Friday 30 December 2016

Anarchist Battle Honours 1903 - 2015

ANARCHIST BATTLE HONOURS (a work in progress)

By Michael Schmidt

1903, 19 August: Battle of Czarevo, Thrace. A small force of the Leading Combat Body of the Macedonian Clandestine Revolutionary Committee (MTPK), some 2,000-strong under the anarchist Mikhail Gerdzhikov, armed with antique rifles defeated a Turkish garrison of 10,000 well-armed troops, established a revolutionary liberated zone in the Strandzha Mountains of Thrace, centred on the Czarevo Commune (today Vassiliko), and though it was suppressed after 20 days, precipitated the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

1906, 1 – 3 June: Battles of Cananea and Veracruz, Mexico. The Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) anarchist Práxedis Guerrero commanded the operation. Some 93 copper mills across the two states went on strike, company buildings were burned, the hated rurales, the rural police, were put to flight and the prisons were opened. The strikers were defeated by Mexican troops, supplemented by 275 Arizona Rangers and a private army sent by the American capitalist Rockefeller.

1910, 30 December: Battle of Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico. A mere 32 well-armed Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) cavalrymen under the anarchist Práxedis Guerrero took the town. Although they were soon defeated by a force of 600 Federal Army troops and Guerrero was killed, this event sparked the Mexican Revolution and was followed by PLM victories in Mexicali, Guadalupe and Tijuana.

1914, mid-July: Battle of the Federal District, Mexico. Anarchist and other guerrillas of the Zapatista Liberation Army of the South (ELS) – which peaked at 27,000 guerrillas – linked to the Industrial Union of North and South America (UIANS), moved out from their base in Morelos and drove the forces of General Victoriano Huerta’s US-backed military dictatorship to the gates of the capital. Huerta resigned and went into exile.

1918 – 1919, January – January: Liberation of Eastern Ukraine. The armoured train of the Free Combat Druzhina – the term referring to a band of warrior equals – under independent anarchist Black Guard commander Maria Grigorevna “Marusya” Nikiforova, installed revolutionary Soviets consisting of anarchists, Bolsheviks and Left Social Revolutionaries in the cities of Kharkov, Aleksandrovsk and Yekaterinoslav. Their actions installs a social revolution in the eastern Ukraine and lays the groundwork for the rise of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU).

1918, October 5: Battle of Dibriviki, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) defeats the Austro-Hungarian Army.

1919, March 15: Liberation of Berdyansk, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine forces (RPAU) capture the port city of 47,000 residents from Deniken’s White Army. 

1919, March 29: Liberation of Mariupol, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces capture the port city of 45,000 residents from Deniken’s White Army. 

1919, April 29: Battle of Vámospércs, Hungary. The anarchist-communist Leo Rothziegel leads his 400-strong Red Guard and 800 armed workers into Hungary to support the revolution there. But Hungarian Communist Party (MPK) leader Béla Kun sent them to fight the French and Romanian forces and at the Battle of Vámospércs, Rothziegel was killed.

1919, September 26: Battle of Peregonovka, Ukraine. Some 8,000 infantry and cavalry lead by Nestor Makhno’s 500-strong Black Squadron of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) – then totalling 110,000 guerrillas organised in four corps – routed the White Army expeditionary corps under General Anton Denikin, including the 1st Simferopol Officer’s Regiment (cavalry) under Major-General Gvosdakov, the Labinsk Officer’s Regiment, and the Litovsk Regiment and including canon and machine-gun detachments, resulting in the collapse of the White’s western front and the saving of revolutionary Moscow from White reaction.

1919, October 5: Liberation of Aleksandrovsk, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces capture the city of 52,000 residents from Wrangel’s White Army. 

1919, October 28: Liberation of Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine. Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces defeat Symon Petluria’s Ukrainian nationalist army and liberate the city of 220,000 residents.

