The russian february revolution of 1917: Grigori Petrovitch Maximov

We continue to share testimonials/reflections on the russian revolution, shared from and inspired by Robert Graham’s Anarchist Weblog

Gregory (“Grigori”) Maksimov (often written as “Maximov” and “Maximoff” in English language material) was one of the leading exponents of anarcho-syndicalism in Russia during the 1917 Revolution.  He was in St. Petersburg when the February 1917 Revolution broke out, participating in the strike wave that helped provoke the Revolution. He became active in the factory committee movement which sought to bring about genuine workers’ control in Russia. After he was forced into exile in 1921, he wrote an exposé of the Bolshevik tyranny in Russia, The Guillotine at Work, and edited the first major English language selection of Bakunin’s writings, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin (published from Maksimov’s manuscripts after his death in 1950). The following is Maksimov’s pamphlet, Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution, in which he describes the beginning of the Russian Revolution, before the return of the many political exiles who were to play such a fateful role in the Revolution’s ultimate outcome (including Bolsheviks like Lenin and Trotsky, and anarchists like Boris Yelensky), the role of revolutionary anarcho-syndicalists in the events and their subsequent repression by Bolshevik authority.

We also share below a second short text by Maximov, entitled My Social Credo.

Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution

Grigori Petrovitch Maximov

The Revolution shook all classes and strata of Russian social life. A vast unrest had permeated all levels of Russian society as a result of three centuries of oppression by the Tsarist regime.

During the revolutionary explosion, this unrest became the force which cemented the heterogeneous elements into a powerful united front, and which annihilated the edifice of despotism within three days, a brief revolutionary period, unprecedented in history. Within this movement, despite the fact that its component forces were actuated by different, and often mutually exclusive tasks and purposes, reigned full unanimity. At the moment of revolutionary explosion the aims of those various forces happened to coincide, since they were negative in character, being directed at annihilating the superannuated absolutist regime. The constructive aims were not yet clear. It was only during the further course of development, through the differing constructions placed on the aims and tasks of the revolution, that the hitherto amorphous forces began to crystallise and a struggle arose among them for the triumph of their ideas and objectives.

It is a noteworthy feature of the revolution that despite the rather small influence of Anarchists on the masses before its out break, it followed from its inception the anarchistic course of full decentralisation; the revolutionary bodies immediately pushed to the front by the course of revolution were Anarcho-Syndicalist in their essential character. These were of the kind which lend themselves as adequate instruments for the quickest realisation of the Anarchist ideal — Soviets, Factory Committees, peasant land committees and house committees, etc. The inner logic of the development and growth of such organisations led in November (October) 1917 to the temporary extinction of the State and the sweeping away of the foundations of capitalist economy. I say temporarily, for in the long run the State and capitalism came to triumph, the logical development of the revolution having been openly frustrated by those who at first were instrumental in accelerating its course of development. Unchecked by the too trustful masses, whose aims and course of action, though felt instinctively, were still far from being clearly realised, the Bolsheviks, to the extent that they gained the confidence of those masses, gradually enveloped the revolution with the chilling atmosphere of State dominance and brute force, thus dooming it to an inevitable process of decay. This process, however, became noticeable only six months after the “October revolution”. Up to that moment the revolution kept on ripening. The struggle became sharper and the objectives began to assume an ever clearer and more outspoken character. The country seethed and bubbled over, living a full life under conditions of freedom.

Grand struggle

The struggle of classes, groups and parties for preponderant influence in the revolution was intense, powerful and striking in character. As a result of this struggle there resulted a sort of stalemate of forces; none was in a position to command superiority in relation to the rest. This in turn made it impossible for the State and government — the external force standing above society — to become the instrument of one of the contending forces. The State, therefore, was paralysed, not being able to exert its negative influence on the course of events, the more so in that the army, due to its active part in the movement, ceased to be an obedient instrument of State power. In this grand struggle of interests and ideas the Anarchists took an active and lively part.

The period from March (February) to November (October) 1917 was in its sweep and scope a most resplendent one for Anarcho-Syndicalist and Anarchist work, that is for propaganda, agitation, organisation and action.

The revolution opened wide the door to Anarchist emigres returning from various countries, where they had fled to escape the ferocious persecution of the Tsar’s government. But even before the emigres’ return there arose, with the active participation of comrades released from prison and exile, groups and unions of Anarchists, as well as Anarchist publications. With the return of the Anarchists from abroad, this work began to pick up considerable momentum. Russia was covered with a thick, albeit too loosely connected, net of groups. Scarcely a sizeable city did not have an Anarcho-Syndicalist or Anarchist group. The propaganda took dimensions unprecedented for Anarchist activity in Russia. Proportionately, there was a great number of Anarchist newspapers, magazines, leaflets, pamphlets and books. The book market was flooded with Anarchist literature. The interest in Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarchism was enormous, reaching even the remote corners of the faraway North.

Newspapers were published not only in the large administrative and industrial centres, like Moscow and Petrograd, which had several Anarchist newspapers (in Petrograd the circulation of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Golos Trouda and the Anarchist Burevestnik was 25,000 each; the Moscow daily Anarchia had about the same circulation), but also in provincial cities, like Kronstadt, Yaroslavl, Nizhni-Novgorod, Saratov, Samara, Krasnoyarsk, Vladivostok, Rostov on Don, Odessa and Kiev. (In 1918, Anarchist papers were coming out in Ivanovo-Vosnesensk, Chembar, Ekaterinburg, Kursk, Ekaterinoslav, Viatka.)

Oral propaganda was even more extensive than written — it was carried out in the army, as well as in factories and villages. The propaganda stressed the central task of bringing out and carrying to their logical end the Anarchist principles and tendencies inherent in the revolution. This propaganda, Anarcho-Syndicalist propaganda especially, was very successful with the toilers. The influence of Anarchism, especially its Anarcho-Syndicalist variety, was so great with the Petrograd workers that the Social-Democrats were compelled to issue a special publication for the purpose of waging a struggle against “Anarcho-Syndicalism among the organised proletariat.” Unfortunately, this influence was not organised.

‘Centralism via federalism’

The influence of Anarcho-Syndicalism showed itself creditably in the struggle for supremacy waged by the Factory Committees against the trade unions. The Factory Committees were almost completely swayed by a unique sort of Anarcho-Syndicalism; this is attested by all the conferences of the Petrograd Factory Committees, and by the All-Russian conferences of these committees. Moreover, the Bolsheviks in their drive towards seizure of power and dictatorship, were forced to cast away (for the time being only, as subsequent events proved), their orthodox Marxism and to accept Anarchist slogans and methods. Alas, this was but a tactical move on their part, not a genuine change of programme. The slogans formulated by the Bolsheviks (Communists) voiced, in a precise and intelligible manner, the demands of the masses in revolt, coinciding with the slogans of the Anarchists: “Down with the war,” “Immediate peace without annexations or indemnities, over the heads of the governments and capitalists,” “Abolition of the army,” “Arming of the workers,” “Immediate seizure of land by the peasants,” “Seizure of factories by the workers,” “A Federation of Soviets,” etc. Wouldn’t the realisation of these great slogans lead to the full triumph of Anarchist ideology, to the sweeping away of the basis and foundations of Marxism? Wasn’t it natural for the Anarchists to be taken in by these slogans, considering that they lacked a strong organisation to carry them out independently? Consequently, they continued taking part in the joint struggle.

