Vsevolod Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum
August 11, 1882
|Died||September 18, 1945 (aged 63)|
|Other names||Voline ()|
(m. 1913; d. 1915)
(m. 1915; d. 1939)
Vsevolod Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum (Russian: ?, French: Vsevolod Mikhaïlovitch Eichenbaum; 11 August 1882 – 18 September 1945), known later as Volin or (the spelling he used) Voline (), was a Russian anarchist who participated in the Russian and Ukrainian Revolutions before being forced into exile by the Bolshevik Party. He was a proponent of the anarchist organizational form known as synthesis anarchism.
He was born in the Voronezh district of Central Russia, to a well educated Jewish family where both his parents were doctors. His parents offered him the opportunity to study in the best schools, where he learned French and German. After high school, he initially studied at a college in Voronezh, later enrolling in the Saint Petersburg State University Faculty of Law to study jurisprudence.
In 1904 he left the university, joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party and became involved in the revolutionary labor movement. He was engaged in cultural and educational activity among the workers of the city when he met Father Gapon and joined his petition movement; on Bloody Sunday (1905) he was with a group that was turned back by soldiers before it could reach the Winter Palace. During the ensuing strikes he took the lead in creating the first St. Petersburg Soviet in order to coordinate aid and information for the workers; although quiescent much of the year and finally suppressed in December after the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Soviet was revived during the February Revolution of 1917.
He was arrested, imprisoned and deported because of his revolutionary activities after the 1905 Revolution. In 1907 he escaped from prison and fled to France. He settled in Paris where he completed his studies, came under the influence of Russian anarchists and joined the movement, a small group of Apollon Karelin, in 1911. Volin's views eventually gravitated towards anarcho-syndicalism, and he decided to leave the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in 1913. During the first months of the First World War he participated in the International Commission for the Anti-militarist Section, for which he was detained by the French authorities in 1915. At this point he was married and had four children. He remained in a concentration camp from where he was to be deported, but he escaped with the help of some French comrades and embarked from Bordeaux to the United States.
In America, Volin joined the Union of Russian Workers, which had more than 10,000 members. In the union he was very well received, he was placed in charge of editing its paper, Golos Truda (Voice of the Labor), and he was regularly required to attend conferences throughout North America, since it lacked speakers and propagandists. He was a great orator, as the Russian press had pointed out during the events of 1905. His easy speech, the persuasive tone of his voice, the elegance of his imaginative and colorful language, the vigor and the elevation of his thought, attracted the adherence of the masses, who gathered to listen to him.
But in 1917 he abandoned his work in America to return to Petrograd, in the midst of the Russian Revolution. Back in Russia, he verified the weakness of the anarchist movement, due to the little consideration that anarchists in Russia paid to the organization in North America. He tried to solve the disunity of anarchists living in Russia and anarchists who went into exile in the times of the Tsar, but forming the Petrograd Union of Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda. This decided to continue the publication of the Golos Truda, of which Volin continued as editor. After the October revolution, the newspaper was made daily and a Bolshevik-oriented editorial committee was added to it. This committee was not to the liking of Volin, who left the newspaper after the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty.
He left for Bobrov, where he worked in the city Soviet and was reunited with his wife and four children, back from France. He was in charge of popular education, with the task of bringing the population to an understanding of revolutionary events. Shortly thereafter, he joined the organizers of the Kursk Conference, which commissioned him to draft adopted resolutions and prepare a statement that could be accepted by all the trends and nuances of anarchism - allowing everyone to work in a single organization. Thus, Volin formulated his idea of Synthesis anarchism, which included syndicalism, communism and individualism, since he considered these to be the three main aspects of anarchism.
In 1919, Volin decided to join the Makhnovist movement, in the culture and education sector, to organize meetings, conferences, talks, popular councils, as well as the publication of flyers and posters. That same year, Volin was elected president of the Insurgent Council, where he worked intensively for six months. His work was interrupted when he fell ill with tuberculosis. Due to his immobility, he was easily arrested on January 14, 1920 and transferred to Moscow at the hands of the Cheka. He was released in October 1920, on the occasion of the alliance signed between the Black Army and the Red Army to fight Pyotr Wrangel's forces.
