Defaming The Dead : The Bolshevik Trick

Not satisfied with slandering and libelling their political opponents in life, the Bolsheviki resort even to the vilification of the dead. Thus Bunch-Bruyevitch, one of Lenin's closest friends who during his lifetime held the important position of Manager of Affairs of the Soviet of People's Commissars, in his recently published "Memoirs" deliberately defames the character of Anatol Zhelezniakov, the sailor who had dispersed the Constituent Assembly in 1918. Bruyevitch refers to Zhelezniakov as a bandit who lost his life in an armed conflict with the Red Army.

In the interest of historic verity we protest against this cowardly defamation of out heroic dead. Anatol Zhelezniakov was, as thousands in Russia know, one of the most devoted and loyal workers in the revolutionary cause. He was an Anarchist of long standing who always championed the cause of the oppressed and persecuted. In 1917 he organised great mass-meeting and demonstrations of the Kronstadt sailors to protest against the execution of Thomas Mooney, the labor victim of the San Francisco capitalist "frame-up", as well as against the extradition to California of Alexander Berkman whom it was planned to convict on the same perjured evidence as Mooney. In the October Revolution Zhelezniakov, though an Anarchist, wholeheartedly cooperated with the Bolsheviki, because he had faith in their revolutionary integrity. He participated in numerous fights against counter-revolutionary uprisings, playing a prominent and effective role in the campaigns against the Don Cossacks led by Kaledin, as well as against Generals Krasnov and Denikin. When Trotsky organised the Red Army to displace the volunteer Red Guard, and put Tsarist military officers in positions of high authority, abolishing the system of self-government of the rank and file Zhelezniakov protested, as did many other revolutionists who realised the reactionary significance of the return to old military methods. For this the Bolsheviki outlawed Zhelezniakov. He returned to Moscow illegally and there discussed the matter with Sverdlov, then Chairman of the All-Russian Soviet Executive. Sverdlov assured Zhelezniakov that the action against him was due to a misunderstanding and offered him a high military position. Zhelezniakov declined and left for Odessa where he worked illegally against the Whites. This was in 1918. The following year he was appointed by the Bolsheviki chief of the armored train campaign against Denikin, organised by Zhelezniakov. In an engagement against the counter-revolutionary General, Zhelezniakov lost his life.

The Bolshevik government, notwithstanding that it had outlawed Zhelezniakov, exploited him - when he was dead - as one of "its own" heroes : his body was brought to Moscow and was buried there with many speeches and much pomp. The entire Bolshevik press published eulogies of the dead, proclaiming him a hero of the Revolution.

And now Bunch-Bruyevitch, the timeserver of Lenin, calls Zhelezniakov a bandit! May history pillory the defamer!

From Bulletin of the Relief Fund of the International Working Men's Association for Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists Imprisoned or Exiled in Russia, No 2, Paris-Berlin, March 1927. (Edited by Alexander Berkman). More information is in Paul Avrich's article 'Stormy Petrel: Anatoli Zhelezniakov' (in Anarchist Portraits and also Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review #5)