But reality soon proved that all the lapses by the Bolsheviks from the revolutionary position were no casual things, but moves in a rigorously thought-out tactical plan, directed against the vital interests and demands of the masses — a plan designed to carry out in life the dead dogmas of a disintegrated Marxism. The true face of the Bolsheviks was revealed by the Commissar of National Affairs, Stalin (Dzhugashvili), who in one of his articles (April 1918) wrote that their aim is, “To arrive at centralism via federalism.” Persistently, cautiously, the revolution was being forced into Marxist channels in accordance with a preconceived plan. Such a channel is for every popular creed a Procrustean bed.

Thus, during the period of the Bourgeois and Bourgeois Socialist Government, the Anarchists worked (not organisationally of course) hand-in-hand with the Bolsheviks. How were the Anarchists situated during that period? The listing of the cities where Anarchist publications came out shows that freedom of the press was of the most extensive kind. Not a single newspaper was closed, not a single leaflet, pamphlet or book confiscated, not a single rally or mass meeting forbidden. Despite the seizure of rich private houses, like the Durnovo Villa and other mansions in Petrograd; despite the seizure of printing shops, including the printing shop of Russkaya Volia, published by the Tsar’s minister Protopopov; despite open incitement to insubordination and appeals for soldiers to leave the fronts; despite all that, only a few cases where Anarchists were manhandled might be construed as connivance by authorities, or premeditated acts. True, the government, at that period, was not averse to dealing severely with both Anarchists and Bolsheviks. Kerensky threatened many times to “burn them out with red-hot irons”. But the government was powerless, because the revolution was in full swing.

After October

How did the position of the Anarchists change with the triumph of the October revolution, in the preparation and making of which they had taken such a prominent part? It has to be pointed out that during the Kerensky period the Anarchists had grown considerably and that towards the October days their movement had already assumed considerable proportions. This growth became even more accelerated after the October revolution, when the Anarchists took an active part in the direct struggle against both the counter-revolution and the German-Austrian troops. Not only did the voice of the Anarchists command attention, but the masses actually followed the appeals and directives of the Anarchists, having come to see in them the concrete formulation of their age-long aspirations. That is why they backed demands of an Anarcho-Syndicalist character, carrying them out in the teeth of hamstringing efforts, rather feeble at that time, by the Bolsheviks.

Under the influence of Anarcho-Syndicalist propaganda, there began in Petrograd a spontaneous process of socialisation of housing by the house committees. This extended to entire streets, bringing into existence street committees and block committees, when entire blocks were drawn in. It spread to other cities. In Kronstadt it started even earlier than Petrograd and reached even greater intensity. If in Petrograd and other cities, dwellings were socialised only on the triumph of the October revolution, in Kronstadt similar steps were taken earlier, under the influence of Yartchuk, who was enjoying great popularity in that town, and in face of the active resistance of the Bolsheviks. Measures of this kind were carried out in an organised way by the revolutionary workers and sailors throughout the town. The Bolshevik fraction left a session of the Kronstadt Soviet in protest against the socialisation of dwellings.

Workers’ Control

In the field of revolutionary struggle towards immediate abolition of the institution of private property in the means of production, the influence of the Anarchists was even more pronounced. The idea of “workers’ control”, carried out through the Factory Committees, an idea advocated by the Anarcho-Syndicalists from the very outset of the revolution, took root among the city workers, gaining such a strong hold on them as to force its acceptance, in a distorted form, of course, by the Socialist parties. The Social Democrats and the right Social-Revolutionists twisted this idea of workers’ control into that of State control over industry, with the participation of workers, leaving enterprises in the hands of the capitalists.

As for the Bolsheviks, they were quite vague about the meaning of the term “workers’ control”, leaving it undefined, and making it a handy tool of demagogic propaganda. This is confirmed by A. Lozovsky (S. A. Dridzo), who writes the following in his pamphlet Workers’ Control (Petersburg, the Socialist Publishing House, 1918):

“Workers’ control was the fighting slogan of the Bolsheviks before the October days … but despite the fact that workers’ control figured in all resolutions, and was displayed on all banners, it had an aura of mystery about it. The party Press wrote very little about this slogan, still less did it try to implement it in a concrete way. When the October revolution broke out and it became necessary to say clearly and precisely what this workers’ control was, it developed that, even among the partisans of this slogan, there existed great differences of opinion on that’ score.” (p. 19.)

The Bolsheviks refused to accept the Anarcho-Syndicalist construction of the idea of workers’ control; namely, taking control of production, its socialisation and instituting workers’ control over socialised production through the Factory Committees. This idea won out, workers having begun expropriating enterprises while the Bourgeois-Socialist government was still in power. The Factory Committees and various control committees were already taking over the managing functions at that time. On the eve of the October revolution this movement assumed a truly mass character.

Factory Committees

The Factory Committees and their Central Bureau became the foundation of the new revolutionary movement, which set itself the task of making the factories into Producer and Consumer Communes. The Factory Committees were to become the nuclei of the new social order gradually emerging from the inchoate elemental life of the revolution. Anarchistic in their essence, the Factory Committees made many enemies. The attitude of all political parties was restrained hostility, their efforts centering on reducing the Factory Committees to a subordinate position within the trade unions. The Communists from the outset showed their suspicion of this type of organisation. It was only after they had become convinced that the trade unions were too strongly dominated by the Social-Democrats to lend themselves as instruments of Communist policy that, following the Anarcho-Syndicalists, they began to centre their attention on the Factory Committees, aiming to place them under their control and, through those committees, ultimately to gain control of the trade unions. Despite this attitude, the Bolsheviks were forced by the course of events to assume a position toward the Factory Committees which differed little from that of the Anarcho-Syndicalists. Only gradually did they assume this position. At first they combatted it.

“The Anarcho-Syndicalists entrenched themselves behind the Factory Committees. They created a veritable theory around it, saying in effect that the trade unions have died, that the future belongs to the Factory Committees, who will deliver the knock-out blow to capitalism, that the Factory Committees are the highest form of labour movement, etc. In a word, they developed in regard to the Factory Committees the same theory which the French Anarcho-Syndicalists developed in regard to the trade unions. Under these conditions the divorce between the two organisations (trade unions and Factory Committees) represents the greatest danger for the labour movement of Russia.

“This danger is the greater, that even among active people of the Factory Committees who are not Anarcho-Syndicalists, we also see this tendency to oppose the trade unions to the Factory Committees and even to’ replace industrial unions and their local branches with respective organisations of the Factory Committee type.” — Lozovsky, Workers’ Control (p. 37).

Seizure of enterprises

Characteristically, only the Anarcho-Syndicalist press correctly evaluated the role and significance of the Factory Committees. The first article in the revolutionary press on this problem, by the author of these lines, appeared in the first issue of Golos Trouda. (Incidentally, the article did not express the opinion of Golos Trouda as a whole on this problem.) At one of the conferences of the Factory Committees held in Petrograd, during August, 1917, the article was hotly contested by the Bolsheviks, notably Lozovsky and others. But this idea, sound in itself and answering the mood and needs of the workers, became dominant even in the Bolshevik Party. Even Lenin declared in his speech at the All-Russian Trade Union Convention (held in the spring of 1918) that “the factory is a self-governing commune of producers and consumers.”

