Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921 (1947)
Struggle for the Real Social Revolution
Third and Last War of the Bolsheviks Against the Makhnovists and Anarchists;
Defeat of the Insurrectionary Army
Thus began the third and last war of the Bolsheviks against the Makhnovists, the Anarchists and the labouring masses of the Ukraine, a war which ended, after nine months of unequal and implacable struggle -- with the military destruction of the free movement. Once again, brute force, based on deception and imposture, triumphed.
Naturally, the Bolshevik government was not slow to give explanations for its treachery. It pretended that the Makhnovists and the Anarchists were in the process of preparing a conspiracy and a vast insurrection against the Soviet government; it accused Makhno of having refused to go to the Caucasian front and of having started to levy troops from among the peasants in order to form an army against the Soviet authorities; it stated that instead of fighting Wrangel in the Crimea, the Makhnovists had been sniping at the rear-guard of the Red Army, etc.
It goes without saying that all these excuses were entirely untrue. But by repeating them, in the face of the forced silence of the Makhnovists and Anarchists, the Bolsheviks managed to make many people believe them, both abroad and in Russia.
There are several circumstances which make it possible for us to establish the truth [about this situation]:
1. On November 23rd, 1920, the Makhnovists arrested at Pologui and Gulai-Polya nine Bolshevik spies belonging to the 42nd Sharpshooters' Division of the Red Army, who confessed to having been sent to Gulai-Polya by the chief of the counterespionage service to obtain information about the location of the houses of Makhno, the members of his staff, the commanders of the Insurrectionary Army and the members of the council. After this, they were supposed to remain in Gulai-Polya to await the
arrival of the Red Army and then point out where the persons in question were to be found. In case the unexpected arrival of the Red Army forced these persons to flee into hiding these spies were supposed to shadow and not lose sight of them. The spies declared that there was going to be an attack on Gulai-Polya by November 24th or 25th.
The Council of the Revolutionary Insurgents and the commander of the army then sent to Rakovsky, at this time president of the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukraine, and also the Revolutionary Military Council of Kharkov, a detailed communication about this plot, demanding: I. The immediate arrest and arraignment before the Council of War of the chief of the 42nd Division and other persons involved in the plot; II. The prohibition of Red units travelling through Gulai-Polya. Pologui, Malaia-Tokmatchka and Turkenovka, in order to forestall any unpleasant incident.
The response of the Kharkov government was as follows: "The pretended 'plot' is only a simple misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the Soviet authorities, desirous of clearing up the matter, are putting it in the hands of a special commission and propose that the staff of the Makhnovist army delegate two members to take part in the work of this commission." This reply was sent by direct wire to Gulai-Polya from Kharkov on November 25.
The next morning, P. Rybin, secretary of the Council of Revolutionary Insurgents, again discussed this question and all the disputed points with Kharkov by direct wire. The Bolshevik authorities at Kharkov assured him that the affair of the 42nd Division would certainly be resolved to the complete satisfaction of the Makhnovists, and also added that the Fourth Clause of the political agreement was also about to be settled amicably, in a satisfactory manner.
This conversation with Rybin took place at 9 a.m. on November 26. But six hours earlier, in the middle of the night, the Makhnovist representatives at Kharkov had been seized, as well as all the Anarchists who were at Kharkov and elsewhere [in the Ukraine]. And exactly two hours after Rybin's conversation by direct wire, Gulai-Polya was surrounded on all sides by Red troops and subjected to a furious bombardment. On the same day and at the same hour, the Makhnovist army in the Crimea was
attacked. There the Bolsheviks succeeded by a ruse in capturing all members of the staff of that army, as well as its commander Simon Karetnik, and put them to death without exception.
2. Since I was at Kharkov with the representatives of the Makhnovist army and knew nothing of what was being plotted against us, I was delegated, on November 25, to see Rakovsky and learn directly from him what exactly was being done about the Fourth Clause of the agreement. Rakovsky received me very cordially, and invited me into his office. Sitting in a handsome armchair, and nonchalantly playing with an elegant paper knife, he assured me, smilingly, that the discussions between Kharkov and Moscow on the subject of the Fourth Clause were alrrfost finished, that there was every reason to expect a satisfactory solution and that it would be a question of only a few days. But at the very moment when he was talking to me in this manner, the order to start the attack on the Anarchists and Makhnovists was in the drawer of the desk before which we sat.
The same evening, I gave a lecture on Anarchism at the Agricultural Institute at Kharkov. The hall was filled to capacity and the lecture ended very late, around 1 a.m. Returning home, I worked a little on an article for our newspaper, and went to bed about 2.30. I was hardly asleep when I was awakened by an ominous hubbub; shots, the clanking of weapons, the noise of boots on the stairs, knocking on doors, shouts and curses. I understood. I had only time to get dressed. Someone knocked furiously at the door of my room. "Open or we'll break down the door." As soon as the bolt was drawn, I was brutally seized, carried off and thrown into a cellar in which there were already several dozen of us. The Fourth Clause thus found a satisfactory solution.