1920, November 9: Battle of the Perekop Isthmus, Crimea. Red Army and Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU) forces lead by Nestor Makno’s Black Squadron breached the “impenetrable” Isthmus, defended by 750 machine-guns, 180 cannon, 48 tanks, several armoured trains and several thousand elite White troops, driving back the Kuban Cossacks under General Fostikof and digging in, allowing the Red Army to capture the Crimea. The rout lead to the total evacuation of all of General Pavel Wrangel’s 100,000-strong White Army from the Crimea and the final collapse of White reaction in Russia.

1920, 14 March – 5 April, Rühr Uprising, Germany. The 50,000-strong Rühr Red Army (RRA) – which includes communists, left communists and elements of the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers Union of Germany (FAUD) – responds to the right-wing Kapp Putsch of 13 March by defeating the proto-fascist Freikorps, especially in the key Battle of Essen on 19 March, and taking over the cities of the industrial Rühr. After the defeat of the putsch, the Uprising and its councils was brutally suppressed by the Reichswehr – and even elements of the Freikorps who had supported the putsch. 

1920, 21 – 28 October: Battle of Ch'uongsan-ri, Manchuria. Some 3,000 troops – including anarchists – of the Korean Independence Army (KIA) under the command of the anarchist-sympathetic general Kim Jwa-Jin, of the Shinmin Autonomous Prefecture, destroyed the 28th Brigade of the 19th Division and a reserve detachment of the 50,000-strong Japanese Imperial Army in Manchuria, a stunning blow for the liberation movements that opened up the field to anarchist organising in the region, latter enabling the establishment of an anarchist liberated zone in north-east Manchuria, under the Korean People’s Association in Manchuria between 1929 and 1931.

1921, January: Battle of Julianikh, Siberia, Russia. Between 5,000 and 10,000 guerrillas of the Anarchist Federation of the Altai (AФA) under I.P. Novoselov engaged the forces of the Red Army, but were defeated.

1921, 7  17 March: Kronstadt Uprising, Russia. Calling for a "third revolution" against Bolshevik tyranny, anarchists, Left Social Revolutionaries, Maximalists and dissident Bolsheviks comprising the 10,000-strong Kronstadt Soviet at this vital naval base guarding the approaches to St Petersburg. Selected elements of the Red Army, primed with counter-revolutionary propaganda, assaulted the fortress and summarily executed many of the revolutionaries who were unable to escape.

1923, March 26: Battle of Yambol, Bulgaria. During the fascist seizure of power, a small force of anarchist guerrillas of the Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation (FAKB) fought a bitter battle for two hours against Yambol city’s two regiments of troops, only to be crushed by an artillery regiment from a neighbouring town.

1929    1931, 21 July  July: Defence of the Back Dragon Commune, north-eastern Manchuria. The forces of the Korean Anarchist Federation (KAF), Korean Anarchist Communist Federation (KACF) and the Northern Army of the Korean Independence Army under Kim Jwa-Jin combine into a "Black Dragon Army" that defends the free zone   comprised an area of some 350,000km², about three times the size of the free zone controlled between 1918 and 1921 by the Makhnovshchina in Ukraine  against communist, nationalist and Japanese imperialist forces.

1929-1933, Berlin and Upper Silesia, Germany. The Free Workers Union of Germany (FAUD) forms its own paramilitary organisation, Black Ranks (Schwarze Scharen), several hundred strong, to defend its premises, members and marches from attack by the Nazis. 

1936, July 19: Battles of Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. Right-wing military coup d’etat defeated in the streets by ad-hoc anarchist guerrilla forces led by the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) and the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI).

1936, November 15: Battle of Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain. A section of the Durruti Column numbering 1,400 under Buenaventura Durruti, dispatched to the defence of Madrid, leaving 4,600 on the Zaragoza front, defeats Lt.Col. Delgado Serrano’s No.3 Column of the rebel forces, comprising Moroccan troops of the 1st and 3rd Tabors of Regulars of Alhucenas, plus the IV Bandera of the Spanish Foreign Legion (known as “Cristo de Lepanto”), and a 105mm artillery battery, in a battle at the Asylum of Santa Cristina. Their victory helps prevent Army of Africa rebel forces from taking the capital, and secures it for the Revolution.

