During the summer of 1920, the Makhnovists more than once attempted to engage in battle against Wrangel. On two occasions they had military encounters with his troops, but each time the Red troops struck the Makhnovists from behind, and the Makhnovists had to abandon the firing line and retreat. The Soviet Authorities did not stop slandering the Makhnovists. Throughout the Ukraine, Soviet newspapers spread the false news of an alliance between Makhno and Wrangel. In the summer of 1920, the Plenipotentiary of the Khar'kov Government, Yakovlev, declared at the Plenary Session of the Ekaterinoslav Soviet, that the Soviet authorities had written proof of the alliance between Makhno and Wrangel. This was obviously an intentional lie. The Soviet authorities made use of this tactic in order to mislead the masses of workers who, disturbed by Wrangel's successes and the Red Army's retreat, began to look toward Makhno and to invoke his name more frequently.
No one among the workers and peasants believed the Bolshevik lies about an alliance between Makhno and Wrangel. The people knew Makhno too well, and they were also familiar with Bolshevik methods. But it was Wrangel who in the end believed the fable repeated daily by the Soviet press: the fact that Wrangel personally sent a messenger to Makhno can only be explained by the influence of the Soviet press, unless it was simply the result of General Wrangel's abysmal ignorance. Perhaps it was merely an attempt by the general to explore the terrain.
We cite the following document:
Proceedings of the session of the Commanding Staff of the Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurgent (Makhnovist) Army, held at Vrem'evka, district of Mariupol', on July 9, 1920.
Paragraph 4. Message from General Wrangel.
Toward the end of the session, a messenger from General Wrangel was brought before the staff; he presented the following letter:"To the Ataman of the insurrectionary troops, Makhno.
The Russian Army makes war exclusively against the Communists in order to deliver the people from the Communes and Commissars and to guarantee the working peasants the fruits of the land which belonged to the State, to large landowners, and others. This measure has already been put into practice.
The Russian soldiers and officers are fighting for the cause of the people and for their happiness. All those who are with the people should join us. This is why you must now exert all your forces against the Communists, attack their rearguard, destroy their means of transport, and give us your assistance in wiping out Trotsky's troops. Our high command will assist you with armaments, supplies and also specialists. Send your delegate to our Staff with information about your particular needs and to coordinate our military activities.
Chief of Staff of the Command of the Armed Forces of Southern Russia, Lt.-Gen. Shatilov;
Quartermaster-General of the General Staff, Major-General Konovalets.
Melitopol', June 18, 1920."
The messenger, Ivan Mikhailov, 28 years old, said that he had received the letter from Slashchev's adjutant, with instructions to deliver it to Bat'ko Makhno, and that in his camp everyone was convinced that Makhno was working together with Wrangel.
Popov:1 "We have only today sent an appropriate answer to the Reds. We must now answer the White oppressors."
Makhno: "The only answer we can give to such vile offers is the following: any delegate sent from Wrangel, or from anyone on the right, should be executed on the spot, and no answer will be given."
It was unanimously decided to execute Wrangel's delegate and to have the Council publish the letter received as well as the answer.
Wrangel's messenger was immediately executed. This entire incident was reported in the Makhnovist press. All this was perfectly clear to the Bolsheviks. They nevertheless continued shamelessly 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 caused by faulty information, and that, on the contrary, the Makhnovists had executed delegates sent by Wrangel, without entering into any negotiations with them. (See the declarations made by the Chief Commissar of War, entitled "Makhno and Wrangel," in Proletar and other Khar'kov newspapers, about October 20, 1920.) This announcement, in which the Soviet authorities admitted their own lies, was obviously not made because of the desire to tell the truth, but only because the Bolsheviks were obliged to admit the truth, having just concluded a military-political agreement with the Makhnovists.
* * *
In mid-summer, 1920, Wrangel began to gain the upper hand. He advanced slowly but systematically, and began to threaten the entire Donets Basin. In view of the events at the Polish front, Wrangel represented a serious threat to the entire revolution, and at one point this threat grew to enormous proportions.
The Makhnovists could not remain indifferent to Wrangel's advance. It was clear to them that they had to fight him without delay, without allowing him time to consolidate his struggle against the revolution. Everything done to destroy him would in the last analysis benefit the revolution. But what was to be done about the Communists? Their dictatorship was as evil and as hostile to the freedom of the workers as Wrangel's. However, 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. Nevertheless the masses themselves, antagonistic to Wrangel, believed in the revolution, and this fact was very important. At a conference of the Council of Revolutionary Insurgents and the Army Staff, it was decided to concentrate on the struggle against Wrangel. It was then up to the mass of insurgents to make the final decision and settle the question.
According to the assembly, the destruction of Wrangel would have important consequences. First of all, it would eliminate a threat to the revolution. Secondly, all of Russia would be freed from the counter-revolutionary barrage from which it had suffered during all the revolutionary years. The mass of workers and peasants urgently needed an end to all these wars. This would make it possible for them to look about calmly, to evaluate the past, to draw deductions and conclusions, and to furnish new forces to the revolution. The assembly decided to propose to the Communists that hostilities between them and the Makhnovists be suspended in order that together they might wipe out Wrangel. In July and August, 1920, telegrams to this effect were sent to Moscow and Khar'kov in the name of the Council and the Commander of the Insurrectionary Army. There was no response. The Communists continued their war against the Makhnovists, and they also continued their previous campaign of lies and calumnies against them. But in September, when Ekaterinoslav was evacuated by the Communists, and when Wrangel occupied Berdyansk, Aleksandrovsk, Gulyai-Polye and Sinel'nikovo, a plenipotentiary delegation from the Central Committee of the Communist-Bolshevik Party, headed by the Communist Ivanov, came to Starobel'sk, where the Makhnovists were camped, to begin negotiations on the subject of combined action against Wrangel. These negotiations took place on the spot, in Starobel'sk, and it was there that a preliminary military-political agreement between the Makhnovists and the Soviet authorities was formulated. The clauses were to be sent to Khar'kov to be officially ratified. For this purpose, and also to maintain subsequent contact with the Bolshevik staff of the southern front, a Makhnovist military and political delegation headed by Kurilenko, Budanov and Popov left for Khar'kov.
Between October 10th and 15th, 1920, the clauses of the agreement were worked out and adopted by the two contracting parties in the following form:
POLITICAL AND MILITARY AGREEMENT
BETWEEN THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT
OF THE UKRAINE
INSURRECTIONARY ARMY (MAKHNOVIST)
PART I - POLITICAL AGREEMENT
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.
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 organizations recognized by the Soviet Government, may make use of the technical apparatus of the Soviet State, while naturally submitting to the technical rules for publication.
3. Free participation in elections to the Soviets; and the right of Makhnovists and anarchists to be elected thereto. Free participation in the organization of the forthcoming Fifth Pan-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, which will take place next December.
By mandate of the Soviet Government of the Ukrainian S.S. R., Ya. Yakovlev.
Plenipotentiaries of the Council, and Commanders of the Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army (Makhnovist): Kurilenko. Popov.
PART II - MILITARY AGREEMENT
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.
2. While crossing Soviet territory at the front, or going between fronts, the Insurrectionary Army will accept into its ranks neither detachments of, nor deserters from, the Red Army.2
a) The units of the Red Army as well as isolated Red soldiers who have met and joined the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army behind the Wrangel front shall re-enter the ranks of the Red Army when they again make contact with it.
b) The Makhnovist insurgents behind the Wrangel front, as well as all men at present in the Insurrectionary Army, will remain there, even if they were previously mobilized by the Red Army.
