Makhno himself massacred prostitutes

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Makhno himself massacred prostitutes
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Libcom is still repeating the claim that Lenin ordered a massacre of prostitutes. I offered them a way out by saying, that it was perhaps an ambiguity in translation or wording that could lead to this impression. But to any reasonable person the point of Lenin's message was clear, namely combating drunkeness (and as I showed his order was carried out in that sense: some drunken soviet men received light sentences). The problem of drunkeness was widespread and obviously weakens the discipline of an army. For example Makhno's order No.1 in Summmer of 1919 had this line:

5. Drinking is a crime. An even bigger crime is for the rebel of the revolutionary army to appear drunk on the street.

A resolution of the Makhnovist congress of 2 November 1919 on drunkeness even allowed for capital punishment:

2. About drunkenness in the Army.

The Congress invites the Military Revolutionary Council of the Army to take the most energetic and stringent measures, up to execution, to combat the evil corrupting and weakening the Army - namely drunkenness. The Congress recommends R.V.S. to withdraw all vodka and wine depots, as well as the general management of the manufacture, storage and distribution of alcohol, vodka, wine and other alcoholic beverages from the hands of any individuals or institutions, and take this matter into their charge for now.

Congress proposes R.V.S. to fight in the most merciless way against the production of moonshine, and proposes to the population to everywhere and decisively stop it. Congress proposes R.V.S. to raise the issue of the manufacture, storage and distribution of alcohol, vodka, etc., only in the quantity needed for medicine and other societies for military purposes. Nevertheless, the Congress recommends the destruction or intoxication (?) of excess reserves.

I just remind Libcom that this was a well-known problem.

Now, there are a lot of stories about prostitution (or forced sex) and Makhnovist anarchists.

But here is one grisly anecdote about Makhno himself. I found passages (cited or paraphrased) from an Isaak Tepper 1924 book.

"It seems to me,” writes Isaac Tepper, “Makhno had a breakdown after one incident in Berdyansk ... The Black Guard (militia) organized a grand feast there: tables were bursting from food and dainties. When the “free people took it kindly”, they lined up a row of prostitutes, gathered from all over the city, so that Makhno would choose a girl to his liking. But among the drunken "freedom fighters" a fight broke out: someone did not want to give the ataman (Makhno) his passion!
Makhno came to the noise and the conflict was dismantled in one fell swoop: right in the courtyard he shot several drunken entertainers.

Another reference to Tepper's book specifies girls:

Since in Russia the activities of anarchist groups, claiming more than club work, were almost everywhere banned, people were drawn into the Gulyai-Poly district, eager for a living thing. The first to come, of course, were the militants, who, being an element not needed in the peaceful Soviet life, were looking for the opportunity to once again test themselves in the violence and feasts that accompany the breakdown of the old world. To their account should be credited the magnificent scene recorded by I. Teper in the Berdyansk brothel, when, watching the drunken share-out of prostitutes, Makhno could not stand it and with disgust began to shoot both girls and his 'fellow-minded people'. But there were fewer such anarchists than is commonly believed, (and) the attitude of Makhno and his headquarters towards them was negative, especially after the Ivangorod group that arrived in Gulyai-Pole tried to hack and rob the brigade box office.

These are just two authors I found who recount the same passage from Tepper's book, and they see no reason to doubt it. I'm sure Tepper's book will be denounced as untrustworthy and just a slander-operation by the Bolsheviks on Makhno's reputation. But if Libcom is so sincerely interested in the anarchist position toward prostitution, then they must be glad to have an opportunity here to set the record straight about Makhno's relation to prostitutes. I'm willing to hear it.



A third author, who also bases himself on Tepper's book (p. 34):

In his book, I. Teper describes in detail the incident in the Berdyansk brothel, where the Makhnovists brought Father (Makhno). True, he did it at the behest of (the call of) other people, because he himself appeared among the rebels only in the spring of 1920. As soon as the honorary delegation of the Makhnovist movement crossed the threshold of the brothel, N. Makhno witnessed a disgusting scene. The rebels, who had arrived before the Father, fought for the ladies, who they could not share with each other according to preferences. And here N. Makhno could not stand it. After sending the woman to her parents on the Right Bank, in the village Pischani Brid, he still could still allow his comrades to bring himself to the brothel; but calmly contemplate a frank moral schedule the revolutionary could not. Grabbing a revolver, N. Makhno with disgust shot on the spot several people and walked away. Frightened accomplices followed him.

Notice the author bestows Makhno with passivity (Makhno is 'brought' to the brothel, Makhno 'allows' himself to be brought in the brothel). I translated the author's phrase in reference to the victims as 'several people' (in Ukrainian: кількох чоловік), since although чоловік in the singular is a man, in the plural it can mean 'people' (ie also include women). Libcom's resident-expert Battlescarred should look up the original passage in Tepper's book (not online), so we can see what the exact wording was. Again, in a reading by another author that I cited previously, the victims included specifically both girls and his own men. So please, don't even start your attempt to discredit Tepper's book.

The author btw refers to a play from the early 2000s, so it's apparently well-known and believed as true:

At the beginning of the XXI century the history of N. Makhno’s visit to the Berdyansk brothel house received a second breath in the form of a separate act of O. Tom’s play “Nestor Makhno” staged on the stage of the Zaporizhia Music and Drama Theater named after I. Magara.


Alcohol and drugs are weapons

Alcohol and drugs are weapons of war. They are massively used as a class weapon to weaken the proletariat and make them incapable of fighting.

> intoxication (?) of excess reserves [of alcohol]

The Congress certainly means "transformation of vodka into denatured alcohol" (for medical or industrial purposes).

Parties with prostitutes are a disaster for discipline, but summary executions are no better.

I do not know what is the worst between a band of alcoholic militiamen who poach prostitutes and a military leader who blindly shoot on them.

However, this story is probably made up.

In any event, the Red Army must take drastic measures against this kind of overflow. Military police must be ready to make arrests, and the martial court to applie harsh sentences.

In the event of a serious spillover, the main troublemakers must be condemned to death for high treason, because introducing toxic substances and attacking discipline are a vicious and hidden attack against the army.

There is objectively no difference between a White agent intoxicating troops' food with bacteria or poison and a fool introducing alcohol into the military. Both should be treated the same.

Makhno too

I'm still waiting for the concrete evidence that would disprove this story, and I suspect I will have to wait forever. Tepper's 1924 book, as a memoir of a leading participant, is used as a source by historians of the Makhno movement. I gave at least 4 writers (+ a playwright) who take the story as true (the last quote I gave was from 2 historians). My personal opinion does not matter, but the scene (as far as paraphrased) is realistic from a psychological perspective. Although it has a tragic result, it does not lessen my regard for Makhno. We have no need to believe in hagiographies or saints.

