Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921 (1947)
Book Two: Bolshevism and Anarchism
The Unknown Anarchist Press in the Russian Revolution
We have quoted earlier some editorials from Golos Truda, organ of the Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda, showing the attitude of that organization toward the taking of power by the Bolsheviki, the peace of Brest-Litovsk, and the Constituent Assembly.
It is proper to supplement these with other quotations, which will give the reader details of the various points of disagreement between the Bolsheviks and the Anarchists, and [will be enlightening] on the position of the latter concerning the problems of the Revolution, and finally, on the very spirit of the two conceptions.
The Anarchist press in Russia during the revolutionary period being practically unknown1 outside of that country, some of these extracts will provide distinct revelations [for many who read them in the following pages].
Golos Truda appeared first on August 11, 1917, five and a half months after the outbreak of the Revolution, and therefore with a long and irreparable delay. Nevertheless the comrades energetically set to work. The task was hard, for the Bolshevik Party already had won over the great majority of the working masses. In comparison to its activity and influence, those of the Propaganda Union and its [new weekly] were of little importance. Slowly and with difficulty the work progressed. There was hardly any place for it in the factories of Petrograd. Everybody there followed the Bolshevik Party, read its papers, saw only its interpretations. No one paid attention to a wholly unknown organiza-tion, to "bizarre" ideas that didn't resemble at all those which were spoken and discussed elsewhere.
However, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Union quickly acquired a certain influence. Soon it began to be listened to. Its meetings rapidly succeeded in creating fairly strong groups in Petrograd itself and its suburbs -- in Kronstadt, Oboukhovo, Kolpin, et cetera. The weekly was successful; its circulation kept increasing, even in the provinces, despite all obstacles.
Under the existing conditions, the principal task of the Union consisted of intensifying its propaganda, to make itself known, and to attract the attention of the laboring masses to its ideas and its attitude toward the other social tendencies. The burden of this task fell mainly on its periodical, oral propaganda then being greatly restricted because of lack of means.
Three periods can be discerned in this organization's very short life: 1. Before the October Revolution; 2. During this second revolution; 3. After it.
In the first period, the Union fought simultaneously against the government of the moment (Kerensky's) and against the danger of a political revolution (toward which everything seemed to converge), and for a new social organization on a Syndicalist and libertarian basis. Each number of Golos Truda contained clear and definite articles on the way in which the Anarcho-Syndicalists conceived the constructive tasks of the Revolution to come. Such, for example, were a series of articles on the role of the factory committees; articles on the tasks of the Soviets, and others on how to resolve the agrarian problem, on the new organization of production, and on exchange.
In several articles -- and especially in its editorials -- the paper explained to the workers in a concrete manner, what the real emancipating Revolution ought to be, according to the Anarcho-Syndicalists.
Thus, in an editorial entitled "The impasses of the Revolution", in its initial issue,2 Golos Truda, after reviewing the development of that revolt and analyzing the crisis through which it passed in August, 1917, declared that it conceived future revolutionary action in a way which did not at all resemble that of the Socialist
writers. The organization for which it spoke, it said, was strongly opposed to the "programs" and "tactics" of the various parties and factions: Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, left Social Revolutionaries, right Social Revolutionaries, et al.
If it had been possible [the editors declared] for us to have raised our voice earlier, at the very beginning of the Revolution, in the first days and weeks of its free start, of its magnificent unfolding, and its ardent, unlimited aspirations, we would have immediately, from those first moments, proposed and defended methods and actions absolutely different from those preconceived by the Socialist parties. We are strongly opposed to the "programs" and "tactics" of all these parties and factions: Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, left Social Revolutionaries, right Social Revolutionaries, et cetera. We would have pointed out other goals for the Revolution. And we would have suggested other tasks for the toiling masses.
The long years of our work abroad were consecrated to propaganda for an entirely different array of ideas on the Social Revolution and its course. Alas, our thought did not penetrate into Russia, separated from other countries by a police barrier. Today our forces are rallying here. And we consider it our first duty, our most sacred task, to take up this work immediately in our own land -- at present the land of freedom . . . We must open new horizons for the laboring masses, must help them in their quest.
