Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, 1967.


Where are those who will come to serve the
masses -- not to utilize them for their
own ambitions?


In the wake of the Kronstadt revolt, the Bolsheviks instituted the New Economic Policy, which ended the forced requisitioning of grain and relaxed government controls over agriculture, industry, and trade. Lenin's purpose was to avert further uprisings like Kronstadt by giving his torn and exhausted country a "breathing spell." No respite, however, was accorded the political opposition. Indeed, a campaign was launched to extinguish the smoldering remains of political disaffection. Those anarchist militants who had hitherto eluded the Cheka's net were tracked down and brought before Revolutionary Tribunals, which they faced with the same defiance exhibited by their forebears in Stolypin's courts after the 1905 rebellion. In December 1922, one defendant in Petrograd called his trial a mockery and refused to answer his inquisitors. The Bolsheviks, he declared, had turned their weapons against the bravest defenders of the Revolution because, like all tyrants, they dreaded criticism. "But we do not fear you or your hangmen," he cried. "Soviet 'justice' may kill us, but you will never kill our ideals. We shall die as anarchists and not as bandits."1

Anarchist prisoners in the jails of Moscow, Petrograd, and other cities were sent to concentration camps near Archangel in the frozen north or to "political isolators" scattered throughout the country. Reports reaching the West told of the severe conditions they were forced to endure: extreme cold, inadequate food, heavy labor, and the ravages of scurvy and consumption. Only the letters from their families and comrades kept alive a flicker of hope. "I sit and dream of liberty," wrote an inmate of the Iaroslavl "polit-isolator," his health broken by tuberculosis.2 Solovetsky Monastery The; ancient monasteries in the town of Suzdal and on the Solovetskii Islands in the White Sea were converted into prisons for hundreds of political offenders, who staged demonstrations and hunger strikes to protest their confinement. A few desperate souls resorted to self-immolation, following the example of the Old Believers who, 250 years before, had made human torches of themselves while barricaded in the Solovetskii Monastery. During the mid-1920's, the anarchists were removed from Solovetskii and dispersed among the Cheka prisons in the Ural Mountains or banished to penal colonies in Siberia.3

The anarchists who had been allowed to leave Russia lost no time in organizing committees to aid their imprisoned comrades. Berkman, Goldman, Schapiro, Volin, Mrachnyi, Maksimov, Yelensky, and Senya and Mollie Fleshin applied their energies to relief work. The files of their organizations -- most notably the Joint Committee for the Defense of Revolutionists Imprisoned in Russia (Berlin, 1923-1926), the Relief Fund of the International Working Men's Association for Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists Imprisoned or Exiled in Russia (Berlin and Paris, 1926-1932), and the Alexander Berkman Aid Fund, active in Chicago to this day -- bulge with letters and dossiers of incarcerated anarchists, their names followed by such grim annotations as "beaten in Butyrki," "repeated hunger strikes," "killed in prison," "shot by Kiev Cheka," "beaten for resisting forced feeding," and "fate unknown."4 The emigres spared no effort to maintain a steady flow of relief parcels and messages of encouragement to their confreres in Russia. Their success in alleviating the hunger, boredom, and despair of the prisoners was quite remarkable, considering the restrictions on relief activities imposed by the Soviet government. Their letters and parcels, in the words of the recipients, were "a godsend," "a breath of fresh air in this stifling atmosphere."5 However, the effort and expense involved in organizing protest meetings, raising funds, issuing bulletins, writing letters, sending packages, and the like, did not fail to take their toll on the aging anarchists in the West, sapping them of their physical strength and keeping them in perpetual poverty. "Often I think that we revolutionists are like the capitalistic system," observed Emma Goldman, herself a tireless relief worker. "We drain men and women of the best that is in them and then stand quietly by to see them end their last days in destitution and loneliness."6

In the meantime, death was silencing the old guard of the movement. Vladimir Zabrezhnev, the former Kropotkinite who joined the Communist party after the October Revolution, died in Moscow in 1920, while serving as secretary of the government newspaper, Izvestiia.7 A few months later, I. S. Bleikhman succumbed to a lung ailment which had been seriously aggravated during a term of forced labor in a Bolshevik prison.8 Kropotkin's death in February 1921 was followed in December by the death of his estranged pupil, Gogeliia-Orgeiani, in his native Caucasus.9 Varlaam Cherkezov, another Georgian and close associate of Kropotkin's during the early years of the movement, returned to his former sanctuary in London and died there in 1925, in his eightieth year.10 In 1926, Waclaw Machajski succumbed to a heart attack in Moscow,11 and Apollon Karelin died of a cerebral hemorrhage, having witnessed the destruction of his All-Russian Federation of Anarchists and the arrest and banishment of his most able disciples, Kharkhardin, Solonovich, and Khudolei."12

This dark chronicle of prison, banishment, and death was only occasionally brightened by better tidings. Olga Taratuta, beaten by her jailers in Butyrki, afflicted by scurvy in the Orel "polit-isolator," and finally sent into Siberian exile, was suddenly paroled and allowed to return to Kiev.13 A number of former "Soviet anarchists" -- Karelinites, Universalists, and Anarcho-Syndicalists -- were released from prison and placed under police surveillance. In 1924, Abba Gordin, the Universalist leader, was permitted to emigrate to the United States. His brother, V. L. Gordin, though a convert to Bolshevism, was seized in 1925 and locked up in a psychiatric ward.14 According to a reliable source, he fled to America and became, mirabile dictu, a Protestant missionary. (The Gordins were sons of a rabbi.)15