Here's a (2006) large volume

Here's a (2006) large volume of materials from the Makhnovist movement. A couple of orders/appeals of Makhnovist commanders relating to prostitution:

Order No. 51 for the 5th Kuban-Zadniprovsky cavalry insurgent regiment named after Batko Makhno

December 1, 1919

For the combatant units

(...) § 4. Squadron commanders, heads of the machine-gun units, the assistant paramedic regiments, I order that the most serious attention be paid to the nurses (sisters or mercy) in the squadrons, the units and the regiments; complaints were received from sick rebels that the nurses leave the sick and visit theaters daily with their beloved. Henceforth, I forbid the nurses to go to theaters without taking leave from the regiment commander for signature and seal.

§ 5. I order the nurses of the regiment entrusted to me, if they are engaged in prostitution, they will be removed from the regiment.

§ 6. Previously I reminded the regiments about the removal of all nurses from the convoy, except for nurse Tili Danelenko. 


Regiment commander [P. Vakasov]

Adjutant of the headquarters [signature illegible]

And from the same month (the word 'prostitutes' in the original text is ellipsed: "pr..."). It does not give an author on that page in the document (perhaps it's written by Makhno himself?):

No. 187 Circulation to the rebels “It's time!”

[December 1919]


Comrade rebels, it's time to come to your senses and be sane! What moral and sad facts are in our dear rebel revolutionary movement? I have repeatedly asked myself the question.

1) Why do many rebels and commanders carry prostitutes on (their) carts (ie the famous "tachankas").

2) And why does the one who carries them (the prostitutes) remark that he is negligent in the matter. Even sometimes he forgets his duty, the duty of a revolutionary.

There is a wounded and sick rebel, and carts go by. On the first one there are 2 rebels and with them 2 prima donnas, the wounded comrade with tears in his eyes asks: "Comrade, for God's sake, take me and give me a ride, it's possible for you." And he is replied: "There back there are free carts, and they will take you." He, poor, powerless, with a pure heart of a revolutionary, is waiting for the next one, and asks, when it comes, he says: “For God's sake, take me, I’ll recover soon and will join the ranks and will defend as I’ve defended so far". Travelling he would be glad to take him, but he has a lot of military matters, and he can’t take him, and so the poor fellow remains at the mercy of his own forces, while his comrades go with the broads (babami), and she cheerfully sings “feti-meti” (?), and he, foolishly in her nightly dress and shameful extasy, answers her “Dash-Dash” (?), and she “Takes it away” from him, and then the “feti-meti” begins. And the sick or wounded, looking at this, sends such eternal damnations and waits for a time when everyone will come to their senses and begin to be friendly to each other.

Down, down with this all. Ashamed must be such comrades who are engaged in this. Time, time to come to senses. Our whole cause is taken up in this dirty business, (and) when you throw away everything dirty, only then will you relate sensibly to the cause, and your success [will be] close.

It's time!

stop the partying and debauchery

No. 166 Appeal of the commander of the 1st Donetsk Corps A. Kalashnikovak to the rebels with an appeal to stop “the partying and debauchery” and become “again faithful sons of the revolution” [December 1919]


Comrade rebels and commanders. Enough with the partying, it's time to take the cause (serious). Stop the drunkenness, debauchery, which has so much soiled us, the rebels. Yes! We lived until the arrival in the Yerinoslavskaya province as hermits. We did not have a corner where we could shelter. Remember now those who suffer in prisons, hard labor and on the fronts. You, I think, have experienced such "charm" and know how hard it is to languish in prison, while we, their liberators, have forgotten them and set about carousing. Arriving in Yerinoslavskaya province, we saw the light, but were not able to use it. With turned it into something vulgar, ugly. Theaters, that should give something good, useful, were turned into squash. And you, comrade artists, give us enlightenment, but not debauchery.

Shame on us, comrades!

But we can correct our mistake. When our comrades go into battle, we must forget about personal pleasures. All our care is for those who spills blood. What will we answer if they ask: “And what did you do when we were suffering?” - “We drank and partied!” But what will they answer to this? I think it is known what. “Scoundrels, traitors to the revolution, traitors to the working people,” and they are right. So stop the partying, debauchery and become again the faithful sons of the revolution. There will come a little time when we roll over (?). But now is not the time.

Our peasant brothers and workers are waiting for us. For us are waiting the unfortunate, exhausted sufferers imprisoned in prisons and hard labor. Forget all the fun for the time and go save the unfortunate. I think, comrades, you will come to your senses and get down to business again. All for the liberation of the oppressed and the destruction of the oppressors! Down with drunkenness and debauchery!

Long live the sober, rebel army, of batko Makhno!

Commander of the 1st Donetsk Corps A. Kalashnikov Chief of Staff [signature illegible] Head of Staff [signature illegible] Nachoperod [signature illegible] Head of Political Department [signature illegible]

No 191 Order for the 2nd Asian Cavalry Regiment. Batko Makhno to stop drunkenness, mistreatment of the civilian population and proper maintenance of weapons No 1 2 January 5, 1920

§ 1. I order all squadrons, platoon and separated, as well as the rebels of the regiment entrusted to me, to stop drunkenness and insidious treatment of civilians. Since I noticed today a lot of drunkenness on the part of the rebels, as well as on the part of the commanding staff, if you do not stop all this, the perpetrators will be punished up to (being) shot.


Commander of the 2nd Asian Regiment [signature illegible] For Adjutant Fedorenko


Anyway, where is the debate?

Anyway, where is the debate? Do anarchists want to indulge in prostitution and pimping? People who cause disorder must be arrested. We are not going to sacrifice the discipline and organization of the Army in order to protect members of the mafia.

In my opinion, anarchists are concerned about the death sentences of prostitutes. To this I would reply that the extent of the repression depends on the severity of the disorder. In general, capital executions are pronounced only in the event of serious disorder, threatening the integrity of the army: desertions, lootings, rapes and murders.

But alcohol traffickers can also be sentenced to death because alcohol can, in certain circumstances, completely disrupt the military. Similarly, prostitutes consume resources and paralyze military services by their costs and debauchery, they are also an obvious vector of drugs and alcohol in the army, in addition to demoralization, sabotage and espionage that they can cover.

They must therefore be arrested and expelled from the army, and soldiers must be prohibited from seeing them. If the orders are not followed, a more severe repression ensues, and if anomie and carelessness wins the army, draconian measures can be taken, including deportations and even death sentences.

There is a lack of seriousness in all these moral stories, when it is in reality a question of maintaining order in the army, in order to avoid degeneration and crushing.

As regards prostitution, a

As regards prostitution, a real solution is to integrate  without prejudice the former prostitutes into the units of working women or female soldiers. We must also prohibit men from paying or nurturing women for sexual and / or sentimental services, which involves not only the abolition of prostitution, but also of marriage.

