DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

The Makhno anarchists, Kronstadt and the position of the Russian peasants in post-revolutionary Russia.

30 posts / 0 new
Last post
Boul Dous
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Apr 6 2011 02:17
The Makhno anarchists, Kronstadt and the position of the Russian peasants in post-revolutionary Russia.

I just read this article yesterday. Hi, I'm new to this stuff in general. I remember reading the Anarchist FAQ two years ago and read the part about Kronstadt and wondered if any Marxist ever had a good reply to the Anarchists. Some parts itseems to be responding directly to that article. What do you think of this article? I have no knowledge of the revolution but I get the feeling there's something missing they're not addressing.

http://www.marxist.com/makhno-anarchists-kronstadt-russia.htm

As the old Soviet archives are opened up and studied, more material is being made available about what happened in Russia immediately after the revolution. Myths have been created about events like the Kronstadt “rebellion”, the peasant revolts, the anarchists, etc. The new material available confirms what Lenin and Trotsky explained about these events. In spite of all attempts to slander the Bolsheviks, the truth is always concrete.
When the October Revolution took place in 1917, Russia was an undeveloped and agrarian country, with peasants comprising 86% of the population. During the February Revolution of 1917 this peasantry, for the first time in Russian history, became actively involved in the political arena, particularly as soldiers’ deputies in the soviets.

Of course one must not ignore the great peasant uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries, nor the rebellions of 1905. However, it was only during the revolutions of 1917 that the Russian peasantry finally succeeded in securing stable, independent representative stations.

Nevertheless, the February Revolution, having been commandeered by the bourgeoisie through the right-wing socialists, did not solve the problems of the peasantry. The most glaring failure of the Provisional Government in this sphere was its complete inability to solve that question most important to the Russian peasantry: the land question. The peasants responded to the delays and betrayals of the government with spontaneous expropriations of the land. Only the October Revolution, led by the Bolsheviks, recognized the right of the peasants to be masters of the land that they had worked for hundreds of years.

Lenin and his comrades understood that both organizing the working-class and defending its interests were to be matters of the highest priority for the Bolshevik Party. But by no means were the Bolsheviks blind towards the needs of the peasants. Unlike the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks fully understood the significance of the peasantry’s militancy during the Revolution of 1905, and recognized that this energy would be a great force in the next revolution. Lenin and Trotsky both had as their aim the union of the workers of the cities and the most revolutionary elements in the villages, which were the agrarian proletariat and the poorest peasants. In the first days of the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks made great strides towards this end with “The Decree on Land”, which took the vast territories owned by the landlords and gave them over to the peasantry. The Left Social Revolutionary Party (having split from the collaborationist Social Revolutionary Party) represented the peasant masses, and was invited by the Bolshevik Party to join in the first soviet government.

Then, beginning in the middle of 1918, the cruel blows of the Civil War drove a wedge between city and country. The peasantry moved in the direction of conservatism. They had gained everything that they wanted out of the revolution and were ready to defend their new property from both the Left and the Right. The undeveloped Russian villages, each operating in the manner of subsistence economy, could survive without cities. The prevailing mood among peasantry was that the cities were good for nothing more than select industrial goods, so long as the prices were low; and that, apart from that, the cities were only a source of trouble – from the bureaucracy, army conscription, taxation and grain levies. This grossly unbalanced outlook was similar to those of later peasant movements in the “Third World”, for example that of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

However, whereas the peasant movements of the last several decades have expressed themselves through Maoist or Guevaraist ideas, the Russian peasantry in the period of the Russian Civil War instead adopted anarchist slogans. But this process was gradual. It started with the peasantry’s support of the Social Revolutionary party, which was the party of the Russian populists known as the “Narodniks”. This party was petty-bourgeois, and it initially appealed to the peasant communities by advocating a uniquely “Russian Socialism” that emphasized the role of the peasantry – not the working class – as being central to the revolutionary process.

In 1918, the Social Revolutionary Party split into right and left wings, and in the process suffered massive losses of support. The SR Party’s role as a leader of the peasantry was slowly replaced by anarchist groupings. Some of these groups were extremely sectarian and anti-Bolshevik, one example being that of the notorious “Nabat” group. This particular group was responsible for organizing bloody terrorist actions against the Bolshevik Party Centre in Moscow in 1919. Later, their ideology would be expressed through the Makhno movement.

While the Russian villages had no need to depend upon the cities, the Russian industrial centres depended upon the villages’ agricultural products for sustenance and survival. The collapse of the infrastructure which began in 1915 reached a peak in 1918. Numerous crises including bosses’ lock-outs, industrial sabotage, the Civil War, the collapse of transportation and mass hunger in the cities forced the Bolsheviks to implement the policy of “War Communism”. An important feature of this policy was the expropriation of the food surpluses of the villages in order to feed the workers in the cities. This practice was called “Prodrazverstka”.

The peasantry did not welcome this step. When the representatives of the Soviet government came to the countryside to collect food, they were seen as bandits who were stealing the peasantry’s property. Quite often there were cases of these representatives (called “prodotriadi”) being brutally murdered. Also, there were many cases of prodzrazverstka provoking the peasantry to rebellion against the Bolsheviks.

