Guide to Communists and Anarchists

This page is under construction.

It will contain a list of notable Communists and Anarchists, past and present as well as details on what makes them so notable.

Mikhail Bakunin: 1814-1876

Mihail Bakunin“When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the People’s Stick.'”

1814-1876. A Russian anarchist who is often called the “founding father of anarchism.” He served as an officer in the Russian artillery regiment before quiting and studying philosophy. After becoming involved in radical politics he spent a few years in a Siberian prison. Escaping, he set up life in various different countries, writing books including ‘Marxism, Freedom and the State’ and ‘God and the State.’ He was active in workers revolts around Europe and while in England he became a leading figure in the First International where his opposition to Karl Marx turned him into a bitter rival. He died of natural causes on 1st July, 1876.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbakunin.htm
http://www.spunk.org/texts/pubs/ws/ws47/sp001538.html
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/

August Bebel

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Bebel co-founded German Social Democracy with Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1869. Bebel had trained as a cabinet maker, and in 1863, at the time of the founding of Lassalle’s German Workers’ Association, he found “socialism and communism” “totally unfamiliar concepts, double-duth words”. Bebel was a member of the Reichstag from 1867. Sentenced with Liebknecht to two years imprisonment for “treason” (opposition to Franco-German War) in 1872. After they merged with the Lassalleans in Gotha in 1875, Bebel remained the unquestioned leader. His fiery parliamentary speeches – from 1868 he was continuously a member first of the North German and later the German Reichstag – are part of the history of German social democracy, as are also his books, above all his autobiography From My Life and Woman and Socialism. Woman and socialism (1879) was one of the socialist movement’s best-selling books. It was reprinted 22 times and translated into many languages. It was instrumental in forming women’s liberation movements in all countries where social democracy existed.

Ovsei Osipovich (Alexander) Berkman: 1870-1936

Alexander BerkmanBorn in modern day Lithuania (though at the time it was the Russian Empire).

More of a doer than a thinker, a follower of ‘propaganda of the deed’ which led him to a failed murder of the notorious US businessman Henry Clay Frick.
This attempted murder got him 14 years in prison where he wrote ‘Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist’.
12 years later he served a further 2 years in prison, this time for conspiracy against the newly introduced US military conscription, after being released from jail he was arrested and deported from the US where he had lived for 29 years.
Despite not being known as much of a theorist he did spend most of his life as a writer for journals and periodicals, most notable was probably ‘The Blast’. He was also an avid anti-war campaigner.
In 1936 at the age of 65 Alexander (Sasha) Berkman committed suicide after suffering unsuccessful operations for prostate problems.

“War means blind obedience, unthinking stupidity, brutish callousness, wanton destruction and irresponsible murder” – Alexander Berkman

Publications:

The Blast (journal)
Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist
The Bolshevik Myth (Diary 1920-1922)
Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism

Frederick Engels: 1820-1895

Engels 1856Friedrich Engels, along with Karl Marx, is the founder of modern Communism and Socialism. He was the son of a textile manufacturer, and after managing a factory owned by his father in Manchester, England, he wrote his first major work, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. Later that year in Paris, he met Karl Marx. This was the beginning of a life long collaboration. Engels and Marx joined the ‘Communist league’ in 1846, and we’re commissioned by it to write ‘the manifesto of the communist party’ in 1848. Engels had previously written a book called ‘principles of communism’ which is written in a much simpler way, and is a better introductory read. When the Revolutions of 1848 failed, Engels settled in England. With Marx he helped found the International Workingmen’s Association in 1864. Engels’s financial aid from his fathers factory (he inherited 20% of its profits from his father) enabled Marx to devote himself to writing Das Kapital (1867-94); after his death Engels edited vol. 2 and 3 from Marx’s drafts and notes.

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Daniel De Leon

Daniel De Leon
In 1915 Lenin stated that Daniel De Leon was “the only one who has added anything to Socialist thought since Marx.” Daniel De Leon (1852-1914) was an orator and elected newspaper editor for the Socialist Labor Party of America.
The SLP established in 1876 is the oldest socialist political party in the United States and the second oldest socialist party in the world.

De Leon joined the SLP in 1889 and launched the SLP newspaper. De Leon was the leading figure in the Socialist Labor Party of America from 1890 until the time of his death. In 1896 he had seen the union as the “shield” and the Socialist Labor Party ballot as the “sword.” Even DeLeon’s opponents were usually willing to concede that he possessed a tremendous intellectual grasp of Marxism. He was not a petty tyrant who desired power for power’s sake. Rather, he was a dogmatic idealist, devoted brain and soul to a cause, a zealot who could not tolerate heresy or backsliding, a doctrinaire who would make no compromise with principles. He was perhaps the most significant and influential American Marxist in the period 1890-1914.