Libcom is still saying (on

Libcom is still saying (on Twitter where it's widely repeated), that Lenin ordered the death sentence for prostitutes (initially it also claimed that the order was carried out, by Trotsky no less...), and I deny that, but I don't deny that he ordered deportation of prostitutes. Trotsky reports such deportations were carried out by the Kronstadt sailors, already in May 1917 (ie before the Bolsheviks even were in power):

... (in early 1917) the Kronstadt Soviet was not yet Bolshevik. It contained in May 107 Bolsheviks, 112 Social Revolutionaries, 30 Mensheviks, and 97 non-party men. But these were Kronstadt Social Revolutionaries and Kronstadt non-party men, living under high pressure: a majority of them on important questions followed the Bolsheviks.

In the political sphere the Kronstadt sailors were not inclined either toward manoeuvring or toward diplomacy. They had their own rule: no sooner said than done. It is no wonder that in relation to a phantom government they tended toward an extremely simplified method of action. On May 13 the soviet resolved: “The sole power in Kronstadt is the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” The removal of the government commissar, the Kadet Pepelyaev, who occupied the position of fifth wheel in a wagon, passed off in the fortress totally unnoticed. Model order was maintained. Card playing in the city was forbidden. All brothels were closed, and their inmates deported. Under threat of “confiscation of property and banishment to the front,” the soviet forbade drunkenness in the streets. The threat was more than once carried into action.

Tempered in the terrible régime of the czarist fleet and the naval fortress, accustomed to stern work, to sacrifices, but also to fury, these sailors, now when the curtain of the new life was beginning to rise before them, a life in which they felt themselves to be the coming masters, tightened all their sinews in order to prove themselves worthy of the revolution.

Of course even if it's "merely" deportation, it will sound terribly draconian for present-day. Makhnovists had no better solutions (on the contrary, in case of Makhno personally, it is apparently written that he even shot prostitutes in Berdyansk) or just had no control to enfore them.

What radicals like Libcom want today, in contrast to abolitionists, is legal buying of prostitutes by the clients, which is what already exists. I don't think men should be criminalised for being married, but they should be at least morally, if not also criminally, "frowned upon" if they commodify other people (mostly women) in an explicit fashion. And I certainly don't believe in the argument that a women is more independent because she can rely on eg 20 men a week, instead of being economically dependent on 1 guy that she is married to. To me it sounds worse to have 20 neglectful husbands (indeed IIRC in Jewish or Islamic custom a client has a "quick marriage" to the prostitute).

Excuse me, but the problem of

Excuse me, but the problem of prostitution and marriage is not a moral issue.

It clearly translates into action the fact that all of social life is reified, including feelings and sexuality.

In this, marriage and prostitution must be abolished, that is to say that the social and economic relations between men and women must be transformed, with in particular the abolition of the family and the introduction of the universal human community.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels are very clear about this:


But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives.

Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.

For their demonstration, Marx and Engels proceed with a semantic shift, passing from the community of goods (women are instruments of production), to the community of people (women are integrated into the community of people).

It is clear that this community of people has nothing to do with marriage or prostitution.

If the civil war makes it possible to get rid of public prostitution for military reasons, this is already progress, but it is still very insufficient. Marriage must also be abolished, because prostitution is only the correlate of marriage. 

Also, it is all the sexual and social relationships of men and women that must be transformed, by the emergence of new groups, new associations, new communities, the reality of which remains to be constructed but whose definition corresponds to principles of communist freedom, equality and co-brotherhood.

The debate on prostitution is

The debate on prostitution is not about the time of civil war, but about today, and I used "morally frown" upon the clients of prostitution in a practical sense (eg registering their name in the public), to which can be added more serious punishment.

The Manifesto is speaking about abolition of the bourgeois marriage, and notes the "erzwungenen Familienlosigkeit der Proletarier", which is evidently not well translated as the "practical absence of the family among the proletarians": it should be better translated as something as "forced family-absence among proletarians". The meaning of this problem I guess is thus that proletarians are unable to have a family, whether unable to start or maintain one (and not that the family is in the form of marriage in general).

As for the comparison of bourgeois family to prostitution, it does not say that bourgeois wives are in the same economic dependence as prostituted women on the street (which is how apologists for prostitution sometimes like to interpret it). The comparison is based on the observation that bourgeois men seduce each other's wives, which is hypocritical in that they don't abide by their own marriage principle, but think also of the phenomenon of swingers' clubs (even non-married couples exchange sex partners).

When you speak of feelings and sexuality being "reified", etc., I suspect it's the general point that the principle of all relations (even between a non-married couple) shouldn't be "transactional" (I do this for you, if you do that for me), which seems a fairly psychological (or "moral") advice for keeping a nice relationship, but it seems impossible to enforce as policy (or would become oppressive if it were attempted).

The "dictatorship of syphilis"

Here is Teper's book online. The passage is on p. 28, I translate:

One day in Berdyansk, Nestor with all those 'brothers' gathered all the prostitutes of the city into a large hostelry. There was build a mountain feast. The very best and finest wines were unearthed from Berdyansk cellars. Then all the prostitutes were lined up and to let a choice by 'Batko'. Along the side (or in the process) it came to a fight of fists, weapons for the possession of one or another prostitute – it ended thereby, that Nestor began to shoot on everything and everyone and on the spot several persons were laid down.

Btw, immediately following (on p. 29) Teper recounts another episode (seen with his own eyes), where a drunken anarchist (named Gorev) on a horse rides by a hospital, where a nurse peers out. He demands she come out to him, (but) she scatters. He takes out his Mauser and begins to shoot in the infirmary window.

-- Anyway, so in Teper's account of the Berdyansk episode there is no mention that Makhno send (or deported) one girl back to her parents in Pischani Brid, as is claimed by the third source (generally pro-Makhno) that I cited before. In Teper's account there is also no exculpatory indication that Makhno arrived in the hostelry only after the 'brothers' were already there and had gathered/divided the prostitutes. It seems rather that Makhno was present throughout. He shot on everyone and killed several people. The entire example is given as a picture of Makhnovist life, and the moral fall of Makhno's political endurance.

There is no moral in

There is no moral in repression, which is far too pragmatic in spirit. Furthermore, I believe that those who use violence or humiliation for social controle should not boast too much about morality.

Sexual affairs are "private" affairs only if they are completely devoid of economic relations.

It is enough for us to strip the sexuality of its economic clothes.

From the moment that domestic work has been transformed into community work, that the habitat has been redesigned to correspond to community needs, that work is fully socialized, that consumption and production are planned, etc. social and sexual relationships between men and women will be transformed, simply because social relationships arise from economic relationships.


Yes, Makhno... 

I suppose it is important for anarchists, but for me, it leaves me indifferent.

What is important is that the Red Army is well organized, and does not fall into anomy.

As for the anarchists, there will always be, and some will spread the anomie. Ideology serves as a mask for deeper social reasons.

And the Makhno's bad example will not change their social determination.