During the civil war, the petty-bourgeoisie (the peasantry) was pressed from both sides, between the working class and the forces of reaction. Consequently, in some areas the petty-bourgeois peasantry attempted to play an independent role by manoeuvring between the Bolsheviks and their counter-revolutionary enemies. Tendencies towards these sorts of actions were especially strong in Siberia and the Ukraine – both areas being less developed economically and industrially, and consequently having a strong and rich peasant class. For a time, these forces allied with the Bolsheviks, as the White Army stood for the restoration of the old landowner system, which was absolutely unacceptable for the mass of the peasantry.

Of all the peasant movements which sought to play the middle-ground, the most famous was that led by Makhno in the Ukraine from 1918 to 1921. This military force was a typical peasant army, unchanged from the old Medieval-era structure – possessing both the strengths and weaknesses of that form. Makhno’s militia began as a guerrilla force formed when Germany occupied the Ukraine in 1918. These guerrillas excelled in their own sphere of action, but couldn’t stand firm against an extended clash with a regular army. While these guerrillas operated in their home areas, they could expect help from locals. But, when fighting away from their home villages, they lived by banditry and as a result lost support from most people.

Makhno led a peasant movement, and so never had a strong base of support in any of the cities. Most of the workers who lived in areas of the Ukraine under Makhno’s control sided either with the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks. The following examples illustrate the attitude that Makhno had towards the working class. When railway and telegraph workers from the Ekaterinoslav-Sinelnikovo line were still suffering after a long period of starvation under Denikin’s occupation, they asked Makhno to pay them for their work. He responded with, “We are not like the Bolsheviks to feed you, we don’t need the railways; if you need money, take the bread from those who need your railways and telegraphs.” In a separate incident, he told the workers of Briansk, “Because the workers do not want to support Makhno’s movement and demand pay for the repairs of the armoured car, I will take this armoured car for free and pay nothing.” (1) Jakovlev J. Machnovshina I Anarchizm (http://sky.kuban.ru/socio_etno/magister/library/revolt/yakoy001.htm)

With clashes between peasants and landlords on the one hand, and clashes between peasants and workers on the other, Makhno was pressed to institute policies that were far from “libertarian”. The real conditions of life for the peasants of the Ukraine from 1919-1921 were cruel and repressive. The cities in Makhno’s territories were not ruled by Soviets. Instead, they were ruled by mayors drawn from Makhno’s military forces. Makhno’s movement was severely centralized, with the leadership in the RevCom deciding everything. Makhno even established a police-security organization (!) led by Leo Zadov (Zinkovsky), a former worker-anarchist who was to become notorious for his brutality. Incidentally, in the early 1920s Zadov returned to the USSR – to join the GPU! He was rewarded for his services with his own execution in 1937. In the Ukraine, we see clearly that the anarchists were committing the same crimes that they accused the Bolsheviks of.

In September of 1920, Ivanov V. (representative of the Southern Front Revolutionary Soviet) visited Makhno. He later wrote this description of Makhno’s camp: “The regime is brutal, the discipline is hard as steel, rebels are beaten on the face for any small breach, no elections to the general command staff, all commanders up to company commander are appointed by Makhno and the Anarchist Revolutionary War Council, Revolutionary Military Soviet (Revvoensovet) became an irreplaceable, uncontrollable and non-elected institution. Under the revolutionary military council there is a ‘special section’ that deals with disobediences secretly and without mercy.” (2) Jakovlev J. op. cit.

In order to acquire supplies and equipment, Makhno would sometimes ally himself with the Red Army. However, he always refused to accept the Red Army’s discipline and order. In order to get food, Makhno’s forces robbed not only villages under their control but also Red Army convoys. This caused many conflicts. Finally, in 1921, actions like these played a part in the decisive split between Makhno and the Soviet State. It was at this time that Makhno and his anarchist advisors lost support from the peasants as a result of the New Economic Policy of the Bolsheviks, which replaced prodrazverstka with a bread tax. After a short period of battles, Makhno’s militia was crushed. Nestor Makhno himself escaped to Romania, while the majority of his fighters capitulated and received an amnesty.

The Kronstadt “rebellion” of March 1921 was also an expression of the conflict between the Soviet state and the peasantry. This rebellion was one of many similar rebellions in this period against the Soviet authorities. But Kronstadt stands out amongst them due to its important strategic location and the mythology that was created around it after the event had taken place.

At the end of the 1930s, a group of ex-Trotskyists (Victor Serge, Max Eastman, Suverin, et. al.) criticized Trotsky for his actions as leader of the Red Army during the Kronstadt rebellion. These former Trotskyists championed the events at Kronstadt as a workers’ and sailors’ rebellion against the “Bolshevik dictatorship”, and charged that the crushing of the rebellion constituted the “first step towards Stalinism”. Later, anti-Communist ideologues and propagandists would adapt this criticism to serve their own ends.

Trotsky replied in 1938 with a remarkable article entitled Hue and Cry Over Kronstadt, in which he analysed the petty-bourgeois nature of this putsch manqué. It is not necessary to repeat Trotsky’s arguments in defence of his actions regarding the Kronstadt mutiny, as anyone who wants to know the truth can find this article easily. Instead, for the purposes of this article it would be more fitting to present some new information from a collection of documents published only in the last few years. This new evidence from the Soviet archives provides us with the definitive proof that the position of Trotsky’s critics was based upon false assumptions and incorrect information.

