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

Book Two: Bolshevism and Anarchism


The Discharge

In the spring of 1918 persecutions of the Anarchists by the Russian "Communist" government began in a general, systematic, and decisive way. The peace of Brest-Litovsk concluded, the Lenin regime felt itself sufficiently solid to undertake a fundamental struggle against its adversaries "on the left" -- the left Social Revolutionaries and the Anarchists.

It had to act methodically and prudently. .

At first the Communist press, on orders from the Government, started a campaign of slander and false accusations against the Anarchists, growing more violent from day to day. At the same time, they actively prepared the ground in the factories, in the Army, and among the public, through meetings and lectures. Everywhere they sounded the spirit of the public. Soon the regime was certain that it could rely on its troops, and that the masses would remain more or less indifferent or powerless [in the face of drastic action against the leftist opposition].

Then, on the night of April 12, under a false and absurd pretext, [the quarters of] all the Anarchist organizations in Moscow -- and principally those of the Federation of Anarchist Groups in that city -- were attacked and sacked by troops and the police force. For several hours the capital took on the appearance of a city in a state of siege. Even artillery took part in the "action".

This operation served as a signal for the sacking of the libera-tarian organizations in nearly all the important cities of Russia. And as always the provincial authorities exceeded in zeal those in the capital.

Leon Trotsky, who for two weeks had prepared the blow, and who had carried out in person, among the regiments, an unbridled agitation against the "anarcho-bandits", had the satisfaction of being able to make his famous declaration: "At last the Soviet government, with an iron broom, has rid Russia of Anarchism."

Eternal and cruel irony of human history: Fifteen years afterward Josef Stalin used the same formula and applied the same "iron broom" against Trotskyism, to the great indignation of Trotsky.

I confess that I have felt some sentiment of satisfaction about this act of poetic justice.1

That first aggression, however, was only a timid beginning, a "sketch", a try-out.

The idea of Anarchism was not yet declared outside of the law. And it is true that a certain freedom of speech, and of the press, or rather, of the profession of faith, though very restricted, still remained possible. In a relative measure the libertarian organizations -- pale shadows of the past -- survived the "catastrophe" and resumed their activity.

Meanwhile the Bolshevik Party crushed the Social Revolutionary Party (as well as other leftist factions, the "Maximalists", et al). Wb will not concern ourselves much with this -- these struggles having had neither the same scope nor the same interest as that directed against the Anarchists. One might consider the duel between the left Social Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviki as a conflict between two political parties over the taking of power, which has only moderate interest for us.

We must mention, however, that, after having got rid, from the Government itself, of several members of the S.R. Party, the Communist Party made war on it without mercy. And by the end of the summer of 1918 the left Social Revolutionaries found themselves in the position of outlaws. Soon they disappeared as a party. Then, individually, their militants were tracked down all over the country and suppressed to the last man.

The tragic fate of the unfortunate Maria Spiridonova spells one of the most terrifying pages of this inhuman repression. Arrested, dragged from prison to prison, tortured mentally and perhaps physically, her days were ended in some filthy cell, if not in a cellar, by the bullets of the Cheka. (I lack precise knowledge about her death). And how many other militants of that party, whose only crime was to conceive differently the tasks and the course of the Revolution, had to undergo a like fate!


1 These lines were written before the assassination of Trotsky.