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Anti-Semitic Anarchism in the Ukraine? The Truth about Makhno and the Jews

Makhnofull

Nestor Makhno (1888-1934)

Anarchism, while historically a heavily Jewish movement, has also produced figures – seminal Russian apostle of anarchy Mikhail Bakunin among them – who in specific instances have been critical of Jews or who have been accused of anti-Semitism. One such figure is Nestor Makhno, the militant leader of a Ukrainian anarchist movement active during the Russian Civil War. After joining forces with the Bolsheviks to defeat the reactionary Whites, the Makhnovists then found themselves being attacked and suppressed by their erstwhile allies, with Makhno escaping and eventually settling in Paris. Allegations of anti-Semitism followed him into exile, but were these stories justified?

“The Makhnovschina, as a social movement so subversive of the established order and aspiring, in the name of Anarchy, to do away with all state power and ensure that the toilers ran their own lives, could hardly be opposed by its enemies in precisely those terms,” writes sympathetic biographer Alexandre Skirda. “It had at all costs to be brought somehow into disrepute and shown in the most ignominious light. Hence the charges repeatedly mooted against it, of banditry, looting and thuggery, not forgetting the allegation of anti-Semitism.”1 After rationalizing Makhnovist expropriations as consisting of “property of the big landlords, the urban bourgeoisie, and the ‘depots’ of the Whites and Reds, derived from systematic plundering of the laboring population”2, Skirda addresses the claims of anti-Semitism as follows:

The Makhnovist movement embraced without distinction representatives of the various ethnic communities of the region under its influence, to wit: a vast majority of Ukrainian peasants – nearly 90 percent of the movement, Arshinov claims – the six-to-eight percent of peasants of Russian origin, followed by members of the dozen Jewish and Greek farming communities of the region and in lesser numbers, Georgians, Armenians, Bulgars, Serbs, Montenegrins and Germans. This circumstance alone would be enough to account for the absence of chauvinist nationalistic feelings from the movement. […]

Makhno, Skirda explains, “did not describe himself as a Ukrainian but merely as an anarchist; his beliefs were dismissive of all national differences.” He continues:

Then again, ever since his days as a teenage militant, he had had fellow-believers and fellow-activists of Jewish origin (in fact in 1905 Jews accounted for the overwhelming majority of Russian and Ukrainian anarchists) and he had never had any problems with them. When he returned to Moscow at the end of June 1918, he had been saved from certain death by his friend Moshe Kogan, himself a native of Gulyai-Polye [in the Ukraine] and future president of the local soviet in 1919. Later Makhno had been ruthless with any display of anti-Semitism in the movement’s sphere of influence. When bully boy tactics were employed in 1919 against some Ukrainian and Jewish peasants by persons professing to be his followers, he had issued an appeal to all peasants, raising violent objections to such conduct and even threatening suicide if his name was again to be used to cover such ignominious acts. And the population had been mightily impressed by this declaration. Following a provocation by [White] Denikinist agents, when several members of a Jewish settlement had been massacred by insurgents, Makhno had insisted upon the shooting of the culprits, rather than their being sent up to the front line as a joint Bolshevik-Makhnovist commission of inquiry had determined. He then had rifles and ammunition issued to the region’s Jewish farming settlements, this at a time when there was a dire shortage of weapons among the front-line fighters, which brought him criticism from Ukrainian insurgents and peasants. […]

Moreover, there were 200 Jewish infantry in one of the Gulyai-Polye regiments and a great number of others scattered through the various Makhnovist units. Several commanders, including Taranovsky, the movement’s last chief of staff, and Lev Zinkovsky, commander of Makhno’s personal escort at the time of his passage into Romania, were Jews. Three out of the five members of the movement’s cultural section […] were of similar origins. […] There is thus no avoiding a simple commonsense realization; had the Makhnovist movement or Makhno had any anti-Semitic tendencies, not one of these insurgents and anarchists of Jewish origin would have tolerated or countenanced them and would instantly have dissociated themselves from the movement.3

“So why this persistent rumor of Makhnovist anti-Semitism,” Skirda muses, “when the merest inquiry bursts that particular bubble?” He notes that “among the Ukrainian bourgeoisie degraded by the insurgents, there was also a large number of Jews, as well as among the Chekists and Bolshevik officials executed in 1920 and 1921 and so these could have been put down as casualties of popular vendetta against their co-religionists as a whole.”4 Makhno, writing in Paris in 1927, questioned the motives of those responsible for the spread of the disinformation:

Jewish citizens! In my first “Appeal to Jews”, published in the French libertarian [i.e., anarchist] newspaper, Le Libertaire, I asked Jews in general, which is to say the bourgeois and the socialist ones as well as the “anarchist” ones like Yanovsky, who have all spoken of me as a pogromist against Jews and labeled as anti-Semitic the liberation movement of the Ukrainian peasants and workers of which I was the leader, to detail to me the specific facts instead of blathering vacuously away: just where and just when did I or the aforementioned movement perpetrate such acts?