3. On November 27th, the day after the attack on Gulai-Polya, the Makhnovists found on the Red Army prisoners whom they captured undated proclamations entitled Forward Against Makhno! and Death to Makhnovism! and published by the political section of the Fourth Army. The prisoners said they had received these proclamations on the 15th and 16th of the month. They contained a call to action against Makhno, who was accused of having violated the clauses of the political and military agreement, of having refused to go to the Caucasian front, of having planned an uprising against the Soviet power, etc. This proved that all these accusations were fabricated and sent to the press even while the Insurrectionary Army was still in the process of beating a path across the Crimea and occupying Simferopol and while the Makhnovist representatives were peacefully working with the Soviet authorities at Kharkov and elsewhere.
4. During the months of October and November, 1920, i.e. while the military and political agreement between the Makhnovists and Bolsheviks was being negotiated and after it had just been completed, two Bolshevik plots to assassinate Makhno were uncovered by the Makhnovists.
[From all the facts that I have just recorded] it is evident that this vast operation [of the attack on Makhno] had to be carefully prepared and that its elaboration required at least two weeks. It was a question not merely of a simple treacherous assault on the Makhnovists, but of a meticulous scheme which was elaborated in all its details. The Bolsheviks even devised tricks to put the Makhnovists' vigilance to sleep, to lull them with false allegations of security, with lying promises, etc.
Such are the facts concerning the breaking of the pact between the Makhnovists and the Soviet Power. They are confirmed by certain documents of Soviet origin, e.g., the order which was issued by Frunze, at the time commander of the Southern Front. This document suffices to demonstrate the treachery of the Bolsheviks and reduce to nothing all their lies and subterfuge.
"Order to Comrade Makhno, Commander of the Insurrectionary Army. Copies to Commanders of the armies on the Southern Front. No. 00149. Issued at General Headquarters, Melitopol, November 23, 1920.
"By reason of the cessation of hostilities against Wrangel and his complete defeat, the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front considers that the task of the partisan army is completed. It therefore proposes to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Insurrectionary Army that it immediately begin transforming the insurrectionary partisan units into regular military units of the Red Army.
"There is no more reason for the Insurrectionary Army to continue as such. On the contrary, the existence, alongside of the
Red Army, of these units with a special organisation, pursuing special tasks, produces absolutely unacceptable results.1
"That is why the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southern Front orders the Revolutionary Military Council of the Insurrectionary Army to do the following:
1. All units of the Insurrectionary Array formations at present in the Crimea should be immediately incorporated into the Fourth Soviet Army. The Revolutionary Military Council should take charge of this transfer.
2. The military formations at Gulai-Polya should be liquidated. The combatants will be distributed among the reserve detachments, according to the instructions of the commander of that part of the army.
3. The Revolutionary Military Council of the Insurrectionary Army shall take all necessary measures to explain to the combatants the need for this transformation.
Signed: M. Frunze, commander-in-chief of the Southern Front; Smilga, Member of the Revolutionary Military Council; Karaty-guin, chief-of-staff."
The reader should recall the history of the agreement between
the Soviet government and the Makhnovists. The signing of the pact was preceded by negotiations between the Makhnovist plenipotentiaries and the Bolshevik delegation, headed by the Communist Ivanoff, which came to the Makhnovist camp at Starobelsk especially for this purpose. These negotiations were continued at Kharkov, where the Makhnovist representatives worked for three weeks with the Bolsheviks to conclude the pact satisfactorily. Each article was carefully examined and debated by the two parties. The final version of this agreement was approved by the two parties, that is to say, by the Soviet government and the revolutionary insurgent region in the person of the Council of Revolutionary Insurgents of the Ukraine. It was sealed by their respective signatures.
According to the very nature of this agreement, none of the articles could be suspended or modified without prior agreement of the contracting parties. But Frunze's order not only suppressed the first article of the military agreement, but negated the whole agreement. It proves that the agreement was never taken seriously by the Bolsheviks; that in drawing it up the latter were playing a shameful comedy; that the pact was only a gross deception, a manoeuvre, a snare, to persuade the Makhnovists to march on Wrangel and get themselves wiped out.
Even Frunze's order, despite its appearance of brutal candour or simplicity, was designed to serve as a manoeuvre, as is shown by the following facts:
1. At the same time that Order No. 00149 was received [by Makhno], the Fourth Army of the Crimea received an order to act against the Makhnovists with all the means at its disposal and to use all its military forces in case the insurgents refused to obey.
