A short biography of leading Russian anarcho-syndicalist Grigori Maximov who was active in the 1917 Revolution.
Grigori Petrovitch Maximov
Aka Gregory or G.P. Maximov or Maximoff, born 10 November 1893 – Russia, died 16 March 1950 - Chicago, USA
Grigori Petrovitch Maximov was born on 10th November 1893 in the Russian village of Mitsuchino in Smolensk province. His parents sent him as a child to the Orthodox seminary of Vladimir to study for the priesthood. He decided that this was not for him and went to St Petersburg to study as an agronomist.
He graduated from the Agricultural Academy in 1915. He discovered two books by anarchist Mikhail Bakunin in a provincial library and was deeply influenced by them, calling himself an anarchist from the age of 17. He propagandised for anarchism and was active in the student movement. He was called up to the Russian Army shortly after graduation. He made revolutionary and anti-war propaganda within its ranks.
In 1917 he returned to St Petersburg and was active in the February strikes which led to the fall of the Tsar at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. In August he joined the editorial board of the anarcho-syndicalist paper Golos Truda (Voice of Labour) published for the first time that month. Golos Truda was the paper of the Union for Anarcho-syndicalist Propaganda, set up in opposition to the Petrograd Anarchist Communist Federation. He had severe criticisms of the anarchist communists, accusing them of being romantic visionaries, ignorant of the complex forces in modern society and dreaming of a pastoral utopia.
He joined the Red Army but when the Bolsheviks used it for police work and to disarm the workers, he refused to obey orders and was sentenced to death. The solidarity actions of the metalworkers union saved his life and led to his release.
When the Bolshevik government suppressed Golos Truda in August 1918, he set up Volny Golos Truda (The Free Voice of Labour) along with Nikolai Dolenko and Efim Yartchuk. Maximov was one of the first to use the term ‘state capitalism’ to define what he thought the Bolsheviks would establish in the Soviet Union. At the 2nd Russian anarcho-syndicalist congress in Moscow in November 1918, he was nominated as secretary of the commission charged with setting up a Russian anarcho-syndicalist federation.
He met many foreign anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist delegates come to Moscow to take part in the 2nd congress of the Communist International during July-August 1920, among whom were the German Augustin Souchy, the Spaniard Angel Pestana, the Italian Armando Borghi, and the Frenchman Lepetit. He tried to get across to them the severe repression being used against anarchists, Social-Revolutionaries and dissident Bolsheviks.
After the conference repression increased. Maximov met up with the Frenchman Alfred Rosmer, representative of the Communist International to pass over letters of protest, but with no result. He was arrested on 8th March 1921, shortly after the roundup of many members of the anarchist Nabat Confederation at Kharkov and during the Kronstadt revolt. He joined Voline, Yarchuk, Aron Baron and Mark Mratchny in the Taganka prison in Moscow. Four months later he and other anarchists went on hunger strike for 10 and a half days. Western European syndicalists attending a congress of the Red Trade Union International (Profintern) intervened and obtained the release of most of the anarchists. They were expelled from Russia and ended up in Berlin.
Here Maximov participated in the founding of the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) and the Joint Committee for the Defence of Revolutionists imprisoned in Russia from 1923 to 1926. He set up the anarchosyndicalist paper Rabotchi Put (The Path of Labour) with Yartchuk and Alexander Schapiro.
He moved to Paris in 1924 and then on to the USA where he settled in Chicago. Working as an upholsterer during the day, by night he edited the IWW paper Golos Truzhenika (Worker’s Voice). With the return of Peter Arshinov to the Soviet Union, Maximov took over the editing of Dielo Truda, which had been transferred to Chicago from Paris. This fused with Probuzhdenie (Awakening) a Detroit anarchist journal in 1940, with Maximov remaining as chief editor until his death. He tried to reconcile the Russian anarcho-syndicalists with other Russian anarchist currents during the 30s and 40s. He regarded many of these internal quarrels as the result of personal rather than ideological differences.
He published the Guillotine at Work, his expose of Bolshevik repression, in 1940. Plagued with heart trouble, he died suddenly on March 16th in Chicago, 1950, whilst still heavily involved in anarchist activity. His Constructive Anarchism and The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, on which he had been working since the 1920s were published posthumously in 1952 and 1953 respectively.
“He was not only a lucid thinker, but a man of stainless character and broad human understanding. And he was a whole person, in whom clarity of thought and warmth of feeling were united in the happiest way. He lived as an Anarchist, not because he felt some sort of duty to do so, imposed from outside, but because he could not do otherwise, for his innermost being always caused him to act as he felt and thought.”
- Rudolf Rocker.