Golos Truda saw the Revolution then as temporarily blocked in an impasse, while the Russian masses were at rest, as if plunged in awkward reflection. And there must be action, it contended, so that this reflection would not remain sterile. The halt must be realized in such a way that the new revolutionary wave would find the masses further prepared, more conscious of the goals to be attained, the tasks to be performed, the course to follow. Everything humanly possible must be done so that the coming wave would not dissipate itself again in a start without results.
"From this moment," the editors averred, "we will point out the means of getting out of this impasse -- means of which the whole periodical press, without exception, does not say a single word."
In its second issue,3 the Anarcho-Syndicalist organ asked a timely question:
"We are living in a critical period. The scales of the Revolution are in motion -- now slowly, now convulsively. They will continue this movement for some time. Then they will stop. Will the Russian workers know, in opportune time, while their scales are still oscillating, how to throw on their tray a new idea, a new principle of organization, a new social basis? It is on this that much -- if not all -- of the destiny and result of the Revolution depend."
Confidence in the ability of the country's masses to carry on effectively was voiced in an editorial headed "Questions of the Hour", in the third issue4 of Golos Truda:
We say to the Russian workers, peasants, soldiers, revolutionists: Above all, continue the Revolution. Continue to organize yourselves solidly and to unite your new organizations: your communes, your unions, your committees, your Soviets. Continue -- with firmness and perseverence, always and everywhere -- to participate more and more extensively and more and more effectively, in the economic activity of the country. Continue to take into your hands, that is, into the hands of your organizations, all the raw materials and all the instruments indispensable to your labor. Continue to eliminate private enterprises.
Continue the Revolution! Do not*hesitate to face the solution of all the burning questions of the present. Create everywhere the necessary organizations to achieve those solutions. Peasants, take the land and put it at the disposal of your committees. Workers, proceed to put in the hands of and at the disposal of your own social organizations -- everywhere on the spot -- the mines and the subsoil, the enterprises and establishments of airports, the works and factories, the workshops, and the machines.
Meanwhile the Bolshevik Patty oriented itself more and more toward it coup d'etat. It was fully aware of the revolutionary state of mind of the masses, and hoped to take advantage of it -- that is, to take power.
Criticizing that orientation, the editors of the Anarcho-Syndi-calist periodical commented further on the situation in its third issue. They said that a logical, clear, and simple solution was offered to those for whom they spoke, a solution which arose of itself, and which they had only to utilize, resolutely, boldly.
It is necessary [Golos Truda held] to decide and to pronounce the last word suggested by the very logic of events: We have no need of power. In the place of "power" there are the unified organizations of the toilers -- workers and peasants -- which should became "the masters of life". Supported by the revolutionary formations of soldiers, these organizations should not help someone to "take power" but take directly into their own hands the land and other elements and instruments of labor, establishing everywhere, on the spot, a new social and economic order.
The simple "natives" and the "cowards" would peacefully accept the new situation, the editors continued. The bourgeoisie -- remaining without soldiers and without capital -- naturally would remain without power. And the organizations of the workers, joined together, would put on solid feet, by common agreement, production, transport, and communications, exchange and the distribution of merchandise -- all on new bases, creating for this purpose, in line with actual necessity, the indispensable organizations of co-ordination and centers. Then -- and only then -- would the Revolution have conquered.
Moreover, Golos Truda maintained, while the struggle had the character of a quarrel between the political parties for power, and the laboring masses were dragged into these quarrels and divided by political fetishes, there could be no question either of the victory of the Revolution nor even of a really serious social reconstruction of life. And hope was expressed that the masses, driven by the very exigencies of life, would end by arriving at this solution, the elements of which were already sowed by the objective conditions of the time and the whole existing situation.
"It goes without saying," the editors concluded, "that we do not intend to be prophets. We only foresee a certain possibility, a certain tendency which may not develop. But, in the latter case, the present Revolution will not be the true Great Social Revolution. And then, the solution of the problem -- which we have just sketched out -- will fall to one of the future revolutions."