2. Neither the staff of the Insurrectionary Army, stationed at Gulai-Polya, nor the Makhnovist delegation at Kharkov, had any word of this order. The Makhnovists only learned about it three or four weeks after the Bolshevik aggression, through some newspapers which fell fortuitously into their hands. The explanation for this is simple. The Bolsheviks, who were preparing secretly for a surprise attack on the Makhnovists, could not afford to put them on their guard by sending them in advance a document of this sort, since the planned attack would then have inevitably
3. At the same time they had to have a justification for their aggression. That is why Frunze's order was published in the papers only after the attack and the breach [with the Makhnovists]. It appeared for the first time on December 15, 1920, in the Kharkov paper The Communist.
All these machinations had as their objective the surprising of the Makhnovists, their destruction and the subsequent explanation of their actions by means of "justificatory evidence" to suggest that it was perfectly honourable.
As we have said elsewhere, the attack on the Makhnovists was accompanied by the mass arrest of Anarchist militants. These arrests, which took place all over the Ukraine, had as their purpose not only the total destruction of all Anarchist thought and activity, but also the stifling of any possibility of protest, of any attempt to explain to the people the real meaning of the events.
Not only the Anarchists proper, but also those who counted as their friends and acquaintances, or were interested in their literature, were arrested. At Elizabethgrad, fifteen youths between 15 and 18 years old were thrown into prison. It is true that the higher authorities at Nicolaev (the departmental capital) were dissatisfied with this capture, saying that they wanted real Anarchists and not children. But not one of these children was released on the spot.
At Kharkov, the pursuit of the Anarchists assumed proportions unheard of before. Snares and ambushes were organised to catch all the Anarchists in the city. A trap of this kind was set up in the Free Brotherhood Bookshop. Anyone who came to buy a book was seized and sent to the Cheka; they even imprisoned people who stopped to read the newspaper Nabat which appeared legally before the break and was posted on the wall of the bookshop.
One of the Kharkov Anarchists, Gregor Tsesnik, having escaped arrest, the Bolsheviks threw his wife, who had no political interests of any kind, into prison. She started a hunger strike, demanding her immediate release. The Bolsheviks then told her that if Tsesnik wanted to obtain her release, he had only to give himself up to the Cheka. Tsesnik, although seriously ill, did so and was imprisoned.
We have mentioned already that the staff of the Makhnovist army in the Crimea, as well as the commander, Simon Karetnik, were treacherously seized and executed on the spot. Martchenko, who commanded the cavalry, although surrounded and fiercely attacked by numerous units of the Bolshevik Fourth Army, managed to escape and break a passage through the natural obstacles and barricades of the fortified Perekop Isthmus. Leading his men, or rather the remnants of his men, by day and night forced marches, he succeeded in rejoining Makhno (who, as we will see presently, again escaped the Bolsheviks) at the little village of Kermentchik.
There were already rumours of the lucky escape of the Makhnovist army from the Crimea. Their return was impatiently awaited. Finally, on December 7th, a horseman arrived at full gallop to announce that Martchenko's troops would be there in a few hours. The Makhnovists at Kermentchik turned out excitedly to meet heroes.
Their anguish can be imagined when they finally saw the little group of horsemen which was slowly approaching in the distance. Instead of the powerful cavalry of 1,500 mounts, a handful of 250 men returned from the furnace. At their head were Martchenko and Taranovsky (another brave commander of the Insurrectionary Army).
"I have the honour of announcing to you the return of the Crimean army", said Martchenko with bitter irony. A few insurgents were able to smile. But Makhno himself was sombre and silent, trying to control his emotions. "Yes, brothers," continued Martchenko, "now, at last, we know what the Communists are."
A general assembly took place on the spot. The story of the events in the Crimea was retold. It was thus learned that the commander of the army, Karetnik, sent by the Bolshevik staff to Gulai-Polya, ostensibly to attend a military council, was treacherously arrested on the way; that Gavrilenko, chief-of-staff of the Crimean army and also all his aides and several of the unit commanders were deceived in the same way. All were shot immediately. The Cultural and Propaganda Commission at Simferopol was arrested without any military ruse. Thus the victorious Insurrectionary Army of the Crimea was betrayed and annihilated by the Bolsheviks, their allies of the day before.
[An experience of my own throws a further light on these
events.] Having been brought to the Cheka prison in Moscow after my arrest at Kharkov, I was called in one day by Samsonoff, who was then chief of the Secret Operations Section of the Cheka. Instead of questioning me, he drew me into a discussion of principles, and in this way we came to talk of the events in the Ukraine. I told him straightforwardly that I thought the behaviour of the Bolsheviks towards the Makhnovist movement was treacherous.
