Anarchist Movement in Białystok

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meerov21
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Jan 12 2014 15:40
Anarchist Movement in Białystok

The city of Bialystok was the largest center of Russian anarchism during the revolution of 1905-1907. Largely anarchist movement spread from Bialystok to other cities together with the workers-migrants and propagandists. Białystok anarchism 1903-1907 is an importent example of an anarchist mass workers movement. That was a struggle for proletarian uprising and anachist communes. The srikes and armed attacs against scabs and police was a part of preparation of class consciousness to the social revolution. Factory violens against bosses and managers also was a very important instrument. There were another strong libertarian socialist goup - s-r maximalists of Białystoks. They use the same methods but support an idea of autonomous workers counciles.

Anarchists were not opponents of the organization. They had special sections for the organization strikes in each economic sector. All the sections are united in the single federation ("Group", as they called it). "Group" participated in numerous strikes in the city and suburbs. It became so influential that businessmen usually agree with the demands of the strikers if they learned that the strike involved anarchists or maximalists. The matter is that unwillingness to fulfill the requirements threatened with death. However anarchists "...acted only at the moment when extra pressure was needed or when it was necessary to eliminate the most fanatical entrepreneurs" (1).

Anarchists are not ignored the national question. The majority of the population of Bialystok were jews, a minority were christians. In the begining jewish workers joined the Group. But anarchists managed to create a special section for agitation among christians. From among christian workers came to them such as the outstanding militants as Antec Nijborsky and Jan Jmuidic. However, national and religious differences generally are not highlighted in the documents of the Group.

Here we should say that Bialystok city (80-100 thousand population) was the center of the most radical labor movement in Russia. Like Mahala-al-Cubra in the modern Egypt it was a centre of the textile industry and the heart of the proletarian uprising. And the heart of autonomous workers movement of Bialystok was at the Syrajskaya street. In this place every day going to the forum 5-6 thousand workers, but sometimes their number reached 30 thousand. That was "labour exchange" similar "labour exchanges" in France in the late 19th century. Workers have exchanged information about the situation in the companies for which they were engaged, on jobs, or take decisions collectively on strike. French labour exchanges became the basis from which grew the revolutionary-syndicalist movement. In Bialystok it became the basis of revolutionary council and armed uprisings.

We should note that anarchists of Bialystok were not opponents of syndicalism but their understanding of syndicacalism was rather peculiar: they supported the idea of illegal ideological anarcho-syndicates. Those, who put forth the idea of legal syndicalist work, received no support. In practice we can talk not about syndicalism but interaction of ideological organisation with non-formal workers assemblys (local and central).

Anarchists hit by severe repression, many tortured in prisons. Someone escaped from imprisonment. The most famous was the so-called "Slonim escape". On December 6, 1906 in the train coming from Slonim to Bialystok three prisoners - anarchists Friedman and Zilber, and maximalist (later anarchist) Jmuidik, managed to escape and shot six the guards (2).

Now looke at the typical labor conflicts in Bialystok .

When the strike began in textile factories, factory owner Abraham Kogan invite strike-breakers, that's took the place of the strikers weavers. Weavers try to prevent it and one of them was killed by scabs. Immediately followed response. In celebration of the Yom Kippur (day of judgment - the most important jewish religious holiday) among the large crowd, in the synagogue, worker-anarchist Nisan Farber hit Kogan by a knife. Some time later, police surrounded in the woods social democratic (Bund) meeting shot the people and wounded 30 workers. As a retaliatory act all the same Nisan Farber threw bomb at a police station, killing and wounding many policemen. But Farber died, struck down by shrapnel bomb.

Anarchist intervene in the mass strikes. Especially brightly it showed itself during the general strike in Bialystok in may 1906. Capitalists organized in the syndicate and were not willing to meet the demands of the workers. The strike dragged on, hundreds of workers were suffering from hunger, then anarchists have implemented a number of expropriation: organizing hundreds of workers and unemployed, they attacked bakeries, shops, warehouses, took the meat, bread, vegetables and other products. In addition, the anarchist armed squads came homes bourgeois and collected money for the striking workers. Soon manufacturers Freindkin and Gendlin offered to syndicate of capitalists simultaneously declare on their factories lock-outs, and it was done. Then the houses of capitalists had been blasted (in my opinion it is to much: i don't care about this capitalists lifes but innocent people from among the relatives of the capitalists and the servants could die). This caused indescribable panic among the local bourgeoisie and many escaped (3).

There was another case when, during one of strikes, with the participation of the anarchists, workers occupied the factory. They ruled it collectively and very effectively but then returned to its owner after he fulfilled all the requirements. The aim of the anarchists was not the creation of cooperatives, but total revolution, covering all factorys and all territory of the country.

1. From the history of the anarchist “Black Banner” movement in Białystok. http://libcom.org/library/history-anarchist-%E2%80%9Cblack-banner%E2%80%...

2. Memoirs of a participant of the Bialystok group http://revbel.org/files/history/Vospominaniya.pdf

3. Anarchists. The documents. Volume 1. Moscow 1998.

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Karetelnik
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Jan 12 2014 17:15

The memoirs in references 1 and 2 were actually written by the same person, namely Iuda Grossman-Roshchin. The first was written in 1907, the second in 1924. In the interval his politics changed considerably.

meerov21
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Jan 12 2014 17:31
Quote:
The first was written in 1907, the second in 1924.

Thank you for information but am not sure second one was written in 1924.
As i remember it was in the collection of anarchists articles in 1909.
But i am not sure in 100%.

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Karetelnik
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Jan 12 2014 18:04

Yes, you are right. The second article was published in the Almanakh, "A Collection on the History of the Anarchist Movement in Russia" (1909) edited by Nikolai Rogdaev. The first article was published in the journal Biloye [The Past] (1924), when Grossman-Roshchin had reinvented himself as a Soviet literary critic.

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Karetelnik
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Jan 12 2014 18:25

double post

meerov21
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Jan 12 2014 18:38

I see.
Also another detail.
You right about Grossman-Roshchin. His politics changed considerably in 20s.
But i was surprised when I heard few days ago from one specialist that soviet literary critic Grossman-Roshchin and Iuda Grossman-Roshchin are too differen men.
I will clarify this and then write more.

Battlescarred
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Jun 7 2016 11:58

No, the same man.

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Schmoopie
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Jun 11 2016 11:30

Thank you Meerov for this potted history of the anarchist movement in Bialystok. I am so ignorant of the history of our struggle that up until today Bialystock was just a character in The Producers. I found the following remark reasonable and, by coincidence, resolved a little local difficulty that was playing on my mind:

Quote:
Then the houses of capitalists had been blasted (in my opinion it is to much: i don't care about this capitalists lifes but innocent people from among the relatives of the capitalists and the servants could die).

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OliverTwister
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Jun 11 2016 13:36

Interesting. Bialystok is also the birthplace of Esperanto.

syndicalist
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Jun 11 2016 14:48

^^^^ it is the principle city closet to
my paternal grandparents birthplace

Battlescarred
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Jun 11 2016 15:52

Video about Bialystock and Krynki anarchists
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uEAmic6P7M

syndicalist
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Jun 11 2016 16:10

^^^^ worth viewing

akai
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Jun 11 2016 18:18

There was a short lived socialist republic in Krynki and also the second soviet in the empire.

Anyway, nice stuff about revolutionaries in this area.