The Unknown Revolution, Book Three : Part 01, Chapter 04
(1882 - 1945) ~ Bolshevik-Aligned Leader of the Russian Nabat Anarchists : March of 1920 saw him taken to Moscow, where he would remain prisoner until October, when he and many other anarchists were released by virtue of a treaty between the Soviet Union and Makhno's army. Voline then returned to Kharkov, resuming his old activities... (From : Rudolph Rocker Bio.)
• "Socialism, so mighty in Germany, Austria and Italy, has proved powerless. 'Communism', itself very strong, especially in Germany, has proved powerless. The trade unions have proved powerless. How are we to account for this?" (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "As we know, there it was an authoritarian state communism (Bolshevism) that scored a stunning and rather easy victory in the events of 1917. Now, these days, nearly seventeen years on from that victory, not only is communism proving powerless to resist fascism abroad, but, where the regime within the USSR itself is concerned, the latter is more and more often being described more and more deliberately as 'red fascism'." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "Yet there is consolation to be had. The masses learn through all too palpable first hand experience. And the experience is there." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
Part 01, Chapter 04
We are now approaching the crucial point of the Kronstadt epic: its desperate and heroic struggle, in March, 1921, against the usurpations of the Bolsheviks, and the consequent termination of its independence.
The first dissensions between the men of Kronstadt and the new government took place almost immediately after the October Revolution. The slogan of All Power to the Local Soviets meant to Kronstadt the independence of each locality, of each Soviet, of each social organization in the matters which concerned it alone. It meant the right to take initiatives, to make decisions, and to act without asking permission from the “center”. According to this interpretation, the “center” could neither dictate nor impose its will on the local Soviets, since each Soviet, each workers’ and peasants’ organization, was its own master. Of course, it must co-ordinate its activity with that of other organizations, but on a federal basis. Matters concerning the whole country would be co-ordinated by a general federative center. Kronstadt therefore supposed that, under the protection of a “proletarian” and “friendly” government, free federations of Soviets and factory committees would progressively create a powerful organized force, capable of defending the conquests of the social revolution and of continuing it.
But the government naturally concerned itself with everything but the fundamental problems — those of helping the workers’ and peasants’ organizations to emancipate themselves fully. It was preoccupied with the Constituent Assembly, with its own installation in office, with its prerogatives, with its relations to the various political parties, with the elaboration of projects for collaboration with the remaining bourgeoisie (“workers’ control of production”), etc. It concerned itself very little with the independence of workers’ organizations. In fact, it gave it no thought at all.
Indeed, the Bolshevik government evidently understood the slogan “power to the Soviets” in a peculiar way. It applied it in reverse. Instead of giving assistance to the working masses and permitting them to conquer and enlarge their own autonomous activity, it began by taking all “power” from them and treating them like subjects. It bent the factories to its will and liberated the workers from the right to make their own decisions; it took arbitrary and coercive measures, without even asking the advice of the workers concerned; it ignored the demands emanating from the workers’ organizations. And, in particular, it increasingly curbed, under various pretexts, the freedom of action of the Soviets and of other workers’ organizations, everywhere imposing its will arbitrarily and even by violence.
[The following example from the history of Kronstadt illustrates both the arbitrary attitude of the government and its incompetence when faced by the real problems of the revolution].
In the beginning of 1918, the working population of Kronstadt, after debating the subject in many meetings, decided to proceed to socialize dwelling places. It was a question, first of all, of obtaining the agreement of the local Soviet, then of creating a competent organization to carry out a census and examination of buildings and an equitable redistribution of dwellings, together with their rehabilitation and maintenance and the initiation of repair services and new construction.
A final monster meeting definitely instructed several members of the Soviet — Left Social-Revolutionaries and Anarcho-Syndica-lists — to raise the question at the next plenary session. In consequence, a detailed project, drawn up by these delegates, was deposited at the office of the Soviet.
The first article of the project declared: “From henceforward private property in land and buildings is abolished.” Other articles specified: “The management of each building will henceforward be the duty of a House Committee elected by all its tenants ... Important matters concerning a building will be discussed and settled by a general meeting of tenants ... Matters concerning a whole district will be examined by general assemblies of its inhabitants; District Committees shall be appointed by them ... The Borough Committee will be in charge of matters concerning the whole city.”
The Bolshevik members of the Soviet asked that discussion be delayed for a week, on the pretext that the problem was very important and required a thorough examination. When the Soviet agreed to this postponement, they went to Petrograd to get instructions from the “center”.
At the next session, the Bolsheviks asked for the adjournment of the project under consideration. They declared, in particular, that such an important problem could only be resolved for the whole country, that Lenin was already in the process of preparing a decree on this subject, and that, for the sake of the project itself, the Kronstadt Soviet should wait for instructions from the “center”.
The Left Social-Revolutionaries, Maximalists and Anarcho-Syndicalists asked for an immediate discussion and carried the vote. In the course of the debate, the extreme Left underlined the necessity of voting immediately after the discussion and of proceeding to the immediate implementation of the project if it were adopted. But the Bolsheviks and the Social-Democrats (Menshe-viks), forming a united front, got up and left the hall. Sustained, ironical applause, and cries of “At last they are united!” accompanied their action.
In order to settle the matter, a Maximalist delegate proposed that the Soviet vote on the project, article by article. This would allow the Bolsheviks to return and take part in the voting, and thus erase the false impression left by their withdrawal that they were against the abolition of private property.
This proposal was adopted. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks realized that they had made a tactical error. They resumed their seats and voted for the first article: “Private property in land and buildings is abolished.” This was a vote of “principle” for them. But when the articles dealing with the means of immediately realizing this principle came up for discussion, they again left the hall.
Several Bolsheviks, however, considered it impossible to submit to party discipline in this affair. They remained in their places, took part in the discussion, and voted for the project. They declared that they had a formal mandate from their electors to vote for its immediate realization. Nevertheless, they were severely censured, and expelled from the party for “Anarcho-Syndicalist deviation.”
The project was adopted But for a long time afterwards it was the subject of a continued and passionate struggle in the workshops, battalions and ships. Meeting followed meeting. The members of the Soviet were invited to give reports on the details of the discussion and on their position. Certain Bolsheviks opposed to the project were recalled from the Soviet by their electors.
After these occurences, the Bolsheviks opened a violent campaign against the Anarcho-Syndicalists, and they also tried to sabotage the realization of the adopted project. Nothing came of their efforts. Soon the committees (house, district, etc.) were appointed and began to function. The project became alive. The principle of “each inhabitant has the right to a decent dwelling” became a reality.
All dwellings were methodically visited, examined and entered in the census by the committee, for the purpose of establishing a more equitable distribution. On the one hand, horrible hovels were discovered in which the unfortunate lived, sometimes several families together. On the other hand, there were comfortable apartments of ten or fifteen rooms which were occupied only by a few persons. For example, the Director of the Engineering School, a bachelor, occupied by himself a luxurious apartment of twenty rooms, and when the commission came to take the census and reduce his “living space” for the benefit of several unfortunate families removed from stinking hovels, he protested hotly and called this act a “downright robbery”.
Soon all those who filled the unhealthy shacks and garrets and the filthy cellars were lodged in somewhat cleaner and more comfortable places. Several hotels for travelers were also established. And each Borough Committee organized a workshop for the repair and improvement of buildings; these shops functioned efficiently.
Later on, the Bolshevik government destroyed this organization and wiped out its constructive beginnings. The management of buildings passed to a purely bureaucratic institution, the Real Estate and Buildings Center, which was organized from above and attached to the National Economic Council. This Center installed in every building, district and borough an official or, to be more accurate, a policeman, whose main function was to supervise activities in the houses, to keep track of the movements of the inhabitants in each district, to report infractions of lodging and visa regulations, to denounce “suspects”, etc.
Several sterile bureaucratic decrees were promulgated, but all the work, all the positive, concrete tasks, were abandoned. The population concerned was eliminated from [participation in control of] the undertaking (as in other fields), and everything fell back into a state of inertia and stagnation. The better buildings were requisitioned for the bureaucratic service of the state, for officials’ apartments etc., and the rest, more or less abandoned to their fate, soon began to deteriorate.
As a result of proceedings of this kind in every field of life, the sailors of Kronstadt were not slow to realize that they had been deceived and deluded by the false slogans of the “Proletarian State”, the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, etc. They realized that, under a pretense of friendliness, new enemies of the working masses had installed themselves in power.
They did not conceal their disillusionment. A peaceful but firm opposition to the bureaucratic, arbitrary, anti-social and anti-revolutionary acts of the Bolshevik government began to appear in their ranks by the end of 1917, barely two months after the October Revolution.
But the Bolsheviks were watchful, for the government knew perfectly well how matters stood with the militants of Kronstadt, and it could not consider itself secure so long as this citadel of the real revolution continued to exist so close to Petrograd. It was necessary at all costs to reduce it to impotence and obedience.
The government therefore elaborated a Machiavellian scheme. Not daring to attack Kronstadt openly, by frontal assault, it began — methodically and slyly — to weaken, impoverish and exhaust it, by means of a series of camouflaged measures aimed at depriving Kronstadt of its best forces, taking away its more combative elements, exhausting their strength and, in the last resort, annihilating them.
To begin, it exploited more than ever the revolutionary enthusiasm and abilities of the sailors. When, shortly after October, the food situation of the city population became catastrophic, the government asked Kronstadt to form special crews of propagandists and to send them into the provinces, the country districts and the villages to preach to the peasants the ideas of solidarity and revolutionary duty, and, in particular, the necessity for feeding the cities. The revolutionary fame of the men of Kronstadt, said the Bolsheviks, could render immeasurable service to the cause. More easily than anyone else, the sailors could convince the peasants to give up part of their produce to the starving workers.
Kronstadt complied. Numerous formations departed for the depths of the country and carried out the tasks allotted. But nearly all these detachments were scattered in a thousand directions. For various reasons, their members were forced to remain in the interior of the country, and did not return to Kronstadt.
The government also sent constantly to Kronstadt for large detachments to be dispatched wherever the internal situation became uncertain, threatening or dangerous. Kronstadt always responded, and many of its brave militants and fighters never saw their ships or their barracks again.
Kronstadt was also constantly requested to send men to perform functions or occupy posts requiring special abilities, responsibility or courage. Leaders of military formations, commanders of armored trains, armored cars and railway stations, specialized workers, mechanics, lathe-workers, gun-mounters, etc., were continually being drawn from among the Kronstadters, who were ready for any sacrifice. When the Kaledin uprising in the South became serious, Kronstadt again sent considerable forces against it, which contributed significantly to the destruction of the enemy and left many of their own men on the battlefield.
All these preliminary measures were finally crowned by a hammer blow which Kronstadt, already seriously weakened, could not resist effectively. When, at the end of February, 1918, the sailors returning from the expedition against Kaledin got off the train at the terminus, from which they could look out over the panorama of the Gulf of Finland under its winter blanket of snow, they were suprised to see that the road across it was black with people. They were sailors from Kronstadt who were going towards Petrograd with their duffle-bags on their backs. Soon those who were returning learned the bitter truth from the mouths of those who were leaving.
Contrary to the resolution adopted by the Pan-Russian Congress of Sailors directly after the October Revolution, which proclaimed, in conformity with the unanimous mandate given the delegates, that the fleet should not be demobilized, but should remain intact as a revolutionary fighting unit, the Council of People’s Commissars issued, at the beginning of February, 1918, the famous decree according to which the existing fleet was declared disbanded. A new “Red Fleet” was to be created, on a new basis. Each conscript must henceforth sign an individual pledge that he entered the navy “voluntarily”. And — a significant detail — the pay of the sailors was to be made very attractive.
The sailors refused to carry out the decree, and the government replied with an ultimatum: either submit or rations would be withheld within 48 hours. Kronstadt did not feel strong enough to resist at that moment. Raging at heart, cursing the new “revolutionary” power, the sailors packed their belongings and left their fortress, carrying a number of machine guns away with them. “We may perhaps need them yet,” they said; “Let the Bolsheviks arm their future mercenaries.”
Later on, a certain number of sailors, returning from the revolutionary fronts for various reasons, came back to Kronstadt and reorganized themselves there. But this was only an insignificant handful. The principal force was scattered all over the immense country.
Kronstadt was not the same city any more. The government had repeated assurances of this fact. For example, during the negotiations with Germany, the Kronstadt Soviet, like the overwhelming majority of other Soviets, voted against making peace with the German generals. At all the meetings and assemblies such a treaty was repudiated. Then the Bolsheviks, after taking certain precautions, annulled the first vote, raised the question a second time, and imposed a peace resolution. Kronstadt yielded.
The peace having been concluded, and the compact revolutionary bloc of Kronstadt, the Black Sea Fleet, etc., having been finally dissolved, the Bolshevik government had a clear field in which to consolidate its dictatorship over the working people. When, in April, 1918, in Moscow and elsewhere, it attacked the Anarchist groups, closed their meeting places, suppressed their papers, and threw their militants into prison, Kronstadt once again bared its claws, but they no longer had the same sharpness. It was now impossible for the sailors to turn their guns against the usurpers, for the latter were no longer within range of them. They were already entrenched, like earlier tyrants, behind the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow. Kronstadt had to confine itself to two resolutions of protest: one was adopted at a monster mass meeting held on Anchor Square, the other by the Soviet.
Immediately a fierce repression was imposed on “the pride and glory of the revolution”. The Bolsheviks forbade the spontaneous calling of meetings. The Soviet was dissolved and replaced by a more docile one. A unit of the Cheka was installed in the city. Communist cells were created everywhere, in the workshops, the regiments and the ships. Everyone was spied upon by informers, and for the slightest criticism of Bolshevik actions the “guilty” were seized and dispatched to Petrograd, where most of them disappeared.