"Ah," he replied with animation, "you call it treacherous? That only demonstrates your ineradicable naivete. As for us Bolsheviks, we see it as proof that we have learned much since the beginning of the Revolution and have now become really skilful statesmen. This time we did not let ourselves be victimised. When we needed Makhno, we took advantage of him, and when we had no further need of his services, and he began to be something of a nuisance, we got rid of him completely."
Samsonoffs words were a complete admission of the real reasons for the Bolshevik's behaviour and for all their machinations. They should be engraved in the brains of all those who seek to understand the true nature of State Communism.
It remains for us to tell briefly the last dramatic incidents of this death struggle between authority and the revolution. We have already said that, despite the meticulousness of the Bolsheviks' preparations and the suddenness of their attack, Makhno once again escaped them. On November 26th, when Gulai-Polya was surrounded by the Red troops, only a special group of about 250 Makhnovist horsemen (including Makhno himself) were there. With this handful of men, numerically insignificant, but stimulated by their anger, Makhno (who had hardly recovered from his sickness and was suffering from his wounds, the most recent of which was a fractured ankle bone) launched a counter-attack. He managed to rout the cavalry regiment of the Red Army which was advancing on Gulai-Polya from Uspenovka, and thus escaped from the enemy's grip.
Soon he was engaged in organising the units of insurgents that flocked to him from all sides, as well as some groups of Red soldiers who left the Bolsheviks and came to join him. He succeeded in forming a unit of 1,000 horsemen and 1,500 infantrymen, with which he attempted a counter attack. Eight days later, he was again master of Gulai-Polya, having routed the 42nd Division of the Red Army and taken nearly six thousand prisoners. Of the latter about two thousand men declared themselves willing to join the Insurrectionary Army; the rest were set free on the same day, after having attended a great popular meeting. Three days later, Makhno inflicted another serious defeat on the Bolsheviks near Andreevka. During the whole night and the following day, he fought two Divisions of the Red Army and ended by defeating them, again taking from eight to ten thousand prisoners.
Makhno then struck three further consecutive blows at the Red Army, near Komar, near Tzarekonstantinovka, and in the vicinity of Berdiansk. The Boi'hevik infantry fought reluctantly and took advantage of every opportunity to surrender.
"As soon as they were taken prisoner," Archinov tells us, "the soldiers of the Red Army were set free. They were advised to return to their homes and no longer serve as instruments of Power to subjugate the people. But, the Makhnovists being forced to move on immediately, the freed prisoners were reinstated in their respective units a few days later. Indeed, the Soviet authorities organised special commissions to recapture the soldiers of the Red Army who were set free by the Makhnovists, and thus the latter were caught in a magic circle from which they could not escape. As for the Bolsheviks, their procedure was much simpler. Following the orders of the Special Commission for the Struggle against Makhnovism, all Makhnovist prisoners were shot on the spot." Op. cit., p. 315).
For some time the Makhnovists were encouraged by the thought of the victory which they seemed to be winning. It appeared to them that it was only necessary to beat two or three Bolshevik Divisions for an important part of the Red Army to join them and the rest to retreat towards the North. But soon, the peasants of various districts brought news that the Bolsheviks were not content to pursue the Insurrectionary Army, but were instalUng whole regiments, primarily of cavalry, in the conquered villages.
In fact, Makhno was soon surrounded at Fedorovka, to the south of Gulai-Polya, by several divisions of infantry and cavalry. The battle lasted without respite from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. Breaking through the enemy ranks, Makhno managed to ef cape to the north-
east. But three days later he had to fight another battle, near the village of Constantin, with a very large cavalry force and a vigorous artillery. From several officers who were taken prisoner, Makhno learned that there were four Bolshevik army corps, two of cavalry and two mixed, and that the Red commander hoped to surround him with the assistance of several further divisions.
This information agreed perfectly with that furnished by the peasants, as well as with the observations and conclusions of Makhno himself. It became increasingly clear that the defeat of two or three Red units was of no importance, in view of the enormous mass of troops which were being sent against the insurgents to obtain a decision at all costs; it was no longer a question of achieving a victory over the Bolshevik armies, but of avoiding the complete destruction of the Insurrectionary Army. This Army, reduced to some three thousand combatants, was obliged to fight daily, each time against an enemy four or five times superior in numbers and arms. In these conditions, catastrophe was no longer in doubt.
The Council of Revolutionary Insurgents then decided to abandon the southern region provisionally, leaving Makhno full freedom as to the direction of the general retreat.
"Makhno's genius was about to be submitted to a supreme test," says Archinov. "It appeared absolutely impossible to escape from the monstrous network of troops advancing from all sides towards the little group of insurgents; three thousand revolutionary militants were surrounded by an army of at least a hundred and fifty thousand men. But not for an instant did Makhno lose courage or presence of mind. He embarked on a heroic duel against this mass of troops.