Finally, on the eve of the October Revolution, an editorial in Golos Truda said:
Either the Revolution will follow its course, and the masses -- after tests, misfortunes, and horrors of all sorts, after errors, delays, collisions, recoveries, new retreats, perhaps even a civil war and
a temporary dictatorship, -- will finally learn to raise their consciousness to a level that will enable them to apply their creative forces to a positive activity of their own autonomous organizations, everywhere, on the spot. Then the safety and the victory of the Revolution will be assured.
Or. the masses will not yet learn to create in the cause of the Revolution their organizations co-ordinated and consecrated to the building of the new life. Then the Revolution will sooner or later be extinguished. For only these organizations are capable of leading it to complete victory.
The attitude of the Union for Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda at the very moment of the October coup d'etat has been sufficiently described in an earlier chapter. Let us recall only that, having expressed their reservations, the Anarchists participated aggressively in that revolution -- wherever it resulted in action by the masses (as in Kronstadt and Moscow) for reasons and for goals specified in the reservations themselves.
After the October Revolution, during the few months of its difficult existence, and though increasingly circumscribed by the Bolshevik government,5 the Anarcho-Syndicalist Union followed from day to day the action of the latter and the march of events. Golos Truda, which appeared daily for three months, explained to the workers all the mistakes, all the misdeeds of the new power, developing, at the same time, its own ideas and indicating the way to apply them, in conformity with its point of view. Such a procedure was not only its right, but incontestably its strictest duty.
In a series of articles6 the Anarcho-Syndicalist organ insisted on the necessity of immediate abandonment of the political methods
of the dictatorship over the masses and allowing the working people freedom of organization and action.
1. From the beginning of the Revolution -- from the month of March -- [that publication commented] the laboring masses should have created everywhere their workers' organizations, class organizations, outside of parties, co-ordinating the action of those organizations and concentrating all of it on the only real goal to be attained: expropriation of all elements indispensable to labor and, finally, to the nation's economic life.
2. The educated, conscious, experienced men, the intellectuals, the specialists, should have, from the first days of the Revolution, preoccupied themselves not with political struggles and slogans, not with the "organization of power", but with that of the Revolution. All these men should have helped the masses in the development and perfecting of their organizations, helped them to employ their vigilance, energy, and activities for the preparation of a real Revolution, both economic and social. No one, at that moment, would have impeded them in this task.
In fact, Golos Truda argued, the peasants and the soldiers were in perfect agreement about this collective duty -- and the real Revolution would have advanced rapidly, by the correct route. It would, from the beginning, the editors declared, have sent its roots down deep, all the more in that the masses themselves, in a spontaneous drive, already had created a network of organizations, and it was only a question of giving this constructive task a certain amount of order and a higher consciousness. If, from the start, the Anarcho-Syndicalist audience was told, all the sincere revolutionists and the whole Socialist press had concentrated their attention, their strength, and their energy on that task, the course of the Revolution would have been different -- but that was precisely what had not been done.
Where Power begins, the Revolution ends, another article in the same periodical pointed out.7 When the "organization of power" began, it asserted, the "organization of the Revolution" ended -- for the expression "revolutionary power" had as much sense as "warm ice" or "cold fire", meaning none at all.
If the Revolution is definitively put on the political road, in
line with the recipe for "the organization of power", [that article continued], we will see what happens: As soon as the first revolutionary victory of the insurgent people (a victory so dearly won, precisely by reason of the same political methods) becomes an established fact, our "second Revolution" will stop. In place of the free and creative revolutionary activity of the masses every, where on the spot -- an activity indispensable for the consolidation and development of this victory -- we shall witness a disgusting "trafficking" around the power at the center, and, finally, an absurd "activity" of the new central "power" -- of a new "government of all the Russias".
The Soviets and the other local organizations will of course be subordinated to the central Soviet and the Government. They will become in fact the authority of the leaders of the [Bolshevik] Party, installed in the center. And in place of a natural and independent union of free cities and a countryside constructing the new economic and social life on their own, we shall see "a strong State center", and "a firm revolutionary power" which will prescribe, order, impose, chastise.
