The Russian Revolution in Ukraine
Chapter 3: Organization of the Peasants' Union
About the middle of the week, the elected delegates gathered at the school to discuss the re-election of the Public Committee.
For this meeting I, along with some of the teachers,
had prepared a general report which the teacher Korpusenko was chosen to read.
This report was well-conceived and well-written.
The elected peasant delegates consulted with the delegates from the factory workers and jointly passed a resolution demanding the re-election of the "Public Committee". At the insistence of the teachers Lebedev and Korpusenko, I contributed some words of introduction to this resolution.
The delegates returned to their own electors and discussed the resolution with them. When the resolution had been confirmed by the electors, a date was set for new elections.
Meanwhile the members of our group were preparing the peasants for the organization of the Peasants' Union.
During this period an agent arrived from the District Committee of the Peasants' Union, formed from the ranks of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. This was Comrade Krylov-Martynov, who was charged with organizing a committee of the Peasants' Union in Gulyai-Pole.
As a former political prisoner, he was interested in my life history, so we met and went to my place to drink tea and talk. And he ended up staying there till the next day.
Meanwhile I had asked the members of our group to prepare the peasants for a general assembly on the next day to deal with the found of the Peasants' Union.
The SR Krylov-Martynov was an effective orator. He described in glowing terms to the peasants the impending struggle of the Socialist-Revolutionaries for the transfer of land to the peasants without compensation. This struggle was to take place in the Constituent Assembly, expected to be convened in the near future. For this struggle the support of the peasants was required. He appealed to them to organize themselves into a Peasants' Union and support the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.
This provided an opening for me and several other members of our group to intervene. I said:
"We, the Anarchists, agree with the Socialist-Revolutionaries on the necessity of the peasants organizing themselves into a Peasants' Union. But not for the purpose of support the SRs in their future oratorical struggle with the social-democrats and kadets in the contemplated Constitutional Struggle (if indeed it ever comes to be).
From the revolutionary Anarchist point of view, the organization of the Peasants' Union is necessary so the peasants can make the maximum contribution of their vital energies to the revolutionary current. In doing so they will leave their stamp upon the Revolution and determine its concrete results.
These results, for the labouring peasantry, will logically turn out as follows. At present the power of Capital and its creature – its system of organized thuggery – the State – is based on the forced labour and artificially-subjugated intelligence of the labouring masses. But now the labouring masses of the countryside and the cities can struggle to create their own lives and their own freedom. And they can manage this without the leadership of political parties with their proposed debates in the Constituent Assembly.
The labouring peasants and workers shouldn't even be thinking about the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly is their enemy. It would be criminal on the part of the workers to expect from it their own freedom and happiness.
The Constituent Assembly is a gambling casino run by political parties. Ask anyone who hangs around such places if it is possible to visit them without being deceived! It's impossible.
The working class – the peasantry and the workers – will inevitably be deceived if they send their own representatives to the Constituent Assembly.
Now is not the time for the labouring peasantry to be thinking about the Constituent Assembly and about organizing support for political parties, including the Socialist-Revolutionaries. No! The peasants and the workers are facing more serious problems. They should prepare to transform all the land, factories, and workshops into communal property as the basis on which they will build a new life.
The Gulyai-Pole Peasants' Union, which we are proposing to found at this meeting, will be the first step in this direction..."
The SR agent of the District Party Committee of the Peasants' Union was not perturbed by our intervention. In fact he agreed with us. And so on March 28-29, 1917, was founded the Gulyai-Pole Peasants' Union.
The Executive Committee of the Union was composed of 28 members, all peasants, including myself, in spite of my asking the peasants not to nominate me as a candidate. For I was busy opening an office for our group and editing its Statement of Principles.
The peasants honoured my request by nominating me in four sotnias in each of which I was elected unanimously. Thus the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Union was elected.
The peasants proceeded to choose me as chairman of the Executive Committee.
The registration of members in the Union was begun. In the space of four or five days all the peasants joined, with the exception, naturally, of land-owning proprietors. These defenders of private property in land had isolated themselves from the labouring masses. They hoped to form a separate group, including the most ignorant of their own hired hands. In this way they hoped to hold out until the Constituent Assembly was convened, at which point they could prevail with the help of the Social-Democrats (at that time still vigorously maintaining the right to private ownership of land).
Admittedly, the labour peasantry had no need of such friends as the landed proprietors. Indeed they were regarded as the mortal enemies of the labouring peasants, who realized that only the forcible expropriation of their land and its transformation into communal property would render them harmless.
Unshakably convinced of this idea, which they freely expressed among themselves, the labouring peasantry thus passed judgement in advance on the Constituent Assembly.
So the Gulyai-Pole Peasants' Union was organized. But the Union as yet had not absorbed the whole labouring peasantry of Gulyai-Pole raion, which included a number of settlements and villages. Therefore the Union could not act in a sufficiently decisive fashion to exert an influence on other raions, and to carry out the organized revolutionary work of dispossessing the proprietors of their land and distributing it for the general use of the community.
So I left Gulyai-Pole, along with the secretary of the Executive Committee of the Union in order to make a tour of the raion, establishing Peasant Unions in these settlements and villages.
Upon my return, I reported to my group about our successes, emphasizing the evident revolutionary mood of the peasants, which we were obliged to support with all the means at our disposal, while directing it carefully but firmly towards the anti-authoritarian mode of action.
In our group there was much rejoicing and each member told me about his own work on our project, what sort of impression our work was producing on the peasants, etc.
The secretary of our group, Comrade Krat, who had filled in for me during my absence, told about the arrival in Gulyai-Pole of new agitators from Aleksandrovsk. They had delivered speeches in favour of the War and the Constituent Assembly and had tried to get their resolutions accepted. But the peasants and workers of Gulyai-Pole rejected these resolutions, declaring to the agitators that they were in the process of organizing themselves and were in no position to accept resolutions from outside... .
Each of us was cheered by these encouraging signs, inspiring us to tireless revolutionary activity... .
On to Chapter 4 Examination of the police files
Back to Chapter 2 Meeting with comrades and first attempts to organize revolutionary activities
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