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By the time the workers really saw the light it was too late. Power had
had the time to organize itself solidly and had at its disposal repressive
forces fully able to break any attempted autonomous action on the part of
the masses. According to Voline, a bitter but unequal struggle lasted
some three years, and was entirely unknown outside Russia. In this a
working-class vanguard opposed a state apparatus determined to deny
the division which had developed between itself and the masses. From
1919 to 1921, strikes increased in the large cities, in Petrograd
especially, and even in Moscow. They were severely repressed, as we
shall see further on.
Within the directing Party itself a "Workers' Opposition" arose which
demanded a return to the democracy of the soviets and self-management.
At the Tenth Party Congress in March 1921, one of its spokesmen,
Alexandra Kollontay, distributed a pamphlet asking for freedom of
initiative and organization for the trade unions and for a "congress of
producers" to elect a central administrative organ for the national
economy. The brochure was confiscated and banned. Lenin persuaded
almost the whole congress to vote for a resolution identifying the theses
of the Workers' Opposition with "petty-bourgeois and anarchist
deviations": the "syndicalism," the "semi-anarchism" of the
oppositionists was in his eyes a "direct danger" to the monopoly of
power exercised by the Party in the name of the proletariat. From then on
all opposition within the Party was forbidden and the way was open to
"totalitarianism," as was admitted by Trotsky years later.
The struggle continued within the central leadership of the trade unions.
Tomsky and Riazanov were excluded from the Presidium and sent into
exile, because they had stood for trade unions independent of the Party.
The leader of the workers' opposition, Shlyapaikov, met the same fate,
and was soon followed by the prime mover of another opposition group:
G. I. Miasnikov, a genuine worker who had put the Grand Duke Michael
to death in 1917. He had been a party member for fifteen years and,
before the revolution, spent more than seven years in prison and seventy-
five days on a hunger strike. In November 1921, he dared to state in a
pamphlet that the workers had lost confidence in the Communists,
because the Party no longer had a common language with the rank and
file and was now using against the working class the repressive measures
brought in against the bourgeoisie between 1918 and 1920.
What part did the Russian anarchists play in this drama in which a
libertarian-style revolution was transmuted into its opposite? Russia had
no libertarian traditions and it was in foreign lands that Bakunin and
Kropotkin became anarchists. Neither played a militant anarchist role
inside Russia at any time. Up to the time of the 1917 Revolution, only a
few copies of short extracts from their writings had appeared in Russia,
clandestinely and with great difficulty. There was nothing anarchist in
the social, socialist, and revolutionary education of the Russians. On the
contrary, as Voline told us, "advanced Russian youth were reading
literature which always presented socialism in a statist form." People's
minds were soaked in ideas of government, having been contaminated by
German social democracy.
The anarchists "were a tiny handful of men without influence," at the
most a few thousand. Voline reported that their movement was "still far
too small to have any immediate, concrete effect on events." Moreover,
most of them were individualist intellectuals not much involved in the
working-class movement. Voline was an exception, as was Nestor
Makhno, who could move the hearts of the masses in his native Ukraine.
In Makhno's memoirs he passed the severe judgment that "Russian
anarchism lagged behind events or even functioned completely outside
However, this judgment seems to be less than fair. The anarchists played
a far from negligible part in events between the February and October
revolutions. Trotsky admitted this more than once in his History of the
Russian Revolution. "Brave" and "active," though few in numbers, they
were a principled opposition in the Constituent Assembly at a time when
the Bolsheviks had not yet turned anti-parliamentary. They put out the
call "all power to the soviets" long before Lenin's party did so. They
inspired the movement for the spontaneous socialization of housing,
often against the will of the Bolsheviks. Anarcho-syndicalist activists
played a part in inducing workers to take over the factories, even before
During the revolutionary days that brought Kerensky's bourgeois
republic to an end, the anarchists were in the forefront of the military
struggle, especially in the Dvinsk regiment commanded by old
libertarians like Grachoff and Fedotoff. This force dislodged the counter-
revolutionary "cadets." Aided by his detachment, the anarchist
Gelezniakov disbanded the Constituent Assembly: the Bolsheviks only
ratified the accomplished fact. Many partisan detachments were formed
or led by anarchists (Mokrooussoff, Cherniak, and others), and fought
unremittingly against the White armies between 1918 and 1920.
Scarcely a major city was without an anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist
group, spreading a relatively large amount of printed matter - papers,
periodicals, leaflets, pamphlets, and books. There were two weeklies in
Petrograd and a daily in Moscow, each appearing in 25,000 copies.
Anarchist sympathizers increased as the Revolution deepened and then
moved away from the masses. The French captain Jacques Sadoul, on a
mission in Russia, wrote in a report dated April 6, 1918: "The anarchist
party is the most active, the most militant of the opposition groups and
probably the most popular .... The Bolsheviks are anxious." At the end of
1918, according to Voline, "this influence became so great that the
Bolsheviks, who could not accept criticism, still less opposition, became
seriously disturbed." Voline reports that for the Bolshevik authorities "it
was equivalent . . . to suicide to tolerate anarchist propaganda. They did
their best first to prevent, and then to forbid, any manifestation of
libertarian ideas and finally suppressed them by brute force."
The Bolshevik government "began by forcibly closing the offices of
libertarian organizations, and forbidding the anarchists from taking part
in any propaganda or activity." In Moscow on the night of April 12,
1918, detachments of Red Guards, armed to the teeth, took over by
surprise twenty-five houses occupied by the anarchists. The latter,
thinking that they were being attacked by White Guards, replied with
gunfire. According to Voline, the authorities soon went on to "more
violent measures: imprisonment, outlawing, and execution." "For four [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]