THE OCTOBER INSURRECTION by Paul Avrich (from ‘The Russian Anarchists’)

The bosses are often swine, but there’ll always be bosses, won’t there? What’s the good of racking your brains to try and make sense out of it? — GRANDPA BONNEMORT, ZOLA’S Germinal

Russian anarchist sailors, 1917

The anarchists set themselves apart from all other radical groups in Russia by their implacable opposition to the state in any form. Faithfully they cleaved to Bakunin’s dictum that every government, no matter who controls it, is an instrument of oppression. Nor did they exclude the “dictatorship of the proletariat” from this indictment, despite the fact that it was a basic tenet of their Bolshevik allies. Though the anarchists shared Lenin’s determination to destroy the Provisional Government, Bakunin’s warnings about the power-hungry Marxists lingered in their thoughts.

Their latent suspicions of the “socialist-careerists”1 rose to the surface in early September, after the Bolshevik party won majorities in both the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. Svobodnaia Kommuna, organ of the Petrograd Federation of Anarchists, recollected the oft-repeated allegation of Bakunin and Kropotkin that the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat really meant “the dictatorship of the Social Democratic party.”2 Every revolution of the past, the journal reminded its readers, simply yielded a new set of tyrants, a new privileged class, to lord it over the masses; let us hope, it declared, that the people will be wise enough not to let Kerenskii and Lenin become their new masters—”the Danton and Robespierre” of the Russian Revolution.3   [The Russian Anarchists] Continue reading…

Anatoli Zhelezniakov 1895-1919 – stormy petrel. A pen portrait by Paul Avrich

Anatoli Zhelezniakov (1895-1919)

“The guard is tired.” With these words, uttered on the night of January 5/6, 1918, a young anarchist sailor named Anatoli Zhelezniakov dispersed the Constituent Assembly and carved a small niche for himself in the history of the Russian Revolution. When the tsarist regime collapsed in February 1917, Zhelezniakov had been serving on a minelayer based in Kronstadt, the famous headquarters of the Baltic Fleet near the capital city of Petrograd. After the February Revolution, anarchists and other militants occupied the villa of P.P. Durnovo, the Governor of Moscow during the revolution of 1905, and converted it into a revolutionary commune and a “house of rest,” with rooms for reading and discussion and a garden as a playground for their children. To hostile minds, however, the Durnovo villa had become a foul den of iniquity, “a sort of Brocken, where the powers of evil assembled, witches’ Sabbaths were held, and there were orgies, plots, dark and sinister, and doubtless bloody doings,” as N.N. Sukhanov wrote in his notes on the Russian Revolution. Yet the villa was left undisturbed until June 5, 1917, when a number of its anarchist occupants tried to seize the printing plant of a middle-class newspaper. The First Congress of Soviets, then in session in the capital, denounced the raisers as “criminals who call themselves anarchists,” and on June 7, P.N. Pereverzev, the Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government ordered the anarchists to evacuate the house immediately. [The Russian Anarchists]

By Paul Avrich (Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, No 5, 1979)

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Mariano R. Vázquez (‘Marianet’) — a pen portrait by ‘Farquhar McHarg’

Mariano R. Vázquez (1909-1939)

November 1936: “Farquhar was adamant that things began going badly wrong in 1936 with the vertiginous rise to power of Mariano R. Vázquez . ‘Marianet’, as he was known, was the protégé of the CNT’s collaborationist secretary-general, Horacio Martínez Prieto, and Juan García Oliver —first to the position of regional secretary of the Catalan CNT then, in November 1936, to the post of secretary-general of the CNT National Committee…

“According to Farquhar, it was Marianet who — largely single-handedly, but ably assisted by Montseny, Esgleas and others who should have known better — began suffocating the revolutionary process with his bureaucratic and cowardly deference to the Catalan and Madrid governments, and to the British and French consuls in Barcelona by ensuring that the CNT did not socialise those countries’ important commercial interests in Catalonia. Tragically, the majority of the membership acquiesced to this, by allowing the CNT-FAI street patrols to be replaced first by the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, then by security forces answerable only to the Generalidad Defence Council…

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REVOLUTION AND SOCIAL REVOLUTION: A Contribution to the History of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Movement in Spain 1930-1937 by Stephen John Brademas. Edited and Introduced by Pedro García-Guirao – eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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John Brademas died in Manhattan on 11 July 2016, at the age of 89. He was an outstanding member of the United States Congress for the Democratic Party for 22 years (1959-81), a partner with the Rockefeller Foundation, founder of the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at New York University (of which he served as president from 1981 to 1992), a recipient of the Great Cross of Alfonso X (the Wise) of Spain (2011), conferred upon him by King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and recipient of some thirty other awards.

However, as his obituary in the New York Times (11 July 2016) set out, behind this glamorous award-studded life lay something that ran much deeper. The son of a Greek immigrant restaurant-owner (whose restaurant came under repeated Ku Klux Klan attacks) and an Indiana elementary-school teacher, John Brademas recalled how his father told him on several occasions that he would strive not to leave him a great legacy (unlikely as he was an immigrant to Indiana and owner of a modest restaurant) but rather a first-rate education. Brademas embraced his father’s educational ambitions and never forgot his origins. In fact, James Fernandez (New York University) stressed in his obituary that “towering over everything else, perhaps, was the wisdom, decency and compassion of a truly extraordinary man who never forgot where he came from.”1

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LAUREANO CERRADA SANTOS. Notes from ¡Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg. 2: 1919 (1944-1954)

1976, Café de L’Europe, Rue des Couronnes, Belleville, Paris: last photograph of Laureano Cerrada Santos (1902-1976), seated, centre. He was murdered a few days later on 18 October 1976. His murderer, Ramón Benichó Canuda (aka “Leriles”), a CNT Infiltrator and French Mafioso, fled to Canada; he was never arrested or faced extradition charges to face justice in France.

Although the French police and security services had had Laureano under regular surveillance since the Liberation (of Paris), they had only been able to arrest and convict him on a handful of occasions. According to Spanish and French police reports, he had been involved in large-scale black-market and counterfeiting operations during and after the Nazi Occupation and was reputed, according to their reports, to have amassed a fortune: ‘reckoned at over two hundred million francs, with which he funds the Spanish Libertarian action groups—within Spain as well as abroad’. Equally they knew Laureano’s counterfeit IDs, driving licences and ration cards had saved the lives of countless members of the Resistance, Allied and Jewish evaders and escaping POWs, as well as ordinary French men and women who had to reinvent themselves to escape the Gestapo and the Milice. For that reason—and for his role in the Resistance—they respected him and to a large extent turned a blind eye to his activities. But as the bitter memories of the Occupation receded, new geopolitical and domestic pressures began eroding French sympathies for the exiles who had contributed so much to the Liberation.

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