1937, March 8 – 23: Battle of Guadalajara, Spain. A 20,000-strong force of the People’s Republican Army (including anarchist Cipriano Mera’s 14th Division and the International Brigades’ Garibaldi Battalion) with 40 artillery pieces, 75 armoured vehicles and 80 aircraft defeats Francisco Franco’s 15,000-strong nationalist Army of Africa rebels and their 35,000-strong Italian Fascist Corps of Volunteer Troops (CVT) allies with 270 artillery pieces, 140 armoured vehicles and 62 aircraft, preventing the encirclement of Madrid.

1938 – 1945: Resistance to Japanese Imperialism, Korea: The anarchist Korean Youth Wartime Operations Unit, who had been fighting the Japanese since 1938, was incorporated into the newly founded Korean Liberation Army as its 5th Detachment (later, its 2nd Detachment) in 1941.

1939, February: Battle of Puigcerdá, Spain. A tiny force of 150 anarchist CNT/FAI guerrillas valiantly acted as a last-ditch rearguard and defended more than 400,000 defeated Republicans – civilians and guerrillas – fleeing Spain, in a last-ditch suicide stand against the advancing Francoist forces. All were killed, making Puigcerdá the anarchist Thermopylae. 

1939, March 7 – 12, Counter-coup of Madrid, Spain. Cipriano Mera’s IV Army Corps defeated Spanish Communist Party forces of the 1st Corps of the Army of the Centre that were planning a coup, supporting a National Defence Council that consisted of anarchists, socialists and left republicans. Recognising the war was lost, the aim of the National Defence Council was to negotiate a surrender and prevent a defence of Madrid that would cause needless loss of life.

1941 – 1945: Resistance to the Nazis and Soviets, Central & Eastern Europe. Anarchist cells existed within the Red Army such as a group called the Kronstadt Accords in the Red Army in eastern Germany and Austria, which is said to have included Kronstadt and RPAU veterans. Elsewhere, anarchist partisan groups struggled against both the Axis and the Soviets from 1941 onwards. The nationalist Ukrainian National Army mentioned frequent encounters with Ukrainian anarchist partisans in 1944 to 1945. These seem to have included RPAU veterans as well as youth: an anarchist youth organisation called Alarm (Nabat) was formed in Ukraine, organised an armed uprising in 1943, and held a vital bridgehead, earning it the praise of the Red Army, although after the war its founder, V.I. Us, was jailed for twenty years by the Soviet authorities, the sentence later being reduced. 

1943, 19 April – 16 May: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Poland. Anarchist partisans of the underground Polish Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) and the Syndicalist Brigade of the Syndicalist Organisation “Freedom” (SOW) participate in the doomed Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, crushed by the Nazis while nearby Soviet forces sat immobile. Only a handful survive, some anarchist guerrillas becoming recognised by the Jews as “Righteous Among Nations” for their sacrifice.

1943 – 1945: Resistance to the Nazis and Fascists, northern Italy. By the end of 1943, there were some 9,000 armed partisans fighting against the Nazis and Fascists in the north, most of them Italian Communist Party and Action Party members, but including anarchists from historic strongholds like Carrara. By the spring of 1944, partisan forces had soared to between 20,000 and 30,000, and by summer to 82,000, with the total rising to about 100,000 by the end of the war – up to 60,000 were killed, wounded or captured. Still, in 1944, the long-supressed anarchist movement had revived to the extent that the Upper Italy Libertarian Communist Federation (FCLAI) was founded and participated in the resistance in the north.

1944, 19 – 20 August: Liberation of Foix, La Madeleine, Cahors and Toulouse, France. Anarchists of the 14th Spanish Guerrilla Corps attacked German convoys, liberated towns and seized the Nazi headquarters at Foix, capturing 1,200 German soldiers. A group of thirty-two Spaniards and four Frenchmen attacked a convoy of 1,300 Germans armed with six tanks and two self-propelled guns at La Madeleine, killing 110 Germans, wounding 200 and forcing the surrender of the rest – all for the price of three wounded Maquis. The anarchist Liberty Brigade liberated the town of Cahors and other centres, and 6,000 anarchist fighters took part in the liberation of the city of Toulouse.

