Boris Yelensky’s memoir charts the history of the Russian anarchist movement in the early years of the 20th Century. Told in prosaic yet detailed fashion, unadorned by romanticism, it is his personal account of the turbulent period leading up to — and after — the successful take-over of the Russian monarchy by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. He provides an alternative historical viewpoint as to the Russian anarchist experience of that momentous period.
In the Social Storm: Memoirs of the Russian Revolution is not only a critique of the Bolshevik modus operandi and why they willingly sacrificed the one great opportunity to implement the socialist ideals fleshed out over the previous half century or more. It is more than an analysis of the Bolshevik mindset. Yelensky illustrates how the anarchist movement and men such as Nestor Makhno played a vital role in the social forces and the massive political and social upheaval of the period.
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Yelensky (Russia, 1889 — USA, 1974) describes how the anarchists living and struggling within this maelstrom of change did their utmost to implement their ideas through the example of their everyday lives. The experiments in actual anarchist projects of which Yelensky was a part, and which he describes in detail, were attempts to redefine social organizations to make them fair and liberating to everyone involved. They had a short window of opportunity to show the positive aspects of their philosophy, one that promised a viable alternative social and industrial organization to the repressive, totalitarian, brutal state dictatorship of the Bolsheviks — and to that of the capitalists who, likewise, used a centralized authoritarian government system disguised as “democracy” to fulfill similar ends.
For anarchists and political researchers Yelensky’s book is a revealing account of anarchism in action. A first-hand description of the lives and the efforts of those who went to Russia in good faith, believing positive changes were at hand. Instead, they faced the grim reality there was no new utopia awaiting them; Russia had fallen into the hands of a cabal of ruthless Marxist ideologues who, with their dreaded cheka terror squads, were hell-bent on acquiring total power over one of the largest empires on earth — and, in the process, murdering anyone who stood in the way of their ambitions.
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“The publication of Rudolf Rocker’s Anarcho-Syndicalism, after far too many years, is an event of much importance for people who are concerned with problems of liberty and justice. Speaking personally, I became acquainted with Rocker’s publications in the early years of the Second World War, in anarchist book stores and offices in New York City, and came upon the present work on the dusty shelves of a university library, unknown and unread, a few years later. I found it an inspiration then, and have turned back to it many times in the years since. I felt at once, and still feel, that Rocker was pointing the way to a much better world, one that is within our grasp, one that may well be the only alternative to the ‘universal catastrophe’ towards which ‘we are driving on under full sail’, as he saw on the eve of the Second World War. This catastrophe will be beyond the limits he could then imagine, as states have acquired the capacity to obliterate human society, a capacity that they will exercise if the current social order evolves along its present paths.
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Paul Avrich’s The Russian Anarchists records the history and ideas of Russian anarchism from the 19th century through to its brutal suppression by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. All the major personalities are discussed in detail: Bakunin, Kropotkin, Baron, Rogdaev, Chernyi, Makhno, Volin, Shapiro, Maksimov. The well-documented study includes comprehensive end notes, a chronology and an annotated bibliography. Part I focuses on the events and personalities leading up to 1905, while part II deals with the events following on from February 1917 to the Bolsheviks’ final suppression of the Russian anarchists in the early 1920s. Analysing the role of the anarchist movement in post-revolutionary period, Avrich traces its relations with the Bolsheviks and shows that most of them foresaw that the Marxist “dictatorship of the proletariat” would replace the tyranny of the tsars with the tyranny of commissars.
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Paul Eltzbacher (18 February 1868 – 25 October 1928) was a German law student whose professorial appointment was due, largely, to his PhD on anarchism, which became the basis for the present book, first published in English in 1907. ‘Anarchism’ is an overview consisting of seven chapters which deal, principally, with Eltzbacher’s academic take on the various elements and trends of anarchism as defined by the leading anarchist thinkers of the time: Godwin, Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, Tolstoy.
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Every person who examines this book at all will speedily divide its contents into Eltzbacher’s own discussion and his seven chapters of classified quotations from Anarchist leaders; and, if he buys the book, he will buy it for the sake of the quotations. I do not mean that the book might not have a sale if it consisted exclusively of Eltzbacher’s own words, but simply that among ten thousand people who may value Eltzbacher’s discussion there will not be found ten who will not value still more highly the conveniently-arranged reprint of what the Anarchists themselves have said on the cardinal points of Anarchistic thought. Nor do I feel that I am saying anything uncomplimentary to Eltzbacher when I say that the part of his work to which he has devoted most of his space is the part that the public will value most.
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A.S. Neill’s experiences setting up a ‘Free school’ in the pre-Hitlerian Germany of the Weimar Republic. Dissatisfied with traditional schooling, with its lack of freedom, democracy, and self-determination, Neill searched for a place to establish his own school and to experiment with his developing ideas, gathering what was best in the educational systems of various nations. In 1921 he became a co-director of the Dalcroze School, part of an international school, called Neue Schule, in Hellerau, a suburb of Dresden, Germany. His first step was to buy a dictionary and start to learn the language, the next was to record his impressions. His difficulties were many. With cheery optimism the bohemian teacher overlooked the fact that he was in a community with definite laws on education; he also forgot the difficulties of finance and that his favourite tobacco was unobtainable within five hundred square miles.
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