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"The Makhno Myth" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2018 11:42 a.m. PST

"STARTING IN the 1970s, a new consensus emerged among serious scholars of the Russian Revolution. Instead of seeing the rise of Stalinism as the predetermined outcome of Leninism or workers' power, "revisionist" historians looked instead to the devastating effects of civil war and international isolation. They discovered that the early years of the workers' state were far more complicated and rich than the standard right-wing inevitable-march-to-totalitarianism version. In its broad outlines, their work confirmed that material conditions, rather than Bolshevik original sin, transformed a mass, popular revolution into its opposite, Stalinism.1

However, anarchists continue to maintain that the degeneration of the Russian Revolution was the inevitable result of the Bolsheviks' authoritarianism. According to their narrative, once in power via a devious coup, the Bolsheviks wasted no time in destroying their opponents, in particular, the anarchists, whom they saw as a threat to their "statist" desires. Anarchists point chiefly to the example of anarchist Nestor Makhno and the Makhnovists in the Ukraine as a positive example of a libertarian alternative to Leninism…"
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Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2018 10:34 p.m. PST

I have to say, I find this amusing. Arguing if Leninism or Stalinism led to totalitarianism. By definition Marxism itself leads to totalitarianism. It made no difference who was in charge, as long as they were communists, it was going to be totalitarian.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 3:31 a.m. PST

Just goes to show how little you know about Marxism. It is FAR more complicated than that.

Look at the communist governments in other parts of the world and you will see that they are not all totalitarian.

Having just looked at the variation in the online definition of totalitarian, you could be forgiven for thinking as you do.

I do wish that terminology didn't shift with fashion.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 10:36 a.m. PST



Mike O24 Mar 2018 2:11 p.m. PST

It's important to remember that no political writing can ever be free from bias based on a whole range of factors (not even "anarchist" ones!) – including upbringing, class, education (or lack thereof), indoctrination, personal experiences, prejudices, fears and, most importantly, vested interests of a financial or career nature.

So it should be noted that your article is from the British Trotskyist group the Socialist Worker's Party. I had a link to it back in this discussion from a few years back TMP link
(almost 10 years ago – really!!!)

Also on the same subject:
TMP link

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 5:27 p.m. PST

Gildas, respectfully, I must disagree with you. If you read Marx it is clear that he believes, and states, everything must be subordinated to the state. That is the bet definition of totalitarian I am aware of.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 7:02 p.m. PST

Gildas, out of curiosity, what communist governments are not totalitarian?

Begemot24 Mar 2018 10:34 p.m. PST

Jackson: But then you have this:

"Withering away of the state" is a Marxist concept coined by Friedrich Engels referring to the idea that, with realization of the ideals of socialism, the social institution of a state will eventually become obsolete and disappear, as the society will be able to govern itself without the state and its coercive enforcement of the law.


Katzbalger25 Mar 2018 3:06 a.m. PST


Are you, perhaps, referring to Sweden (that is a joke, by the way--my statement, not Sweden).

Yes, but Marx and Engels were idiots. I would appreciate it if you could supply an example of such situation actually happening on a national scale (a kibbutz or cooperative does not count).


Mark Plant25 Mar 2018 7:53 a.m. PST

Anarchists point chiefly to the example of anarchist Nestor Makhno and the Makhnovists in the Ukraine as a positive example of a libertarian alternative to Leninism

"Positive" only when all the negatives are ignored.

Death without trial based solely on the class you were born into -- check.

An economic system that plundered what had been built before but had nothing substantial to replace it -- check.

A dictatorship, because Makhno didn't bow to anyone -- check.

Social change imposed based on dogma, rather than operating with the conditions on the ground -- check.

When they needed something, his men merely raided a city and stole it. How was that meant to last in the long term? His attitude to the intelligentsia and cities is very strongly reminiscent of Pol Pot, probably the worst of all the idiot heroes of the far Left.

You really have to be some sort of idiot Romantic to believe Makhno's version of Anarchism would have ended in anything other than an ineffective and brutal dictatorship, with a blood-thirsty Anarchist Cheka killing all the "saboteurs" and "wreckers".

