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John G. Wright

The Truth about Kronstadt

(February 1938)


From The New International, Vol. IV, No. 2, February 1938, pp. 47-53. [1*]
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


The following article is a summary presentation of material contained in a pamphlet on this subject by the writer, which is planned for early publication.

The more indefensible and iniquitous becomes the course pursued by the Anarchists in Spain, the louder their confrères abroad cry about Kronstadt. During the years of revolutionary upsurge, the Anarchists, the Mensheviks, the SRs et al., were on the defensive. Today, Stalinism has provided them with a demagogic cover for an offensive against those principles which alone made October possible. They seek to compromise Bolshevism by identifying it with Stalinism. They seize upon Kronstadt as their point of departure. Their theorem is most “elementary”: Stalin shoots workers only because it is the essence of Bolshevism to shoot down workers; for example, Kronstadt! Lenin and Stalin are one. Q.E.D.

The whole art lies in distorting historical facts, monstrously exaggerating every subsidiary issue or question on which the Bolsheviks may have erred, and throwing a veil over the armed uprising against the Soviet power and the program and aims of the mutiny. Our task is primarily to expose the distorters and falsifiers at work on the historical “facts” that serve them as a basis for their arraignment of Bolshevism.

First as to the background of the mutiny. Far from occurring at a time when the Soviet power was out of danger (as the ideological adversaries of Bolshevism imply), it occurred in the year 1921, a crucial year in the life of the workers’ state. By December 1920 the fronts in the Civil War were liquidated. There were no “fronts” but the danger still remained. The land with the barbaric heritage of Asiatic Czarism had been literally bled white by the havoc of the imperialist war, the years of Civil War and of imperialist blockade. The crisis in foodstuffs was aggravated by a fuel crisis. Vast sections of the population faced the immediate prospect of dying from hunger or freezing to death. With industry in ruins, transportation disrupted, millions of men demobilized from the army, the masses on the point of exhaustion, fertile soil was indeed available for the intrigues of the counterrevolution.

Far from reconciling themselves to defeat, the White Guards and their imperialist allies were stirred to new activity by the objective difficulties confronting the Bolsheviks. They made attempt after attempt to force a breach “from the inside”, banking largely upon the support of petty bourgeois reaction against the difficulties and privations accompanying the proletarian revolution. [1] The most important episode in this series took place in the very heart of the revolutionary stronghold. In the naval fortress of Kronstadt, a mutiny flared on March 2, 1921.

Nowadays a Dan says blandly: “The Kronstadters did not at all begin the insurrection. It is a slanderous myth.” [2] But in 1921, the SRs crawled out of their skins to make light of the uprising and all that it implied, while the Mensheviks tried to minimize and explain it away as something really unimportant in itself. The SRs vowed that “the peaceful character of the Kronstadt movement was beyond any doubt”; if any insurgent steps were taken, they were only “measures of self-defense”. Here is what the Mensheviks wrote not in the year 1937 but in 1921 when the events were still fresh:

The fact that Kronstadt’s break with the Soviet power assumed the character of an armed uprising and ended in a bloody tragedy is of secondary importance in itself and, to a certain extent, accidental. Had the Soviet power evinced a little less granite hardness towards Kronstadt, the conflict between it and the sailors would have unfolded in less grave forms. This, however, would have in no way changed its historical significance ... Only on March 2, in reply to repressions, threats, and commands to obey unconditionally did the fleet reply with a resolution of non-recognition of the Soviet power and place two commissars under arrest. [3]

When Mensheviks originally presented their version of the Kronstadt events, they did not at all deny that Kronstadters began the mutiny. To be sure, they tried to convey the impression that there was more than ample justification for this in the alleged “repressions, threats, and commands”. But you will observe that they simultaneously tried to evade the nub of the issue, the uprising itself, as a fact after all, of little importance, secondary, and even “accidental”. Why this glaring contradiction? They themselves supply the answer. It is their open avowal that this mutiny unfolded on the basis of anti-Soviet aims and program. [4] The truth being what it was, it is hardly surprising that Berkman rushed to give us his oath for it that the Kronstadt mutineers were really “staunch adherents of the Soviet system” and were “earnestly seeking to find, by means friendly and peaceful, a solution of the pressing problems”. [5] In any case, these purveyors of “truth” are all agreed upon one thing, namely, that these “staunch” partisans of the Soviet power proceeded in the friendliest spirit of peace to take up arms – on the basis of a resolution of “non-recognition of Soviet power”. But they did it, you see, “only on March 2”.