Only once did Kronstadt rise up successfully [against these repressive activities]. The battleship Petropavlovsk flatly refused to turn over to the authorities an anarchist sailor named Skurikhin. This time the Bolsheviks did not insist. It would not have been prudent or worth while to provoke an insurrection over a single individual whom in any case they could get later by some other means.
Except for this single jarring incident the Bolshevik government congratulated themselves that the advance guard of the real Revolution, Kronstadt, was virtually powerless, broken under the iron fist of Communist power. Nevertheless, this was only half true.
For months, Kronstadt powerlessly witnessed the usurpations and crimes of the gravediggers of the revolution. Returning from leave, the sailors told about the way in which the “Workers’ Power” treated the workers. In the country it requisitioned produce from the peasants, mercilessly, down to the last grain, the last animal, often even to household effects, thus condemning the cultivators to a famished existence; it did not hesitate to resort to mass arrests and executions of those who were recalcitrant. Around the cities, there were barriers with armed guards who pitilessly confiscated the few miserable bags of flour which the peasants sent in — usually to their starving relatives — and threw those who resisted into prison; at the same time, they turned a blind eye to the real merchants who passed through with their merchandise destined for speculation, for these knew how to grease the necessary palms.
“The working people are disarmed,” said the returning sailors. “It is clear that the general arming of the workers, and their freedom of speech and action, frightened not only the proven counter-revolutionaries, but also those who have abandoned the true course of the revolution. They created the Red Army, which like all armies, had ended by becoming a blind force in the hands of the party in power. Detached from their roots in the workshops and among their fellow workers, the soldiers were pampered, misled by deceptive slogans, subjected to a brutahsing discipline, and deprived of the means; of acting in an organized way, so that they could easily be manipulated to do whatever those who are in control of them may desire.”
The men of Kronstadt listened, watched and seethed with indignation, but they felt themselves powerless to act. Meanwhile the people were constantly and increasingly fettered, muzzled and subjugated.
Finally, in spite of [all the repressions], the storm burst. It started not in Kronstadt, but in Petrograd. By the end of February, 1921, the situation of the working masses in the cities had become unendurable. The whole of their normal life had disintegrated. The most necessary commodities were lacking. Even bread was rationed and hard to get. For lack of fuel, the houses could no longer be heated. The railways hardly functioned, and many factories closed down, thereby aggravating the situation.
The appeals, questions and protests of the workers accomplished nothing. The Bolshevik government was perfectly aware of the gravity of the situation, and even admitted its inability to remedy it. But it stubbornly refused to alter its policy. It would not even enter into discussion with the dissatisfied workers, and repulsed in advance all suggestions, all collaboration, all initiative. Its only remedy was more requisitioning, more military action, more repressive measures, carried out with the most arbitrary violence.
Serious disturbances finally broke out in Petrograd. Several of the most important factories improvised general assemblies of workers and adopted resolutions hostile to the government, demanding a change of the regime. Proclamations to the same effect appeared in the workshops and on the walls of the city, and the masses stirred confusedly.
Naturally, in this vast popular movement, various elements were present and various viewpoints appeared. Since the freedom of ideas or discussion was not permitted, and since many revolutionaries were in prison, this new ferment was necessarily vague and confused. Because the Revolution had already gone astray, the whole movement was inevitably distorted.
In these conditions, it was natural that certain elements, influenced by anti-revolutionary propaganda — especially that of the moderate Socialists — should propose measures and solutions which would have thrown the revolution into reverse, instead of trying to remove the obstacles so that it could go forward. Thus, there were those who asked for the return to free trading and the calling of a Constituent Assembly.
Nevertheless, three important facts must be borne in mind:
The elements in question were far from prevailing in the movement as a whole. They were never the strongest, nor the boldest. Freedom of propaganda for the Left, freedom of action for the masses, could still, with the help of the sincere Bolsheviks, have saved the situation; it could have found a solution and given the revolution a new impulse in the right direction.
We must not forget that, from the general point of view, Bolshevism itself represented a reactionary system. There were thus two reactionary forces present: one composed of certain anti-Bolshevik elements, which were held in check, and the other, Bolshevism itself, which paralyzed and petrified the revolution. The only really revolutionary forces were elsewhere.
Of these other elements who represented the true revolutionary forces, Kronstadt was the most important. The men of Kronstadt envisaged a solution which, although hostile to the Bolsheviks, had nothing at all in common with such reactionary ideas as the Constituent Assembly or the return of private capitalism, and the activity carried on by Kronstadt at the very beginning of the movement gives ample proof of this.
In response to certain proclamations and to the general propaganda demanding the calling of the Constituent Assembly, Kronstadt secretly sent delegates to the factories and workshops of Petrograd with the following message to the workers:
“All the revolutionary energy of Kronstadt, its guns and machine-guns, will be resolutely directed against the Constituent Assembly, and against all retreat. But if the workers, having become disillusioned with the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, take a stand against the new impostors, for free Soviets, for freedom of speech, press, organization and action for workers and peasants of all ideological tendencies — Anarchist, Left Social-Revolutionary or otherwise — if the workers rise up in a third, genuinely proletarian revolution for the real slogans of October, then Kronstadt will support them with all its strength, unanimously and with the will to conquer or die.”
Spontaneous meetings in all the large factories began on February 22nd, and on the 24th the disturbances took a more serious turn. That morning the authorities, intent on a “purge”, undertook an examination of the individual work-cards of the workers at the Troubotchny factory, one of the largest in Petrograd. That was the final provocation. The factory stopped working. Several dozen workers went to other factories to call out their personnel and soon the Baltic and Laferme factories, and the Patronny munition workers, joined the strike.
A crowd of two or three thousand excited workers formed in the street and tried to demonstrate. The “Workers’ and Peasants’ Government”, which possessed sufficient special forces of police and soldiers to combat movements of this kind, dispatched detachments of students from the Military Academy (officer students called kursanti) to the spot. Collisions took place between these troops and the unarmed crowd. The workers were dispersed, and elsewhere the police and troops prevented several meetings.
On the 25th of February, the movement was still growing, and spread to the whole city. The strikers called out the workers of the Admiralty Arsenal and of the port of Galernaia. Masses of workers gathered here and there, and were again dispersed by special formations.
Seeing the disorder increasing, the government alerted the Petrograd Garrison. But this also was in ferment, and several units declared that they would not fight against the workers. They were disarmed, but the government could no longer depend on the garrison. It therefore did without it and brought from the provinces and from certain fronts of the civil war a number of detachments of elite and predominantly Communist troops. On the same day the government created in Petrograd a Defense Committee under the presidency of Zinovieff, to co-ordinate all action against the movement.
On the 26th of February, at the session of the Petrograd Soviet, a notorious Communist named Lachevitch, a member of the above Committee and also of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, made a report on the situation. He denounced the workers of the Troubotchny works as trouble-makers, describing them as “men who think only of their own personal interests” and as “counter-revolutionaries”. In consequence, the works were closed, and the workers were automatically deprived of their food rations. During the same session, the Commissar of the Baltic Fleet, Kuzmin, mentioned for the first time a certain amount of unrest among the crews of the warships berthed at Kronstadt.
From February 27th, a considerable number of proclamations of various kinds were distributed in the streets and posted on the walls of Petrograd. One of the most characteristic said:
“A fundamental change in the policy of the government is required. In the first place, the workers and peasants need liberty. They do not want to live according to the regulations of the Bolsheviks; they want to decide their own destinies for themselves.
“Comrades, maintain revolutionary order! Demand, in an organized and determined way: Liberation of all imprisoned Socialists and nonparty workers; Abolition of the state of siege, and freedom of speech, press and assembly for all who work; Free reelection of shop committees and of representatives to the unions and the Soviets.”
The government replied by mass arrests and by the suppression of various workers’ organizations.
On February 28th, the Communist military forces, brought from elsewhere, invaded Petrograd. Immediately, a pitiless repression fell upon the workers. Disarmed, they could not resist. In two days, the strikes were broken by force and the workers’ agitation was wiped out “by an iron hand”, as Trotsky put it. But it was precisely on February 28th that Kronstadt went into action.
On that February 28th, the crew of the battleship Petropavlovsk, who had been for several days in a state of agitation, adopted a resolution which quickly gained the support of another warship, the Sebastopol. The movement extended rapidly to the whole fleet and won over the Red regiments of the garrison. Several delegations of sailors were sent to Petrograd to establish a closer connection with the workers there and to obtain exact information about the situation. This activity of the sailors was entirely peaceful and loyal. It gave moral support to certain of the workers’ demands, which was not at all abnormal in a “Workers’ State” directed by a “proletarian government.”
On March 1st, a public meeting took place in Anchor Square. It was officially called by the 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the Baltic Fleet, and the announcement appeared in the organ of the Kronstadt Soviet. On the same day, Kalinin, the president of the All-Russian Central Executive, and Kuzmin, the Commissar of the Baltic Fleet, arrived at Kronstadt. Kalinin was received with military honors, music and unfurled banners.
Sixteen thousand sailors, Red soldiers and workers attended the meeting. The chair was taken by the President of the Executive Committee of the Kronstadt Soviet, the Communist Vassilieff. Kalinin and Kuzmin were present.
The delegates who had been sent to Petrograd made their reports. Highly indignant, the meeting expressed its disapproval of the methods employed by the Communists in putting down the legitimate aspirations of the Petrograd workers. The resolution adopted the previous day by the Petropavlovsk was then brought before the assembly. During, the discussion, President Kalinin and Commissar Kuzmin attacked the resolution, the Petrograd strikes and the Kronstadt sailors with extreme violence. But their speeches had no effect. The resolution of the Petropavlovsk was put to a vote by a seaman named Petrichenko and was approved unanimously. Commissar Kuzmin noted the event in these words: “The resolution was adopted by the overwhelming majority of the Kronstadt garrison. It was brought up at the general meeting of the city on March 1st, in the presence of nearly 16,000 citizens, and unanimously adopted. The President of the Executive Committee of Kronstadt, Vassilieff, and Comrade Kalinin, voted gainst the resolution.”
Here is the complete text of this historic document:
“Resolution of the General Meeting of the 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the Baltic Fleet, held on March 1st, 1921.
“After having heard the reports of the delegates sent to Petrograd by the general meeting of the crews to examine the situation, the assembly decided that, since it has been established that the present Soviets do not express the will of the workers and peasants, it is necessary:
to proceed immediately to the reelection of the Soviets by secret ballot, the electoral campaign among the workers and peasants to be carried on with full freedom of speech and action;
to establish freedom of speech and press for all workers and peasants, for the Anarchists and the Left Socialist parties;
to accord freedom of assembly to the workers’ and peasants’ organizations;
to convoke, outside of the political parties, a Conference of the workers, Red soldiers and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt and the Petrograd province for March 10th, 1921, at the latest;
to liberate all Socialist political prisoners and also all workers, peasants, Red soldiers and sailors, imprisoned as a result of the workers’ and peasants’ movements;
to elect a commission for the purpose of examining the cases of those who are in prisons or concentration camps;
to abolish the ‘political offices’, since no political party should have privileges for propagating its ideas or receive money from the State for this purpose, and to replace them with educational and cultural commissions elected in each locality and financed by the government;
to abolish immediately all barriers;
to make uniform the rations of all workers, except for those who are engaged in occupations dangerous to their health;
to abolish the Communist shock-troops in all units of the army and the Communist guards in the factories; in case of need, guard detachments could be supplied in the army by the companies and in the factories by the workers;
to give the peasants full freedom of action in regard to their land and also the right to possess cattle, on condition that they do their own work, that is to say, without hiring help;
to establish a traveling control commission;
to permit the free exercise of handicrafts, provided no hired help is used;
we ask all units of the army and the kursanti cadets to join our resolution;
we demand that all our resolutions be widely publicized in the press.
This resolution was adopted unanimously by the meeting of the crews of the Squadrons. Two persons abstained.
Signed: Petrichenko, president of the meeting: Perepelkin, secretary.”
It is unfortunate that the translated text does not reflect the resolution’s popular tone, its “rustic” style, its candid air, which are further proofs that the movement was entirely in the hands of the workers themselves, that it expressed precisely their ideas and aspirations, without outside influence or intrigue.
Since the term of the Kronstadt Soviet was about to expire, the meeting decided to call a conference of delegates from the ships, garrison, workshops, unions and various Soviet institutions for March 2nd, to discuss the details of new elections. This decision was perfectly in conformity with the Soviet constitution. The conference was officially and regularly announced in the Izvestia, the official organ of the Soviet.
On March 2nd, more than 300 delegates met in the Hall of Education, the former Engineers’ School. The great majority of them belonged to no political party, and the Communists were in the minority. Nevertheless, according to custom, the reporter on the question: “The duties and tasks of the conference of delegates”, was chosen from among them.
The meeting was opened by the sailor Petrichenko. It elected publicly a board of five members. One of these later declared that the members of the conference were exclusively sailors, Red soldiers, workers and Soviet employes. Naturally, there was not among the delegates a single “officer of the old regime” (an accusation later launched by the Petrograd Communists).
The business of the meeting was the new elections to the Soviet. It was desired that they be organized on a freer and more equitable basis, taking account of the resolution adopted the day before. A Soviet capable of fulfilling the tasks established therein was desired.
The spirit of the conference was “Soviet” in the full sense of the word. Kronstadt demanded Soviets free from all political influence, Soviets which would truly represent the aspirations of the workers and express their will. This did not prevent the delegates, who were adversaries of the arbitrary regime of bureaucratic Commissars but not of the Soviets, from being loyal, from sympathizing with the Communist Party as such, or from desiring a peaceful solution for the urgent problems that existed.
But let us tell the story in the words of the Kronstadters themselves. Here is an account which appeared in the Izvestia of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Kronstadt, No. 9, March 11, 1921.