A modicum of peaceful anarchist activity was permitted to continue throughout the NEP period. The Golos Truda bookshops and publishing house remained open, and brought out several volumes of Bakunin's writings (a project begun in 1919), as well as a number of new works, including a valuable collection of anarchist reminiscences edited by Aleksei Borovoi.16 At the same time, Borovoi and his colleagues on the Kropotkin Museum Committee, notably Atabekian and Lebedev, were allowed to pursue their work unmolested by the authorities. In 1927, these and other prominent anarchists (Rogdaev, Barmash, Askarov, and Lidiia Gogeliia among them), apparently with the blessings of the Moscow Soviet, issued a public protest against the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, a cause celebre of radicals and libertarians throughout the world.17

For the remnants of the movement living in foreign exile, small groups of aging and disheartened men and women scattered over Europe and America, there remained the bitterness of having seen the Russian Revolution turn into the very opposite of all their hopes; at best, as a sympathetic student of anarchism recently observed, there could be the melancholy consolation that their forefather Bakunin, looking at Marxian socialism a half-century earlier, had prophesied it all.18 "The long years of the 'building of socialism,'" declared the Federation of Russian Anarchist-Communist Groups of the United States and Canada, "justifies in full Bakunin's statement that 'socialism without liberty is slavery and bestiality.'"19 In Berlin and Paris, in New York and Buenos Aires, the embittered survivors kept up their vitriolic attacks on the Bolshevik dictatorship. They branded Lenin "the Torquemada, Loyola, Machiavelli, and Robespierre of the Russian Revolution," and condemned his party as "new kings" who were trampling the banner of liberty underfoot.20 They scorned the NEP as a cynical maneuver to restore the bourgeois system, a reactionary compromise with the capitalists, technical specialists, and rich peasants. The expatriates vowed never to abandon the struggle to throw off "the yoke of the statist Communist party . . . the yoke of the intelligentsia and bourgeoisie"; they would not rest until both "private and state capitalism" had been reduced to rubble and superseded by factory committees and free Soviets, the organizations from below suppressed by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution.21 "Let us fight on," proclaimed Grigorii Maksimov, "and our slogan shall be 'The Revolution is dead! Long live the Revolution!'"22

Although the various anarchist factions in emigration criticized the Soviet regime in much the same terms and usually cooperated with one another in relief work, the old divisions persisted. On arriving in Berlin, the main center of the exiles during the early twenties, Arshinov and Volin of the Nabat Confederation founded a monthly journal called Anarkhicheskii Vestnik (The Anarchist Herald),23 while the syndicalists, led by Maksimov, Iarchuk, and Schapiro, launched their own periodical, Rabochii Put' (The Workers' Way), on the presses of the German organ, Der Syndikalist. Yet both groups recognized that, unless they remedied the disorganization which had plagued them from the very start, the anarchists could scarcely hope to survive as a movement, much less solve the complex social problems of the twentieth century. More than a few grudgingly admitted the truth of Karl Radek's contention that the romanticism of the anarchists and their instinctive hostility towards organization prevented them from facing the realities of contemporary industrial society, with its expanding population and its intricate division of labor, and doomed them to failure and defeat.24

The Anarcho-Syndicalists were particularly sensitive to strictures of this kind, since they had always prided themselves on their modern outlook: unlike the quixotic Anarchist-Communists, they insisted, they did not pine for a bygone age of primitive agricultural communes, but looked forward to a decentralized industrial society incorporating the latest advances in science and technology. Ruefully acknowledging that their movement in Russia had failed for want of an effective organization,25 the syndicalist exiles resolved to join forces with their colleagues of other nations and provide the working class with an alternative to the politically-oriented labor internationals in Moscow and Amsterdam. In December 1922-January 1923, Anarcho-Syndicalists from a dozen countries (including the Russian expatriates) met in Berlin and founded a new workers' international which they christened the International Working Men's Association, claiming it to be the true successor to its namesake of 1864-1876.

The founding congress of the "Anarcho-Syndicalist" International, as the IWMA was commonly known, focused its attention on the meaning of the Bolshevik Revolution for the workingman. The delegates viewed it as an event of enormous significance, for it had brought into sharp relief the differences between state socialism, which leads inevitably to the subjugation of the working class, and revolutionary syndicalism, which preserves the liberty and self-reliance of the masses. Cherishing their libertarian heritage, the syndicalists pledged themselves to remain faithful to the slogan of the First International: "THE EMANCIPATION OF THE WORKING CLASS MUST BE THE TASK OF THE WORKERS THEMSELVES."26 They called upon the workingmen of the world to wage a daily struggle to improve their situation within the existing capitalist framework, until the time was ripe to launch a "general insurrectional strike." This would be the signal for the social revolution that would sweep away the bourgeois order and usher in a free society, organized "from below upwards" and "unhampered by State, army, police, or exploiters and oppressors of any kind." The centralized state would be abolished in favor of a "free system of councils," linked together by a General Confederation of Labor. "The government of men," affirmed the platform of the Anarcho-Syndicalist International, echoing Saint-Simon and Engels, would be replaced by "the administration of things," For the state, whether constitutional democracy or proletarian dictatorship or any other form, would "always be the creator of new monopolies and new privileges: it could never be an instrument of liberation."27

Alexander Schapiro and Grigorii Maksimov played important roles in the formation of the Berlin International, but its guiding spirit and its leader for many years was Rudolf Rocker, former head of the London Anarchist Federation. In 1932, threatened by the rising influence of the Nazi party, the International moved to Amsterdam, and four years later it was shifted again to Madrid, so as to be at the scene of the Spanish Civil War, in which the syndicalist confederation (CNT) had assumed a major role. Franco's victory compelled the syndicalists to move their headquarters to Stockholm in 1939. There the IWMA was kept alive by the syndicalist Sverige Arbetares Central, until its final move to Toulouse after World War II, where it still survives, more than 40 years after its creation.