1944, 24 – 25 August: Liberation of Paris, France. The first Allied troops into Paris were the 114 anarchist CNT and FAI veterans of the old Durruti Column, organised as the 9th Armoured Company – a division of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division under General Leclerc – and driving tanks and armoured half-tracks flying the Spanish Republican flag and with names redolent of the Spanish Revolution painted on their sides: “Durruti”, “Ascaso”, “Casa Viejas”, “Teruel”, “Madrid”, “Belchite”, “Guadalajara” and “Guernica”. Having hit the beaches at Normandy on the night of July 31/August 1, 1944, as one of two armoured divisions in the US 3rd Army that defeated three SS Panzer divisions and linked up with the Canadian forces at Falais, the 9th took the honours in Paris, accepting the surrender of General Dietrich von Choltitz and his 17,000-strong Nazi garrison. The 9th then fought its way across Europe, campaigning in Alsace-Lorraine, helping to liberate cities such as Strasbourg and numerous towns, fighting in Germany, passing through the Dachau concentration camp just after it had been liberated by the Americans and concluding its campaign only when it seized Hitler's “Eagle’s Nest” mountain retreat at Berchtesgarten in Bavaria, being the first force to enter this innermost sanctuary of elitist Nazism.

1944, 19 – 26 October: Battle of the Val d’Arán, Catalonia, Spain. Anarchist maquis like Antonio Téllez Solá, believing the Allied invasion of Europe presages them turning against Franco, joined Communist partisans in organising the 204th Division, numbering up to 7,000 guerrillas, which invades Spain via the Val d’Arán in order to precipitate this. They take several towns but are faced by 40,000 Moroccan troops, plus battalions of the Spanish Army, Guardia Civil and police. Many are caught or killed in combat with these state forces, but others including Téllez escape back into France.

1944 – 1945, 26 December – 13 February: Siege of Budapest, Hungary. Anarchist partisans of the Libertarian Front (SF) destroyed two units of the Hungarian Danube River Fleet in Budapest and blew up a munitions dump, although other anarchists were captured and executed after an attack on Nazi Party headquarters. The anarchist partisans, probably numbering about 500, then participated in the final battle for the capital in which they aided two Soviet assault groups numbering 170,000 in defeating the fascist Arrow Cross die-hards and their Nazi allies numbering 180,000.

1940s – 1950s: Resistance to Nationalism and Maoism, Yunan Province, China. Continuous guerrilla campaigns were carried out in the southern Yunan province of China, near the border with Burma and Vietnam, in the 1940s and 1950s by a force commanded by the anarchist Chu Cha-pei, modelled on those of the Makhnovists and RPAU.

1954 – 1957, 1 November  ?. Algerian Liberation War, Algeria. Members of the Libertarian Movement of North Africa (MLAN), which operated in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, participated in the liberation war against French colonialism, mostly by smuggling arms and uniforms, acting as drivers and couriers for the main rebel armies of the Algerian National Movement (MNA) and the National Liberation Front (FLN). Sadly, the FLN betrayed the MLAN and its Algerian Section was destroyed in 1957 between the FLN and the French forces.

1958, 19 – 30 December: Battle of Yaguajay, Cuba. Anarchist, 26th of July Movement (M26J) and other partisans of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE) in the Second Escambray Front numbering about 500 men descend from the Escambray Mountains, besiege this key provincial town and, in conjunction with anarchists of the Libertarian Association of Cuba (ALC), seize it from the 250-strong Cuban Armed Forces garrison.

1959, 1 – 8 January: Battle of Havana, Cuba. Anarchists and others of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE), the underground anarcho-syndicalist General Confederation of Labour (CGT), the “official” Cuban Workers’ Confederation (CTC), the Workers Revolutionary Union (URO), Revolutionary Worker, Libertarian Association of Cuba (ALC), and the Federation of University Students seized Havana. Armed with only 500 rifles, five machine guns and several tanks, they occupied the University and the Presidential Palace. When Castro announced the formation of a “provisional government” in the town of Santiago de Cuba, the DRE and its revolutionary allies scoffed, and refused to allow his 26th of July Movement (M26J) access to the Presidential Palace. Nonetheless, they permitted his forces to enter Havana, accompanied by “captured” army tanks and troops on January 8, 1959. 

