Along with the defense of the social revolution, the anarchists in the Free Territory [the Anarchist area of Ukraine 1917-21] sought to directly translate their ideals – the creation of a free society based on self-government and justice. This took place in the difficult conditions of the revolution, economic devastation and military battles on all fronts. Nevertheless, the experience of social production and distribution of goods is an interesting, although not fully studied, material.

We invite you to familiarize yourself with a selection on this topic, taken from several sources.

One of the first socio-economic foundations of the Makhnovist movement was the workers’ Union of metalworkers and woodworkers, which arose even before the revolution. The union united virtually all the workers of Gulyai-Polye and a number of surrounding enterprises (including mills). In July, the trade union, in accordance with the anarchist doctrine, began to turn into a production and distribution organization. On July 17, it was decided to discuss the possibility of acquiring their own bakery, as well as “instruct the factory committees to find out by drawing up lists how many of the workers who are members of the trade union need goods and fuel and footwear, and how much money they can contribute until they receive the items indicated in this.” …

In the same month, the first steps were taken towards the socialization of agriculture: the Batratsky Committee under the Gulyai-Polish Council began to establish workers’ control over the landlord estates, the peasants in an organized manner refuse to pay rent to the landowners.

Labor control means that business owners cannot make any important decisions (including on the length of the working day, the amount of wages, hiring and firing, labor discipline, etc.) without the knowledge and consent of the elected workers. committees and trade unions. Workers’ control has always been viewed by anarchists as a desirable temporary measure on the path to full socialization (socialization) of production.

August 29, 1917. The Gulyai-Polish Committee for the Defense of the Revolution decides to liquidate private ownership of land, industrial enterprises, printing houses, theaters, cinematographs and other public institutions. Two days later, the same decision is made by the Soviet of Workers ‘and Peasants’ Deputies. With regard to industrial enterprises, this decision was of a declarative nature. For example, on October 10, the union board obliged the owners of all enterprises to increase the wages of workers by 35-70%, decisions on increasing wages at individual enterprises were also made on October 31 and November 13, i.e. by this time the owners were still present.

September 25, 1917. The Gulyai-Polish Volost Congress of Soviets and Peasant Organizations issues a Resolution on the confiscation of all landlord and kulak lands, the abolition of private ownership of land and its socialization. It was decided to create large agricultural communes in the former landowners’ estates. The confiscated agricultural implements and equipment go to the public fund.

The socialization of the land means its transfer to the disposal of the whole society. The land is distributed equally among all those who wish to work on it, based on an equal plot for each able-bodied member of the family (equalizing labor rate). Purchase and sale, lease, inheritance and any other business transactions with land are prohibited, land plots are periodically redistributed between members of the agricultural community (villagers) – these measures are controlled by the community itself (residents) represented, for example, by the Council or general gathering. The results of labor are placed at the disposal of the direct producer. Nobody owns the land, except society – everyone uses the land.

On October 4, the trade union of metalworkers and woodworkers was headed by Makhno, who timely appreciated the importance of the syndicalist organization for solving complex social problems. Already on October 7, under his leadership, the conflict at the Kerner metallurgical plant (“Bogatyr”) was discussed. The administration considered it possible to raise wages for all categories of workers by 50%, and the workers themselves insisted on a differentiated approach, in which wages were raised by 35-70% for different categories to bring the wage levels closer. After negotiations with representatives of the trade union, M. Kerner agreed to their terms.

On October 31, a decision was made to equalize the salaries of painters at the Bogatyr plant with other workshops.

The wage equation was practiced only by communist anarchists (including syndicalists) and was viewed as the first step towards complete social equality (since production is social in nature, its results should be available to the entire society, i.e. all available in the presence of material goods should be available to any person). Equal wages on the scale of an individual enterprise are a practical option for starting such socio-economic transformations, since regardless of the position held, skill level, etc., each employee has equal opportunities with his colleagues to meet his needs (but these opportunities, as it is easy to see, not necessarily equal to the capabilities of workers in other enterprises and other regions, – therefore, the salary equation remains the first, far from a sufficient step; moreover, it occurs while maintaining the commodity-money system, while the anarchic ideal is the immediate, moneyless satisfaction of these very needs). In 1917-1918, the wage equation was introduced at the initiative of the anarchists in many regions of Russia, incl. at the Black Sea Shipping Company, in the Cheremkhovsky coal basin, in the cement industry of the Kuban and Novorossiysk, etc., as well as in anarchist armed formations.