Within the Anarchist-Communist wing of the movement, the loudest advocate of organizational reform was Petr Arshinov. On reaching Berlin in 1922, he founded the Group of Russian Anarchist-Communists Abroad, which moved to Paris three years later and began to publish its own journal, Delo Truda (Labor's Cause). Arshinov attributed the downfall of the Russian anarchists to their perpetual state of disarray. The only hope for a revival of the movement, according to the "Organizational Platform" issued by his Delo Truda group in 1926, lay in the formation of a General Union of Anarchists with a central executive committee to coordinate policy and action.28 The strongest support for this plan came from Arshinov's old jailmate and pupil, Nestor Makhno, also living in Paris, a fretful and dejected consumptive, for whom alcohol was the only escape from the alien world into which he had been flung. "Nestor is a sick man," wrote Alexander Berkman in 1926, "yet must work in a factory very hard and at a dog's wages, can't even live on them with his wife and baby, though his wife also works. And similarly the others. It is hell."29

Makhno, as it turned out, was the only prominent anarchist willing to subscribe to the Organizational Platform. Volin broke with Arshinov over it and, together with Senya Fleshin and several other dissenters, published a scathing reply the following year. Arshinov and his supporters, they argued, grossly exaggerated the organizational defects of the movement. Their call for a central committee not only clashed with the basic anarchist principle of local initiative, but was a clear reflection of their leader's "party spirit." (Arshinov's opponents rarely failed to point out that he had been a Bolshevik before joining the anarchists in 1906.) What the Delo Truda group sought to create, in short, was an anarchist party whose mission was to lead the masses rather than to assist them in preparing their own revolution.30 "Alas," wrote Mollie Fleshin, "the entire spirit of the 'platform' is penetrated with the idea that the masses must be politically led during the revolution. There is where the evil starts, all the rest ... is mainly based on this idea. It stands for an Anarchist Communist Workers' Party, for an army ... for a system of defense of the revolution which will inevitably lead to the creation of a spying system, investigators, prisons and judges, consequently, a TCHEKA."31

Arshinov responded to these attacks by reproaching "Volin and Co." for embroiling the anarchists in yet another sterile controversy. He insisted that nothing in his proposals even remotely conflicted with the ideals of anarchism, so long as compulsion was conscientiously avoided and a decentralized organizational structure preserved.32 Makhno, rushing to his companion's defense, suggested that Volin, who had fallen into the hands of the Reds in 1919 while serving in the Insurgent Army of the Ukraine, had not been captured, as was generally thought, but had defected to the Communists.33 Makhno's allegation, in turn, drew the fire of Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and Errico Malatesta, who now joined in the criticism of the Organizational Platform.34 In a letter to the anarchist archivist and historian, Max Nettlau, Berkman lashed out at Makhno as the possessor of "a militarist temperament," and entirely in Arshinov's power. As for Arshinov himself, "his whole psychology is Bolshevik," wrote Berkman, "he is a most arbitrary and tyrannical, domineering nature. This throws some light on the program also." "The trouble with most of our people," Berkman lamented, "is that they will not see that Bolshevik methods cannot lead to liberty, that methods and issues are in essence and effects identical."35 In 1930, Arshinov's opponents, who had labeled his platform an "Anarcho-Bolshevik deviation" and had repeatedly accused him of propagating "party anarchism," felt themselves vindicated when Arshinov defected to the Soviet Union and rejoined the party which he had quit for anarchism a quarter-century before. Shortly thereafter, his journal, Delo Truda, was transferred to the United States and Grigorii Maksimov became its new editor.36

Thus once again the anarchists demonstrated their congenital inability to subordinate personal differences to the good of the movement. Even inside Russia, where only a handful of anarchists remained at liberty, bitter factional disputes arose among the members of the Kropotkin Museum Committee. "There is again a skirmish between two groups of our Comrades," wrote Kropotkin's widow to Max Nettlau in 1928. "Both strive to be master in ... the Museum, while none of them have taken part in the building of that institution. I hope that none of them will be masters while I am alive, and something will have to be done to secure the safety of the Museum when I am no more there."37 There seemed to be no end to the squabbling. Berkman expressed his dismay in a letter to Senya and Mollie Fleshin: "I consider it terrible that our movement, everywhere, is degenerating into a swamp of petty personal quarrels, accusations, and recriminations. There is too much of this rotten thing going on, particularly in the last couple of years." Emma Goldman added a postscript: "Dear children. I agree entirely with Sasha. I am sick at heart over the poison of insinuations, charges, accusations in our ranks. If that will not stop there is no hope for a revival of our movement."38