3. For the purpose of destroying the common enemy - the White Army - the Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army (Makhnovist) will inform the working masses that collaborate with it of the agreement that has been concluded; it will call upon the people to cease all military actions hostile to the Soviet power; for its part, the Soviet power will immediately publish the clauses of the agreement.
4. The families of the 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, and for this purpose shall be supplied by the Soviet Government of the Ukraine with the necessary documents.
Commander of the Southern Front, Frunze.
Members of the Revolutionary Council of the Southern Front: Beta Kun, Gusev.
Plenipotentiary delegates of the Council, and Commanders of the Makhnovist Insurrectionary Army: Kurilenko. Popov.
In addition to the above-mentioned three clauses of the political agreement, the representatives of the Council and the commander of the Makhnovist Army submitted to the Soviet Government a fourth special clause of the political agreement:
FOURTH CLAUSE OF THE POLITICAL AGREEMENT
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 agreements, with the governmental organs of the Soviet Republic.
* * *
Under various pretexts, the Soviet authorities continually put off the publication of this agreement. The Makhnovists understood that this was not a good sign. The full meaning of this delay only became clear some time later, when the Soviet power unleashed a new and brutal assault against the Makhnovists. We will return to this later.
Aware of the lack of sincerity of the Soviet authorities, the Makhnovists declared firmly that as long as the agreement was not published, the Insurrectionary Army could not act according to its clauses. It was only after this direct pressure that the Soviet Government finally decided to publish the text of the agreement. But they did not publish the entire agreement. They first published Part II, the military agreement, and a week later they published the first part, the political agreement. The real meaning of the pact was thereby obscured, and consequently it was not accurately understood by most readers. As for the fourth clause of the political agreement, the Bolsheviks separated it from the rest of the agreement, claiming they had to confer with Moscow on this subject. The Makhnovist representatives agreed to treat this subject separately.
After this, between October 15th and 20th, the Makhnovist army set out to attack Wrangel. The battle front extended from Sinel'nikovo to Aleksandrovsk, Pologi, Berdyansk; the Makhnovists advanced in the direction of Perekop. In the first battles in the region between Pologi and Orekhov a large group of Wrangel's troops, commanded by General Drozdov, was beaten, and more than 4,000 soldiers were captured. Three weeks later, the region was liberated from Wrangel's troops. By November the Makhnovists together with the Red Army had already reached Perekop.
It is important to point out here that, as soon as it was known that the Makhnovists had joined with the Reds to oppose Wrangel, the population in the region regained its confidence and enthusiasm. Wrangel was irremediably doomed, and his complete defeat was expected from one day to the next.
The role of the Makhnovists in liberating the Crimea of Wrangel's troops was the following. While the Red Army blocked Perekop, some of the Makhnovist troops, following the orders of the staff, went 20 miles to the left of the Isthmus and set out over the ice of the Sivash Strait, which was frozen at this time. The Cavalry, commanded by Marchenko, an anarchist peasant originally from Gulyai-Pole, went first, followed by a machine-gun regiment commanded by Kozhin. The crossing was made under violent and continuous fire by the enemy, which cost many lives. The commander, Foma Kozhin, was seriously wounded several times. But the boldness and perseverance of the attackers caused Wrangel's troops to take flight. Then another Makhnovist army, the Crimean, under the command of Simon Karetnik, moved to the right toward Simferopol', which they took on November 13th or 14th. At the same time the Red Army occupied Perekop. It is incontestable that, having entered the Crimea across the Sivash, the Makhnovists contributed greatly to the taking of the Perekop Isthmus, hitherto considered impregnable, by forcing Wrangel to retreat into the interior of the peninsula in order to avoid being surrounded in the gorges of Perekop.
* * *
After a long period of incessant warfare, the agreement between the Makhnovists and the Soviet Government appeared to give the region some possibility of proceeding in tranquillity with a certain amount of social construction. We said "some possibility" because, aside from the fact that in several places fierce warfare took place against Wrangel's troops (Gulyai-Pole, for example, changed hands several times during this period), the Soviet authorities, despite the agreement, maintained a partial blockade of the region and did all they could to paralyze the creative constructive activity of the workers. Nevertheless, the active core of the Makhnovists residing in Gulyai-Pole carried on energetic activity in the field of social construction. First of all they were concerned with the organization of free workers' Soviets which were to be organs of local self-management by the workers and peasants. These councils were based on the principle of independence from any and all outside authority, and were to be responsible only to the local workers.
The first practical step in this direction was taken by the inhabitants of Gulyai-Pole. From November 1st to 25th, 1920, they met at least five to seven times in order to examine this question, and in order to move toward its solution gradually and carefully. The free soviet of Gulyai-Pole was established in the middle of November, 1920, but it was not a fully developed institution, since as a completely new practical step of the workers it needed time and experience. At this same time the Council of Revolutionary Insurgents drew up and published the "Fundamental Statutes of the Free Soviets" (Draft).
The workers of Gulyai-Pole also devoted a great deal of attention to the question of schooling. The repeated armed invasions had seriously disrupted educational activity throughout the region. The teachers, having received no remuneration for a long time, had dispersed to earn their living as best they could. School buildings were abandoned. After the agreement between the Makhnovists and the Soviet authorities, the masses directly confronted the problem of education. The Makhnovists felt that this question had to be resolved on the basis of self-management by the workers. Educational activity, they said, like all other activity which concerns the basic needs of the workers, is the task of the local working population. They themselves should supervise the process of teaching their children reading, writing and the sciences. But this was still not all. By taking charge of the instruction and education of the young people, the workers purify and elevate the very idea of schooling. In the hands of the people, school becomes more than a source of knowledge; it also becomes a means of developing conscious and free people such as there ought to be in the free workers' society. This is why, from the first moments of workers' self-management, the school should be separate not only from the Church, but also and to the same extent, from the State.
Inspired by this idea, the peasants and workers of Gulyai-Pole eagerly accepted the separation of schools from the State. In Gulyai-Pole there were several supporters and proponents of the principles of the free school as expressed by Francisco Ferrer, as well as theoretical and practical projects for a unified workers' school.
This new approach to education gave rise to a great deal of activity and enthusiasm among the inhabitants of Gulyai-Pole. The majority of peasants concerned with cultural work took part in this activity. Nestor Makhno, although at this time he had a serious wound in his leg, was actively interested in this work, attended all meetings of Gulyai-Pole inhabitants which dealt with this question, and urged competent people to prepare for him a course on the theory and practice of a unified workers' school.
In practice the undertakings of the Gulyai-Pole inhabitants in the field of education consisted of the following. The peasants and workers of the entire village undertook the maintenance of the teaching personnel needed by all the schools of the village (in Gulyai-Pole there were several primary schools and two high schools). A mixed commission composed of peasants, workers and teachers was created in order to take charge of providing for all the needs - economic as well as pedagogical - of the school system. Having accepted the principle of separation of schools from the State, the Gulyai-Pole inhabitants adopted a plan for free education very similar to that of Francisco Ferrer. The educational commission elaborated this plan in detail and prepared a major theoretical study on the principles and organization of the free school. (Unfortunately we do not have these documents.)
At the same time, special courses were organized for illiterate or semi-literate insurgents. People with many years of training and experience were found to teach literacy to adults.
