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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #286 - Was Nestor Makhno anti-Semitic ? (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 12 Oct 2018 09:11:16 +0300


Recalling today the struggle of the libertarian-inspired peasant insurgency movement in Ukraine, the Makhnovshchina, is not trivial in a period when ideological confusion and conspiracy theses repeatedly infest the debate on anti-Semitism. ---- Ukraine is, in the first years of the Russian Revolution in a state of total instability, in the grip of a multi-faceted civil war. Pogroms make tens of thousands of victims. Nestor Makhno, anarchist and figurehead of the peasant uprising in Ukraine, accused of anti-Semitism by some detractors, is a child of the poor peasantry. He is impregnated with peasant culture and develops an unwavering confidence in the moujik [1]that he considers the potentially revolutionary element, thanks to what we would today call his " common sense peasant ". The way he looks at all the other layers of the revolution is peripheral, critical, even confrontational. There is no anti-Semitism in his writings, but he sometimes develops a very harsh prose in the face of community approaches that he considers contrary to the ideals of the revolution. However, he knows how to discern the Jews opportunistic community leaders willing to cash the highest bidder the tranquility of the community. He has always frequented Jews, as a child, in prison in Moscow in 1911 or during his exile in Paris.

In these times of crisis, Makhno played a moderating role, continually tempering the anti-Semitic temptations that were going on in the peasant and working world of Gulyai Polié and its surroundings: " Nestor Makhno proscribed all discrimination and he strove to fight against antisemitic tendencies of the peasants, which proved to be about as difficult as preventing them from drinking and looting. " [2] When the news of an exaction reaches his ears, it is immediately punished.

The Jewish agricultural colonies, under the geographical control of the movement, receive weapons for their self-defense, even though they are sorely lacking on the front. Coming from exile where other Russian provinces, many Jews and Jews join the movement. Some of them take up important positions in the Makhnovshchina. In Karkov, a propaganda group in Yiddish language is set up.

Stalinist slander
Following the break with the Makhnovist movement in November 1920, the Soviets seek to dirty it rather than fight it politically. Soviet historians will construct narratives with approximations denouncing acts of anti-Semitism perpetrated by Makhnovist groups. The historian Ilia Cherifkover, recognized specialist in the history of pogroms in this region, will exonerate the Makhnovshchina of these accusations.

Makhno will refute this persistent rumor until his death. Thus he writes in 1927, in the newspaper Dielo Trouda No. 30-31: " Thus, the Makhnovshchina, throughout its existence, will observe an uncompromising attitude towards anti-Semitism and pogromists, because it was a truly laborious and revolutionary movement in Ukraine " .

When Léon Shapiro met Makhno in 1930 and questioned him on the subject, he did not deny certain abuses but explained that he had not managed to control everything. He denies being personally involved [3].

Jean-Marc Izrine

[1] Peasant in Russian

[2] Paul Avrich, Russian Anarchists , AK Press, 2005.

[3] Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices , AK Press, 2005.

http://www.alternativelibertaire.org/?Nestor-Makhno-etait-il-antisemite
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