Nestor Makhno and Rural Anarchism in Ukraine, 1917-1921

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    Colin Darch

    Publisher: Pluto Books

    Year: 2021

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 240 pages

    ISBN: 9780745338873

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Histories of the Russian Revolution often present the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 as the central event, neglecting the diverse struggles of urban and rural revolutionaries across the heartlands of the Russian Empire. This book takes as its subject one such struggle, the anarcho-communist peasant revolt led by Nestor Makhno in left-bank Ukraine, locating it in the context of the final collapse of the Empire that began in 1914.

Between 1917 and 1921, the Makhnovists fought German and Austrian invaders, reactionary monarchist forces, Ukrainian nationalists and sometimes the Bolsheviks themselves. Drawing upon anarchist ideology, the Makhnovists gathered widespread support amongst the Ukrainian peasantry, taking up arms when under attack and playing a significant role - in temporary alliance with the Red Army - in the defeats of the White Generals Denikin and Wrangel. The Makhnovist movement is often dismissed as a kulak revolt, or a manifestation of Ukrainian nationalism; here Colin Darch analyses its successes and its failures, emphasising its revolutionary character.

Over 100 years after the revolutions, this book reveals a lesser known side of 1917, contributing both to histories of the period and broadening the narrative of 1917, whilst enriching the lineage of anarchist history.

What People Are Saying

'Utilising numerous sources, some only recently available, Colin Darch produces an admirably lucid account of complex events, supported by penetrating analysis' - Gary Littlejohn, author of 'A Sociology of the Soviet Union' (1984)

'A timely and welcome contribution. Detailed and balanced, Darch's narrative succumbs to neither a romanticisation nor demonisation of Makhno. Readers will encounter a multifaceted Makhno attempting to navigate his movement through the furies of revolution and civil war' - Sean Patterson, author of 'Makhno and Memory: Anarchist and Mennonite Narratives of Ukraine’s Civil War, 1917-1921'

'Before Rojava, before Spain, there was Ukraine. Darch's brilliant study recovers the intertwined stories of the anarchist Nestor Makhno, factory worker and son of freed serfs, and the revolution that swept Ukraine. This highly recommended study of an epic time shows another revolution was possible’ - Lucien van der Walt, Professor of Economic & Industrial Sociology, Rhodes University

About the Author

Colin Darch is a fellow of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. He is the co-author of Freedom of Information in the Developing World (Oxford: Chandos, 2010).

Table of Contents

List of Maps
List of Abbreviations
The Deep Roots of Rural Discontent: Guliaipole, 1905–17
The Turning Point: Organising Resistance to the German Invasion, 1918
Brigade Commander and Partisan: Makhno’s Campaigns against Denikin, January–May 1919
Betrayal in the Heat of Battle? The Red–Black Alliance Falls Apart, May–September 1919
The Long March West and the Battle at Peregonovka
Red versus White, Red versus Green: The Bolsheviks Assert Control
The Last Act: Alliance at Starobel’sk, Wrangel’s Defeat, and Betrayal at Perekop
The Bitter Politics of the Long Exile: Romania, Poland, Germany, and France, 1921–34
Why Anarchism? Why Ukraine? Contextualising Makhnovshchina
Epilogue: The Reframing of Makhno for the Twenty-First Century

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