The Russian Revolution in the Ukraine (March 1917 – April 1918) Nestor Makhno
Introduction by Alfredo M. Bonanno
Foreword by Daniel Guerin
Translated by Paul Sharkey
Newly released free PDF E-Book from Elephant Editions of the collected personal memoirs of Nestor Makhno, the legendary insurgent anarchist fighter, genius tactician, and general leader of the insurrectionary Makhnovist army in Ukraine. Features an introduction by Alfredo M. Bonanno and a foreword by Daniel Guerin.
From the introduction of Alfredo M. Bonanno:
“Although the Russian anarchists of the past are still alive in our hearts today, their actual historical and human experiences seem far off in the night of time. We are talking about only a few decades, yet it is as though the dust of centuries has piled up on these events, preventing us from understanding them. Always victorious in battle, Makhno appears as a fearless knight galloping invincible at the head of the Ukrainian insurgents, first against the white Russians of Denikin or Wrangel, then against Trotsky’s Red Army.
Given that the need for revolutionary myths still persists among comrades, things might just stop there. Any romanticised attempt which borders on or even duplicates historical interpretation helps us to live and sometimes to die. But is that really what we want in bringing out this volume?
I don’t know. When narrating events of the past, especially those that touch us deeply, it seems indispensable to bear the present day and the air breathed by those who still dream of revolution in mind. If this means anything, it means picking up the threads where they were broken off, taking them from comrades who rebelled so long ago and continuing to weave them under different conditions.
And some people are still fascinated by the big organisation today, just as Makhno—and even more so his closest comrade, Archinov— were in the past. A strong organisation doted with means and men, strategies and detailed programmes, with a high-sounding name and capable of making fierce proclamations and throwing the forces of repression into a panic simply breathing revenge or by merely threatening to shoot fascinates them. The more the movement is lacerated by a thousand internal misunderstandings and diatribes with each one accusing the other of respectability and a lowering of the guard, and words lose their meaning and take on the recondite, almost cryptographical ones dictated by suspicion, the more the organisation and its continual reinforcement becomes a panacea for all evils. The prosthesis extends its malefic shadow, making us feel strong; then, in this new-found strength suspicion is cast on the comrades who were bold enough to refuse and criticise the former as they saw it as nothing but an alibi and a further sign of weakness.
In this first volume of Makhno’s memoirs finally published here in English there is constant reference to the Russian anarchists’ lack of organisation and effectiveness, remarking that things would have been different (starting from May 1917) if a strong organisation had existed and functioned properly. Thus Makhno writes, ‘In the aforementioned coup d’état in Petrograd, Moscow and other industrial towns, anarchists played an exceptionally salient part in the van of the sailors, soldiers and workers. But, for want of structures, they were unable to bring to bear upon the country a revolutionary influence comparable with that of these two parties which had formed a political bloc under the direction of that same guileful Lenin and knew precisely what they had to set about above all else at that time, and the degree of strength and energy at their disposal.’ (Part two, Ch. 1)
In fact, as I have pointed out on various occasions, the question of the strong organisation is not only a false problem in the context of the Russian anarchists, but is so generally. I am not underestimating the organisational problem in saying that, merely pointing out that the question of the revolution cannot simply be solved with a clash between two organisations and a final victory for the revolutionary forces.
The more the years pass and capital develops new ways of modernising and restructuring in order to solve problems that seemed insurmountable in the past, the more one realises that it is not at the level of (military and productive) organisational strength that it is necessary to act, but in quite a different sphere. Both the strictly military efforts of the revolutionary struggle and the creation of new productive forms and their capacity to find different solutions, must come through the generalisation of the struggle, i.e. with the widest participation of the masses in the many ways that this is possible. …”
1. Establishing contact with the comrades, and first attempts at organising revolutionary activity.
2. Organisation of the Peasant’s Union.
3. Police Archives rifled.
4. Fresh elections to the communal committee. The notion of control.
5. The teachers’ role. Our activity on the communal committee.
6. The first of May. The agrarian issue as viewed by the peasants.
7. The Workers’ strike.
8. Some results.
9. The campaign against tenant farming.
10. P.A. Kropotkin’s arrival in Russia. Encounter with anarchists of Ekaterinoslav.
11. Kornilov’s march on Petrograd.
12. Resistance to the counter-revolution spreads through the villages.
1. The October Coup d’état in Russia.
2. Elections to the Constituent Assembly: our attitude vis à vis the parties in contention.
3. The Departmental Congress.
4. The counter-revolution of the Central Rada.
5. With the leftist bloc against the counter-revolution.
6. The armed peasants rush to the aid of the urban workers. The
Aleksandrovisk Revolutionary Committee and the Commission of Inquiry.
7. The armed struggle against the Cossacks. Delegation, disarmament of the Cossacks and an understanding with them.
8. The Bolshevik-Left SR. bloc in Aleksandrovsk. My observations and the consequences of them.
9. Abolition of the zemstvo as a “territorial unit”. Foundation of a Revolutionary Committee by the members of the Soviet. Seeking funds to meet the needs of the Revolutionary Committee by the members of the Soviet. Seeking funds to meet the needs of the Revolution.
10. How barter was organised between town and countryside.
11. Our group’s new members.
12. The Agrarian communes. Their internal organisation. Their enemies.
13. The successes of the German and Austrian armies and of the troops of the Ukrainian and central Rada. Counter-revolutionary agents. The struggle against them.
14. Centralising the detachments. Formation of a united front with the Bolshevik-Left SR. bloc.
15. I am urgently summoned to Yegorov’s headquarters. Defeat for our fighting front.
Gulai-Polye’s antecedents – Nestor Makhno.
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