HOW THE PROVISIONAL REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE WAS CREATED
On March 1, at 2 p.m., a meeting of sailors, red soldiers and workers took place on Revolution Square, not arbitrarily but with the authorization of the Executive Committee of the Soviet.
There were 15,000 people at the meeting. It was presided over by Comrade Vassilieff, president of the Executive Committee. Comrade Kalinin, president of the Ail-Russian Executive, and Kuzmin, Commissar of the Baltic Fleet, attended.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the resolution previously adopted by the general meeting of the 1st and 2nd Squadrons, concerning the current situation and the ways to emerge from the present state of disorganization of the country.
This “resolution” is now known by everyone. It contains nothing which could threaten the power of the Soviets.
On the contrary, it clearly expresses the idea of the real power of the Soviets: the power of the workers and the peasants.
Comrades Kalinin and Kuzmin, who gave speeches, did not want to understand it. But their speeches had no echoes. They were not able to win over the masses, who are tormented to the point of anguish. And the meeting voted unanimously in favor of the resolution of the Squadrons.
The next day (March 2nd) with the knowledge and authority of the executive committee and in conformity with instructions published in the Izvestia, delegates from the ships, the garrison, the workshops and the unions, two from each organization, met in the Hall of Education (the former Engineers’ School), in all more than three hundred persons.
The representatives of the authorities were perturbed. Some even left the city. In these conditions, the crew of the battleship Petropavlovsk felt obliged to assume guard of the building and protect the delegates against possible excesses, from whatever source they might come.
The conference was opened by Comrade Petrichenko. After the election of a board of five members, he gave the floor to Comrade Kuzmin, Commissar of the Baltic Fleet. Despite the very clear position taken by the garrison and the workers against the representatives of the Communist power, Comrade Kuzmin refused to recognize it.
The task of the conference was to find a peaceful solution to the existing situation. In particular, it had to create an organ by which the reelection of the Soviet could be effected on a more equitable basis, as the resolution had proclaimed. This task was all the more urgent since the powers of the preceding Soviet, composed almost entirely of Communists and clearly incapable of solving the absolutely vital problems, had come to the end of its term.
But instead of reassuring the delegates, Comrade Kuzmin, on the contrary antagonized them. He spoke of the equivocal position of Kronstadt, of the Polish danger, of all Europe which was watching us. He maintained that all was peaceful in Petrograd. He emphasized that he was in the hands of the delegates, who could shoot him if they wished. And, in conclusion, he declared: “If the delegates want an open armed conflict, they can have it. For the Communists do not give up power voluntarily. They fight to the finish.”
This stupid speecli of Comrade Kuzmin did nothing to calm the feelings of the delegates. On the contrary, it increased their irritation. As for the vague and colorless speech of the President of the Executive Committee, Vassilieff, who followed him, it passed unnoticed. The overwhelming majority of the delegates were manifestly hostile to the Communists.
Nevertheless, the delegates did not lose hope of finding some common ground with the representatives of the authorities. The appeal of the president of the conference to get to work and draw up:an agenda for the day was unanimously approved ...
The conference did not conceal its disapproval of the Communists. But when the question was raised whether the Communist delegates should remain at the conference to continue the common task with the nonparty delegates, the meeting responded affirmatively. In spite of several protests and the proposal of some delegates to arrest the Communists, the delegates [as a whole] did not accept this position, considering that the Communists present were delegates of units and organizations just like the rest.
This fact proved again that the nonparty delegates of the workers, as well as the Red soldiers, sailors and workers [of Kronstadt] themselves, did not consider the resolution adopted at the meeting of the day before as necessarily leading to a rupture with the Communists as a party. They still hoped to be able to find a common language.
Next at the suggestion of Comrade Petrichenko, the resolution of the preceding day was read. It was adopted by the overwhelming majority of the delegates. Then, at the very moment when the conference seemed ready to begin concrete work, the delegate of the battleship Sebastopol requested the floor for an urgent statement. He declared that fifteen truckloads of troops with rifles and machine-guns were on their way to the meeting place. Subsequent investigation revealed that this false news had been spread by the Communists to scuttle the conference. But at the time it was communicated — especially in view of the general tension and the hostile position taken by the representatives of the authorities towards the conference all the circumstances led the delegates to believe it.
Nevertheless, the. president’s proposal to go on to a discussion of current business, taking the adopted resolution as a point of departure, was accepted. The conference began to discuss measures to be taken to implement the clauses of the resolution effectively. The idea of sending a delegation to Petrograd was voted down since its members would certainly be arrested. After this, several delegates proposed that the board of the conference be constituted a Provisional Revolutionary Committee, and that it be in charge of preparing for the reelection of the Soviet.
At this moment, the president announced that a detachment of two thousand men was on its way to the meeting place. Very upset and excited, the anxious delegates left the Hall of Education. The session ending by reason of this last communication, the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, which was in charge of maintaining order, installed itself on the battleship Petropavlovsk and there established its seat until the day when, thanks to its efforts, order could be assured in the city to the best interests of all the toilers-whether sailors, soldiers or workers.
We should add to this statement several details reported later by one of the members of the Revolutionary Committee. The decision to create this Committee, passed unanimously a few minutes before the closing of the session and under the influence of all the alarming rumors and of the threats of Kuzmin, Kalinin and Vassilieff, specified that “the Board of the conference and President Petrichenko be provisionally in charge of fulfilling the duties of a Revolutionary Committee during the time necessary to create such a committee in a more formal manner.”
A further fact to be emphasized is that soon after the public meeting on March 1st, the Communists of Kronstadt began serious preparations for military action against the movement. The local Communist Committee, in particular, undertook to heavily arm the party members. It ordered the Commissar of the fortress to draw upon the arms supply and issue rifles, machine guns and ammunition to the Communist cells. It is beyond doubt that the Communist leaders of Kronstadt would have opened hostilities on March 2nd, and prevented the conference of delegates from meeting if an unforeseen circumstance had not thwarted their project.
Out of almost two thousand Communists enrolled at Kronstadt, the great majority were only card carriers who had joined the party for personal reasons and not from conviction. As soon as the resistance began, the mass of the Communists abandoned their leaders and joined the general movement. The chiefs alone, even with the support of a certain number of kursanti, stationed at Kronstadt and blindly devoted to the party, could not hope to resist the fleet, the garrison and the whole population. That is why the leaders abandoned the idea of an immediate armed conflict inside Kronstadt. Some of them fled. Others went to the surrounding forts to try and arouse them against the movement. The kursanti followed them. They visited one fort after another, but found none of the support they sought. Finally, they went to Red Point (Krasnaia Gorka). It was thus that, on the evening of March 2nd, Kronstadt had no other power than that of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee.
On March 3rd, the first number of the Izvestia (News) of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee appeared. On the front page was a kind of manifesto, which read as follows:
“To the population of the Fortress and City of Kronstadt.
“Comrades and citizens, our country is going through a difficult period. For three years already, famine, cold and economic chaos have gripped us in their terrible vise. The Communist Party, which governs the country, has lost contact with the masses and has revealed itself powerless to pull them out of their condition of general collapse. The party has paid no attention to the disturbances which have taken place recently in Petrograd and Moscow and which have demonstrated clearly that it has lost the confidence of the working masses. Moreover, it has paid no attention to the demands presented by the workers. It considers them all to be the snares of the counter-revolution. It is deceiving itself profoundly.
“These disturbances and demands are the voices of the whole people, of all who labor. All the workers, sailors and Red soldiers see clearly today that only common efforts and a common will on the part of the workers can give the country bread, wood and coal, can clothe and warm the people, can get the Republic out of the impasse in which it finds itself.
“This will of all the workers, soldiers and sailors was clearly manifested at the great meeting of our city on Tuesday, March 1st. The meeting voted unanimously for the resolution of the crews of the 1st and 2nd Squadrons.
“One of the decisions adopted was to proceed immediately to the reelection of the Soviet. To establish more equitable bases for this election, of such a kind that the representation of the workers in the Soviet may be effective, and that the Soviet may be an active and energetic organ, the delegates of all organizations of the navy, the garrison and the workers met on March 2nd, at the Hall of Education. This meeting was to draw up a basis for the new elections and then begin a constructive and peaceful task, the work of reorganizing the Soviet system.
“But, since, after threatening speeches by the representatives of power, they had reason to fear repression, the delegates decided to create a Provisional Revolutionary Committee and gave it full powers over the administration of the city and the forts. The Provisional Committee has its seat on the battleship Petropavlovsk.
“Comrades and Citizens! The Provisional Committee is primarily concerned with preventing bloodshed. It has made every effort to maintain revolutionary order in the city, in the fortress and in the forts.
“Comrades and Citizens do not stop work! Workers, remain at your machines. Sailors and soldiers, do not leave your posts. All employes, all institutions should keep on working.
“The Provisional Revolutionary Committee calls on all the workers’ organizations, all the unions, maritime and otherwise, all the land and sea units, as well as all the citizens individually, to give their support. Its mission is to ensure, in fraternal cooperation with you, the necessary conditions for just and honest elections to the new Soviet. Therefore, comrades, let there be order, calm, composure. Let all perform their honest socialist work for the benefit of the workers.
Kronstadt, March 2nd, 1921. Signed: Petrichenko, chairman of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee; Toukin, secretary.”
The same issue contained the famous resolution of the Squadrons, and also several administrative notes, including the following: “On March 2nd, by 9 p.m., all the Red units of the fortress and the majority of the forts declared their solidarity with the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. All institutions and communication services are guarded by the Committee’s patrols.”
* * *
The Bolsheviks did not lose an instant in preparing an attack on Kronstadt. From the beginning they realized that this movement could result in catastrophe for them. Therefore they decided to extinguish it at any cost, and as quickly as possible, before it could spread.
Simultaneously, they adopted several measures. 1. They hastened to assure their control of the important strategic points around Kronstadt and Petrograd, such as Red Point (Krasnaia Gorka), Oranienbaum, Lissy Noss, etc. 2. They maintained a state of siege in Petrograd and took extraordinary repressive military measures to safeguard “order”. 3. They made certain concessions — we have mentioned the suppression of the “barriers” around the capital — in order to calm the workers. 4. They proceeded, under Trotsky’s supreme command, to organize rapidly a special army corps to attack Kronstadt. 5. They began a violent campaign of lies and slanders against the men of Kronstadt for the purpose of misleading public opinion and justifying their own actions.
This rabid propaganda began on March 2nd. In the second issue of the Izvestia of the (Kronstadt) Revolutionary Committee, on March 3rd, we find a news item [reproducing a radiogram sent out from Moscow and intercepted by the battleship Petropavlovsk. It ran as follows]:
“Rosta Radio News, Moscow, March 3rd.
“To all! To all! To all! To arms against the White-guard conspiracy!
“The mutiny of the ex-general Kozlovsky and the battleship Petropavlovsk has been organized by spies of the Entente, as was the case in numerous previous plots. This can be seen by reading the French bourgeois newspaper, Le Matin, which, two weeks before Kozlovsky’s revolt, published the following telegram from Helsingfors: ‘It has been learned from Petrograd that following the recent rebellion at Kronstadt, the Bolshevik military authorities have taken steps to isolate Kronstadt and prevent the Kronstadt sailors and soldiers from approaching Petrograd. The provisioning of Kronstadt has been stopped until order is restored.’ It is clear that the secession of Kronstadt was directed by Paris, that the French counter-espionage is mixed up in it. Always the same story! The Social-Revolutionaries, directed by Paris, plot rebellion against the Soviet government, and as soon as their preparations are completed, the real master — a Czarist general — makes his appearance. The story of Kolchak, who tried to regain power with the help of the Social-Revolutionaries, is repeated again. All the enemies of the workers, from the Czarist general to the Social-Revolutionaries, try to speculate on hunger and cold. Naturally, this rebellion of the generals and the Social-Revolutionaries will be quickly suppressed and General Kozlovsky and his assistants will meet the same fate as Kolchak.
“But it is beyond doubt that the net of Allied espionage is not thrown over Kronstadt alone. Workers and Red soldiers, break that net! Unmask the spies and provocateurs! You must have composure, self-control, vigilance! Do not forget that the real way to overcome the food and other problems, which are temporary but certainly painful, is by intensive work and good judgment, and not by senseless excesses which can only add to the misery of the workers and the greater joy of their accursed enemies.”
By every means at its disposal-military orders, proclamations, pamphlets, notices, articles in newspapers, radio bulletins, the government spread and imposed these unqualified lies. It must not be forgotten that, all means of propaganda and information being in its hands, no free voice could make the truth known.
In No. 4 of the Kronstadt Izvestia (March 6), we read the following:
COWARDS AND LIARS
We bring to everyone’s knowledge the contents of a proclamation thrown over Kronstadt from a Communist plane.
The citizens feel nothing but contempt for this slanderous provocation.
The people of Kronstadt know how and by whom the hateful power of the Communists has been overthrown.
They know that the Provisional Revolutionary Committee is headed by elected, devoted militants — the best sons of the people: red soldiers, sailors and workers.
They will not let anyone shackle them, and least of all Czarist generals or White guards.
“In a few more hours you will have to surrender,” threaten the Communists.
Foul hypocrites, whom do you think you’re fooling?
The Kronstadt garrison never surrendered to Czarist admirals, and it will not surrender to Bolshevik generals.
You’re cowards! You know our power and our will to triumph or to die proudly and not to run away like your Commissars, their pockets filled with Czarist bank notes or gold, products of the labor and the blood of the workers.
The same issue of the Izvestia (No. 4) reproduced, for the edification of its readers, the following report broadcast by the Radio Station in Moscow:
“To the deceived people of Kronstadt.
