Comrades! The speakers who took the floor after the delegate reports criticized the ruling party of Bolsheviks, condemning and attacking it. Karpenko in particular came in for his share of criticism as a defender of this party. It’s pretty clear that everyone who denounced the activities of the commissars and chekists is well acquainted with their ways and has experienced their oppression. Those of us not sitting in prison are well aware that many honourable revolutionaries – people who suffered in tsarist torture chambers, prisons, and hard labour regimes – are now filling up the prisons of Great Russia. Revolutionaries – honest militants – are being arrested and disappearing without a trace for criticizing some official of the Bolshevik government… We know that among the Bolsheviks there are many honourable revolutionaries. We know that many Bolsheviks have fought honourably and perished for the sake of the Revolution. But we’re convinced that these people would not have sacrificed their lives if they realized that a certain clique of people, having seized control of the government, would be oppressing the whole nation. Comrade Karpenko wrongfully accuses the revolutionary anarchists of wanting to spread notions of fratricidal war among the toilers. Not so, comrades! We, the anarchists, don’t want this at all. There’s no need for it. I would never agree to start something like that. I’ll do everything in my power to avoid a situation where workers and peasants are taking up arms against each other. This must not happen. But while we have no desire to engage in inter-party squabbles, we still feel compelled to draw attention to injustice, to any dishonourable actions of the people who stand at the head of the Bolshevik government. These facts ought to serve as a warning to the Ukrainian people so they don’t commit the same errors as the toilers of Great Russia – errors which would have to be paid for dearly. It is our wish that here at the congress all problems be discussed and that we adopt measures for the creation of non-governmental, non-party, economic Soviets. These Soviets must be made up of elected delegates, and these delegates must always be subject to recall if they do not act in correspondence with their mandates. It is our wish that all the issues related to our lives be dealt with at the local level, not according to the ukase of some higher power. The peasants and workers must decide their own destiny; their delegates should only put into practicethe wishes of the toilers.
Three hundred years of struggle went on against the violence, against the terrible laws and edicts of the rulers, and now we will not put up with coercion from any kind of government, no matter what. My advice, comrade peasants, workers, and partisans, is this: don’t speak for or against any particular party. We should carefully study all the programs and observe all the actions of the different parties – then we ourselves will be able to make our own choice. Maybe you’ll all be Left SRs or Bolsheviks if it suits you, but try to create the kind of Soviets in which you are in control of your own interests, where you have the possibility of deciding for yourselves your own destiny. In conclusion I call on you to build Soviets which will carry out the will of the whole toiling population, rather than the will of the dictators of some party. We must create a system in which each person will be able to live freely, without being subject to any kind of pressure. Send to our Soviets only workers and peasants and then you can be sure that you will be winners.”
From the minutes of the Gulai-Polye Regional Congress of Frontoviks, Soviets, and Sub-Soviets, held February 12-16, 1919 in Gulai-Polye.
The congress had 245 delegates representing 350 different jurisdictions. There were representatives of the Bolsheviks and Left SRs present, as well as anarchists. Chernyak was a delegate from the Gulai-Polye branch of the Nabat confederation. Some of the speeches ended with “applause” or “stormy applause” but no applause is mentioned after Chernyak’s speech. The Bolshevik Karpenko’s speech was constantly interrupted with impertinent questions from the floor and he left immediately afterwards to go to Kharkov.
At the opening session of the congress, several delegates made brief addresses; here is how the minutes summarized Chernyak’s remarks:
“Comrade Chernyak conveyed greetings from the Gulai-Polye group of anarchists of Nabat. He expressed the hope that the foundation of a new way of life would be built by the peasants and workers themselves. In conclusion the speaker called on the congress not to wait for outsiders to come along and impose a way of life which would not be in the interests of the peasants and workers.”
From: The minutes of the Gulai-Polye Regional Congress of Frontoviks, Soviets, and Sub-Soviets, held February 12-16, 1919 in Gulai-Polye. Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.