The Makhnovist trade union has gained great authority in the region. In October, non-union workers at the Trishchenko and Company mill asked the organization “to compel the mill owners” to increase their wages. Probably, Makhno, who combined leadership of the trade union with leadership in the largest local political group (moreover, armed), had his own methods of “forcing” entrepreneurs to observe workers’ rights in the face of growing inflation. But Makhno was not going to use such methods in favor of workers who are not members of the trade union. The “union boss” was mindful of the interests of his organization and demonstratively rejected the request of the workers at the Trishchenko mill on the grounds that they had not joined the union. Thus, Makhno stimulated the growth of the ranks – in order to enjoy his patronage, workers had to enter the organization. The case of the workers of the mill of Trishchenko prompted Makhno to make membership in the Union compulsory, and turn the trade union itself into a body that in the sphere of social issues can give orders to the administration. On October 25 (the day of the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd), in accordance with the decision of the workers’ meeting of October 5, the union’s board decided: “To oblige the owners of the aforementioned mills to perform work for three shifts of 8 hours each, accepting the missing workers through the trade union. Workers who are not members of the trade union are obliged to immediately enroll in the Union, otherwise they risk losing the support of the Union. ” This syndicalist reform almost eliminated unemployment in the region and strengthened the organizational support of the Makhnovist regime.

If entrepreneurs came into conflict with the new regime, then the Land Committee, subordinate to the Council, could deprive them of their property rights. Thus, one of the mills was leased by the Zemkom to private individuals with the condition of “carrying out its repairs and rhythmic work.”

In the same month, the first four agricultural communes (including in the former estates of Neifeld and Klassen) and an industrial commune (in mechanical workshops) were organized in Gulyai-Pole. The total number of communards in October 1917 was up to 700 people (about 5% of the population), by February 1918 their number had grown to 1000.

In December 1917, Makhno, busy with other affairs, transferred the chairmanship of the trade union to his deputy A. Mishchenko. Sometimes Makhno’s opinions were seriously at variance with those of other union leaders. Already on October 31, when the first results of the syndicalist reform began to affect, Makhno proposed sending some of the workers on temporary leave due to lack of work. But the board of the Union rejected this proposal, speaking out in favor of shortening the working day and categorically deciding: “Until the end of the war, no calculations (that is, dismissals – A.Sh.) will be allowed.” In general, the situation in the workers’ movement in Gulyai-Polye was relatively democratic. Some of the workers criticized the Union government for the procedure for spending funds (the majority supported Makhno), the most important decisions were submitted to the workers, although Makhno and the board had previously expressed their opinion. This was the case, for example, when discussing the proposal of the Aleksandrovsk Metalworkers’ Union to join it. Makhno did not want to lose the independence of his union: “Treating this proposal negatively, since it will kill the independence of the union, the board finds it necessary to defend this issue at the discussion of the united meeting of workers.” Makhno, in accordance with his concept of anarchism, usually ignored the instructions of the “higher” organizations. On October 10, when considering a dispute with the administration, Makhno refused to take into account the decision of the arbitration court in Yekaterinoslav. the board finds it necessary to defend this issue at the discussion of the joint meeting of workers. ” Makhno, in accordance with his concept of anarchism, usually ignored the instructions of the “higher” organizations. On October 10, when considering a dispute with the administration, Makhno refused to take into account the decision of the arbitration court in Yekaterinoslav. the board finds it necessary to defend this issue at the discussion of the joint meeting of workers. ” Makhno, in accordance with his concept of anarchism, usually ignored the instructions of the “higher” organizations. On October 10, when considering a dispute with the administration, Makhno refused to take into account the decision of the arbitration court in Yekaterinoslav.

In conditions when the bourgeoisie was withdrawing capital from the country, when conflicts between owners and workers paralyzed production, workers’ self-government gave the last chance to stabilize the economy. Representatives of factory committees went to Aleksandrovsk for materials. But the first experiment was unsuccessful – it was not possible to obtain the necessary materials. Economic chaos was a natural result of the collapse of a single socio-political system. The lost unity could be restored in two ways – by forcible restoration of state control over society, or by strengthening direct, not state-mediated ties between workers. The Makhnovists tried to follow the second path, acting in the spirit of syndicalism.

By the beginning of 1918, with the majority of enterprise owners fleeing Gulyai-Polye, industrial enterprises, willy-nilly, found themselves under the complete control of workers, who were forced to independently establish production and carry out its socialization. One of the results of this was the almost complete elimination of unemployment. To solve the problem of unemployment, a classic method for anarchism was used: instead of dismissing “extra” workers, enterprises reduced the length of the working day. The first attempts are being made to establish a direct product exchange: the Soviet of Peasants and Workers’ Deputies sends wagons with food to the cities to exchange them for manufactured goods; the goods received (manufactory) are distributed among all residents of Gulyai-Polye. For the further development of such an exchange, a public warehouse has been organized.