“Do you see where the rascals have led you? Here is your position. The greedy fangs of former Czarist generals are already showing themselves behind the Social-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. All these Petrichenkos and Toukins are manipulated like puppets by the Czarist general Kozlovsky, Captain Borkser, Kostromitinoff, Chirmanovsky and other proved White guards. They are duping you! They tell you that you are struggling for democracy, but two days have hardly passed and you see that you are not really fighting for democracy but for Czarist generals. You have permitted a new Wiren to put a rope around your necks.
“They lie to you that Petrograd is with you, that Siberia and the Ukraine support you. All these are only cynical lies. The last sailor in Petrograd turned his back on you when he learned that Czarist generals like Kozlovsky were among you. Siberia and the Ukraine firmly defend the Soviet power. Petrograd, the Red city, sneers at the pitiful pretensions of a handful of Social-Revolutionaries and White guardists.
“You are completely surrounded. In a few more hours you will have to surrender. Kronstadt has neither bread nor fuel. If you persist you will be shot like partridges. Naturally, all these generals — Kozlovsky and Borkser-all the wretches like Petrichenko and Toukin, will flee at the last moment to the White guardists in Finland. But you others, simple deceived sailors and Red soldiers, where will you go? If they are promising to provide for you in Finland, they are fooling you again. Don’t you know that the soldiers of General Wrangel, led away to Constantinople, died like flies of hunger and disease? The same fate awaits you if you don’t come to your senses immediately.
“Surrender right away, without losing a moment! Lay down your arms and come over to us! Disarm and arrest the criminal leaders, especially the Czarist generals! The errors of anyone who surrenders immediately will be forgiven. Surrender immediately! Petrograd Defense Committee.”
The same insinuations were made in a radiogram of the Petrograd Soviet; the text is reproduced in the same issue of the Izvestia, preceded by the following introduction:
Station T.S.F. of the Petropavlovsk has intercepted the following radiogram, which confirms the fact that the Communists are continuing to deceive not only the workers and the red soldiers, but also the members of the Petrograd Soviet.
But they will not succeed in deceiving the Kronstadt garrison or its workers.
Finally, Izvestia No. 5 (March 7) communicates a new and very long Moscow radiogram.
Before reproducing it, the journal comments on it with a note headed: “They are still lying.”
The journal refutes the Bolshevik inventions in the following terms:
We have just learned, according to the information of the Rosta radio, that everyone is in alliance with us-the Allies and the French spies, the White guards and the Czarist generals, the Mensheviks, the Social-Revolutionaries, the Finnish bankers, in short, the whole world rushes down upon the poor Communists. And we, the Kronstadters, are the only ones who know nothing about it.
This document of Communist stupidity is frankly comical. We reproduce it to provide the people of Kronstadt with a few moments of fun.
Due to its length, we cannot reproduce the radiogram in its entirety. We limit ourselves to citing some typical passages:
“...On March 2nd, the Labor and Defense Council ordered: 1. That the former General Kozlovsky and his partizans be declared outlaws; 2. That a state of war be declared in the city and province of Petrograd; 3. That supreme power over the whole district be placed in the hands of the Petrograd Committee ...
“Petrograd is absolutely calm, and even the few factories where certain individuals have recently hurled accusations against the government have understood the provocation; they have realized where the agents of the Allies and the counter-revolution have dragged them ...
“It is at the very moment when the Republican Party in America has just assumed power and shows itself disposed to resume commercial relations with Soviet Russia that the spreading of false rumors and the fomentation of disorders at Kronstadt are organized to impress the new American president and prevent a change of American policy in Russia.
“The conference in London is taking place at the same time. The spreading of such rumors seeks to influence the Turkish delegation and make it subservient to the requirements of the Allies. The revolt of the crew of the Petropavlovsk is without any doubt a stage in the great conspiracy to create internal difficulties in Soviet Russia and disturb the international situation. This plan is put into effect in Russia by a Czarist general and by ex-officers with the support of Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries.”
A name continually recurs in all these documents — that of a certain General Kozlovsky, the pretended leader and master of the movement. There was, in fact, at Kronstadt a Czarist ex-General of the name of Kozlovsky. It was Trotsky, the great restorer of ex-generals of the Czar as military specialists, who put him there as an artillery expert. While this person was in the employ of the Bolsheviks, they closed their eyes to his past. But when Kronstadt revolted, they took advantage of the presence of their “specialist” to create a scapegoat.
In fact, Kozlovsky did not play any part in the events at Kronstadt, nor did his “aides,” who were mentioned by the Bolsheviks-Borkser, Kostromitinoff and Chirmanovsky, one of whom was a simple draftsman. But the Bolsheviks exploited their names skillfully to denounce the sailors as enemies of the Republic and present their movement as counterrevolutionary. Communist agitators were sent into the mills and factories of Petrograd and Moscow to call upon them to take a stand against Kronstadt, “that nest of the White conspiracy, directed by General Kozlovsky,” and “to associate themselves with the support and defense of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government against the White guard rebellion at Kronstadt.”
Kozlovsky himself could only shrug his shoulders when he learned of the role which the Bolsheviks made him play in the events. He said later that the Bolshevik commander of the fortress had fled soon after the establishment of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. According to the Bolshevik rules, it was the artillery chief — General Kozlovsky as it happened — who should have replaced him. But since these rules were no longer in force, the Communist power being replaced by that of the Revolutionary Committee, Kozlovsky refused to accept the post. The Revolutionary Committee therefore designated another specialist, a certain Solovianoff, as commander of the fortress. As for Kozlovsky, he was put in charge of directing the technical services of the artillery. His “aides,” absolutely insignificant persons, also remained entirely outside the movement.
At the same time, by a historical irony, it was an important Czarist ex-officer, the famous Tuchachevsky (later shot by the order of Stalin) who assumed, at Trotsky’s direction, the command of the forces destined to act against Kronstadt. Furthermore, all the “specialists” and sentinels of Czarism who had gone over to the service of the Bolsheviks participated in drawing up the plan of the siege and the attack on Kronstadt. As for the men of Kronstadt, who were so slandered by their cynical opponents, they had at their disposal, as technical and military experts, the pallid figure of Koz-lovsky and three or four other persons who were absolute nonentities from a political point of view.
The Kronstadt movement broke out spontaneously. If this movement had been the result of a plan conceived and prepared in advance, it would certainly not have occurred at the beginning of March, the least favorable time. A few weeks later, and Kronstadt, freed of ice, would have become an almost impregnable fortress, having at its disposal a powerful fleet, a terrible threat to Petrograd. Supplied from abroad, Kronstadt could not only have held out for a long time, but it might even have conquered. The greatest opportunity of the Bolshevik government was precisely the spontaneity of the movement and the absence of any premeditation, of any calculation, in the action of the sailors.
There was no “revolt” at Kronstadt, in the true sense of the word. There was a spontaneous and peaceful movement, absolutely legitimate and natural in the given circumstances, which rapidly embraced the whole city, the garrison and the fleet. Frightened for their power, their positions and their privileges, the Bolsheviks forced events and obliged Kronstadt to accept an armed struggle.
Naturally, Kronstadt did its best to reply to the Bolshevik insinuations and slanders. Through its newspaper and its radio stations, the Provisional Revolutionary Committee made known to the laboring masses of Russia and the world the real goals and aspirations of their movement, at the same time refuting the lies of the Communist government. Thus Izvestia No. 4, for March 6th, reproduced the following radio appeal of the Revolutionary Committee:
To all! To all! To all! Comrades, workers, Red soldiers and sailors!
Here, in Kronstadt, we know how you suffer — you, your wives and your starving children — under the yoke of the Communist dictatorship.
We have overthrown the Communist Soviet. In a few days, the Provisional Revolutionary Committee will proceed to the election of a new Soviet which, freely chosen, will accurately reflect the will of all the working population and the garrison, and not that of a handful of crazy “communists.”
Our cause is just. We are for the power of the Soviets and not that of the parties. We are for the free election of the representatives of the working masses. The false Soviets, monopolized and manipulated by the Communist Party, have always been deaf to our needs and our requests: the only response that we have received has been the assassin’s bullet.
Now, your patience, the patience of the workers, being at an end, they want to stop your mouths with sops. By order of Zinoviev, the barriers are suppressed in Petrograd province, and Moscow allocates ten million gold rubles to buy food and articles of primary necessity abroad. But we know that the proletariat of Petrograd will not let itself be bought with these sops. Over the heads of the Communists, revolutionary Kronstadt extends its hand and offers you its fraternal assistance.
Comrades, not only are they fooling you, but they are impudently distorting the truth, they are resorting to the vilest falsifications. Comrades do not let yourselves be deceived. At Kronstadt, power is exclusively in the hands of the revolutionary sailors, soldiers and workers, and not in those of the “counter-revolutionaries directed by one Koz-lovsky,” as the lying Moscow radio tries to make you believe.
Do not hesitate, comrades! Unite with us! Establish contact with us! Demand that your nonparty delegates be authorized to come to Kronstadt. They alone can tell you the truth and unmask the shameful slander about “Finnish bread” and the snares of the allies.
Long live the revolutionary proletariat of the cities and the fields! Long live the power of freely elected Soviets!
In Izvestia No. 10, on March 12th, the Committee issued the following specific refutation of the story of Kronstadt being dominated by Czarist generals:
The Communists insinuate that White-guard generals and officers, and a priest, are among the members of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. In order to put an end to these lies, once and for all, we bring to their attention that the Committee is composed of the following fifteen members:
Petrichenko, yeoman 1st class, on board the Petropavlovsk.
Yakovenko, telephone operator of the Kronstadt district.
Ossossonoff, mechanic on the Sebastopol.
Arhipoff, quartermaster mechanic.
Perepelkin, mechanic on the Sebastopol.
Patrouchev, quartermaster mechanic on the Petropavlovsk.
Koupoloff, medical orderly, first class.
Verchinin, seaman on the Sebastopol.
Toukin, electrical worker.
Romanenko, guard at the ship-repair shops.
Orechin, employee at the 3rd technical school.
Pavloff, worker in the mine workshop.
Reproducing the same list on March 14th (No. 12), the paper concluded with this ironical remark: “Such are our generals, our Brusiloffs, Kameneffs, etc. The policemen Trotsky and Zinoviev are concealing the truth from you.”
In their campaign of slander the Bolsheviks sought not only to distort the spirit and goal of the movement, but also the acts of the men of Kronstadt. Thus they spread the rumor that the Communists in Kronstadt suffered all kinds of violence at the hands of the “mutineers.” Repeatedly, Kronstadt reiterated the truth about this matter. In No. 2 of Iz-vestia, for example, there is the following note:
The Provisional Revolutionary Committee is anxious to give the lie to the rumors according to which the arrested Communists have been subjected to violence. The arrested Communists are completely safe.
Furthermore, of the several Communists arrested, some have been set free. A representative of the Communist Party will be a member of the commission for investigating the reasons for the arrests. The Communist comrades Ilin, Kabanoff and Pervouchin have applied to the Revolutionary Committee and have been authorized to visit the prisoners confined on the Petropavlovsk. These comrades confirm the above and sign their names. Signed: Ilin, Kabanoff, Pervouchin. Signed, for a fair copy: N. Arhipoff, member of the Revolutionary Committee. Signed, for the secretary: P. Bogdanoff.
The same issue also published, over the signature of the above Communists, an “Appeal of the Provisional Board of the Kronstadt Section of the Communist Party.” For comprehensible reasons, the terms of this “Appeal” addressed to the Communists are prudent and vague. Nevertheless, it includes the following significant passage:
Do not give any credence to the false rumors which maintain that responsible Communists have been shot, and that the Communists intend to rebel at Kronstadt with arms in hand. These are lies propagated with the intention of provoking bloodshed. The Provisional Board of the Communist Party recognizes the necessity of new elections for the Soviet and it requests the members of the party to remain at their posts and put no obstacles in the way of the measures of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. Provisional Board of the Kronstadt Section of the Communist Party: Signed — J. Ilin, A. Kabanoff, F. Pervouchin.
Various answers were given in brief notes, which appeared from time to time under the title: Their Lies.
In Izvestia No. 7 (March 9), we read:
The commander of the army which is operating against Kronstadt has just communicated the following report to a writer in The Red Commander:
“We are informed that the civil population of Kronstadt is receiving hardly any provisions. The sharpshooters’ regiment in the Kronstadt garrison refuses to join the mutineers and has resisted an attempt to disarm them. The principal leaders of the rebellion are getting ready to flee to Finland. A nonparty sailor fleeing from Kronstadt states that at the meeting of the sailors at Kronstadt on March 4th, the floor was taken by General Kozlovsky. In his speech, he demanded strong power and decisive action against the partizans of the Soviets.
“At Kronstadt, morale is low. The population is depressed. It is waiting impatiently for the end of the rebellion and asks that the White guard leaders be turned over to the Soviet government.”
That is what the Communists are telling about the events; such are the means to which they have recourse in order to sully our movement in the eyes of the laboring people.
In Number 12 (March 14):
We reproduce verbatim the notes which have appeared in the March 11 th issue of the Petrograd Pravda:
“Armed struggle at Kronstadt. The following communication was received yesterday at 8 p.m. by the Defense Committee from Comrade Tukhachevsky, Commander of the Army at present at Oranienbaum: Heavy firing has been heard at Kronstadt — rifle shots and machine-gun fire. Through field glasses, troops could be seen attacking, in dispersed ranks, near the mine workshop situated to the north east of the Constants fort. It is supposed that the object of the attack was either the Constantin fort or detachments revolting against the White guards and entrenched in the vicinity of the mine workshop.
“A Fire at Kronstadt. At the moment when we were taking Fort N., a great fire was observed at Kronstadt. A thick cloud of smoke enveloped the city.