The results of this Anarcho-Syndicalist propaganda soon bore fruit. There followed a wave of seizures of enterprises and the organisation of Workers’ Management. These began when the provisional government was still in power and, it stands to reason, the Anarchists played the foremost role in them. The most talked-of event of the kind at that period was the expropriation under the direct influence of the Anarchist Zhuk, of the Shlisselburg gunpowder mills and agricultural estates, both of which were then organised on Anarchist principles. Such events recurred ever more frequently, and on the eve of the October revolution they came to be regarded as a matter of course. Soon after the triumph of the October revolution, the Central Bureau of the Factory Committees worked out extensive instructions for the control of production. These instructions proved to be a brilliant literary document, showing the triumph of the Anarcho-Syndicalist idea. The significance of this incident is the greater considering that the Bolsheviks were then predominant in the Factory Committees.

How greatly the workers were influenced by the idea of Factory Committees being the executive bodies of the Factory-Communes — the cellular bodies joining into a federative organisation, which unites all workers and creates the necessary industrial administrative system — is shown by the uneasiness the Bolsheviks revealed after the October revolution.

“In place of a ‘Republic of Soviets’, we are led to a republic of producers’ co-operatives (artels), into which the capitalist factories would be metamorphosed by this process. Instead of a rapid regulation of the social production and consumption — instead of measures which, objected to as they may be on various grounds, do represent a genuine step toward a socialist organisation of society — instead of that we are witnessing something which partakes somewhat of the Anarchist visionary dreams about autonomous industrial communes.” — I. Stepanov, From Workers’ Control towards Workers’ Administration in the industries and Agriculture (Moscow, 1918, p. 11).

The predominance of the Bolsheviks makes even more remarkable the successes achieved by our comrades, especially that of W. Shatov, in their work carried on within the Factory Committees. (Shatov led the attack on the Winter Palace, Petrograd, in October 1917. He left the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement and became in fact a Bolshevik from the very moment when the capital was moved to Moscow early in 1918. He was arrested and probably shot without trial during the purges in the late 1930s.) Even though dominated by the Bolsheviks, the Factory Committees of that period were carrying out the Anarchist idea. The latter, of course, suffered in clarity and purity when carried out by the Bolsheviks within the Factory Committees; had the Anarchists been in the majority they would have tried to eliminate completely from the work of the committees the element of centralisation and State principles.

Spontaneous Syndicalism

We are not out here to give a detailed history of the Russian trade union movement, or a chronicle of the struggle of various political parties and groups within the trade unions. Ours is a purely informatory task. We want to stress those moments in the life of the trade union movement highlighted by the work of the Anarcho-Syndicalist minority. The labour movement, like the revolution itself, arose spontaneously. It set aside trade unions, basing itself mainly on the Factory Committees and their associations, especially in Petrograd.

Although the Russian proletariat was, as a whole, entirely ignorant of the ideas of Revolutionary Syndicalism, and despite the scarcity of Anarcho Syndicalist literature, as well as an almost total lack of representatives of this movement among the Russian workers; despite all that, the labour movement of all Russia went along the road of decentralisation. It chose spontaneously the course of a unique Revolutionary Syndicalism. Unlike other periods, the one following the February revolution of 1917 was characterised by the active participation of Anarcho-Syndicalists — workers who had returned to Russia from the United States, where they had taken part in the struggles of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Factory Committees v trade unions

Until January 1918, that is until the First All-Russian Trade Union Convention, the labour movement sailed under the banners of the Factory Committees. These waged a fierce struggle against the bourgeois elements that fought silently for supremacy, as against the trade unions. This struggle assumed an especially strong character after the Third All-Russian Trade Union Conference, which clearly revealed the gulf between the tactics and aims of the trade unions and those of the Factory Committees. The latter, united first in Petrograd, then throughout Russia, singled out their own central bodies and gave the keystone to the course of the revolution. The Anarcho-Syndicalists took an active part in both the Factory Committees and the trade unions. There was no unanimity in Anarcho-Syndicalist ranks about which of the two organisations should be preferred. The movement headed by the author o£ these lines was far from being supported by the rest of the Anarchists. It was not even accepted by the group publishing Golos Trouda. Likewise, many Bolsheviks were averse to the viewpoint favouring the Factory Committees as against the trade unions. At one of the conferences of the Petrograd Factory Committees, Lozovsky subjected this view, and the movement backing it, to a cruel and unscrupulous attack.

On the whole, however, the Anarcho-Syndicalist elements showed a preference for the Factory Committees, having concentrated their forces in that direction. They were represented in many individual Factory Committees, as well as in the Petrograd Bureau and the All-Russian Central Bureau of Factory Committees. Likewise the influence exercised by the Anarcho-Syndicalists on the work of the conferences of the Factory Committees, whose paper, Novy Put, was strongly coloured with a unique kind of Anarcho-Syndicalism, though no Anarcho-Syndicalists were on its staff.

In view of this direct and indirect influence of Anarcho-Syndicalists, the bourgeois and socialist papers began to voice alarm: the newspapers Dien (bourgeois), Novaya Zhizn (socialist), Izvestia Petrogradskogo Obshtchestva Zavochikovy Fabricantov (bourgeois), Izvestia Tzentralnogo Ispolnitelnogo Komiteta (socialist), Rabochaya Gazeta (socialist), etc. The Social-Democrats issued a special publication (Rabochaya Mysl) to combat Anarcho-Syndicalist influence among the organised proletariat.

In vain, however. The Anarcho-Syndicalists were conquering the masses with the slogan of “Workers’ Control”. Ever greater masses of workers were swept under Anarcho-Syndicalist influence, which impelled them to proceed with the seizure of factories. The influence of the Anarcho-Syndicalist slogan “Workers’ Control” showed itself in the Manual for the Carrying Out of Workers’ Control of Industry, edited and published by the Central Council of the Petrograd Factory Committees and which met a sharp rebuff from the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at the First All-Russian Trade Union Convention. (See The First All-Russian Convention of Trade Unions, Stenographic Report. Also A. Lozovsky (Dridzo), Workers’ Control.)

The Anarcho-Syndicalists at that time had their group organisations outside the unions and were publishing newspapers and magazines. In Petrograd Golos Trouda, Kharkov Rabochaya Mysl, Krasnoyarsk Sibirsky Anarchist, in Moscow a revolutionary Syndicalist organ Rabochaya Zhizn, etc. The Anarcho-Syndicalists were represented in numerous Factory Committees and trade unions, where they were carrying on intensive propaganda. The great majority of Anarcho-Syndicalists believed that, by working within the trade unions, they would succeed in imparting to the latter an Anarcho-Syndicalist direction.

Sweep of movement

Before the First All-Russian Trade Union Convention, the Anarcho-Syndicalists succeeded in organising on the platform of the American IWW between 25 and 30 thousand miners of the Debaltzev district in the Don Basin. The Cossack massacre, which led to the murder of comrade Koniayev, the organiser of this union, and the subsequent civil war, destroyed those beginnings. The same was true of Anarcho-Syndicalist work in the Cheremkhovo mine, before the Czechoslovak rebellion. In Ekaterinodar and throughout Novorossiysk province the labour movement was adopting the Anarcho-Syndicalist platform. This movement was headed by B. Yelensky, Katia Gorbova and others. The movement embraced the entire Chernomorsky province, with the cities Ekaterinodar and Novorossiysk. The main contingents in this movement were portworkers and cement workers. In Moscow the Anarcho-Syndicalists had a dominant influence among the railway workers, perfumery workers and others. (The movement was carried on by comrades including Preferansov, N. K. Lebediev Kritskaya.) To translate this influence into terms of definite numbers is difficult. We can only point out that, at the First All-Russian Trade Union Convention, there was an Anarcho-Syndicalist faction. It included a few Maximalists and other sympathizers totalling twenty-five people. And since the basis of representation was on the average of one delegate per 3,000 3,500 members, one may say that the number of organised Anarcho-Syndicalist workers reached 88,000. This figure, however, might safely be increased two or three times to form an adequate idea of the actual sweep of the movement.

