Both of these intriguing new works take critical views of the Russian Revolution, whose centenary has just passed. Anarchist Encounters comprises an edited volume of eyewitness reports written by Spanish and Italian anarcho-syndicalists who visited Russia in the years 1920-1921 that also includes Emma Goldman’s critique of Bolshevik hegemony over the Revolution, based on the two years she spent living there. Eric Lee’s The Experiment examines the relatively unknown Georgian Democratic Republic, a three-year period of Menshevik, social-democratic governance in Russia’s southern neighbor and former colony that was crushed by the Red Army in 1921.
What we found in this collection of reports put together by Zurbrugg, are testimonies written by anarchists who visited the USSR in the crucial years of 1920-1921, in a period in which still the majority of the anarchist movement supported the Bolsheviks, being oblivious (or in denial) of the suppression of the anarchists which started in 1918 and knowing little or nothing about the Makhnovist movement in the Ukraine. In short, these testimonies constitute a most valuable collection of encounters with the realities of an authoritarian revolution by libertarians.
We close our series – without for a moment suggesting that this is the last word – on the russian revolution of 1917 with an interview with Carlos Taibo, author of the recent work, in spanish, Anarquismo y revolución en Rusia (1917-1921). Though the interview focuses on Taibo’s concern with calling attention to the role of anarchists and libertarians in the events of the russian revolution, it takes us beyond the past; the revolution remains a lens through which to think through our political present.
Originally published in Contexto y acción, we present the essay below in translation.
A further contribution to our series on the russian revolutions of 1917 …
For Dada, there was first the primal scream of horror and refusal of a world set out on mass murder in the name of patriotism and civilisation.
Adrift in the lying logorrhea of states, cultural authorities, newspapers, language had ceased to be meaningful in the massacres of the trenches of the First World War; its intentional destruction was now the only means to reveal its masqueraded abuse and corruption. What could “freedom”, “equality” and “fraternity” still mean? What sense remained to “family” and “homeland”, if their defense demanded the killing of so many? And what illusions lay behind “morality” and “law”, “progress” and “science”, “philosophy” and “reason”, when all that they could do was justify the unjustifiable, or remain silent before the barbarity.