At the end of the twenties, Stalin inaugurated a new era of totalitarian rule in Russia. What little activity had been permitted the anarchists during the NEP came to an abrupt and violent end. In 1929, the Golos Truda bookshops in Leningrad and Moscow were closed permanently as a fresh round of arrests and persecutions began. Anarchists who had already served out long terms at hard labor were once more banished to Siberia or to other remote and forbidding locations. Within a very few years, Atabekian, Askarov, Barmash, Borovoi, and many of their comrades had perished in prison or exile.39 According to Victor Serge, a certain Fishelev -- very likely Maksim Raevskii, the well-known syndicalist and former editor of Burevestnik and Golos Truda -- was arrested for publishing the platform of the Trotskyite opposition.40 However, Raevskii apparently was released, for he is reported to have died in Moscow of heart failure in 1931, while sitting at his writing table.41 Nikolai Rogdaev, Raevskii's old companion and co-editor of Burevestnik, died in Tashkent the following year; exiled there after completing a long sentence in the Suzdal "polit-isolator," he collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage "in a street named, by a mocking coincidence, Sacco-Vanzetti."42

The "Soviet anarchists" who remained at their government posts during the NEP grew increasingly disillusioned with the policies of the new regime. Daniil Novomirskii, a Communist since 1919, came to view the NEP as an unforgivable retreat from the goals of the revolution. He turned in his party card and sought escape in the world of scholarship, becoming a contributor to the Large Soviet E ncyclopedia.43 German Sandomirskii, though he remained in the foreign ministry during the first years of the NEP, also turned to scholarly pursuits, editing a collection of documents on the Geneva Conference of 1922 and writing a lengthy study of Italian fascism.44 Afterwards, he devoted more and more of his time to the Kropotkin Museum. Though passed over by the GPU in 1929, these former anarchists were marked men. In 1936, Novomirskii and his wife were swept up in the great purge and vanished into the dark world of Siberian concentration camps. Sandomirskii and Bill Shatov, notwithstanding their loyal service to the government, were also exiled to Siberia, where they are believed to have been shot.45

The syndicalist leader, Efim Iarchuk, who had left Russia in 1922, experienced a change of heart and appealed for permission to return. With Bukharin's help he was readmitted in 1925 and joined the Communist party.46 Iarchuk and Petr Arshinov, who took the same path five years later, both disappeared in the purge. Aron Baron, after 18 years in prison and exile, was unexpectedly set free in 1938, but after settling in Kharkov was seized by the police and never heard from again.47 Finally, Iuda Roshchin, profoundly disturbed by Stalin's rise to power, is thought to have escaped the latter's wrath by dying a natural death just before the purge began.48 The endless chain of arrests and deportations deprived the Kropotkin Museum of the remaining few who had dedicated themselves to its upkeep. Soon after the death of Kropotkin's widow in 1938, the Museum was closed.49

In the meantime, the movement in emigration was also dying out. Anarchist weeklies became monthlies, and monthlies became quarterlies, their pages often filled up with articles written many decades earlier by Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta. The aging anarchists continued to celebrate Bakunin's birthday and the Paris Commune of 1871. They mourned the Chicago martyrs, the anniversary of Kropotkin's death, and the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. They denounced Stalin and his bloody deeds. They excoriated Hitler and the fascists, but considered a popular front with the communists and socialists "absolutely impossible."50 For a brief time, they could exult in the dramatic role of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War and hope that their cause had gained a new lease on life.51 But the defeat of the left in Spain sounded the knell of the movement. Afterwards, there was little left but despair.

One by one, the survivors saw their old friends into the grave. Maria Goldsmit-Korn, who had remained in Paris when her comrades returned to Russia in 1917, took poison 15 years later in a state of depression brought on by her mother's death.52 "The old guard is passing away," Alexander Berkman wrote despondently in 1935, "and there are almost none of the younger generation to take its place, or at least to do the work that must be done if the world is ever to see a better day."53 The following year Berkman shot himself to death in Nice.54 Four years later, Emma Goldman collapsed and died in Toronto, while on a lecture tour. Her body was removed to Chicago and buried in the Waldheim Cemetery, near the graves of the Haymarket Square martyrs.55

Volin, Schapiro, and Maksimov lived on through the war, aggrieved by the deaths of their comrades in Russia and in the West. In September 1945, Volin died of tuberculosis in Paris. His body was cremated and his ashes interred in the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, not far from the grave of Nestor Makhno, who had succumbed to the same disease a decade earlier.56 Sanya Schapiro, after editing the Parisian anarchist journal, La Voix du Peuple, for a number of years, emigrated to New York, where he died of heart failure in 1946.57 "The best brains of the movement are passing out one after another," wrote Mollie Fleshin after Schapiro's death, "and though I am far from being a pessimist, yet I have a feeling as if the movement itself is passing out. . . ."58

Grigorii Maksimov had left Berlin for Paris in 1924, and then came to the United States the next year. He settled in Chicago, where he worked as a paperhanger by day and spent his evenings editing Golos Truzhenika (The Laborer's Voice), a Russian-language periodical of the IWW which appeared until 1927. When Petr Arshinov defected to the Soviet Union, Maksimov assumed the editorship of Delo Truda, whose headquarters were thereupon shifted from Paris to Chicago. Under his supervision, Delo Truda quickly became the most important journal of the Russian emigres, pro-syndicalist in its general outlook but open to contributions from anarchists of every hue, following a tradition set by the Paris Burevestnik and New York Golos Truda between the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917.