The first myth about Kronstadt is that it was a rebellion of the very same soldiers who were heroes of the October revolution. While it is true that many of the Kronstadt sailors were anarchists in 1917, they nevertheless loyally served Soviet power. During the Civil War, Kronstadt training camps provided elite and thoroughly revolutionary troops to the fight to maintain Soviet power. However, as more and more of the revolutionary sailors had to be sent to the front lines, green conscripts began to flood in, replacing the revolutionaries. By 1920, the Kronstadt garrison had been swamped with more than 10,000 fresh recruits. That brought the total number of soldiers and sailors at Kronstadt to 18,707. Most of these came from Southern Russia and the Ukraine, areas strongly influenced by Makhno. (3) Shetinov U. A., Krondshtadsky miatez i melkoburzuaznie partii. Kandidatskaia disertazia MGU, Moskva, 1974, p. 91-98. Only 5000 out of this number took part in the uprising.

These figures prove that the old revolutionary sailors were in a clear minority by 1921. Remarkably, however, the revolutionary sailors still made a bold stand. On March 8, a number of them published a pamphlet titled “Stop Immediately the Counter-Revolutionary Putsch in the City.” (4) Krondshtadskaia tragedia 1921 goda. Dokumenti v dvuch knigach., Moskva, ROSPEN, 1999, p. 320-321. On March 15, the RevCom of Kronstadt ordered the arrest of all of the old sailors as they refused to “obey orders”. (5) Ibid, doc. 423, p. 445. This order, however, wasn’t carried out fully. On March 24, a group of old sailors prevented the explosion of the battleship “Petropavlovsk”, arrested officers, and surrendered to the approaching Soviet forces. (6) Ibid, doc 480, p. 494-496.

The other legend about Kronstadt is that the leaders of the putsch had a revolutionary motive. Some authors have even written that the mutineers died with the slogan of “Long live communism!” on their lips! But this is a lie. The honest facts demolish this myth. General Elvengern, a member of a counter-revolutionary organization led by Boris Savinikov, revealed his role in the leadership of the rebellion with a report on the events in Petersburg-Kronstadt written in February and March of 1921.

This report was written while he was in Paris: “...from a tactical point of view they [RevCom] declared themselves fanatical supporters of the Soviet power, and said that they only oppose the Communist party dictatorship, with the hope that with such a platform, it would become difficult for the Communists to mobilize Soviet defenders, Soviet units to crush them.” (7) Ibid. Vol. 2, doc. 535, p. 61. The same was written by the cadet G. Zeidler, in a private letter. (8) Ibid, p. 322-323. Pavel Milukov, possibly the best Russian liberal mind of his day and the leader of the Constitutional Democrats Party (the notorious “Cadets”), summarized these reports in a Paris newspaper with, “Soviet power without Bolsheviks will be temporary.”

But what of the ordinary participants of the Kronstadt rebellion? Were these sailors really ready to die for “communism without Bolsheviks”? Sailor Dmitry Urin wrote on March 5, in a letter to his father in the Herson province of Ukraine, “We dismissed the commune, we have Commune no more, now we have only Soviet power. We in Kronstadt made a resolution to send all the Jews to Palestine, in order not to have in Russia such filth, all sailors shouted: ‘Jews Out’...” (9) Ibid, vol. 1, doc. 58, p. 119. If anyone had any doubts about the “real revolutionary” content of this letter this phrase is sufficient to dispel that. It is so stark that it needs no further comment.

From the very beginning of the rebellion, the Communists suffered repression. On the third of March, 170 Communists in Kronstadt were arrested. (10) Ibid, vol. 1, p. 15. Then, on the 15th of March, many old revolutionary sailors were arrested. (11) Ibid, vol 2, doc. 423, p. 445. But it was not only Communists who were repressed. A 17-year-old boy was sent to prison for asking why members of the RevCom received better food and bigger portions than ordinary workers. (12) Ibid., Vol 2, p. 632.

As Trotsky said, the so-called “Kronstadt Rebellion” was not the first petty-bourgeois anti-Bolshevik movement during the civil war. It was similar to other movements with slogans such as, “Soviets Without Bolsheviks”. There were movements of this kind in some factories in the Urals, as well as in the Cossack Armies. From this entire experience, we can see that under the conditions of class warfare – with revolution on one side and counter-revolution on the other – these slogans lead inevitably and invariably to the camp of Medieval reaction. No revolution can succeed without a revolutionary party. Ordinary Russian workers and soldiers understood this far better over 80 years ago than many people on the “Left” do now.

Many ordinary, rank-and-file members of anarchist, Menshevik, Social-Revolutionary and other such parties participated in the Soviets alongside the Bolsheviks – not “without” them. There was a huge difference between the ordinary members of those parties and their leaders. Their leadership refused to make any compromise and remained totally anti-Bolshevik. Early in 1920, authorities in some Jewish areas of the Ukraine were recruited from among the Bund’s (a Jewish wing of the old Social-Democratic Party) membership. Many anarchists took part in the revolution as well as the Civil War, struggling alongside the Bolsheviks, cooperating with the Soviet power until the rise of Stalinism. Those far-sighted revolutionaries are called traitors by some of today’s anarchists. But in the next few years, more information from the Soviet archives and new documents detailing the struggle of the Russian proletariat will continue to dispel more and more of the old slanders. The true legacy of the October Revolution will be clear to everyone

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 6 2011 20:34

Hi Boul. Yes that sounds similar to the sparts' take on Kronstadt. Some more discussion on revleft for and against the Anarchist Faq.

