Makhnovists

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David UK
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Jan 2 2007 15:20
Makhnovists

I have a few short questions.

Despite being famous for their manouverability, and tactical use of mahine guns, I hear again and again about their wonderful firepower, so, where exactly did they get all their stuff from? I heard they used mainly Italian rifles, if so, which rifles? carcanos? where did they get them?

Did the symbolic use of the skull and crossbones stem from the makhnovists? And also, did they use the black 5 point star?

don't ask... im bored.

Feighnt
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Jan 3 2007 00:32

i'm not sure at all what most of their guns were from, but the italian rifles you mention, i actually dealt with in another post in this history forum, about the weird bolshivik - when the Makhnovists joined up with the Red Army, they were initially supplied with 3000 italian rifles by the bolsheviks (who then proceeded to refuse to give them anything else, including ammo for the guns when they ran out, until Antonov-Ovseenko met with Makhno - he gave them loads of crap).

and, yeah, most of their stuff, they got from military victories. when they began the fight, it was against the austro-german forces, and Makhno's force was pretty small - some number over a thousand people. when they started, they were able to get arms from local bolsheviks, but as they began to grow, they would've needed more and more from the enemy forces. beside this, the Makhnovists were actually a conglomeration of a number of libertarian rebels who had formed in various parts of the Ukraine, who eventually learned of one another's forces and unified. where these other groups who had been started by different people got their weapons, i have no idea.

something of note, though, is their use of tatchanka, which alludes to your mention of "tactical use of machine guns." they mounted their machine guns onto the back of tatchankas, which were a kind of small cart which could've seated a few people (maybe four comfortably, a few more if necessary). these mobile machine gun nests were an innovation for the time, and helped them a good deal.

i'm not actually sure the skull and crossbones was done by the Makhnovists at all - Skirda seems to treat it as either a hoax or a confusion by people hostile to the Makhnovists, if i recall correctly... he suggested that the picture of the "Makhnovists" with the skull and crossbones flag werent actually Makhnovists at all. the whole symbolic use of that kinda flag probably started later, i'd imagine by young activists who had an overly romantic view of pirates tongue no idea about the black star, but i dont think i've ever heard of them using it.

Feighnt
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Jan 3 2007 00:33

double post

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syndicalistcat
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Jan 3 2007 17:36

There was a dispute between Antonov-Ovseenko and Trotsky over whether to supply the Makhnovist army. Antonov-Ovseenko
had been sent in to do a report to the Bolshevik military leaders. He said they were well-organized, had popular support, and should be given supplies, made an autonomous unit of the Red Army. But his view was over-ruled. It's possible he brought stuff with him or arranged them to get stuff, before the top leaders over-ruled his recommendations.

The army derived ultimately from a militia formed to support the land seizures of the peasant union around Golya-Polye. It didn't become the Ukraine Revolutionary Army til the first People's Congress, which also set up a kind of revolutionary governance council, the Revolutionary Administrative Council, to oversee the army. A lot of different political tendencies were represented on that council -- maximalists, syndicalists, anarchists, Left SRs, and even the Bolsheviks at one point.

t.

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888
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Jan 3 2007 18:06

in one of his essays in "The struggle of the state and other essays", Makhno talks about a picture of some men in front of a skull and crossbones banner and says that they were falsely called makhnovists.

The banner says "Death" and then some slogan about land to the peasants or something.

David UK
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Jan 3 2007 21:23

This Tachanka looked like this did it not;

very impresive for the time...

As for the symbolism, I do wonder then, if those two aren't makhnovists, then who, and what are they advertising.

Thanks for all the input!

Feighnt
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Jan 4 2007 00:38

additives: yep, that's a tachanka. another good, clear side view of one you can see here:

http://www.koza.kiev.ua/img/tachanka.jpg

i forget a whole lot about the picture with the fellows with skull and crossbones... i do believe 888 is right, though. i think Makhno may have said who they actually were, but, again, i cant recall (and *right* at the moment, i dont wanna dig through my books, which would likely involve in skimming over a hundred or so pages embarrassed ). i dont believe they were associated with the bolsheviks, though... perhaps one or another of the SR factions, perhaps someone completely independent. maybe even part of Grigoriev's forces?

