Liberated by the Revolution on the 1st March 1917, Piotr became one of the founders of the Federation of Anarchist Groups of Moscow, secretary of the union for propaganda of Moscow, and organiser for the papers Golos Truda and the periodical
Anarkhia, from September 1917. He participated in the conference of the anarchist groups of Moscow in June 1918.
He took part in the civil war in the Ukraine with the anarchist Makhnovist movement. In 1918 he was editor of the paper Golos Anarkhista in the Donbas basin, and arriving in Gulyai Polye with other Moscow anarchists, was from April 1919 until August 1921 involved in the Makhnovist movement.
He was involved in the cultural department of the Makhnovists, helping produce and edit Put k Svobode (Road to Freedom) the paper of the insurgents from 1919. With Voline, he initiated the organising conference of the anarchist groups of Nabat and had a leading
role in the political direction of the Makhnovist movement. He was one of the editors of Nabat, the organ of the organisation of the same name and of Golos Makhnovista in Kharkov in 1920.
After the crushing of the Makhnovist
movement by the Bolsheviks in 1921, he fled across the border. He participated in various Russian/Ukrainian anarchist exile papers,editing Anarkhicheski Vestnik (Anarchist Herald) in Berlin for the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad in the magazine Dielo Trouda at Paris from 1925-1929 and at Chicago from 1930). He wrote many articles on the Russian situation for that magazine and was one of the authors of the important
text the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists. Whilst in exile in Berlin he wrote his celebrated
History of the Makhnovist Movement.
He was discouraged by the strong criticisms of the Platform from many anarchists. His companion was extremely homesick and put pressure on him to return. He had also suffered from an expulsion
from France. He established contact with the Communist leader Ordzhonidze, who he had known from prison, where they had shared the same cell. The latter promised him to help him return, on condition that he dropped all his critiques of Bolshevism and broke
with anarchism. Arshinov produced two anti-anarchist pamphlets, Anarchism and the dictatorship of the proletariat in 1931 and Anarchism in our age, in 1933, both published in Paris. Makhno publicly broke with him. Voline’s son Leo clearly recalls “Uncle
Marin’s “visits to their home with his companion and his son Andrei, and how Voline told him over and over “Marin, you must not go. They will shoot you. Do not kid yourself, they will never forgive you.”
1935 he marked a clear break with anarchism with an article the Fiasco of Anarchism that appeared in the Communist paper Izvestia on the 30th June.
He returned to the Soviet Union. There he worked as a proofreader in Moscow.
During the purges he was rounded up and accused of attempting “to restoring anarchism into Soviet Russia.” It appears he was shot in 1937 in deportation.
Anarchists were extremely harsh in their criticisms of Arshinov. His
old friend Nestor Makhno wrote scathingly and bitterly that “He is vainglorious and powerseeking. Unknown in the Russian revolution till he was taken from his useless work in Moscow in 1919 into the ‘storm of revolutionary praxis’, later…he
went off to write his history of the Makhnovschina. As a result he became one of the activists in the international anarchist movement, and started thinking of himself as a leader of anarchism, for which position he sought and found theoretical foundations.
It was an easy step, as easy as into Bolshevism.”
American anarchist Alexander Berkman, was equally harsh,
writing that “ I don’t consider him important at all...To my mind the betrayal of our cause by such as Yartchuk, Arshinov etc is due to two causes: lack of Anarchist vision and of understanding of Anarchism: and secondly: economic causes. They
hope to improve their economic situation by siding with the Bolsheviki, and as a rule they do improve it that way. Well, with such traitors and cowards there should be no further dealings”. Max Nettlau said more or less the same.
Berneri was to remark that Arshinov had not left the movement quietly and with dignity, but had slammed the door behind him like a drunk.
Set against this is the record of militancy that speaks for itself and above all, his book
on the Makhnovist movement.
There is a school of thought that Arshinov deliberately put up his denunciation of anarchism as a smokescreen so that he could return to Russia to help organise the underground anarchist movement there. We
do know that the Dielo Trouda group maintained contact with that movement, and Ante Ciliga in the Russian Enigma refers to it as extremely well organised. We cannot be certain, one way or the other, until any records maintained by the Russian authorities are
looked at by researchers. We hope that some such researcher will do so soon.