“Only on March 2”! Every pertinent detail must be dolled up, otherwise the truth might not be so palatable. By this formulation, the Mensheviks, who only echo the SRs, intend to evoke in the reader’s mind, if not years and months then at least weeks of “provocation”, “threats”, “commands”, “repressions”, etc., etc. But stretch their chronology as they will, these historians together with their neophytes cannot antedate March 2 except by reference to events “towards the end of February”. Their history of Kronstadt dates back as far as (and no further than) February 22 – for occurrences not in Kronstadt but in Petrograd. As for Kronstadt itself, they can anticipate March 2 only by reference to February 28! Count as they will, they have at their disposal: three days and three resolutions. March 2 with its resolution of non-recognition of the Soviet power is preceded only by March 1 with its resolution for “freely elected Soviets”. What happened within this interval of less than 24 hours to cause this swing from one alleged pole to its diametrical opposite? The only answer we get from the lips of the adversaries is the following: a Conference took place at Kronstadt. And what happened there?

Each “historian” gives his own account. Lawrence [6] would have it, that the Conference was called for the purpose of drawing up and passing a resolution. Berkman insists that it was rather a gathering “to take counsel with the representatives of the Government.” [7] The SRs swear that it was an electoral body, gathered for the specific purpose of electing a new Soviet, although the incumbent Soviet’s term had not yet expired. [8] To believe Berkman (and Lawrence), the Kronstadters were provoked to mutiny by Kuzmin’s speech. In this they only improve on the SRs who blame Kuzmin and Vassiliev. [9]

The most complete account of Kuzmin’s speech is to be found in Kronstadt Izvestia, i.e., the organ of eye witnesses and chief participants at the Conference. Here it is:

Instead of calming the meeting comrade Kuzmin irritated it. He spoke of the equivocal position of Kronstadt, patrols, dual power, the danger threatening from Poland, and the fact that the eyes of all Europe were upon us; assured us that all was quiet in Petrograd; underscored that he was wholly at the mercy of the delegates and that they had it in their power to shot him if they so willed. He concluded his speech with a declaration that if the delegates wanted an open armed struggle then it would take place – the Communists would not voluntarily renounce power and would fight to the last ditch. [10]

We leave it to future psychologists to decide why the SRs chose to treat the contents of Kuzmin’s speech in a different manner from Berkman’s, and why they refrained from resorting to quotation marks as Berkman and Lawrence do in referring to Kuzmin’s concluding statement. We cannot here take up in detail the glaring discrepancies in the various versions. Suffice it to say that the more we learn about Kuzmin’s speech the more acutely the question poses itself: Just who did play the part of provocateur at this meeting?

A special point is made in all accounts of the fact that Kuzmin insisted that Petrograd was quiet (Berkman adds – on whose authority? – ”and the workers satisfied”). Why should this have provoked anybody who was not being goaded into provocation? Was Kuzmin telling the truth? Or did the Kronstadt Izvestia lie when in its very first issue, on the next day, it carried a sensational headline: General Insurrection in Petrograd? Moreover, why did Izvestia keep lying about this and other alleged insurrections? Why did it even reprint dispatches from Helsingfors to bolster up its campaign of slander? In short, take Kuzmin’s speech point by point as reported by Izvestia – or in any of the alleged summaries of it – yes, with or without Berkman’s insidious quotation marks – and tell us not whether you are “simple men”, “men and not old women”, etc., etc., but whether if you had been delegates at this meeting to “elect a new Soviet”, you would have thereupon stayed and appointed a “Provisional Revolutionary Committee”? Tell us, furthermore, whether you would have taken up arms in mutiny against the Soviet State? If not, why do you peddle this SR garbage and seek to confuse the vanguard of the working class with regard to what actually took place in Kronstadt – and especially at this meeting?

An incident far more ominous and elucidating than anything that Kuzmin might or might not have said took place at this gathering, which all the Berkmans slur over in a very tell-tale fashion. The Conference was thrown into a frenzy not by anything said by Kuzmin or Vassiliev (or Kalinin who was not present), but by a statement made from the floor that the Bolsheviks were marching arms in hand to attack the meeting. It was this that precipitated the “election” of a Provisional Revolutionary Committee. We look in vain in the writings of the “truthful” historians for any clarification as to the source of these “rumors”. More than that, they conveniently “forget” (Berkman among others) that the Provisional Revolutionary Committee officially laid this rumor at the door of the Bolsheviks themselves. “This rumor was circulated by Communists in order to breakup the meeting.”(Izvestia, No.11.) Izvestia furthermore admitted that the “report” that the Bolsheviks were about to attack the meeting with “fifteen carloads of soldiers and Communists, armed with rifles and machine guns” was made by “a delegate from Sevastopol”. Even after the suppression of the mutiny the SRs insisted that “according to the testimony of one of the authoritative leaders of the Kronstadt movement”, the rumor about Dulkis and the Kursanti was true. Not only were rumors spread throughout the meeting, but the chairman concluded on this self-same note. From the account in Kronstadt Izvestia we learn that: “At the very last moment, the comrade chairman made an announcement that a detachment of 2,000 men was marching to attack the meeting, whereupon the assembled body dispersed with mingled emotions of alarm, excitement, and indignation. . .” (No.9, March 11, 1921.)

