Peter Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921), 1923.
The Fall of the Hetman.
The counter-revolution of the Ukrainian pomeshchiks, personified by the Hetman, was without a doubt artificial, since it was implanted by the force of German and Austrian imperialism. The Ukrainian pomeshchiks and capitalists could not have held out for a single day during the tempestuous year of 1918 if they had not been supported by the power of the German army. According to one estimate, at least half a million Austro-German and Hungarian troops occupied the Ukraine. There may even have been more. All these troops were regularly spread out throughout the Ukraine in such a manner that more of them were assigned to revolutionary and turbulent regions. From the first day of the occupation, all these troops were placed at the service of counterrevolutionary interests, and in their relations with the working peasants they conducted themselves as conquerors in a vanquished country.
Thus, during the entire period of the counter-revolution the Ukrainian peasantry had to fight, not only against the Hetman's regime, but also against the entire mass of Austro-German soldiers. But in spite of this military support, the counter-revolution was not able to establish itself solidly, and with the growth of the peasant insurrection it began to disintegrate once and for all. Ultimately the insurrection also caused the disintegration of the Austro-German forces. When the troops, completely disoriented by the revolutionary insurrection on one hand, and by the political upheavals in Austria and Germany on the other, lost their purpose and were recalled to their countries, the entire Ukrainian reaction found itself suspended in mid-air. Its days, even its minutes, were numbered. Its weakness and its cowardice were such that it did not attempt any resistance. The Hetman simply fled to regions less threatened by the peasant insurrection, returning to the place from which he had been artificially called to life by German imperialism. And the pomeshchiks had fled well in advance of the Hetman.
From this moment, three very different, basic forces were active in the Ukraine: Petliurism, Bolshevism and Makhnovism. Soon each of them became the avowed and irreconcilable enemy of the other two. In order to draw a more accurate picture of the character of the Makhnovist movement, we will first say a few words about the class and social nature of Petliurism. This is a movement of the Ukrainian national bourgeoisie striving to establish its political and economic domination in the country. Its program for the political organization of the country is modeled on the French or Swiss republics. This movement is in no way social but exclusively political and nationalist. Its promises to improve the social conditions of the workers, promises which are found in Petliura's program, are basically nothing more than a tribute to our revolutionary epoch, a token with which to achieve their own goals more easily.
From the first days of the March, 1917, revolution, the Ukrainian liberal bourgeoisie concerned itself with the problem of national separation from Russia. Large circles of kulaks, liberal intelligentsia, and educated Ukrainians in general, gave rise to a movement for political independence. From its beginning, its leaders paid serious attention to the masses of Ukrainian soldiers at the front and in the interior. They proceeded to organize the soldiers, on a national basis, into special Ukrainian regiments.
In May 1917, the leaders of the movement organized a military congress which elected a general military committee to direct the entire movement. Later this committee was enlarged and named the Rada (Council, in Ukrainian). In November, 1917, at the pan-Ukrainian Congress, this became the Central Rada, a kind of parliament of the new Ukrainian Democratic Republic. Finally, a month later, a "Universal" (Manifesto) of the Rada proclaimed the independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Democratic Republic. Thus, during Kerensky's regime (in Great Russia), a new autonomous State was formed in the Ukraine, and began to establish itself throughout the country as the dominant force. This was Petliurism, deriving its name from Simon Petliura, one of the active leaders of the movement.
The development and consolidation of Petliurism in the Ukraine was a serious blow to Bolshevism, which had just taken power in Great Russia and wanted to extend it to the Ukraine. The position of Bolshevism in Great Russia during those first days would have been even more difficult without the entire Ukraine. Therefore the Bolsheviks in all haste sent troops to Kiev. A furious struggle took place between the Bolsheviks and the Petliurists around Kiev from January 11 to January 25, 1918. On January 25 the Bolsheviks occupied Kiev and soon began to extend their power throughout the Ukraine. The Petliura government and the politicians of the separatist movement retired to the western part of the country, from where they protested against the occupation of the Ukraine by the Bolsheviks.