I'm not sure Makhno is usefully called a "Libertarian". A Libertarian is anti-state, sure, but believes firmly in the inviolable right of a person to his property and his own personal actions. Makhno had zero respect for the property rights of others -- everything was to be held in common and private property was merely taken -- and did not respect the rights of others to different beliefs. He was a pure, burn-it-down Anarchist.

(BTW, there are some economic Marxist state governments in India. They are the ones with the worst economic performance. Like that's a surprise.)

Begemot25 Mar 2018 11:09 a.m. PST

Mark Plant: How do you feel about libertarian anarchism, as espoused by Murray Rothbard? A burn-it-down anarchism also?

Note: I think the general usage among libertarians is to capitalize the word when referring to the Libertarian party, but to otherwise use lower case when referring to the philosophy.

Mark Plant27 Mar 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

I'd prefer not to talk modern politics and especially not personal politics on TMP.

I just find it annoying that people still lionize Makhno, irrespective of whether they want to advance libertarian, communalist or anarchist lines.

The man "won" arguments by shooting his opponents in cold blood. The idea that any regime under his control would not descend into bloody mayhem is delusional.

Mike O28 Mar 2018 10:14 a.m. PST

In my first post I linked to earlier discussions in which I attempted to provide evidence to back up my assertions. Anybody interested can read them as I don't see the need to go over them again – instead a few new points:

1) I don't see huge numbers of anarchists "lionising" Makhno. Rather Ukrainian Nationalists seem to have "appropriated" the myth for themselves if the number of statues, monuments, plaques, museums and festivals (complete with tachanka rides) in some areas of Ukraine is anything to go by.


Many anarchist writers are in fact extremely critical


2) The term "Libertarian" is attributed first to Joseph Déjacque in 1857 and referred to left anarchism exclusively. Sébastien Faure used it in the same way in the 1890s and anybody using it any other sense has essentially pilfered it.

3) Noam Chomsky speaks about how powerful apparent opponents can come to a consensus to form a propaganda narrative. Thus both East and West in the Cold War agreed that the "Communist" countries were the true standard-bearers of Marxism – the East to claim how great it was and the West how bad it was. But actually examining the systems operating in these countries reveals hardly a shred of anything described by Marx or other any other communist writer such as Kropotkin.

YouTube link

The same "manufactured consent" could be seen in the RCW where it was in the interests of both Reds and Whites to paint Makhno as the arch-villain, bandit etc guilty of all the terror which they themselves perpetrated on an industrial scale.

4) Civil wars are frequently very brutal and the RCW was particularly so. That goes for every participant involved – Reds, Whites (including their capitalist intervention backers for whom property rights of the rich were high on the agenda but human rights almost non-existent), Nationalists, Greens, etc. Some were more machine-like in their mass murder and others more random:

To single out Makhno as worse than the rest without citing a shred of evidence sounds ludicrous to me and if the atrocious nature of this war is distasteful to anyone then I've got to wonder how they can bring themselves to wargame any aspect of it.

Mark Plant30 Mar 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

Makhno wasn't worst than the rest.

The Reds descended into bloody repression. Millions died.

The Whites had started, and no doubt would have had a very bloody set of repressions had they won.

That Makhno was no worse is not an advertisement. I merely say that he wasn't any good.

Whataboutery doesn't save him. Many of the Nationalism groupings in the RCW (Estonia, Latvia, for example) managed to fight in the same war without the level of bloody repression of Whites and Reds. They then formed popular systems with very low levels of repression.

I'm not sure why you mean "not a shred of evidence". Obviously I have not, and will not, write a thesis for my claims. But I cited the Makhnovists' bloody raids on cities, their killing of all "bourgeouis" out of hand, and Makhno's personal shooting of potential threats to his power. One reason the Makhnovists lost was because the locals quickly grew sick of theim. Do you doubt any of those events took place?

The "it wasn't true Communism" is getting stale. We don't have full and true Capitalism either, but I doubt would prevent you criticising it as "Capitalism"

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