Nothing between those two possibilities was capable of being achieved, Golos Truda avowed -- either it would be like that or the authority would not exist. For (one read) phrases about "local autonomy" in the presence of a vigorous State power had always been, were then, and would be in the future, empty phrases.
But the workers were warned by the Anarcho-Syndicalist spokesmen that if they expected to get from the new power the Social Revolution, Socialism, abolition of the capitalist system, and their own real emancipation, they would be sorely disappointed -- because neither that power nor any other knew how to give all those [advantages] to the laboring masses. Then certain facts were set forth to prove that the Bolsheviki finally would end by degenerating and betraying the Russian people.
This meant, it was pointed out, that from Bolshevism to capitalism the front [facing the working masses] was one continuous, unbroken barrier, a result of the inevitable laws of political struggle.
You will say to us [the editors went on] that you will protest, that you will struggle for your rights, that you will rise up and act everywhere on the spot in full independence. Very well. But be prepared for your activities to be called "arbitrary" and "anarchic"; for the "Socialists in power" to assail you under this pretext, with
all the strength of their "Socialist" authority; and, finally, for opposition from the classes of the population that are satisfied with the new government (classes to which it has given something), as well aS all those who have had enough of the Revolution and who only feel anger and hatred toward you.
In your struggle against Tsarism you had nearly the whole country with you. But in your struggle against Kerensky you already were more isolated.
If now you let the new power consolidate itself (and if events permit it), and if subsequently you have to combat this power, once it has become strong, you will not be more than a handful. They will wipe you out pitilessly as "madmen", as "dangerous fanatics", as "bandits" . . . And they will not even put a stone on your graves.
On the eve of the seizure of the Government by the Bolsheviks, Golos Truda dealt with the situation under the title, From Impasse to Impasse.8 Therein it held that the only way to put the Revolution on the correct and proper course would be to renounce the consolidation of central political power.
"All power is a danger to the Revolution," that editorial set forth. "No power can lead the Revolution to its real goal. Nowhere in the labyrinths of political contrivance can be found the key which will open the promised door of the Temple of Victory."
Help the masses at once, everywhere on the spot, to create their own class organizations outside the parties [so the Anarcho-Syndicalist journal admonished its readers]. Help those organizations to form a harmonious whole, first locally, then regionally, et cetera, by means of Soviets representing such organizations: not authoritarian Soviets, but simply instruments of contact and coordination. Orient these organizations toward the only important goal -- that of their progressively taking over production, exchange, communication, distribution, et cetera. Begin thus, immediately, to organize the social and economic life of the country on new bases. Then a sort of "dictatorship of labor" will begin to be achieved, easily and in a natural manner. And the [people generally] will learn, little by little, to do it. . ..
Socialist and Anarchist methods of action were compared by
Golos Truda in comment headed The Organization of the Revolution.9
The Socialist parties were represented as saying: "To organize the Revolution it is necessary, before anything else, to take power in the State and organize this new power. With the help of it, the [nation's] whole economy also will pass into the hands of the State."
But, in contrast, the Anarchist position was indicated thus: "To organize the Revolution, it is necessary, before anything else, to take over the economy and organize it. By this means, Power and the State (recognized by the Socialists themselves as an 'inevitable' temporary evil) will be eliminated."
To take over the economy (the expansion of Anarchist procedure continued) meant taking possession of agriculture, industry, and exchange. Also it meant having control of all the means and instruments of production, labor, and transportation, the soil and sub-soil, the mines, factories, works, workshops; the stocks and the depots; the stores, the banks; the railways, the stations; the maritime and river transports; and all means of communication -- the postal, telegraph, and telephone systems.
To take power [Golos Truda averred] a political party is needed. For, in fact, it is a party which takes possession of power, in the persons of its leaders. That is why the Socialists incite the masses to organize into a party in order to support them at the moment of struggle for the seizure of power.
To take over the economy a political party is not indispensable. But indispensable to that action are the organizations of the masses, independent organizations remaining outside of all political parties. It is upon these organizations that falls, at the moment of the Revolution, the task of building the new social and economic system.
That is why the Anarchists do not form a political party. They agitate, either directly in the mass organizations or -- as propagandists -- in groups and ideological unions.