On this occasion the Bolsheviks did not remain in the Ukraine for a long time -- two or three months at most -- and they retreated to Great Russia in March-April, 1918, giving way to the Austro-German army of occupation. The Petliurists took advantage of this: their government, in the form of the Central Rada and the cabinet of ministers, returned to Kiev and reestablished itself. This time the Republic was not called Democratic, but rather the Ukrainian Peoples' Republic. The government of this Republic, obviously, like every other government, depended on its troops, and when it entered Kiev it did not make the slightest effort to ask whether or not the people needed this government. It took advantage of the situation, simply entered the country, and proclaimed itself the national government. Its main proof was the force of its arms.
But once again the Petliurists did not succeed in remaining at the head of the government for long. For the Austro-German forces which occupied the Ukraine it was much easier to deal with the former lords of the Ukraine -- generals and pomeshchiks -- than with the Petliurists. Consequently, on the basis of their military power, they unceremoniously replaced Petliura with the autocratic government of the Hetman Skoropadsky. This is when the reaction of the pomeshchiks and generals began in the Ukraine. In the face of this reaction, the Petliurists took a politically revolutionary position. They looked forward to its collapse so as to return to the head of the State. Petliura himself was imprisoned and thus disappeared from the political arena. But the Hetman's counter-revolution was coming to an end; it began to disintegrate under the blows of the generalized peasant insurrection. Sensing this, the Petliurists, even before the final collapse of the Hetman, began to organize their power in various regions of the Ukraine, and they began to form an army. Circumstances were extremely favorable to them. The peasantry was in a state of revolt, hundreds of thousands of spontaneous insurgents were only waiting for the first call to march against the Hetman's power. The Hetman was still in Kiev when a large number of southern Ukrainian cities had already passed to the hands of the Petliurists. It was there, in the provinces, that the central organ of Petliurist power, the Directorate, was established. The Petliurists hastened to extend and consolidate their power, taking advantage of the absence of other aspirants, especially the Bolsheviks. In December, 1918, Skoropadsky fled, and Petliura's Directorate solemnly entered Kiev, with Petliura himself at its head, together with other members of the government of the People's Republic.
This event aroused great enthusiasm in the country. The Petliurists did everything they could to magnify their success, and posed as national heroes. In a short time their power again extended over most of the Ukraine. It was only in the south, in the region of the Makhnovist peasant movement, that they had no success; on the contrary, they encountered serious resistance and experienced major setbacks. But in all the major centers of the country the Petliurists triumphed, and proudly displayed their banners. This time the domination of the separatist bourgeoisie seemed assured. But this success was illusory.
The new power had hardly had time to install itself before it began to disintegrate because of its contradictory class interests. Millions of peasants and workers who, at the moment of the overthrow of the Hetman, were within the orbit of the Petliurists, were soon disillusioned and began to leave Petliura's ranks in large numbers: they sought another vehicle for their interests and aspirations. The major part dispersed into the cities and villages and there adopted a hostile attitude toward the new power. Others joined the insurrectionary detachments of the Makhnovists with slogans calling for struggle against the ideas and power of the Petliurists. The Petliurists were thus as quickly disarmed as they had been armed by the march of events. Their idea of bourgeois independence, bourgeois national unity, could only last for a few hours among the revolutionary people. The burning breath of the popular revolution reduced this false idea to ashes and left its supporters in complete impotence. And at the same time, military Bolshevism was rapidly approaching from the North, expert in methods of class agitation and firmly resolved to take power in the Ukraine. Just one month after the entry of Petliura's Directorate into Kiev, the Bolshevik troops entered. From that time the Communist power of the Bolsheviks was extended over most of the Ukraine.
Bolshevism. Its Class Character.
We have already said, in the first chapter, that all the so-called socialist construction, the entire Soviet statist and governmental apparatus, all the new social-political relations, in short, everything that was carried out by Bolshevism in the Russian revolution, is nothing more than the realization of the vital interests of the socialist democracy, the establishment of its class domination in the country. The peasants and the workers, whose name was invoked millions of times during the entire Russian revolution, are only the bridge to power for the new caste of rulers, the new masters, the fourth estate.