the only other possibility would i can think of would be the aberation which happened later in the war... some group of Makhnovist militians found themselves separated from the rest of the force, and couldnt get back together with them. later in the war, Wrangel, who was leading the Whites at this time (he was the last White leader), tried to curry favour from the Makhnovists and get them to join his army in opposition to the Bolsheviks. the Makhnovists, however, very coldly rebuked the efforts by the Whites to absorb them (they executed the envoys, in fact). nonetheless, the Whites claimed publicly that the Makhnovists were fighting with them - seemingly in hopes that it would help recruit local peasants. in one case, it actually did fool some Makhnovists - the aforementioned ones who got separated from the rest of the force, who joined up in the belief that Makhno did actually join with Wrangel. however, the Makhnovists-proper viewed these people as traitors. it's *possible* they may have used that banner.

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Jan 4 2007 01:12
Additives Free wrote:
I have a few short questions.

Despite being famous for their manouverability, and tactical use of mahine guns, I hear again and again about their wonderful firepower, so, where exactly did they get all their stuff from? I heard they used mainly Italian rifles, if so, which rifles? carcanos? where did they get them?

I imagine that like most insurgent armies they gathered arms and ammo from supporters, fallen and captured enemy soldiers, captured enemy arms/ammo.

On a totally different note....

I borrowed this book called "Anarchists in the Russian Revolution". In it is a sweet section on this Makhno character. In that section is this translation of some sort of Makhnovist declaration.

__________________________________________________________

1. All decrees of the Denikin Army are hereby abolished, those decrees of the Communist authorities which conflict with interestes of the peasants and workers are likewise abolished.
2. The land of the gentry, the church and other enemies of the toilers with all its livestock and equipment must be transferred to the peasants, who will live on it only by their own labour. The transfer will take place in an organized manner, according to the decisions of peasant assemblies, which must take into acount not only their own local interests but also the common interests of the whole oppressed labouring peasantry.
3. The factories, workshops, mines and other means of production are to become the possession of the working class as a whole, which through its trade unions will tkae all enterprises in ints own hands, resume production, and strive to link together the industry of the whole country in a single united organization.
4. It is proposed that all organizations of workers and peasants begin to create free workers' and peasants' soviets. These soviets must consist only of toilers engages in some form of labour that is necessary for the national economy. Representatives of political organizations have no place in workers' and peasants' soviets, for their participation will transform the latter into soviets of party deputies, which can only bring about the demise of the soviet order.
5. The existence of Chekas, party committees or similar ocercive, authoritarian and disciplinarian institutions is impermissible among pesants and workers.
6. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, trade unions, and the like is an inalienable right of every worker, and any limitation of this right represents a counter-revolutionary act.
7. State militias, plice and armies are heeby abolished. In their place the people will organize their own self-defence units of the workers and peasants, and the individual peasant and worker must not allow any counter-revolutionary manifestations by the bourgeoisie or military officers. Nor must they allow the emergence of banditry. Anyone convicted of counter-revolutionary acts or of banditry will be shot on the spot.
9. Soviet and ukrainian money must be accepted along with all other kinds of money. Violators of this rule will be subject to revolutionary punishment.
10. The exchange of goods and products, until taken over by workers' and peasants' organizations, will remain free. But at the same time it is proposed that the exchange of products take place for the most part between toilers.
11. All individuals who attempt to hinder the distribution of this declaration will be regarded as counter-revolutionaries.

MILITARY REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL AND COMMAND STAFF OF THE REVOLUTIONARY INSURGENT ARMY OF THE UKRAINE (MAKHNOVISTS)
________________________________________________________

when i read this shit, i try to keep a level head and remember that it is just a translation from russian to english and subject to getting fucked up. Some of it is so contradictry and authoratarian that it wierds me out. I don't think that just this "declaration" can be used to formulate an educated opinion of Makhno, but it can help. anyhow, what do y'all think?

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Jan 4 2007 01:27

How is it disturbing?

Whats wrong with it? It's inspiring if you ask me.

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boozemonarchy
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Jan 4 2007 03:15

first off, sorry about the double post, the comp at work fucked up apparently

georgestapleton wrote:
How is it disturbing?

Whats wrong with it? It's inspiring if you ask me.

i find several things that spook me in this declaration, but i'm on break at work and have limited time, so I'll just point this one out.

5. The existence of Chekas, party committees or similar ocercive, authoritarian and disciplinarian institutions is impermissible among pesants and workers.