Factory Committees subordinated

At the First Trade Union Convention, immediately after the October revolution, the Bolsheviks and Left Social-Revolutionists were in the majority. It signified the final victory of the trade unions over the Factory Committees. The Bolsheviks subordinated the Factory Committees, which were federalist and anarchistic by nature, to the centralised trade unions. With the help of the trade unions, the Bolsheviks succeeded in making the Factory Committees a tool in their policy of domination over the masses. Having achieved that, the Bolsheviks proceeded to strip the Committees of all their functions. And by this time the Factory Committees fulfilled only one function, the police role imposed on them by the Bolsheviks.

In 1918, the Bolshevik terror still spared the trade unions. And thus we saw the development of an Anarcho-Syndicalist movement in the bakers’ union of Moscow, Kharkov and Kiev (very energetic work was carried on among the Kiev bakers by A. Baron, who if not executed by now [1940] is still being kept in prison or exile; ever since 1920, he was switched back and forth from various prisons to places of exile), and among the Petrograd postal and telegraph workers. At the All-Russian Convention of Postal and Telegraph Workers, the Anarcho-Syndicalists exercised a powerful influence, more than half the delegates following their lead. (The principal Anarcho-Syndicalist workers in this union were Milhalev, Bondarev and others. The extent of Anarcho-Syndicalist influence in the union can be judged by reading the stenographic report of the convention held in 1918.) The Petrograd branch of this union marched under the banners of Anarcho-Syndicalism. Its publication, Izvestia Pochtovo-Telegrainikh Sluzhashtchikk Petrograda was edited by Anarcho-Syndicalists. The same was true of the Union River Transport Workers of the Volga Basin where, due to the work of comrade Anosov, the union publication took a definite Anarcho-Syndicalist stand.

Capture of trade unions

All that, however, was destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The industrial principle underlying the process of merging unions into large units became a useful weapon in the Bolshevik struggle against Anarcho-Syndicalism. In the first place the Bolsheviks began to consolidate those unions which they deemed unreliable, from the viewpoint of their own basic drive for domination. The move was to merge such unions in the general mass and scatter the leading Anarcho-Syndicalist workers in unions considered “reliable” from their point of view. Thus went down a number of Anarchist-minded trade unions; the union of telegraph workers in Petrograd, of perfumery workers in Moscow, of water transport workers in Kazan, the organisations of some important railroad junctions of Moscow and Kursk, where comrades like Kovalevich and Dvumjantzev played an important role.

Due to this measure and to intensified centralisation, coupled with unscrupulous juggling of votes and, in some places, the severe measures applied by the authorities, the administrative bodies fell into the hands of Communists. The Second All-Russian Convention of Trade Unions (1919) furnishes an apt example of this process of capturing the trade unions. At that convention the number of Anarcho-Syndicalist and sympathetic delegates was only 15. That is, they represented only 52,950, at a moment when the workers’ sympathies for Anarcho-Syndicalism were noticeably on the increase, a fact accentuated by a concurrent lowering of the standing of the Bolsheviks in the eyes of the workers. The standing rules of the convention deprived the Anarcho-Syndicalists of the right to have their own speaker on the important questions on the agenda. At the third convention, in 1920, there were only 10 Anarcho-Syndicalist delegates (including sympathisers) representing only 35,300 people.

Those conventions fully demonstrated the failure of the tactics advocated by Golos Trouda, which carried weight with the Anarcho-Syndicalists of Russia. (The author was on the staff of Golos Trouda, but this does not deter him from acknowledging the errors made by the paper.) The lack of purely revolutionary unions hastened the destruction of the Anarchist and Syndicalist movements. Scattered throughout the Bolshevik unions, the Anarcho-Syndicalist forces could not show any resistance and were flattened by the iron policy of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”.

At the beginning of 1920 only one union in Moscow held out for the Anarcho-Syndicalist line. This was the Bakers’ Union, whose Anarcho-Syndicalist orientation was due to the work of our comrade N. I. Pavlov. (The latter, however, recanted his Anarcho-Syndicalist views under the pressure of the GPU, this being the price paid by him for his liberty. Pavlov made the statement disavowing his Anarchist views on release from prison). A contributing factor to the persistence of Anarcho-Syndicalist influence in the Bakers’ Union was the work of the Maximalists, Niushenkov and Kamyshev.

At the Second All-Russian Convention, the Bakers’ Union delegation contained a “Federalist” faction numbering ten to fifteen people, whose following extended to nearly a third of the union membership. At that convention, the first attempt was made (Maximoff, Niushenkov, Pavlov) to organise an underground revolutionary Federation of Food Workers. This was to be the first step towards organising a Russian General Confederation of Labour. The move was to have been a genuine attempt by the Executive Committee of Russian Anarcho-Syndicalists to carry out the basic points of its programme. In view of the repressions which soon began, the committee of the above-mentioned comrades, elected at the meeting of the faction of the convention, did not even get a chance to start its work, as planned at the meeting. This was the last vivid manifestation of the struggle waged by Anarcho-Syndicalism within the Communist State-controlled trade union

Centralisation and terror

The programme of the Russian trade union movement was as follows: centralisation, compulsory membership, compulsory discipline imposed by disciplinary courts, the tutelage of the political party (the Communist Party in this case), militarisation of labour, compulsory labour service, labour armies, the attachment of workers to their places of work, nationalisation of production individual management (instead of collective administration) graduated wage scales (36 categories), introduction of sweatshop system, Taylorism, piecework, bonuses, premium systems, etc. Workers control and workers’ management were proscribed and unconditional support of the government was demanded.

The policy and programme of the trade unions was wholly determined (and still is) by the policies and programme of the “Communist Government”. At present, and this has been true for a number of years, the unions, or rather their administrative centres, have nothing in common with the proletarian masses. They only mirror the policy of the government, fulfilling all its demands at the expense of the working class.

The Soviet State has kept up its terroristic methods in suppressing all opposition within unions, meting out brutal punishment to anyone violating government decrees, which are inimical to the workers. In this respect the unions proved to be one of the many government repressive agencies, working in close collaboration with the other punitive organs of the State: the Che-Ka, People’s Courts, the GPU, etc.

The following is an apt illustration of this terrorist policy towards workers. Krasny Nobat and Uralsky Rabochy reported the following cases: for taking an unauthorised three-day leave from his factory, one of the workers was sentenced to unload 5,000 pounds (801 tons), during ten days. All that to be done after his regular workday. Many other workers were sentenced to compulsory prison work for the same “crime” of absenting themselves during work. This slave holding policy flourished, especially in the Ural region, during the administration of Trotsky and Piatakov.

A government inspection of the sanitary and technical conditions prevailing in the Central Coal District revealed a ghastly picture, by which even the most frightful capitalist exploitation pales in comparison. In the name of the “commonwealth”, that is the benefit of the State, workers had to live miles away from the mines in ramshackle barracks built of thin boards, and lacking elementary conveniences, where even doors and windows had fallen into disuse. In the winter the barracks gave hardly any protection against frosts and icy winds. There were no toilets, workers being compelled to use cesspools surrounding the barracks.