About Ukrainian antisemitism, I recently found a couple of photos with the caption saying: Makhno's thugs stabbed and burnt alive hundreds of jews: pics.

It just goes to show that self-organisation isn't a defining condition for something being necessarily progressive.

mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
Offline
Joined: 16-12-06
Apr 6 2011 21:21

Boul Dos:

I think this article is just a vain attempt to reproduce leninist lies to legitimise the state capitalist counter revolution in russia. So I think it is actually non-marxist.

First of all on land question: Bolsheviks were not alone in their policy of giving lands to peasants who work on it. Actually Anarchists and Left SR's also argued for it. In fact it was more a SR policy rather than being purely marxist. Because marxists defend communal ownership rather than individual but obviously it was tactical move to give out land. And in fact the peasants have already divided out land after February themselves without waiting for the bolsheviks to do so.

Also about razverstka: It was not a policy of "taking the surplus". The problem in Russia was, since there was a serious industrial raw material shortage, the workers of cities did not have much to offer peasantry in exchange of grain. So the workers formed armed detachments to take them by force. However marxists do not defend the use of force against non-opressing classes like peasantry. There were serious peasant revolts in Russia in responce to that and this was not something anarchists triggered. it was more a tragic consequence of the delay in the world revolution that could provide russian industry the materials that could enable it to produce industrial materials to exchange for goods from peasantry.

I should also add that many Bolsheviks wrongly saw the general system of war communism in which policy of forced recquisiton was an integral part as an expression of "advencemant towards communism" which in fact was an expression of weakness of working class in convincing the peasants to join workers in civil war. In fact this policy was in continuation with the Tsarist rural policy of taxation of peasantry, so it was in a sense a "backward" policy in relation to peasantry. There is a good article here for a referance point on this issue:

http://libcom.org/library/bolshevik-razverstka-war-communism

On Makhnovists: As a marxist I disagree with the comments on Makhno -which are mostly usual ungrounded slanders against the Ukrainian anarchists- but I am sure anarchists on this forum can give more clear answers for that.

On Kronstadt: Actually many Bolsheviks in the party opposed crushing it. Those who opposed were Left Communists such as Miasnikov. One of the contemporary left communist groups -which claim at least theoretical heritage of Russian Left communists- has an article on that issue which I agree with:

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/104_kronstadt.html

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
Apr 6 2011 21:41
NRod wrote:
About Ukrainian antisemitism, I recently found a couple of photos with the caption saying: Makhno's thugs stabbed and burnt alive hundreds of jews: pics.
It just goes to show that self-organisation isn't a defining condition for something being necessarily progressive.

It shows nothing but that it would be foolish to accept captions to photos of empty fields (dated 1922, after Makhno's army was defeated and exiled and when Bolshevik state "ungrounded slander" of the Makhnovists was high) as 'evidence' of anything.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 6 2011 22:04


I don't think it's controversial that these colonies were subject to pogroms. Even if it weren't Maknovists who committed them, as several writers think, it does show that self-organisation is not the key criteria for evaluating a movement (e.g. the reports on anti-Gaddafi mob against blacks). Of course this doesn't proves some theoretical argument between Malatesta and Makhno, let alone bolsheviks, on the nature of organisations.

The fact that the Bolshevik state didn't use this material as slander is taken as proof by some that it was precisely not done by the Makhnovists...

Harrison
Offline
Joined: 16-11-10
Apr 6 2011 22:13

Boul Dois:
of course the Soviet archives will say these things. do you think that because they are historical they are beyond scrutiny?

nestor makhno's army is acknowledged by historians to have been the least anti-semitic force in the whole of russia (this includes the Red Army)

here is a quote:

Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History. New York: Cambridge UP, 2004. wrote:
He was a self-educated man, committed to the teachings of Bakunin and Kropotkin, and he could not fairly be described as an anti-Semite. Makhno had Jewish comrades and friends; and like Symon Petliura, he issued a proclamation forbidding pogroms.” The book goes on to explain that "the anarchist leader could not or did not impose discipline on his soldiers. In the name of ‘class struggle’ his troops with particular enthusiasm robbed Jews of whatever they had.

and as for the Kronstadt stuff............

by the way i regard myself as an anarchist and a marxist

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
Apr 6 2011 22:26
NRod wrote:
I don't think it's controversial that these colonies were subject to pogroms. Even if it weren't Maknovists who committed them, as several writers think, it does show that self-organisation is not the key criteria for evaluating a movement (e.g. the reports on anti-Gaddafi mob against blacks).

I'm sure you had understood that I wasn't denying the possibility of pogroms. But your earlier comment about "self-organisation" was following a reference to only one organisation - Makhno's. The other more likely perpetrators - hierarchical armies of anti-semitic Whites etc - couldn't sensibly be referred to as forms of "self-organisation" in the sense that term is normally applied to libertarian organisations.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 6 2011 23:30

I got that impression from your line on 'empty' fields (tbf, in the first version of that pic the mass grave is not clearly visible). On self-organisation, it [edit; my reference] could also be to ordinary, as opposed to 'politcal' ideological or whatever, thugs.

