The Russian Revolution in Ukraine
Chapter 9: Some results
Let's move on to the "Public Committee" and look at how we, delegates from the Peasants' Union, made use of the authority of this Committee in our region.
In the first place, having taken over the Land Department, we also tried to ensure that the Department of Provisioning was also an independent entity. When the time came that I had taken over the whole Committee, myself and some of my comrades on the Committee demanded the abolition of the Militia. When the central authorities would not allow this, we deprived the Militia of the right to make independent arrests and searches and thereby reduced its role to acting as a courier service for the Public Committee. Furthermore, I summoned all the landowners and kulaks and collected from them all the documents concerning their acquisition of privately-owned land. By means of these documents the Land Department produced a precise account of all the wealth in land at the disposal of the pomeshchiks and kulaks for their idle life-style.
We organized as part of the Soviet of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies a Committee of Batraks and created a batrak movement against the pomeshchiks and kulaks who were living on their labour.
We established practical control of the batraks over the pomeshchik and kulak estates and khutors, preparing the batraks to unite with the peasants and act together to expropriate all the wealth of individuals and declare it the social property of the toilers.
After all this, I personally was already losing interest in the Public Committee as an institution through which, within the framework of the existing order, one could do things legally which would keep the Revolution moving forward among the oppressed toilers in the countryside.
After consulting with a number of different comrades, I proposed to the whole group to establish an obligation for all our members: to propagandize among the peasants and workers urging them to change by any means possible their Public Committees, which tended to be less dependent on the will and rights of the peasants and workers than on the orders of some government commissar.
"Indeed," I said, "The Public Committees as territorial extension of the government cannot be revolutionary entities around which the living forces of the Revolution can group themselves. As the Revolution develops they must disappear. The labouring masses will dissolve them. The Social Revolution demands it.
"Taking a look now at the Social Revolution, we must work in the name of its ideas, we must help the peasants and workers move forward. We cannot allow the Public Committees to ignore the will of those who elected them. All their decisions (decisions and orders of the government) must be presented at general meetings – meetings of all citizens – for approval or rejection.
"It is now the end of June. That means that we, peasant and worker anarchists, have had four months to work legally among the oppressed toilers. It seems to me we have accomplished something in this time. Now we need to draw the proper conclusions from our experiences. Then we shall embark on new activity which reflects the ultimate goal of our movement. This activity must take place outside the Public Committee. We now have connections with a whole series of regions where our ideas carry influence. And among them is Kamishevatsky raion where our comrades are playing a leading role in everything. This raion has already responded to our request for support in our struggle against the Aleksandrovsk Public Committee. The representative from this raion, Comrade Dudnik, has visited us three times in order to coordinate the actions of the workers of the Kamishevatsky region with the actions of the Gulyai-Pole workers. With each passing day the workers of other raions pay more attention to the voices of Gulyai-Pole and organize themselves according to our principles, in spite of attempts to dissuade them on the part of the S-Rs, S-Ds, and Kadets. [At that time there were no Bolsheviks in the villages.]
"After a serious, four-month study of the Revolution, we know it is time to move forward in a definite direction and to directly oppose the activity of the politicians – those of the right already in power and those of the left striving for power, because the right-wing socialists and the bourgeoisie, who have appropriated the Revolution for themselves, are leading it into a blind alley. For us, working in the oppressed villages, it was evident from the first days of the Revolution that the Ukrainian peasantry had not yet had time to liberate itself entirely from the yoke of slavery and to grasp the real sense of the Revolution. The peasantry has hardly begun to shake off this heavy, ancient yoke and is already looking for ways to liberate itself from economic and political slavery. The oppressed villages are looking to the anarchists for help. It would be very easy for us to ignore the oppressed peasantry and not hasten to help them. We would just be adopting the attitude of our comrades in the cities and we would be repeating the false logic of these comrades who regard the peasants as partisans of a return to a bourgeois-capitalist system, etc. But I believe we won't do anything of the sort. We've seen how things are working out in our own village and, based on our experience, we know there are revolutionary elements among the downtrodden peasants in other villages. It's only necessary for us to release them from the garrotte of statism which has been applied to them by the politicians. We revolutionary anarchists can render them reliable help.
"Our movement in the cities, on which our more senior comrades pinned such unrealistic hopes, is clearly much too weak to deal with problems of such vast scale and responsibility. I'm not saying that there are not people in our ranks who are capable of great things. Indeed there are such people. In our current work we need to take a close look at this problem: when there is responsible work to be done demanding tenacious efforts many of our comrades have avoided it in the past and are avoiding it now. This has contributed to and will continue to contribute to disorganization. Oh! How dangerous is this disorganization for the healthy life of our movement! Nothing can compare to it. Thanks to the disorganization of our movement as a whole, our best forces are dissipated even now during the Revolution without any benefit to our movement. This phenomenon has always hindered us but now we anarchists suffer from it more than ever. It prevents us from creating a powerful organization, indispensable for playing an effective role in this Revolution. Only such an organization would be capable of responding to the suffering cry of the Revolution. And the current appeal from the downtrodden villages is just such a cry of the Revolution. If we had the organization, then we anarchists would be able to respond to this appeal.
"It is painful to dwell on this, but it is extremely necessary. Each of us, comrades, who haven't forgotten the ultimate goal of the Revolution, who haven't lost themselves in nebulous and sterile theories, but who are sincerely searching for the most effective means of elevating and realizing our ideal in the life of the masses – each of us will not cease to protest against disorganization because it represents an immense danger for our movement. But to protest is not sufficient. I say: we must work and work, tirelessly, not stifling in ourselves that uplifting revolutionary spirit, and especially not hindering the revolutionary development of others. With the help of this spirit, the anarchist ideal will generate fresh forces and allow us to create an organization which will get us moving in the right direction."
On to Chapter 10 Struggle against rent
Back to Chapter 8 The workers' strike
Back to Index
Return to The Nestor Makhno Archive
Other pages connected to this site:
Anarchist Groups & Organizations
An Anarchist Reader