How Ukraine state celebrates Makhno's birthday

"Makhno is our Tsar, Makhno is our God."

A few nasty remarks in respect of the celebration of the 110th anniversary of Nesto Makhno's birth On December 9-10, 1998, the State University of the city of Zaporozhye together with the local authorities organized a celebration in honour of the anarchist revolutionary Nestor Makhno in his birthplace Gulyai-Polye. It consisted of a scientific conference organised by the University and a "people's party" organised by the local authorities.

Comrades of "Dikoe Pole", anarchist publishers at Zaporozhye, had invited us to contribute a paper. We sent one by fax, but owing to the sloppy way the comrades in Zaporozhye handled the matter, it was not included in the conference bundle. Owing to the same sloppiness we arrived a day late at Zaporozhye, from where the participants and guests were taken to Gulyai-Polye, and so, missed the conference. It seems we missed nothing important, however.

We arrived in the evening of the first day and found the participants in a fine restaurant, anarchists (from Russia and Ukraine) and "scholars" duly separated. Among the anarchists our RKAS comrades from Dnepropetrovsk.

The anarchists were also in two groups: on the one hand the "hard core" anarchosyndicalists of the RKAS with their friends, on the other the "chaotic" radical ecologists who, for incomprehensible reasons, called themselves "anarchogreens". On the whole the two groups got reasonably well on with each other.

After the long supper followed a long ceremony of allocation of rooms in the hotel. When that was over I suggested that we of the RKAS sit together with the "greens" for a tea in order to learn to know each other and to exchange views. All agreed and the ecologists too.

Later the RKAS delegation sat together separately for an extraordinary expanded plenum of the Bureau of the organisation (founded in 1994) and adopted at last its Programme: a well used end of a hard day.

On the next morning awaited us the "people's party" organized by the local authorities. In excited expectation we went to bed in order to be fresh and awake for that great event.

A great day...

In the morning we took our flags and went to the square in front of the Palace of Culture in the centre of the city. When we arrived the square was already full of people, music played: the "people's party" was on. Loudspeakers made it impossible not to hear the results of concentrated efforts of members of the local guild of poetry makers to paraphrase the word of the day: "Makhno is our Tsar, Makhno is our God". On the flagpost before the square flew the yellow-and-blue of the State.

Our bewilderment became indignation when cossacks from Zaporozhye appeared with their banners duly decorated with christian symbols. Their high command - the atamans - arrived in ostentatious foreign cars. The square became the square of the war mob and the war mob together with the local authorities the centre of the "people's party".

Against this background the arrival of a delegation of local teachers and schoolchildren carrying yellow-and-blue flags looked almost pastoral.

Ten of us anarchists sat together on our own with our anarchist flags. People came to see us and some voiced their agreement: "Well done! Makhno flags: well done!". Some wanted to know what anarchism was about and took literature. A few young cossacks came too: "What are you doing here?". A good question, to which we answered: "And what are you doing here?". Discussion and they went.

What a day: those selfsatisfied faces, those golden shoulder straps, those Petlyura and Gaidamac uniforms, those flags of the enemies of Nestor Makhno! All that had cost the lives of so many in the Makhno movement had surfaced again to smear, foul and debase the memory of Makhno-the-anarchist. Whereas we, a miserable total of ten anarchists, were sitting on the side, too weak and too few to take over the platform and the microphones and denounce those unbridled lies and proclaim Makhno's historical truth and anarchist ideals.

After all the representatives of the local authorites and of the cossacks had cheerfully spelled out Nestor Makhno's merits as fighter for the independence of the State of Ukraine with not a single word about his role as anarchist and revolutionary, the cossacks in formation and the civilians in groups and on their own went to the regional museum for the opening ceremony of an exhibition.

It was a very good exhibition and the introduction by a staff member of the museum was excellent but too little time was left for us to look at all of it. We had quickly ourselves photographed against the background of one of those famous tachanka's of Makhno's army and off we were to the station.

What a disgrace: a day that should have been an A day turned into a State day.

Sergey Shevchenko, FAD-RKAS "Nestor Makhno", Donetsk.