I don't know why the capture on the photo and the surviving family members say that the pogroms were done by Makhnovists thugs, instead of Whites or simply peasants. I don't believe they have some ideological reason to blame Makhno, yet that's what they do.

Karetelnik's picture
Karetelnik
Offline
Joined: 19-12-07
Apr 6 2011 23:56

There is no question that pogroms took place in January 1919 in Trudolyubovka and Nechayevka, two Jewish agricultural villages located in what is sometimes referred to as Makhnovia, the territory controlled by the Makhnovist movement. There were 17 such villages in Yekaterinoslav province, the main staging area of the movement.

Around the time these pogroms took place, the Makhnovists were busy trying to capture and hold the provincial capital, also named Yekaterinoslav. First they won a stunning victory, but after the enemy (Ukrainian nationalists) received reinforcements they suffered a crushing defeat.

The Russian-Jewish historian Yakov Pasik has a relatively sober account of the tragic aftermath:

Quote:
During the battle for Yekaterinoslav Makhno’s army was joined by an SR partisan detachment from Odessa under the command of a certain Metel. The staff of the insurgents ordered this detachment to merge with one of its regiments. However the SRs rebelled against this, abandoning their position at the front and taking off. En route they destroyed one of the Jewish colonies. When he heard about this, Makhno issued the order: “Overtake Metal’s detachment and disarm it. Shoot its leader."

It was not possible to carry out this order – the pogromists had escaped from the region. The timing of the pogrom corresponds with the date of the pogrom in Trudolyubka. Makhno’s reaction indicates he considered the event outrageous even by his own bloody standards. These factors provide the basis for assuming that the unnamed colony was in fact Trudolyubovka.

The Russian historian Vladimir Litvinov, a student of the Makhnovist movement, offers some additional details:

Quote:
…the Makhnovists, hearing about [the pogrom], began to send collective letters of support to their commander: “Batko! We are the true sons of our people in the struggle. Believe us when we say that we, hearing about the pogrom by Metel’s detachment at Jewish Colony No. 2 know and feel how this reflects on you. Believe us we feel as much pain as you but together we will overcome this shame. We swear to you, Batko, that among us there is no such attitude towards the Jewish community, and if it appears then we will annihilate it in your name. Support us in this.” And Makhno supported them. He issued an order in which it was written that any theft, violence, or murder committed not only against Jews, but against any peaceful inhabitants of any ethnic group, would result in the shooting of the commander of the unit in question. He wrote further in this order that in the case of nonfulfillment of the order, he would carry out the shooting himself, “so I will no longer have to see or hear about evil persons carrying out inhuman crimes in my name.”

There are ample examples of Makhno putting this order into practice.

And finally, from the Jewish anarchist historian Moshe Goncharok:

Quote:
Ania Makkabi-Iorsh in his memoirs attacked the Makhnovists so harshly that the author of these lines felt compelled to contact him. In his memoirs he referred to “the bandits of Batko Makhno”, asserting that “it was known in all the colonies that Makhno’s bandits completely wiped out all the inhabitants of the first Jewish colonies – Trudolyubovka and Nechaevka.” I quoted to Mr. Iorsh the very “severe” passages in his memoirs and asked him for the sources of such information. In the course of a telephone conversation the author explained that they were from the recollections of someone who did not have first hand knowledge but had heard stories from his mother. To my question whether or not his mother could have confused the Makhnovists with some other military units, he had no answer. I inquired why, in that case, had he written that “everyone knew” about Makhno’s savagery. Mr. Iorsh referred then to “various encyclopedias, where all this is written down”. I asked what encyclopedias specifically, but did not receive a reply. I ended the conversation by quoting a line from the Shorter Jewish Encyclopedia, from the chapter “Pogroms”: “Nestor Makhno and other leaders of the movement struggled decisively against pogroms and shot pogromists”. Objections from the author of the memoirs were not forthcoming…

I have no wish to whitewash the Makhnovists; undoubtedly they committed atrocities – they were involved in a Civil War which was one horror after another. They weren’t a gang of antisemitic bandits but unfortunately characterizations of this type never seem to go away. At least since the demise of the Soviet Union the historiography of the movement has developed in a more serious direction, although there always seems to be a need for apologetics as well.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Apr 7 2011 06:54

For me Kareltelnik's learned comments clear up yet another slander against the Makhnovists.
As for the article itself it just parrots the Spartacist lies and distortions that they are famous for. Interesting to see that the only posting that Boul Dous has put up is this.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 8 2011 20:45

That phone conversation with Iorsh is cited in my link as well, but I find it a bad anecdote. "Objections from the author of the memoirs were not forthcoming…" oh snap roll eyes

Karetelnik wrote:
First they won a stunning victory, but after the enemy (Ukrainian nationalists) received reinforcements they suffered a crushing defeat.
Pasik wrote:
During the battle for Yekaterinoslav Makhno’s army was joined by an SR partisan detachment from Odessa under the command of a certain Metel. The staff of the insurgents ordered this detachment to merge with one of its regiments. However the SRs rebelled against this, abandoning their position at the front and taking off.

