The Slow Burning Fuse

an atheisitic anarchistic scorcher



In April 1917, I happened to be in New York with Trotsky, in a printworks which worked primarily for various left-wing Russian bodies. At the time, he was in charge ofa left marxist daily paper, Novy ,Hir. As for me, the Federation of Russian Workers’ Unions had entrusted me with the editing of the final editions of its weekly, the anarcho-syndicalist Golos Truda, before its removal to Russia. I spent one night each week at the printworks, on the eve of the newspaper’s coming out. And that is how I came to meet Trotsky on my first night on duty.

Naturally, we talked of the revolution. We were both making preparations to quit America shortly in order to move “over yonder.”

One time I said to Trotsky: “On balance, I am absolutely sure that you left marxists will end up by taking power in Russia. It is inevitable, for the resuscitated soviets will unfailingly come into conflict with the bourgeois government. The latter will not be able to stamp them out because all of the country’s toilers, workers, peasants, etc., and pretty well all of the army as well, will, of course, wind up siding with the soviets against the bourgeoisie and its government. Now, as soon as the people and the army support the soviets, the latter will be the winners in the struggle begun. And as soon as they win, you left marxists will inevitably be swept into power. For the toilers will assuredly carry through the revolution to its bitter end. As syndicalists and anarchists are too weak in Russia to focus the toilers’ attention quickly upon their ideas, the masses will place their trust in you and you will become ‘the masters ofthe country.’ Whereupon woe betide us anarchists! It is inevitable that you and we should come into conflict. You will begin to persecute us just as soon as your power has been consolidated. And you \vill end by having us shot down like partridges . . .”

“-Come, come, comrade,” Trotsky replied. “You people are pig-headed and incorrigible fantasists. Look, as things now stand, what is the difference between us? A little question ofmethodology, quite secondary. You, like us, are revolutionaries. Like you, we are anarchists, in the final analysis. The only thing is that you want to introduce your anarchism straight away, without transition or preparation. Whereas we marxists believe that one cannot ‘leap’ into the libertarian realm in a single bound. We anticipate a transitional stage during which the ground can be cleared and smoothed for the anarchist so­ ciety with the aid of an anti-bourgeois political power: the dictatorship of the proletariat exercised by the proletarian party in power. In short, it is only a difference of ‘degree: nothing more. Essentially, we are very close to one another. Brothers in arms. Think ofit: we will have a common foe to fight. Will it even occur to us to fight one another? And anyway, I have no doubt but that you will quickly be persuaded ofthe necessity for a provisional so­ cialist proletarian dictatorship. So, I really cannot see any reason for warfare between you and us. We will assuredly march hand in hand. And then, even if we do not see eye to eye, you are overstating things a bit to suggest that we socialists will use brute force against anarchists! Life itself and the views of the masses will be enough to resolve the matter and bring us into agreement. No! Can you really, for a single instant, entertain such a nonsense: left-wing socialists in power turning their guns on the anarchists! Come, come, what do you take us for?
Anyway, we are socialists, comrade Voline! So, we are not your enemies . . .”

In December 1919, gravely wounded, I was arrested by the Bolshevik military authorities in the Makhnovist region. Deeming me a militant “of some standing,” the authorities notified Trotsky ofmy arrest by means of a special telegram asking his view of how I should be handled. His answer arrived snappily and tersely and plainly-also by telegram: “Shoot out of hand.-Trotsky.” I was not shot, thanks solely to a set of particularly felicitous and quite fortuitous circumstances.


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This entry was posted on August 10, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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