Eighty years ago: the death of Nestor Makhno

From On This Deity:

Today we recall the Ukrainian revolutionary leader, Nestor Makhno, who died seventy-seven years ago on this day in poverty, illness and oblivion. Fellow exiles who had watched Makhno drink and cough himself to death in the slums of Paris could scarcely believe the tragic fate that had befallen the legendary “Little Father” of Ukraine who, just fifteen years earlier, had been one of the most heroic, glamorous and indefatigable figures of the Russian civil war and the inciter of one of the few historic examples of a living anarchist society. As the leader of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, this self-educated peasant-born military genius had waged wildly creative guerrilla war against native tyrants, foreign interlopers and counter-revolutionaries. On behalf of what was always an uneasy alliance with the Red Army, Makhno’s forces had twice immobilised the seemingly unstoppable White advance in South Russia; indeed, so decisive were these against-all-odds victories that the Bolsheviks might never have won the civil war and consolidated power but for Makhno and his insurgent peasants. As the instigator, military protector and namesake of Ukraine’s simultaneous anarchist revolution – the Makhnovshchina – few have come closer than Nestor Makhno to establishing an anarchist nation. For nearly a year between 1919 and 1920, some 400 square miles of Ukraine was reorganised into an autonomous region known as the “Free Territory” in which farms and factories were collectively run and goods traded directly with collectives elsewhere. In his heyday, Nestor Makhno was an unmitigated living legend and folk hero – a real-life Robin Hood and proto-Che. But by the time of his death at the age of forty-six, so comprehensively dragged through the filthiest, shittiest mud was the name of this once unassailable revolutionary that it has yet to fully recover. So what happened? (more…)

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From the archive of struggle no.48

“I am not a champion of lost causes, but of causes not yet won.” – Norman Thomas

Norman Thomas: a vignette

This vignette of Norman Thomas appeared on Wikipedia, although unfortunately it is not encyclopedic and so has no place there. So, for the sake of posterity, and without any claim about its authenticity, I paste it here:

Norman Thomas was a family friend, I saw him every year in my youth at my godfather’s Christmas Party in NYC. In 1953 I wasn’t there and he asked my mother where I was. It was a formal time, she said Jonathan has matriculated at Princeton. He said “you know, Mrs. Murphy, I’m a Socialist – but I’m awfully glad I went to Princeton”. At another time he said that he had never changed his views, and that many of the things he advocated were in Mr. Eisenhauer’s platform.

Finally, may I add, that I sang with the Princeton Tigertones for his Fiftieth Princeton Reunion in 1955. There were but a couple of dozen of them there, but all shed a tear as we sang the old college songs of their time. Our eyes got a bit damp also. At my Fiftieth we had nearly 300, and that reflects the change of life span that has come about since his graduation – and that is in part because of men like him who dedicated themselves to promoting justice.

Mr. Thomas was a gentleman of convictions, and consistency. This writer is a conservative who doesn’t agree with all the views of Mr. Thomas – but who has the greatest respect for the man. He sought justice for all as a principle, he had no personal agenda for power. I often picture that gentle man in my thoughts, even though I’m in opposition to his politics. We shared a goal, but differed on the means to it – I wish he were here now so I could argue with him (gently), I was too young do do so when I knew him.

Snippets:

*Mark Twain on the French revolution (1898)

*Eugene Debs on immigration (1910)

*Mark Ruffalo channels Eugene Debs on war.

*May Day Song and Dance – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1939)

New publications on radical history:

Under the Blows of the Counterrevolution by Nestor Ivanovich Makhno (Black Cat Press):

Nestor Makhno (1888-1934) was a peasant anarcho-communist who organized an experiment in anarchist values in practice in southeast Ukraine during the Russian Revolution and Civil War.
This is the second volume of his memoirs, originally published in France in 1936 and published in English here for the first time.

Under the Blows of the Counterrevolution describes Makhno’s odyssey through revolutionary Russia in the spring of 1918. Driven from his Ukrainian village by a German invasion, he wandered through a nation torn by civil war, encountered various remarkable personalities, and survived hair-raising adventures.
This volume has interested historians mainly because of Makhno’s account of his interview with Lenin, but it also contains much valuable eye-witness information about a period of Soviet history which was later almost completely rewritten in officially sanctioned accounts.
The book (214 pp.) includes the original preface and notes by Makno’s sometime colleague Vsevolod Volin together with photos, maps, glossary, explanatory notes, appendix, etc. English translation and editing by Malcolm Archibald..

Avtonom #31:

A Russian libertarian communist journal. From the English summary:

Page 56: Notes without a celebration. Pyotr Ryabov commemorates KAS (Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists) in occasion of 20th anniversary of the important but short-lived organisation, which once united vast majority
of all anarchists in the former Soviet Union.
Page 60: Thimbles of the history. Interview of historician Valery Stolov on controversial presidential commission against “falsification of history”, which echoes Soviet-era politics of politicization of historical science.

The Tragic Procession: Alexander Berkman and Russian Prisoner Aid:

Newish from the Kate Sharpley Library, and reviewed here.

Karl Marx: a Bibliographic and Political Biography:

Frank Thomas Walker’s magnum opus finally published. (H/t Snowball.) Excerpt 2, tantalisingly, is on Bakunin.