Concluding, the Anarcho-Syndicalist paper posed these fundamental questions: "How must one, how can one organize without power? By what rules must one begin? How must one proceed?"
It promised to answer the three queries in a precise and detailed way. And in fact it answered them in several articles which appeared before the periodical's suppression in the spring of 1918.10
The latter part of 1917 was exceedingly hard for the Russian people, for the war continued to exhaust and paralyze the country. More and more tragic did the situation in the interior become.
Golos Truda dealt with the far-flung and grim national scene under the title What Must Be Done? saying:
The conditions of existence of the working masses grow worse from day to day. Poverty increases. Hunger is a permanent guest. Cold is there, but the problems of rent and heating are not solved. A very large number of factories are closing their doors for lack of means, fuel, and raw materials, and frequently the owners are in flight. Russia's railroads are in a lamentable state, and the economy of the country is totally ruined. . . .
A paradoxical situation is created.
At the top is the "workers and peasants'" government, the center invested with all power and possessing the strength to exercise it. The masses wait for solutions from [that regime]. It issues decrees, in which it says very well what the improvements should be, (and what it preconceives is well below the needs of the masses), but to the essential question, how to achieve them, it replies: "The Constituent Assembly!"
At the bottom everything remains as before. The masses groan with hunger -- but the speculation, gain, and disgusting commerce "under the table" continues in fine shape. The masses are impoverished -- but the shops (even the display windows) are filled with garments, meat, vegetables, fruits, and jams . . . And do not doubt that in the city there are a goodly number of objects of prime necessity.
The masses are poor -- but the banks are rich. The masses are thrown into the streets, factories close their doors, and it is impossible to "take in hand" the abandoned enterprises, because of lack of capital, fuel, and raw materials.
The countryside needs the products of the city. The city needs the products of the countryside -- but the situation is such that it is almost impossible to effect the exchange.
Criticizing the weak behavior of the Bolshevik government in the face of this disastrous condition, the Anarcho-Syndicalist organ proposed certain means which seemed to it to be the quickest, simplest, and most effective way of meeting the pressing first problem of the nation.
In several articles (What Must be Done?, Warning, and others) the editors of Golos Truda submitted for consideration by Russia's workers a concrete and detailed program of urgent measures. [This impressive program well deserves tabular listing here. It follows].
- Requisition by the workers' organizations of products of primary necessity and organization of stock piles and depots of distribution -- to ward off famine;
- Creation of people's restaurants;
- Methodical organization of house committees (of tenants), street committees, and district committees, to cope with the insufficiency of lodgings, and at the same time to begin to replace landlords by collectives comprised of occupants -- in other words, immediate and progressive socialization of dwelling places;
- Immediate and progressive requisition by workers' organizations of enterprises abandoned by their owners;
- Immediate organization of public works, to undertake urgently needed repair work in the cities, on the railroads, and elsewhere;
- Immediate confiscation of a part of the funds in the banks, to permit the development of the new collective production;
- Resumption of regular relations between the cities and the countryside;
- Exchange of products between the workers' organizations and the farmers.
- Socialization of the railroads and all the means of communication;
- Requisition and socialization of the mines as rapidly as possible to enable the immediate supplying (through the workers' organizations) of factories, railroads, dwelling houses, et cetera, with raw materials [and fuel].
The Bolshevik government was far from envisaging such measures, for they would have tended, necessarily, to diminish its role, relegate it to a position of secondary importance, speedily
demonstrate its uselessness and finally go beyond it. It could not allow this.
Not wanting to trust the masses with anything, but not feeling itself strong enough yet to attempt anything decisive through political action, that regime let things drag along, confining itself meanwhile to timid and ineffectual economic remedies. Especially did it seek to provide for the most pressing necessities by political police and military procedures: disorderly requisitions, arbitrary and brutal, with the help of detachments of troops stirred up by the leaders (procedures which, among other consequences, had the effect of turning the countryside against the cities and destroying all its interest in the Revolution), repressions, violence, etcetera.
While protesting vehemently against the false course on which the Bolsheviks, according to the Anarchists, were putting the Revolution, and criticizing their system, the Anarchists were the only ones to advocate truly popular, truly Socialist, and at the same time, concrete measures, which would, they declared, orient the Revolution immediately toward the road of the real Social Revolution.