"Surrounded by an infernal circle of Red divisions, he marched like a legendary Titan, fighting battle after battle, to the right, to the left, in front and to the rear. After routing several units of the Red Army.and taking more than twenty thousand prisoners, Makhno -- as if he were striking out blindly -- set out first towards the east, in the direction of Yuzovska, although the workers of this mining region had warned him that he was awaited by an uninterrupted military barrier, and then turned sharply west, following fantastic routes which he alone knew.
"From this moment, the ordinary roads were completely abandoned. The movement of the army continued for hundreds of kilometres across fields and plateaux covered with snow and
ice. To accomplish this march, it was necessary to be endowed with a prodigious sense of direction and orientation. No map, no compass could be of any use in such movements. Maps and instruments could indicate the direction, but could not prevent falling into a ravine or a torrent, which did not once happen to the Makhnovist army. Such a march across the hilly and roadless steppes was possible because the troops knew the configuration of the Ukrainian steppes perfectly.
"This fabulous manoeuvre permitted the Makhnovist army to avoid hundreds of enemy cannon and machine-guns. It allowed it to defeat at Petrovo two brigades of the 1st Bolshevik Cavalry which, believing Makhno to be a hundred kilometres away, were taken completely by surprise.
"This unequal struggle lasted for several months, with incessant battles by day and night. Arriving in the department of Kiev, the Makhnovist army found itself, in the coldest part of winter, in a hilly, rocky country which made it necessary to abandon all the artillery, supplies and munitions and even most of the wagons. At the same time, two enemy cavalry divisions, called Red Cossacks, came from the western frontier to join the mass of armies sent by the Bolsheviks against Makhno.
"All possibility of escape now appeared non-existent. The country contained as few resources as a graveyard. There was nothing but cliffs and steep ravines, all covered with ice, over which one could only advance extremely slowly. On all sides there was an incessant barrage of cannon and machine-gun fire. None of the Makhnovists expected to get out to safety again, but none thought of dispersing in a shameful flight. They decided to die together.
"It was unspeakably sad to see this handful of men, alone among the cliffs, the sky and the enemy fire, ready to fight to the end, and already seemingly condemned to death. A heart-rending grief, a mortal anguish, took hold of one, driving one to scream in despair, yes, to scream to the whole universe, that a dreadful crime was about to be committed, and that what was greatest in the hearts of the people, the noblest and most sublime thing that the people had produced in the heroic centuries of its history, was about to be destroyed, was about to perish for ever.
"Makhno met honourably the test that fate had imposed on him. He advanced to the borders of Galicia, went back to Kiev, re-crossed the Dnieper near that city, went down into the department of Poltava, then into that of Kharkov, turned back north again towards Kursk, and, following the railway tracks between this point and Belograd, got out of the enemy circle into a much more favourable situation and left far behind him the many Bolshevik divisions sent to pursue him." (Op. cit., pp. 317-20.)
This attempt to capture Makhno's army had failed, but the unequal duel between the handful of insurgents and the armies of the Soviet state was not over. The Bolshevik command continued to pursue its objective -- the capture of the central nucleus of Makhnovism and its destruction. The Red divisions of the whole Ukraine were sent to overtake and blockade the remnants of the Insurrectionary Army. Soon, the iron vice clamped on the heroic handful of revolutionaries, and the death struggle began again. Instead of telling the end of the drama ourselves, we prefer to reprint here the letter which Makhno sent to Archinov after he had left Russia, and which the latter quoted in his book. It shows admirably the very last convulsions of the struggle.
"Two days after your departure, my dear friend, I took the village of Korotcha in the department of Kursk. I had several thousand copies of the Statutes of the Free Soviets printed, and set out through Varpiarka and the Don region towards the departments of Ekaterinoslav and Taurid. I had to fight fierce battles every day, on one side against the Communist infantry which followed us step by step, and on the other against the 2nd Cavalry Army, which was sent against us by the Bolshevik staff.
"You know our horsemen. The Red cavalry, unless it is supported by infantry and armoured cars, can never hold them. That is why I managed, though not without serious losses, to break through without changing my direction. Our army demonstrated every day that it was really a popular and revolutionary army. In the material conditions which it endured, it should have melted away immediately, but, on the contrary, it never ceased to grow in manpower and resources.
"In one of the serious battles which we had to fight, our special detachment of cavalry lost thirty men killed, half of whom were commanders, among others our dear and good friend -- young in years but old in military exploits -- the chief of the detachment Gabriel Troian. He was killed instantly by a machine-gun bullet. At his side also fell Appolon and several other brave and devoted comrades.
"At some distance from Gulai-Polya, we were joined by our new troops, fresh and full of spirit, who were commanded by Bravo and Parkhomenko. A little later, the first brigade of Budenny's 4th Cavalry Division with its commander, Maslak, at its head, came over to our side. The struggle against the authority and despotism of the Bolsheviks became ever fiercer.