His key four lectures–Reform or Revolution (1896); What Means This Strike? (1898); The Burning Question of Trades Unionism ( 1904), and Socialist Reconstruction of Society (1905)–have been published together in a single book, Socialist Landmarks.

Vladimir Lenin 1870-1924

LeninRussian revolutionary leader who lead the Russian revolution of 1917 and founder of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As a teenager he became interested in revolutionary politics due to his brothers membership of a radical movement, ‘The Peoples Will.’ In 1887 Alexander was arrested and executed by the Tsarist regime. Lenin was blacklisted after that and found it difficult to attend university but by 1891 however, he had graduated from St Petersburg University as a lawyer. He became heavily involved in politics after that and in 1896 was arrested and sent to Siberia where he remained until 1900. The situation in Russia was beginning to boil over and by 1905 Lenin was involved in a failed revolution. He remained in Exile, travelling Europe and building support for his movement. He returned to Russia in 1917 as leader of the Bolshevik Party. He became the first socialist leader to put Karl Marx’s theories into practice. He remained the leader of the newly formed USSR until his death on 21st January 1924. He died of a stroke as a result of failed operations to remove bullets from him after an assassination attempt. Throughout his life he wrote many books. The most famous are ‘What is to be done?’ and ‘The State and Revolution’.

Nestor Makhno: 1889-1934

“The agricultural majority of these villages was composed of peasants, one would understand at the same time both peasants and workers. They were founded first of all on equality and solidarity of its members. Everyone, men and women, worked together with a perfect conscience that they should work on fields or that they should be used in housework… The work program was established in meetings in which everyone participated. Then they knew exactly what they had to do” – Makhno, Russian Revolution in Ukraine, 1936

Nestor MakhnoNestor Ivanovich Makhno (October 27, 1889 – July 25, 1934) was an anarcho-communist Ukrainian revolutionary who refused to align with the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. He helped to organize an enormous experiment in anarchist values and practice, one which was cut short by the consolidation of Bolshevik power. In early 1918, the new Bolshevik government in Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk making peace with the Central Powers, but ceding large amounts of territory to them, including Ukraine. The people living in Ukraine did not want to be ruled by the Central Powers, and so rebelled. Partisan units were formed that waged guerilla war against the Germans and Austrians. This rebellion turned into an anarchist revolution. Nestor Makhno was one of the main organizers of these partisan groups, who united into the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (RIAU), also called the Black Army (because they fought under the anarchist black flag), “Makhnovists” or “Makhnovshchina” (i.e., “Makhnovism”). The RIAU also battled against the Whites (counter-revolutionaries) and anti-semitic pogromists. In areas where the RIAU drove out opposing armies, villagers sought to abolish capitalism and the state through organizing themselves into village assemblies, communes and free councils. The land and factories were expropriated and self-management implemented. New relationships and values were generated by this new social paradigm, which lead Makhnovists to formalize the policy of free communities as the highest form of social justice. Education was organised on Francisco Ferrer’s principles, and the economy was based upon free exchange between rural and urban communities, from crop and cattle to manufactured products, according to the theories of Kropotkin.
Makhno had resisted the White Army’s attempts to invade Ukraine from the South-West for three months before the Bolshevik Red Army units joined the war effort of Makhnovshchina. But even after joining forces with the Red Army, the anarchists maintained their main political structures (self-management, elections, voluntarism) and refused to accept Bolshevik-appointed political commissars. The Red Army temporarly accepted these conditions, but soon Bolsheviks ceased to provide the Makhnovists with basic supplies, such as cereals and coal.
There was a new truce between Makhno forces and the Red Army in October 1920 when both forces came close to the territories held by Wrangel’s White army. Makhnovshchina still agreed to help the Red Army, but when the Whites were decisively eliminated in the Crimea, the communists turned on Makhno again. Makhno intercepted three messages from Lenin to Christian Rakovsky, the head of the Bolshevik government of Ukraine. Lenin’s orders were to arrest all anarchist activists and to try them as common criminals.
In August 1923, an exhausted Makhno was finally driven by the Bolsheviks into exile, fleeing to Romania; then Poland; and finally to Paris. Makhno died in exile in 1934, vindicated in his suspicion of the Bolsheviks by the show trials and purges that were very much on the rise. He was cremated three days after his death, with five hundred people attending his funeral at the famous cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris.