Finally, courses in political theory were organized for insurgents who were in Gulyai-Pole at this time. Their goal was to furnish elementary notions of history, sociology and other subjects of this type, in order to supplement their combat weapons with weapons of knowledge and to prepare them for a more profound understanding of the goals and strategies of the revolution. These courses were taught by insurgent peasants and workers who had read a great deal. The program included: a) political economy; b) history; c) theory and practice of socialism and anarchism; d) history of the great French revolution (according to Kropotkin); e) history of the revolutionary insurrection at the heart of the Russian revolution, etc. Professorial abilities among the Makhnovists were extremely limited; in spite of this, due to the care and interest on the part of the lecturers as well as the listeners, the courses were from the very beginning lively and serious, and promised to play an important role in the further development of the movement.
The insurgents also devoted a great deal of attention to theatre. Even before the agreement with the Bolsheviks, while the insurrectionary army was forced to fight daily against its numerous adversaries, the army always maintained a drama section composed of the insurgents themselves; this section presented plays for the insurgents and frequently for peasants from neighbouring villages, whenever the military situation allowed.
There is a fairly large playhouse in Gulyai-Pole. But professional dramatic artists were always rare in the region. Generally amateurs recruited among the peasants, workers and intellectuals, especially teachers and students, served as actors. During the civil war, even though Gulyai-Pole suffered enormously, the inhabitants' interest in the theatre did not diminish; on the contrary it grew. During the period of the agreement with the Bolsheviks, when the blockade of the region was lifted, the Gulyai-Pole playhouse filled daily with working people; peasants, insurgents, and their wives took part in the performances, not only as spectators and actors, but also as playwrights.3 The cultural and educational section of the Makhnovist army took an active and direct part in the organization of drama in Gulyai-Pole and in the rest of the region.
* * *
No one among the Makhnovists believed in either the solidity or the permanence of the agreement with the Bolsheviks. On the basis of previous experience, everyone expected the Bolsheviks to find a pretext for a new attack on the Makhnovshchina. But the political conditions of the time led people to expect the agreement to last at least two or three months. This period would have been extremely important for the dissemination of extensive propaganda in the region; the need for such activity was enormous, and the Makhnovists devoted a great deal of energy to it. The demands of their situation had forced the Makhnovists to abandon this type of activity almost completely. They hoped that on the basis of this agreement there would be ample opportunity to demonstrate to the workers the essence of the disagreement between the Bolsheviks and the Makhnovists, the reason for the violent opposition between them. This was in fact fully realized. The fourth clause of the political agreement - the clause in which the Makhnovists demanded that the Bolsheviks recognize the workers' and peasants' right to economic and social self-management - turned out to be completely unacceptable to the Soviet Government. The representatives of the Makhnovshchina demanded that the Soviet authorities choose between two possibilities: either sign the clause in question, or explain why they were against it. The Makhnovists submitted this clause to public evaluation by the masses. In Khar'kov, Makhnovists and anarchists discussed this theme at public meetings. At Gulyai-Pole and its surroundings, leaflets which dealt with this question were widely distributed. By the middle of November this fourth clause, which was stated in five or six lines, became the centre of attention of the masses.
At about this time, Wrangel's expedition was completely destroyed. For the uninitiated, this circumstance would not appear to affect the agreement between the Makhnovists and the Soviet Government. But the Makhnovists saw in this circumstance the beginning of the end of the agreement. As soon as Simon Karetnik's dispatch - announcing that he was with the insurrectionary troops in the Crimea and marching on Simferopol' - arrived in Gulyai-Poly, Grigory Vasilevsky, Makhno's aide, exclaimed: "This is the end of the agreement! I wager that in a week the Bolsheviks will be on our backs." This was said on November 16, and on November 26th the Bolsheviks treacherously attacked the Makhnovist staff and troops in the Crimea and in Gulyai-Pole; they seized the Makhnovist representatives in Khar'kov, destroyed all the recently established anarchist organizations and imprisoned all the anarchists. They proceeded the same way all over the Ukraine.
The Soviet authorities were not slow to explain their treachery by means of their favourite argument: the Makhnovists and the anarchists were preparing an insurrection against the Soviet Government, and point 4 of the political agreement was the call for this insurrection; even the time and place of this insurrection had been determined. Furthermore, they accused Makhno of having refused to go to the Caucasian front and of having started to mobilize troops from among the peasants in order to form an army against the Soviet authorities; instead of fighting Wrangel in the Crimea, the Makhnovists had been sniping at the rearguard of the Red Army, etc.
It goes without saying that all of these explanations were complete fabrications. We fortunately possess all the documents needed to expose these lies and establish the truth.
First of all, on November 23, 1920, in Pologi and Gulyai-Pole, the Makhnovists arrested nine Bolshevik spies belonging to the 42nd Infantry Division of the Red Army, who confessed that they had been sent to Gulyai-Pole by the chief of the counter-espionage service to obtain information about the location of the houses of Makhno, the members of his staff, the commanders of the insurrectionary army and the members of the Council. After this, they were supposed to remain in Gulyai-Pole to wait for the arrival of the Red Army, and then point out where the persons in question were to be found. In case the unexpected arrival of the Red Army forced these persons to flee into hiding, the spies were supposed to shadow them and not lose sight of them. The spies declared that there was going to be an attack on Gulyai-Pole by November 24th or 25th.
On the basis of this, the Council of the revolutionary insurgents and the commander of the army sent to Rakovsky and to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front a detailed communication about this plot, demanding: 1) the immediate arrest and arraignment before the military tribunal of the Commander of the 42nd Division, the Chief of Staff of the Division, and other persons involved in the plot, and 2) the prohibition of Red units travelling through Gulyai-Pole, Pologi, Malaya Takmachka and Turkenovka, in order to forestall any unpleasant incidents.
The response of the Soviet Government in Khar'kov was as follows: the so-called plot is nothing but a simple misunderstanding; nevertheless the Soviet authorities, desiring to clear up the matter, are putting it in the hands of a special commission and propose that the staff of the Makhnovist army delegate two members to take part in the work of this commission. This response was sent from Khar'kov by direct wire on November 25. The following morning, P. Rybin, secretary of the Council of revolutionary insurgents, again discussed this question with Khar'kov by direct wire; the Bolsheviks assured him that the affair of the 42nd Division would certainly be resolved to the complete satisfaction of the Makhnovists, and added that the 4th clause of the political agreement was also about to be settled in a satisfactory manner. This discussion took place on November 26th at 9 a.m. However, six hours earlier, at 3 a.m., the Makhnovist representatives at Khar'kov had been seized, and all the anarchists in Khar'kov and in the rest of the Ukraine were arrested. Exactly two hours after Rybin's conversation by direct wire, Gulyai-Pole was surrounded on all sides by Red troops and subjected to furious bombardment. On the same day and at the same hour, the Makhnovist army in the Crimea was attacked; by means of a ruse the Bolsheviks succeeded in capturing all members of the Makhnovist staff as well as its commander, Simon Karetnik, and executed every single one of them.
It is obvious that this vast operation had been carefully prepared and that its elaboration must have taken at least ten or fifteen days.
We see here not only a treacherous attack of the Soviet Government against the Makhnovists, but also the meticulousness with which they organized this plot and the efforts with which they dulled the vigilance of the Makhnovists by verbal assurances of their security in order to surround and destroy their forces.
Secondly, on November 27, the day after the attack on Gulyai-Pole, the Makhnovists found on the Red Army prisoners whom they captured undated proclamations entitled "Forward against Makhno!" "Death to Makhnovism! " published by the political section of the 4th Army. The prisoners said they had received these proclamations on November 15th and 16th; they contained a call to action against Makhno, who was accused of having violated the clauses of the political and military agreement, of having refused to go to the Caucasian front, of having planned an uprising against the Soviet power, etc. This proves that all these accusations were fabricated and sent to the press even while the insurrectionary army was still in the process of beating a path across the Crimea and occupying Simferopol', and while the Makhnovist representatives were peacefully working with the Soviet authorities at Khar'kov.