At the time of the 1905 revolution this caste experienced a defeat. It had hoped to establish its leadership over the workers' movement, and to realize its goals by means of the well-trodden path of politics, starting with its well-known minimum program. At first they proposed the overthrow of the Tsarist regime and the establishment of a republican regime in the country. Then they would proceed to the conquest of State power by parliamentary means, as is done by democrats in Western European and American states. As is known, the plans of the democrats failed completely in Russia in 1905; the peasants and the workers did not give them the necessary support. Some erroneously hold that the defeat of the 1905 revolution was caused by the power and brutality of Tsarism. The causes of this defeat are much more profound; they reside in the very character of the revolution. From 1900 to 1903, a whole series of massive economic strikes took place in the south of Russia, then in the north and elsewhere. At first this movement did not clearly formulate its goals; nevertheless, its class character soon revealed itself. The socialist democracy entered this movement from outside and attempted to lead it along the path of purely political struggle. Thanks to its numerous and marvelously organized parties, which occupied the entire field of political propaganda, it succeeded in obliterating all the vivid social slogans and in replacing them with the political slogans of the democracy. They determined the course of the 1905 revolution. It was precisely because the revolution took place under slogans foreign to the people that it met defeat. Having excluded from the revolution its social elements, the social program of the workers, the democracy took from it even its sap, because it killed the powerful revolutionary thrust of the people. The 1905 revolution failed, not because Tsarism was too powerful, but because, due to its narrowly political character, it could not arouse the great masses of the people. The revolution aroused only a part of the proletariat of the cities; the entire mass of peasants hardly budged. Tsarism, which had already begun to make concessions, quickly retracted them as soon as it understood the true state of affairs, and it crushed this revolution of half-measures. The revolutionary democracy which led the movement found refuge abroad. But the lesson learned from this defeat could not pass unnoticed. The lesson was completely absorbed by Bolshevism, the left wing of the democracy. The Bolsheviks understood that a purely political revolution was no longer possible in Russia, they saw that the attention of the masses had turned to social problems, and they concluded that a victorious revolution was possible in Russia only as a social movement of workers and peasants which was directed towards overturning the political as well as the economic regime. The imperialist war of 1914 to 1917 only accentuated and strengthened this direction of the revolution. By revealing the true face of the democracy, the war showed that the monarchy and the democracy well deserved each other; the one as well as the other showed itself to be a plunderer and murderer of the popular masses. If a purely political revolution was no longer possible in Russia already before the war, the imperialist war killed the very idea of such a revolution.
Throughout the world a volcanic tremor had long ago created an enormous chasm, dividing contemporary society into two distinct and hostile camps: capital and labor. This chasm put an end to the political differences among the various exploiter-States. The destruction of capital, the foundation of slavery -- this is the idea which motivates the masses as soon as they turn their attention toward revolution. They are absolutely indifferent to the political upheavals of the past. This was the situation in Russia. This is also the situation in Western Europe and America. Not to see this, not to take it into account, means remaining hopelessly removed from life.
Bolshevism took this aspect of reality into account and promptly revised its political program. The Bolsheviks saw the coming mass revolution in Russia as a revolution directed against the very foundations of modern society: against agricultural, industrial and commercial capital. They saw that the class of proprietors in the cities and the countryside was condemned, and they drew their conclusion: if this is so, if a powerful social explosion is inevitable in Russia, then the democracy must realize its historic task on the terrain of this explosion. The democracy must profit from and make use of the revolutionary forces of the people, place itself at their head during the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, take state power and build the edifice of its domination on the basis of State socialism. And this is what Bolshevism successfully accomplished in the revolutionary mass movement before and during October. All their further activity in the course of the Russian revolution will only be a realization of the details of the democracy's statist domination.
Without a doubt, Bolshevism is a historic event in Russian and international life. It is not only a social, but also a psychological manifestation. It inspired a large number of individuals -- stubborn, authoritarian, lacking all social or moral sentimentality and prepared to make use of any means in the struggle for their triumph. Bolshevism also pushed forward a leader perfectly suited to this task. Lenin is not only the leader of a party; he is, more importantly, the leader of a certain psychological type of people. In Lenin this human type finds its most perfect and most powerful personification. It is on this model that the selection and grouping of the combative and offensive forces of the democracy are made throughout the whole world. The basic psychological trait of Bolshevism is the realization of its will by means of the violent elimination of all other wills, the absolute destruction of all individuality, to the point where it becomes an inanimate object. It is not difficult to recognize in these traits an ancient breed of masters. And in fact, it is exclusively by authoritarian acts that Bolshevism makes its presence felt throughout the Russian revolution. It lacks even the shadow of what will constitute the essential trait of the real working class social revolution of the future: the ardent desire to work, to work unceasingly, without rest, until one's last breath, with complete disregard for oneself, for the good of the people. All the efforts of Bolshevism, at times enormous and persistent, are nothing more than the creation of authoritarian organs which, in relation to the people, represent only the threats and brutality of former masters.
