Makhno's Opinion of Lenin and Leninism

For a start, and especially in the states making up the Union of Soviet Republics, there is a deafening and nonsensical clamour to the effect that: “Lenin is the guide of the workers in every land and he has constructed a theory for them and shown them the real path to liberating revolution.”

This even in the land where the White and Red butchers, pursuant to the interests of their respective parties, have decapitated the incomparable Great Russian Revolution – the one that set the workers free – and currently they set the goal for the toiling masses, where they have lost belief in themselves, belief in the creative force of spontaneous action to organize the new society, in the land where such a tremendous revolution erupted only to end prematurely and long before it could fully develop, despite the enthusiasm displayed by the labouring masses.

Pleasantries of this sort, which attest to a criminal irresponsibility, echo the calls from Lenin’s supporters in countries outside of Russia. And as a result they are also taken as true by those who are not Lenin supporters, men in whom intelligence, strength and determination can still be found despite the strictures of capitalist education.

That the bourgeois Lenin should be the world proletariat’s guide is not acceptable. To those of us revolutionary peasants who have gone through every stage of the Russian revolution and had experience of “Leninism”, such a claim seems unjustified and unfounded. Hoisting Lenin on to a pedestal like that is a nonsense, proof only of the weakmindedness of those are itching to hand such a man the leadership of the proletariat whereas, in actual fact, he was not even in the country at the time of the great phase of the Russian revolution. The doing to death of the latter is down to the childish naivety of the people and, more so, to the mercenary bayonets which, in their blindness, hired themselves out to the Leninist party.

As we see it, the embracing of Lenin as the guide of all the world’s workers is nothing but a sick joke.

The Social Democratic (Bolshevik) Party which is still incorrectly styling itself the Communist Party and the spiritual mainstay of which was Lenin, who, right to the end, imbued the great Russian revolution with his own scientific ignorance and vacuous Marxist-Leninism; that party treats the workers the same way as the bourgeoisie does; which is to say that it regards them only as loyal slaves.

From Marx through to Lenin, and since their deaths, the party that has always seen itself as the educator of the whole of toiling humanity – and in charge of the ones that toil – has failed to appreciate that in its efforts to lead the masses, Jesuit-style, under the supposed colours of liberation, it was relentlessly diverting it away from its true path to emancipation. In actual fact, all it is looking for is some tinkering with slavery. And it has provided evidence enough in its own actions during the Russian revolution to demonstrate that, when it comes to butchery, it excels; butchery not just of those who, while the struggle was under way, were proving to be a harmful element, but also of those whose impulses were healthy, and pure and beautiful and who managed high-mindedly to carve out a free path for themselves, and who work at expanding every creative force for the good of the community.

The singular effects produced by the Russian Leninist party’s tactics are observable also in other countries.

First and foremost, have we not seen the communists marching and tramping through the streets in military formation? This may be a matter of no consequence, but it shows that the Bolshevik movements is much better suited to demolition than to revolution. Leninist Bolshevism involves ideas that the workers could absolutely never embrace as their own. From time to time that much has been acknowledged even within the Leninist party’s own ranks, albeit in a muddled way. There are millions of workers, mentored by the party, who imagine that their calling is to direct the fate of humanity, instead of setting their sights on free and fraternal union with the peasants and on a freely-arrived-at understanding about their mutual interests during the revolution. It is such wrong-headed thinking on the part of the party that is poisoning the workers; this notion that it is up to some slaves to determine the fate of other slaves warms the cockles of their hearts.

“Oh, time will sort everything out!” Such aspirational and wait-and-see words are their answer to the most glaring of the party’s offences against the working class. For the social democratic party of the Bolshevik communists in its pursuit of its own specific aims in politics, to ascribe huge importance to the fact that Lenin should be eulogized as the leader of all the world’s workers and for his name to forge a connection between the proletariat in every land is understandable. Lenin’s devotion to the interests of his own party and his personal enthusiasm cannot be forgotten. And a party that needs his name as a badge naturally showers every honour upon him.

But what has Leninist Bolshevism in common with the ardent aspirations of humanity? This Bolshevism which boils down in practical terms to man’s entitlement to rule over his fellow man?

The bourgeois Lenin and his party, in seeking to enslave the mass of the workers forcibly to their wishes, are as far removed from the lofty aims of authentic liberation as the institutions of Church and State as they appear to us.