I don't understand your

I don't understand your objection to my use of the word "moral", which I explained has the practical sense of punishment for clients of prostitution, initially by public shaming (the lightest possible form of punishment). You may call that "repression" or "social control", but just taking the case of civil war, it's to avoid demoralization of the army or weakening of discipline of the own forces. I quoted a Makhnovist circular (no. 187, perhaps written by Makhno himself), that complains: "What moral and sad facts are in our dear rebel revolutionary movement?" I further quoted Makhnovist appeals to rebels (and artists!) to stop their debauchery, etc. – these are "moral" appeals. Even if you take more serious matter of punishment, you still need to give a warning and it will involve moral appeal. It's not "pragmatic" to just start widly shooting everyone, like Makhno did apparently without giving even a warning. You advice: people "shouldn't boast" about morals. Okay, let's look at what the commander of the Red Army's opinion is about morals:


The strength of the Red Army and its most profound difference from the bourgeois armies lies in its moral cohesion and the comradely solidarity which is engendered by unity in a great revolutionary aim.

A commander is a senior, more experienced comrade. A chief is an authoritative leader and teacher. Discipline is based on consciousness and is inseparably linked with respect for the human dignity of every Red Army man. Discipline may be strict, even severe, but may not be humiliating. Everything that, directly or indirectly, disrupts or undermines the unity of the Red Army must be ruthlessly rooted out. But such facts, a heritage from the slavish past, continue to be met with in certain units.

Rough treatment of subordinates, with theeing-and-thouing, ordering to shut up, and swearing, this expression of caste-ridden militarism has no place in the Red Army. The commander and the commissar of a unit are themselves primarily responsible for drunkenness among theft subordinates. Finally, cases of the use of violence against subordinates, which testify that serfowning habits have survived into our day, however isolated such cases may be, must be given very close attention, strictly investigated and ruthlessly punished. Anyone guilty of hitting a subordinate is to be sent before the Revolutionary Military Tribunal!


Public shame is not a slight

Public shame is not a slight form of punishment at all.

Morality is only a representation of social relations and power relations.

I do not see why it would be more shameful to be the client of a prostitute or to get married, especially since prostitution is the inevitable corollary of marriage and other socio-economic factors. Likewise, I don't know who is the most "immoral" between the client and the prostitute: 30 years ago it was the prostitute, now it's the client. By distributing good and bad morale points, we are sure to never understand anything, to always miss the point.

I know Trotsky's writings on morale. But Trotsky did not deny that morality is only a representation of social relations and power relations, and that it is these relations which are ultimately determining, regardless of our representation of them.

I think that teach morality soldiers and workers is particularly inappropriate for Marxists; I think that morality lowers consciousness, especially if it is imposed from outside.

I think it is far better to tell the soldiers that we understand why they want to see prostitutes, this is due to the social conditions specific to war and barracks life, but that we need order and discipline in the military, and that's why we prevent them from doing so, including by force.

It is also possible to show that prostitution and marriage are at odds with our longer term goals, and therefore that they should also be banned for this reason; but there is no reason to put anyone to shame, since if prostitution and marriage still existed during the civil war, it is quite simply because communism has not yet been established.

You prevent clients of

You prevent clients of prostitution by an information campaign, yes. But afterwards, if they nevertheless still do it, then you go over to public registering them (which basically relies on shaming), and then perhaps force. You say pubic shame is not a slight punishment, and it's true that for a wealthy person, perhaps a monetary sentence would be easier. But I think it can be effective (and permissible even in today's society), and if it's not, then your punishment by "force" can be carefully applied, but not in a brutal random manner (which would be hardly raising any consciousness). The question of the kind of punishment is moral in that more civil forms are preferrable (such as public registering). Perhaps your point is subtle, that the actual execution of punishment (whatever form) is not moral, but this would be a banal point, true in the same way that the act of painting a door is not moral.

I object to your equation of family/marriage in general (as opposed to specific bourgeois form of family) to prostitution, if the purpose of this equation is to justify use of prostitution in today's society.  Within bourgeois society, again as the Manifesto put it, the position of many proletarians is such, that they lack a family. The Marx/Engels's comment, that bourgeois society has already abolished family for the proletarians, is not an endorsement (that people shouldn't be able to have families). The "debate" as it exists is about punishment of clients of prostitution today. I don't know what your argument about family/marriage is for the rest in this context. If it's that having a family/marriage should be punished (which could be the point, considering your stated preference in previous dispute that party members' personal life should not be wasted on the luxury of having a family), then I disagree in general, but not of course if it's in particular about forced marriages, abusive marriages, etc.


I don't mind if a commander

I don't mind if a commander sees the fight against prostitution as a moral issue. The main thing is that he does not lose sight of the fact that behind this moral question there are military, political and economic objectives, and also an economic, political and military context. In everything, he must be rational and pragmatic, whatever his moral opinions.

> I object to your equation of family / marriage in general (as opposed to specific bourgeois form of family) to prostitution, if the purpose of this equation is to justify use of prostitution in today's society.

No, the aim is obviously to condemn both prostitution and marriage in today's society. In fact, all human relationships are problematic in today's society. We must understand that all these relations form a system, and that we cannot simply say that we are going to suppress the "bad" bourgeois relations to keep the "good", because they are all interdependent. All human relationships must be transformed.

But in any event, they are transformed by acting on the social substrate, on the economic subtrate, in terms of housing, work, consumption, political decision and social organization.

Repression can attenuate a social manifestation, but not suppress it, simply because repression acts on the consequences, not on the causes.

I did not speak in terms of

I did not speak in terms of "good" and "bad" social relations, but rather, I merely distinguished marriage/family from prostitution, a nuance that is apparently lost. I'm not "condemning" all relations or calling to abolish them, because I think that tends toward moral meaningless posturing. The debate, as it exists, is about legal prohibition of use of prostitutes, which can be of interest, even if only in analysing effects of legislation. If in this context you bring up family/marriage as somehow relevant, then if it's not just condemnation of it, what is the argument? Marriages can be dissolved thanks to the right of divorce (not existing in the Manifesto's time I believe), forced marriages are probably prohibited in Western countries, a lot of people can't even afford a family. The solution here is to transform/improve family. But the solution is not to transform prostitution.

Cocaine revolution

Below is an e-translation of a piece on cocaine during the early Soviet years. There's a reference to a 1924 work on drugs by Lev Vasilevskij, who btw also wrote a 1925 booklet The Sexual Question: Prostitution and Young Workers.

Cocaine revolution

Fragments from the book of Alexander Sidorov “Music plays on Moldavanka”

The introduction of alchohol prohibition in Russia during the First World War led to the fact that the whole country became addicted to cocaine. Addiction has embraced all walks of life. They managed to overcome it only by making the country drunk.