Thirdly, during the months of October and November, 1920, namely while the military and political agreement between the Makhnovists and Bolsheviks was being negotiated and after it had just been concluded, two Bolshevik plots to assassinate Makhno at Gulyai-Pole were uncovered.
We should add that the central staff of the Makhnovist army in Gulyai-Pole did not receive a single order to report to the Caucasian front. At this time Makhno was suffering from a serious leg wound and did not concern himself at all with paper work, which was handled by the chief of staff, Belash, and by the Council secretary, P. Rybin, who made daily reports to the Council on all the documents received by the staff.
We should remember the manner in which the Bolsheviks delayed the publication of the text of the military-political agreement, which we described earlier. It now becomes clear why they stubbornly kept postponing the publication of this text. For the Bolsheviks this agreement was nothing more than a military and strategic step calculated to last at most a month or two - the time needed to defeat Wrangel. Once this was accomplished, they were determined to resume slandering the Makhnovists as bandits and counter-revolutionaries, and under this pretext to make war on them. This is why it was not in their interest to publish the political agreement with the Makhnovists and to present it to the judgment of the masses. They would in fact have preferred to hide the very existence of this agreement from the masses in order to continue the war against the Makhnovists under the pretext of a struggle against banditry and counter-revolution, on the very day after Wrangel's defeat, and as if nothing had happened between the Bolsheviks and the Makhnovists.
Such are the facts concerning the breaking of the military-political pact between the Makhnovists and the Soviet power.
It is necessary to examine closely the text of this agreement. It clearly distinguishes the two opposed tendencies: the statist tendency which defends the usual privileges and prerogatives of authority; and the popular and revolutionary tendency which defends the demands of the subjugated masses against the wielders of power. It is extremely significant that the first part of the agreement, concerning the political rights of the workers, contains only Makhnovist theses. In this matter, the Soviet authorities had the classic attitude of all tyrannies: they sought to limit the demands formulated by the Makhnovists, bargained on all points, and did everything possible to reduce the rights of the working people -- rights which were inalienable from and indispensable to their real freedom
We should also point out that the Makhnovists, because of their anarchist conception of struggle, were always opposed to political conspiracies. They engaged in revolutionary struggle openly, in the midst of the broad working masses, convinced that only a struggle of the revolutionary masses could lead the workers to victory; whereas conspiracies could only lead to a change of authority - an event which contradicted the very nature of the Makhnovshchina.
Thus the agreement between the Makhnovists and the Bolsheviks was doomed from the very beginning and could not have lasted after the defeat of Wrangel.
This is also clear from certain documents of the Soviet authorities themselves, for example, the order issued by Frunze, who was at the time commander of the southern front, a document which clearly exposes the treachery of the Bolshevik attack against the Makhnovists and reduces to nothing all their fabrications about the anarchists and the Makhnovists.
ORDER TO COMRADE MAKHNO, COMMANDER OF THE INSURRECTIONARY ARMY.
COPIES TO THE COMMANDERS OF THE ARMIES ON THE SOUTHERN FRONT. NO. 00149.
ISSUED AT GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, MELITOPOL'. NOVEMBER 23, 1920.
By reason of the cessation of hostilities against Wrangel, and in view of his complete defeat, the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front considers that the task of the partisan army is completed. It therefore proposes to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Insurrectionary Army that it immediately begin transforming the insurrectionary partisan units into regular military units of the Red Army.
There is no longer any reason for the Insurrectionary Army to continue to exist as such. On the contrary, the existence, alongside of the Red Army, of these units with a special organization, pursuing special tasks, produces absolutely unacceptable results... That is why the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front orders the Revolutionary Military Council of the Insurrectionary Army to do the following:
All units of the Insurrectionary Army formations, at present in the Crimea, should be immediately incorporated into the Fourth Army; the Revolutionary Military Council should take charge of this transfer.
The military formations at Gulyai-Pole should be liquidated. The combatants will be distributed among the reserve detachments, according to the instructions of the commander of that part of the Army.
The Revolutionary Military Council of the Insurrectionary Army shall take all necessary measures to explain to the combatants the need for these measures.
M. Frunze, Commander in Chief of the Southern Front;
Smil'ga, member of the Revolutionary Military Council;
Karatygin, Chief of Staff.
The reader should recall the history of the agreement between the Soviet Government and the Makhnovists.
As was said earlier, the conclusion of the agreement was preceded by negotiations between the Makhnovist plenipotentiaries and the Bolshevik delegation headed by the Communist Ivanov, which came to the Makhnovist camp at Starobel'sk especially for this purpose. These negotiations were continued at Khar'kov, where the Makhnovist representatives worked for three weeks with the Bolsheviks to conclude the pact satisfactorily. Each article was carefully examined and debated by the two parties.
The final version of this agreement was approved by the two parties, i.e., by the Soviet Government and the Revolutionary Insurgent Region represented by the Council of Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurgents, and was signed by the respective plenipotentiaries of these two sides.
According to the very nature of this agreement, none of the articles could be suspended or modified without prior agreement of the Soviet Government and the Council of Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurgents if the agreement had not been broken either by one side or by the other.
Article 1 of Part II of the agreement reads: "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."
Frunze's Order No. 00149 of November 23, 1920, demands that the army of the Makhnovist insurgents be liquidated, that the combatants be incorporated into the Red Army, and that "by reason of the cessation of hostilities against Wrangel and in view of his complete defeat" the Soviet power "considers that the task of the partisan army is completed."
This order annihilates not only the above-cited first article of the military agreement, but the entire military-political agreement.
The fact that, instead of proposing a revision of, or an amendment to, the existing agreement, the Bolsheviks proceeded by way of an urgent military order enforced by arms, clearly shows that they considered the agreement to be nothing more than a trap designed to mislead the Makhnovists.
At the same time that the Makhnovists received Order No. 00149, the Fourth Red Army in the Crimea received an order to act against the Makhnovists with all the means at its disposal and to use all its military forces in case the insurgents refused to obey.
Frunze's order is so clear that no commentary is needed in order to depict the true situation. Frunze orders the Makhnovists to liquidate their army, to become a regular division of the Red Army: he thus orders the Makhnovshchina to commit suicide. Such naivete would be surprising, if it had only been naivete.
In actual fact, behind this naivete there was a carefully worked-out plan, calculated to completely destroy the Makhnovshchina. Wrangel had been beaten. The Makhnovists had been put to good use. The time had come to wipe them out. Consequently, the Bolsheviks had to put an end to their existence. This is the meaning of the order.
But in spite of its brutal straightforwardness, Frunze's order was also deceitful. Neither the staff of the insurrectionary army, stationed at Gulyai-Pole, nor the Makhnovist delegation in Khar'kov, in fact received Frunze's order. The Makhnovists only learned about it three or four weeks after the Bolshevik attack, through some newspapers which fell into their hands. The explanation for this is simple. The Bolsheviks, who were preparing secretly for a surprise attack on the Makhnovists, could not afford to put them on their guard by sending them this order in advance, since the planned attack would then have been repulsed. This is why they kept the secret until the last moment. Frunze's order was published in the papers only after the attack, after the break had become an accomplished fact. It appeared for the first time on December 15, 1920, in the Khar'kov newspaper Kommunist, and was given the date November 23. All these machinations had the objective of surprising the Makhnovists, of destroying them, and of explaining this action afterwards by means of "legal evidence."
