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retiredaccount wrote

Being an effective military leader requires one to kill without hesitation or conscience, as well as handing out corporal punishment to ones own soldiers.

Not at all. Nestor Makhno was able to lead; the only direct punishment he ever granted was to the worst of scum, those who hurt civilians and lead pogroms but for the mostpart the army was run with only minimal discipline and maximum horizontal organization, with Makhno's role being only the strategy being implemented on a large scale, with everything else being on a smaller scale lead by many, many officers and their own divisions and brigades and such, all effective themselves. Being an effective commander doesn't require any of that except the will to kill without hesitation; and I am willing to say there is no need to hesitate. Makhno, who's writings I have read many times, had both strong morals and a conscience that held him hard. He found no reason not to kill the foreign imperialists of the Germans, the racist forces of Deniikin, or the Free Cossacks known for themselves implementing pogroms routinely. And I can't imagine a reason not to either, my own conscience and morals tell me they are just as scum as they sound.


autonomous_hippopotamus wrote

None of those things -- assuming Makhno was a great as you seem to think he was -- disprove my point. Makhno indeed strongly discouraged antisemitism in his ranks, while there was rampant anti-semitism in among ukranians and other people's in the region, the anarchists were militantly opposed to this. Makhno was no Saint, but as far as guerilla leaders go was no tyrant either, But my point is, what separates him (and other military leaders) from regular people is a certain ruthlessness, a moral certainty that allows one to kill or assault without hesitation or regret, that most people simply do not have.

I think it's best not to romanticize Makno or war in general, the idea you can engage in armed conflict without also comitting some act of brutality in the process seems incredibly naive to me. When military leaders talk about morals, they have a very different morality than what most people have, any u.s. general or jihadist will explain their acts in extremely moral terms why their actions are absolutely right: they position themselves as a kind of super-moral agent. Anarchists are often no different than any fanatic in this regard, if you believe your violence will bring about the liberation of all humanity you can rationalize some pretty monstrous things.

Just saying everyone that Makhno killed are scum and deserved to die is really a cop-out, a move to avoid the ethical question here. This is common to all military logic: the dehumanization of the enemy. If you look at the armies makno faught -- either Russians; red or white, or the forieng fighters from Germany or elsewhere, a large percent if not majority of them were conscripts: it was not their choice to be there, a conscript fights against their will. You can't just say they were scum who deserved to die. As individuals they may have been descent people. Hell, many of the red army that drove were working class revolutionaries maybe anarchists at one point.

Makhno's older comrades in the early 1900s engaged in a campaign of terrorist bombings hroughout Russia: bombing private residencies and bourgous cafes. I'm sure you're not defending that, as it was not only morally dubious but strategically a disaster for the movement. If you were to defend that you would also have to defend bombing gentrifying businesses today. But many anarchists have defended that, then and now, it is end result of a kind of absolutist moralizing where you deny the humanity of whole groups of people.