A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) Organise #61 - Revolutionary Portraits: Iosif Solomonovich Bleikhman

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 26 Oct 2003 07:21:52 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

Iosif Solomonovich Bleikhman was born within Russia in 1868, at
Vidzy is what is now Belarus. From a Jewish background, he took
up the occupation of tinsmith. Emigrating to the United States, he
became an anarchist communist in 1904. Returning to Russia, he
was arrested by the Tsarist regime and deported to Siberia. The
appalling conditions there meant he contracted TB. Liberated by
the February 1917 Revolution, he ended up in Petrograd, becoming
a leading member of the Petrograd Anarchist Communist
Federation and became popular among Petrograd workers and the
sailors of Kronstadt, making speeches and writing many articles
under the name of N. Solntsev in the pages of Kommuna and
Burevestnik (Stormy Petrel), the publications of the Anarchist
Communist Federation. He was elected to the Petrograd Soviet in
July, and his activities meant he was hounded by the Kerensky

The July Days

Discontent with the Kerensky government increased in July 1917.
Workers, sailors and soldiers gathered in large meetings in
Moscow. Bleikhman exhorted a delegation from the First
Machine-Gun Regiment to take action. No assistance from
political organisations was needed, he said, to perform their
revolutionary mission, as "the February revolution also took place
without the leadership of a party." He urged the masses to seize all
available supplies, the factories and mines, and to destroy the
government and the capitalist system at once. Later that day, the
Machine-Gun Regiment revolted and were joined by crowds of
soldiers, sailors and workers. The abortive insurrection that took
place was known as the July Days, and the Kerensky government
was in danger of being overthrown. The Bolshevik leadership
considered any action to be premature and were worried that joint
action by anarchists and rank-and-file Bolsheviks would endanger
their party. Trotsky refers to Bleikhman in his usual condescending
way in his history

of the Russian Revolution: "…the anarchist Bleikhman, a small
but colourful figure on the background of 1917, with a very modest
equipment of ideas but a certain feeling for the masses -sincere in
his limited and ever iinflammable intelligence - his shirt open at the
breast and curly hair flying out on all sides….The soldiers smiled
delightedly at his speeches, nudging each other with their elbows
and egging the orator on with pithy comments. They plainly liked
his eccentric looks, his unreasoning decisiveness, and his
Jewish-American accent sharp as vinegar." The Menshevik leader
PrinceTsereteli sneeringly refers to him as a comical figure, small
in stature, with a thin, clean-shaven face, expressing "superficial"
ideas in "ungrammatical" Russian he had gleanedfrom anarchist


The Bolshevik Ilyin-Zhenevsky gloats about the fate of Bleikhman
in his memoirs. He deals with the first conference of the Red Army
held in Petrograd in March 1918. He disapproves of the ideas of the
Red Army men. "Here at the Red Army conference…the speakers
took no account whatsoever of the state aspect of the matter, but
simply cursed the Soviet power from the standpoint of their own
selfish interests". Bleikhman attended this conference and was
elected to the presidium. The Bolsheviks attempted to have an
honorary presidium put in place, consisting of Lenin, Trotsky,
Zinoviev and a number of other Party leaders. Bleikhman
addressed the conference saying :" I categorically object to an
honorary presidium…. We’ve elected them already. Why do
we need an "honorary" presidium for? They would be just icons that
we made for ourselves. One lot of gods has been overthrown, only
for a new lot to appear!" Despite this a small majority elected the
honorary presidium. Ilyin-Zhenevsky was appalled by the attitude
of the Bolshevik Party members at this conference, whom he
considered shared the outlook of the anarchists. The conference
elected a special executive bureau made up of Bolsheviks and
anarchists, including Bleikhman, to supervise the work of the
military commissariat of which Ilyin was a member. "Just you wait,
we have yet to have a talk with you", Bleikhman "growled
menacingly" to Ilyin. Ilyin goes on to say: "We ‘had a talk’
with him before he could do that".


Not long after the attack by armed units of the Bolshevik
government on the anarchist centres in Moscow in April 1918, in
which 40 anarchists were shot and hundreds arrested, repression
fell on the anarchists in Petrograd. As Ilyin notes: "One fine day
Bleikhman and a number of his Anarchist comrades, who were
concentrated in the Moscow Gate precinct….were surrounded by
our units and after some resistance compelled to surrender. …The
most inveterate cut-throats among them were put in prison. After
being kept under arrest for a short time, Bleikhman was released.
Thenceforth he behaved somewhat less noisily". The facts go
somewhat against this bland last sentence. Bleikhman was
deported to a concentration camp and forced to carry out
humiliating and painful labour, in mud and water up to his waist.
Already frail as a result of his time in the Tsarist jails, his health
was ruined and he died in 1921. He had indeed become less "noisy"
as his health had been broken by the harsh treatment he had
received in the Bolshevik labour camp. Nevertheless he and other
Moscow anarchist-communists united with anarcho-syndicalists to
set up the Moscow Union of Anarcho-Syndicalists-Communists in
early 1919. It published a paper Trud I Volya (Labour and Liberty)
which issued calls for direct action "to destroy every authoritarian
or bureaucratic system". After its sixth number, the Bolsheviks
closed it down in May 1919. "Why would we have need of money,
all Petrograd is in the hands of the workers; all the apartments, all
the clothes stores, all the factories and workshops, all the textile
mills, the food shops, all are in the hands of the social
organisations. The working class has no need of money". I.S.

****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists
INFO: http://ainfos.ca/org http://ainfos.ca/org/faq.html
HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
SUBSCRIPTION: send mail to lists@ainfos.ca with command in
body of mail "subscribe (or unsubscribe) listname your@address".

Full list of list options at http://www.ainfos.ca/options.html

A-Infos Information Center