Ranko, Maxime, 1905-1952: the man behind the name

Jerzy Borejsza alias Maxime Ranko
Jerzy Borejsza alias Maxime Ranko

A short biography of Maxime Ranko, real name Benjamin Goldberg (1905-1952), later to be known as Jerzy Borejsza, ardent Platformist, then pillar of the Communist establishment in Poland.

Submitted by Battlescarred on December 4, 2010

Maxime Ranko will be remembered for his stout defence of organisational anarchism within the pages of Le Libertaire, the French anarchist paper. In addition he took Volin to task over his translation of the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists in its pages, claiming that he had translated certain terms in a biased way, giving them an unnecessarily authoritarian turn. Jerzy Borejsza will be remembered for his stout defence of the “official” truth of Stalinist orthodoxy that the massacre of the Polish officers at Katyn was the work of Hitler, rather than Stalin. Yet both men were one and the same. The anarchist Ranko had been re-invented as a defender of the Soviet Union.

Benjamin Goldberg was born on 14th July 1905 in Kosowie Poleskim in Poland, the son of the journalist Abraham Goldberg and of Anna Rozanska, from a rich family, a sculptor and emancipated woman, one of the first to have a driver’s licence in Poland. He was one of three children. The name Borejsza was used by the family to avoid recruitment to the Tsarist army, and was later used as a pseudonym by members of the family in their literary ventures. In 1909 Abraham and Anna parted and Benjamin and his sister lived with their father. In 1914 Benjamin went into Jewish schooling and in 1918 joined the Hashomer Hatzair (Junior Scouts) before joining the Free Scouts, a left-wing association of scouts in 1924. He was its secretary at its 3rd congress in August of that year. Here the organisation was renamed the Association of Pioneers and Goldberg was involved in the editinh of its newsletter Pioneer. The police raided the Congress and he was arrested. Apparently his younger brother Jozef failed to complete his studies in 1924 and ran away to Germany. He was apprehended at the border with a suitcase of illegal anarchist communist newspapers and served six months in prison. Benjamin had at first sympathised with the radical left of Zionism but then came across anarchist communist ideas whilst in high school.

After the arrest Benjamin’s father sent him to France, on the grounds that his health neded improving. In actual fact Benjamin was becoming interested in anarchist ideas and his father wanted to cut him off from these influences. The reverse happened. Benjamin studied construction at Toulouse and he came in contact with anarchists there. It was also fairly easy to visit spain from Toulouse, and he visited it several times, meeting among others Buenaventura Durruti.

Benjamin then moved to Paris, where he studied Hipanic studies at the Sorbonne and became a leading light in the anarchist movement there. In 1925 he worked for the Anarchist International Bureau (? Probably CIDA, Comite international de defense anarchiste, animated by Severin Ferandel) under the pseudonym Maxime Ranko. He was in constant touch with the Polish Anarchist Federation (AFP) which since 1923 had organised publication of its papers and pamphlets at Paris. He edited a paper for it from March 1925 called Najmita which was smuggled into Poland. For this the Polish authorities threatened six years in prison for its distribution from June 1925, for amongst other things advocating violence against the Polish state.

Ranko wrote for Dielo Trouda, the magazine founded by Makhno and Arshinov. For the 10th anniversary of the Russian Revolution he wrote an article for it, stating that anarchists needed to be as effective as the Bolsheviks... Ranko railed against the “anarchosexualism” of the individualist anarchists, he expostulated against the “ basket of crabs” that was disorganised anarchism within the Union Anarchiste in the pages of the French anarchist paper Le Libertaire. Shortly after Aniela Wolberg ( see libcom biography) moved to Paris in November 1926, she started up a relationship with Ranko. He was one of those who wrote the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists in 1926, so it appears, though he did not add his name to that of the other authors.

Shortly after Aniela Wolberg moved to Paris in November 1926, she started up a relationship with Ranko.They both attended the international meeting on 20th March 1927 to discuss the Platform and international organisation at the cinema in Hay les Roses, also attended by Walecki(1), Ferandel, Bifolchi, Fabbri, Chen ( real name Wu Ke Kang(2), Arshinov and Makhno.

With Makhno, Ranko had attended the previous international meeting on February 12th in Paris. With Makhno he was the keenest to set up an International Bureau immediately, even though most of the participants at the meeting were not enthusiastic. Nevertheless, he, Makhno and Chen went on to an acting commission to set up an International. The meeting at Hay les Roses was wrecked by a police raid, and everyone was arrested. Nevertheless the acting commission took it as a given that there had been an agreement to set up a libertarian communist international, which alienated many of its participants, especially the Italians, who dissociated themselves from it.

In 1927 Ranko/Goldberg returned to Poland , probably because of difficulties as a result of the raid. He was conscripted into the Polish Army. He joined the Polish Communist Party (KPP) in 1929, and was heavily involved in its agitation and propaganda for which he served several sentences between 1933-1935. With the outbreak of war in 1939 he fled to the Soviet Union. Here he was director of the Ossolineum, the Polish National Institute for research into Polish history and literature at Lvov. He became a vocal supporter of the USSR. Between 1942-43 he served as a volunteer in the Red Army. He was then transferred unwillingly to work in Moscow, where he was one of the organisers of the Union Of Polish Patriots, an organisation set up by the Stalin regime to prepare for the take over of Poland by the Communists. From 1944 he was a member of the Polish Workers Party (newly re-constituted Communist Party) which then became the Communist Party.

He was a major architect in the control over Polish culture by the Soviet Union, including in the field of censorship, although in the long run his favourable attitude towards Polish intellectuals won him the disapprobration of Stalinst hardliners, who saw him as too independent, not radical enough, and too difficult to influence.

As a result of a mysterious car crash in 1949, he suffered debilitating injuries. This in addition to various illnesses including stomach cancer, put him almost completely out of circulation, even though he was still quite a young man.
He died in 1952 and was buried in Warsaw.

Skirda, A. Facing the enemy.
Sonn, Richard David Sex, Violence, and the Avant-Garde: Anarchism in Interwar France
Entry on Wolberg at: http://militants-anarchistes.info/spip.php?article6332&lang=fr
(1)Jean Walecki translated for Makhno at the meeting. Also known as Valevsky Valetsky, Waletsky, Jean Mett, real name Isaak Gurfinkiel. Born 15th May 1905 in Warsaw. Arrived in Paris in 1923 and active within Polish anarchist movement there, as well as writing for Dielo Trouda. Worked as a typographical worker at a Russian language paper whilst also studying at the Faculty of Letters.
(2)Wu Ke Kang,or Wu Zhigang, often using the name Woo Yang Hao or Jun Yi, member of the Chinese anarchist circle in Paris. A translator of the works of Emma Goldman. Educated in France, taught in the Laoda middle school during 1928.