One account by a Jewish woman says that the pogromists stopped their massacre and ran after one shouted; the Whites are coming. This I think fits with the above and we've established that the perpetrators weren't the Whites. She doesn't mention they were Makhnovists. However, most memoirs do. If I go by Karetelnik's quotes, I think the Jews did not and could not differentiate Metel from Makhnovists. I think they were right, and apparently from the quotes, Makhno himself saw the group as Makhnovists. I'm not saying Makhno personally is responsible which is a ridiculous methodology anyway, but contrary perhaps to the unsaid assumption that they weren't really real Makhnovists, I do think considering the black army's short and fluid existence that this pogrom (done by Metal's detachment, following Karetelnik's quotes) can be attributed to them.

Quote:
For me Kareltelnik's learned comments clear up yet another slander against the Makhnovists.

Again, this pogrom cannot mean that the Makhnovists were a bunch of anti-semitic gangs, and furthermore it's raised for the first time, so it's not slander.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 9 2011 00:02
Malet wrote:
In the first of three known incidents, a detachment of soldiers in the Tsarekostyantynivka area refused to obey their commander, Kurylenko, and plundered Jewish colony no. 2. Makhno does not record any specific action against them, but declared the death penalty for such activities in future. On the very day that Kamenev came to see... Makhno

Doesn't mention a date but it seems between February and April. It is in the same area, as Rokhel (the Jewish woman surviving the Trudoliubovka pogrom) recounts:
"Thursday, early in the morning we heard that a Minyan of Jews ( the quorum of ten men required to hold prayers, in particular for the dead) had come from Kaminka (Tsarakonstantinovka) to bury the dead."

If 'Jewish colony no. 2' Malet speaks of is the same as in the Litvinov quote, it's probably Nechaevka, which wasn't completely ransacked the first time: "When the bandits came to the second Kolonya Peness [Nechaevka] they had only time to kill nineteen Jews when the Goyim came and said:" Get going, the Whites are coming." So they saved the remaining Jews."
Remember though that the capture on the photo mentions 125 deaths.

Anyway, the Malet quote raises new questions; was it the same colony no.2 attacked twice? or should we now question the Metal (anagram of Malet!) SR story and instead see Kurylenko's detachment (who were "real" Maknovists?) as the culprits of the first attack?

Harrison
Offline
Joined: 16-11-10
Apr 9 2011 12:58

can you please accept that the other armies committed many many pogroms, and often used no disciplinary prodecures against those that committed them.

so it is useless finding one pogrom (that is acknowledged to have happened and the perpetrators dealt with harshly) and then declaring the maknovists to be pogromists.

accept that makno had many jewish friends and army staff members.

and please stop this useless slander that has been proved inumerous times to be false and derived from bolshevik and white russian propaganda.

Karetelnik's picture
Karetelnik
Offline
Joined: 19-12-07
Apr 9 2011 17:01
Quote:
Malet wrote:
In the first of three known incidents, a detachment of soldiers in the Tsarekostyantynivka area refused to obey their commander, Kurylenko, and plundered Jewish colony no. 2.

I suspect Malet is referring to the pogrom at Trudolyubovka-Nechayevka (the villages were only 3 km apart) in early January 1919. However they were Jewish Colonies #5 and #6. Jewish Colony #2, Veselaya, was not subject to a pogrom. It is easy to mix up colonies when they are referred to by number; the numerous German (mostly Mennonite) colonies in the region were also numbered.

Malet does not give a reference for this incident but one should be looking for some solid evidence before implicating Kurylenko, even in a tangential way. He was certainly the Makhnovist commander at Tsarekonstantynovka at the time. But Kurylenko, an anarcho-communist from 1910, is generally regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the movement, described by Voline as "morally better equipped than Makhno to inspire and guide the movement" who "surpassed him in the breadth of his views".

Malet's book, admirable in its day, suffered from a limited source base due to lack of access to archival sources. He often had to rely on tendentious secondary works.

To give some context to the issue of pogroms in Ukraine during the Civil War one might look at an early study by Sergey Gusev-Orenburgsky published in the Soviet Union in 1924. The author compiled data on pogroms which took place in Ukraine in 1919 (the worst year for pogroms) in the seven provinces with a significant Jewish population. He identified 402 "population points" which were subject to pogroms. Only three of these points were located in Yekaterinoslav province, heartland of the Makhnovshchina.

The Soviet scholar M. Kubanin in his 1927 study of the Makhnovshchina also noted the virtual absence of antisemitism in the territory controlled by the Makhnovists. But of course he did not give the anarchists any credit for this, other than noting their slogans were internationalist rather than nationalist. Rather he pointed to the class position of the Jewish population in Yekaterinoslav province -- predominately peasants on the same level with their Ukrainian peasant neighbours and confronting landowners and entrepreneurs who were predominately ethnic Ukrainians. The basis for replacing class struggle with racism did not exist.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 9 2011 17:15

You're complaining about my hue and cry eh? I agree this whole approach leads nowhere and perhaps that's why bolsheviks afaik never mention this pogrom in their propaganda. And can I say that to a neutral observer it must be odd to hear in defense of Makhno that he used the death penalty so vigorously as discipline on his own troops, when this is also the way Bolsheviks interpret the repression of Kronstadt (though in the case under discussion, the perpetrators got away with it). In the Malet quote 'it' is left unspecified btw, he speaks of plunder, but would Makhno order death penalty if it was only that? And I don't expect Pasik to give number of deaths due to the pogroms he discusses, this is just details, nevertheless it makes me slightly uncomfortable.