From the archive of struggle:

Nestor Makhno archive:

A major rehaul, with new texts in Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English, French, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian. English highlights:
*Vyacheslav Azarov: The Kronstadt Revolt – the Gulyai-Pole Connection
*Emma Goldman: Living my life (extracts)
*Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit: The Makhno Movement and Opposition within the Party
*Workers Solidarity: Leah Feldman
*Nick Heath: Piotr Arshinov; 1921: The Maslakov mutiny and the Makhnovists on the Don; Kobets: The Makhnovist playwright.
*Leon Trotsky: Secret Order No.96/s

Robert Graham:

*Errico Malatesta: Anarchy (1891)/Part II.

Anarkismo:

*Black Flag/El Compita (1982): El Movimiento Anarquista en Corea
[ALSO READ THIS INTERVIEW ON THE STORY OF ANARCHISM IN KOREA]

Nestor Makhno at 121

Nestor Makhno was born today in 1888.

Nestor Makhno

In office
January 5, 1919 – August 28, 1921

Born October 26 (November 8), 1888
Flag of Russia.svg Huliaipole, Russian Empire (today Ukraine)
Died July 6, 1934
Flag of France.svg Paris, France
Nationality Black flag.svg Free Territory
Political party Anarchist communism
Spouse(s) Agafya Kuzmenko
Children Yelena
Occupation Anarcho-communist revolutionary, painter, stagehand
Religion Atheist

For further reading, go to the Nestor Makhno Archive, and also the Kate Sharpley Library:

Anarchist histories

Anarchist histories from Ian Bone. (Plus, below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle no.34, anarchist special, and some new books from AK Press.)

FELICIA BROWNE – ONLY PHOTO OF SPANISH CIVIL WAR FIGHTER

img059.jpg picture by sidstreet

KRONSTADT VIDEO

SPANISH ANARCHISTS SHOULD HAVE ELIMINATED COMMUNISTS IN JULY 1936

Ethel MacDonald writing from Barcelona.

ANARCHIST MEDALS

One for Leah Feldman.

MALATESTA FILM 1970?

(more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.25: The anarchist library

From Paul Stott’s site, I have found a new website, the Anarchist Library, which aspires to be “the largest resource on the web for downloadable Anarchist books and publications”, quite an ambition given how many resources there are of this nature already out there. The archive, however, is just a couple of weeks old, and already it has loads in it. My pick after the fold, with particular highlights in bold. (more…)

Archive special

From the archive of struggle, no.19. Non-anoraks, skip this post, and go to this one, on Obama’s taste in reading and an alternative to the Richard and Judy book club, or this one,  on early jazz and recent fado, or this one, on how blogging has re-invigorated radical history.

Steve Cohen

First of all, ArchivesHub last month highlighted the Greater Manchester Collection of Steve Cohen, lawyer and anti deportation campaigner, 1975-1996. Go here for the website, which includes links to selected websites and some excellent suggested reading.. For background on Steve Cohen, check Engage/Bob.
Image of a demo rally poster Image of a campaign poster Image of an anti deportation campaign poster

The rest

Marxist Internet Archive:

  • Added to the J. T. Murphy Archive: The Communist Party of Great Britain (1943) and The Last Great Split in World Communism (1948) [Poumista: Latter is particularly recommended. Murphy played a part in the 1926 expulsion of Trotsky from the Communist International, was expelled himself in 1932 for challenging its disasterous ultra-left Third Period politics, and reflects here on these two expulsions and on Tito’s. By the way,  Murphy’s wikipedia page badly needs editing!]
  • Added to the Rudolf Hilferding Archive: State Capitalism or Totalitarian State Economy 1940 [Poumista: This piece is also important, as a key intervention in the debate about the character of the Soviet Union. Hilferding wrote it as the Nazis boot was stamping on the face of France, not long before he was handed by the Vichy French to the Gestapo, who would murder him and take his wife Rose to Auschwitz, where she perished. His characterisation of the Stalinist system as totalitarian has considerable force.]
  • Added to the Brian Pearce Archive: Rank-and-file Movements of the Thirties, 15 November 1958 (Constant Reader) [Poumista: Pearce is another important, neglected character. Like EP Thompson, he was part of the Communist Party Historians Group, but re-thought Stalinism in the wake of Russia’s counter-revolution crushing of the Hungarian revolution 1956, getting himself expelled in 1957. A close associate of Peter Fryer, he passed with him through the orbit of Gerry Healey. This piece, I think, dates from his time with Healey’s Club, and is an important contribution to the 1950s’ revisioning of Anglo-Stalinist and labour history.]

[Beneath the fold: Spanish anarchist histories, and more besides] (more…)

Ashes, teabags, etcb

Leon Trotsky’s ashes stolen and baked into cookies.* Will as George Orwell, part 2. The battle of ideas in Cuba. Nestor Makhno and the Anarchist Black Cross. Maps on EP Thompson on William Morris. And on the last days of Max Jacobs (a propos of fascist desecrations at Drancy).Tony Allen at Speaker’s Corner. Theodore Dalrymple on the word “so”.

*UPDATE from Roland.