Let us look briefly at the changes brought about by Bolshevism -- in the lives of workers and peasants -- which conform to its Communist ideology.
The nationalization of industry, land, urban dwellings, commerce; workers' and peasants' right to vote -- these are the fundamentals of pure Bolshevik communism. In reality "nationalization" resulted in the absolute Statification of all forms of social life. Not only industry, transportation, education, distribution networks, etc., became the property of the State, but the entire working class, every worker individually, his work and his energy, trade union organizations and workers' and peasants' cooperatives came under the State. The State is everything, the individual worker -- nothing. This is the main precept of Bolshevism. For the State is personified by functionaries, and in fact it is they who are everything; the working class is nothing.
The nationalization of industry, removing the workers from the hands of individual capitalists, delivered them to the yet more rapacious hands of a single ever-present capitalist boss, the State. The relations between the workers and this new boss are the same as earlier relations between labor and capital, with the sole difference that the Communist boss, the State, not only exploits the workers, but also punishes them himself, since both of these functions -- exploitation and punishment -- are combined in him. Wage labor has remained what it was before, except that it has taken on the character of an obligation to the State. Trade unions lost all their natural rights and were transformed into organs of police surveillance of the working masses. The establishment of taxes, wage rates, the right to hire and fire workers, the general management of enterprises, their internal organization, etc. -- all this is the exclusive right of the Party, of its organs or of its agents. As for the role of trade unions in all fields of production, it is purely ceremonial: they must sign the decrees of the Party, which can neither be challenged nor changed.
It is clear that in all this we are dealing with a simple substitution of State capitalism for private capitalism. The Communist nationalization of industry represents a new type of production relations in which economic slavery, the economic dependence of the working class, is concentrated in a single fist, the State. In essence this in no way improves the situation of the working class. Obligatory labor (for workers, naturally) and the militarization of labor are the spirit of the nationalized factory. Let us give an example. In August, 1918, the workers of the former Prokhorov factory in Moscow became agitated and threatened to rebel against the inadequate wages and the police regime in the factory. They organized several meetings in the factory itself, evicted the factory committee, which was merely a party cell, and took as their wages part of what they had produced. Members of the central administration of the textile workers' union declared, after the mass of workers refused to deal with them: the behavior of the workers in the Prokhorov factory throws a shadow on the authority of Soviet power; all further action of these workers would defame Soviet power in the eyes of workers in other enterprises; this cannot be allowed, and consequently the Prokhorov factory must be closed, the workers must be sent away, a commission should be created which will be able to establish a firm regime in the factory; after which it will be necessary to recruit a new staff of workers. And this was done. It can be asked: who were these people, these three or four men who so freely determined the destiny of thousands of workers? Were they placed in their posts by the masses? Did the people give them such enormous power? Not at all. It was the Party that appointed them, and this was their power. This example is one of thousands. This example, like a drop of water, reflects the true situation of the working class in nationalized industry.
What remains to the workers and to their organizations? A very narrow berth -- the right to elect this or that delegate to a soviet completely subservient to the Party.
The situation of the laborers in the countryside is even worse. The peasants made good use of the land of former pomeshchiks, princes and other landlords. However, this well-being was not given to them by the Communist power, but by the revolution. For dozens of years they had desired the land and in 1917 they took it, long before the Soviet power was established. If Bolshevism marched with the peasants in their seizure of the pomeshchiks' lands, it was only in order to defeat the agrarian bourgeoisie. But this in no way indicated that the future Communist power had the intention of furnishing the peasants land. On the contrary. The ideal of this power is the organization of a single agricultural economy belonging altogether to the same lord, the State. Soviet agricultural estates cultivated by wage workers and peasants -- this is the model for the State agriculture which the Communist power strives to extend to the entire country. The leaders of Bolshevism announced this very clearly and simply after the first days of the revolution. In No. 13 of the "Communist International," notably in the resolution on the agrarian problem (pp. 2435-2445, Russian edition) are given detailed descriptions of the organization of State agriculture on this model. In the same resolution it is stated that it is necessary to proceed with the organization of collective (namely, State-capitalist) agriculture gradually and with the greatest prudence. Naturally. The abrupt transformation of tens of millions of peasants from independent farmers into wage workers for the State would inevitably have provoked a dangerous storm which could have led the Communist State to a catastrophe. The concrete activity of the Communist power in the countryside has until today been limited exclusively to the requisition of food and raw materials, and to the struggle against peasant movements which opposed the Communists.
