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(en) Interview with Pio Turroni - who was in contact with Nestor Makhno, by Luciano Ferraresi

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.nestormakhno.info)
Date Tue, 30 Dec 2003 12:53:52 +0100 (CET)

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It was considered more interesting for readers to entrust the
presentation of Makhno's memoirs to the voice of a comrade
who was in contact with him during the final years of his life.
Pio Turroni met the Russian revolutionary in Paris, where both
were in exile (the former fleeing Fascism, the latter
Bolshevism). By answering a number of questions
(irrespective of any personal vision regarding the anarchist
struggle) he provides us with valuable testimony regarding
the most famous participant in and promoter of the anarchist
communist experience in Russia.

Luciano Ferraresi: For the Ukrainian population, Makhno had
been a legendary hero. How did this comrade behave towards
the others who certainly did not enjoy the same prestige as

Pio Turroni: Two things struck me in particular about Makhno
which I liked - the gentleness of his personality and his
brotherly and modest behaviour towards his comrades. His
modesty was truly exemplary - although he was an extremely
accessible person, he showed a notable reluctance whenever
he had to talk about himself or the events of which he was the

I was also struck by a trait which he shared with the other
Russian exiles, which was the extreme dignity which drove
him to avoid the assistance of comrades and which speeded
on his death, as he lacked the treatment which could have
been of benefit to his health. I recall often having seen him
dine on a coffee and croissant.

LF: In his books "My Life" and the "History of the Russian
Revolution", Trotsky does not even mention Makhno and this
omission seems quite strange if one remembers that it was
our comrade who beat the armies of the Austro-Germans, the
Ukrainian bourgeoisie and the "Whites" (Denikin, Petliura
and Wrangel respectively) and for quite some time held at
bay the Red Army (created and led by Trotsky himself) which
had the task of destroying and preventing the realization of
anarchist communism in Ukraine. What did Makhno think of
the man who preceded Stalin in the mass elimination of those
who stood against his policies (he in fact massacred and
deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians)?

PT: It was Trotsky's perfidy above all which disgusted him,
his system of destroying the adversary first through lies, then
physically. A system which was inherited later by Stalin and

In the same way, I remember that it was in Paris that the
Bolsheviks began to accuse Makhno of having persecuted
Jews (and we know well that Volin, who was Jewish, had
been won over by Makhno also because of the protection that
the latter had always assured the Jewish communities).

Our comrade challenged the Bolsheviks to a public debate
which was held at the "Salle Wagram" (a conference hall
often used by the whole progressive movement) where he
denounced their lies and embarrassed them by producing
evidence and witnesses who had participated in the events
which the Bolsheviks were talking about.

LF: Reading "The Russian Revolution in Ukraine", there is an
episode (the Leon Schneider episode) which gives the
impression that the anarchist federations and groups behave
in an extremely hard way towards those militants who were
the cause of public scandal by behaving in a way which was
not worthy of the public functions which they were supposed
to be carrying out. What can you say with regard to this?

PT: The Schneider case came about during a particularly
serious moment: the anarchists had to respond to the
peasants regarding the accusations that Schneider, through
his conduct, had brought on them by the
counter-revolutionaries. The anti-authoritarianism of the
Makhnovists was however amply demonstrated by the
characteristics of their communes and by their army, the only
one to be exclusively composed of volunteers.

LF: Makhno had been a fervent supporter of the single front
of all revolutionary forces against the common enemy. After
the tragic experience of the alliance with the Marxist forces,
what revolutionary solution did he propose to anarchists in
the fight for communism, keeping in mind the presence of
other forces hostile to the status quo?

PT: Makhno, in his contact with the peasants, had noticed
how difficult it was to make an anarchist revolution with men
who were attached to paternalistic forms (he himself was
known as the "batko", or little father) and had no political

The first task of the anarchist revolutionaries was therefore
the education of the masses.

As can also be read in his memoirs, he attributed great
importance to organization, which could have given real force
to anarchism and the absence of which among Russian
anarchists had facilitated the triumph of the Bolsheviks.

Naturally, given the unhappy experience, the alliance with the
marxists was no longer possible - their Machiavellianism at
the service of the party and the authoritarian state can only
make them potential enemies. Anarchist communists will
have to wage the struggle against the conservatives by

LF: I remember you once said that you had seen Makhno
shortly before his death. Is there something you would like to
tell us about that?

PT: A few days before he died I was informed, through a
telegram from a comrade, that Makhno has expressed a
desire to see me. I went to the Ténon Hospital where he
had been admitted; he knew his death was imminent but he
was not bothered about it. I remember the way his face lit up
when he told me how sure he was that the eyes of the
workers would be opened to the horrors of Bolshevism - they
would finally see in anarchist communism the only
authentically revolutionary way possible and would discover
the great revolutionary impetus to bring it to success, the
fruits of which would really belong to everyone.

This is how we should remember our comrade Makhno,
smiling and trusting in our Revolution. Let us also try to make
the most of his valuable experience as valid instruments for
today's struggles.

Pio Turroni - Luciano Ferraresi

July 1969

From the first Italian edition of the first volume of Makhno's
memoirs, "The Russian Revolution in Ukraine (March 1917 -
April 1918), published in Italy in August 1971 by Edizioni "La

Translation by Nestor McNab.

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