Item description for Nestor Makhno-Anarchy's Cossack: The Struggle for Free Soviets in the Ukraine 1917-1921 by Alexandre Skirda & Paul Sharkey...
The phenomenal life of Ukrainian peasant Nestor Makhno (1888-1934) provides the framework for this breakneck account of the downfall of the tsarist empire and the civil war that convulsed and bloodied Russia between 1917 and 1921. Mahkno and his people were fighting for a society "without masters or slaves, with neither rich nor poor." They acted towards that idea by establishing "free soviets." Unlike the soviets drained of all significance by the dictatorship of a one-party State, the "free soviets" became the grassroots organs of a direct democracy - a living embodiment of the free society - until they were betrayed, and smashed, by the Red Army. Delving into a vast array of documentation to which few other historians have had access, this study illuminates a revolution that started out with the rosiest of prospects but ended up utterly confounded. More than just the incredible exploits of a guerilla revolutionary par excellence, Skirda weaves the tale of a people, and the organizations and practices of anarchism, literally fighting for their lives.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 6" Height: 8.75" Weight: 1.26 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2003
Publisher AK Press
ISBN 1902593685 ISBN13 9781902593685
Availability 0 units.
More About Alexandre Skirda & Paul Sharkey
Alexander Skirda is the foremost anarchist theorist and activist writing in Europe today.
Reviews - What do customers think about Nestor Makhno-Anarchy's Cossack: The Struggle for Free Soviets in the Ukraine 1917-1921?
Very Thorough, well-sourced, informative Apr 5, 2008
This is a very thorough account of the years 1917-21 Ukraine, and the attempts of Nestor Makno and his anarchist populist army to liberate their country from first, the czarist, counter-revolutionary ("white") army, and then the traitorous Bolsheviks, who attacked the "Maknovites" from behind, (after having taken control of the Revolution, strangling it to death in the name of "the international proletariat." A solid piece of scholarship, stands up well against the other historical accounts, (i.e. the official Soviet slander, and others of dubious moral character). Not as well written as say, Emma Goldman's "My Disillusion in Russia," or Alexander Berkman's "The Bolshevik Myth" (which gives a more-intimate, first-person account); but a stand-out historical marker. One can only hope that Nestor Makno's extensive auto-biography will soon be published in English.
"He sought to give land to the peasants, factories to the workers intact and advised them to organize themselves" Dec 10, 2006
Nestor Makhno was a man of unparalleled single-mindedness, unflagging courage, tactical brilliance, and utter devotion to the necessity of real human liberty, fraternity and equality. Although described as a Ukrainian partisan, nothing was provincial about Makhno's anarchist vision as Skirda's book demonstrates. The Ukraine was the arena in which he fought for that vision and for the safety and well being of the Ukrainian "toilers."
The Ukrainians were beset by murderers and oppressors of every sort and ideology. After the fall of the Russian empire and the ascendancy of Bolsheviks, the Bolsheviks entered into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, ceding the Ukraine among other territories to the Central Powers effectively ending Russia's involvement in World War 1. The Makhnovists successfully repulsed the new masters of the Ukraine. But others enemies would arise--the White Russian forces, the Red Army--that the Makhnovists would engage almost always successfully.
In the end the Makhnovists made a fatal mistake, one that would be repeated by the anarchists years later during the Spanish civil war. They entered into a military alliance with the Bolsheviks (Marxist Leninists) to fight the Whites, trusting the USSR's promises that they had no territorial aims on the Ukraine. Although successfully winning battles against the Red army, the sheer size of their forces overwhelmed the Makhnovists. Makhno barely escaped and ended his years poor, cheated by "sympathizers" out of funds donated to him and almost completely abandoned as an exile in Paris.
Skirda's book dispels many myths about Makhno, mostly spread by historical revisionists in the Soviet Union. Here we see Makhno the executioner of anti-Semitic murders not one himself; Makhno the worst nightmare of the White Russian forces and not one of their collaborators; Makhno the liberator of the toilers and not their enslaver like the Reds.
Nothing in the text of this book is disappointing. It's thorough, passionately written, admirably detailed, yet lacking in one important respect to make it an important scholarly tool. It has no index. I cannot fathom why.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend reading this book. I suspect it is probably the best portrait of Makhno's life in print.
What your history teacher didn't tell you Jun 9, 2006
For those of us who went or are going to school in the United States, it sometimes seems impossible to get a real picture of the Russian Revolution. So much baggage and enmity clogs the works that most of the time only a two dimensional sketch of one of the pivotal periods of modern history can be achieved, leaving out the breadth and complexity of the many players, parties, ideas, struggles, and factions. Most people graduate from high school and even college with the formless impression that "communism" is "bad."
Luckily, I had a high school history teacher that took the time to say, "These are the basic ideas of Communism: A, B, C, & D. These are the various currents of Communist thought. This is the basic history of the Revolution and the early Soviet state. What matches up? What doesn't? What went on here?"
Skirda's biography of Makhno achieves the same thing. It follows this pivotal figure and his cadre, from well before the Revolution to well after it. It offers actual history of the Revolution--history that was abused and twisted by the Soviet state as "reactionary," and completely ignored in the West, perhaps because it would undermine the flat demonization of the Revolution as "bad." Makhno and his group literally took to the hills to wrench the central Ukraine from the grip of tyrannical barons; fought off invading armies intent on reinstating the old regime; and then turned around to try to keep the Bolshevik invaders from instituting an entirely new regime of tyrannical barons.
While the book is occasionally a bit heavy on blow-by-blow recounting of military movements and tactical nuances, after a while the reader begins to get a sense for Makhno, not only as a military leader and tactician, but also as an amazingly sharp and daring human being. Skirda does an excellent job at contrastinig between the aims and methods of the Bolsheviks, and the aims and methods of the Ukrainian Anarchists. A reader with no background at all in the history of the Revolution will come away from this book with a solid footing upon which to build; and the student of 1915 will come away with a completely new angle and set of knowledge that will deeply inform their understanding of these events.
Books like this are an act of kindness to people that want to understand the realities history (and the present), rather than just shrug and drink down the same old rhetoric.