Alexander Sidorov

It was World War I that made cocaine (along with morphine) a cult drug in Russia. In the empire, a prohibition was introduced during the war, not only vodka, wine and moonshine, but even beer were banned. Under these conditions, the townspeople (especially St. Petersburg and Muscovites) found a substitute for alcohol in the initially available white powder.

The February and then the October Revolutions of 1917 contributed to the spread of the most dirty and disgusting forms of cocainism. In the pre-war era, cocaine was still popular among the bohemians; it was called the “drug for the rich.” The revolutionary upheaval contributed to the democratization of coke. Actually, already during the First World War, due to poor border protection, there was increased smuggling of German cocaine to Russia from the German-occupied areas through the front line - Pskov, Riga, Orsha and from Finland via Kronstadt. And after the February coup, a wave of "marathon" literally swept Peter and Moscow.

"Marafet" white and red

In May 1917, a large gang was arrested, which traded in the cocaine trade. Its leader A. Wolman received goods from Germany through Sweden and sold it in Petrograd and Moscow. Wolman’s people in Petrograd traded cocaine in the shop of house number 10 on Shcherbakov Lane, organized "parties of the Satan sect" in several safe houses. A year later, in the same St. Petersburg, the activity of a similar gang of eight people, headed by a certain Smirnov, was suppressed: the criminals rented several furnished rooms on the corner of Nevsky and Pushkinskaya. During the search, they found cocaine in tablets, as well as jewelry and furs. Cocaine was exchanged for stolen goods.

Finished cocainists were many Baltic sailors - the support of the Bolsheviks. Among the “sniffers” there were often St. Petersburg proletarian workers who were ready for any crime for the “cat” strip (the slang name for cocaine), prostitutes, boys who sold powder at Nikolaevsky Station ... The revolutionary sailors introduced the phrase “Baltic tea” : a solution of cocaine in ethyl alcohol or other strong alcohol. This mixture prolongs and enhances the effect of taking cocaine.

The "fathers-commanders" - the Baltic officers - did not lag behind the "brothers" in vests. In Kronshtadt, they even created a Koke Club, whose members not only used drugs themselves, but also distributed a marafet among colleagues, buying up powder from nurses and doctors (the unflattering glory of the most ardent morphinists and cocainists was assigned to doctors). Fierce fights broke out between officers and sailors over drugs, the pharmacies of Kronstadt and Petrograd were constantly subjected to armed raids by "sniffed" soldiers. Neither the Provisional Government of Kerensky, nor even the Bolsheviks who succeeded him could cope with this monstrous ugliness.

Actually, at first the Bolsheviks did not attach much importance to the fight against cocainism. On the contrary, both “red commanders” and soldiers, exhausted by constant heavy fighting, turned to the “marathon” to raise their fighting spirit. And at the top of the Soviet bureaucracy, “sniffing” was sometimes regarded as exotic fun. So, the brother of the Chekist Moses Uritsky, Boris Kaplun, even created a salon where he invited representatives of bohemia to indulge in confiscated "coke."

However, the white officers also actively resorted to this “fun”. V. Revzin and P. Chernomorsky, authors of a study on the history of cocainism, write: “After October 17, part of the Russian service officers offered their services to the German Reichswehr in the fight against the Bolsheviks in Ukraine. A few months later, the alarm went off in Berlin. German narcologists They claimed that it was these gentlemen who infected parts of the German army in Ukraine and the Baltic countries with cocainism. After these people found themselves in European cities, some of them engaged in the systematic trade in cocaine. The previously unknown word "coke" was whispered at street intersections, in cafes, in dens and train stations. " Thus, German cocaine returned to their homeland ...

Mikhail Bulgakov, who dedicated the White Guard to the period of the German occupation of Ukraine, repeatedly mentioned the destructive drug in his work: "... the faces of white, emaciated, stoned prostitutes shone with the unearthly beauty"; "Heal me, O Lord, forget about the vileness that I wrote in a fit of madness, drunk, under cocaine" ...

The cocainist was General Yakov Aleksandrovich Slashchev - one of the organizers of the defense of Crimea, a prototype of General Khludov from Bulgakov’s “Run”. Revzin and Chernomorsky believe that in the image of Khludov any modern psychiatrist will guess a complete cocaine addict: “Visual and auditory hallucinations, nervousness and deepest depression, seething, but inconclusive activity and fits of rage, all that the reader ascribes only to some“ mental throwings ”of white General, in fact, there are typical signs of severe cocaine psychosis. "


Representatives of the "bottom" were the most active users of cocaine. Illustration of Yuri Annenkov to the poem "Twelve" —— Katka


Is it really just about Slashchev? When the Red Army was tearing into the Crimea, crowds of ragged, dirty people with officer epaulets roamed in the streets of Yalta and Sevastopol in search of the coveted "dose"! They were not up to the battles ...

Cocaine Weekdays

Get cocaine in the first decade of Soviet power was not difficult. The drug was sold in markets, they were traded on the streets and in dens of homeless children and prostitutes ... Representatives of the "bottom" were also the most active consumers of malicious powder.

According to researchers, in new Russia, drug addiction has ceased to be a "capital disease", covering provincial, district cities and even villages. Cocaine was the distribution leader. Doctor L.M. Vasilevsky wrote in a pamphlet Durmans (1924): "In recent years, cocainism in large cities has become formidable, facilitated by the smuggling of poison, especially from Estonia and Latvia." White powder "," marafet "are spreading more and more .. "not only among the scumbags of capitals and especially among prostitutes and their" cats ", but also among Soviet employees, doctors and especially actors."

Moscow and Peter were considered recognized cocaine leaders. One of the most popular places, chosen by the “nosed” in Belokamennaya, was the Sukharevsky underground latrines, where the cocainists were cut into cards and right there, after draining everything, they fled to the “affair”. In Golovin Lane, between Trubnaya and Sretenka, there was a so-called cocaine house, kept by his mother and son Novikovs. Many cocaine dens were on Tsvetnoy Boulevard and Domnikovka. Popular was considered and "Wolf Wolf" in the Flowing Lane. His mistress, a rude one-eyed woman, bought stolen things or exchanged them for powder. The "King of Cocaine" in Moscow was considered one Batinin-Batulin. In January 1925, he was arrested by threat agents and discovered during a search of a small "drug distribution factory" with three workers.