“More on the Inspirers and Leaders of the Rebellion. A refugee who left Kronstadt on the night of March 7th has made the following statement on the spirit and the attitude of the White guard officers: They are very jovial. They are not at all worried about the bloodshed they have provoked. They dream of the pleasures which await them when they take Petrograd. ‘Once Petrograd is in our hands, there will be at least half a pood of gold apiece. And if we lose, we can save ourselves by going to Finland where we will be received with open arms.’ That is what these gentlemen declare. They feel themselves complete masters of the situation. And in fact they are. Their attitude towards the sailors does not differ in the least from that of the old Czarist days. ‘These are real leaders, not like the Communists,’ the sailors say of them. They only lack the gold epaulets.
“We make it known to the White guard officers that they should not count too heavily on flight to Finland, and that they will receive not gold, but a nice portion of lead.”
In addition to the above, the Red Journal reports: “Two sailors coming from Reval state that 150 Bolsheviks have been killed in Kronstadt.” That is how history is written. And that is how the Communists try to hide the truth from the people by means of lies and slanders.
In Number 13 (March 15):
We reproduce the following from the Red Journal:
“Oranienbaum, March 11th. It has been confirmed that at Kronstadt the sailors have revolted against the mutineers.
“Oranienbaum, March 12th. Yesterday, men were seen sneaking over the ice from Kronstadt towards the Finnish coast. Likewise, men were seen coming from Finland towards Kronstadt. This proves that contact exists between Kronstadt and Finland.
“Oranienbaum, March 12th. The Red pilots who flew over Kronstadt yesterday report that they saw hardly anyone in the streets. All guards and observers are missing. No further contact with Finland was observed.
“Oranienbaum, March 11th. The refugees from Kronstadt report that the morale of the sailors is very low. The leaders of the mutiny have lost all confidence in the sailors, so much so that the latter are no longer admitted into the artillery. This is manned by the officers, who hold the real power. The sailors are almost entirely eliminated from it.
“Firing from Kronstadt. According to information received today, intense firing took place at Kronstadt. Rifle and machine-gun fire was heard. Apparently a revolt has broken out.”
While dishonestly accusing the people of Kronstadt of excesses and violence, the Bolsheviks themselves behaved in an absolutely dishonorable way.
“Three days ago,” we read in an editorial of Izvestia No. 3, March 5th, “Kronstadt got rid of the monstrous power of the Communists, as the city got rid of the Czar and his generals four years ago. For three days, the citizens of Kronstadt have breathed freely, delivered from the dictatorship of the party.
“The Communist leaders of Kronstadt fled shamefully like guilty urchins. They feared for their skins. They supposed that the Provisional Revolutionary Committee would have recourse to the methods of the Cheka and put them to death. Vain fears! The Provisional Revolutionary Committee does not exact vengeance. It does not threaten anyone.
“All the Communists of Kronstadt are free. No danger threatens them. Only those who tried to flee and fell into the hands of our patrols have been arrested. But even these are safe, secure from the eventual vengeance of the people who might try to make them pay for the ‘Red Terror.’ The families of the Communists are safe from any attack as are all the citizens.
“In view of this, what is the attitude of the Communists? In the leaflet which they dropped from an airplane yesterday, it says that many persons have been arrested in Petrograd,people having no connection with the events at Kronstadt. Worse than that, even their families were thrown into prison.
“ ‘The Defense Committee,’ says the leaflet, ‘declares that all these prisoners are held as hostages for the comrades arrested by the mutineers at Kronstadt, particularly for the Commissar of the Baltic Fleet, N. Kuzmin, the President of the Kronstadt Soviet, Comrade Vassilieff, and several others. The hostages will pay with their lives for the slightest injury suffered by our arrested comrades.’
“That is how the Defense Committee ends its proclamation. It is the rage of the impotent. The torturing of innocent families adds no new laurels to the fame of the Communist comrades. And, in any case, it will not be by such methods that they can regain the power which the sailors, Red soldiers and workers of Kronstadt have taken from them.”
Kronstadt replied to the statements of the Communists with the following radiogram, which was reproduced in Izvestia No. 5, on March 7th:
“In the name of the Kronstadt garrison, the Provisional Revolutionary Committee demands that the families of the workers, sailors and Red soldiers held as hostages by the Petrograd Soviet be set free within 24 hours.
“The Kronstadt garrison declares that the Communists in Kronstadt enjoy complete freedom and that their families are safe from any danger. The example of the Petrograd Soviet will not be followed here, because we consider such methods as the holding of hostages to be most vile and most despicable, even when provoked by the rage of despair. History knows no like ignominy.
“Petrichenko, President of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee; Kilgast, secretary.”
The Defense Committee was ruthless in Petrograd, which was inundated with troops brought in from the provinces, and subjugated to a reign of terror under the guise of “the state of seige.” The Committee took systematic measures to “clean up” the city. Many workers, soldiers and sailors suspected of sympathy with Kronstadt were imprisoned. All the sailors of Petrograd, and various regiments of the army, considered “politically unreliable,” were sent to distant regions.
Directed by its President, Zinovieff, the Committee assumed complete control of the city and province of Petrograd. The whole northern district was declared in a state of war, and all meetings were forbidden. Extraordinary precautions were taken to protect the government institutions, and machine guns were placed in the Astoria Hotel, occupied by Zinovieff and other high Bolshevik functionaries.
A great nervousness reigned in the city. New strikes broke out and persistent rumors were spread regarding workers’ uprisings in Moscow and peasant revolts in the East and in Siberia. The population, which could have no confidence in the press, listened avidly to the most extreme rumors, even when they were manifestly false. All eyes were on Kronstadt, in the expectation of important happenings.
Meanwhile, notices posted on the walls ordered the strikers back to their employment, prohibited the suspension of work, and forbade the population from meeting in the streets. “In the event of a gathering,” they read, “the troops will use arms, and in case of resistance the order is to shoot on the spot.”
Petrograd was powerless to act. Subjugated to the most disgraceful terror, obliged to keep silent, the capital put all its hopes in Kronstadt.
From the first days of the movement, Kronstadt undertook the task of internal organization. It was a vast and urgent task, for many problems had to be dealt with at once.
The Provisional Revolutionary Committee, whose seat was first on board the Petropavlovsk, soon moved to the People’s House, in the center of Kronstadt, so that, in the words of Izvestia, it would be “in closer contact with the population.” Moreover, its membership, which was only five at the beginning, was considered insufficient to deal with all the needs of the hour, and it was soon increased to fifteen. Of the first activities of the enlarged Committee at itsmeeting on the 4th March, Izvestia published the following report:
“The meeting proceeded to the business of the day. It was disclosed that the city and the garrison were adequately supplied with food and fuel.
“The question of arming the workers was then taken up. It was decided that all the workers, without exception, should be armed and put in charge of guarding the interior of the city, since the sailors and soldiers wished to take their places in the combat units. This decision was received with enthusiastic approval ...
“It was then decided to reelect, within three days, the administrative commissions of all the unions and also of the Council of Unions. The latter would become the principal organ of the workers and would be in permanent contact with the Provisional Revolutionary Committee.
“After this, the sailors who had been able to escape, with much risk, from Petrograd, Peterhof and Oranienbaum gave reports on the situation there. They stated that the population and workers of all these localities were kept by the Communists in complete ignorance of what was happening in Kronstadt. Rumors were being spread everywhere that the White Guards and generals were active at Kronstadt. This communication aroused general laughter.”
But the Revolutionary Committee and the various other organizations that were created at this time were not the only channels of action. The whole population became intensely animated and participated with new energy in the work of reconstruction. The revolutionary enthusiasm equaled that of the October days. For the first time since the Communist Party had taken over the Revolution, Kronstadt felt free. A new spirit of solidarity and fraternity reunited the sailors, the soldiers of the garrison, the workers and all other elements in a common effort for the common cause. Even the Communists were affected by the contagion of this fraternity of the whole city, and participated in the preparations for the election of the Kronstadt Soviet.
The pages of Izvestia give abundant proof of this general enthusiasm, which re-appeared once the masses felt they had regained, in the free Soviets, the true road to emancipation and the hope of achieving the real revolution. The paper abounded in notices, resolutions and appeals of all sorts, from individual citizens and from various groups and organizations, in which full rein was given to this enthusiasm, to the feeling of solidarity and devotion, to the desire to act usefully and take part in the common task.
The principle of “equal rights for all, privileges for none” was established and rigorously maintained. Food rations were equalized. The sailors, who under the Bolsheviks had received a much larger ration, decided not to accept any more than what was given to the workers and the citizens. Special rations were only given to the sick and to children.
We have just said that the general excitement affected the Communists. In fact, it reversed the opinions of many of them. The pages of Izvestia contained many declarations from Communist groups and organizations in Kronstadt which condemned the attitude of the central government and supported the line of conduct and the measures taken by the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. But even stronger evidence than that was given of a change in Communist attitudes within the city. A very large number of Kronstadt Communists publicly announced their departure from the party. In several issues of Izvestia, hundreds of names of Communists were published whose consciences forbade them to stay in the same party as the hangman Trotsky, as several put it. The resignations from the party soon became so numerous that the paper, for lack of space, had to stop announcing them and declared that it could mention them only in groups and then only when space permitted. One got the impression of a general exodus.
Several letters taken at random from a great number give an adequate impression of this sudden and significant change.
I realize that the policy of the Communist Party has brought the country to an impossible impasse. The party has become bureaucratic. It has learned nothing and wants to learn nothing. It refuses to listen to the voice of the masses and tries to impose its own will on them. (Think of the 115 million peasants!) It will not understand that only freedom of speech and the possibility for the masses to participate in the reconstruction of the country with the aid of modified electoral procedures can awaken the people from their lethargy.
I refuse henceforth to consider myself a member of the Communist Party. I entirely approve of the resolution adopted at the meeting of all the people on March 1st, and consequently I place all my abilities and energy at the disposal of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. I request that this declaration be published in the paper.
Herman Kanaiev, officer of the Red Army son of an exile of the trial of the 193. (Izvestia No. 3, March 5th)
* * *
Comrade Communists of the rank and file! Look around and you will see that we are stuck fast in a terrible morass. We have been led there by a handful of “Communist” bureaucrats who, under the disguise of Communists, have occupied the warmest nests in our Republic.
As a Communist, I beseech you to get rid of these false “Communists” who are pushing you towards fratricide. It is thanks to them that we others, rank and file Communists, who are not responsible for anything, must undergo the reproaches of our comrades, the nonparty workers and peasants.
I am alarmed at the existing situation. Is it possible that the blood of our brothers will be spilled for the interests of these “Communist” bureaucrats? Comrades, come to your senses! Do not let yourselves be used by these bureaucrats who provoke and push you into the butchery. Show them the door. A real Communist should not impose his ideas, but march with the whole working mass, in the same ranks as they.
Rojkali, member of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) (Izvestia No. 7, March 9th)
* * *
Seeing that in reply to a proposal of the Kronstadt comrades to send a delegation to Petrograd, Trotsky and the Communist chiefs have sent over the first shells and have spilled blood, I request that I no longer be considered a member of the Communist Party. The speeches of Communist orators turned my head, but the acts of the Communist bureaucrats have turned it back again.
I thank the Communist bureaucrats for having shown their true face and for having thus permitted me to see my error. I was a blind instrument in their hands.
Andre Bratachev, ex-member of the Communist Party No. 537,575 (Izvestia No. 7, March 9th)
* * *
Considering that the present terrible situation is the result of the acts of an insolent handful of Communists solidly installed at the head of the party, and in view of the fact that I joined the party under pressure, as a rank-and-file militant, I observe with horror the fruit of their activities. Only the workers and peasants can save the country, which has been brought to ruin, but the Communist party which is in power has completely deceived them. For this reason 1 am leaving the party and giving my strength to the defense of the working masses.
L. Koroleff, Commander of the 5th Batt., 4th Division (Izvestia No. 7, March 9th)
* * *
Comrades, and my dear pupils of the industrial, military and naval schools! I have lived nearly thirty years with a deep love for the people. To the best of my ability 1 have brought light and knowledge to all who wanted to learn. The 1917 Revolution gave me new enthusiasm. My activity increased. I worked harder than ever to serve my ideal. The Communist slogan, “Everything for the people” inspired me by its nobility and beauty, and in February 1920 I became an applicant for membership in the Communist Party. But the first shot fired against the peaceful people, against my dear children, of whom there are 7,000 in Kronstadt, has made me tremble with horror to think that I might be considered an accomplice in the shedding of these innocents’ blood. 1 know that I cannot any longer believe in or propagate an idea that has been dishonored by criminal action. Therefore, from the first shot I ceased to consider myself a member of the Communist Party.
Maria Nikolaievna Chatel, teacher. (Izvestia No. 8, March 10th)
* * *
Since, in reply to the proposition of the Kronstadt comrades to send delegates to Petrograd, Trotsky sent an airplane loaded with bombs which were dropped on innocent women and children, since, moreover, they are shooting honest workers everywhere, we rank-and-file Communists of the electrical crew of the Third Region, profoundly indignant at the actions of Trotsky and his agents and at their behaving like wild beasts, are leaving the Communist Party and joining all the honest workers in the common struggle for the workers’ emancipation. We request that we be considered out of the party.
(17 signatures follow — Izvestia No. 8, March 10th)
* * *
For three years 1 have worked at Kronstadt as an instructor in the primary school and also in the army and naval units. I have always honestly marched with the workers of free Kronstadt giving them all my powers in the field of public education. The great enthusiasm for culture professed by the Communists, the class struggle of the workers against the exploiters, and the perspectives of Soviet construction, drew me into the ranks of the Communist Party. 1 became an applicant for membership on February 1st, 1920. Since my application I have observed many serious faults in the party hierarchy. I have come to the conclusion that these faults pollute the beautiful idea of Communism. The more serious faults, which have impressed the masses very unfavorably, are: bureaucracy, the rupture between the party and the masses, the party’s dictatorial procedures in relation to the latter, the great number of careerists, etc. All these faults widen the bpttomless abyss between the masses and the party, transforming the latter into an organ powerless to struggle against the country’s internal downfall.
