Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921 (1947)

Book Two: Bolshevism and Anarchism


The Anarchist Organizations

Participation of the Anarchists in the Revolution was not confined to combatant activity. They also endeavored to spread among the working masses their ideas about the immediate and progressive construction of a non-authoritarian society, as an indispensable condition for achieving the desired result. To accomplish this task, they created their libertarian organizations, set forth their principles in full, put them into practice as much as possible, and published and circulated their periodicals and literature.

We shall mention some of the most active Anarchist organizations at that time:

1. The Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda, which bore the name of Golos Truda, meaning The Voice of Labor. It had as its object the dissemination of Anarcho-Syndicalist ideas among the workers. This activity was carried on at first in Petrograd from the summer of 1917 to the spring of 1918, and later, for some time, in Moscow. That organization's paper, also called Golos Truda, began as a weekly and subsequently became a daily. And the organization also founded an Anarcho-Syndicalist publishing house.

Immediately upon taking power, the Bolsheviks set about impeding, in all ways, this activity in general and the appearance of that journal in particular. And finally, in 1918-19 the "Communist" government Uquidated the Propaganda Union organization completely, and afterward the publishing house also. All the members were either imprisoned or exiled.

2. The Federation of Anarchist Groups of Moscow. -- This was a relatively large organization, which in 1917-18 carried on intensive propaganda in Moscow and the provinces. It published a daily paper, Anarchy, of Anarcho-Communist tendencies, and it, too, established a libertarian publishing house. And it was sacked by the "Soviet" government in April, 1918, though some remains of that movement survived until 1921, when the last traces of the former Federation were "liquidated" and the last of its militants "suppressed".

3. The Nabat Confederation of Anarchist Organizations of the Ukraine.1 -- This important organization was created at the end of 1918 in Ukrainia, where at this time the Bolsheviks had not yet managed to impose their dictatorship. It distinguished itself everywhere by positive, concrete activity, proclaimed the necessity for an immediate and direct struggle for non-authoritarian forms of social structure, and worked to elaborate the practical elements.

Playing a significant role with its agitation and extremely energetic propaganda, the Confederation aided greatly in the spreading of libertarian ideas in the Ukraine. Its principal paper was Nabat. It strove to create a unified Anarchist movement (based, theoretically, on a sort of Anarchist "synthesis") and to rally all the active Anarchist forces in Russia, without regard for [specific] tendency, into a general organization. And it did unify nearly all of the Anarchist groups in the Ukraine, incorporated some groups in Great Russia -- and tried to found a Pan-Russian Anarchist Confederation.

Also, developing its activity in the central coal-mining region, the Confederation entered into close relations with the movement of revolutionary partisans, peasants, and city workers, and with the nucleus of this movement, the Makhnovtchina. It took active part in the fighting against all forms of reaction: against the hetman Skoropadsky,2 against Petlura, Denikin, Grigoriev, Wrangel, and others. In these struggles it lost nearly all of its best militants.

Naturally it attracted the wrath of the "Communist" power, but under the conditions existing in the Ukraine it was able to resist repeated attacks [from that direction]. Its final and complete liquidation by the Bolshevik authorities took place at the end of 1920, several of its militants being shot without even the semblance of a trial.

Apart from these three organizations of fairly large scope and of more or less widespread activity, there existed others of lesser importance. Almost everywhere in Russia, in 1917 and 1918, there arose Anarchist groups, movements, and tendencies, generally of slight import and ephemeral, but in places quite active -- some independent, others in co-operation with one of the three organizations cited above.

Despite some divergencies in principle and tactics, all these movements were in agreement on fundamentals, and performed, to the limit of their strength and opportunities, their duty to the Revolution and to Anarchism, and sowed among the laboring masses the seed of a really new social organization -- anti-authoritarian and federalist.

All eventually met with the same fate: brutal suppression by the "Soviet" authority.


1 Nabat in Russian means Tocsin, or Alarm.

2 In past centuries hetman was the title of the elected leader of the independent Ukraine. Installed in power by the Germans, Skoropadsky appropriated this title.