The Russian Revolution in Ukraine

Nestor Makhno

Chapter 20: With the Left Bloc against the Counter-Revolution

On December 31 1917 I was doing organizational work in the village of Pologi when I received an accurate report that a battle was going on in Aleksandrovsk between detachments of the Red Guard group of Bogdanov and some haidamak units of the Central Rada.

At such a moment it was impossible to remain on the sideline as a neutral observer. The population was clearly hostile towards the Central Rada, whose agents were combing the countryside, hunting down revolutionaries, and treating them as “traitors...of Mother Ukraine” and defenders of the “katzaps”, whom it considered necessary to exterminate as mortal enemies of the Ukrainian language.

Such concepts were offensive to the peasants. They dragged down from the tribune any speakers who espoused such notions and rained blows down on them as enemies of the fraternal unity of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.

This rancorous propaganda of the Ukrainian nationalists pushed the toilers of Gulyai-Pole rayon on the road of armed struggle against any form of Ukrainian separatism because toilers saw in this chauvinism – which was in fact the ruling idea of Ukrainian nationalism – death for the Revolution.

While fighting was going on in Aleksandrovsk between the Red Guards and the haidamaks, several train-loads of Cossacks were grouped along the Aleksandrovsk - Apostolovo - Krivoi Rog line. These troops had removed themselves from the External Front and were on their way to the Don to General Kaledin. (Kaledin’s movement was in essence a genuine throwback to the old monarchist system. It went under the flag of independence for the Don, but suddenly at its very heart appeared the black forces of reaction whose intention was to use the Cossacks to finish off the Revolution and restore the rule of the Romanovs.)

On January 2, 1918, the Gulyai-Pole Soviet, with the participation of the Union of Metal & Carpentry Workers and the Anarchist Communist Group, met around the clock. There was a heated discussion about what urgent measures to take to prevent the Cossacks from reaching the Don, because, once they joined up with Kaledin, they would form a Front which would constitute a threat to all the conquests of the Revolution. We, the peasants, all agreed on this.

This long and tiring session inspired in all its participants one and same thought: we must, in spite of the obvious contradiction, form a united front with the government forces. We must arm ourselves and go to to the aid of the Left Bloc. Our devotion to anti-authoritarian ideas would allow us to overcome any contradictions. After annihilating the black forces of reaction, we would extend and deepen the Revolution for the greatest good of all oppressed humanity. I said then:

“Each of us present today must keep our final goal in mind and make sure our actions are compatible with this goal: no person must be dominated by another person – an idea which opens to us the road to peace, liberty, equality, and solidarity for the whole human family. At each step we must think about this and it will help us to remain true to all we have discussed and agreed to here.”

In this way we resolved the problem of what our actions were to be in the immediate future.


On to Chapter 21 Armed peasantry go to the aid of the city workers; the Aleksandrovsk Revkom and the Commission of Inquiry

Back to Chapter 19 Counter-Revolution of the Ukrainian Central Rada

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