[Marxism] Anarchists' perception of Trotsky

dan d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Wed Jul 7 08:47:52 MDT 2010

>"Thus the anarchists got state power or close to it, the same way any
popular movement would: through mass action and armed struggle.

Anarchists (the "original" 1880-1939 strand), did "seize power" in at
least 2, if not 3, large  territories and held "power" there for two to
three years. And there were no flying saucers involved.

So they clearly were VERY interested in questions of organization.

In Ukraine, the Anarchists held a territory peopled by 1 to 3 million
inhabitants from 1917 to 1919. Actually, many historians believe that
without Anarchist Ukraine, Bolshevism would have succombed in Russia.
The Ukrainian Anarchists prevented the junction around Rostov on the Don
river between the South and the East White armies which would have meant
the complete encirclement of the Bolsheviks. They paid this firece
resistance to White encirclement with their lives.
Makhno's Anarchist army (Katchanka) set up Workers' Councils all over
Ukraine, and was enthusiastically supported by a majority (though no
figures are available) of the 2 million population. Many of the top
leaders of the Anarchist Movement were Ukraininan Jews, and the
Anarchists armed Ukrainian Jewery to counter Denikin's White Army's
anti-semitic pogroms. Which is quite ironic when one considers that
Trotsky and his ilk latter described the Anarchist Ukrainian movement as
"an amalgamation of petty bourgeois Ukrainian nationalism and banditry".
As the military situation deteriorated, Anarchists in the Ukraine
actually voted at the "Ukrainian Federation of Workers and PEasants" to
impose conscription of all able-bodied men over the age of 18. This was
carried through despite the traditional Anarchist hatred of conscription
and the preference for voluntary militias.
But Anarchism always rapidly adapts itself to new circumstances.
On the subject of tactics, the Ukrainian Anarchist army was always
highly successful because a) its members were highly motivated
ideologically and b) they emphasized mobility and attrition, shying away
from large battles even though they had the military clout to engage in
them. they based their military strategy on the use of cavalry, famously
mounting heavy machine guns on chariots and using slings (in the hands
of expert peasants used to hunting birds) to propel grenades far into
enemy lines. The "Katchanka" was thus highly mobile, possessed a lot of
concentrated fire-power and able to disengage and regroup at a moment's
The Makhnovchichina thus successfully blunted Denikin's offensive,
although Denikin's army was the largest and best-equipped White army.
After having gained the upper hand in the conflict in 1918, the
Bolsheviks then suddenly turned their attention to massacring the
Ukrainian Anarchists. IT took them mopst of 1919-1920 to finally bring
enough troops to bear on Ukraine to defeat the Anarchists. Makhno and
most of the high-command of the Anarchist army fled the Bolshevist
onslaught and crossed the Black Sea to Romania, before joining Paris and
Many of them then found their way to Spain in the 1930s, thus brinigng
considerable experience to the Spanish CNT in dealing with both Fascists
and Bolsheviks.

2) The Spanish CNT was "in charge" of most of Catalonia from 1936 to
1939. With a membership of 2,6 million people, this mass
anarcho-syndicalist union immediately embarked upon the task of
socializing the economy of one of Europe's most industrialized regions
(Barcelona and its hinterland). Workers' councils were created in all
industries, and combined into large Industrial Union branches.
Electricity was socialized, the railroads were socialized, armament
industires were socialized... And a Council of Coordination of
Catalonian Economy was created. At first (1936), the CNT, after a
prolonged internal (and acrimonious) debate decided not to occupy the
State buildings (the Generalitat) and impose direct rule. The idea was
that the Generalitat was useful as an empty Bourgeois shell of
respectability to court favour with European democracies. It did not
yield any power, because all the real decisions would be taken by the
"Council of Coordination of Catalonian Economy". This analysis proved
very wrong, as the official government, backed and infiltrated to the
highest level (presidency) by Stalinists, became a tool of the USSR. 
As the military situation worsened, the CNT (including Los Amigos de
Durruti, but it is a mistake to give Durrutists too much importance
because there were MANY factions (around 17) within the CNT, sometimes
aligned, sometimes opposed to each other) gradually became more
centralized and demanded more "discipline" from its members in order to
"win the war first, ask questions later".
In this context, participation (4 Anarchist ministers) in the joint
Social democratic-Stalinist government was accepted by the General
Congress of the CNT (so it wasn't a betrayal of "Anarchism", it was the
result of a vote among delegates from every sector of industry). This
was unacceptable to many of the CNT factions, including the FAIist
faction and the Durrutist faction.
Meanwhile, open war broke out between the Anarchists and the Spanish CP.
This is referred to as "the civil war within the civil war". While the
Spanish CP, led by Russian generals and the Russian NKVD, started a
policy of assassinating prominent CNT members, the CNT responded in kind
and quickly (because it had a secret intelligence gathering and military
wing operational unit since the 1920s, and were highly trained in
targeted assassination tactics and clandestinity) gained the upper hand,
shooting dead far more members of the CP than the CP milita shot of
In the final months of the defeat at the hands of Franco, the CNT
militias went on a rampage, "purging" the "Stalinist bastards". Elements
from the CNT militas overran the CP militias and shot most of the
officers. This sad episode, the result of a desire for vengeance after
having put up for 3 years with CP intolerance, infiltration, repression
and careful dismantling of the Workers' Councils, is never mentioned by
present-day Anarchists. 

So, yeah, historically, Anarchists are capable of "seizing power" and
even of waging a protracted war.

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