7. State militias, plice and armies are heeby abolished. In their place the people will organize their own self-defence units of the workers and peasants, and the individual peasant and worker must not allow any counter-revolutionary manifestations by the bourgeoisie or military officers. Nor must they allow the emergence of banditry. Anyone convicted of counter-revolutionary acts or of banditry will be shot on the spot.

well, there you go

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Serge Forward
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Jan 4 2007 07:55

Well, considering this statement came out at the height of civil war, when revolutionaries and their families are being summarily executed in their thousands by checkists and other coercive institutions, state police, armies and bandits... then what's the problem?

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Jan 4 2007 08:07

didnt the makhnovist army call them selves "the black army" or was that some other mistake?

Feighnt
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Jan 4 2007 09:22

concerning bozeman's message...

like the others, i'm still fairly confused at what you're upset at - especially after your last message, where you illuminated point 5 and 7. i can understand pointing out 7, due to the end with the cold "will be shot," but how could you object to #5? unless you were pointing it out to try to state that #5 is contradicted by #7?

what disturbs me the most about it is the very final point: those who try to hinder distribution of this will be deemed counter-revolutionaries (which means, they would be shot!). this seems especially harsh, and, let's be honest, quite elitist. perhaps some could say they would understand why such a harsh attitude would be taken, considering the circumstances they were in, but, still...

and, in reply to x357997 and the "black army"...

i dont think i've heard them call themselves that - perhaps in discussions, they would refer to themselves as the "blacks" as opposed to the "reds" and the "whites," but i've not heard of the "black army" in any formal or semi-formal manner.

but, what you may be thinking of is the group of cossack cavalry which Makhno directly led, within the broader insurgent army (unfortunately, i cant recall offhand how many militians made up this force, so i'm unsure whether to call it a company or whatever - i imagine it would've been no smaller than company-sized... ie: around 100 people. probably no larger than 1000 militians, though). this force was called the "Black Sotnia" (probably sp), which, i gather, meant the "Black Guard."

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Jan 4 2007 12:09
Feighnt wrote:

and, in reply to x357997 and the "black army"...

i dont think i've heard them call themselves that - perhaps in discussions, they would refer to themselves as the "blacks" as opposed to the "reds" and the "whites," but i've not heard of the "black army" in any formal or semi-formal manner.

but, what you may be thinking of is the group of cossack cavalry which Makhno directly led, within the broader insurgent army (unfortunately, i cant recall offhand how many militians made up this force, so i'm unsure whether to call it a company or whatever - i imagine it would've been no smaller than company-sized... ie: around 100 people. probably no larger than 1000 militians, though). this force was called the "Black Sotnia" (probably sp), which, i gather, meant the "Black Guard."

What did they do?

Bobby
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Jan 4 2007 13:38

Here an some report on Nestor Makhno for all you lovers.
http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentReassessingNestor...

From a trot perspective in Socialist Democracy which throws in a slight dig against irish anarchists.
How fuckin dare they coming from a tiny little sect that believes that they are the vanguard. lol

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Jan 4 2007 16:03
bozemananarchy wrote:
5. The existence of Chekas, party committees or similar ocercive, authoritarian and disciplinarian institutions is impermissible among pesants and workers.

So you support the existence of secret police?

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syndicalistcat
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Jan 4 2007 17:36

One thing that is sometimes lost on people is that the Ukraine Revolutionary Army, of which Makhno was the elected leader (that's what "batko" meant), was not a specifically anarchist force. The Revolutionary Administrative Council, which was nominally in control of the army (tho it was hard to enforce this in the midst of civil war) had Left SRs, anarchists, syndicalists, maximalists, and even Bolsheviks on it. Except for the Bolsheviks, the various political tendencies were at least roughly left-libertarian.

The army had been created by a people's congress where the delegates represented something like a million people -- mostly peasant villages, but some town soviets, unions like the railway workers and shoe factory workers. However, the Right SRs and Right Mensheviks refused to cooperate -- they walked out of the 4th people's congress held in Alexandrovsk.

Makhno's army did have an intelligence service. At one point they uncovered an alleged plot to assassinate Makhno.

It seems likely that the town soviets, if things had stabilized long enough, would probably have created the equivalent of a police force. But i think the statement against police was probably in reference to the old czarist police force.

t.