The Bolsheviks naturally paid no attention to them. And the masses, manipulated and subjugated by Bolshevism, could neither hear the anarchists nor take a stand on their own.
In this context, I will cite a complete article from Golos Truda (No. 18, February 13, 1918) devoted to a Bolshevik governmental decree curbing the freedom of the press. The article clearly delineates the position of the two opposed ideologies with reference to a concrete problem.
If one wants to note, from day to day, the facts and events proving incontestably that it is not possible to achieve the true Social Revolution "from above," one could fill dozens of newspaper columns with them . . . But we have other fish to fry at the moment, and we leave this task to the patient future historians of our Revolution. Without doubt they will discover in its archives abundant documentation demonstrating eloquently "how not to wage a revolution."
As for us, we have really had enough of repeating every day, that neither true freedom nor true emancipation of the world of labor, nor 'he true society, nor the new culture -- in short, that no real Socialist value can be achieved by means of a centralized "State apparatus" actuated by political power in the hands of a party. Is it not time to have done with this subject, in the hope that, tomorrow, life itself will make this truth (basically so simple) known with perfect clarity, to all the blind?
However, they are so numerous, these blind men.
Only a few days ago we had in our hands a resolution saying the following: While the Anarchist idea is the best, the most glorious, and the purest of ideas, the moment for its realization has not yet come. It is indispensable first to consolidate the ("Socialist") revolution that has been accomplished. "We are convinced," the resolution concluded, "that Anarchism will come and triumph after Socialism."
Such is the current banal conception of Anarchism!
To the good "citizen" Anarchism is either the bomb and pillage, horror and chaos, or else, in the best case, a beautifuldream, the paradise "after Socialism." For the good "citizen" does not understand Anarchism. He judges it on the basis of rumor. He is so naive, so credulous, the poor thing.
And the authors of the resolution don't understand it any better.
If one represents Anarchism as the attainment of an epoch in which one will live in a land of Cockaigne, then yes, its time has not yet come (and in this sense also, the time for "Socialism" has not yet arrived).
But if (as the authors of that resolution did) one looks on the problem from the point of view of the road toward emancipation, of the very process of the struggle for freedom, then it is absurd to imagine that in taking this road we follow another. Then one has to choose either one or another way.
Anarchism is not only an idea, a goal; it is, before anything else, also a method, a means of struggling for the emancipation of man. And, from this point of view, we maintain clearly, categorically, that the "Socialist" way (that of authoritarian and statist Socialism) cannot achieve the goals of the Social Revolution, cannot lead us to Socialism. Only the Anarchist method is capable of solving that problem.
The essential thesis of Anarchism as a method of struggle, as a way toward true Socialism, is just this: It is impossible to get to Anarchism and to freedom in general "through Socialism" or "after Socialism." It is not "through" Socialism that we may reach it. One cannot achieve Anarchism in any way except by going straight to the goal, by the direct Anarchist road. Otherwise one never will arrive.
It is impossible to achieve freedom by means of State Socialism.
Being supporters of the conquest of Socialism by means of a revolution from above, the "Socialists," in our opinion, have gone astray; they are on a false route. Either they will be forced to turn around and regain the correct route-just, straight, Anarchist -- or they will become involved and involve the whole Revolution in an impasse.
That is what Anarchism maintains. That is why it struggles against "Socialism" today. And that is what life is going to show the blind men presently. . .
We will not mention here all the various facts which have already
reinforced our conviction. But we consider it necessary to concentrate on a single, striking fact.
We have just received a copy of the "Provisional rules concerning (fie manner of editing all printed matter, periodical or not, in Petrograd. "
We have always considered the implacable struggle against the bourgeois press the immediate task of the workers in time of social revolution.
Suppose then for an instant, dear reader, that this Revolution had followed, from its beginning, our Anarchist course; that the workers' and peasants' organizations had grown up and federated themselves into a class organization; that they had taken into their own hands the economic life of the country; and that they had fought, and in their own way, the opposing forces. You will easily understand that the press, as an instrument of the bourgeoisie, would have been fought by these organizations in an essentially different manner from that employed by our "Socialist" government in combating the "bourgeois" press.
