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Lively, incendiary, and inspiring, No Harmless Power follows the life of Nestor Makhno, who organized a seven-million-strong anarchist polity during the Russian Civil War and developed Platformist anarchism during his exile in Paris as well as advising other anarchists like Durruti on tactics and propaganda. Both timely and timeless, this biography reveals Makhno’s rapidly changing world and his place in it. He moved swiftly from peasant youth to prisoner to revolutionary anarchist leader, narrowly escaping Bolshevik Ukraine for Paris. This book also chronicles the friends and enemies he made along the way: Lenin, Trotsky, Kropotkin, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Ida Mett, and others.
No Harmless Power is the first text to fully delve into Makhno’s sympathy for the downtrodden, the trap of personal heroism, his improbable victories, unlikely friendships, and his alarming lack of gun safety in meetings. Makhno and the movement he began are seldom mentioned in most mainstream histories—Western or Russian—mostly on the grounds that acknowledging anarchist polities calls into question the inevitability and desirability of the nation-state and unjust hierarchies.
With illustrations by N.O. Bonzo and Kevin Matthews, this is a fresh, humorous, and necessary look at an under examined corner of history as well as a deep exploration of the meaning—and value, if any—of heroism as history.
“A biography that reads like a great adventure story, this tale of freedom-fighting and myth-making in early-twentieth-century Eastern Europe is as entertaining as it is necessary.”
—Stephanie Feldman, author of Angel of Losses and Saturnalia
“Charles Allison has turned his talents to a topic that was colorful and interesting even before recent global events gave Ukraine fresh relevance. Allison's accessible and humorous writing saturates the book with passages that are chock-full of the sort of informational nuggets that readers will enjoy passing along to friends and family.”
—Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, author of A Libertarian Walks into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and some Bears)
“Charlie Allison's examination of Nestor Makhno's life is the most well-researched and cool-headed assessment I have yet to read. Makhno's idealism was matched by his skills as a military strategist, his growing political sophistication and his commitment to Ukrainian independence. His revolutionary ideas were innovative and effective, and he remains a great Ukrainian hero both for his courage and for his intelligence. How Ukrainian history might have played out through the 20th century had Trotsky and his fellow Bolsheviks not betrayed Makhno is of particular and urgent interest to today's political students and commentators. Allison's research is both more thorough than anything we have seen for many years and displays the reality behind the myth of a great Ukrainian hero. I cannot recommend it more enthusiastically. To read Allison today is to understand not only yesterday's conflicts but also tomorrow's politics.”
“No Harmless Power is an exhilarating ride through the revolutionary life and times of Nestor Makhno. With wry humor, original research, and an unforgettable cast of characters, Charles Allison gives a vivid account of a tumultuous period in the history of Ukraine and the Russian Revolution that ripples to the present day.”
—Tauno Biltsted, author of The Anatomist's Tale
About the Contributors
Charlie Allison is a writer, researcher, and storyteller based in Philadelphia. Charlie has worked as a gardener, tutor to children with learning disabilities, an English teacher, chess instructor, and as a bureaucrat. He has published short stories in Pickman’s Press, Podcastle, and Sea Lion Press. He currently runs his own website at charlie-allison.com, where the genesis for this book was formed as a series of YouTube videos with the help of Sewer Rats Productions. He is active in the Philadelphia storytelling and mutual aid communities. Charlie is frequently bullied by his cat in the small hours of the morning.
N.O. Bonzo is an anarchist illustrator, printmaker, and muralist based in Portland, OR. They are the creator of Off with Their Heads: An Antifascist Coloring Book and illustrated Mutual Aid: An Illuminated Factor of Evolution.
Kevin Matthews is a computer networking expert and avid gamer. He began digital art during the COVID pandemic to increase his friends’ engagement in online tabletop games. It was only later that he proceeded to do professional work.
Author: Charlie Allison • Illustrated by Kevin Matthews and N.O. Bonzo
Series: PM Press
ISBN: 9781629634715 / 9798887440323
Size: 6 x 9