I'm not an expert on Makhnovchina, so I see this thread more as an opportunity to learn, e.g. about the role and scope of the left SRs in the black army or why Yekaterinoslav was lost despite getting help from reinforcement coming from afar. Okay, I don't care learning bout Makhnovchina, I'm only out to discredit the anarchy tongue

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 9 2011 17:16

(my above post was in response to Harrison)

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 9 2011 17:30
Quote:
Malet does not give a reference for this incident but one should be looking for some solid evidence before implicating Kurylenko,

I misread it also like that at first, but Malet says his troops acted in disobedience of Kurylenko.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 9 2011 17:31

nice apologetics though cool

Karetelnik's picture
Karetelnik
Offline
Joined: 19-12-07
Apr 9 2011 17:45
Quote:
I misread it also like that at first, but Malet says his troops acted in disobedience of Kurylenko.

But Kurylenko would probably still be considered responsible.

Boul Dous
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Apr 15 2011 18:58

Thanks a lot for the replies. Looks like you could spend a lifetime studying a small part of the revolution and struggling to get between the truth and lies.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 15 2011 21:55
Quote:
Looks like you could spend a lifetime studying a small part of the revolution and struggling to get between the truth and lies.

FULL RASHOMON

probably Malet just wrong though as Karetelnik argued, particularly because he misspelled Tsarakonstantinovka, which discredits his entire book imo.

banpen
Offline
Joined: 10-07-09
May 3 2011 13:13

Someone really needs to rescue the makhno wikipedia page..

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
May 3 2011 22:27
NRod wrote:
Malet just wrong though as Karetelnik argued, particularly because he misspelled Tsarakonstantinovka, which discredits his entire book imo.

It's you who're wrong - it may not be a mispelling, but a transliteration of the Ukrainian which is no less correct than other conversions of the Ukrainian name into the English alphabet. Even if it was wrong, only someone looking for excuses to discredit (itself a form of distortion) would be so ridiculous as to try to use one spelling error as evidence of the unreliability of a whole book. roll eyes

Alexander Roxwell
Offline
Joined: 19-07-10
May 4 2011 03:25
Boul Dous wrote:
When the October Revolution took place in 1917, Russia was an undeveloped and agrarian country, with peasants comprising 86% of the population. During the February Revolution of 1917 this peasantry, for the first time in Russian history, became actively involved in the political arena, particularly as soldiers’ deputies in the soviets.

This is the first time I have seen an actual percentage attached to the magnitude of the peasantry relative to the proletariat in Russia in 1917. That is a rather overwhelming percentage don't you think? On what basis would you argue that the "proletariat" deserved to rule alone in a nation that was 86% peasant?

The other question I have has to do with what I believe is a gross misuse of the term "petty-bourgeoisie" which Boul Dous follows in his opening statement in describing 86% of the population of Russia in 1917.

My understanding is that the "petty-bourgeoisie" is properly used to describe small shopkeepers and small entrepeneurs that are "squeezed in between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. I find alot of self pronounced "Marxists" use the term to apply to white collar workers such as English professors, analysts for the State, lab tecnicians and other highly skilled specialized workers. I also see the term further expanded here to include "the peasantry" in Russia in 1917*. All these groups really are very different kinds of people with radically different positions in society. Either the term "petty-bourgeoisie" means something specific or it is a meaningless Marxist swear word. Could you please clarify this for me?

*I am certainly well aware that this is not unique to Boul Dous but is a very common (mis)use of the term

LBird
Offline
Joined: 21-09-10
May 4 2011 07:29

I'd just like to say that I agree with Alexander on both of the points he makes above.

If the Communist proletariat is not in a majority, it can't lead to any form of Communism. 86% peasantry means Communism is not possible. I'm defining 'Communism' as "workers' democratic control of the economy".

'Petty-bourgeois' is not a synonym for 'middle-class'; the former term belongs to Marxist sociology, the latter to Weberian/liberal sociology.

Harrison
Offline
Joined: 16-11-10
May 4 2011 10:13
banpen wrote:
Someone really needs to rescue the makhno wikipedia page..

ditto to this.

LBird wrote:
I'd just like to say that I agree with Alexander on both of the points he makes above.

If the Communist proletariat is not in a majority, it can't lead to any form of Communism. 86% peasantry means Communism is not possible.

i'd agree with this,
but i think you are implying (possibly unintentionally) that the peasantry are somehow inherently incapable.
IMO it has nothing to do with some deficiency within the peasantry (who can be perfectly communist), but it is to do with the concentration of industry.
A mostly peasant nation will not have the necessary industry or science to produce the material abundance necessary for winning the (long-term) fight against capital whilst maintaining self-government, and pushing for international rev.