Black Flag
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Jan 4 2007 17:55

Apparently, according to Class War, it was the Zapatistas that came up with the skull and cross bones.

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Jan 4 2007 20:17
Feighnt wrote:
concerning bozeman's message...

like the others, i'm still fairly confused at what you're upset at - especially after your last message, where you illuminated point 5 and 7. i can understand pointing out 7, due to the end with the cold "will be shot," but how could you object to #5? unless you were pointing it out to try to state that #5 is contradicted by #7?

sorry that I didn't explain, i was using the net at the factory on one of my breaks and couldn't get it all down. In pointing out numbers 5 and 7 was to point out the contridiction. I certainly don't object to #5, and I actually think that most of the declaration is indeed wonderfull. I don't know enough about Makhno or the situation in the Ukraine at the time to make any judgements of if Makhno was an authoritarian (in reality, not just what he says he was) or not. I figuered by posting this I could learn more from you folks.

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Jan 4 2007 20:20
888 wrote:
bozemananarchy wrote:
5. The existence of Chekas, party committees or similar ocercive, authoritarian and disciplinarian institutions is impermissible among pesants and workers.

So you support the existence of secret police?

of course not, not even for the protection of so called "revolutionary leaders"

posi
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Jan 4 2007 20:38
bozemananarchy wrote:
sorry that I didn't explain, i was using the net at the factory on one of my breaks and couldn't get it all down...

Prize for most proletarian cred in a single post ever... wink

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Jan 5 2007 01:03

hehe, what do I get?

I'm at the "Croakie" factory. You know, those stupid ass eyewear retainers that yuppie type people wear on there sunglasses, its what i do.

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Jan 5 2007 01:17

you get a crap ass t-shirt that says "SUPER PROLE".

Feighnt
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Jan 5 2007 01:56
x357997 wrote:

What did they do?

the black guard? they were basically just a regular fighting force, i gather - likely some of the most experienced and elite of the forces, though. while Makhno (and his staff), in a broader sense, led the whole army, Makhno personally led the Black Guard in combat (he was, btw, noted for being a front-line commander, charging at the head of his troops, etc).

as i mentioned, they were a cavalry force, so they'd have been mounted on horses and would've carried at least a sword and a handgun (many probably would've got a rifle too, perhaps a machine-pistol if they could manage)... charged the enemies and fought in close quarters. in the civil war, only the Whites and the Makhnovists were really known to have a good cavalry. the Bolsheviks tried to form a cavalry, but it was, reportedly, fairly skittish and reluctant to charge and fight in close quarters (which is precisely the point of a cavalry).

Feighnt
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Jan 5 2007 02:31
bozemananarchy wrote:

sorry that I didn't explain, i was using the net at the factory on one of my breaks and couldn't get it all down. In pointing out numbers 5 and 7 was to point out the contridiction. I certainly don't object to #5, and I actually think that most of the declaration is indeed wonderfull. I don't know enough about Makhno or the situation in the Ukraine at the time to make any judgements of if Makhno was an authoritarian (in reality, not just what he says he was) or not. I figuered by posting this I could learn more from you folks.

cool that we're cleared up smile and, yes, i understand where you're coming from.

now, in regard to what you said at the end, if Makhno was an authoritarian or not... i think that's a fairly difficult thing to say. one way or another, a war will muddy distinctions between libertarian and authoritarian, likely by necessity. in spite of certain things like the contradiction you pointed to, the Makhnovists were, undoubtedly, the most libertarian, unauthoritarian force involved in the whole civil war. internally (ie: within the army) they were much tighter with one another than externally, i get the impression. but, even still, internally, there was election of officers, and Makhno was choosen popularly. however, i have little doubt that the democracy involved in the forces was hardly well developed.