Maksimov made a new attempt to reconcile the differences between the Anarchist-Communists and Anarcho-Syndicalists, possibly aware that their angry disputes stemmed less from conflicting doctrines than from differences of temperament and personality. His own "social credo," which he published in 1933,59 was an amalgam of the two traditions, closely resembling the pro-syndicalist variety of Anarchist-Communism advocated by Kropotkin and his school. In Maksimov's vision of the good society, agricultural cooperatives were to serve as transitional forms during the gradual evolution towards communism (Maksimov scorned the brutal methods used in Stalin's drive to collectivize Soviet farming), while industrial management would be turned over to workers' committees and federations of labor. Eventually, every workman would enjoy a four- or five-hour working day and a four-day week. The distribution of food and manufactured goods was to be handled by house and consumer committees. Courts of law would be supplanted by voluntary arbitration boards; prisons would be abolished and their functions absorbed by the schools, hospitals, and institutions of public welfare; and professional armies were to be disbanded and the mission of defense assigned to a people's militia.60 In Maksimov's view, the Anarcho-syndicalist International provided an admirable organizational instrument to achieve all this, for the IWMA, in contrast to the Comintern, truly adhered to the slogan of the First International that "the liberation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves."61 The centralization of authority, he wrote, must lead inexorably -- as it had in Soviet Russia -- to the "bureaucratization of the entire industrial apparatus, to the emergence of an official class, to the removal of the producers from the administration of the social economy, to the strangling of independent activity on the part of the workers, and to economic crisis."62

Maksimov stayed on as editor when Delo Truda merged with the Detroit anarchist publication, Probuzhdenie, in 1940. Though extremely busy with editorial chores, he found time to publish a strong indictment of the terror in Russia entitled The Guillotine at Work, and labored over a collection of Bakunin's writings, until his heart gave out in 1950.63 His edition of Bakunin appeared three years later.64

Of the major figures in the Russian anarchist movement, now only Abba Gordin was left. Having emigrated to the United States in 1924, he continued to produce a seemingly endless stream of books, essays, and poems, in several languages. He became a co-editor of the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, a Yiddish anarchist journal in New York, and published his own periodical, The Clarion, devoted to wordy attacks on the evils of contemporary society. By the early thirties, Gordin had come to regard nationalism rather than class conflict as the driving force of modern history. The class, he wrote, is "a flimsy, artificial super-structure erected upon a shaky, shifting foundation of occupation," while the roots of the nation are deeply "grounded in biology, racial elements being involved, and psychology, in its concrete form of a national tongue."65 Turning back to his own national heritage, Gordin founded the Jewish Ethical Society, which attracted a small but loyal following.66

In 1940, Gordin published a long-winded but interesting critique of Marxism, which he had been evolving for more than two decades. Marxist doctrine, he wrote, harking back to his Pan-Anarchist Manifesto of 1918, was "a hybrid born of quasi-religion and pseudo-science." The laws for which Marx claimed scientific validity were nothing but a shameless "violation of history"; moreover, Marx's narrow-minded doctrine of class struggle between workers and owners ignored the cleavage that also existed between workers and managers. Echoing Machajski, Gordin declared that Marxian socialism was not the ideology of manual workers but of "a privileged class of politico-economic organisateurs."67 In a passage strongly reminiscent of Bakunin's Statehood and Anarchy, Gordin described the consequences of what he regarded as the managerial revolution of the Bolsheviks: "Pretty soon . . . and the iron-clad dams will be installed! Before long, and the sites upon which the torn down edifices stood, will be graced, after the wreck and debris have been cleared away, with palatial palaces and sumptuous temples. The king is dead -- long live the king! The old laws have been outlawed, former authorities banished in order to make elbowroom for the newcomers. . . ."68 During the late 1950's, the old anarchist, drawn by the magnet of Hebrew culture, emigrated to Israel, where he died in 1964.69

The Russian anarchists, despite their tangled history of personal quarrels and factional strife, shared a common determination to bring about a stateless society in which no man would be master over his brother. For more than two decades, during a tumultuous period spanning two great revolutions, the anarchists consistently denounced the state (autocracy and "proletarian dictatorship" alike) and property (both private and public) as the twin sources of oppression and suffering in Russia. Inspired by Bakunin and Kropotkin, they protested against the growing political and economic centralization of Russian society, with its dehumanizing tendencies and its progressive encroachments on individual liberty. They would brook no compromise with centralized power. In their eyes, it was futile to seek partial improvements from the holders of authority; the most they could expect would be occasional crumbs from "the statist table," whether tsarist or communist. Piecemeal reform, moreover, was incapable of eliminating the basic evils of government and capitalism -- state capitalism as well as private. For the anarchists, the only hope of rescuing the mass of disinherited working people from everlasting bondage lay in demolishing the state and the capitalist system. Theirs was an apocalyptical vision of violent change, a vision of wholesale destruction and resurrection. From the rubble of the old order would emerge a Golden Age, without government, without property, without hunger or want, a shining era of freedom in which men would direct their own affairs without interference from any authority.

For many anarchists, the Golden Age meant a return to an earlier simplicity that had existed before the centralized state and large-scale manufacture began to transform human beings into faceless automatons. They yearned to recapture the direct human relationships of the agricultural commune and handicrafts cooperative, the obshchina and artel', and thereby restore the primitive bliss of medieval Russia, when, supposedly, there was "neither Tsar nor state" but only "land and liberty."70 The society of the future, then, was to be patterned after the society of the past: a federation of small communities, free from authority and compulsion, whose members were joined by the ties of cooperative effort and mutual aid. In such a society, the toiler in the field and factory would regain the dignity of being his own master, and no longer be treated as chattel or as a marketable commodity.

