Tyranny Unmasked, Peter Arshinov
There has not been one revolution in the world’s history which was carried out by the working people in their own interests — by urban workers and poor peasants who do not exploit the work of others. Although the main force of all great revolutions consisted of workers and peasants, who made innumerable sacrifices for their success, the leaders, ideologists and organizers of the forms and goals of the revolution were invariably neither workers nor peasants, but elements foreign to the workers and peasants, generally intermediaries who hesitated between the ruling class of the dying epoch and the proletariat of the cities and fields.
This element was always born and grew out of the soil of the disintegrating old regime, the old State system, and was nourished by the existence of a movement for freedom among the enslaved masses. Because of their class characteristics and their aspiration to State power, they take a revolutionary position in relation to the dying political regime and readily become leaders of enslaved workers, leaders of mass revolutionary movements. But, while organizing the revolution and leading it under the banner of the vital interests of workers and peasants, this element always pursues its own group or caste interest, and aspires to make use of the revolution with the aim of establishing its own dominant position in the country. This is what happened in the English revolution. This is what happened in the great French revolution. This is what happened in the French and German revolutions of 1848. This is what happened in a whole series of other revolutions where the proletariat of the cities and the countryside fought for freedom, and spilled their blood profusely — and the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices were divided up by the leaders, politicians with varied labels, operating behind the backs of the people to exploit the tasks and goals of the revolution in the interest of their groups.
In the great French revolution, the workers made colossal efforts and sacrifices for its triumph. But the politicians of this revolution: were they the sons of the proletariat and did they fight for its aspirations — equality and freedom? In no way. Danton, Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins and a whole series of other “high priests” of the revolution were representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie of the time. They struggled for a specific bourgeois type of social relations, and in fact had nothing in common with the revolutionary ideals of equality and freedom of the French popular masses of the 18th century. Yet they were, and still are, generally considered the leaders of the great revolution. In the 1848 revolution the French working class, which had given up to the revolution three months of heroic efforts, misery, privation and sacrifice — did they obtain the “social republic” which had been promised by the managers of the revolution? The working class harvested from them only slavery and mass killings; 50 thousand workers were shot in Paris, when they attempted to rise up against those treacherous leaders.
The workers and peasants of all past revolutions succeeded only in sketching their fundamental aspirations, only in defining their course, which was generally perverted and then liquidated by the cleverer, more cunning and better educated “leaders” of the revolution. The most the workers got from these revolutions was an insignificant bone, in the form of the right to vote, to gather, to print — in the form of the right to choose their rulers. And even this bone was given to them for a short time, the time needed by the new regime to consolidate itself. After this the life of the masses returned to its former course of submission, exploitation and fraud.
Source: Peter Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement, Chapter 1: Democracy and the Working Masses in the Russian Revolution. Peter Andreyevich Arshinov, born 1887, was a metal worker from Ukraine who in 1904, joined the Bolshevik Party and began to edit the paper Molot (hammer). In 1906, to escape the attention of the police, he fled to Ekaterinoslav. There he became an anarchist. On the 7th March 1907 he shot dead the boss of the railway workshops of Alexandrovska. Arrested on 9 March 1907 he was condemned to death by hanging by a military tribunal. In the night of 22 April 1907, he escaped with other prisoners during an Easter Mass, taking refuge in France.
In 1909, Arshinov returned to Russia and was caught smuggling arms from Austria. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Moscow, where he met Nestor Makhno. Both men were liberated by the Revolution in 1917, and in 1919, Arshinov joined Makhno and became involved in cultural and educational work in the area controlled by the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine. He was also the leader of “Nabat” (Confederation of the Anarchist Organizations of Ukraine), and edited the paper Golos Anarkhista. In 1921, Arshinov emigrated from the country, in which time he would participate in the group Dielo Truda with Nestor Makhno. He was one of the authors of The Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists. During his time in Berlin he would edit anarkhicheskii vestnik. He joined the communist party after returning to the USSR in 1930, but Arshinov was an obvious target for the purges and subsequently disappeared, probably being executed sometime around 1937.
Tyranny Unmasked is a project of The Moral Liberal. Copyright © 2012 The Moral Liberal.