Interview, Listen

Chalie Allison talks about No Harmless Power at the Upstate Anarchist Book Fair

By Essential Dissent

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 politics calls into question the inevitability and desirability of the nation-state and unjust hierarchies.

Charlie Allison is an anarchist writer, storyteller, and activist who lives in Philadelphia. He graduated from Juniata College in 2010 with a degree in Communications and a minor in History. He didn’t learn his lesson and so eight years later graduated with distinction from Arcadia University’s Creative Writing MFA program (while wearing a wizard beard borrowed specifically for the occasion). Later, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2019 to teach English as Second Language in Mongolia. However, Covid-19 spelled a swift end to that particular course of action before he so much as set foot on a plane. For a person who despises hats, Charlie has donned a lot of figurative ones. Most of his days are spent in freelance editing, agitating, writing, consulting and giving tours of Philadelphia. He has written blogs for PM PRESS, alternate history speculation at Sea Lion Press, short fantasy fiction at Pickman’s Press, Podcastle, The Stone Coast Review, Ellipsis Zine and many other fine literary establishments.

No Harmless Power: The Life and Times of the Ukrainian Anarchist Nestor Makhno