But how was it possible to recapture the freedom and simplicity of pre-industrial Russia in an age of expanding mass production? How could the personal values of the small communal society be preserved in an impersonal world of large factories and rapidly growing cities? A small number of anarchists tried to resolve the dilemma by exhorting the workers to destroy their machines and factories, in the manner of the Luddites, and revive the moribund world of handicrafts production. The great majority, however, welcomed scientific and technological progress with open arms, inheriting from Peter Kropotkin, and from William Godwin before him, the belief that machinery would relieve men of drudgery and fatigue, allow time for leisure and cultural pursuits, and remove forever the stigma traditionally attached to manual labor. To spurn mechanized industry simply because it had been born of the capitalist system, wrote a Petrograd Anarcho-Syndicalist in 1917, would be the greatest folly; in the world of the future, millions of people would live happily in large cities and work in modern factories made of steel and concrete, while parks would satisfy man's need to be close to nature.71 The old culture of Europe was dying, declared the Gordin brothers in 1918, and "only Anarchy and Technics shall rule the earth."72

In this new industrial milieu, the values of the small society would be retained by means of the factory committee. The pro-syndicalists saw the factory committee as an urban counterpart of the obshchina and artel', as the present-day expression of man's natural propensity toward mutual aid. "In the factory committees," declared a female textile worker at a labor conference in 1918, "one can perceive, though not fully developed, the embryo of socialist communes."73 In a similar vein, Emma Goldman once observed that the autonomous workers' council "is the old Russian mir in an advanced and more revolutionary form. It is so deeply rooted in the people that it sprang naturally from the Russian soil as flowers do in the fields."74 By creating a federation of urban factory committees and rural communes, the anarchists hoped to attain the best of two worlds, the simple world of the past and the mechanized world of the future. They sought to incorporate the latest technical advances into a decentralized social system free from the coercive features of capitalism, a system in which the working class would no longer be reduced to an obedient army of puppets manipulated from above. To achieve industrialism while preserving the self-determination of the individual, the anarchists believed, would be to combine the worthiest elements of the socialist and liberal traditions. For socialism without liberty, as Proudhon and Bakunin had taught, is the worst form of slavery.

The anarchists discarded the conventions of bourgeois civilization in the hope of achieving a complete transvaluation of values, a radical transformation of human nature and of the relationship between the individual and society. Yet, if they repudiated the social dogmas of their time as artificial, abstract, and far removed from real life, their own approach to building the good society could hardly be called pragmatic or empirical. Visionary Utopians, the anarchists paid scant attention to the practical needs of a rapidly changing world; they generally avoided careful analysis of social and economic conditions, nor were they able or even willing to come to terms with the inescapable realities of political power. For the religious and metaphysical gospels of the past, they substituted a vague messianism which satisfied their own chiliastic expectations; in place of complex ideologies, they offered simple action-slogans, catchwords of revolutionary violence, poetic images of the coming Golden Age. By and large, they seemed content to rely on "the revolutionary instincts of the masses" to sweep away the old order and "the creative spirit of the masses" to build the new society upon its ashes. "Through a Social Revolution to the Anarchist Future!" proclaimed a group of exiles in South America; the practical details of agriculture and industry "will be worked out afterwards" by the revolutionary masses.75 Such an attitude, though it sprang from a healthy skepticism towards the ideological "blueprints" and "scientific laws" of their Marxist adversaries, could be of little help in setting a course of action designed to revolutionize the world.

Russian anarchism never became a creed of the mass of peasants and industrial workers. Though it drew some support from the working class, anarchism was destined to remain, for the most part, a dream of small groups of individuals who had alienated themselves from the mainstream of contemporary society: conscience-stricken noblemen like Bakunin, Kropotkin, Cherkezov, and Bidbei; apostate seminarians like Kolosov of the Beznachalie group or the Anarcho-Syndicalist leader, Maksimov; members of ethnic minorities like Gogeliia-Orgeiani, Grossman-Roshchin, and the Gordin brothers; peasant guerrillas like Nestor Makhno and his followers; and declasse intellectuals like Volin and Lev Chernyi. The success of the Bolshevik Revolution deprived the anarchists of much of their support, both within the rank and file of the labor movement and among the intellectuals, many of whom accepted the jobs held out to them by the new regime and thus became "Soviet anarchists." The majority, however, remained true to their faith. They continued to shower abuse upon the premises and consequences of "scientific" socialism. Again and again, they warned that political power is evil, that it corrupts all who wield it, that government of any kind stifles the revolutionary spirit of the people and robs them of their freedom.

These anarchists were fated to be rejected, reviled, and, finally, stamped out or driven into exile. Those who survived, though they suffered periods of disillusionment and despair, retained their idealism to the end. If they were failures by material standards, within their small circles they found personal warmth, camaraderie, and high-minded devotion to a common cause; moreover, by liberating themselves from the conventions of a world they detested, perhaps they even attained as individuals some measure of the "higher order" they so desperately craved for all mankind. At the same time, they clung tenaciously to the hope that ultimately their ideals would triumph for humanity as a whole. "All Russia is dark in the long arctic night," wrote Grigorii Maksimov in 1940. "But the morning is inevitable. And Russia's dawn will be a dawn of the toiling people of the whole world. We joyously greet its approach."76


1 Speeches of the anarchist Machanovskii, Petrograd Revolutionary Tribunal, 13 and 21 December 1922, handwritten manuscript, Fleshin Archive.