Mineworkers were getting half-a-pound of bread a day — on condition that they fulfilled their daily work norm. Failing that, they were deprived of this ration. In addition, overtime was exacted from the workers, who were paid for it with one meal a day. Workers who did not fulfill their norm were kept in the mine until they completed their daily task. And this leaves out the account of the flagrant tyranny and high-handed actions characterising the attitude of the administration to the workers. (This data is taken from the unpublished report of the doctors who were carrying out this investigation. The report is kept among the materials of the Department of Safeguarding Labour, at the Labour Commissariat.)

Such conditions were especially prevalent in the life of the Ural workers during the administration of Trotsky and Piatakov. At the Izhevsk plant, for instance, an anarchist worker named Gordeyev was shot for failing to submit to work discipline (see Golos Rossiyi for the first half of 1922, Berlin). In Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk) workers of the mint were sentenced to hard prison labour, their “crime” being “violation of labour discipline”.

What was the Anarcho-Syndicalist programme, as opposed to that of the government-controlled “communist unions”? Briefly, it was that the State — even the so-called benevolent State — is the enemy of the working class. It follows, therefore, that the first task of the trade unions should be to emancipate themselves from State captivity, to emphasise the significance of industrial organization. In accordance with this premise the Anarcho-Syndicalists built their programme and tactics in the Russian trade union movement.

My Social Credo

My View of Capitalism

At the base of contemporary capitalist society lies the principle of private property, owing to which society is divided into two fundamental classes — the capitalists and the proletariat. The former and less numerous class possesses all the capital, the tools and-means of production, while the latter and more numerous class is deprived of all these and possesses only its labour-power, both physical and intellectual. Under the pressure of need, the working class sells this power to the capitalists at a price below its real value; the unremunerated part of labour power finds its way, in the form of surplus value, into the pockets of the capitalists. As a result, the latter class is in possession of fabulous wealth, while the proletariat and kindred social groups are afflicted by dire poverty. This contrast stands out most boldly in countries of highly developed capitalism. This contemporary economic order is defended by the entire might of the state, with its morality and its religions.

Capitalist production is commodity production; that is to say, its products are made for the market. The market is the most important feature of the system of distributing goods under capitalism. In such a society, everything is based on purchase and sale. The people, selling to the capitalists their physical and intellectual energy, are a kind of commodity — a living commodity — and the results of their activities, both in the material field and in the domains of science, art and morals, are also marketable goods. Hence a small group of exploiters enjoys the greater share of the fruits of modern science and technology, the fruits — in other words — of the progress of mankind as a whole.

Owing to the economic inequality of the two parties, the principles of free labour and voluntary contract, inherent in the hire of workers, are advantageous only to the capitalists, and any attempt on the part of the proletariat to equalise the conditions of the two parties to the agreement results in persecution by the state, which is intent on defending the privileges of capital.

Scientific and technological progress leads to an enormous mechanisation of production, and this process, in turn, results in the concentration of capital and the proletarianisation of the population. The mechanisation of production makes the capitalists increasingly independent of manpower, and enables them to exploit the socially weaker elements among the people — children, women and the aged. Consequently, in the wake of mechanisation there appears growing unemployment, which in due course makes labour even more dependent on capital, thus enhancing the exploitation and destitution of the workers. Present-day industrial techniques make it possible to produce in a shorter time more than is required to cover the needs of all humanity. Yet many millions are in no position to satisfy their most elementary needs of food, clothing and shelter, and are unable to put to use their powers and abilities, since unemployment, formerly a recurrent condition, has become a permanent phenomenon.

In such a situation, the people sink steadily into the abyss of lasting poverty owing to their lack of purchasing power. Innumerable warehouses are filled with unsold wares, while other goods are destroyed so as to prevent a slump in market prices. Production comes to a standstill, unemployment increases, the destitution and political oppression of the people reach an unprecedented intensity, and bourgeois democracy turns into open dictatorship, characterised by an irresponsible and high-handed rule of the police. With a view to forestalling an inevitable economic crisis, and at the same time in the hope of garnering large fortunes, capitalists engage in an intensified search for foreign markets. Competition with capitalists of other lands ensues, and in the meantime the ruling classes of the various countries endeavour to put distant markets under their monopolistic control with the assistance of their respective states, so that the governments readily offer their armies and navies for the furthering of capitalist ambitions. This is the prelude to war, and in this very way the First World War (1914–18) originated. For the same reason we are today (1933) witnessing the armed pillage, accompanied by mass killing, of the peace-loving populace of China. Capitalism is thus the main source of war; as long as it exists no end to conflict can be seen.

Chaotic production and unorganised, uncontrolled competition for markets have compelled the capitalists to form powerful monopolistic associations, frequently on an international scale — trusts, cartels and syndicates. From the beginning of the twentieth century these associations have gained colossal influence over the economic and political life of every country with a highly developed industry and since that time the development of capitalism has taken the course of merging industrial and financial capital. In other words, capitalism has entered upon a new stage of its growth, a stage called the period of imperialism. One of the main features of this phase is the steadily growing supremacy of financial over industrial capital. At present this supremacy has assumed the form of a dictatorship of banks and stock exchanges; in other words, a dictatorship of the plutocracy. Imperialism is the final stage of capitalism’s expansion; beyond which the ultimate process of its decline and decay will inevitably take place.

The modern phenomenon of imperialism, then, is the stage of fully mature capitalism, wherein finance occupies all the commanding positions and we therefore live in a time when capitalism, having attained the goal of its development, has started on the road of degradation and disintegration. This process of decline dates from the time just after the First World War, and it has-assumed the form of increasingly acute and growing economic crises, which, during recent years, have sprung up simultaneously in the countries of the victors and the vanquished. At the time of writing (1933–34) the crisis has attacked nearly every country in a veritable world crisis of the capitalist system. Its prolonged nature and its universal scope can in no way be accounted for by the theory of periodical capitalist crises. Much rather do these features signify the beginning of a degenerative process within the system itself, a process of dissolution which reacts painfully on the vast toiling masses of humanity, and is bound, in the future, to do so in a still more drastic way.

The 1929 crash of the New York stock exchange (an event of world wide significance) inevitably plunged into bankruptcy innumerable small and medium-sized industrial concerns. It ruined a multitude of financial and commercial institutions, and brought about a triumphal ascendancy of financial capital, which has overwhelmingly subordinated to its control the industry, commerce and agriculture of our country; it brought in its wake vast unemployment and a catastrophic impoverishment of the broad masses of the people.

Thus the New York stock exchange crash meant, fundamentally, the world-wide establishment of an absolute dictatorship of financial capital, a dictatorship of a small group of potentates who are mutually antagonistic on account of their monetary interests. Yet, despite its inner contradictions and notwithstanding all the assertions of the Marxian economists, capitalism in its modern imperialistic guise has managed to eliminate unorganised market competition and to gauge accurately the market’s capacities. More than this, it has proved capable of establishing — to use a Bolshevik phrase — a “planned economy”, based on a calculation of purchasing power, as well as upon a “nationalisation of production.” However, the inner contradictions of capitalism could not be removed in this way. On the contrary, they have tended to grow and to become increasingly more acute. The “planned economy” of imperialism, with its “nationalised” production, founded on the principle of private property whose driving force is personal interest and the thirst for unlimited gain at the expense of the toiling masses, is itself becoming the source of the decline of the capitalist system, Its calculations are based not upon the real needs of the people, but upon their purchasing power. In accordance with the fluctuations of this purchasing power the production of goods is expanded or curtailed. But, keeping in mind the fact that financial dictatorship implies the ruin of numberless small and medium sized proprietors and enterprisers, and the creation of millions of unemployed among workers who had formerly been serving those masters who are not destitute, one can rightly expect that a heavy curtailment of production must naturally take place. The making of goods is cut in proportion to the reduced purchasing power, and accordingly the army of the unemployed increases, while at the same time the impoverishment of the masses steadily grows.