Boris Pilnyak wrote in the story "Ivan Moscow": "In the dens of Tsvetnoy Boulevard, Strastnaya Square, Tversky-Yamsky, Smolensky Market, Serpukhovskaya, Taganka, Sokolnikov, Petrovsky Park - or simply in the dens of secret apartments, in Chinese laundries, in gypsy tea houses - people gathered to drink alcohol, smoke anasha and opium, sniff ether and cocaine, collectively inject themselves morphine and copulate ... Men in the Devil's Mortar or Devil's Dozen societies made membership dues - by women, where the carpets, women should be naked in fault and nasty flowers, and behind morphine, anasha, vodka, cocaine, on the floors, on the boulevards and in the basements - it was the same thing: people splashed human - precious! - energy, brain, health and will - into deadlocks of Russian bitter, anasha and cocaine. "

Peter did not lag behind. Here, also the social base of drug addiction was mostly marginalized: pimps, gunners, petty robbers and minor bandits. The case of Grigory Kutkov, nicknamed "The Commandant of the Plague Trust", thundered especially in 1925. He controlled the street drug trade between Marat Street and Ligovka - in the most criminal district of Leningrad. Dozens of street children, street prostitutes and landlords worked for him. "This type rotated among the nocturnal fairies and distributed the stocks of poison through the transmitters he knew," wrote the journal At the Post. When the Commandant was detained, cocaine and morphine syringes were found with him. The reporter rightly noted: "With a dozen active merchants involved, but this is only a small detachment in the army of" plagued ",which teem our streets in the evenings and nights. "

The heyday of cocainism was NEP. In the Dictionary of Criminal Jargon of that time, this drug had eight synonyms: anthracite, kicker, coke, marafet, chalk, moore, snuff, snuff. Here you can add the already mentioned "cat", "white fairy" and "rabid powder". The reason for this popularity is obvious: cocaine did not require special dens for smoking like opium and hash, or a syringe like morphine. "Coke" was drawn into the nose from a goose feather, palm, nail, piece of paper, etc. True, dealers diluted cocaine with aspirin, chalk, quinine. In Bulgakov’s comedy “Zoykin’s Apartment,” Amethystov asks: “Did you bring cocaine? .. Answer in good conscience: did you add aspirin?” Pure cocaine ("cat") was a rarity.Therefore, many cocainists in the twenties of the last century took doses of 30-40 grams per day without any serious consequences.

A criminologist professor, Michael Gernet, in a 1924 study, found that 82 percent of homeless people surveyed used cocaine. And P. Ziman in his work “On Cocainism in Children” (1926) cited the results of a survey of 150 street children, of which 106 (70.7 percent) had been using cocaine for a long time. Modern researcher Stanislav Panin writes: "Surveys of street children about their condition during the" nosyness "conducted in the 1920s revealed the following picture. Children were insensitive to cold, hunger and other everyday hardships. Having enough cocaine, they could they didn’t eat or sleep for several days and were little sensitive to beatings. “Heat”, “I don’t feel like eating at all,” “they beat you, and it doesn’t hurt you at all, only then, as soon as the snuff passes, your body hurts from beating.” Exiting cocaine intoxication,As a rule, it was associated with sharp headaches, feelings of fatigue, drowsiness, fatigue, and a sharp craving for a new "snuff." And in the absence of the latter, the guys very often experienced psychosis, accompanied by hallucinations. In the end, the use of cocaine by children led to a whole bunch of mental illnesses, physical, mental and moral degeneration of the individual. "

In 1926, British diplomat Robert Hodgson cited an article from a Soviet newspaper that 50 to 80 percent of homeless children sniffed cocaine. Cocaine children earned money by begging, singing in carriages, but mostly by theft, there were killers among them. Homeless children sniffed cocaine before going "to business": he gave them courage.

With regard to personality degeneration, it is best to refer to the testimony of Sir Bertrand Jerram, who at about this time visited the clinic for drug addicts: “Everyone was skilled pocket thieves and representatives of other antisocial professions. Only boys were admitted, the eldest was fourteen years old. Doctors and medical staff they told ... about the disgusting pathological and sexual deviations of individual nine- or ten-year-old street children ... The doctor could only state that most of them were of proletarian origin and that the Russian proletariat was terribly poor. He admitted that there was nothing like it before the revolution. "

In the 1920s, drugs began to penetrate actively among young workers. So, M. Belousova, while investigating the problem of cocainism in 1926, found out that among the "nosed" workers accounted for 10.7 percent. She also reported that the use of cocaine is even common ... among law enforcement officials! The reason is approximately the same as during the World War: in the first half of the 1920s, a ban on the production of vodka, a traditional element of working leisure, was in effect in the Republic of Soviets. Therefore, workers often used the "white fairy" as a "substitute."

Green Serpent vs. Datura

It cannot be said that the leadership of the world's first proletarian state turned a blind eye to the critical drug situation. Since 1919, people began to be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years or more for spreading "dope". True, this corpus delicti disappeared from the Criminal Code of 1922. He appeared only in the Criminal Code of 1924 and entrenched in the Criminal Code of the RSFSR in 1926. However, article 104 of this Criminal Code was softer and provided for up to three years in prison. Drug use was not considered a crime and was not prosecuted.

All these measures, however, did not produce any particular results. Even the decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR of November 6, 1924 "On measures to regulate the trade in narcotic substances," which prohibited the free circulation of opium, cocaine and their derivatives, and the import and production of drugs fell under state control, did not help.

The Soviet government dealt the main blow to drugs ... with vodka! The same vodka, which was previously forbidden to produce, which, as we have already noted, has become one of the reasons for the monstrous increase in drug addiction.

In fact, the Bolshevik government in lifting the ban on vodka was hardly guided by the good goals of the fight against cocaine, morphine, opium, hash, and other nasty things. In any case, certainly these ideas were not in his first place. It just became clear that the state is losing huge amounts of money that go into the pockets of moonshiners.

First, in August 1924, the state "semi-vodka" appeared - "Russian Gorky" with a strength of 20 degrees at the price of one and a half rubles per bottle. In September alone, about 200 thousand bottles of this “life-giving drink” were sold! At the same time, the level of home brewing fell sharply. But soon the interest in the 20-degree parody of vodka among the population cooled, the people again reached out to the moonshiners. Then in December the fortress "Russian Gorky" had to be raised to 30 degrees; in less than a month, people have already bought out half a million bottles!


Encouraged by the success, the party and the government took the next step towards the working people: a state vodka monopoly was introduced in the country, and Russian Gorky finally became 40-degree, as any honest vodka should. The enthusiastic people immediately christened it a “roar” named after the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, who signed a fateful decree of August 28, 1925 on the procedure for the production of vodka and trade in it (there were rumors that Rykov himself was firmly “laying behind the collar” and being treated abroad from binges).

Since that time, the decline in drug use in the USSR begins. Strong drinks became readily available, and access channels to drugs gradually but inevitably closed: borders were strengthened (the iron curtain played a positive role), and sales and use of painkillers in hospitals and pharmacies were tightened.

The joy of Soviet citizens was immeasurable; with such zeal they rushed to quench their thirst, that the number of victims of the “green serpent” jumped sharply in the country. In 1923, there were 1.7 deaths from alcohol per 100 thousand inhabitants of St. Petersburg, in 1925 - 6.4, in 1926 - already 10.9, in 1927 - 18.8, in 1928 already 44! But this is a completely different story.