I had expected that Jews in general would answer my “Appeal” after the manner of people eager to disclose to the civilized world the truth about these blackguards responsible for the massacres of Jews in the Ukraine, or indeed that they might attempt to base their shameful anecdotes about me and the Makhnovist movement upon fairly authentic data in that they involve me in them and peddle them to public opinion.

Thus far, no such evidence advanced by Jews has come to my attention. The only thing that has appeared thus far in the press generally, certain Jewish anarchist organs included, regarding myself and the insurgent movement I led, has been the product of the most shameless lies and of the vulgarity of certain political mavericks and their hirelings. Moreover, revolutionary fighting units made up of Jewish workers played a role of prime importance in that movement. The cowardice of slanderers washes over me, for I have always dismissed it for what it is. […]

Makhno takes particular notice of “the slanders emanating from Jewish societies, which seek to create the impression in their co-religionists that they have diligently scrutinized the despicable and screamingly unjust acts perpetrated against the Jewish population in the Ukraine and whose perpetrators these societies seek to denounce,” elaborating on the Bolshevik genesis of the propaganda:

A little while ago, one of these societies, which by the way has its headquarters in the kingdom of the Bolsheviks, has issued a book, illustrated with photographs, about the atrocities committed against the Jewish population in the Ukraine and Belorussia, this on the basis of materials amassed by “comrade” Ostrovsky, which patently means: of Bolshevik provenance. In this “historical” document there is nowhere any mention of the anti-Jewish pogroms carried out by the much-vaunted First Red Army Cavalry when it passed through the Ukraine en route from the Caucasus in May 1920. By contrast, the same document does mention a number of pogroms and alongside prints the photographs of Makhnovist insurgents, though it is not clear what they are doing there, on the one hand, and which, in point of fact are not even Makhnovists, as witness the photograph purporting to show “Makhnovists on the move” behind a black flag displaying a death’s head: this is a photo that has no connection with pogroms and indeed and especially does not show Makhnovists at all.

An even more significant misrepresentation, targeting myself and the Makhnovists alike, can be seen in the photographs showing the streets of Alexandrovsk, allegedly laid waste following a pogrom mounted by Makhnovists, in the summer of 1919. This crude lie is unforgivable in the Jewish society responsible for publication, for it is common knowledge in the Ukraine that at the time in question the Makhnovist insurgent army was far from that region: it had fallen back into the western Ukraine. Indeed, Alexandrovsk had been under Bolshevik control from February to June 1919, and then been in Denikinist hands until the autumn.

With these documents, the Bolshevik-inclined Jewish society has done a great disservice to me and to the Makhnovist movement: unable to find documentary evidence with which to arraign us – for the benefit of its sponsors – on charges of anti-Jewish pogroms, it has resorted to blatant faking of evidence that has no connection either with me or with the insurgent movement. Its perfidious approach is even more glaringly apparent when it reproduces a photograph – “Makhno, a ‘peaceable’ citizen” when in fact the person shown is someone absolutely unknown to me.

On all these grounds I regarded it as my duty to address myself to the international Jewish community in order to draw attention to the cowardice and lying of certain Jewish associations in thrall to the Bolsheviks, in charging me personally and also the insurgent movement which I led, of anti-Jewish pogroms. International Jewish opinion must scrupulously examine the substance of these infamous allegations, for the peddling of such nonsense is scarcely the best way of establishing, in the eyes of all, the truth about what the Ukraine’s Jewish population endured, not forgetting the fact that these lies serve only to misrepresent History completely.5

It is almost as if these Bolshevik fabrications about Makhno and his movement comprise a practice run and a prelude to more imaginative and elaborate prevarications to come.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