Now, therefore, in order to make goods available to the impoverished consumer, capitalism is forced to lower prices. Yet any price reduction, without a concurrent decline in the business man’s rate of profit, can only be attained by means of lowering the cost of production, or the cost-price of the product. This, in turn, can be achieved, in the first place, by wage cuts, i.e. a still greater impoverishment of a still greater number of people, and secondly, by the rationalisation of production through increased mechanisation of production processes and a lesser dependence of the manufacturer on man-power. In consequence of this, a rise in the number of unemployed is bound to occur once again, with an ever greater contraction of the people’s purchasing power. Thus ta further lowering of production results, with the recurrence of an the consequences briefly described above. Hence the “planned economy ’ of capitalism and its “rationalised production” process, aimed essentially at one single target — private gain — lead logically to an increasingly brutal dictatorship and to an intensifying concentration of financial capital, as well as to an unnecessary curtailment of national production and constantly rising unemployment and poverty. In short, capitalism, which has given birth to a new social scourge, is unable to get rid of its own evil offspring without killing itself in the process. The logical development of this trend must unavoidably bring about the following dilemma: either a complete disintegration of human society, or the abolition of capitalism and the creation of a new, more progressive social and political system. There can be no other alternative. The modern form of social organization has run its course and is proving, in our times, an obstacle to human advance, as well as a source of social decay; This outworn system is therefore due to be relegated to the museum of social evolutionary relics.

The days of capitalism are numbered. In its organism the process of decomposition moves forward very rapidly indeed. All the cures, under the guise of various reforms (towards which, incidentally, capitalism puts up an obstinate resistance) can only prolong the agony, but are useless as a means for full recovery. In the past, capitalism would have saved itself from deadly crisis by seizing colonial markets and those of agrarian nations. Nowadays, most of the colonies are themselves competing in the world market with the metropolitan countries, while the agrarian lands are proceeding in the direction of intensive industrialisation; For the sake of their own security, but with an utter disregard of the people’s interests, the capitalist countries keep on erecting high tariff barriers between themselves, thus endeavouring to escape from an inevitable fate. This, however, proves of as little avail to the moribund system as medicine would be to a corpse.

Since political life is determined by economic forms, the degenerative process which is turning bourgeois democracy into dictatorship is self-explanatory. With an economic dictatorship of financial capital there must arise a corresponding political dictatorship over the nation. Accordingly, we are now witnessing parliaments degenerating either into personal dictatorships (Italy, Poland, etc.) or into group dictatorships (U.S.A., France, Germany, etc.) the government becoming an obedient and submissive tool in the hands of banks and stock exchanges. Parliamentary democracy, at present, is no more than a protective covering for disguised dictatorship. And dictatorship in any shape is merely an outward symptom of the dissolution of the old social form, an attempt on the part of the dying capitalism to stop the forward march of progress, which, despite all obstacles, clears for us the road of transition, an uphill and narrow road, to the more perfect forms of organised social existence.

My View of State Communism

The greatest attempt in all history to effect a transition into a newer social form, the Russian Revolution of 1917–21, has made it possible actually to undertake the construction of state communism, and this example offers an opportunity of defining and analysing the regime of authoritarian communism.

One of its typical features lies in production being based upon bureaucratic relationships. In other words, all instruments and means of production and distribution, as well as the people’s labour and the human individual himself, are entirely vested in the state, which in its turn is the exclusive property of a scanty class of Bureaucracy. The rest of the people are proletarianised and forced to give their labour power to state trusts, thus creating by their toil the might of these trusts and providing a higher economic position for the ruling class.

The bureaucratic production relationships cover the whole of social life and place the working class in absolute dependence on the state, i.e. on the bureaucracy. The entire population is subdivided by the state into occupational groups and is subjected to the control of a class of officials under whom it is compelled to labour. Moreover, the state creates new grounds for economic inequality through the principle of a differentiated scale of wages in accordance with the differences in usefulness of various occupations; it grants privileges, and regards the human person as nothing more than a source of labour power. The state, moreover shuffles the mass of labour power at will over the length and breadth of the land, paying no attention to any other circumstances than its own interests, thus forcing men and women to toil under the strict and rigorous conditions of military discipline.

In this way, the state commune transforms the workers into soulless parts in the huge, centralised communist machine, parts who are obliged to be directed for their whole lives to a single purpose — the maximum fulfilment of certain production tasks decreed by the state, and who are condemned to a minimum field of initiative, independent action and personal choice. Such a state of affairs postulates social inequality while, at the same time, it reinforces the class structure of society and the predominance of the bureaucracy.

An unavoidable result of this kind of social organization is a strong police state, which subjugates to itself every manifestation of the citizens’ lives. Strong by reason of its centralised power, the communist state subjects everybody to police regimentation and, with the help of espionage, keeps a vigilant eye upon each and all. Such a system is bound to destroy all liberty and inevitably institutes state slavery; one can look in vain for freedom of association, of assembly, of knowledge and enlightenment and education, while the inviolability of personal liberty and the privacy of the home are conspicuously absent.

The development of this system leads inevitably to an exacerbation of its inner contradictions, and just as under private capitalism — to a class struggle. It is, however, a more difficult struggle, and one which is likely to be suppressed with even fiercer cruelty than under bourgeois capitalism. The Russian experiment, judged quite independently of its builders, has fully demonstrated the unworkableness of such a regime.

The Russian revolution, having set out with liberty and the liquidation of bourgeois society as its starting point, has, owing to its recourse to the aristocratic principle of dictatorship, brought us back via “military communism” to the point of departure, to capitalism or — more correctly — to state capitalism.

Under the bankrupt state capitalism of Russia and the discredited socialist democracy of Germany, and also as a consequence of the intensified decline of capitalist society throughout the world, the fight of the workers is growing and expanding against the existing regime and its tendency to replace the moribund bourgeois world by a regime of state slavery. In this respect a particular importance must be given to the revolutionary struggle of the Spanish proletariat, an event of the greatest historical significance.

Meanwhile, continuous technical progress, leading as it does to the consolidation of industrial concerns and the socialization of their production, creates the indispensable material circumstances for the transition of capitalist economy both feasible and realistic a successful social revolution, which is the supreme goal of the international anarchist movement of the working classes.

What I Believe

I believe that it behooves every honest man to urge the toiling masses not to let the flames of revolution be extinguished. On the contrary, their orbit should be widened, through a stimulated alertness and independence and the creation of free labour institutions. These should be of a type suitable to take into the workers’ own hands, on the overthrow of capitalism, the organization of a free life upon the just principles of dignified work.

I fully agree with the slogan of the First International: “The liberation of the workers must be the task of the workers themselves,” and I believe in the class struggle as a powerful means to freedom. I believe that the proletariat is capable of attaining its full liberty only through revolutionary violence; that is, by direct action against capitalism and the state, and therefore I am a revolutionary.

I believe that only a stateless form of society is compatible with human progress, and that only under such a form of commonwealth will humanity be able to attain full liberty, and therefore I am an anarchist.