The assault on the Makhnovists was accompanied by mass arrests of anarchists. The purpose of these arrests was not only the total destruction of all anarchist thought and activity, but also the stifling of any possibility of protest, of any attempt to explain to the people the real meaning of what was happening. Not only anarchists, but also their friends and acquaintances, and those who were interested in anarchist literature, were arrested. At Elisavetgrad fifteen youths between 15 and 18 years old were arrested. Although the district authorities in Nikolaev were dissatisfied with this capture, saying that they wanted "real" anarchists and not children, none of these children were released.
In Khar'kov the pursuit of anarchists assumed proportions unheard of in Russia in past years. Snares and ambushes were organized at the homes of all local anarchists. A trap of this kind was set up in the "Vol'noe bratstvo" ("Free Brotherhood") bookshop. Anyone who came to buy a book was seized and sent to the Cheka. They even imprisoned people who stopped to read the newspaper Nabat which had appeared legally and was posted on the wall of the bookshop. When one of the Khar'kov anarchists, Grigory Tsesnik, escaped arrest, the Bolsheviks threw his wife, who had no political interests of any kind, into prison. She started a hunger strike, demanding her immediate release. The Bolsheviks then told her that if Tsesnik wanted to obtain her release, he had only to give himself up to the Cheka. Tsesnik, though ill with tuberculosis, gave himself up and was imprisoned.
We have already mentioned that the staff of the Makhnovist army in the Crimea had been treacherously seized. The commander of the cavalry, Marchenko, although surrounded and fiercely attacked by numerous units of the Bolshevik 4th Army, managed to escape and break a passage through the natural obstacles and barricades of the fortified Perekop Isthmus. Leading his men, or rather the remnants of his men, by forced marches during the day and night, he succeeded in rejoining Makhno in the little village of Kermenchik, inhabited by Greeks. On December 7th, a horseman arrived to announce that Marchenko's troops would be there in a few hours. The Makhnovists at Kermenchik came out excitedly to meet the heroes. Their anguish can be imagined when they finally saw the small group of horsemen; instead of the powerful cavalry of 1500 men, a small detachment of 250 men returned. At their head were Marchenko and Taranovski.
"I have the honour of announcing to you - the return of the Crimean army," said Marchenko with bitter irony. Everyone smiled sadly. "Yes, brothers," continued Marchenko. "Now we know what the Communists are." Makhno was sombre. The sight of the broken and nearly destroyed famous cavalry shocked him. He was silent, seeking to control his emotions. A general assembly took place on the spot. The story of the events in the Crimea was retold: how the commander of the army, Karetnik, sent by the Bolshevik staff to Gulyai-Pole, ostensibly to attend a military council, was treacherously arrested on the way; how Gavrilenko, chief of staff of the Crimean army, as well as all his aides and several of the unit commanders, were deceived with a similar pretext. All those who were caught were shot immediately. The cultural-educational section, at Simferopol', was arrested without recourse to any military ruse.
* * *
On November 26, when Gulyai-Pole was surrounded by Red troops, only a special group of 150 to 200 Makhnovist horsemen were there. With this handful of men, Makhno routed the cavalry regiment of the Red Army, which was advancing on Gulyai-Pole from Uspenovka, and thus escaped from the enemy's grip. During the subsequent week he organized the units of insurgents that flocked to him from all sides, as well as some Red Army units who left the Bolsheviks and came to join him. He succeeded in forming a unit of 1,000 horsemen and 1,500 infantrymen, with whom he attempted a counter-attack. Exactly a week later he occupied Gulyai-Pole, having routed the 42nd Division of the Red Army and taken nearly 6,000 prisoners. Of these, about 2,000 men declared themselves willing to join the insurrectionary army; the rest were set free on the same day, after having attended a large public meeting. Three days later Makhno inflicted another serious defeat on the Bolsheviks near Andreevka. During the whole night and the following day, he fought two divisions of the Red Army, and ended by defeating them, again taking from 8,000 to 10,000 prisoners. As in Gulyai-Pole, these prisoners were set free; volunteers remained with the insurrectionary army. Makhno then struck three further consecutive blows at the Red Army: near Komar', Tsare-Konstantinovka and Berdyansk. The Bolshevik infantry fought reluctantly, and took advantage of every opportunity to surrender.4
For some time the Makhnovists were encouraged by the thought that victory would be on their side. It appeared to them that it was only necessary to defeat two or three Bolshevik divisions for an important part of the Red Army to join them, and the rest to retreat toward the north. But soon the peasants of various districts brought news that the Bolsheviks were installing whole regiments, primarily of cavalry, in all the villages, and were concentrating enormous military forces in various places. In fact, Makhno was soon surrounded at Fedorovka, to the south of Gulyai-Pole, by several divisions of infantry and cavalry. The battle raged continuously from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. Breaking through the enemy ranks, Makhno managed to escape to the northeast. But three days later he had to fight another battle, near the village of Konstantin (inhabited by Greek peasants), against a very large cavalry force and a vigorous artillery. From several officers who were captured, Makhno learned that there were four Bolshevik armies - two cavalry and two mixed - and that the Red commander hoped to surround him with the assistance of several additional divisions. This information agreed perfectly with that furnished by the peasants, as well as with the observations and conclusions of Makhno himself. It became increasingly clear that the defeat of two or three Red units was of no importance, in view of the enormous mass of troops which was being sent against the Makhnovists. It was no longer a question of achieving victory over the Bolshevik armies, but of avoiding the complete destruction of the insurrectionary army. This army, reduced to some 3,000 soldiers, was obliged to fight daily, each time against an enemy of 10,000 to 15,000 men. In these conditions, catastrophe was no longer in doubt. The Council of Revolutionary Insurgents then decided to abandon the southern region provisionally, leaving Makhno full freedom as to the direction of the general retreat.
Makhno's genius was about to be submitted to a supreme test. It appeared absolutely impossible to escape from the monstrous network of troops advancing from all sides toward the small group of insurgents. Three thousand revolutionary fighters were surrounded by an army of at least 150,000 men. But Makhno did not for an instant lose courage or presence of mind. He embarked on a heroic duel against this mass of troops. Surrounded on all sides by Red divisions, he marched like a legendary Titan, fighting battle after battle, to the right, to the left, in the front and to the rear. After routing several units of the Red Army and taking more than 20,000 prisoners,5 Makhno, as if he were striking out blindly, set out first toward the east toward Yuzovka, although the workers of this mining region had warned him that he was awaited by a solid military barrier; he then turned sharply west, following fantastic routes which only he knew. From this moment, the ordinary roads were completely abandoned. The movement of the army continued for hundreds of miles, across snow-covered fields, guided by a prodigious sense of direction and orientation in this icy desert.6 This manoeuvre permitted the Makhnovist army to avoid hundreds of enemy cannon and machine guns, and allowed it to defeat two brigades of the 1st Bolshevik cavalry at Petrovo in the government of Kherson which, believing Makhno to be a hundred miles away, were taken completely by surprise.
The struggle lasted for several months, with incessant battles day and night.