The present events have uncovered the most horrible evils in the regime. When the people of Kronstadt, which has several thousand inhabitants, presented their entirely just demands to the “defenders of the interests of the workers,” the bureaucratized hierarchy of the Communist Party rejected them, and, instead of reaching a free and fraternal agreement with the Kronstadt workers, opened a fratricidal fire against the workers, sailors and Red soldiers of the revolutionary city. And-this was the last straw — the dropping of bombs by airplanes on defenseless women and children added a fine laurel to the Communist Party’s crown.
Not wanting to share responsibility for the barbarous acts of the Communists, and disapproving of the tactics of their hierarchy, which has resulted in bloodshed and the extreme suffering of the masses, I declare openly that I no longer consider myself an applicant for Communist Party membership and entirely accept the slogan of the Kronstadt workers: “All power to the Soviets and not to the parties.”
T. Denisoff, instructor at the Second Primary School (Izvestia No. 10, March 12th)
* * *
Without violence or bloodshed, the power of the Communist Party, which had lost the confidence of the masses, passed at Kronstadt to the hands of the revolutionary workers. Nevertheless, the central Government blockaded Kronstadt. It spread lying proclamations and radio messages, trying to impose its power by hunger, cold and treason.
We consider such tactics treason to the basic principles of the Social Revolution: “All power to the workers.” By this treason, the Communists in power have taken the side of the enemies of the workers. For us there is now only one choice, to remain at our posts and struggle relentlessly against all those who try to impose their power on the working masses by violence, treason and provocation. We are therefore breaking off all relations with the party.
Miloradovitch, Bezsonoff, Markoff, ex-members of the Communist Party (Izvestia No. 10, March 12th)
* * *
Revolted by the behavior of the great lord Trotsky, who did not hesitate to stain his hands with the blood of his comrade workers, I consider it my moral duty to leave the party and publish my declaration.
V.Grabedeff, candidate for party membership, President of the Building Workers’ Union (Izvestia No. 10, March 12th)
Finally, we reproduce some instructive excerpts drawn from declarations of the same type. These excerpts give a very clear idea of the spirit and the attitudes which prevailed everywhere:
We, the undersigned ... were members of the Communist Party, because we considered it an emanation of the will of the working masses. But in reality it has shown itself to be the hangman of workers and peasants...
(Izvestia No. 5, March 7)
* * *
We, candidates to the Communist Party ... unanimously declare our solidarity, not with the authorities, but entirely with the just cause of the workers ...
(Izvestia No. 7, March 9)
* * *
The parties have been preoccupied with politics. But when the Civil War was over, people wanted the party to turn to economic life and to make headway in the reconstruction of the country’s ruined economy.
The peasant does not need Commissars to understand that he must give bread to the city; and the worker, in turn, will do all he can to furnish the peasant with everything the peasant needs for his work.
(Izvestia No. 11, March 13)
* * *
On March 14th, the general assembly of kursanti, officers and Red soldiers, numbering 240, who had been taken prisoner and interned in the Riding School, adopted the following resolution:
“On March 8th, we. kursanti. officers and Red soldiers of Moscow and Petrograd, received the order to attack the city of Kron-stadt. We were told that the White Guards had started a mutiny. When, without using our arms, we approached the outskirts of the city and made contact with the advance guard of the sailors and workers, we realized that no White Guard mutiny existed at Kron-stadt, but, on the contrary, that the sailors and workers had overthrown the absolutist power of the Commissars. Soon, we went over voluntarily to the side of the people of Kronstadt, and now we request the Revolutionary Committee to place us in combat units, for we want to fight beside the real defenders of the workers and peasants, both of Kronstadt and of all Russia.
“We consider that the Provisional Revolutionary Committee has taken the correct course for the emancipation of all the workers, and that only the idea of ‘All power to the Soviets and not to the parties’ can complete the work that has been so well begun.”
(Izvestia No. 14, March 16th)
* * *
We, soldiers of the Red Army from the fort Krasnoarmeietz, are body and soul with the Revolutionary Committee. We will defend the Committee, the workers and the peasants to the end. No one can believe the lies in the Communist proclamations which have been dropped by airplane. We have neither generals nor masters here. Kronstadt has always been the city of the workers and peasants, and it will continue to be so.
The Communists say that we are misled by spies. This is a barefaced lie. We have always defended the liberties conquered by the revolution, and we will always defend them. If anyone wants to convince themselves of this, let him send a delegation to us. As for the generals, they are in the service of the Communists.
At the present moment, when the fate of the country is in doubt, we who have taken power into our hands and have given supreme command to the Revolutionary Committee declare to the whole garrison, and to all the workers that we are ready to die for the liberty of the working people. Freed from the Communist yoke and from the terror of the past years, we prefer to die rather than retreat a single step.
Detachment of Fort Krasnoarmeietz (Izvestia No. 5, March 7th)
A passionate love for a free Russia and an unlimited faith in the “true Soviets” inspired Kronstadt. To the end, the Kronstadtzi hoped to be supported by Petrograd first of all and then by the whole of Russia, and to be able thus to achieve the complete liberation of the country. The following manifesto was typical of their attitude:
“Comrades, sailors, workers and Red soldiers of the city of Kron-stadt!
“We, the garrison of fort Totleben, send you our fraternal greetings at this grim and tragic hour of our glorious struggle against the hated yoke of the Communists. All of us are ready, as one man, to die for the emancipation of our suffering brothers, the peasants and workers of all Russia, chained again in hateful slavery to violence and deception. We hope that soon, by determination,we shall be able to break the circle of enemies around the fortress into a thousand pieces and carry the real truth and real freedom across our land.”
This note appeared in the last number of the Kronstadt Izvestia (No. 14), on March 16th, 1921. The enemy was at the gates of Kronstadt. Petrograd and the rest of the country, terrified by a formidable massing of military and police forces, was manifestly impotent to break the vise. Very little hope remained for the heroic handful of defenders in the fortress, attacked by a huge army of kursanti, blindly devoted to the government. Yet, carried away by their great ideal, by the purity of their motives, by their fervent faith in imminent liberation, the men of Kronstadt continued to hope and to fight the unequal battle.
They had not wanted an armed struggle. They had sought to resolve the conflict by peaceful and fraternal means, by free reelection of the Soviets, by an understanding with the Communists, by persuasion and free action among the working masses. The fratricidal struggle was imposed on them, but as events unfolded they became more and more determined to fight to the end for their just and noble cause.
A significant aspect of their attitude was the way in which they regarded the question of help in their action. They received offers from various sources, notably from the Right Social-Revolutionaries. But they refused all aid coming from that direction. As for the leftist groups, they only accepted their aid when it was offered in a spirit of freedom and sincerity, in devotion and fraternity and when it had no political ties. They welcomed the collaboration of friends, but they accepted no pressure, no “dictation.”
Fourteen numbers of the Izvestia of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee appeared during the revolt, from the 3rd to the 16th of March. The noble, burning aspirations of the rebels for a new and truly free life for Kronstadt and for all Russia, their sublime devotion and their firm resolve to defend themselves “to the last drop of blood” in the fight that was imposed upon them, all these essential qualities were faithfully reflected in a series of articles in their paper which explained their position, formulated their objectives, sought to convince the blind and the misled, and replied as we have already seen, to the slanders and the hostile acts of the Communists.
We have run through these historic pages, which now are almost entirely unknown. They should be read and re-read by the workers of all countries, in order to put them on their guard against the fundamental errors which lost the Russian Revolution of 1917 and which threaten in advance the Revolution that may come in other countries-T.e. action under the egis of political parties; the reconstruction of political power; the installation of a new government; the organization of a centralized state, under new slogans empty of real content, such as “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” “Proletarian Government,” “Workers’ and Peasants’ State,” etc. These newspapers, like the epic of Kronstadt itself, prove conclusively that what belongs really to the workers and peasants can be neither governmental nor statist, and that what is governmental and statist can belong neither to the workers nor the peasants.
The first issue of the Kronstadt Izvestia (March 3, 1921) contains, in addition to information and administrative notes, the Manifesto “To the Population of the Fortress and of the City of Kronstadt,” and the famous sailors’ “Resolution,” which we have already cited.
The second issue (of March 4), which contains the Moscow radiogram (cited earlier) also contains the following significant appeal:
To the Population of the City of Kronstadt
Citizens, Kronstadt is beginning a hard fight for freedom. At any moment, we can expect a Communist offensive for the purpose of retaking Kronstadt and reimposing on us their power, which has led to famine, cold and economic breakdown.
All of us, to the last man, will defend the liberty we have won, with force and determination. We will resist the plan to subjugate Kronstadt, and if the Communists try to do it by force of arms, we will reply with a worthy resistance.
The Provisional Committee calls upon the population not to be disturbed if they hear firing. Calm and composure will bring us victory.
The Provisional Revolutionary Committee
We have already quoted everything of interest in No. 3 (of March 5), except for the usual notes, declarations and information. We can nevertheless add the following paragraph:
Complete order reigns in Kronstadt. All institutions are functioning normally. The streets are full of people. Not a shot has been fired for three days.
No. 4 (of March 6th), in addition to the material cited earlier, contains the following editorial:
The calloused hands of the sailors and workers of Kronstadt have seized the rudder from the hands of the Communists and have taken possession of the helm. The Soviet ship will be sailed safely and competently to Petrograd, from which this power of the workers’ hands shall spread throughout unhappy Russia.
But comrades, take care! Double your watches, for the course is full of reefs. A careless turn of the rudder and your ship, with its precious mission of social reconstruction, may run on to a rock.
Comrades, look to the rudder — your enemies are already trying to seize it! A single error and they will succeed, and the Soviet ship will founder to the triumphant laughter of the Czarist lackeys and the agents of the bourgeoisie.
Comrades, at this moment you are rejoicing in a great and peaceful victory over the dictatorship of the Communists. But your enemies also are rejoicing. You and they are joyful for opposite reasons. You are filled with a burning desire to reestablish the real power of the Soviets, with the noble hope of seeing the worker work freely and the peasant enjoy the right of disposing of the products of his labor on his own land. They dream of reestablishing the knout of Czarism and the privileges of the generals.
Your interests are different. They are not your comrades. You have had to get rid of the Communist power to begin a creative task of peaceful reconstruction. They want to maintain this power so that the workers and peasants may be their slaves again. You seek liberty. They want to enthralled you.
The editorial in No. 6 (March 7):
“Field-marshal” Trotsky threatens free and revolutionary Kron-stadt which has revolted against the absolutism of the Communist commisars. The workers who have overthrown the shameful yoke of the dictatorship of the Communist Party are threatened by this new kind of Trepoff with military defeat. He promises to bomb the peaceful population of Kronstadt. He repeats the order of the original Trepoff, “Do not economize on bullets.” He will have to find plenty for the revolutionary sailors, workers and Red soldiers.
For him, the dictator of Soviet Russia which has been violated by the Communists, the fate of the working masses means nothing. The important thing is that power should remain in the hands of his party.
He has the insolence to speak in the name of Soviet Russia. He promises pardon! He, the bloody Trotsky, leader of the Communist cossacks who are pitilessly shedding torrents of blood for the benefit of party absolutism, he, the stifler of all free spirit, dares to use this language to the people of Kronstadt, who boldly and firmly uphold the red flag!
The Communists hope to reestablish their absolutism at the price of the blood of the workers and the suffering of their imprisoned families. They want to compel the rebel sailors, workers and Red soldiers to stick out their necks again. They dream of installing their evil policy, which has hurled all of laboring Russia into the pit of disorder, famine and poverty.
Enough of this! The workers will not be fooled any longer! Communists, your hopes are vain and your threats have no effect. The last phase of the Workers’ Revolution is on the march. It will sweep the im-posters and slanderers from the country, from the Soviets soiled with their works. And as for your Pardon, Mr. Trotsky, we do not need it!
* * *
We do not Exact Vengeance
The oppression of the working masses by the Communist dictatorship has given rise to a perfectly natural indignation and resentment among the population. As a consequence of this, several Communists have been boycotted or dismissed. This should not happen again. We do not seek vengeance; we defend our interests as workers. We must act with composure, and only eliminate those who, by sabotage or by a campaign of slander, prevent the restoration of the power and rights of the workers.
* * *
We and They
Not knowing how to preserve the power that is escaping them, the Communists are employing the vilest provocations. Their unclean press has mobilized all its forces to stir up the masses and present the Kron-stadt movement as a White-guard conspiracy. At this moment, their clique of infamous scoundrels has launched the slogan: “Kronstadt has sold out to Finland.” Their newspapers vomit fire and poison. Having failed in the task of convincing the proletariat that Kronstadt is in the hands of the counter-revolutionaries, they now try to play on national sentiments.
The whole country knows already from our radio messages the reasons why the garrison and the workers of Kronstadt are fighting. But the Communists seek to distort the meaning of the events, hoping thus to deceive our brothers in Petrograd.
Petrograd is closely surrounded by the bayonets of the kursanti and the “guards” of the party. The Maliuta Skouratoff — Trotsky — does not let the nonparty workers and Red soldiers come to Kronstadt. He is afraid that they will learn the truth and that the truth will immediately sweep the Communists away. For, once the eyes of the working masses are opened, their calloused hands will take power.
This is the reason why the Petrograd Soviet has not replied to a radio message requesting that they send really impartial comrades to Kronstadt. Fearing for their skins, the Communist chiefs stifle the truth and pile lie on lie. “The White guards are at work at Kronstadt.” “The Finns have already organized an army to take possession of Petrograd with the help of the Kronstadt rebels,” etc.