Directly in the fight against drug addiction, the Soviet government did not fierce. The use of "dope" was perceived as the "legacy of the damned tsarist regime", so the measures were proposed not punitive, but mainly therapeutic. So, at the beginning of 1925 the conference of the Drug Section of the Moscow Health Department resolutely rejected the idea of ​​the NKVD - to create special camps to isolate drug addicts in them. Compulsory treatment was considered acceptable only for "socially dangerous" consumers of "dope". According to S. Panin, "the power initiatives of the 1920s in relation to drug addicts anticipated the most humane attitude to these sick people, which is typical for many Western countries today." For example, in Sverdlovsk until 1929, drug addicts had the opportunity to get drugs without any difficulty in any pharmacy.And in 1929, by order of the City Health Department, drug addicts were assigned to one pharmacy, where drugs were dispensed to them according to prescription drug points.

Institutions for the treatment of drug addicts were operating in the country, and outpatient and inpatient psychiatric care was provided to drug addicts. However, we repeat, it was not these events that did the weather in the fight against terrible social evil. Already by 1929, drug addiction in the USSR had sharply decreased, and by the beginning of the 30s it had almost disappeared precisely as a result of the victorious procession of vodka around the country. The use of “drugs” went into the criminal environment, while the “consumption structure” changed dramatically: cocaine disappeared, it was replaced by lighter cannabis derivatives - anasha and hashish, which flowed from Central Asia in a thin stream.

* Alexander Sidorov’s book “Music plays on Moldavanka” is published by the Proseik publishing house

LOL. But how can you believe

LOL. But how can you believe it all, d-man? It is not the work of a historian.

It sounds maybe journalistic

It sounds maybe journalistic language, but the basic story is plausible. Here's a more serious piece in English:

Abuse of Drugs other than Alcohol and Tobacco in the Soviet Union by Mary Schaeffer Conroy

Soviet Studies, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Jul., 1990), pp. 447-480

..., according to one physician, cocaine became the drug of choice in Russia from 1917. G. D. Aronovich, physician at the Clinic for the Mentally Ill in the Military Medical Academy, Petrograd, stated that cocaine use became particularly strong after the October Revolution, in the autumn of 1917. Aronovich, writing in 1920, viewed the spread of cocaine in Russia during World War I as a European phenomenon. He particularly emphasised the prevalence of cocaine in Montmartre. The British medical journal, The Lancet, seconded this view in a  1924 article.

What was the source of the drugs circulating in Russia - especially considering the so-called 'drug famine', which had occurred there during the war? According to Aronovich, in 1920, and Soviet analysts publishing in 1924 and 1925, the cocaine originally came from Germany; contraband German cocaine was imported into Russia through Pskov and from newly independent Finland, through Kronstadt. The 1924 account in The Lancet likewise pointed to Germany as the origin of most of the cocaine in Britain and on the continent, noting that 'as most of our cocaine is prepared in German laboratories, this supply should be controlled at the source'.


Adult cocaine addicts in early Soviet Russia included widely varied groups. After the war, as before it, cocaine was prevalent in intellectual and artistic circles and among prostitutes. Down and out small traders and others who had fallen on hard times also turned to cocaine. But, in addition, according to Aronovich in 1920, 'Red Army soldiers, sailors... militia men... numbed themselves with cocaine'. Dr. M. P. Kutanin, writing in 1921, included pilots among the cocaine users he observed. Many users in Russia were children and teenagers. Aronovich, for example, cited a 17- or 18-year-old girl prostitute, who begged him for bread and then spent the money on cocaine.


Undoubtedly, another reason for the increase of drug addiction, although not addressed in Soviet medical literature, was dissolution of government control over pharmacies such as had existed in Russia before World War I. In the aftermath of the October Revolution clashes occurred between pharmacy employees and pharmacy managers or owners. In the autumn of 1917 the Menshevik-dominated Union of Pharmacy Employees advocated municipalisation of pharmacies.' This occurred in a number of cities during the winter and spring of 1918.

Bolshevik authorities began to nationalise pharmacies in the summer of 1918,109 although Sovnarkom did not publish a  decree on nationalisation of pharmacies until 25 December, 1918. Many pharmacies were closed. For example, in Penza, pharmacies outside hospitals in rural areas and in cities with a population of less than 5000 were closed. Their property sequestered, many pharmacists who had owned or managed pharmacies left the country or went into other occupations. The number of pharmacies drastically declined. ...  Vestnikfarmatsii in 1924 admitted that the municipalisation of pharmacies in Petrograd-'some pharmacies were closed' -had been a mistake.' But the chaos following municipalisation and nationalisation not only resulted in fewer pharmacies; it also meant cessation of the former governmental controls over drug dispensation. Many drugs now were plied on the streets.

Btw, on Kerensky:

Bolshevik propaganda spread rumors that Kerensky was addicted to cocaine and morphine, dressed in women's clothing, embezzled from state coffers—a smear campaign that would come to seem plausible (and that took in the British War Office).

Kotkin 2014, p. 195

Various drug use (including cocaine) today among students, young people, and on the left (anarchists and Social Democrats), is common knowledge.

Inappropriate post by d-man

The post of d-man on the cocaine revolution, quoting large fragments from the novel of Alexander Sidorov  “Music plays on Moldavanka”, is completely inappropriate and mainly for the following reasons:
-     First of all because it does not express a real effort to clarify the subject in discussion and therefore does not contribute to a more profound understanding of it. It is not based on achievements worked out and elaborated by any current of the workers’ movement. It is no more than a chapter of a novel, written by someone whose findings cannot be verified, and even without any comment. Tagore2 rightly poses the question: “how can you believe it all, d-man? It is not the work of a historian.”
-     In the second place it is much too long for a post on a forum. A post cannot alwaysbe short, if it intends to clarify something and to develop a certain argumentation. But it must not fall in the opposite, and publish a whole article or a whole chapter of a book. It is not an appropriate means to encourage a debate, which is supposed to exchange positions and arguments.
-     In the third place it does not really deal with the subject under discussion: anarchism, prostitution and morality. The only relation with the subject is the questions of morality. But even this is not clear as the comrade did not explain why he posted this long quote and what this has to do with the subject.
-     But the most disturbing aspect of the post is the fact that it contains sentences that tarnish the reputation and the honour of the revolutionary Bolsheviks. In particular in the phrases that actually refer to the period of the revolution in Russia and immediately thereafter: “both “red commanders” and soldiers, (...) turned to the “marathon” to raise their fighting spirit.” (...) “And at the top of the Soviet bureaucracy, “sniffing” was sometimes regarded as exotic fun.” These phrases at least give an  impression of the Russian revolution similar to that disseminated by Orlando Figes in The People’ Tragedy: more of an outburst of moral turpitude, instincts of revenge, drunkenness and intoxication, than any kind of hope for the future of humanity. We know that the Bolsheviks succumbed to all kinds of corruption as they became a state party, but we would expect some kind of analysis of the process whereby this took place.
After I have put the text on the forum, looked to the “preview”, and pressed on “save”, I get the following message: “Your comment has been queued for review by site administrators and will be published after approval.” What does that mean and what do I have to do?