Arriving in the government of Kiev, the Makhnovist army found itself, in the coldest part of the winter, in a hilly, rocky country, which made it necessary to abandon all the artillery, supplies, and almost all munitions, and even most of the wagons. At the same time, two enemy cavalry divisions, called Red Cossacks, came from the western frontier to join the mass of armies sent by the Bolsheviks against Makhno. All the routes were cut off. The place contained as few resources as a graveyard: there were only cliffs and steep ravines, all covered with ice, over which one could only advance slowly. On all sides there was an incessant barrage of cannon and machine-gun fire. None of the Makhnovists expected to get out to safety again. But none thought of dispersing in shameful flight. They decided to die together.
It was unspeakably sad to see this handful of men, alone among the cliffs, the sky, and the enemy fire, ready to fight to the end, and already seemingly condemned to death. Grief, despair and sorrow took hold of them. They wanted to shout to the whole world that a dreadful crime was about to be committed; what was greatest in the hearts of the people, what the people create in their most heroic epochs, was about to be destroyed, was about to perish forever.
Makhno honourably met the test that fate had imposed on him. He advanced to the borders of Galicia, went back to Kiev, re-crossed the Dnepr near Kiev, went down into the departments of Poltava and Khar'kov, turned north again toward Kursk, and, following the railway tracks between Kursk and Belograd, got out of the enemy circle into a much more favourable situation, and left far behind him the many Bolshevik divisions sent to pursue him.
* * *
The heroic duel between a handful of Makhnovists and the State army of the Bolsheviks was not yet over. The Bolshevik command did everything possible to capture the central nucleus of the Makhnovshchina and to destroy it. From all parts of the Ukraine, infantry and cavalry divisions were sent to blockade Makhno. The vice of iron and fire again tightened around the revolutionary heroes and the deadly struggle began again.
In a letter to his comrade, Makhno himself depicted the end of this heroic and moving episode in the history of the Makhnovshchina. He wrote:7
Two days after your departure, my dear friend, I took the village of Korocha (in the government of Kursk), where I distributed several thousand copies of the "Statutes of the Free Soviets." Then I set out through Varpnyarka and the Don region toward Ekaterinoslav and Tauride. I had to fight fierce battles every day - on one side against the Bolshevik-Communist infantry which followed us step by step, and on the other side against the Second Cavalry army, which was sent against us by the Bolshevik command. You know our horsemen. The Red Cavalry could never hold them if it was not supported by infantry and armoured cars. That is why I managed, though not without serious losses, to break through without changing my direction. Our army demonstrated every day that it was really a popular and revolutionary army. In the material conditions which it endured, it should have melted away immediately, but, on the contrary, it never ceased to grow in manpower and resources.
In one of the serious battles which we had to fight, our special detachment of cavalry lost more than 30 men, half of whom were commanders. Among others, our dear and good friend, young in years but old in military exploits, the chief of the detachment, Gavrvusha Troyan, was killed instantly by a bullet. At his side also fell Apollon and several other brave and devoted comrades.
At some distance from Gulyai-Pole, we were joined by our new troops, fresh and full of spirit, who were commanded by Brova and Parkhomenko. A little later, the first brigade of Budenny's Fourth Cavalry Division, with its commander Maslak, came over to our side. The struggle against the authority and despotism of the Bolsheviks became even more fierce.
At the beginning of March, 1921, I asked Brova and Maslak to form a special unit from among the troops who were with me, and to proceed toward the Don and the Kuban. Another group was formed under the command of Parkhomenko and sent to the Voronezh region. (Parkhomenko was killed, and an anarchist from Chuguev replaced him.) A third group, composed of 600 horsemen and Ivanyuk's regiment was sent toward Khar'kov.
About the same time, our best comrade and revolutionary Vdovichenko was wounded in the fighting, and had to be taken to Novospasovka for treatment, accompanied by a small detachment. An expeditionary force of Bolsheviks discovered his hiding place; Vdovichenko and his comrade Matrosenko,8 while defending themselves against the enemy and seeing that they were about to be captured, shot themselves. Matrosenko died instantly, but Vdovichenko's bullet was embedded under his skull above the neck. When the Communists found out who he was, they gave him first aid and saved him from death. Soon after this I had news about him. He was in the hospital at Aleksandrovsk and begged his comrades to find a way of rescuing him. He was tortured atrociously. They tried to make him renounce the Makhnovshchina and sign a paper to that effect. He scornfully repulsed their offers, although he was so weak that he could hardly talk. Because of this refusal, he might have been shot at any moment - but I did not find out whether or not he was shot.
During this time I myself made a raid across the Dnepr toward Nikolaev; then I re-crossed the Dnepr above Perekop and went toward our region, where I hoped to meet some of our detachments. But the Communist command had prepared an ambush for me near Melitopol'. It was impossible either to advance or to re-cross the Dnepr, since the snow had begun to melt and the river was covered with floating ice. We had to fight, which meant that I had to get back into the saddle9 and direct operations myself. A section of the enemy troops was skilfully eluded by our troops, while I forced the others to keep on the alert for a whole 24 hours, harassing them with our patrols. During this time I managed to make a forced march of 40 miles, to overcome (at dawn on March 8) a third Bolshevik army, camped on the shore of Molochni Lake, and to get to the open space of the Verkhni Tokmak region over the narrow promontory between Molochni Lake and the Sea of Azov. From there I sent Kurilenko into the Berdyansk-Mariupol' region to direct the insurrectionary movement there. I myself went through the Gulyai-Pole region toward Chernigov, since peasant delegations had come from several of its districts to ask me to visit their region.
In the course of this journey, my troops - 1,500 horsemen under Petrenko and two infantry regiments - were halted and encircled by strong Bolshevik divisions. Again I had to direct the counter-attack myself. Our efforts were successful. We beat the enemy thoroughly, and took many prisoners, as well as arms, guns, ammunition and horses. But two days later, we were attacked by fresh and powerful enemy units. I must tell you that these daily combats had accustomed our men to placing so little value on their lives that exploits of extraordinary heroism had become daily events. With a cry of "Live free or die fighting," the men would throw themselves into the midst of no-matter what unit, overturning enemies much stronger than themselves and forcing them to flee. During one counter-attack, which was bold to the point of folly, I was struck with a bullet that entered my thigh and come out through the stomach, near the appendix. I fell off my horse. This forced us to retreat, because someone who had no experience cried out: "Bat'ko was killed!"
They carried me for a dozen versts in a cart before dressing my wound, and I lost a great deal of blood. I remained unconscious, under the guard of Lev Zin'kovsky. This was March 14. During the night of the 15th, I regained consciousness. All the commanders of our army and the members of the staff, with Belash at their head, assembled at my bedside, asking me to sign an order to send detachments of 100 to 200 men to Kurilenko, Kozhin and others who were directing the insurrectionary movement in various regions. They wanted me to retire with one regiment to a relatively quiet place until I could get back in the saddle. I signed the order, and I permitted Zabud'ko to form a light combat unit to act on its own in our region, without losing touch with me. By the morning of March 16, all these detachments had already left except for a small, special unit that remained with me. And at this moment the 9th Red Cavalry Division fell upon us and forced us to break camp; they pursued us for 13 hours and over 180 versts. Finally, upon leaving Sloboda on the shore of the Sea of Azov, we were able to change horses and halt for five hours.