We have only one thing to reply to all this. “All Power to the Soviets.” Take off your hands, your hands red with the blood of the martyrs of liberty who struggled against the White Guards, the landlords and the bourgeoisie.
Finally, the same issue contains a virtual “profession of faith”: the program and testament the Kronstadt workers bequeathed to the working masses of future revolutions. Their aspirations and their hopes are firmly and lucidly expressed in this document:
The Goals for Which We Fight
In making the October Revolution, the working class hoped to obtain its emancipation. But it resulted in a worse slavery for human individuality. The power of the police monarchy passed into the hands of the usurpers — the Communists-who, instead of giving freedom to the people, gave them the fear of the Cheka’s jails, whose horrors far surpass the methods of the Czarist police.
After long years of fighting and suffering, the Soviet Russian worker has only obtained impertinent orders, bayonet thrusts and the whistling bullets of the Cheka Cossacks. In fact, the Communist power has substituted for the glorious emblem of the workers, the hammer and sickle, another symbol — the bayonet and the barred window, which has permitted the new bureaucracy, the Communist functionaries and commissars, to procure for themselves a tranquil and carefree existence.
But most debased and criminal of all is the spiritual slavery established by the Communists. They put their hands on the thoughts and moral life of the workers, compelling everyone to think only according to their formulas. With the aid of state unions, they have chained the workers to the machines, and transformed work into a new slavery instead of making it pleasant. To the protests of the peasants, which have gone as far as spontaneous revolts, to the demands of the workers, compelled by the very conditions of their life to resort to strikes, they reply with mass shootings and a ferocity that the Czarist generals might have envied.
The workers’ Russia, the first to raise the red flag of the emancipation of labor, is drowned in the blood of the martyrs for the greater glory of the Communist rule. With it are drowned all the great and beautiful promises and possibilities of the proletarian revolution.
It has been becoming more and more clear, and now it is evident, that the Communist Party is not, as it pretends to be, the defender of the workers. The interests of the working masses are foreign to it. After obtaining power, the Communists have only one concern — not to lose it. For that end they consider any means are justified: defamation, deception, violence, assassination, vengeance on the families of rebels.
But the patience of the martyred workers is exhausted. The country is here and there illuminated by the fire of rebellion, of the struggle against oppression and violence. Workers’ strikes are increasing. The Bolshevik bloodhounds are watchful; they are taking steps to prevent and stifle the inevitable third revolution. But in spite of everything it has come. It has been achieved by the laboring masses themselves. The generals of Communism will soon see that it is the people who have arisen, convinced of their treason to the ideas of the revolution. Fearing for their skins, and knowing that there is nowhere to which they can escape from the rage of the workers, the Communists try to terrorize the rebels, with the help of the cossacks, with prison, executions and other atrocities. Under the yoke of the Communist dictatorship, life itself has become worse than death.
The working people in revolt have realized that in the struggle against the Communists and against the restoration of the regime of serfdom they cannot stop half-way. They have to go on to the end. The Communists pretend to make concessions. They have removed the barriers in the province of Petrograd. They have allotted ten million gold rubles to buy products abroad. But no one is fooled by that. The iron fist of the master, the dictator, is hidden behind this sop, the hand of the master who, once calm is restored will make them pay dearly for these concessions.
No, there is no stopping half-way. We must conquer or die. Red Kronstadt, terror of the counter-revolutionists of the Left as well as the Right, has set the example. It is here that the great new impulse of the revolution has been achieved. Here has been raised the flag of revolt against the tyranny of the last three years, against the oppression of Communist autocracy, which has outdone all the centuries of the monarchist yoke. It is here in Kronstadt there have been laid the foundations of the Third Revolution, which will break the last chains of the workers and lay open the new highway to socialist construction.
This new revolution will succor the working masses of the East and the West, for it will set an example of a new socialist construction opposed to the mechanical and governmental Communist method. The working masses beyond our frontier will then be convinced that all that is being done here at present in the name of the workers and peasants is not socialism.
The first step in this direction has been taken without firing a shot, without spilling a drop of blood. The workers have no need of blood. They will only spill it in cases of legitimate defense. In spite of all the revolting acts of the Communists, we are sufficiently in control of our natures to confine ourselves to isolating them from social life in order to prevent them from damaging the revolutionary work with their false and malevolent agitation.
The workers and peasants are going forward irresistibly. They leave behind them the Constituent Assembly and the bourgeois regime, they leave behind them the dictatorship of the Communist Party with its Cheka and state-capitalism which tightens the noose around the necks of the workers and threatens to strangle them.
The changes that have just taken place finally offer the working masses the possibility of ensuring freely elected Soviets with no violent coercion by a party. This change also permits them to reorganize the state unions into free associations of workers, peasants and intellectuals. The police machine of the Communist autocracy is finally broken.
We cite two short articles from No. 7 (March 9). The first is a polemic:
In their radio broadcasts, the Communists have dumped tons of filth on the instigators of the Third Revolution, who defend the real Soviet power against the usurpation and despotism of the commissars.
We have never concealed this fact from the population of Kron-stadt. We have always made these slanderous attacks public in our Iz-vestia. For we have nothing to fear. The citizens know how the revolt happened and by whom it was made. The workers and Red soldiers know that there are neither generals nor White Guards in the garrison.
For its part, the Provisional Revolutionary Committee has sent a radio message to Petrograd demanding the release of hostages held by the Communists in their crowded prisons (workers, sailors and their families) and also the release of political prisoners.
A second broadcast proposed the sending to Kronstadt of nonparty delegates who, having seen on the spot what.was happening here, could tell the truth to the working masses of Petrograd. What have the Communists done? They have concealed this radio message from the workers and Red soldiers. Several units of “Field Marshal” Trotsky’s troops have come over to our side and brought us newspapers from Petrograd. In these papers there is not a single word about our radio message.
However, they will not get away with it for long, these tricksters who play with marked cards and cry out that they have no secrets from the people, not even diplomatic secrets. Listen, Trotsky, as long as you succeed in escaping the judgment of the people, you can shoot innocent persons in batches. But you cannot shoot the truth. It will finally make its way, and then you and your cossacks will have to meet the bill.
The second article is constructive, and was published in order to initiate a discussion about the question of the unions:
The Reorganization of the Unions
Under the dictatorship of the Communists, the duties of the unions and their administrative commissions have been reduced to a minimum. During the four years of the revolutionary syndicalist movement in “socialist” Russia, our unions have had no chance of becoming class organs. This has not been their fault. It was, in fact, the consequence of the policy of the ruling party, seeking to educate the masses by the centralist “communist” method.
In the last analysis, the work of the unions was reduced to keeping records and absolutely useless correspondence, the purpose of which was to establish the number of members in this or that union and to determine the specialty of each member, his situation in relationship to the party, etc. As for economic activity of a co-operative nature, as for cultural education of the worker members of the unions, nothing was done.
This is entirely understandable. For, if the unions were given the right to a considerable independent activity, the whole centralist system of construction undertaken by the Communists would inevitably have collapsed, which would have led to a demonstration of the uselessness of commissars and “political sections.”
It was these failings that detached the workers from the unions, finally transforming the latter into nests of policemen which prevented all true union activity by the working class.
Once the dictatorship of the Communist Party is overthrown, the role of the unions should change radically. They and their reelected administrative commissions should fulfill the great and urgent task of educating the masses for an economic and cultural renovation of the country. They should bring a new purifying spirit to this activity. They should become real representatives of the interests of the people.
The Soviet Socialist Republic cannot be strong unless its administration be exercised by the working classes, with the help of renovated unions. To work, comrade workers! Let us build new unions, free from all imposition. There lies our strength.
Izvestia No. 8 (March 10) was devoted mainly to military events: the attack on Kronstadt by the Communists and its defense.
No. 9 (March 11) contains a powerful “Appeal to the Workers and Peasants,” of which we cite some essential passages:
Kronstadt has begun a heroic struggle against the hateful power of the Communists and for the emancipation of the workers and peasants ... All that is happening now was prepared by the Communists themselves, by their bloody and ruinous work, which has lasted for three years. The letters we receive from the country are full of complaints and curses in regard to the Communists. Our comrades returning from leave, burning with rage and indignation, have told us of the horrors perpetrated by the Bolsheviks throughout the country. Moreover, we ourselves have seen, heard and felt all that goes on around us. An immense, heartrending cry of distress comes to us from the fields and cities of mighty Russia. It fills our hearts with indignation and arms our hands.
We do not want to return to the past. We are not servants of the bourgeoisie or mercenaries of the Allies. We are for the power of all the workers, but not for the unlimited and tyrannical power of any single party. Neither Kolchak, nor Denikin, nor Yudenitch is operating at Kronstadt. Kronstadt is in the hands of the workers. The good sense and the conscience of the simple sailors, soldiers and workers of Kronstadt have finally found words and the course which will permit us to get out of the impasse in which we are at present ...
In the beginning we wanted to settle everything peacefully. But the Communists did not wish to yield. More than Nicholas II, they clung to power, ready to drown the whole country in blood so that they could rule as autocrats. And that is why Trotsky, the evil genius of Russia, now launches our brothers against us. Hundreds of their bodies already cover the ice around the fortress. For four days the battle has raged, the cannons have roared, the blood of brothers has been spilled ... For four days the heroes of Kronstadt have victoriously repelled all the attacks of the enemy. Like a hawk, Trotsky swoops over our city. But Kronstadt will hold out forever. We are all ready to die rather than capitulate ...
Comrade workers, Kronstadt fights for you, for the starving, for those who are frozen by the cold, for those who are in rags and without shelter. As long as the Bolsheviks remain in power, there cannot be a better life.
You are supporting all this. .In the name of what? Only so that the Communists may live in ease and the commissars get fat? You still have confidence in them? In telling the Petrograd Soviet that the government had appropriated millions of gold rubles to buy various products, Zino-viev calculated that each worker would get fifty rubles’ worth. That, comrade workers, is the price per head for which the Bolshevik clique hopes to buy you ...
Comrade peasants, it is you that the Bolshevik power has deceived and despoiled the most. Where is the land that you had taken from the landlords, after dreaming of it for centuries? It is in the hands of the Communists or exploited by the Sovkhoz. And as for you, all you can do is to look at it and lick your lips. They have taken from you everything they could carry off. You are brought to complete ruin by pillage. You are exhausted by Bolshevik serfdom. They have compelled you docilely to do the will of your new masters, to starve yourselves, to seal your mouths, to leave yourselves in the most squalid poverty.
Comrades, the people of Kronstadt have raised the flag of revolt, in the hopes that tens of millions of workers and peasants would respond to their appeal. The dawn that has just broken at Kronstadt must be converted into a bright sun over all Russia. The explosion that has just taken place in Kronstadt must revive all Russia, and first of all Petrograd. Our enemies have filled the prisons with workers, but many who are sincere and courageous are still at liberty. Comrades! Arise for the struggle against the absolutism of the Communists.
The same issue contains the following note:
Their Eyes are Opened
The Provisional Revolutionary Committee and the editors of Iz-vestia are submerged by an avalanche of declarations by Communists who are leaving their party? ... What is the meaning of this frantic flight? Is it fear of vengeance from the working people who have taken power from the Bolsheviks? No, a thousand times no!
Someone, when a working woman came to make such a declaration to us, talked of “These runaways.” “We are not running away,” she indignantly retorted. “Our eyes have been opened.”
The blood of the workers, which has reddened the ice of the Gulf of Finland for the benefit of the fools defending their power, this blood has opened the people’s eyes. All those who still retain a grain of honesty are frantically leaving the gang of demagogues. No one remains in that gang but the dishonest and the criminal — the commissars of all grades, the Chekists, and the bigwigs fattened at the expense of the starving workers and peasants, their pockets filled with gold after having robbed the palaces, the museums and everything else that the people conquered with their blood.
All these rascals still have hopes. In vain! The people, who have overthrown the yoke of Czarism and its police, will also get rid of the chains of Communist serfdom. The eyes of the working people are opened.
Izvestia No. 10 (March 12) does not contain anything more salient than the material already cited. We should nevertheless point out the following few lines from an article headed “The Stages of the Revolution”:
A new — communist — slavery has taken root. The peasant has been transformed into a serf in the “soviet” economy. The worker is becoming a simple wage-worker in the State factories. The stratum of intellectual workers has been almost completely exterminated. Those who wanted to protest were thrown into the jails of the Cheka. And those who continued to act were simply lined up against the wall. Russia in its entirety has been transformed into an immense prison.
No. 11 (March 13) is devoted mainly to military events (and also contains various declarations and appeals similar to those already cited).
In No. 12 (March 14) we find the following curious article:
One Must Howl with the Wolves!
At a time of the struggle of the workers for their rights, which have been trampled under foot, one might expect that Lenin would not be a hypocrite and would speak the truth. In their minds, the workers and peasants separated Lenin from Trotsky and Zinoviev. They did not believe a single word of the latter. But as for Lenin, their confidence in him was not yet lost.
Yet on March 8th, when the Tenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party began, Lenin repeated there all the lies about Kronstadt in revolt. He declared that the slogan of the movement was “for the Soviets but against the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks,” but he did not hesitate to bring in the “White generals and the petit-bourgeois Anarchist elements.”
Thus, by speaking such filth, Lenin involved himself. He let out the admission that the basis of the movement was the struggle for the power of the Soviets against the party dictatorship. But, troubled, he added: “This is another kind of counter-revolution. It is extremely dangerous, however insignificant at first sight may seem the corrections which they think our policy needs.”