I believe that anarchy as a political form of society is only feasible in circumstances of the complete liberty of the constituent members of the social body, as opposed to centralised rule over them. This liberty can only be safeguarded through the principle of federalisation; Therefore I am a Federalist, or, more precisely, a Confederalist.

I believe that for the utmost realisation and independence within a federation, the latter must be formed of primary political organisations. This kind of organization implies the setting up of communes. Therefore, I am a Communalist.

But either liberty or anarchism is unthinkable unless, within the commune, the principle of the free individual is stringently observed. Society has been established in order to satisfy the many and diverse needs of the human being, and these individual needs are by no means to be scarified to the community. Personality and its interests, and first of all its freedom, are the fundamentals of the new world of a free and creative society of workers. Therefore I am an Individualist.

I believe, however, that it is not enough to enjoy political liberty alone. In order to be free, in the real sense of the word, one must also be endowed with economic freedom. This kind of freedom, I am convinced, is unattainable without the abolition of private property and the organization of communal production on the basis of “from each according to his ability” and of communal consumption on the principle of “to each according to his needs.” Therefore I am a Communist.

I believe that anarchism and communism are feasible on an international scale only, and I do not believe in them in one country alone. Therefore to my mind it is urgently necessary that the proletariat should be organised in the form of international producers’ unions (or associations). I consider that only by direct action, based upon international proletarian solidarity, can the rule of the bourgeoisie and the state be overcome, and that only by the international of productive workers’ unions can the moribund capitalist world be superseded. Therefore I am an Internationalist, for whom it is essential to belong to a class and not to a nationality. Yet I nevertheless hold nationality in high esteem as a form of collective manifestation of personality.

The means by which capitalism can be overthrown and communism installed and organised is the seizure of production by the producers’ labour unions. Therefore I am a Syndicalist.

Men do not live in order to engage in reciprocal murder, but for the sake of creation and enjoyment, of leading a full, abundant and happy existence, based upon liberty, mutual respect and work by each for all and all for each. Humanity therefore aspires undeniably to peace, which, also, is beyond its reach as long as it lives in circumstances of government and capitalism which lead to perpetual warfare. I deem it my duty to share these aspirations; I am for world peace. But I know that mankind is able to attain peace only through victorious revolutionary class war against the bourgeoisie. This also implies the annihilation of the capitalist regime with all its institutions, which are shameful and offensive in the eyes of freedom-loving human beings. One among such institutions is the army, with its compulsory service. I am therefore for the abolition of armies and of military budgets in all countries. I am opposed to militarism, and consequently I am an Anti-Militarist.

The lessons of history have convinced me that all religions sanctify and justify slavery, as well as the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and place their Gods on the side of those who represent physical might. Religion is thus an obstacle to human progress. Besides, I have no need for divine morality, and consider human ethics, derived from instincts and folk customs, the best of all moral systems. Religion has outlived its right to existence, and I fight against it as a survival of the past. Consequently I am an Atheist.

I believe that the hour for the practical realisation of anarchism has struck. Anarchism has ceased to be a Theory and has become a program, and, accordingly, it has entered upon a Constructive period of its development. I co-operate fervently in this development, and so I am a Constructionist.

I am no maximalist in anarchism, since I hold-in view of all the objective factors — that anarchism can hardly be fully realised at once. On the other hand, I am no minimalist either, for I regard it as inexpedient and unhistorical to break up the realisation of anarchism and communism into a series of consecutive steps in imitation of the socialists. Therefore I reject the “minimum program.” I wish to see anarchism being brought to life today, but the degree to which anarchism and communism would actually be made a reality, I relate directly to the given historical moment. Therefore, within the province of anarchism, I am a Realist.

My realistic belief in the substantiation of anarchism — now and not in the remote and indefinite future — leads me to analyse the present historical time as a whole, and to deduce from such analysis the positive scope, nature and form in which anarchist communism can be realised under the given historical circumstances. This assertion brings me to postulate an inevitable Transition Period from capitalism to an evolving anarchist communism. And in this way the realisation of anarchism and communism in the given moment of history assumes, in my view, the form of a transitional stage, which I designate a Communalist-Syndicalist regime. The nature of that regime I define below.

My View of the Realization of Anarchism and Communism

The future social revolution must take into account the circumstance that the industry and agriculture inherited by it from capitalism would not be uniform in the degrees of development of their various branches. On the strength of this self-evident fact of insufficient maturity, it might be impractical to communise many individual enterprises. Furthermore, there are entire forms of production, for instance agriculture, whose communisation might prove inadvisable.

Those types of production would be regarded as ripe for communisation in which labour had already been socialised by capitalism, without the socialization of possessions having yet taken place. This category would undoubtedly include almost all branches of the manufacturing and service industries. But those branches in which, side by side with individual labour, there would also be found individual possession, as is the case in many forms of extractive industry and particularly in farming, would not be considered ripe for communication. Here the path to be followed in the transition to communism is directly opposite to the course to be steered in the manufacturing and service industries. In the latter, the transition would follow this road: from collective labour through collective possession to communism, whereas in the extractive industries the collectivisation of possession ought to be established first. and once this had been done, the transition towards collective labour could begin.

Socialization of possession is a revolutionary act, involving violence and its success depends on the use of force, whereas the socialisation of labour is a process, which demands tor its unfolding the presence of both favorable circumstances and correct timing. Social revolutions, therefore, can immediately introduce the collectivisation of possessions in the whole country but cannot effect the collectivisation of Labour. Yet collectivisation of labour is virtually the basis of communism, which is impossible without it.

In consequence of this indisputable fact, society on the day after the social revolution would have to reckon with two basic economic systems which in principle are mutually hostile: a communist and an individualist system — as well as an intermediate and transitional system, the co-operatives. Society would have to establish a form of relationship with the individualist economy which would favour the latter’s speedy and painless dissolution in communism. The system of the transitional period would therefore be characterised by Economic Dualism, that is to say, a coexistence of communism and individualism, the brmer, however, taking over the commanding positions. From this standpoint my view of society in the transitional period is as follows.

Economic Structure of Society

The System of Communist Economy. All the branches of industry where labour has already been socialised by capitalism would be syndicalised; that is, they would pass into the hands of labour organization, united from below on productive industrial lines upon the principle of Federalism, thus allowing full administrative autonomy to each link in the organisational chain. Furthermore, syndicalised industry would be built on the basis of Communist Industrial Relations.

All manufacturing industry would be subject to syndicalisation, with the exception of the handicraft and domestic industries. Syndicalisation would also apply to all service industries, including transportation, post, telegraph, telephone, radio, public utilities, medical and public health services, statistical, accountancy and distribution organisations, public instruction, science, arts and the theatre; also, to the branches of extractive industry to which capitalism has already socialised labour, such as those connected with extraction of useful minerals (coal, ore, metals), as well as forestry, fisheries, and the farms where labour, through mechanisation, has already been socialised in the course of the industrial process itself.

The organisational machinery of the communist economy is based upon autonomous factories turned into industrial communes. In its fully developed form this represents an economic Confederation, consisting of the following links:

  1. The basic cell-the autonomous factory or productive commune;

  2. Provincial Confederations of Industrial Federations;

  3. A National Confederation of Labor, or Council of National Economy and Culture.

The industrial or producers’ commune would be supplemented by the organization of the consumers’ commune, which would be complementary to it, since production and consumption are inseparably bound together. The consumers’ commune, which incidentally would carry out the broader functions of accountancy and distribution as well would be composed of consumers’ co-operatives, whose previously existing apparatus could be utilised for the present purpose. The structure of a consumers’ commune would be composed of:

  1. House Committees, as the simplest organs of controlling accountancy and distribution;

  2. Local Federations;

  3. National Confederations.

Inasmuch as the products of economic activity would be the common property of the National Commune, all members of it would be equals in property rights over the common products. Consumption would therefore be based upon the principle: To each according to his needs, the full realisation of this principle to be dependent on the given commune’s wealth and prosperity.