2 A. D. Fedorov to Mark Mrachnyi, 13 January 1926, Fleshin Archive.

3 Bulletin of the Joint Committee for the Defense of Revolutionists Imprisoned in Russia, January-February 1925; November-December 1925; Delo Truda, No. 22, March 1927, pp. 13-14; Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, pp. 225, 298; David Dallin and Boris Nicolaevsky, Forced Labor in Soviet Russia (New Haven, 1947), p. 172.

4 Fleshin and Berkman Archives.

5 Fleshin Archive.

6 Emma Goldman to Max Nettlau, 14 January 1933, Nettlau Archive.

7 Knizhnik, Krasnaia Letopis', 1922, No. 4, p. 35.

8 Fleshin Archive; Goneniia na anarkhizm v Sovetskoi Rossii, p. 49. Bleikhman was not shot by the Communists, as Tsereteli asserts in his memoirs: Vospominaniia, I, 167.

9 P. A. Kropotkin i ego uchenie, pp. 333-334.

10 Nikolaevskii. Katorga i Ssvlka, 1926, No. 4, pp. 230-231; M. Korn, "Pamiati V. N. Cherkezova," Delo Truda, 1925, No. 5, pp. 3-5; Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, No. 48, March-June 1955, pp. 17-18.

11 Baturin, Pravda, 2 March 1926, p. 2; Syrkin, Makhaevshchina, p. 6.

12 Karelin, Vol'naia zhizn', p. 13; Probuzhdenie, No. 1, April 1927, p. 48; Bulletin of the Joint Committee, January-February 1925; November-December 1925.

13 Fleshin Archive; Delo Truda, No. 33-34, February-March 1928, pp. 3-4. Taratuta's subsequent history is unknown; she probably died in Siberia during Stalin's purge of 1935-1938.

14 Serge, L'An I de la revolution russe, p. 254; Delo Truda, No. 5, October 1925, p. 10.

15 S. Simon, "Di shafn fun Aba Gordin," lecture to the 74th Anniversary Banquet of the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, New York City, 17 January 1965.

16 M. A. Bakunin, Izbrannye sochineniia (5 vols., Petrograd and Moscow, 1919-1922); Mikhailu Bakuninu, 1876-1926: ocherki istorii anarkhicheskogo dvizheniia v Rossii, ed., A. A. Borovoi (Moscow, 1926).

17 Delo Truda, No. 32, January 1928, pp. 7-8.

18 Woodcock, Anarchism, p. 418.

19 Our Position (Chicago?, 1934?), p. 1. The quotation appears in Bakunin, Oeuvres, I, 59.

20 Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, p. 17; Volin, in Anarkhicheskii Vestnik, No. 3-4, September-October 1923, p. 3.

21 Osvobozhdenie Profsoiuzov (Paris), No. 1, November 1928, pp. 1-2-Cf. Manifest protesta anarkhistov-kommunistov protiv bol'shevistskogo pravitel'stva k proletariatu vsego mira (New York, 1922).

22 Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, p. 23.

23 Anatolii Gorelik parted company with the other Nabat leaders and emigrated to Buenos Aires, where a new Golos Truda group had been formed in 1919. He died there in 1956. Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, No. H May-October 1957, p. 35; No. 56, June 1958, pp. 23-25.

24 K. Radek, Anarkhisty v sovetskoi Rossii (Petrograd, 1918), p. 2.

25 Rabochii Put', No. 1, March 1923, pp. 1, 8; No. 6, August 1923, PP. 1-2.

26 The International Working Men's Association, I.W.M.A.: Its Policy, Its Aims, Its Principles (n.p., 1933), p. 8. This pamphlet was written by Alexander Schapiro.

27 Ibid., pp. 7-9.

28 Organizatsionnaia platforma vseobshchego soiuza anarkhistov (proekt) (Paris, 1926).

29 Alexander Berkman to Ben Capes, 22 February 1926, Berkman Archive.

30 Otvet neskol'ko russkikh anarkhistov na organizatsionnuiu platforrnu (Paris, 1927). A critic in the United States charged Arshinov with employing "Jesuit methods" in order to fulfill his self-appointed role of "savior" of the Russian anarchist movement. M. I. Suk, "Kritika 'Organizatsionnoi Platformy,'" Probuzhdenie, No. 8, June 1929, pp. 57-61.

31 Mollie Fleshin to Comrade Ginev, 30 November 1927, Fleshin Archive.

32 P. Arshinov, Novoe v anarkhizme (K chemu prizyvaet organizat-sionnaia platforma) (Paris, 1929), p. 23.

33 N. Makhno, Makhnovshchina i ee vcherashnie soiuzniki-bol'sheviki (Otvet na knigu M. Kubanina "Makhnovshchina") (Paris, 1928), PP-41-43.

34 For Malatesta's reaction, see Probuzhdenie, No. 11, March 1930. pp. 11-14.

35 Alexander Berkman to Max Nettlau, 28 June 1927, Berkman Archive. Alexander Schapiro's position in the controversy is of considerable interest. "I oppose Archinoff much more than you do," he wrote Emma Goldman on 24 April 1928. "Yet, I consider that he is thoughtful, that he is stubborn, that he sticks to his guns, and that he knows what he wants: these are qualities flagrantly lacking among many of our friends to whom our personal sympathies instinctively go." Goldman Archive.

36 Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, No. 16, January 1946, p. 18.