1965 – 1982: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Western Europe. In 1965, Spanish exile anarchist youth formed a multinational First of May Group (GPM) which engaged in bloodless kidnappings, and the machine-gunning of the embassies of repressive regimes. In 1971, the Iberian Liberation Movement (MIL) was formed in Spain and France, based in Barcelona and Toulouse, launching its first attack in Barcelona the following year. By 1974, most MIL members were behind bars, so those still at large merged their forces with those of the GPM to form the Groups of International Revolutionary Action (GARI). On 3 May 1974, GARI kidnapped Spanish banker Angel Baltazar Suárez in Paris in an attempt to secure the release of 100 anarchist prisoners in Spain and to force Franco to return seized CNT funds. Suárez was released unharmed after a 3-million franc ransom was paid out of the union’s funds, but police arrested nine GARI militants in Paris. In 1978, GARI militants combined with factions known as Autonomous Co-ordinations and New Arms for Popular Autonomy to form a new anarchist-influenced guerrilla group called Direct Action (AD).

1968 – 1971: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Britain. The Angry Brigade conducts a series of spectacular bombings and sabotage actions – intended to be bloodless – aimed at Spanish fascist, British industrialist and class war targets.

1971 – 1976: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Uruguay. The 500-member Uruguayan anarchist Federation (FAU) argued that Uruguay had become a “constitutional dictatorship”, forcing it to operate as a secret organisation, so it expanded its combat capacity into a proper armed wing, the 100-strong Revolutionary Popular Organisation – 33 Orientals (OPR-33). Over the next five years – a real dictatorship being imposed in 1972 – it will conduct bank expropriations, bloodless kidnappings, and armed defence of striking factories controlled by the 400,000-strong National Convention of Workers (CNT) it created.

1976, 24 – 27 September: Urban Guerrilla Warfare, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Anarchist guerrillas of Libertarian Resistance (RL) – some of whom had been trained in Palestine – and the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation’s Revolutionary Popular Organisation - 33 (OPR-33) participate in the fight against the imposition of the Videla dictatorship. All but a handful are killed in a joint operation by the Argentine State Secretariat for Information (SIDE), operating with officers of the Uruguayan Military Intelligence Service under “Operation Condor”.

1979, 16 January – 11 February: Iranian Uprising, Iran. Anarchist forces of the 300-strong Workers’ Liberation Group (JS, or Shagila) of Iraq and the 500-strong Scream of the People (CHK) of Iran combine to support the neighbourhood shoras and worker kommitehs created during the Iranian Revolution. Their revolutionary movement peaks in July but is then defeated by the Khomeinist counter-revolution, and of those arrested, most are executed. By late 1979, anarchist opposition combat groups are still reportedly operating in Tehran.

1989 – 1992, 9 March – 27 April: Dismantling of the Soviet Union. From the fall of the Berlin Wall, resurgent anarchist organisations in Russia and just about all of the Soviet satellite states participated in the dismantling of the USSR. These actions are mostly peaceful, but do involve frequent clashes, sometimes armed, with fascists and nationalists.

2014, 20 February – June: Resistance to Nationalists and Fascists, Ukraine. The Black Guard squads of the Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists – “Nestor Makhno” (RKAS) engage in resistance to both the Russian-backed separatist paramilitaries of eastern Ukraine and to Ukrainian-backed fascist paramilitaries like the Azov Battalion, but the RKAS is forced underground.

2014 – 2015, July – 25 January: Defence of Kobanê, Rojava. Elements of the anarchist groups Social Rebellion (SI), and Revolutionary Anarchist Action (DAF) fight as part of the International Freedom Battalion of the United Liberation Forces (BÖG) in defending the Rojava Revolution against the fascist Islamic State, lifting the siege of Kobanê.