LBird wrote:
I'm defining 'Communism' as "workers' democratic control of the economy".

also, i think this has the potential to be used for self-managed state-capitalist purposes. i'd say something like it is the "worker's abolition of the economy through their democratic organs gaining conscious mastery over production". its not so snappy, but IMHO its better tongue

devoration1's picture
devoration1
Offline
Joined: 18-07-10
May 23 2011 23:19
Quote:
If the Communist proletariat is not in a majority, it can't lead to any form of Communism. 86% peasantry means Communism is not possible. I'm defining 'Communism' as "workers' democratic control of the economy".

The problem with this was that a whole generation during the Popular Front and Cold War years and specifically during the struggle years of 1956-1968 saw in Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc ways and means of producing veritable 'Transitional Programs'- in the 1st, Constitutionality of worker's councils, in the 2nd New Democracy in particular but also Three Worlds Theory, Mass Line and the rest of the central tenets of Maoism, etc. which all takes us back to the notion that some form of state capitalism, or holding movement, is acceptable of material, practical and ideological support of communists and militants ofthe workers movement of the world. We see this currently in defense of the 'ground up' Constitutionalism of councils and communes and committee's in Libya, Cuba, Venezuela- as those the "proletariat" is not the majority of these countries; as those the proletariat did not surpass the peasantry as a physical majority a long time ago; all ofthis discounting the idea that the political and economic position of the proletariat is far more important and powerful than that of the peasantry; which would mean that these majority/minority discussions were moot in 1917 when the proletarian world revolution broke out!.

Are these 'transitional' or 'holding movements' meant to hold-on to the power of the proletariat, the Communists, in Vietnam (the seperation of power between the popular front and CP in the government since 1975) for example, simply waiting for a physical majority of proletarians until they can hand over power back to the working class? Elsewhere some have posted about the 'moneyless villages, last vestiges of true Maoism' in China- are these to spread to the cities and SEZ's and become the new socialism of China?

Was Makhno an anti-semite? no. Did people in Makhnovist units perform atrocities? yes. Were the Bolsheviks wrong at Kronstadt? yes. Easy.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
May 24 2011 14:13
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Boul Dos:

I think this article is just a vain attempt to reproduce leninist lies to legitimise the state On Kronstadt: Actually many Bolsheviks in the party opposed crushing it. Those who opposed were Left Communists such as Miasnikov. One of the contemporary left communist groups -which claim at least theoretical heritage of Russian Left communists- has an article on that issue which I agree with:

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/104_kronstadt.html

This is just plain wrong. A MINORITY opposed the suppression of Kronstadt, the factions of the Workers Opposition and the Democratic Centralists enthusiastically taking part in the attack on the naval base to demonstrate their loyalty to the Party. It was only the small group around Miasnikov who offrered any protest.,

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
May 24 2011 14:14

Double post

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
May 24 2011 14:23
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Boul Dous wrote:
The other question I have has to do with what I believe is a gross misuse of the term "petty-bourgeoisie" which Boul Dous follows in his opening statement in describing 86% of the population of Russia in 1917.

My understanding is that the "petty-bourgeoisie" is properly used to describe small shopkeepers and small entrepeneurs that are "squeezed in between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. I find alot of self pronounced "Marxists" use the term to apply to white collar workers such as English professors, analysts for the State, lab tecnicians and other highly skilled specialized workers. I also see the term further expanded here to include "the peasantry" in Russia in 1917*. All these groups really are very different kinds of people with radically different positions in society. Either the term "petty-bourgeoisie" means something specific or it is a meaningless Marxist swear word. Could you please clarify this for me?

*I am certainly well aware that this is not unique to Boul Dous but is a very common (mis)use of the term

Perhaps so, but Marx closely allies the petty bourgeoisie to the peasantry, so much so that they seem identical in his outlook as can be seen from the famous quote from the Communist Manifesto:
"The feudal aristocracy was not the only class that was ruined by the bourgeoisie, not the only class whose conditions of existence pined and perished in the atmosphere of modern bourgeois society. The medieval burgesses and the small peasant proprietors were the precursors of the modern bourgeoisie. In those countries which are but little developed, industrially and commercially, these two classes still vegetate side by side with the rising bourgeoisie.

In countries where modern civilization has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie, and ever renewing itself a supplementary part of bourgeois society. The individual members of this class, however, as being constantly hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition, and, as Modern Industry develops, they even see the moment approaching when they will completely disappear as an independent section of modern society, to be replaced in manufactures, agriculture and commerce, by overlookers, bailiffs and shopmen.

In countries like France, where the peasants constitute far more than half of the population, it was natural that writers who sided with the proletariat against the bourgeoisie should use, in their criticism of the bourgeois regime, the standard of the peasant and petty bourgeois, and from the standpoint of these intermediate classes, should take up the cudgels for the working class. Thus arose petty-bourgeois socialism. Sismondi was the head of this school, not only in France but also in England.

This school of socialism dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production. It laid bare the hypocritical apologies of economists. It proved, incontrovertibly, the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labor; the concentration of capital and land in a few hands; overproduction and crises; it pointed out the inevitable ruin of the petty bourgeois and peasant, the misery of the proletariat, the anarchy in production, the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial war of extermination between nations, the dissolution of old moral bonds, of the old family relations, of the old nationalities.

In it positive aims, however, this form of socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian.

Its last words are: corporate guilds for manufacture; patriarchal relations in agriculture. "