The political rights of peasants. They consist of the compulsory establishment of village and district Soviets entirely subordinate to the Party. The peasants have no other rights. The millions of peasants of a particular region, placed on one side of the political scale, will always weigh less than the smallest regional committee of the Party. In short, instead of rights we find a scandalous absence of rights among the peasants.
The Soviet State apparatus is organized in such a way that all the levers of power of the apparatus are in the hands of the democracy, which falsely presents itself as the vanguard of the proletariat. No matter what domain of State administration we examine, everywhere we find the principal places invariably occupied by the same, ever-present democrat.
Who directs all the newspapers, the journals and other publications? Politicians who come out of the privileged democratic circles.
Who writes and manages the central publications which claim to lead the world proletariat, like the Izvestia of the V.Ts.I.K. (All-Russian Central Executive Committee), Communist International, or the organ of the central committee of the Party? Exclusively hand-picked groups of intellectual-democrats.
And who heads the political organs created, as even their names show, not for the needs of the working class, but for the needs of politics, of domination? In whose hands is the central committee of the Party, the "Sovnarkom" (Council of People's Commissars), the V.Ts.I.K., etc.? Entirely in the hands of those who have been brought up in politics, far from the working class, and who invoke the name of the proletariat the same way as an unbelieving priest invokes the empty name of god. And all the economic organs, beginning with the Sovnarkhoz (Council of the National Economy) and ending with the less important "centrals" and "subsidiaries," are also in the same hands.
Thus we see the entire democratic social group occupying the main positions of leadership in the State.
Human history has never known an instance when a specific social group, with its class interests and its class goals, approached the workers in order to help them. No, such groups always go to the people with the sole aim of placing them under their thumb. The democratic group is no exception to this general social rule. On the contrary, it completely and definitively confirms this rule.
If some important posts in the Communist State are occupied by workers, this is only because it is useful to the slave regime; it gives the democratic power an appearance of popularity and serves to consolidate, to cement, the edifice of domination of the socialist democracy. The role of these workers is secondary; they mainly carry out orders. In addition, they enjoy privileges at the expense of the entire subjugated working class; they are recruited from among the so-called "conscious workers," namely those who uncritically accept the principles of Marxism and of the socialist movement of the intelligentsia.
In the Communist State the workers and peasants are socially enslaved, economically plundered, and politically deprived of all rights. But this is still not all. Having embarked on the road of general stratification, Bolshevism inevitably had to place its hand on the spiritual life of the workers as well. In fact, it would be difficult to find another country where the thought of the workers is oppressed as completely as in the Communist State. Under the pretext of struggling against bourgeois and counter-revolutionary ideas, all publications which do not express the Communist viewpoint are suppressed, even when these publications are published and supported by broad masses of the proletariat. No one is able to express his thoughts out loud. Just as the Bolsheviks have arranged the social and economic life of the country in conformity with their program, they have also driven the spiritual life of the people into the framework of this program. The lively field of popular thought and popular exploration is transformed into the gloomy barracks of military basic training. The mind and soul of the proletariat are shaped in party schools. Any desire to see beyond the walls of this school is proclaimed harmful and counter-revolutionary.
But this still is not all. The distortion of the revolution and its perspectives carried out by Bolshevism with its dictatorship could not pass without protests on the part of the masses and without their attempt to struggle against this distortion. All these protests have not weakened the political oppression, but rather strengthened it. A long period of governmental terror transformed all of Russia into an immense prison, where fear became a virtue and lying became compulsory. Crushed by the political oppression, frightened by the governmental terror, adults lie, young people lie, five-year-old children lie.