In early spring, the agrarian reform revived – it was necessary to have time to carry out a redistribution by the beginning of sowing. The transformations took place peacefully – their principles were determined in the fall, the armed preponderance was on the side of the reformers. Having received land, some poor people and farm laborers could not or did not want to establish an independent economy. The anarcho-communists offered them to unite in communes, under which, moreover, landlords’ estates were allocated. Despite the community of property in the commune, its members had separate apartments where they could retire.

The household could be run both separately and collectively. If a person wanted to cook for himself separately from the collective meal, he had the right to do so, but he had to warn in advance. All major issues in the commune were decided by a general meeting. Pedagogical experiments were planned according to the methodology of the Spanish anarchist F. Ferrer. In 4 communes (cooperatives) closest to Gulyai-Polye there were from 50 to 200 people. Makhno himself signed up for one of them and worked there two days a week.

The structure of collective forms of agriculture in this area can also be judged by the charter of the cooperative of the Ocherevatyi farm, which was adopted in the spring of 1918. The number of the cooperative was limited to 40 workers, and family people had priority in joining. It was established that “persons who have joined the cooperative are obliged to conscientiously perform the work that is entrusted to them.” Before the harvest, the members of the cooperative had to work for free, but they received a loan from the Council. The workers elected a three-person cooperative presidium who was accountable to the members of the cooperative and to the Council. “If the presidium or its individual members are noticed in anything, then the members of the co-va have the right to re-elect at any time.” The presidium was the collective administration of the cooperative with broad powers: “Persons, those who entered the co-in must completely obey the senior comrade, who will be elected by the co-va members to the presidium. ” “If there are such persons who do not wish to obey the elder, then the presidium has the right to consider this case and settle the conflict,” or transfer it to the Council for consideration. Thus, the participants insured themselves against the arbitrariness of the administrator and even the team, providing for a system of arbitration. In the event a member left the cooperative, he received payment as an employee at the discretion of the presidium and the Council. It was also provided for the maintenance of the patient’s family due to illness for up to three months in an amount determined by the meeting. Inventory, livestock and products came to the collective disposal of the cooperative, but under the supervision of the Council. The cooperative was responsible for the safety of the inventory. In the event of the liquidation of the cooperative, he had to return to the Council all the inventory received from him. Initially, the authors of the draft charter believed that the cattle should be at the disposal of families, but then this provision was abandoned – the cooperative was almost no different from the commune. It was proclaimed that “all members of the cooperative do not have any special rights and servants.”

Initially, seven families, the organizers of the cooperative, applied for land plots with a total size of 300 dessiatines, but they did not manage to get such an amount of land. 193 tithes were given at their disposal. Good too. At first, the members of the cooperative demanded the eviction from the farm of the peasants who refused to join the cooperative, but this demand had to be abandoned. The Makhnovist regime denied any privileges, including for social forms that were close to it ideologically. The cooperative has committed to pay taxes to the community. The communal peasantry reacted to the communes and cooperatives calmly – protests against this experience at gatherings were not successful.

Mid-April 1918. The Gulyai-Polye region is occupied by German-Austrian troops. The anarchist social experiment aborted until early 1919.

On February 12-16, 1919, the Second Gulyai-Polish regional congress of front-line soldiers (rebels), Soviets and sub-departments took place. When discussing the reports from the field, it turns out that everywhere the organization of social and economic life is in the hands of the Soviets, which carry out, in fact, the same measures as in the fall of 1917, for example, the Pokrovsky Council took over (socialized) a local tannery, organized armory and shoe workshops and “took all the bread on account.” On the land question, the congress adopts a resolution proclaiming the principle “land is nobody’s”, the equalizing labor norm for its distribution and the prohibition of wage labor; instructed local land committees to register all lands, distribute them between small and landless peasants and provide everyone with seeds. A protest was expressed against the refusal of the Soviet government to socialize the land and “promote the free spread of collective cultivation of the land.” Agricultural implements are distributed among the peasants by the county council. Agricultural enterprises of “high technologies” (experimental and demonstration fields, apiaries, orchards, nurseries), as well as forests, were declared the property of “all working people” – that is, they were obviously subject to socialization.

Let us especially note that all these measures were considered by the congress as insufficient and temporary, but the implementation of more consistent socialist reforms was postponed until the victory over the white counter-revolution. P.A. Arshinov: “After the landowners were driven out of the region, the land ended up in the hands of the peasantry. However, many of the peasants realized that this was not the end of the matter, that it was not enough to seize a piece of land and settle down on it. (…) In a number of places, attempts to organize public life in a communal manner began to appear ”.

The fact that the economic development of the Gulyai-Polye region was supposed to be in a consistently socialist direction is also evidenced by the materials of the Third Regional Congress.

