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The Cynosure

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Originally published in 1937 by International Publishers of New York

History of Anarchism in Russia

by E. Yaroslavsky


The activities of the various working class organizations during the imperialist world war of 1914-18 showed very clearly which of these organizations was consistently revolutionary in its attitude to the predatory imperialist war. How many high-sounding resolutions the congresses of the Second International and the congresses of the anarchists had adopted on the duty of internationalists in the event of war! Moreover, it should be borne in mind that, before the war, the anarchists, in frequently accusing the Marxists of moderation and opportunism, had failed to see that although the Second International contained a large number of opportunists, the consistently revolutionary, proletarian Bolshevik Party was also affiliated to it.

When the war broke out the time arrived to take a revolutionary stand against the war started by the imperialists of Germany, Russia, France, England, Japan and other countries for the redivision of the world. The bourgeoisie of every country naturally strove to prove that its country was being attacked and that it was defending civilization against the barbarism and militarism of other countries. The bourgeoisie in every country wanted to bring about a class truce for the duration of the war and did its utmost to win the labor leaders to its side. In nearly every country the leaders of the Socialist Parties -Guesde, Vaillant, Plekhanov, Scheidemann, Kautsky, Noske and others-went over to the side of "their own" bourgeoisie.

What did the anarchists do? Did they call a general strike? Did they call upon the masses of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors to rise in arms against the instigators of the war? No, almost without exception the leaders of the anarchists acted in the same way as the Socialist compromisers, renegades and traitors to the working class.

Prince Kropotkin took up the same stand as the Menshevik Plekhanov. Jean Grave, Cornelissen, Gustave Herve-all those who before the war loudly called for class struggle, for revolution, for the immediate introduction of communism-began to preach a class truce, and, in the words of the anarchist Ge, became "social- trenchists." Reviewing the behavior of the labor leaders, Lenin wrote with bitterness and indignation:

The foremost anarchists of the world have disgraced themselves in this war no less than the opportunists-by adopting social-chauvinism (in the spirit of Plekhanov and Kautsky).*

The only organization that remained loyal to the working class was the Party of Lenin and Stalin, the Bolshevik Party. On the outbreak of the war Lenin immediately began to mobilize those who fought together with him in all countries, those who would not agree to the class truce with the bourgeoisie. He found supporters in many countries, including such prominent proletarian revolutionaries as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in Germany.

The Bolshevik Party carried on revolutionary work among the workers, the peasants, the soldiers and sailors in Russia, although the tsarist government, supported by the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, had arrested the Bolshevik deputies to the State Duma and exiled them to Siberia.

Did the anarchists in any country at this critical moment raise the standard of the revolution as the Communists, the followers of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, did?

No, not in a single country did they do so.

* "Socialism and War," Collected Works, Vol. XVIII.

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