He moved to Kharkiv, where, with the Nabat Confederation, he prepared an anarchist Congress for December 25. On the eve of the congress, the Bolsheviks arrested Volin and the anarchists in attendance, for their membership in libertarian groups. Volin and the other prisoners were transferred to Moscow.
From then on he was incarcerated in Butyrka prison In prison, everyone knew about the Cheka's brutality, against which they protested with a hunger strike that lasted for ten and a half days, and ended thanks to an unexpected intervention: convinced by Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and Alexander Schapiro, the European delegates to a Profintern Congress obtained the release of ten prisoners, including Volin, on condition of perpetual banishment under threat of death.
Admitted to Germany despite lack of proper documents, he and his family lived in Berlin, where he wrote (in German) an 80-page pamphlet called The Persecution of the Anarchists in Soviet Russia, translated Peter Arshinov's History of the Makhnovist Movement, and wrote a biographical preface for it. He founded a magazine with Arshinov called The Anarchist Herald. Along with other Russian exiles, they formed committees to help their comrades imprisoned by the Bolshevik regime. After two years, Sébastien Faure invited Volin to help prepare the Encyclopédie Anarchiste, so he moved to Paris, where he wrote for the Encyclopédie and other publications.
Volin participated in the publication of Dielo Truda (Causa Obrera), as part of the "Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad". However, following the publication of the controversial Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists in 1926, Volin broke with Nestor Makhno and Peter Arshinov. The bitter dispute marked a deep divide within the Russian anarchist movement in exile. In 1927 Volin founded the Association des Fédéralistes Anarchistes, a synthesist organization, and after several rearrangements of the French anarchist organizations, in 1934 he joined the editorial staff of Terre Libre. From there he published criticism of the CNT's collaboration with the Popular Front and participation in the government of the Second Spanish Republic.
The death of his wife affected him severely and the Nazi invasion of France forced him to move from one hiding place to another. He returned to Paris after the war, but developed incurable tuberculosis and died in a hospital in September 1945, leaving his account of his experiences in the revolutions and civil war, La Révolution inconnue (The Unknown Revolution), to be published posthumously.
The entry for October 29, 1945, in Victor Serge's Notebooks: 1936-1947 includes both a summary of his life and an appreciation: "He was one of the most remarkable figures of Russian anarchism, a man of absolute probity and exceptional rigor of thought.... One must hope that the future will render justice to this intrepidly idealistic revolutionary who was always, in prison, in the poverty of exile, as on the battlefield and in editorial offices, a man of real moral grandeur."
Volin was a prolific writer and anarchist intellectual who played an important part in the organization and leadership of Nabat. The Nabat Confederation of Anarchist Organizations, better known as Nabat (), was an anarchist organization that came to prominence in Ukraine from 1918 to 1920. It held the most influence in the Free Territory, though Nabat had branches in all major cities in southern Ukraine.
Volin was charged with writing a platform for Nabat that could be agreeable to all the major branches of anarchism, most importantly anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-collectivism/communism and anarcho-individualism. The uniform platform for Nabat was never truly decided upon, but Volin used what he had written and the inspiration from Nabat to create his Anarchist Synthesis. The proposed platform for Nabat included the following sentence which anticipated synthesis anarchism: "These three elements (syndicalism, communism and individualism) are three aspects of a single process, the building, of the organization of the working class (syndicalism), of the anarcho-communist society which is nothing more than the material base necessary for the complete fullness of the free individual."
Two texts made as responses to the Platform, each proposing a different organizational model, became the basis for what is known as the organisation of synthesis, or simply "synthesism". Volin published a paper in 1924 calling for "anarchist synthesis" and was also the author of the article in Sébastien Faure's Encyclopedie Anarchiste on the topic. The main purpose behind it was that the anarchist movement in most countries was divided into three main tendencies: communist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, and individualist anarchism, and such an organization could contain anarchists of these 3 tendencies very well.