All of this may seem unfathomable at the moment: but one need only be an open-eyed reader of Lenin’s latter writings which, in the opinion of the Bolsheviks themselves, constitute his testament, to be persuaded of that. In a report presented to the Moscow Committee of the Russian Communist Party on 10 January 1925 (Izvestia, 14 January 1925), Kamenev passed on detailed instructions regarding anything Lenin might happened to say and, to that end, invoked his testament. There, among other things, he declared: “We must build a State wherein the workers will retain pre-eminence over all the peasant class.”

What did he mean by that? That the workers affiliated to the Leninist party must never think of building a new society in collaboration with the peasant class? – Or was he arguing that it was duty-bound to subject the peasant class to rule by his unspeakable worker-Bolshevik Dictatorship. And Lenin very skilfully grafted on to the construction of such a State in which the worker would be entitled to oversee the entire peasant class, the idea of electrification of the countryside. If the working class wants to implement this idea, the greatest advances become possible and big industry is conjured up: The supposed guide of the proletariat went on to add that “That way the starving horses of the peasants will be assured of swift transformation into mighty race-horses and we will certainly build up a mighty, mechanized, electrified big industry” before adding “In which case we can be sure of remaining in power.”

This is not the place for a discussion of turning famished horses into machine-ploughs. We are firm believers in the creative powers of the workers and are convinced that they would be well able to run their lives and all their economic and personal relations. Dictatorial supervision of peasants on the part of “workers” such as Lenin, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Trotsky, Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin and others has been shown to be practically powerless in every instance other than when it has come to compromises and reactionary deviations.

When Lenin invites the masses to build a State in which the workers enjoy ascendancy over the peasant class, he is riding roughshod over the idea of workers and peasants working together in a free community; he is imposing upon the revolution a situation where it could not offer the masses a breathing-space and would strip them of even the relative freedoms they “enjoy” today, if, say, peasants were to take it into their heads to pit their authority against the working class’s authority. Luckily, the workers of Russia and Ukraine place no trust in Karl Marx; the Russian peasant has sacrificed his own liberty and his very life to protect the “workers’ government” from the attacks coming from the bourgeoisie, the worker being reluctant, deep down, to countenance any despotism, but agreeing to banish serfdom from his own ranks. Instead, workers and peasants have both been subjected to a brand-new overlordship.

The question we now face is this: should we talk about building a State in which one fraction of the people is to lord it over the rest; is that the stance that the worldwide leader of the Proletariat is urging upon us? Or is that not, rather, the language of a faction leader who has, under the mendacious colours of liberation from capitalism, set his cap at some mere tinkering with the bourgeois system?

Fortunately, the workers have yet to have the last word. Are they going to settle for shrugging off one authority just to place themselves under the yoke of what may well be a more despotic and cruel, or even more refined overlordship than the one from which they seek to escape?

The workers know that their sacred task is to whittle any violence down to zero: be it new or be it old.

Living as brothers, free of any dependency or slavish subjection, with the ideal of anarchy which is suited to man’s nature. The bourgeois Lenin and his party have always fought against that lofty ideal with all manner of persecution. In its place, they have striven to use force of arms to secure victory for an ideal of brutish violence and political adventurism.


Sweden, May 1925.

L’Adunata dei Refrattari, 17 October 1925 [Volume 4 Number 42, via]

This article also appeared in L’En Dehors (France) 31 August 1925

[After his escape from Danzig in February 1925 Makhno travelled (illegally) to Berlin via Sweden. It is unclear if this article was actually written in Sweden. Yuri Kravets writes ‘It is well-established that by late May, 1925, Nestor Makhno was in Berlin. When he arrived there from Danzig, he was probably intoxicated with freedom, and did not take precautionary measures; a number of his letters and articles indicated his actual whereabouts. But he was in Germany illegally, without any documents. Apparently one of the comrades pointed out this circumstance to him and subsequently he gave his place of residence as Sweden.’

Update: Yu. P. Kravets has determined that Makhno’s article: Ленин, его партия и недомыслие вокруг них [Lenin, his party and the misconceptions concerning them] was first published in the Russian-American journal Рассвет [Dawn] in July, 1925.]

From: L’Adunata dei Refrattari, 17 October 1925. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.