i think one of the most interesting things which shows the libertarian side of the Makhnovists, however, is how they treated an occupied (or liberated, depeneding on your view) town. while the Makhnovists would've entered and messed around with things to some degree (in particular, expropriating wealth from the upper classes or banks, most of which would go to the war effort, but a decent enough amount was put back into the soviet community)... they'd also do the typical stuff, like making a public address to tell what they were all about, try to recruit some new members, get fresh horses if needed, etc etc. the interesting thing is, after a short time, when they were basically done with this, and redistributed the wealth, they basically just... left altogether. they didnt form up a government or anything - they left this up to the local populace (the forming of soviets, that is). they left only about one person behind, to represent the insurgent army, but i've never heard of this person having any special powers (i think the role was mostly to do with coordination). one of the great exceptions to this, of course, would've been Gulyai-Polye, which was the Makhnovist's base of operations - so they would've had a nearly permament presence in that city (which is understandable, imo)... at least, in the times when they held it, anyway (they lost Gulyai-Polye a few times in the course of the war). the Makhnovists were rather firmly against the concept of them acting as a government, and, thusly, acting as a baby-sitter to whichever place they liberated. so, they organized the redistribution of wealth when they first came, but then told the people "stop relying on us, you have to do this for yourselves - no, we are certainly *not* a charity organization", and left them to organize and rule their city themselves (this would've, btw, included forming an independent militia).

so, you see, it's extremely difficult to claim that the Makhnovists - and Makhno - were *either* libertarian *or* authoritarian. the reality of the situation muddied things strongly, and there undoubtedly things which we would view as fairly "authoritarian" stances and actions. nonetheless, not just in word, but also in action, they could be extremely libertarian all the same (as seen especially in the withdrawal and acceptance - actually, urging even - of local autonomy).

and then, there's also their attitude to soldiers they took prisoner... officers were pretty well executed, guaranteed... all the rank and file, though, were given the option of joining the insurgent army, or going free back to their homes. and, amazingly, this was more than just talk... they actually did let thousands of captured soldiers go (some of whom would just be collected back up into whichever army they originally came from, if they were found, but that's hardly the fault of the Makhnovists). in comparison, i dont believe any of the other forces fighting in the civil war dared to do such a thing - and, typically, officers would be treated much better than rank and file troops. the bolsheviks, of course, in spite of their populist rhetoric, showed no restraint in imprisoning and executing common soldiers - people who were mostly proles or peasants.

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Jan 5 2007 03:12
Quote:
now, in regard to what you said at the end, if Makhno was an authoritarian or not... i think that's a fairly difficult thing to say. one way or another,

totally, i mean he his dead afterall, and unavailable for an interview.

any book/web resource suggestions for further info on Mahkno, my personal library is pretty limited on him, and I love revolutionary russias' history

Feighnt
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Jan 5 2007 03:20
bozemananarchy wrote:

any book/web resource suggestions for further info on Mahkno, my personal library is pretty limited on him, and I love revolutionary russias' history

hah, look no further:

http://www.nestormakhno.info/

i've only read a little of that site, but they're quite dedicated.

much of what i know about Makhno (especially the military side of things) comes from this book:

http://www.akpress.org/2003/items/nestormakhnoanarchyscossack

it's especially difficult getting good information about him, as there's been so much slander over the years (not just by Bolsheviks and Liberals, but by some Anarchists, too - Skirda suggests the claim that Makhno was an alcoholic was essentially made up by Voline) it's hard to tell what's true and what's not.

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Jan 5 2007 06:14

Thanks for the info Feighnt

Feighnt wrote:
Skirda suggests the claim that Makhno was an alcoholic was essentially made up by Voline) it's hard to tell what's true and what's not.

i don't know if being an alcoholic ever stopped anyone from doing anything, they just do it drunk.

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Jan 5 2007 09:19
Feighnt wrote:

and then, there's also their attitude to soldiers they took prisoner... officers were pretty well executed, guaranteed... all the rank and file, though, were given the option of joining the insurgent army, or going free back to their homes. and, amazingly, this was more than just talk... they actually did let thousands of captured soldiers go (some of whom would just be collected back up into whichever army they originally came from, if they were found, but that's hardly the fault of the Makhnovists). in comparison, i dont believe any of the other forces fighting in the civil war dared to do such a thing - and, typically, officers would be treated much better than rank and file troops.

Thats a crap idea for the war effort.

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Jan 5 2007 09:21
bozemananarchy wrote:
Thanks for the info Feighnt

Feighnt wrote:
Skirda suggests the claim that Makhno was an alcoholic was essentially made up by Voline) it's hard to tell what's true and what's not.

i don't know if being an alcoholic ever stopped anyone from doing anything, they just do it drunk.

Thats another crap idea for the war effort.

Black Flag
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Jan 5 2007 13:43

You can visit the Nestor Makhno archive.