There is reason for him to be troubled. The blow struck by revolutionary Kronstadt is severe, and the leaders of the party feel that the end of their autocracy is near. The great distress of Lenin is manifest throughout his speech on Kronstadt. The word “danger” is constantly recurring. For example, he says: “We must have an end to this petit-bourgeois danger, which is very perilous for us, since instead of uniting the proletariat it disunites them. We need the maximum of unity.” Yes, the chief of the Communists has to tremble and make an appeal for a “Maximum of unity.” For the dictatorship of the Communists and also the party itself reveal a serious cleavage.
Was it indeed possible for Lenin to speak the truth? Recently, at a Communist discussion on the unions, he said: “All this bores me to death. I have had enough of it. Even apart from my illness I would be happy to throw it all up and flee, no matter where.” But his partners will not let him flee. He is their prisoner. He must utter slanders, just as they do.
At the same time, the whole policy of the party is impeded by the action of Kronstadt, for Kronstadt demands, not “freedom of trade,” but real Soviet power.
The same issue contains the following tirade against Zinoviev:
In the Petrograd Pravda for March 11th we read a letter from Zinoviev to the nonparty comrades. This impudent camp-follower says with regret that Communist workers have become increasingly rare in the factories of Petrograd. And he conclude* that “the Communists must at all costs draw the honest nonparty working men and women into the Soviet cause.”
That the number of Communists in the factories should have fallen very low is only natural. Everybody is leaving the traitors’ party. It is also natural that the Chekists should be trying to domesticate the nonparty workers by all means — especially by trying to drag them into the swamp of collaboration with the Communists.
“We are therefore beginning, in an orderly,methodical way,” writes this provocateur (Zinoviev), “to draw the nonparty workers systematically into our work.” But what honest worker would join this gang of thieves, commissars and Chekists? The workers know very well that these policemen are attempting to stifle the complaints of the laboring masses and put their vigilance to sleep with the help of certain advances and concessions, so that later they can better crush them in the vise. The workers see how their nonparty comrades are treated at this moment by the Communists at Kronstadt.
“Lately,” whines Zinoviev, “we have even had a great misunderstanding with the Baltic factory. But if this works realizes the plan that has been laid down and thus sets an example for others, many of its workers’ errors will be pardoned.”
In this the provocateur has betrayed himself, for only a few days ago the Communists assured the Kronstadt workers, over the radio, that all was well in Petrograd, and that the Baltic works was running normally. And now, in a few words, appears “a great misunderstanding” and an invitation to “set an example” for the other factories. Is something going on at the other factories as well? Was Zinoviev fooling us then, or is he fooling us now?
To gain the goodwill of the Baltic workers, the Communists promise them all the good things of this world. “We will put workers in the posts which at the moment are most important-food, supply, fuel, control of institutions, etc. We will give the nonparty workers the means of taking a most active part, through the intermediary of their delegates, in the buying of products abroad with gold so as to enable the Petrograd workers to pass through this difficult period. We will start an energetic campaign against bureaucratism in our institutions. We may reprimand and criticize each other, but in basic issues we will always end by reaching an understanding.” In this manner Zinoviev sings tenderly and sweetly today. He speaks to the workers in honeyed words to put them to sleep and to distract their attention from the cannon shots fired at their Kronstadt brothers.
Why have the Communists never spoken like this until now? Why have they never before done anything like this in the course of their nearly four years of ruling? It is all very simple. They could not achieve [what they are promising] before and they cannot achieve it now. We know the value of their promises and even of the scraps of paper which they call contracts.
No, the worker will not sell his liberty and the blood of his brothers for all the gold in the world. Therefore let Zinoviev abandon the empty project of “understanding.” Now that their brothers of Kronstadt have risen to defend real freedom, the workers have only a single reply to give to the Communists. Provocateurs and Hangmen, relinquish your power immediately, while it is still possible for you to escape! Do not lull yourselves with your own lies.
The same issue contains an Appeal from the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, from which we cite the following passage:
When it seized power, the Communist Party promised you well-being.
But what do we see?
Three years ago we were told: “You can recall your representatives and reelect your Soviets whenever you want.”
But precisely when we in Kronstadt wanted- to reelect Soviets which would be free from the pressure of the Party, the new Trepoff Trotsky-gave the order: “Do not economize on bullets!”
We also asked that the workers of Petrograd be allowed to send us a delegation so that they could see who our generals are and who leads the movement.
This delegation failed to come. The Communists are afraid that a delegation will learn the truth and will communicate it to you.
The next to last issue of the rebels’ Izvestia, No. 13 (March 15) contains the following editorial:
The Old Firm of Lenin, Trotsky and Co.
It has worked well — the old firm of Lenin, Trotsky and Co. The criminal absolutist policy of the Communist Party in power has led Russia to the pit of poverty and ruin.
After that, it should be time to retreat. But alas, the tears and blood shed by the workers seem still to be insufficient. At the very moment of the historical struggle which is boldly undertaken by revolutionary Kronstadt for the rights of the working people, who are scorned and trampled on by the Communists, the flock of crows has decided to hold its Tenth Party Congress. It is plotting the means for continuing its fratricidal work with even greater success.
Their [the Communists’] effrontery attains perfection. They speak very tranquilly of “commercial concessions,” and Lenin, with all the simplicity in the world, declares: “We are beginning to undertake the principle of concessions. The success of this enterprise does not depend on us. But we must do our best.” And with that he admits that the Bolsheviks have put Russia into a pretty mess, for he continues: “We cannot reconstruct the country without making use of foreign techniques if we want to catch up economically with other countries. Circumstances have forced us to buy abroad not only machines, but also coal, which is plentiful at home. We will still have to make new sacrifices to keep consumer goods flowing and also to obtain the necessary supplies for the agrarian economy.”
Where then are the famous economic achievements in the name of which they have turned the worker into a factory slave and the peasant into a serf of the sovkhoz?
But this is not all? ... “If we succeed in reconstructing a great rural economy and a big industry,” Lenin continues, “this will only be done by imposing new sacrifices on all the producers, with nothing in return.” Such is the “well-being” for which the chief of the Bolsheviks would have everybody hope who is willing docilely to wear the yoke of Communist absolutism. He was brutally right, that peasant who declared at the Eighth Congress of the Soviets: “Everything is going splendidly ... Only, if the land is ours, the bread is yours; if the water is ours, the fish are yours; if the forests are ours, the wood is yours...”
Lenin promises “to accord some favors to the small landowners, and to enlarge somewhat the areas of free economy.” Like the good old master, he is proposing a few favors in order later on to crush the necks of the workers still harder in the vise of Party dictatorship. It can be seen easily in this admission: “Certainly we cannot dispense with compulsion, for the country is exhausted and sunk in a terrible poverty.”
... It is thus that Lenin conceives the task of contruction: commercial concessions at the top level, and taxes below.
The same issue contains the following instructive summary:
The Benefits of the “Commune “
“Comrades, we are going to build a new and beautiful life,” thus spoke and wrote the Communists. “We are going to destroy the world of violence and build a new socialist world filled with beauty.” Thus they sang to the people. Let us see what the reality is.
All the best houses, all the best apartments are requisitioned for the offices of Communist institutions. Thus only the bureaucrats find themselves living in a comfortable, agreeable and spacious manner. The number of habitable lodgings has diminished, and the workers have remained where they were before. They live crowded together in worse conditions than ever.
For the houses, not being kept in repair, are dilapidated. The heating is out of order. Broken windowpanes are not replaced. Roofs are full of holes which let the water in. Fences are falling down. Half the chimneys are broken. The toilets do not work and their contents flow all over the apartments, forcing citizens to relieve themselves in the yard or at a neighbor’s house. The staircases are unlit and full of rubbish. The yards are piled with excrement, since the slit trenches, the privies, the drains and the sewers are neither cleaned nor emptied. The streets are filthy. The sidewalks are never repaired and they are uneven and slippery. It is dangerous to walk in the streets.
To obtain lodging one must have influence at a housing bureau. Without that nothing can be done; only the favorites have decent apartments.
As for food, it is even worse. Irresponsible and ignorant officials let tons of produce spoil. The potatoes which are distributed are always frozen. In spring and summer the meat is always rotten. At one time we would hardly feed pigs with what the citizens now get from the “builders of the beautiful new life.” “The honest Soviet fish,” the herring, has saved the situation for a long time now,but even that is getting scarce. The Soviet shops are worse than the old factory shops of unhappy memory, where the bosses kept all kinds of junk and the worker-slaves could say nothing about it.
In order to destroy family life, our rulers have invented collective restaurants. What is the result? The food is still inedible. The produce is stolen in various ways before it even reaches the citizens, who get only the leavings. The nourishment of the children is a little better, but still very inadequate. Milk especially is lacking. The Communists have requisitioned all the dairy cows from the peasants for their own sovkhoz [state farms]. Moreover, half of these animals die before reaching their destinations, and the milk of the surviving cows goes first to the rulers and then to the functionaries. Only what is left after that goes to the children.
But the hardest things to obtain are clothing and shoes. One wears, or exchanges, secondhand suits. Hardly anything is distributed. For example, one of the unions is now distributing buttons — a button and a half per person. Is this not laughable? As for shoes, they are unprocurable.
The road to the Communist paradise is beautiful. But can one traverse it barefooted?
There are plenty of cracks througn which everything necessary flows. The clientele of the so-called “co-operatives” and the rulers possess everything. They have their own restaurants and special rations as well. They also have at their disposal the “Goods Bureau,” which distributes products according to the wishes of the commissars.
We have finally realized that this “Commune” has sapped and completely demoralized productive work. All desire to work, all interest in work has disappeared. Shoemakers, tailors, plumbers, etc., have all quit and dispersed. They are serving as guards, messengers, etc. Such is the paradise which the Bolsheviks have tried to build.
In place of the old regime, a new regime of despotism, insolence, favoritism, theft and speculation has been established,a terrible regime in which one must hold out his hand to the authorities for every piece of bread, for every button, a regime in which one does not belong to himself, where one cannot dispose of his own labor, a regime of slavery and degradation.
The 14th and last issue (March 16, 1921) is devoted primarily to the battle, which became increasingly desperate. We cite the following historical article, which completes the previous one:
In making the October Revolution, the sailors and Red soldiers, the workers and peasants, spilled their blood for the power of the Soviets, for the building of a workers’ republic.
The Communist Party paid close attention to the aspirations of the masses. Having inscribed on its banners attractive slogans which aroused the enthusiasm of the workers, it swept them into the struggle and promised them that it would lead them into the beautiful kingdom of socialism which only the Bolsheviks knew how to build.
Naturally, an infinite joy took possession of the workers and peasants. “At last, the slavery we endured under the yoke of landlords and capitalists is going to become a myth,” they thought. It seemed as if the time of free labor in the fields, factories and workshops had come. It seemed as if power were going to pass into the hands of the workers.
By skillful propaganda, the children of the working class were drawn into the ranks of the party, where they were subjected to a rigorous discipline. Then, feeling themselves strong enough, the Communists progressively eliminated from power first the socialists of other tendencies, then they pushed workers and peasants out of many state posts, while continuing to govern in their name.
In this way the Communists have brought in the rule of the commissars, with all the despotism of personal power. Against all reason and contrary to the will of the workers, they then began stubbornly to build a state socialism with slaves, instead of building a society based on free labor.
When industry was completely demoralized, in spite of so-called “workers’ control,” the Bolsheviks established the nationalization of works and factories. From a slave of the capitalist the worker was transformed into a slave of state enterprises. Soon this no longer sufficed, and they planned the application of the Taylor system.
The whole mass of the peasants were declared enemies of the people and identified with the “kulaks.” Very enterprisingly the Communists then set about ruining the peasants and substituting Soviet exploitation, that is to say, establishing the estates of the new agrarian profiteer, the State. That is what the peasants have obtained from the Socialism of the Bolsheviks, instead of free labor on the liberated land for which they had hoped. In exchange for bread and livestock, almost entirely requisitioned, they obtained the raids of the Chekaand mass shootings. A fine system of exchange in a workers’state — lead and bayonets for bread!
The life of the citizen became monotonous and banal to the point of death, regulated according to the rules of the authorities. Instead of a life animated by free labor and the free development of the individual, an unprecedented and incredible slavery was born. All independent thought, all just criticism of the acts of the criminal rulers became crimes, punished by prison and often by death. Indeed, the death penalty, that disgrace to humanity, was extended in the “socialist fatherland.”
Such is the beautiful kingdom of socialism to which the dictatorship of the Communist party has brought us. We have received State Socialism with Soviets of functionaries who vote docilely what the authorities and their infallible commissars dictate to them. The slogan, “He who does not work shall not eat,” has been modified under this beautiful “Soviet” regime to “Everything for the Commissars.” And as for the workers, peasants and intellectual workers, they have just to carry out their tasks in a prison.
This has become insupportable. Revolutionary Kronstadt has been the first-to break the chains and bars of the prison. It fights for the true Soviet republic of the workers in which the producer himself will be owner of the products of his labor and can dispose of them as he wishes.
To finish this documentation, we should point out that most of the issues of the rebels’ Izvestia contained headlines which clearly expressed their demands and their feelings. We cite a few examples.
ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS AND NOT TO THE PARTIES!
THE POWER OF THE SOVIETS WILL LIBERATE THE WORKERS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE FROM THE COMMUNIST YOKE.
LENIN SAYS: “COMMUNISM MEANS THE POWER OF THE SOVIETS PLUS ELECTRIFICATION,” BUT THE PEOPLE HAVE LEARNED THAT BOLSHEVIK COMMUNISM MEANS THE ABSOLUTISM OF THE COMMISSARS PLUS THE FIRING SQUAD.
THE SOVIETS, AND NOT THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY, ARE THE BULWARK OF THE WORKERS.
LONG LIVE RED KRONSTADT WITH THE POWER OF THE FREE SOVIETS!
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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