It follows then that the National Commune would be composed of Syndicalised Production, built upon the basis of Communist Relations between the Producers.

Outside the commune, there would remain numerous elements carrying on the methods of individual economy, to wit: handicraftsmen workers in home industries, and a great proportion of the farmers.

Among artisans and home industry workers the principle of voluntary co-operation must be applied; by offering full scope for self-development, and for initiative, this would open the way for the use of all the achievements of technical progress. These branches of production, united on the pattern of syndicalised communal industries, would be included in the proper unions, forming part of the National Confederation of Labor. But their economic relations with the commune would be regulated along the same lines as those of the individually owned farms.

This principle of co-operation, furthermore, would apply to the privately owned farms, that is to say, individual farms, operating on plots of the socialised land, which plots would of course, cease to be subject to purchase and sale and could not be transferred by inheritance.

Just as the various forms of communal production would be under the jurisdiction of the corresponding industrial unions. so the land, its reclamation and redistribution and also domestic colonisation and agronomy, etc., would be under the control of the Union of Farm Communities, as a constituent element of the National Confederation of Labor.

The farm economy of the transitional period would be represented by the three following basic types: i. individual, ii. co-operative, and iii. communist, the last being part and parcel of the National Commune. The prevailing roles would of course be played by the individual type of farming, in which productive relations based upon private ownership of the product of labour would predominate.

The commune would abstain from entering into any economic relations with the separate individual farms. In consequence, during the transitional period, cooperative activities would assume the function of serving as the only intermediary between the commune and the individualist farms of the entire country. Cooperation would thus integrate, fully and on every level, the millions of individual farms. The cooperative machinery would take approximately the following shape:

  1. Farm Associations for Purchasing and Marketing,

  2. Federation of Farming Associations,

  3. Highest Council of Co-operative Associations.

The cooperative organs of the individual farms would enter into the closest contact with the accounting and distributive organs of the communes. The commune on its side would establish a Bank of Exchange and Credit with numerous branch offices throughout the country. This would transact all exchange and credit operations both at home and abroad.

Thus the individual farms would voluntarily pass on all their surplus produce to their own co-operative associations, which would take upon themselves the functions of purchase and sale. The co-operative associations would transfer their produce to the Bank of the Commune and its branches. They would be paid both by monetary tokens and by all the commodities demanded by consumers. Thus, the market, speculation, commercial capital, and commerce itself, would all be abolished.

The individualist farms, on a basis of equality with the commune, would be able to avail themselves, free of charge, of the transport facilities, roads, telephones, telegraph, radio, public instruction, medical and public health services, and other public utilities of the commune. However the commune would ask a certain annual contribution from the individual farms, to be paid in kind. The form and amount of this taxation would be laid down by the Convention of the National Confederation of Labor, but its collection would be entrusted to the Bank of the Commune and its branches. to be executed through commodity exchange.

This, as I visualise it, would be the economic regime of the new society on the day after the social revolution.

Political Structure of Society

In the political sphere. the Slate would be replaced by a Confederation of Free Communes with their Councils (soviets); that is, Communalism would be substituted tor Statism. The councils (soviets) of the Communes together with the associations of such councils. up to and including the Confederal Association of Councils, would not be endowed with any prerogatives of power.

With the liberty of the individual as a starting point, the communalist regime — through a free union of individuals into communes, of communes into provinces and of provinces into nations offers the only right solution of the national problem, namely, a natural national unity in diversity, founded on liberty and equality.

As to the organization of military defence for this society, one can think only of a General Arming of the Workers as the basis for a People’s Militia, reinforced by all the technical and organisational attainments of military science. The people’s militia, organised on an industrial basis, would be subordinated to the productive associations, and in times of peace would be engaged in productive efforts of a useful kind.

As to peace and public security, a citizen guard’s service would be organised for this purpose, with the help of the House Committees. The citizens themselves would in turn fulfil the general duty of defence; that is to say, a self-defence with no central organ from above.

The existing courts would be replaced by voluntary tribunals of arbitration, and in cases of grave crimes, connected with manslaughter or offences against liberty and equality, a special communal court of a non-permanent nature would be set up, since courts as permanent institutions would be abolished. Prisons would also be done away with. Schools, hospitals, doctors and-above all- public welfare and liberty might prove the safest means to get rid of criminals and crimes altogether.

Thus, as the warp of the fabric of future anarchist society, there can be laid down, in my opinion, the following three essential and basic institutions:

  1. producers’ unions that would lead, through the syndicalisation of production, to a fruitful communism of producers;

  2. consumers’ associations that would lead, through utilisation of co-operation, towards a consumers. communism;

  3. territorial associations, leading, by way of communalism, to a unity in diversity, that is, a Confederation of Peoples based upon liberty and equality.

However, I do not imagine the future society to be cast in just this rather simplified and schematic mould. To my mind, indeed, it is likely to take on a far more complex configuration, wherein the main texture would be interwoven with such an infinite variety of interlinked groups, that it would readily respond to the most diverse demands and needs of the free human person.

____________________

The Author

Gregori Petrovich Maximoff was born on November 10, 1893, in the Russian village of Mitushino, province of Smolensk. After studying for the priesthood, he realised this was not his vocation and went to St. Petersburg, where he graduated as an agronomist at the Agricultural Academy in 1915. He joined the revolutionary movement, while a student, was an active propagandist and, after the 1917 revolution, joined the Red Army. When the Bolsheviks used the Army for police work and for disarming the workers, he refused to obey orders and was sentenced to death. The solidarity of the steelworkers’ union saved his life.

He edited the Anarcho-Syndicalist papers Golos Trouda (Voice of Labour) and Novy Golos Trouda (New Voice of Labour). Arrested on March 8, 1921, during the Kronstadt revolt, he was held with other comrades in the Taganka Prison, Moscow. Four months later he went on hunger strike for ten and a half days and ended it only when the intervention of European Syndicalists, attending a congress of the Red Trade Union International, secured for him and his comrades the possibility to seek exile abroad.

He went to Berlin, where he edited Rabotchi Put (Labour’s Path), a paper of the Russian Syndicalists in exile. Three years later he went to Paris, then to the U.S., where he settled in Chicago. There he edited Golos Truzhenika (Worker’s Voice) and later Dielo Trouda-Probuzhdenie (Labour’s Cause-Awakening) until his death on March 16, 1950. His writings include The Guillotine at Work (1940), a fully-documented history of 20 years’ Bolshevik terror in Russia, extracts from which form the present pamphlet; Constructive Anarchism (1952) and a comprehensive selection from the writings of Michael Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin -Scientific Anarchism (1953). The last two were published posthumously.

Maximoff died while yet in the prime of life, as the result of heart trouble, and was mourned by all who had the good fortune to know him. He was not only a lucid thinker, but a man of stainless character and broad human understanding. And he was a whole person, in whom clarity of thought and warmth of feeling were united in the happiest way. He lived as an Anarchist, not because he felt some sort of duty to do so, imposed from outside, but because he could not do otherwise, for his innermost being always caused him to act as he felt and thought.

Rudolph Rocker

This entry was posted in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.