Endnotes

  1. Skirda, Alexandre. Nestor Makhno – Anarchy’s Cossack: The Struggle for Free Soviets in the Ukraine 1917-1921. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2004, p. 336.
  2. Ibid., p. 337.
  3. Ibid., pp. 338-339.
  4. Ibid., p. 341.
  5. Makhno, Nestor. “To the Jews of All Countries”. Delo Truda (April-May 1927): https://libcom.org/library/jews-all-countries-nestor-makhno
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About icareviews

Author, Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies

12 comments on “Anti-Semitic Anarchism in the Ukraine? The Truth about Makhno and the Jews

  1. icareviews
    November 30, 2018

    Reblogged this on icareviews.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Anti-Semitic Anarchism in the Ukraine? The Truth about Makhno and the Jews | Hipster Racist

  3. Hipster Racist
    December 1, 2018

    Somebody who knows way, way more about Russian history than I should explain some things:

    Russia has historically all but been defined by the Orthodox Church, whose history is that of the Greek Byzantine Empire, which all the Judeo-critics say was the model on how to avoid Jewish hegemony.

    Yet, time and time again throughout Russian history (and we’ll include Ukraine, the Baltics, and other Eastern European nations) you see the same conflicts of interest between Europeans and Jews. How is it, despite this “anti-semitic” institution at the heart of these societies, Jews have still managed to gain power again and again?

    If the Jews are right and there’s this long history of “pogroms” and “anti-semitism,” why did they stay? MacDonald said that the Jews were so successful in the post-Middle Ages in Eastern Europe they, like deer, became overpopulated and outgrew their economic niches of usury and alcohol, which exacerbated these conflicts of interest.

    On the other hand, once you really internalize that “Jew” is a social construct, not a nation and not an ethnicity, it really starts to make little sense to think of “Jews” as a continuous historical phenomenon. Various groups of people have been called, and called themselves, “Jews” throughout history.

    Plus, the concept of “Jews in Europe” cannot be separated from the concept of “Christians in Europe.” They are part of the same phenomenon. I suspect that if you look into it, even the “Jews in China” appear along side, and during the same basic time period, of “Christians in China” – even “Muslims in China.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • icareviews
      December 1, 2018

      The revolutionary period in Russia is usefully illustrative both of truths and falsehoods about Jews popular among many nationalists. The radical politics of this era demonstrate conclusively the disproportionate participation of Jews in subversive movements in Russia, but also make clear that Jews were never a monolithic or united force in this context. They were literally killing each other, whether as anarchists, landowners, or totalitarian Bolsheviks. This isn’t to discount the obviousness of greater group cohesion among Jews than among their host peoples, but the Russian Revolution and Civil War prove that Jews could be just as merciless toward each other as toward the host nation.

      Like

    • redarmyvodka
      December 5, 2018

      Great question. The major turning point you’re looking for was in the Renaissance specifically the protestant revolution and the ensuing change, chaos, upheaval, and war it unleashed. This was a God sent to the merchants including the Jews who bet a better future on aligning with the Protestants.

      It’s also a myth that the Orthodox Church is central to Russian identity. Maybe to the masses but not the elites. Communism itself is a child of the Enlightenment. The Bolsheviks weren’t even the first to break the church and mass execute priests that began under Peter The Great.

      Like

      • Hipster Racist
        December 5, 2018

        @redarmyvodka

        The major turning point you’re looking for was in the Renaissance specifically the protestant revolution and the ensuing change, chaos, upheaval, and war it unleashed. This was a God sent to the merchants including the Jews who bet a better future on aligning with the Protestants.

        This is not even close when it comes to the West, and I’ve covered this specific subject, over and over again, on my blog. Jews were extremely powerful in Western Europe before the Reformation, and there was a powerful Jewish community – literally next door to the Vatican in Rome – for the entire history of Catholicism. Catholics and Protestants both collaborated with, and fought against, Jews, at various times in the West. Even the Catholic bigot E. Michael Jones points out that the Catholic Church – specifically, the bishops, priests, and nuns – literally, physically, protected Jews, when the peasants would inevitably revolt. The Catholic church, throughout history, brought Jews physically into the cathedrals and barred the doors so Europeans could not string up the Jewish merchants, usurers, and tax collectors in the streets.

