On Revolutionary Discipline – Nestor Makhno

ON REVOLUTIONARY DISCIPLINE

Nestor Makhno

Some comrades have put the following question to me: How do I conceive revolutionary discipline? 

I take revolutionary discipline to mean the self-discipline of the individual, set in the context of a strictly-prescribed collective activity equally incumbent upon all, the responsible policy line of the members of that collective, leading to strict congruence between their practice and their theory.

Without discipline in the organization – the vanguard of the revolution – one cannot think of undertaking any serious activity for the cause of the Revolution. Without discipline, the revolutionary vanguard cannot be revolutionary vanguard; since, if it were in a disorderly, disorganized state, it would be powerless to analyse and provide guidance on the pressing questions of the day, something that as initiator the masses would demand of it.

I base these positions on observation and experience and on the following prerequisites: 

The Russian revolution bore within it a content that was essentially anarchist in many respects. Had the anarchists been closely organized and had they in their actions abided strictly by a well-defined discipline, they would never have suffered the crushing defeat they did.

But because the anarchists “of all persuasions and tendencies” did not represent (not even in their specific groups) a homogeneous collective with a disciplined line of action, they were unable to withstand the political and strategic scrutiny which revolutionary circumstances imposed upon them. 

Their disorganization reduced them to political impotence, giving birth to two categories of anarchist. 

One category was made up of those who hurled themselves into the systematic occupation of bourgeois homes, where they set up house and lived in comfort. These are the ones I term the “anarchist tourists,” who wandered around from town to town, in hope of stumbling across a place to live for a time along the way, taking their leisure and hanging around as long as possible to live in comfort and ease.

The other category was made up of those who severed all real connections with anarchism (although a few of them inside the USSR are now passing themselves off as the sole representatives of Russian anarchism) and who fairly swooped upon the positions offered them by the bolsheviks, even when the authorities were shooting anarchists who remained true to their revolutionary credentials by denouncing the bolsheviks’ treachery.

In the light of these lamentable facts, it will be readily understood why I cannot remain indifferent to the nonchalance and negligence currently to be encountered in anarchist circles. It prevents them from establishing a collective, faced with which those people who grab at anarchism or who are long dead to the cause of anarchism or who just blabber on about anarchism, its unity and actions against the enemy (but who, when it comes to action, run from this unity), would be seen in a different light and would be pushed away to the place they belong. That is why I am speaking about an anarchist organization that rests upon the principle of comradely discipline.

Such an organization would lead to the necessary coordination of all of the living forces of anarchism in the country and would help anarchists to take their rightful place in the great struggle of labour against capital.

Only in this way can the idea of anarchism gain a mass following, and not be impoverished. The only ones who could balk at such an organizational set-up are the irresponsible, empty-headed chatterboxes who have until now almost dominated our movement, through our own fault.

Responsibility and discipline must not frighten the revolutionary. They are the travelling companions of the practice of social anarchism.

Delo Truda, N°7-8, December 1925-January 1926, p.6.

 

Translated from Russian to French by Alexandre Skirda and from French to English by Paul Sharkey. English translation revised with reference to the Russian by the Nestor Makhno Archive.  

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