among Red Army soldiers in Alexandrovsk with sharp criticisms of the Soviet authorities. He was arrested by the Cheka. At the end of September 1920 he was released as a result of the treaty signed between the Bolsheviks and the Makhnovists.

On behalf of the Nabat Secretariat he went along with J. Alymov( Sukhovolsky) and Safyanov to Gulyai-Polye with the sanction of the Kharkhov authorities to arrange the conditions of the agreement.

On the way all three went missing in the area of Millerovo. Anarchists believed that Iosif and his comrades were arrested and shot by the local Cheka.