"At the beginning of March, 1921,2 I told Brova and Maslak to form, from among the troops who were with me, a special unit to proceed towards the Don and the Kuban. Another group was formed under the command of Parkhomenko and sent into the Voronedj region, where Parkhomenko was killed. A third group, comprising 600 horsemen and Ivanuk's regiment, was sent towards Kharkov.
"Around the same time, our best comrade and revolutionist, Vdovitchenko, was wounded in the fighting and had to be taken, accompanied, by a small detachment, to Novospassovka for treatment. An expeditionary force of Bolsheviks discovered his hiding place, and, while defending themselves against the enemy, Vdovitchenko and his comrade-in-arms Matrossenko, seeing that they were about to be captured, both shot themselves. Matrossenko fell instantly dead, but Vdovitchenko's bullet was embedded under his skull above the neck. When the Communists found out who he was they treated him and saved him, temporarily, from death. He was in the hospital at AJexandroysk and begged his comrades to find a way of rescuing him. He was tortured atrociously. They tried to make him renounce Makhnovism and sign a paper to that effect. He scornfully repulsed their offers, although he was so weak that he could hardly talk. Because of this refusal, he might have been shot at any moment. But I could not find out whether he was or not.
"During this time, I myself made a raid across the Dnieper towards Nikolaiev; then I recrossed the Dnieper above Perekop and went towards our region, where I hoped to meet some of our detachments. But the Communist command had prepared an ambush for me near Melitopol. It was impossible either to advance or to recross the Dnieper, since the melting of the snow had begun and the river was covered with floating cakes of ice. We had to fight, which meant that I must get back into the saddle and direct operations myself.3
"A section of the enemy troops were skilfully turned and eluded by our men, while I forced the others to keep on the alert for a whole 24 hours, harassing them with our patrols. During this time, I managed to make a forced march of sixty versts, to
overcome -- at dawn on the 8th March -- a third Bolshevik army, camped on the shores of Lake Molotchny, and to get to the open space of the Vorkhny-Tomac region over the narrow promontory between this lake and the Sea of Azov. From there I sent Kurilenko into the Berdiansk-Melitopol region to direct the insurrectionary movement there. I myself went -- with the intention of passing by Gulai-Polya -- towards the department of Tchernigov, since peasant delegations had come from several of its districts to ask me to visit their region.
"In the course of this journey my troops -- 1,500 horsemen under Petrenko and two regiments of infantry -- were halted and encircled by strong Bolshevik divisions. Again, I had to direct the counter-attack myself. Our efforts were successful, we beat the enemy thoroughly and took many prisoners, as well as arms, guns, ammunition and horses.
"But two days later we were attacked by fresh and very brave troops. I must tell you that these daily combats had accustomed our men to placing so little value on their lives that exploits of extraordinary and sublime heroism had become everyday occurrences. With a cry of 'Live free or die fighting!', the men would throw themselves into the midst of no matter what unit, overturning enemies much stronger than themselves and forcing them to flee. "During our counter-attack [on this occasion], which was bold to the point of folly. I was struck with a bullet that entered my thigh and came out through the belly, near the appendix. I fell off my horse, and this made our counter-attack fail and forced us to retreat, the spirit of our troops having been broken by the cry of one of our men, no doubt inexperienced in battle, 'Batko is killed!'
"They carried me for a dozen versts in a sort of cart, before dressing my wound, and I lost a great deal of blood. I remained unconscious, under the guard of Leo Zinkovsky; this was March 14th. During the night of the 15th, I regained consciousness. All the commanders of our army and the members of the staff, with Belach at their head, assembled at my bedside, asking me to sign an order to send detachments of a hundred or two hundred men to Kurilenko, Kojin and others, who were directing the insurrectionary movement in various regions. They wanted me to retire with one regiment to a relatively quiet place, until I could get back into the saddle. I signed the order, and I permitted Zabudko to form a flying column to act on its own in our region, without, however, losing touch with me. By the morning of the 16th March, all these detachments had already left, except for a small special unit that remained with me.
"At this moment, the 9th Red Cavalry Division fell upon us and forced us to strike camp. They pursued us for 13 hours and
over 180 versts. Finally, upon arriving at Sloboda, on the shore of the Sea of Azov, we were able to change horses and halt for five hours. At dawn on the 17th March, we resumed the march towards Novospassovka. But after 17 versts on the road we met a new and quite fresh force of enemy cavalry. They had been sent after Kurilenko, but, having lost sight of him, they fell upon us. After pursuing us for 25 versts (we were completely exhausted and really incapable of fighting) these horsemen threw themselves resolutely upon us.
