The Military Writings of Leon Trotsky 

Volume 2: 1919 - How The Revolution Armed - The Southern Front: Denikin's Offensive

Makhno and Others 

According to report, Makhno shot the so-called 'ataman' Grigoriyev when they met. The reason was that Grigoriyev was acting in collusion with counter-revolutionaries - not only the Petlyurists but the Denikinites as well. This report has still to be confirmed: the most fantastic rumours are spread by the rebel groups and bands, and what they say needs to be checked ten times before being believed.

However, let us assume that this report is confirmed. What does it mean?

Makhno became convinced that Grigoriyev was nothing but a dirty, hired counter-revolutionary bandit, and so Makhno decided to put an end to Grigoriyev. Not one honest person will want to argue or express regret on that score: after the killing of Grigoriyev there is one scoundrel fewer in the world, and that's all there is to it. Well, but what about Makhno himself, many people will ask? Does he intend to do anything further?

For a time, Grigoriyev was caught up in the workers' and peasants' revolution and swam with the current. Then he came out against the revolution, because he was unwilling to submit to the discipline of the Workers' and Peasants' Ukraine. Grigoriyev led his band against the Red Army. But then his complete impotence was exposed. Grigoriyev was beaten in battle and his band broke up, part of it surrendering and part taking refuge in the woods. When he saw how helpless he was, Grigoriyev started to look for someone to lean on, someone to unite with, so as to become stronger. In the Ukraine, as in all Russia, there are now only two forces: the revolutionary organisation of the workers and peasants, united by the Soviet power, on the one hand, and, on the other, the landlord-bourgeois organisation headed by Kolchak and Denikin. Whoever hesitates between these two camps is insignificant and powerless.

Having broken with the Soviet camp, Grigoriyev inevitably began to seek links with Denikin's camp.

This frightened Makhno. He does not want to unite with the counter-revolutionaries but, like Grigoriyev, Makhno has also broken with the camp of the revolution. He broke out of the ranks of the Red Army, violated its discipline, caused it immeasurable harm, and is now engaged in building some sort of force of his own.

This merely shows that Makhno cannot put two and two together. If he understood the banefulness of Grigoriyevism, he should also understand the fatal nature of Makhnovism. For these are only different rungs in one and the same ladder, which leads down into the abyss.

Among the rebel atamans and batkos there are two categories of people: there are bandits, rogues, venal careerists, but there are also honest men who are unable to put two and two together.

Grigoriyev harmed the Red Army out of careerism, greed and venality. It is quite possible that Makhno is innocent of all those sins, but he too has done frightful harm to the Red Army, for he acted in accordance with the false Anarchist-rebel programme. And Makhnovism is still today a poison which has infected backward units of the Ukrainian army. By killing Grigoriyev Makhno has, perhaps, appeased his conscience, but he has not atoned thereby for his crimes against the Workers' and Peasants Ukraine. If Makhno and other guerrillas really want to leave the road of Grigoriyevism, to become regenerated and take up the defence of the revolution, there is only one way - to declare openly that they renounce, once and for all, disorganisation, atamanism and wilfulness, and place their forces, as disciplined soldiers, wholly and absolutely at the disposal of the workers' and peasants' power in the Ukraine.

Leon Trotsky
August 4th 1919
Lubny station*
'En Route', No. 75

[*Lubny is west of Romodan, on the line to Kiev.] 

Source: Trotsky Internet Archive

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