At dawn on March 17, we resumed the march toward Novospasovka, but after 17 versts on the road we met a new and quite fresh force of Bolsheviks. They had been sent after Kurilenko, but having lost sight of him, they fell on us. After pursuing us for 25 versts (we were completely exhausted and really incapable of fighting), these horsemen threw themselves on us. What were we to do? I was not only incapable of getting into the saddle; I could not even sit up. I was lying in the bottom of the cart, and saw a terrible hand-to-hand battle - an unbelievable hacking - take place about a hundred yards away from me. Our men died only for my sake, only because they would not abandon me. But in the last resort, there was no way to safety, either for them or for me. The enemy was five or six times as strong, for fresh reserves were constantly arriving. All at once, near my cart, I saw the "Lewisists"10 who had been with me in your time. There were five men under the command of Misha from the village of Chernigovka near Berdyansk. They took leave of me, saying: "Bat'ko, you are indispensable to the cause of our peasant organization. That cause is dear to us. We are going to die soon, but our death will save you and those who will take faithful care of you. Don't forget to repeat our words to our parents." One of them embraced me; then I could no longer see any of them near me. A moment later Lev Zin'kovsky carried me in his arms to the cart of a peasant who passed nearby. I heard the machine-guns rattle and the bombs explode in the distance. It was our gunners who were keeping the Bolsheviks from passing. We had time to travel three or four versts and cross a river. I was saved, but all the "Lewisists" died there.
Sometime later we passed the place again and the peasants of the village of Starodubovka, dist. of Mariupol', showed us the grave where they had buried our "Lewisists." I still cannot keep back my tears when I think of those brave fighters, simple and honest peasants. Moreover I must tell you, my dear friend, that this episode seemed to cure me. On the evening of the same day I got back into the saddle and left the region.
During April I re-established contact with all the units of our troops, and sent those who were nearby to the Poltava region. During May, Kozhin's and Kuri-lenko's units joined us and formed a body of 2,000 horsemen and several infantry regiments. It was decided to march on Khar'kov and to chase out the big bosses of the Bolshevik-Communist Party. But they were not asleep. They sent more than 60 armoured cars, several divisions of cavalry, and a swarm of infantry against me. The fight with these troops lasted for several weeks.
A month later, comrade Shchus' was killed in battle in the Poltava region. He was then chief of staff for Zabud'ko's group. He had worked honourably and valiantly.
A month later Kurilenko was killed. He covered the march of our troops along the railway tracks, took personal charge of stationing the units, and was always in the leading squad. One day he was surprised by Budenny's cavalry and perished in the fight.
On May 18, 1921, Budenny's horsemen were on the march from the Ekaterinoslav region toward the Don, to put down a peasant insurrection led by our comrades Brova and Maslak (who had been chief of Budenny's 1st Brigade and had joined us with all his men).
Our group was formed of several detachments united under the command of Petrenko-Platonov; the main staff and I formed part of the group. The group was 15 to 20 versts from the road along which Bu-denny's army moved. Knowing, among other things, that I was always near this group, Budenny was tempted by the short distance that separated us from him. He ordered the chief of the 21st armoured car unit, which was supposed to suppress the uprising of the peasants in the Don, to send out 16 cars and blockade the village of Novo-Grigor'evka (Stremennoe). Budenny himself marched across the fields at the head of a part of the 19th Cavalry Division (formerly the "Internal Service" Division), in the direction of Novo-G rigor'evka. He arrived there before the armoured cars, which were forced to avoid ravines, seek out fords and post sentries. The vigilance of our scouts put us in touch with all these movements, and allowed us to take precautions. At the moment when Budenny came in sight of our camp, we threw ourselves upon him.
Budenny, who was proudly galloping in the first rank, immediately turned tail. The disgraceful coward fled, abandoning his comrades.
A nightmarish combat unfolded in front of us. The soldiers of the Red Army who were sent against us belonged to the troops who had, until then, been in Central Russia, where they had ensured internal order. They did not know us; they had been told that we were common "bandits," and made it a point of honour not to retreat before bandits.
Our insurgent comrades felt in the right and were firmly resolved to conquer and disarm the enemy.
This combat was the fiercest of all we had to fight, either before or after. It ended in complete defeat for Budenny's troops, which led to the disintegration of his army and the desertion of many of his soldiers.
Then I formed a unit of former Siberians, and sent them, armed and equipped with necessities, to Siberia, under the command of comrade Glazunov.
At the beginning of August 1921, we learned from Bolshevik newspapers that this unit had made its appearance in the government of Samara. Then no more was said about it.
During the whole summer of 1921 we did not cease fighting.
The extreme drought of that season and the consequent bad harvests in the governments of Ekaterinoslav, Tauride and parts of Kherson and Poltava, as well as the Don region, forced us to move in one direction toward Kuban and below Tsaritsyn and Saratov, and in the other direction toward Kiev and Chernigov. In the latter place the struggle was led by comrade Kozhin. When we met again, he gave me a bundle of resolutions taken by the peasants of Chernigov, declaring that they wanted to support us completely in our struggle for a free system of councils.
I made a raid across the Volga with the units of comrades Zabud'ko and Petrenko; then I withdrew across the Don, meeting on the way several of our units, which I combined and to which I added Vdovichenko's old group from Azov.
At the beginning of August, 1921, it was decided that in view of the severity of my wounds I would leave with some of our commanders to get medical treatment abroad.
About this time our best commanders - Kozhin, Petrenko and Zabud'ko - were seriously wounded.
On August 13, 1921, accompanied by 100 horsemen, I set out toward the Dnepr, and on the morning of the 16th we crossed the river between Orlik and Kremenchug with the help of 17 peasant fishing boats. On this day I was wounded six times, but not seriously.
On the way we met several of our units, and explained to them the reasons for our departure for abroad. They all said the same thing: "Go and get well, Bat'ko, and then come back and help us..." On August 19 we came upon the 7th Cavalry Division of the Red Army, camped along the Ingulets River, 12 versts from Bobrinets. To go back meant trouble, since we had been seen by a cavalry regiment on our right which was advancing to cut off our retreat. I therefore asked Zin'kovsky to put me on horseback. In an instant, with drawn sabres and loud cheers, we hurled ourselves on the division's machine guns, which were massed in a village. We managed to capture 13 "Maxim" and three "Lewis" guns. Then we prepared to continue our journey.
But as soon as we had captured the machine guns, the entire cavalry division stationed in the village of Nikolaev and in neighbouring villages was alerted and attacked us. We were caught in a trap. But, without losing courage, we attacked and beat the 38th Regiment of the 7th Cavalry Division, and we then rode 110 versts without stopping. Defending ourselves continuously from the furious attacks of all these troops, we finally escaped, but only after having lost 17 of our best comrades.
On August 22, they had to take care of me again; a bullet struck me in the neck and came out of the right cheek. Once again I was lying in the bottom of a cart. On the 26th we were obliged to fight a new battle with the Reds. We lost our best comrades and fighters: Petrenko-Platonov and Ivanyuk. I was forced to change our route for the last time, and on August 28, 1921, I crossed the Dniester. I am now abroad...
* * *
The third campaign of the Bolsheviks against the Makhnovists was at the same time a campaign against the Ukrainian peasantry. The general aim of this campaign was not merely to destroy the Makhnovist army, but to subjugate the dissatisfied peasants and to remove from them all possibility of organizing any type of revolutionary-guerrilla movement. The enormous Red Army, freed from the war against Wrangel, made it fully possible for the Bolsheviks to carry out this plan. The Red Divisions travelled through all the rebel villages in the insurgent region and exterminated masses of peasants on the basis of information provided by local kulaks. When, a week after the treacherous Bolshevik attack on Gulyai-Pole, Makhno returned there, the peasants of the village thronged around the Makhnovists and sadly told how the Communists had shot more than three hundred inhabitants the night before. The population of Gulyai-Pole had daily anticipated the arrival of the Makhnovists, hoping that they would save these unfortunate peasants. A few days later the Makhnovists arrived in Novospasovka, and there learned that a similar execution had just taken place. The cultural-educational section of the Makhnovist Army, as well as the insurgent Council, learned that in Novospasovka, the Chekists, thirsting for murder, forced mothers to hold their babies in their arms so as to kill both with one blow. This was done to the wife and newborn child of an insurgent from Novospasovka, Martyn. The child was killed, but the wounded mother survived due to the carelessness of the Chekists. Such cases were quite frequent. One day history will narrate them. The Bolsheviks also carried out mass shootings of peasants in the villages of Malaya Tokmachka, Uspenovka, Pologi and elsewhere.