"What was to be done? I was incapable, not only of getting into the saddle, but even of sitting up. I was lying in the bottom of the cart, and saw a terrible hand-to-hand battle -- a regular hacking -- take place about two hundred yards away from me. Our men died only for my sake, only because they would not abandon me. But, in the last resort, there was no way to safety, either for them or for me. The enemy was five or six times as strong, for fresh reserves were constantly arriving.
"All at once I saw our machine-gun tenders -- the same guns that were with me in your time (there were five of them under the command of Micha from the village of Tchernigovka near Berdiansk) -- coming up to my cart, and I heard the men say to me: 'Batko, your life is indispensable to the cause and to our peasant movement. That cause is dear to us. We are going to die soon, but our death will save you and those who will take faithful care of you. Don't forget to repeat our words to our parents.' One of them embraced me, then I could no longer see any of them near me. A moment later, Leo Zinkovsky carried me in his arms to the cart of a peasant who had passed nearby. 1 heard the machine-guns rattle and the bombs exploding in the distance. It was our gunners who were keeping the Bolsheviks from passing. We had time to travel three or four versts and cross a river. 1 was saved. But all our machine-gunners died there.
"Some time later we passed the place again, and the peasants of the village of Staroduvovka showed us the common grave where they had buried the machine-gunners. Dear friend, I still cannot keep back my tears when I think of those brave fighters, simple and honest peasants. Moreover, I must tell you that this episode seemed to cure me. On the evening of the same day, I got back into the saddle and left the region.
"During April I re-established contact with all the units of our troops, and sent those who were nearby to the Poltava region. During May, Kojin's and Kurilenko's units joined us and formed a body of 2,000 horsemen and several regiments of infantry. It was decided to march on Kharkov and chase out the big bosses of the Communist Party. But they were on their guard. They sent more than sixty armoured cars, several divisions of cavalry, and a
swarm of infantry to meet me. The fight with these troops lasted for weeks.
"A month later. Comrade Stchouss was killed in battle, in the same Poltava region. He was then chief-of-staff for Zabudko's group. He had done his duty valiantly. And a month after that it was Kurilenko's turn. He covered the march of our troops along the railway tracks, took personal charge of stationing the units, and was always in the leading squad. One day, he was surprised by Budenny's horsemen and perished in the fight.
"On May 18th, Budenny's horsemen were on the march from the Ekaterinoslav region towards the Don, to put down a peasant insurrection at the head of which were our comrades Brova and Maslak (who had been chief of Budenny's First Brigade and had joined us with all his men).
"Our group was formed of several detachments united under the command of Petrenko-Platonoff. The main staff and 1 formed part of the group. This day it was fifteen or twenty versts from the road followed by Budenny's army. Knowing, among other things, that I was always near this group, Budenny was tempted by the short distance that separated us from him. He ordered the chief of the armoured car unit, which was supposed to participate in suppressing the Don peasants, to send out 16 cars and blockade the village of Novogrigorievka. As for Budenny himself, he marched across the fields at the head of a part of the 19th Cavalry Division (formerly the Internal Service Division) in the direction of Novogrigorievka. He arrived there before the armoured cars, which were forced to avoid ravines, seek out fords and post sentries. The vigilance of our scouts put us in touch with all these movements, and allowed us to take precautions. At the moment when Budenny came in sight of our camp we threw ourselves upon him.
"Budenny, who was proudly galloping in the first rank, immediately turned tail. The disgraceful coward fled, abandoning his comrades. The combat that developed was a regular nightmare. The soldiers of the Red Army who were sent against us belonged to the troops who had remained until then in Central Russia. They had 'insured internal order'. They did not know us; they had been told that we were common bandits and made it a point of honour not to retreat before criminals. As for the insurgents, they felt in the right and were firmly resolved to conquer and disarm the enemy. This combat was the fiercest of all we had to fight, either before or after. It ended in a complete defeat for Budenny's troops, which led to the disintegration of his army and the desertion of many of his soldiers.
"Then I formed a unit of former Siberians, and sent them, armed and equipped with necessities, to Siberia under the command of Comrade Glasunoff. At the beginning of August, 1921, we
learnt from the Bolsheviks' papers that this unit had made its appearance in the Samara region. Then no more was said of it. "During the whole summer of 1921 we did not cease fighting. The extreme drought of that season and the consequent bad harvests in the departments of Ekaterinoslav, Tauride and parts of Kherson and Poltava, as well as the Don region, forced us to move, in one direction, towards the Kuban and below Tzaritsin and Saratov, and, in the other, towards Kiev and Tchernigov. In the latter place, the struggle was lead by Comrade Kojin. When we met again, he gave me a bundle of resolutions taken by the peasants of Tchernigov, declaring that they wanted to support us completely in our struggle. As for me, I made a raid across the Volga, with the units of Comrades Zabudko and Petrenko; then I withdrew across the Don, meeting on the way several of our units which I combined and to which I added Vdovitchenko's old group from Azov.
