The Bolshevik illusion: a case study on the relationship between anarcho-syndicalists and Bolsheviks in revolutionary Russia, 1917

The revolutionary semblance between anarcho-syndicalism and Bolshevism, amplified by the reemergence of populist ideals among factory workers, engendered a temporary alliance between Russia’s anarcho-syndicalists and Bolsheviks at various times during 1917 and the Civil War. Lenin’s vague and politically elusive concepts of revolution and social organization persuaded some anarcho-syndicalists to join the Bolshevik vanguard. Many of Russia’s anarcho-syndicalists fell victim to the Bolshevik illusion, which necessitated the revolution’s success upon the unification of Russia’s revolutionary forces, either to overthrow the Provisional Government or defeat the Whites in the Civil War. The cooperation between anarcho-syndicalist and Bolshevik revolutionaries not only highlights Lenin’s pragmatism at this moment but also the sudden importance of anarchists, both with and against the Bolsheviks, in the making of early-Bolshevik Russia. This thesis provides a modern interpretation of anarcho-syndicalism in revolutionary Russia through a prosopographical approach. An examination of the lives of three noted anarcho-syndicalists will illustrate the development of a distinct relationship between Russia’s anarcho-syndicalists and Bolsheviks, as well as reveal three similar, yet divergent, anarcho-syndicalist responses to Bolshevism. The cases of Vladimir Shatov, Volin (Vsevolod Eikhenbaum), and Grigorii Maksimov not only represent different anarcho-syndicalist perceptions of Bolshevism during the summer and fall of 1917 but also illustrate the transnationalism of Russian-anarcho-syndicalism.