In fact, is it the bourgeois press with which these "Provisional Rules" are concerned?
Read Articles 2 to 8 of these "rules" attentively. Read especially the paragraph entitled "Prohibition and Confiscation." You will have tangible proof that, from the first to the last article, these "rules" suppress, not the bourgeois press, but all vestiges of freedom of the press in general. You will see that it is a typical act, establishing the most rigorous censorship for all publications which have the misfortune of displeasing the Government, whatever their nature. You will discern that this act sets up a multitude of formalities and impediments that are absolutely useless.
We are convinced that the real Revolution of the workers would fight the bourgeois press with other methods. We are convinced that the true militants and men of action of the real Social Revolution would never have recourse to a censorship law: a banal, typically bureaucratic and authoritarian law; a law seeking to protect the existing government against all kinds of criticism or opposition, whether it comes from the right or the left; a law, finally, which introduces a whole series of superfluous and barbaric brakes, impediments, and obstacles from the point of view of freedom of expression.
We've said more than once that every path has its peculiarities. Glory to the gods! the "peculiarity" in question only affects Petro-grad so far. We hope that the revolutionary masses of the rest of the country are more awake than our decadent capital, and that they render futile the application of these "Provisional Rules" in the provinces.
We also hope that these provisional "rules" don't become definitive.
The Anarchists supposed that, the printing houses and all the means of application having been taken directly into the hands of the workers' organizations, the latter would refuse -- which would
have been simple and healthy -- to print and publish counterrevolutionary writings. Thus, as in other fields, no political (gov-ermental, police, et cetera) action would be felt necessary and no censorship would develop.
It [seems almost] unnecessary to state that the "rules" in question were speedily extended to the whole country, and later served as the basis for laws dealing with the press which completely suppressed all non-governmental (non-Bolshevik) publications.
In the article headed The Immediate Tasks, the Anarcho-Syndicalist periodical offered detailed suggestions on the matter of solving various current problems. Its essential chapters included: Organization of Rationing, How to Resolve the Housing Question, Factories and Works, The Banks, The City and the Country, Raw Materials and Fuel, Transportation, and Public Works.
Naturally several articles were devoted to the peasant problem11 by Golos Truda, as well as numerous editorials concerning the workers' problem.12
To conclude these examples of published comment let me, as a curiosity, quote from an article in the same organ entitled Lenin and Anarchism.13 Thus:
The "Socialists", swollen with sentiments of order, prudence, and circumspection, reproach Citizen Lenin constantly for his leanings towards Anarchism.
The replies of Citizen Lenin reduce themselves, every time, to the same formula: "Be patient. I am not yet altogether anarchistic."
The Anarchists attack Citizen Lenin because of his weakness for Marxist dogma. The replies of Citizen Lenin reduce themselves, every time, to the same formula: "Be patient, I am no longer
altogether a Marxist."
We wish to say, finally, to all those who may be disturbed in their minds about this: Do not be disturbed. Don't expect anything. Citizen Lenin is not at all an Anarchist.
And after a short analysis of Lenin's position in relation to the Revolution, the article goes on to state that he is right when he says: "We reject parliamentarianism, the Constituent Assembly, et cetera, because the Revolution has given rise to the Soviets." Yes, Golos Truda agrees, the Revolution gave rise, not only to the Soviets, but in general to a just and healthy tendency toward a class organization, outside of parties, a-political, non-statist -- and the welfare of the Revolution is wholly bound up with this tendency.
Citizen Lenin would be right [the Anarcho-Syndicalist journal continues] if he had recognized a long time ago, in the dawn of his youth, that the true Revolution should take precisely this course. But alas, at that time, he was a "pure Marxist".
And now? Oh, of course, the tendencies, more and more consciously Anarchist, of the masses, bother him. Already the attitude of the masses has forced Citizen Lenin to turn back to the old road. He is in the process of yielding, of bending. He was only going to keep "the State", "authority", "the dictatorship", for an hour, for a little minute, for "the transitional moment". And afterward? Afterward, there would be Anarchism, almost-Anarchism, "Soviet Anarchism", "Leninist Anarchism".