"At the beginning of August, 1921, it was decided that, in view of the severity of my wounds, I would leave for abroad, with some of our commanders, to undergo a thorough treatment. It was about the same time that our best commanders -- Kojin, Petrenko and Zabudko -- were seriously wounded. On August 13th, accompanied by a hundred horsemen, I set out in the direction of the Dnieper and, on the morning of the 16th, we crossed the river between Orlik and Krementchug with the help of 17 fishing boats. On this day 1 was wounded six times, but always lightly. On the way we met several of our units, and explained to them the reasons for our departure for abroad. They all said the same thing: 'Go and get well, Batko, and then come back and save us.' "On August 19th, we came upon the 7th Cavalry Division of the Red Army, camped along the Ingulets river, twelve versts from Bobrinetz. To go back meant trouble, since we had been seen by a cavalry regiment on our right which was advancing to cut off our retreat. I therefore asked Zinkovsky to put me on horseback. In an instant, with drawn sabres and loud cheers, we hurled ourselves on the Division's machine-guns, which were massed in a village. We managed to capture thirteen Maxim guns and three Lewis guns. Then we prepared to continue our journey. But as soon as we had captured the machine-guns, the whole division attacked us. We were caught in a mousetrap. But, without losing courage, we attacked and beat the 38th Regiment and the Division. Having cut a passage for ourselves, we rode 110 versts without stopping, defending ourselves ceaselessly from the furious attacks of all these troops. We finally escaped, but only after having lost seventeen of our best comrades.
"On August 22nd, they had to take care of me again; a bullet struck me in the neck and came out of the right cheek. Once again
I was lying in the bottom of a cart. On the 26th, we were obliged to fight a new battle with the Reds. We lost our best comrades and fighters, Petrenko-Platonoff and Ivanuk. I was compelled to alter our itinerary for the last time, and on August 28th, I crossed the Dniester. Here I am abroad . . ."
Thus, at the end of 1921, ended the great popular drama of the Ukraine, which represented a part of the history of the people, and not of parties, authorities or systems of oppression. For that reason it is not even suspected outside Russia,1 all the official "supermen" and their acolytes having carefully concealed these facts. The historical truth would throw all these pygmies down from their pedestals of clay, just as the real popular revolution will one day throw into me dust all the power-wielding "supermen," whoever they may be. And then the men who know and dare will be able to write the true history of the people.
With its many Divisions, and without hesitating to use the most terrible means of repression and violence, the Communist government rapidly succeeded in wiping out or dispersing the last Makhnovist units wandering about the country. It also ended the resistance of the few remaining Petlurist troops in the south-west, as well as of numerous peasant detachments of a very varied nature, who were in a state of spontaneous revolt against the new lords or had taken to the hills to escape their implacable punishment.
Makhno and the handful of comrades in arms who had taken refuge with him abroad never saw again the country of their birth.
The whole of the Ukraine was subjugated by the Bolshevik dictatorship.
Notes0" link="#0000ff" vlink="#800080" alink="#ff0000">
1 Frunze mentions several cases where soldiers of the Red Army were disarmed and even killed by the Makhnovists. But all the cases of which he speaks were closely examined by himself, Rakovsky and the representatives of the Makhnovists at Kharkov, and it was conclusively established: 1. that the the Makhnovists had nothing to do with these misdeeds. 2. that if hostile acts towards the army were committed by certain military detachments which did not belong to the Makhnovist army, this was primarily due to the fact that the Soviet authorities had neglected to publish, at an opportune time, and intelligibly, their agreement with the insurgents. In fact, it was known that numerous isolated military units, not incorporated into the Makhnovist army (we will be obliged to return to this subject a little later in another connection) operated here and there in the Ukraine. The majority of these units, while acting on their own, nevertheless respected the opinion and attitude of the Insurrectionary Army. They would certainly have ceased all hostility towards the Soviet authorities and armies if they had known about the agreement concluded with the Makhnovists.
Frunze seeks to justify his order in the manner of the Jesuits, with arguments that seem plausible but are really false. For he could not admit the only true argument, the desire of the Bolsheviks to rid themselves completely of the Makhnovist army and movement, once the Bolshevik power had no further need of the Insurrectionary Army. If he admitted this, he would have had to give his reasons. But then the lies of the government and its real attitude towards the labouring masses would be revealed.
2 The reader will recall that this was the time of the Kronstadt revolt. It
is incorrectly supposed that the Bolsheviks claimed that Makhno
participated indirectly in that movement.
3 As we have said, Makhno had been wounded by a bullet that fractured
his ankle, and he therefore mounted a horse only in cases of extreme
4 Except in libertarian circles and among a few specialists.