Karl Marx: 1818-1881

Karl MarxThe creator of modern day Communism and intellectual farther of Marxism. Born in Trier, Germany he studied law in his early years before changing to philosophy. He was a member of the Young Hegelians. After graduating from the University of Bonn he moved to Paris with his new wife. While there he studied political economy and history of the French revolution. After being expelled from France he moved to Belgium where he continued to study. he published a book entitled ‘The Poverty of Philosophy,’ a critique of the Anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s book ‘The Philosophy of Poverty’.
At the outbreak of the February revolution he was expelled from Belgium and invited back to Paris by the new provisional government. In 1848 he and Frederich Engels wrote the ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’ which was adopted by the workers congress in London. After being expelled from numerous countries for his radical views he finally settled in London where he began to write his epic critique of capitalism documented in thirteen volumes. The most notable was ‘Capital – Volume 1’ completed in 1867. Marx became one of the leading figures of the First International and remained active in the workers struggle, producing many more writings. Other works include ‘The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts’, ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’ and ‘The German Ideology.’ He died on March 14th 1883 of bad health and old age.
The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels is sometimes noted as the most influential non-religious book of all time.

Leon Trotsky 1879-1941

TrotskyCommunist revolutionary leader who led the Red army to victory during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Born in the Ukraine he was a “bright and capable student.” By the age of 18 he was already active in revolutionary politics and was key to the founding of the South Russia Workers Union. A year later he was also instrumental in the creation of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. In 1900 he was arrested and sent to Siberia. He escaped prison and went to London where he met Lenin. After the Tsar abdicated in 1917 Trotsky headed to Russia and joined the Bolsheviks, who he had originally opposed over tactics, and headed the Red Army against the white invaders. It is argued that Trotsky was the rightful successor to Lenin but was pushed out by the ambitious Joseph Stalin. After being given menial jobs within the Bolshevik hierarchy he was exiled and in 1936 moved to Mexico. He became the biggest critic of Stalin and the way the USSR had gone. One of his books written in 1936, attacking Stalin was ‘Revolution Betrayed‘. Stalin saw Trotsky as a threat, even though he was in exile. On 20th August 1940 Trotsky was attacked by a Stalinist supporter. He died the next day.

Georgi Plekhanov

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The founding father of Russian Marxism. Under Pavel Axelrod’s influence, Plekhanov was one of the organizers of the first political demonstrations in Russia in 1876. In 1900, Plekhanov helped found Iskra (The Spark) newspaper to unite various independent local Marxist groups. From this emerged, the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP). Plekhanov outlined a history of materialism and bourgeois philosophers of the “great man theory of history” came under attack from the economic determinist point of view in his 1898 book entitled “On the Individual’s Role in History.” He defended revolutionary Marxism against the revisionist critics such as Eduard Bernstein.

Plekhanov was extremely hostile to the Bolshevik Party headed by V.I. Lenin. He criticized Lenin’s revolutionary April Theses as “ravings” and called Lenin himself an “alchemist of revolution” for his seeming willingness to leap over the stage of capitalist development. Plekhanov always insisted that Marxism was a materialist doctrine rather than an idealist one, and that Russia would have to pass through a capitalist stage of development before becoming socialist.

Despite his disagreements with Lenin, the Soviet Communists cherished his memory and gave his name to the Soviet Academy of Economics and the G. V. Plekhanov St. Petersburg State Mining Institute.

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William Morris

William Morris was the greatest British representative of socialism. In 1883 he was founding and leading member of one of Britain’s largest socialist parties of the 19th Century, the Social Democratic Federation. Morris co-authored the Social Democratic Federation manifesto. In 1884, with the support of Engels and Eleanor Marx, he split to form the Socialist League and edited, funded and was principal contributor to the newspaper Commonweal. He embarked on a relentless series of speeches and talks on street corners and in just 6 months attracted 8 branches and 230 members. By 1887 this rose to 550 members. Two of his best known prose works, the utopian News from Nowhere and A Dream of John Ball were first printed here in serialized form. In 1890 he left the Socialist League but he continued to write and speak for socialism to his death in 1896.

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2 thoughts on “Guide to Communists and Anarchists

  1. Pingback: Who was Nestor Makhno? | ACA The Underground

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