On April 10, 1919, the Third District Congress of front-line insurgents, workers and peasants’ Soviets, in the resolution “On the Current Moment,” put forward, in particular, demands for the Ukrainian Soviet government to hold elections for all civilian posts, to socialize land, factories and factories, to establish a systematic exchange of goods between town and country, about the complete abolition of private trade and the development of “a wide network of consumer societies and cooperatives” instead. It can be considered quite probable that on the territory controlled by the Makhnovists, the corresponding measures were actually carried out in terms of the socialization of production and the organization of consumer cooperation (of course, while maintaining free private trade in surplus production of individual peasants).

Consumer cooperation in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century had little in common with the modern phenomenon that bears the same name. In the most simple language, consumer cooperatives were engaged in the purchase of various goods and then transferred them to their members without any “cheat”, at the purchase price (plus transportation costs). The consumer cooperation system was extremely popular and at times covered hundreds of thousands of people. Since it turned out to be a competitor for private and state trade, the tsarist and then the Bolshevik government pressed and oppressed it, up to the point of arrest and bringing to justice the leaders of cooperatives. Anarchists took an active part in the cooperative movement, some (for example, A.M. Atabekyan, V.A.Posse) saw in the development of cooperation a direct path to stateless communism.

In the spring of 1919, peasant communes were organized again in the Gulyai-Polye region. There were at least three of them around Gulyai-Pole itself; in the village of Pokrovskoye there was the “First Free Pokrovskoe Commune named after Rosa Luxemburg”, which united 285 people. Arshinov says that communes have also sprung up in “a number of other places.” (Arshinov … pp. 82-84). The most famous is the Intercession Commune, the details of whose life are described in the issue of the newspaper “Path to Freedom” on May 24, 1919.

The workers were accustomed to the fact that either the entrepreneur or the state had to pay them their wages and organize production: “Some factory committees tried to find out at the headquarters and in the” military revolutionary council “whether the workers would be paid and when …”, recalls Shchap … In response to a similar request from the railway workers, Makhno replied: “In order to restore normal railway traffic in the liberated area as soon as possible, and also proceeding from the principle of organizing a free life by the workers and peasants’ organizations themselves and their associations, movement, setting in reward for their labor a sufficient payment from passengers and cargo, except for military ones, organizing their own treasury on a comradely and just basis and entering into the closest relations with workers’ organizations, peasant societies and insurgent units. ” So, Makhno offered the workers to switch to a regime of complete self-government and self-sufficiency. At the same time, they were imposed a duty to serve the army for a reasonable fee.

Unlike the workers of large industries, who could not expand production due to the lack of raw materials and sales markets (both were cut off by the fronts), shoemakers, food workers, leather workers and other workers of small industries focused directly on the individual consumer, quickly integrated into the “market socialism” proposed by the Makhnovists (the Makhnovist ideologists did not consider the emerging economic model to be something complete). In these sectors, unemployment declined (leather workers were able to eliminate it altogether) – the scale of socialization of production gradually expanded – in early December, for example, the food industry completely passed into the hands of the workers. At the same time, the region retained the private sector in industry. So, even in Gulyai-Pole, the former administration remained at the plant, which was in constant negotiations with the union. The workers were paid for with flour from a nearby mill, with which a union was established.

While the distribution mechanisms of the future were not yet established, it was necessary to live in conditions of commodity-money relations. But which ones – in the city with varying degrees of legality “Kerenki”, “Sovznaki”, Treasury bills of Denikin, Petlyura, Skoropadsky, etc. went around. This circumstance, however, did not embarrass, but rather encouraged the Makhnovist “economists.” “The Way to Freedom” wrote, for example: “Is it impossible for people to solve the financial question when there are an enormous number of banknotes?” Following this naive logic, the Makhnovists allowed any money to circulate. Perhaps this was consistent with the anarcho-communist plans of Makhno about the withering away of money by means of its depreciation. However, the market was not paralyzed, the cooperative movement flourished in Yekaterinoslav. “Sovznaki”, however, was accepted only by the “Food and Culture” cooperative.

In early June 1919, the Gulyai-Polye region was defeated by the Reds, and then captured by the White troops. He became free again only in October 1919.

As you can see, in economic policy, the Makhnovists adhered to the following practice:

workers’ control over enterprises: initially in the form of a prohibition for owners to make important decisions without taking into account the opinion of the working committee, then – socialization (transfer of management to the workers themselves or territorial units)
socialization of land, transferring it to the disposal of the whole society, everyone who wants to work on it: individual peasant farms and agricultural communes
confiscation of landowners’ lands and agricultural implements to the public fund
introduction of consumer cooperation (distribution of goods without “wrapping”) and direct commodity exchange while maintaining commodity-money relations and private trade.
Makhno N.I., Memoirs.
Makhno N.I., Peasant movement in Ukraine. 1918-1921
Arshinov P.A., History of the Makhnovist movement, 1918-1921.
Belash A.V., Belash V.F. Roads of Nestor Makhno.
Shubin A., Anarchy – Mother of Order