The Russian Revolution in Ukraine

Nestor Makhno

Chapter 5: Re-election of the public committee; whether or not to get involved in it


Our group occupied itself for a time with internal matters, giving some structure to the organization and distributing tasks among our members, strong in numbers but weak intellectually (we now had over 80 members). One of these tasks was taking out subscriptions to all the Anarchist newspapers being published in Russia and Ukraine. During this period the re-election of the Public Committee was begun.

Along with some other comrades from our group, I was nominated again by the peasants and was elected.

This was the situation. Some of the peasants abstained from voting. The ones who did take part in the election for the most part voted for members of our group or for people sympathetic to us. In spite of the entreaties of my electors, I refused to represent them on the Public Committee. I did not do so from principle, for I was not aware of what position the anarchists of the cities might have taken on this question of whether or not to take part in such institutions if elected. I had made an inquiry through the secretary of the Federation of Moscow Anarchists but did not receive a reply in time. Rather I refused for a more important reason: my entry into the Public Committee via the usual formal election process would be counterproductive to all my plans, which were geared towards attenuating the power of these committees with their governmental form and functions, while building alternatives with our Group and the peasants.

These plans had been adopted by our group and because of them I had accepted the chairmanship of the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Union.

These plans of mine had been designed with several aims in mind:

  1. To create the closest bonds between our group and the whole labouring peasantry on the basis of practical work for the Revolution.
  2. To forestall the infiltration of the peasantry by political parties. The peasants must be convinced of the danger inherent in political parties. They might be revolutionary at a given moment, but, if they succeed in dominating the will of the peasantry, then they will destroy its creative initiative for revolutionary self-activity.
  3. To convince the labouring peasantry of the absolute necessity of acting without delay to seize control of the "Public Committee", a non-revolutionary organism acting under the orders of the central government. This step was necessary so that we could receive ongoing and timely information about the actions of the Provisional Government. Otherwise we could find ourselves at a critical juncture in total political confusion, without accurate and specific reports about the development of revolutionary events in the cities.
  4. To explain to the labouring peasants that the matter of the greatest urgency to them the conquest of the land and the right to free self-government must be achieved by them alone. They must not depend on any outside leadership but must rely on their own resources. They must strive to take advantage of the present stage of the Revolution: the new government is in disarray and the political parties are fighting among themselves for power. Now is the time to bring to reality their own revolutionary-anarchist goals.

This principles inspired the plan of action which I had presented to the group of comrades upon my arrival from Moscow. I had nagged, implored, and persuaded the comrades to accept my plans as the basis of our future program of action among the labouring peasantry. Because of these principles I decided to abandon many tactical positions adopted by the anarchist group of the 1906-1907 period. At that time the anarchists were less interested in mass organizational work than in preserving their own exclusiveness. Isolated in their own circles and groups, they developed abnormally and became mentally sluggish through lack of involvement in practical work. Thus they lost the possibility of intervening effectively at times of popular uprisings and revolution.

My plans were totally accepted by our group of anarcho-communists. Through our activities these plans, refined and corrected, eventually embraced an overwhelming majority of the peasants of Gulyai-Pole. In fact this required several months. We shall describe in detail the activities of our Group, which participated fully in the successive phases of the Revolution.

 


On to Chapter 6 The role of teachers. Our work in the public committee

Back to Chapter 4 Examination of the police files

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