The question which arises is why the Communist State has created such an impossible social, political and moral situation. Might the socialist democracy be worse than its predecessor, the capitalist bourgeoisie? Is it possible that the socialist democracy would not even concede the illusory freedoms with which the European and American bourgeoisie preserve an appearance of equilibrium in their States? The problem lies elsewhere. Although the democratic class has its own independent existence, until recently it was materially poor, even indigent. This is why, from the first days of its political activity, it was not able to find within itself the unity and universality which ruling classes enjoy because of their privileged material situation. The democracy produced only a detachment of fighting partisans, represented by the Communist Party, and this detachment had to devote more than three years to the enormous task of building the new State. Having no natural support in any of the classes of current society -- neither among workers, nor among peasants, nor among the nobility or the bourgeoisie (among whom the democracy itself cannot be included, since it was not economically organized), the Communist Party naturally resorted to terror and to a regime of general oppression.
From what has been shown about the terrorist position of Bolshevism in Russia it is easy to understand why the Communist Party so openly and hurriedly enlarged and solidified the new bourgeoisie personified by the Communist Party, the leading functionaries, and the commanding staff of the army. This bourgeoisie is indispensable to Bolshevism as a natural soil which furnishes it with its vital sap, and as a permanent class support in its struggle against the working masses.
We do not explain the Communist construction we have mentioned, which brings slavery to workers and peasants, in terms of errors or deviations of Bolshevism, but in terms of its conscious aspiration to subordinate the masses, in terms of its domineering and exploitative essence.
But how does it happen that this group, foreign and hostile to the working masses, has succeeded in imposing itself as the leader of the revolutionary forces of the people, making its way to power in the name of the people, and consolidating its domination?
There are two causes: the atomized, disorganized condition of the masses in the days of the revolution, and the deception of the socialist slogans.
The professional organizations of workers and peasants which existed before 1917 were far behind the fiery revolutionary spirit of the masses. The revolutionary outburst of the masses went far beyond the limits of these organizations, surpassing and submerging them. The immense mass of workers and peasants faced the spreading social revolution without the necessary support or assistance of their own class organizations. And alongside this mass operated a marvelously organized socialist party (the Bolsheviks). Together with the workers and peasants this Party directly participated in the overthrow of the industrial and agrarian bourgeoisie, calling on the masses to carry this out, assuring them that this revolution would be the social -- the last -- revolution leading the enslaved to the free realm of socialism and communism. To the vast masses, inexperienced in politics, this seemed to be the obvious truth. The participation of the Communist Party in the destruction of the capitalist regime gave rise to enormous confidence in it.The stratum of intellectual workers who were the carriers of the ideals of the democracy was always so thin and sparse that the masses knew nothing of its existence as a specific economic category. Consequently, at the moment of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the masses saw no one other than themselves who might replace the bourgeoisie. And it was precisely at this moment that the bourgeoisie was in fact replaced by these accidental leaders, the deceitful Bolsheviks, experienced in political demagogy.
Shamelessly exploiting the revolutionary aspirations of workers and peasants for freedom, equality and social independence, Bolshevism very skillfully substituted its idea of soviet power.
In many parts of revolutionary Russia in the early days of the October upheaval, workers understood the idea of soviet power as the idea of their social and economic independence.
Thanks to its revolutionary energy and its demagogic confusion of the revolutionary idea of the workers with its own idea of political domination, Bolshevism drew the masses to itself and made extensive use of their confidence.
The misfortune of the masses consisted of the fact that they accepted the doctrines of socialism and communism completely and straightforwardly, as the people always accept the ideas of truth, justice and goodness. However, in these doctrines truth is nothing more than a lure, a beautiful promise which moves and exalts the soul of the people. As in all other State systems, the essence of this "truth" is the capture and distribution of the people's forces and their labor by a small but well-organized group of parasites.
In the whirlwind of events which swept across Russia and the Ukraine, in the avalanche of political, military and other operations, the rise to power of a new group of exploiters was not at first clearly perceived by the vast masses of the people. In addition, the definitive consolidation of this power took several years. Furthermore, this development was extensive and was skillfully masked by the interested group. A certain time was needed before it could reveal itself to the broad masses.
