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The Black Guards
A short account of the Anarchist Black Guards and their suppression by the Bolsheviks in Moscow in 1918
Article published on 23 April 2012
last modification on 3 April 2012

by ps

Many Russian anarchists were totally opposed to the institutionalisation of the Red Guards, fighting units that had been created by factory workers in the course of the February and October Revolutions. Indeed Rex A. Wade in his book on the Red Guards points to the strong anarchist input and influence in the Red Guards in the initial phase of the Revolution. Relations between the anarchists and the Bolsheviks had started to deteriorate after the October Revolution, and anarchist delegates to the 2nd Congress of Soviets in December 1917 accused Lenin and his party of red militarism, and that the commissars were only in power at the point of a bayonet. As a result in Moscow, Petrograd and other main centres they made a concerted attempt to set up free fighting units that they called the Black Guard. In 1917 detachments of Black Guards had been set up in the Ukraine, including by Makhno. Nikolai Zhelnesnyakov as to flee Petrograd after the Bolsheviks attempted to arrest him and set up a large group of the Black Guard in the Ukraine. Other Black Guard detachments operating in the Ukraine were led by Mokrousov, Garin with his armoured train, Anatolii Zhelesnyakov, the younger brother of Nikolai, and the detachment led by Seidel and Zhelyabov which defended Odessa and Nikolaev. Another Black Guard detachment was led by Mikhail Chernyak, later active in the Makhnovist counterintelligence. In Vyborg near Petrograd, anarchist workers at the Russian Renault factory set up a Black Guard but it soon merged with a Red Guard that had been created at the factory at the same time.