Nestor Makhno. October 1931

“Soviet” Power — Its Present and Its Future

Source: Nestor Makhno, The struggle against the state and other essays, Alexandre Skirda (ed.). Translated by Paul Sharkey, 1996 by AK Press, Edinburgh & San Francisco;
First published: Bor’ba (The Struggle), Paris, No.19-20, 25 October 1931, pp.2-3.;
Transcribed: by

This paper was published by a number of anti-Stalinist and anti-Trotskyist Soviet defectors, who distanced themselves from the Bolshevik regime on a basis of reversion to the power of the free soviets of 1917 and the demands of the Kronstadt rebels of 1921. The leading light behind the magazine was Gregory Bessedovsky, a Ukrainian former soviet diplomat who quit the USSR’s Paris embassy sensationally and devoted himself to violent denunciation of the corruption of the Stalinist regime. See his book Oui, J’accuse! Paris, 1930 — Note by Alexandre Skirda

Many people, especially left-wing politicians, have a tendency to regard “soviet” power as a State power different from all the rest, to be sure, but painting that difference in the rosiest of hues:

“Soviet power,” they tell us, “is a worker and peasant power and, as such, has a great future ahead of it.”

There can be no more absurd assertion. “Soviet” power is a power no better and no worse than any other. Currently, it is every bit as wobbly and absurd as any State power in general. In certain respects, it is even more absurd than the rest. Having achieved total political domination over the country, it has become the unchallenged master of its economic resources and, not content with that crassly exploitative situation, it has sensed, welling up from within itself, the deceptive sentiment of a spiritual “perfection,” a sentiment that it seeks to peddle to the country’s toiling revolutionary people. This has left its proletarian “spirit” less revolutionary, but more impudent. Thus, it seeks to foist itself upon the bamboozled populace as its spiritual master: in this, it is faithful to the boundless and irresponsible effrontery of every State power. It is an open secret that this supposed “perfection” of the regime is merely the perfection of its mentor, the Bolshevik-Communist party. All of which is nothing more than a bare-faced lie, abject duplicity and criminal impudence towards the toiling masses, in whose name and thanks to whom the great Russian revolution, currently flayed by the authorities to the benefit of their party privileges and those of the proletarian minority which, under the party’s sway, believed it could identify with the labels of “proletarian” State and the dictatorship of the “proletariat,” so seductive to those who know no better, was carried out. A minority that nonetheless lets itself be dragged along by the bridle by that party, in silence, without having any say in the matter, bereft of the right to be briefed in detail about what was treacherously concocted and accomplished yesterday, and what is still being cooked up today against its proletarian brethren, the ones that refuse to be a blind, unspeaking cat’s paw and who do not swallow the lies of the party that wears a proletarian disguise.

In spite of everything, one might wonder if such conduct by the Bolshevik authorities with regard to the toilers may show itself differently in the realm of their “spiritual” education. It strikes me that that cannot but be the case. As evidence of that I would cite the persistence of revolutionary consciousness in the toilers of the USSR, a source of grave disquiet to the regime, and the fact that the Bolshevik party seeks to replace it with a political consciousness manufactured after the pattern of its program.

This is the factor that explains why Bolshevik authorities are facing more and more difficulties and why they stupidly seek to round off their economic and political despotism with a spiritual grip upon the laboring people. It goes without saying that the regime’s current straits closely determine its future prospects: a future that is fraught with uncertainty, for want of a plainly favorable present. In fact, the present position is so visibly unfavorable for millions of workers that we may expect, any year now, bloody insurrections and revolutions erupting against the Bolshevik-Communist order. It is very obvious that the insurrectionist and revolutionary spirit of the USSR’s workers should enjoy the support of any and every revolutionary. However, counter-revolutionaries and the enemies of the toilers must not make capital out of that support. Consequently, that support should have no aim other than the destruction of the present senseless and irresponsible order, set up for the benefit of the privileges of party members and their hirelings.

The lunacy of this regime must be eliminated and replaced by the vital principles of the exploited workers, on a basis of solidarity, freedom and equal voice for each and every person, in short, for all concerned with genuine emancipation. This is a matter that concerns all Russian revolutionaries: all who find themselves exiles or inside the USSR must, as I see it, concern themselves with it first of all: as well as all proletarians and intellectuals of revolutionary disposition: to whom I would add all opponents of, and political fugitives from the Bolshevik regime, provided that it be for truly revolutionary considerations.

That is how I see the present and the future of “soviet power,” as well as the stance that Russian revolutionaries of all persuasions must adopt with regard to it. In my view, revolutionaries cannot pose the problem differently. They must appreciate that, if Bolshevik power is to be fought, one has to be able to boast in the greatest measure the values that it used and enunciated in order to seize power: values that it still professes, moreover, to champion, albeit without sincerity.

Otherwise, the struggle of revolutionaries would turn out to be, if not counter-revolutionary, then at least of no use to the cause of millions of toilers gulled, oppressed and exploited by the Bolshevik-Communists, toilers that a revolutionary should be helping, whatever the cost, to break free of the vicious circle of falsehood and oppression.