Who spread these rumors and why? We say: The ones who circulated them were the same people who spread the lies about the insurrection in Petrograd; the very ones who raised the slogan of the Constituent Assembly at the beginning and then switched to the “more realistic” slogan of “Down with the Bankrupt Commune!” (resolution adopted in Kronstadt on March 7); the very ones who charged that the “Bolshevik power had led us to famine, cold and chaos”; those who, masquerading as non-partisans, were duping the masses in Kronstadt; those who were seeking to capitalize on the difficulties of the Soviet power, and who headed the movement in order to guide it into the channels of the counterrevolution.

There is not a shadow of doubt that the SRs were the prime, if not the sole, movers of this campaign of “rumors”, which brought such infamous fruit. Any possibility for a peaceful solution of the Kronstadt crisis was eliminated, once a dual power was organized in the fortress. Time was indeed pressing, as we shall shortly prove. However one may speculate about the chances for averting bloodshed, the fact remains that it took the leaders of the mutiny only 72 hours to lead their followers (and dupes) into a direct conflict with the Soviets.

It is by no means excluded that the local authorities in Kronstadt bungled in their handling of the situation. The fact that the best revolutionists and fighters were urgently needed at vital centers would tend to support the contention that those assigned to so relatively “safe” a sector as Kronstadt were not men of outstanding qualifications. It is no secret that Kalinin, let alone Commissar Kuzmin, was none too highly esteemed by Lenin and his colleagues. The affinity between “mistakes” and such individuals as Kalinin is wonderful indeed but it cannot serve as a substitute for political analysis. In so far as the local authorities were blind to the full extent of the danger or failed to take proper and effective measures to cope with the crisis, to that extent their blunders played a part in the unfolding events, i.e., facilitated for the counter-revolutionists their work of utilizing the objective difficulties to attain their ends.

How was it possible for the political leaders to turn Kronstadt so swiftly into an armed camp against the October revolution? What was the aim of the mutineers? The supposition that the soldiers and sailors ventured upon an insurrection merely for the sake of the slogan of “Free Soviets” is absurd in itself. It is doubly absurd in view of the fact that the rest of the Kronstadt garrison consisted of backward and passive people who could not be used in the Civil War. These people could have been moved to insurrection only by profound economic needs and interests. These were the needs and interests of the fathers and brothers of these sailors and soldiers, that is, of peasants as traders in food products and raw materials. In other words, underlying the mutiny was the expression of the petty bourgeois reaction against the difficulties and privations imposed by the conditions of the proletarian revolution. Nobody can deny this class character of the two camps. All other questions are only of secondary importance. That the Bolsheviks may have committed errors of a general or concrete character, cannot alter the fact that they defended the acquisitions of the proletarian revolution against the bourgeois (and petty bourgeois) reaction. That is why every critic must himself be examined from the standpoint as to which side of the firing line he finds himself. If he closes his eyes to the social and historical content of the Kronstadt mutiny then he is himself an element of petty bourgeois reaction against the proletarian revolution. (That is the case with Alexander Berkman, the Russian Mensheviks, and so on.) A trade union, say, of agricultural laborers may commit errors in a strike against farmers. We can criticize them but our criticism should be based upon a fundamental solidarity with the worker’s trade union and upon our opposition to the exploiters of the workers even if these exploiters happen to be small farmers.

The Bolsheviks never claimed that their politics were infallible. That is a Stalinist credo. Victor Serge, in his assertion that the NEP (i.e., a limited concession to unlimited bourgeois demands) was belatedly introduced, only repeats in a mild form the criticism of an important political error which Lenin himself sharply recognized in the spring of 1921.We are ready to grant the error. But how can this change our basic estimate? Far outweighing a speculation on the part of Serge or anybody else that the mutiny could have been avoided if only the Bolsheviks had granted the concession of the NEP to Kronstadt, is the mutiny itself and the categorical declaration of Kronstadt Izvestia that the mutineers were demanding “not free trade but a genuine Soviet power” (No.12, March 14, 1921).