And the Marxists, filled with the spirit of method, wisdom, and mistrust, exclaimed in horror: "You see? You hear? You understand? It's terrible. Is this Marxism? Is this Socialism?"
But, great gods! Coudn't you foresee, Citizen Socialists, what Citizen Lenin would say when his power was consolidated and it became possible for him no longer to have to pay attention to the voice of the masses?
He then returned to his usual beaten path. He created a "Marxist State" of the most authentic kind. And at the solemn hour of complete victory, he will say to you: "You see, gentlemen, I am again a complete Marxist."
There remains a single question, the principal one: Will not the masses become, before that happy hour, "entirely Anarchist", and prevent Citizen Lenin from returning to complete Marxism?
I regret that I am unable to quote here several other texts from Golos Truda, from Anarchy (of Moscow), and from Nabat (of the Ukraine). For I do not have the necessary copies at hand,
and under the conditions existing at this writing I cannot procure them. I can assure you, however, that, except for a few details and shades, the contents of all the serious libertarian periodicals in Russia in that period were [substantially] the same. And what has been quoted in the foregoing pages should suffice to give the reader a clear idea of the theses, the position, and the activity of the Anarchists [in Russia] during the Revolution.
It is fitting to add that the Anarchist Confederation of the Ukraine (Nabat), later suppressed by the Bolshevik power, organized, at Kursk and at Elizabethgrad, in November, 1918, and April, 1919, respectively, two congresses which accomplished considerable constructive work. They drew up a plan for libertarian action for the whole Ukraine, and their resolutions offered studious solutions for various burning problems of the hour.
The period between October, 1917, and the end of 1918 was significant and decisive. It was in the course of those months that the fate of the Revolution was decided. For a certain time, it oscillated between the two ideas and the two courses. A few months afterward, the die was cast -- and the Bolshevik regime succeeded in establishing definitely its military, police, bureaucratic, and capitalist (new model) State.
The libertarian idea, which more and more ran counter to it, was stifled.
And as for the vast laboring masses, they had neither enough strength nor enough consciousness to be able to say the decisive word. «
1 Voline's text in French reads "totally unknown outside of Russia". The word totally has been changed to practically above because some copies of Russian Anarchist publications did reach Russian 6migr£s in the United States in that period, having been smuggled in by emissaries of the underground. Particularly, specimens of such literature found their way to the headquarters of the Union of Russian Workers in New York City.
2 August 11, 1917.
3 Golos Truda, August 18, 1917.
4 August 25, 1917.
5 To give an idea of the way in which the Government acted during these few months let us cite certain of its practices. Master of electric current, it cut off, nearly every morning around 3 o'clock, the line that fed the Union's printing shop. The current returned around 5 or 6 o'clock (or did not return at all). Thus the paper could not appear until 9 or 10 o'clock, when all employed persons being at work, no one could buy it. Also, the newsboys were jostled, chased, and sometimes arrested on false pretexts. At the Post Office up to 50 per cent, of the copies of Golos Truda were deliberately "lost". In short, it was necessary to struggle constantly against sabotage by the Bolshevik authorities.
6 Those articles in Golos Truda were: And Afterward?, October 27, 1917; The Second Revolution, November 3/16; and The Declaration and Life, November 4/17.
7 The New Power, in Golos Truda, November 4/17, 1917.
8 No. 15, November 6/19, 1917.
9 No. 16, November 7/20, 1917.
10 Golos Truda, No. 19, November 18/December 1, 1917. Other notable articles or editorials in that publication which deserve mention here are The War, The Famine, and The Last Stage, in No. 17, November 8/21, 1917; Warning, in No. 20, and The Immediate Tasks, in No 21.
11 The Peasant Job, in No. 22, and others.
12; The Workers' Course, in No. 7 of the daily Golos Truda; The Workers' Task, in No. 11; The Workers' Congress (no date nor serial number given), and others.
13 Golos Truda, No. 5, December 19, 1917/January 1, 1918.