Kamerling wrote:

Kamerling wrote:

The post of d-man on the cocaine revolution, quoting large fragments from the novel of Alexander Sidorov  “Music plays on Moldavanka”, is completely inappropriate and mainly for the following reasons:

Sidorov's work is not a novel. The fragment counts 2,300 words (similar in size to a newspaper article), which I admit is long for a forum post, but I thought the discussion already ended, so I just posted for reference (the option to "hide" content does not exist here, otherwise I'd used it).

Kamerling wrote:

-     First of all because it does not express a real effort to clarify the subject in discussion and therefore does not contribute to a more profound understanding of it. It is not based on achievements worked out and elaborated by any current of the workers’ movement. It is no more than a chapter of a novel, written by someone whose findings cannot be verified, and even without any comment. Tagore2 rightly poses the question: “how can you believe it all, d-man? It is not the work of a historian.”

Again, it's not a novel, and though it's popularly written it does reference sources. I addressed Tagore2's question, by quoting a historian (Mary Conroy) which backs up the general context of Sidorov. Our subject of discussion is prostitution, drug use and the relation to discipline in a revolution.

-     In the third place it does not really deal with the subject under discussion: anarchism, prostitution and morality. The only relation with the subject is the questions of morality. But even this is not clear as the comrade did not explain why he posted this long quote and what this has to do with the subject.

Tagore2 is the one who tried to accuse me of morality, but I explained for me it's not about morality. The issue of drug use (whether alcohol or cocaine) relates to the subjects of prostitution and discipline in a revolution. My interest is not in Makhno/"anarchism" in itself, nor is my intent to badmouth it. I just give a realistic picture.

-     But the most disturbing aspect of the post is the fact that it contains sentences that tarnish the reputation and the honour of the revolutionary Bolsheviks. In particular in the phrases that actually refer to the period of the revolution in Russia and immediately thereafter: “both “red commanders” and soldiers, (...) turned to the “marathon” to raise their fighting spirit.” (...) “And at the top of the Soviet bureaucracy, “sniffing” was sometimes regarded as exotic fun.” These phrases at least give an  impression of the Russian revolution similar to that disseminated by Orlando Figes in The People’ Tragedy: more of an outburst of moral turpitude, instincts of revenge, drunkenness and intoxication, than any kind of hope for the future of humanity. We know that the Bolsheviks succumbed to all kinds of corruption as they became a state party, but we would expect some kind of analysis of the process whereby this took place.

Sidorov's book fragment does not seriously tarnish the reputation of revolutionary Bolsheviks. I quoted Mary Conroy (who refers to an Aronovich in 1920) saying the same thing. Perhaps I should refer to the discussion on Libcom (here), to remind that Lenin himself in August 1918 was calling for punishment of drunken soldiers, so it was a real problem.

To take your concern about direction of the discussion, it's up to others, like yourself, to contribute. I merely provide information, like eg how the Makhnovist leadership tried to deal with drunkeness and debauchery (in one case evidently Makhno indiscrimenatly shot persons death on the spot). It's not edifying., but revolution has to deal with it.

Here's a well-known quote from Lenin:

it is not difficult to see that during every transition from capitalism to socialism, dictatorship is necessary for two main reasons, or along two main channels. Firstly ... ruthless suppression of the resistance of the exploiters ...; secondly, every great revolution, and a socialist revolution in particular, even if there is no external war, is inconceivable without internal war, i.e., civil war, which is even more devastating than external war, and involves thousands and millions of cases of wavering and desertion from one side to another, implies a state of extreme indefiniteness, lack of equilibirium and chaos. And of course, all the elements of disintegration of the old society, which are inevitably very numerous and connected mainly with the petty bourgeoisie (because it is the petty bourgeoisie that every war and every crisis ruins and destroys first), are bound to “reveal themselves” during such a profound revolution. And these elements of disintegration cannot “reveal themselves” otherwise than in an increase of crime, hooliganism, corruption, profiteering and outrages of every kind. To put these down requires time and requires an iron hand.

There has not been a single great revolution in history in which the people did not instinctively realise this and did not show salutary firmness by shooting thieves on the spot. The misfortune of previous revolutions was that the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people, which sustained them in their state of tension and gave them the strength to suppress ruthlessly the elements of disintegration, did not last long. The social, i.e., the class, reason for this instability of the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people was the weakness of the proletariat, which alone is able (if it is sufficiently numerous, class-conscious and disciplined) to win over to its side the majority of the working and exploited people (the majority of the poor, to speak more simply and popularly) and retain power sufficiently long to suppress completely all the exploiters as well as all the elements of disintegration.




I see the tale of Lenin's

I see the tale of Lenin's order (of 9 August 1918) to supposedly massacre prostitutes is still being widely circulated on twitter, more than 4 years after the Libcom-admin originally posted that story (here). They still haven't changed their title, despite the information that was given on the thread. As that thread was a bit long, I will just repeat the basic point, namely that the meaning of Lenin's order can be seen from what the local Bolsheviks (who were no fools) actually did in response to it, as found in the Report on the activities of Nizhny Novgorod Province Extraordinary Commission (dated 31 August 1918, published in the first issue 22 September 1918 of the Cheka's weekly paper).

There is even no mention of prostitutes (or actions taken against them). Rather we see that former officers were a target (as Lenin ordered). We further see that drunken people (entirely outside of any relation to prostitutes) were a target (as again is clear from the intention of Lenin's order). I want to quote again what punishment actually was meted out for drunk people:

Cheka report wrote:
Over 15 days, 60 people were detained for drunkenness, of which about half were - Soviet employees, such as commissars, etc. (especially from the provinces). These people were imprisoned from 2 days to 2 months and were brought to forced labor, such as cleaning the prison yard, stables and unloading goods. In order to fight this evil more successfully, the commission decided to publish the names of the detainees for drunkenness in the press and inform the committees.

In 15 days 60 drunk people arrested (in a time of threatening advance of White forces), about 30 of whom were soviet employees (such as commissars, not clear if even soldiers), so clearly the focus was on shoring up discipline in one's own forces.

I don't know if neglect of a soviet employee (due to drunkenness) in times of counter-revolutionary attack is as dangerous a problem as, for example, driving under influence. In the US the punishment meted out seems more severe than what the Bolsheviks did: "In all states, first-offense DUI or DWI is classified as a misdemeanor, and punishable by up to six months in jail. That jail time may be increased under certain circumstances." Again, I don't want to play down the danger of drunken driving, but disorder among the ranks near the front line during a Civil War seems to me a greater danger, and yet the Cheka's punishment was lighter (maximum sentence was 2 months jail).

Thus, the real meaning of Lenin's order has nothing to do with a massacre of prostitutes.