We are reading Alexandre Skirda's Nestor Makhno: Anarchy's Cossack. It is part of our study of the peasant uprisings that occurred in the Soviet Union once people discovered Bolshevik promises were a 'hope and change' guise to take complete control of everything and everyone - a topic that we wrote about in our second article: The Original Green Movement.
Two take-aways so far:
1) What were the options at the time?
This is a question rarely asked about Germany after WWI. Few realize that zGermans had two options when Hitler rose to power: The Nazis, or Communism. It is a common error of
So what were the options in the Ukraine in 1917? We are coming to understand that zGermans were not welcome despite Ukraine being surrendered to them by Lenin on March 3, 1918 at Brest-Litovsk. There was a strong Anarchist movement in Ukraine at the time and Nestor Makhno distinguished himself as a brave and capable member of that movement.
The Anarchists, in the early days of Bolshevik rule, were allies. They were led to believe they'd have a fair share of power with the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and Social Democrats. That idea ended the day after the first and last election in Tsar/Soviet times. But in 1917 the Ukrainians had two options: stick with zGermans, or go with the Bolsheviks.
In 1918 their options were: stay with the lying Bolsheviks, or join the Whites. They joined the Whites.
The lesson we've learned in our studies, and one we try to push here at Ushanka: when you see a leader emerge that you don't like, remember the people may not have been given a good option. Remember 2008?
2) The Anarchists were also known as Libertarian Communists.
As comrades of Ushanka know, we're not too fond of the American Libertarian. Was Makhno's movement similar in their call for rights and liberty? From a Ukrainian perspective at that time, we'd say "yes." What we mean by that is there was a strong Communist influence then as that was the presiding reality. For example, the Libertarian Communists had communes. So don't think we are making a literal apples-to-apples comparison here.
Here is a quote from Makhno at the end of his insurgency, right before he fled to Romania on July 17, 1921. This may help our point here, or maybe confuse the issue further.
The communism to which we aspire assumes that there is individual freedom, equality, self-management, initiative, creativity and plenty. We have spelled out our thoughts in our 'Declarations.' We have had principles of non-violence, but the Bolsheviks have not allowed us to proceed with this. They have turned the clash of ideas into a struggle against men. Not only has the entire State apparatus, despised by the people, with its functionaries and its prisons and so on, not been liquidated, but it has simply been re-cast. The Bolsheviks have proclaimed might as their right.Our criticism with American Libertarians centers mostly on their dismissal of traditional family and religious values in their policy debates and proposals. They discuss an issue on its merits, but ignore the value aspect of the issue. For us, this shows a disingenuous approach to problem-solving, and for this reason we do not take them seriously. This may be why 98% of our fellow voters dismissed them in November 2012 when their movement arguably had a better chance than ever to disrupt an election.
Well, imagine our shock when another criticism of Libertarians is presented. From 1918. By Lenin! In a meeting with Makhno, Lenin said this:
The anarchists are always full of self-denial and ready for every sacrifice but as fanatics and long-sighted, they see only the distant future and ignore the present.Damn - why didn't we see that?!
BTW, you'll recall Ayn Rand connected the American Libertarians with Anarchists.
Well, we are only 50 pages into a 400-page book, so much more to learn.
Speaking of Libertarians, we'll leave you with this little brain teaser:
What came first, the rolling papers or the Libertarians?