        The Renaissance and the Reformation actually broke the Jewish monopoly on finance – which had been enforced by Catholic power. During the Renaissance the non-Jewish Venetians became a mercantile power and Calvin broke the Jewish monopoly on commercial finance – for the first time, you didn’t have to be a Jew to engage in banking – and once Catholic power was broken, and the Catholics could no longer enforce the Jewish monopoly – North Western Europe thrived, economically, and literally conquered the entire earth.

        As for what went down in Russia and the East – I don’t know, hence my question.

        Like

      • Hipster Racist
        December 5, 2018

        @redarmyvodka

        Just listened to the first part of your video, but it’s already following a very predictable pattern, a pattern I’ve been discussing on my personal blog for the last month or so:

        Catholics – and apparently the Orthodox – always romanticize the era before mass literacy. Russia and the East attained mass literacy a bit after the West. Mass literacy led directly to the Reformation in the West – this was the key struggle of the Reformation, in fact – and the Reformation broke the power of the Catholic church.

        Is it the same in the East? When mass literacy reaches Russia, the Orthodox church also started to lose power, under Peter I?

        I notice too, that right off the bat, Orthodox Nationalist brings up … who else? The Freemasons. The Freemasons were, of course, an expression of British power and Freemasons promoted mass literacy – in fact, Freemasons acted as an independent liberal arts college for the emerging middle class.

        Catholics and apparently the Orthodox have never forgiven the Protestants and the Freemasons for teaching their slaves to read. Because once Christian slaves learned to read, they got all uppity and realized how full of shit the Church was.

        No good deed goes unpunished!

        I’ll listen to the rest – thanks for the video.

        Like

      • redarmyvodka
        December 6, 2018

        I support the break from Rome but there is significant evidence to suggest the Venetians elevated Martin Luther from a provincial heretic to a mainstream figure for their own purposes. They also had assets on both the Catholic and Protestant side manipulating the two against each other into conflict for their own ends. This was necessary in an age of powerful nation states where Venice could no longer preserve its territorial integrity. Creating domestic disruptions in the enemy’s rear enabled the Venetians to move their fortunes, assets, and characteristic outlook into northwestern Europe and specifically England. The modern western Anglo-American elite is a Venetian, English, and Jewish hybrid.

        In subsequent episodes of the Orthodox Nationalist he acknowledges Russia had to enter the modern age and praised certain Tsars for trying to preserve Russia’s heritage albeit with mixed results. He still condemns the mass secularization of the Enlightenment and the Bolshevik revolution though he admits the latter were indeed pro-labor and widely supported by the people. I think for a Orthodox priest that’s as open minded as it will ever get.

        Like

    • baduin
      December 7, 2018

      A bit of a knowledge of history can be useful. There were NO Jews allowed into Russia. There were a lot of Jews in the Commonwealth of Poland (which included Ukraine, more or less). In XVIII century Russia annexed eastern part of Poland, together with numerous Jews there – many of the towns were entirely Jewish. In order to stop Jews from spreading east into Russia, it legislated a so-called Pale of Settlement.

      https://infogalactic.com/info/Pale_of_Settlement

      Like

      • Hipster Racist
        December 7, 2018

        @baduin

        According to your link:

        The Pale was first created by Catherine the Great in 1791, after several failed attempts by her predecessors, notably the Empress Elizabeth, to remove Jews from Russia entirely, unless they converted to Russian Orthodoxy, the state religion.

        That isn’t the same as “NO Jews allowed into Russia.” In fact:

        https://infogalactic.com/info/History_of_the_Jews_in_Russia

        “Evidence of the presence of Jewish people in Muscovite Russia is first documented in the chronicles of 1471. … Documentary evidence as to the presence of Jewish people in Muscovite Russia is first found in the chronicles of 1471. The relatively small population of were subject to discriminatory laws, they do not appear to have been enforced at all times. The Jewish people residing in Russian and Ukrainian towns suffered numerous religious persecutions. Converted Jews occasionally rose to important positions in the Russian State, i.e. Peter Shafirov, vice-chancellor under Peter the Great was of Jewish origin.”

        That’s basically what I said, and asked how this worked.

        Like

  4. Boopedybop
    December 2, 2018

    There’s a guy on Youtube who styles himself as a Makhnoist, and some of his content is really quite good, or at least funny to watch (particularly videos where he takes on “Conservative” pundits).

    Here’s a nice little vid which I’m sure you’ll enjoy 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. james
    December 7, 2018

    Interesting find.

    Liked by 1 person

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