37 Sophie Kropotkin to Max Nettlau, 4 December 1928, Nettlau Archive.

38 Alexander Berkman to Senya and Mollie Fleshin, 28 September 1928, Fleshin Archive.

39 Bulletin of the Relief Fund of the International Working Men's Association for Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists Imprisoned or Exiled in Russia, November-December 1929; Delo Truda, No. 50-51, July-August 1929, pp. 1-3; No. 52-53, September-October 1929, pp. 1-2; Probuzhdenie, No. 43-44, February-March 1934, pp. 44-45; Goneniia na anarkhizm v Sovetskoi Rossii, pp. 35-36; Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, p. 339; Serge, Russia Twenty Years After, p. 86; Aleksei Borovoi to Senya Fleshin, 14 October 1931, Fleshin Archive.

40 Serge, Memoires d'un revolutionnaire, p. 243.

41 Delo Truda, No. 66, May-December 1931, pp. 22-23.

42 Man: A Journal of the Anarchist Ideal and Movement (San Francisco), n, No. 6-7, June-July 1934, p. 121; Delo Truda, No. 74, December 1932-February 1933, p. 2.

43 Serge, Russia Twenty Years After, p. 88;" Memoires d'un revolu-tionnaire, p. 171.

44 G. B. Sandomirskii, ed., Materialy genuezskoi konferentsii (Moscow, 1922); Fashizm (2 vols., Moscow, 1923).

45 Probuzhdenie, No. 56-57, March-April 1935, p. 48; No. 70-71, May-June 1936, p. 48; Serge, Russia Twenty Years After, pp. 87-88; Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, pp. 35In., 619.

46 Delo Truda, No. 7-8, December 1925-January 1926, pp. 15-16; Goneniia na anarkhizm v Sovetskoi Rossii, pp. 62-63; Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, pp. 348, 409.

47 Fanya Avrutskaia to Mark Mrachnyi, 7 December 1926, Fleshin Archive; Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, p. 8.

48 Nomad, Dreamers, Dynamiters, and Demagogues, p. 35; Serge, Memoires d'un revolutionnaire, p. 210.

49 Serge, Memoires d'un rivolutionnaire, p. 298; Woodcock and Avakumovic, The Anarchist Prince, p. 437; Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, No. 26, September 1948, p. 5. Nikolai Lebedev, secretary of the Museum for several years, had died in August 1934. Probuzhdenie, No. 56-57, March-April 1935, p. 48.

50 Our Position, p. 4.

51 Na pomoshch' ispanskim bortsam (New York, 193?); "Ispanskaia grazhdanskaia voina," Probuzhdenie, No. 74-75, September-October 1936, pp. 1-2.

52 Delo Truda, No. 74, December 1932-February 1933, pp. 1-2; Freedom (New York), 18 March 1933, p. 2; Alexander Berkman to Mollie Fleshin, 13 February 1933, Berkman Archive.

53 Alexander Berkman to Pierre Ramus (Rudolf Grossmann), 21 August 1935, Berkman Archive.

54 Probuzhdenie, No. 72-73, July-August 1936, p. 1; Man, rv, No. 7, July 1936, p. 1; Fraye Arbeter Shtime, 3 July 1936, p. 1. For a different version of Berkman's death, see Nomad, Dreamers, Dynamiters, and Demagogues, pp. 207-208.

55 Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise: A Biography of Emma Goldman (Chicago, 1961), pp. 300, 313.

56 Rocker, introduction to Voline, Nineteen-Seventeen; Voline, The Revolution Betrayed, p. 216; M. S. (Mollie Steimer Fleshin), in Freedom (London), 17 November 1945, p. 2; Fraye Arbeter Shtime, 1 December 1945, p. 6.

57 Rudolf Rocker to Senya and Mollie Fleshin, 12 February 1947, Rocker Archive; Carbo, L'Adunata dei Refrattari, 22 March 1947, pp. 3-4. In New York, Schapiro edited a monthly journal called New Trends, which ceased to appear a few months before his death.

58 Mollie Fleshin to Rudolf and Milly Rocker, 16 March 1947, Fleshin Archive.

59 G. P. Maksimov, Moe sotsial'noe kredo (Chicago, 1933).

60 Maximov, Constructive Anarchism, pp. 28ff., 145.

61 Maksimov, Moe sotsial'noe kredo, p. 13.

62 Maximov., Constructive Anarchism, p. 102.

63 Woodcock, introduction to Constructive Anarchism; Rocker, Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, No. 33, July-August 1950, pp. 1-6. Rocker himself died in New York in 1958.

64 G. P. Maximoff, ed., The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism (Glencoe, 111., 1953).

65 A. Gordin, "Instead of a Program," The Clarion, I, No. 2, 1932, p. 2.

66 S. Simon, "Aba Gordin -- der mentsh un denker," Fraye Arbeter Shtime, 1 October 1964, pp. 3, 6.

67 Abba Gordin, Communism Unmasked (New York, 1940), pp. 45-68, 158.

68 Ibid., p. 121.

69 Simon, Fraye Arbeter Shtime, 1 October 1964, p. 6.

70 Volnaia Volia, 1903, No. 1.

71 Golos Truda, No. 6, 15 September 1917, pp. 3-4.

72 Burevestnik, 10 April 1918, pp. 1-3.

73 Protokoly 1-go Vserossiiskogo s"ezda professional'nykh soiuzov tekstil'shchikov i fabrichnykh komitetov, p. 44.

74 Emma Goldman to Max Nettlau, 12 December 1922, Nettlau Archive.

75 "Deklaratsiia" gruppy russkikh anarkhistov sodeistviia "Delu Truda": Prakticheskie zadachi anarkhizma v sovremennuiu epokhu (Buenos Aires, *»30), p. 13.

76 Maximoff, The Guillotine at Work, p. 337.