HISTORIES OF THE TWENTIETH AND TWENTYFIRST CENTURIES,Russian Anarchists and the Civil War, 1917–1922 Paul Avrich When the first shots of the Russian Civil War were fired, the anarchists, in common with the other left-wing opposition parties, were faced wi

. A majority, however, cast their lot with the beleaguered Soviet regime. By August 1919, at the climax of the Civil War, Lenin was impressed with the zeal and courage of the “Soviet anarchists,” as their antiBolshevik comrades contemptuously dubbed them, that he counted them among “the most dedicated supporters of Soviet power.” 1 An outstanding case in point was Bill Shatov, a former Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) agitator in the United States who had returned to his native Russia after the February Revolution. As an officer in the Tenth Red Army during the autumn of 1919, Shatov threw his energies into the defense of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) against the advance of General Yudenich. The following year he was summoned to Chita to become minister of transport in the Far Eastern Republic. Before he left, Shatov tried to justify his collaborationist position to his fellow libertarians, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. The anarchists, said Shatov, were “the romanticists of the Revolution,” but one could not fight with ideals alone. At the moment, the chief task was to defeat the reactionaries. “We 136 anarchists should remain true to our ideals, but we should not criticize at this time. We must work and help to build.” 2 Shatov was one of a small army of anarchists who took up weapons against the White Army during the Civil War. 3 Others accepted minor posts within the Soviet government and urged their comrades to do likewise, or at least to refrain from activities which were hostile to the Bolshevik cause. Yuda Roshchin, a former Black Banner terrorist and a foe of the Marxists, now surprised everyone by hailing Lenin as one of the great figures of the modern age. According to Victor Serge, he even tried to work out an “anarchist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” But listeners were not impressed, they wrote him off as another loss to “Soviet anarchism” and a traitor to the cause of Bakunin and Kropotkin. For even in these precarious circumstances a large and militant segment of the anarchist movement would deny their Bolshevik adversaries any quarter. The Briansk Federation of Anarchists, for example, called for the immediate overthrow of the “Social Vampires” in the Kremlin who sucked the blood of the people. Translating this appeal into action, a terrorist organization in Moscow known as the Underground Anarchists joined forces with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and bombed the headquarters of the Communist Party Committee, killing twelve of its members and wounding fifty-five others, Bukharin among them. In the south, where the authority of the state was completely disrupted, anarchist violence found its most fertile soil. Bands of armed marauders, operating under such names as “Hurricane” and “Death,” sprang up in every quarter, ready to swoop down on town or village whenever the opportunity presented itself. The Bakunin Partisans of Ekaterinoslav sang of a new “era of dynamite” which would greet oppressors of every stripe, Red and White alike. And in Kharkov a circle of Anarcho-Futurists proclaimed “Death to world civilization!” and urged the dark masses to take up their axes and destroy everything in sight. Anarchists of a more pacifistic bent denounced these groups as “bandits” who used the cloak of anarchism to conceal the predatory nature of their activities. For the moderates, robbery and terrorism were grotesque caricatures of anarchist doctrines, which served only to demoralize the movement’s true adherents and to discredit anarchism in the eyes of the public. Renouncing violent action, the milder anarchists armed themselves with nothing more lethal than pen and ink, and mounted a verbal attack on the Soviet dictatorship. A major theme of their 137 criticism was that the Bolshevik Revolution had merely substituted “state capitalism” for private capitalism. In their view, what had taken place in Russia closely resembled the earlier revolutions in Western Europe: no sooner had the oppressed farmers and craftsmen of England and France removed the landed aristocracy from power than the ambitious middle class stepped into the breach and erected a new class structure with itself at the top; in a similar manner, the privileges and authority once shared by the Russian nobility and bourgeoisie had passed into the hands of a new ruling class composed of party officials, governments bureaucrats, and technical specialists.