At the time of the great French revolution, when feudalism -- the monarchy of kings and nobles -- was definitively destroyed, the masses thought that they were engaged in this great destruction for the sake of their freedom, and that the political parties at the forefront were only friends and helpers. Several years passed before the working people, looking carefully around them, realized that what had taken place was a simple replacement of the authorities, that the places of the king and the nobles were now occupied by a new class of exploitative masters: the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie. Such historical facts always need a certain time to become visible and comprehensible to the large masses.
* * *
We have given a broad outline of the political and social foundations of Bolshevism, its real content. After two years of its dictatorship in Russia, Bolshevism made its content plainly visible. This became evident to isolated groups of workers and peasants at first, and later to the vast masses of people. This was the youthful force, full of authoritarian aspirations, which, after the fall of the Hetman, set out with an unbending will to establish its power in the Ukraine, cost what it may.
At the time of the Hetman Skoropadsky, the Bolsheviks did not have enough power in the Ukraine to enable them to organize the immediate seizure of power in the Ukraine when the Hetman fell.1 Nearly all their forces were in Great Russia, and it is from there that they kept their eyes on the Ukraine, waiting for the opportune moment to move on the Ukraine and proclaim their power. It was in Great Russia, in the city of Kursk, that the Bolsheviks' Ukrainian government was prepared in advance; it included Pyatakov, Kviring, and others. In spite of all their vigilance, they did not succeed in attacking the Ukraine at the moment of Skoropadsky's fall, and this enabled the Petliurists to seize power first. But this circumstance led them to take even more energetic military measures. The atmosphere was revolutionary, the situation was extremely mixed up because of the massive insurrectionary movement of the peasants. In these circumstances the six weeks gained by the Petliurists over the Bolsheviks were easily swallowed by the march of events. What was needed was quick action. And the Bolsheviks rushed into action.
While the seat of their Ukrainian government was moved from Kursk to Khar'kov, which was first liberated and occupied by the insurrectionary detachment of the anarchist Cherednyakov,2 and there proceeded to create a center of civil administration, their military divisions advanced through the already liberated regions into the depths of the Ukraine and established organs of Communist power throughout, by military force. We said: already liberated regions. Actually, the entire expanse of the Ukraine from the government of Kursk to the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, had already been liberated from the Hetman's forces by peasant revolutionary insurrectionary detachments. With the fall of the Hetman these detachments partially dispersed throughout the villages, and partially retired to the coastal regions of the Sea of Azov, where there was already a threat of a new counterrevolution, that of General Denikin.
In most of the Ukraine the Bolsheviks found that the terrain had already been cleared. In the places where they encountered Petliurists, they defeated them by military force and took their place. The decisive encounter between the Bolsheviks and the Petliurists took place in the region of Kiev, which from the time of the entry of the Directorate had been the center of Petliurist political activity and the rallying point for Petliura's troops. At the end of January 1919, the Bolsheviks began a general attack against Kiev. At the beginning of February they occupied Kiev. The government of the Ukrainian People's Republic retreated, as usual, toward the western frontiers of the Ukraine. State power passed to the Bolsheviks.
It is important to note that the Communist power installed itself by military force, not only when the Bolsheviks occupied a place after a battle to drive out the Petliurists, but also in places where the region was already free and the peasants were on their own. The workers' and peasants' Soviets (councils), which had supposedly created this power, appeared after the power was already established. Before the Soviets there were Party "revolutionary committees." And before the "revolutionary committees" there were simply military divisions.
1 Actually, at the time of the Hetman, the Bolsheviks tried to have partisan detachments of their type in the country which were to carry out the orders of the Party. Such was the detachment of Kolosov in the Pavlograd region. But the number of these detachments was small, and they were submerged by the large mass of insurgents who followed a path independent of the Party. In addition, these rare Party-type detachments were infected by the general spirit of the revolutionary insurrection. The detachment of Kolosov did not draw a sharp line between its insurrectional activity and that of Makhno. They often worked together.
2 Cherednyakov was a peasant and an anarchist who was soon outlawed by the Bolshevik authorities. He and his detachment joined the general insurrectionary army of Makhno, and he fought on the Azov front against Denikin. At the time of Denikin's invasion of the Gulyai-Polye region in June, 1919, he was captured and given 300 blows of the whip. He escaped. In the summer of 1919 he again fell into the hands of Denikin's troops in the region of Poltava, and was shot.
Go to Chapter 5