This entire repressive campaign was directed by the Commander of the Army of the Southern Front, Frunze.
"We have to finish off the Makhnovshchina by the count of two," he wrote in an order to the Army of the Southern Front before setting out on this expedition. And like a brave soldier, full of desire to distinguish himself in the eyes of his superiors, he set out on the Ukrainian campaign with his sabre flashing, sowing death and desolation around him.11
- 1Secretary of the Council of Revolutionary Insurgents.
- 2The representatives of the Soviet Government insisted on this last point because of the frequent passage of Red Army units into the Makhnovist ranks - P.A.
- 3I will mention a play written by a young Gulyai-Pole peasant who took an active part in different phases of the insurrectionary movement. This play was called "The Life of the Makhnovists" and consisted of several acts. The action begins in the summer of 1919, when Denikin's army occupied all of the Ukraine. The free villages at that time were inundated by police and military officers. After their arrival, the workers are once again subjected to the old oppression. The peasants suffer at every step; their goods are requisitioned; they are constantly searched. The peasants look for the Makhnovists. Old and young peasants are beaten and shot. The spirit of revolt burns in the peasants. They meet in groups to discuss their disastrous situation, prepare for a new insurrection and increasingly turn their glances toward Makhno, who three months earlier was forced to retreat under the pressure of the armies of Denikin and Trotsky.
But one day it is rumoured that Makhno had defeated Denikin and was again marching across the Ukraine, approaching Gulyai-Pole. This news gives courage and energy to the Gulyai-Pole inhabitants. Hearing the cannons of the Makhnovists in the distance, the peasants rebel, initiating a fierce struggle against Denikin's troops and forcing them to leave Gulyai-Pole supported by Makhno's cavalry which at this moment enters the village.
The play is a powerful description of life in the Ukrainian countryside in the summer of 1919. In it the hardships of the people, their poignant emotion, their honesty, their revolutionary enthusiasm and heroism, are depicted with remarkable force. The powerful tension of the play is maintained until the end.
- 4Frunze mentions several cases where soldiers of the Red Army were disarmed and killed by the Makhnovists. But all the cases he refers to were closely examined by himself, Rakovsky and the representatives of the Makhnovists at Khar'kov, and it was conclusively established: 1) that the Makhnovist Army had nothing to do with these misdeeds; 2) that if hostile acts toward the army were committed by certain military detachments which did not belong to the Makhnovist Army, this was primarily due to the fact that the Soviet authorities had neglected to publish, at an opportune time and intelligibly, their agreement with the insurgents. In fact it was known that numerous isolated military units, not incorporated into the Makhnovist Army, operated here and there in the Ukraine. The majority of these units, while acting on their own, nevertheless respected the opinion and the attitude of the insurrectionary army; they would certainly have ceased all hostility toward the Soviet authorities and armies if they had known about the agreement concluded with the Makhnovists.
- 5As soon as they were taken prisoner, the soldiers of the Red Army were set free. They were advised to return to their homes and no longer serve as instruments of power to subjugate the people. But in view of the fact that the Makhnovists were forced to move on immediately, the freed prisoners were reinstated in their respective units a few days later. The Soviet authorities organized special commissions to recapture the soldiers of the Red Army who were set free by the Makhnovists. Thus the Makhnovists were caught in a vicious circle from which they could not escape. As for the Bolsheviks, their procedure was much simpler. Following the orders of the "Special Commission for the Struggle against the Makhnovshchina," all the Makhnovist prisoners were shot on the spot.
We truly regret that we cannot cite verbatim an important Soviet document which was lost in the conditions of war of 1920. This document is an order to the Bogucharski Brigade of the Red Army (the 41st, if I am not mistaken), which was defeated by the Makhnovists in December, 1920, near the Greek village of Konstantin. The order stated (almost verbatim): In accordance with the regulations of the "Special Commission for the Struggle against the Makhnovshchina," "in order to discourage a soft attitude among the soldiers" (i.e. conciliatory sentiments - P.A.) "and to prevent the Makhnovists from contaminating the Red soldiers - all the Makhnovist prisoners are to be shot on the spot."
- 6No map, no compass could be of any use in such movements. Maps and instruments could indicate the direction, but could not prevent falling into a ravine or a torrent, which did not once happen to the Makhnovist army. Such a march across the hilly and roadless steppes was possible because the troops knew the configuration of the Ukrainian Steppes perfectly.
- 7This letter was written after N. Makhno had left Russia.
- 8Matrosenko was a Ukrainian insurgent and peasant poet - P.A.
- 9Makhno had been wounded by a bullet which fractured all the bones in his ankle. This is why he mounted a horse only in cases of extreme necessity. - P.A.
- 10The "Lewisists" were a unit of machine-gunners armed with Lewis machine-guns - P.A.
- 11We cite two characteristic examples of Bolshevik executions: Sereda - peasant, Makhnovist insurgent, native of the government of Ekaterinoslav, belonging to no party. He took care of the finances of the army and was paymaster. Sometimes he replaced Makhno, whom he loved and over whom he watched with extraordinary devotion. In October, 1920, at the time of the agreement between the Bolsheviks and the Makhnovists, a bullet went through his chest and another remained inside during a battle against Wrangel. Needing an operation, he went to Khar'kov, certain that the Soviet authorities would help him in view of his serious condition. In Khar'kov he was placed in a hospital, but a week later, when the Bolsheviks attacked the Makhnovists and anarchists, he was imprisoned and shot, in March, 1921. Let us recall the following facts: when the Makhnovists occupied Ekaterinoslav in October, 1919, they did not in any way disturb the soldiers and officers of Denikin's army who were undergoing treatment in hospitals, believing that the murder of a disarmed enemy was not worthy of the honour of a revolutionary. General Slashchev, at that time under Denikin's orders (today under the Bolsheviks), who took Ekaterinoslav a month later, put to death all the sick and wounded Makhnovists who were in the hospitals. The Communist authorities went even further than Slashchev by shooting a man who, having fought on the same front with them, and having been wounded there, came to them for help, believing that his life was safe because of the agreement signed by them.
Bogush - anarchist who had just returned from America with other anarchists expelled from the United States. At the time of the agreement between the Makhnovists and the Bolsheviks, he was at Khar'kov, and having heard about the legendary Gulyai-Pole, he wanted to go there to become acquainted with the Makhnovshchina. At this time, the Bolsheviks facilitated such journeys by putting at the disposal of the Makhnovists in Khar'kov a locomotive and a railway car to transport militants working in the cultural domain to Gulyai-Pole. However, Bogush was able to see free Gulyai-Pole only for a few days, and in view of the rupture between the Bolsheviks and the Makhnovists and the beginning of hostilities between them, he returned to Khar'kov, where he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and shot by order of the Cheka in March, 1921.
This event can have only one explanation: the Bolsheviks did not want to leave alive a single person who knew the truth about their aggression against the Makhnovists and who could have narrated it.