What could and did this “genuine Soviet power” signify? We have already heard from the SRs and Mensheviks their estimate of the basis of the mutiny. The SRs and Mensheviks always maintained that their aims were identical with those of the Bolsheviks but only that they intended to attain them in a “different” way. We know the class content of this “difference”. Lenin and Trotsky contended that the slogan of “Free Soviets” signified materially and practically, in principle as well as essence, the abolition of proletarian dictatorship instituted and represented by the Bolshevik party. This can be denied only by those who will deny that with all their partial errors the policies of the Bolsheviks stood always in the service of the proletarian revolution. Will Serge deny it? Yet Serge forgets that the elementary duty of a scientific analysis is not to take the abstract slogans of different groups but to discover their real social content. [11] In this case such an analysis presents no great difficulties.

Let us listen to the most authoritative spokesman of the Russian counterrevolution on his evaluation of the Kronstadt program. On March11, 1921, in the very heat of the uprising, Miliukov wrote:

This program may be expressed in the brief slogan: “Down with the Bolsheviks! Long Live the Soviets!” ... “Live the Soviets,” at the present time most likely signifies that the power will pass from the Bolsheviks to the moderate socialists, who will receive a majority in the Soviets ... We have many other reasons for not protesting against the Kronstadt slogan ... Is it self-evident for us, that leaving aside a forceful installation of power from the right or the left, this sanction [of the new power – J.V.] which is of course temporary, can be effected only through institutions of the type of the Soviets. Only in this way can the transfer be effected painlessly and be recognized by the country as a whole. [12]

In a subsequent issue Miliukov’s organ, Poslednya Novosti, insisted that the Bolshevik power could be supplanted only through Soviets “freed” from the Bolsheviks. [13]

In their defense of the Kronstadt mutiny, the Mensheviks as staunch partisans of capitalist restoration, held essentially the same viewpoint as Miliukov. Together with the latter, the Mensheviks defended in Kronstadt a step towards the restoration of capitalism. [14] In the years that followed they could not but favor in the main Stalin’s course (advised by Abramovich and others in 1921) of “decisively breaking with all adventurist plans of spreading the ‘world revolution’”, and undertaking instead the building of socialism in one country. With a reservation here and a bleat there, they are today quite in favor of Stalin’s gospel of socialism in one country. In this, as in remaining true to the banner raised by the Kronstadt mutiny, they only remain true to themselves – as the arch-supporters of every open or veiled trend toward capitalist restoration in Russia and capitalist stabilization in the rest of the world.

The connection between the counterrevolution and Kronstadt can be established not only from the lips of the adversaries of Bolshevism but also on the basis of irrefutable facts. At the beginning of February when there was no sign of any disturbances either in Petrograd or nearby Kronstadt, the capitalist press abroad published dispatches purportedly relating to serious trouble in Kronstadt, giving details about an uprising in the fleet and the arrest of the Baltic Commissar. [15] These dispatches, while false at the time, materialized with amazing precision a few weeks later.

Referring to this “coincidence”, Lenin in his report to the Tenth Party Congress on March 8, 1921, had the following to say:

We have witnessed the passing of power from the Bolsheviks to some kind of indefinite conglomeration or alliance of motley elements, presumably only a little to the right and perhaps even to the “left” of the Bolsheviks – so indefinite is the sum of political groupings who have attempted to seize power in their hands in Kronstadt. It is beyond doubt that concurrently the White Guard General as you all know-played a major part in this. This has hen proved to the hilt. Two weeks prior to the Kronstadt events, the Parisian press already carried the news that there was an insurrection in Kronstadt. (Works, Vol.XXVI, p.214.)

It is an easily established fact that when these dispatches came to the attention of Trotsky, before any outbreaks in Kronstadt, he immediately communicated with the Commissar of the Baltic fleet warning him to take precautions because the appearance of similar dispatches in the bourgeois press referring to other alleged uprisings had been shortly followed by counterrevolutionary attempts in the specified regions. It goes without saying that all the “truthful” historians prefer to pass over in silence this “coincidence”, together with the fact that the capitalist press seized upon the mutiny to conduct an “unprecedented hysterical campaign” (Lenin). [16] News items in this campaign could be adduced to any number, but no list would be complete without the reports on the same subject that appeared in the Kronstadt Izvestia:

First issue, March 3: “GENERAL INSURRECTION IN PETROGRAD.”

March 7: Headline “Last Minute News From Petrograd” – ”Mass arrests and executions of workers and sailors continue. Situation very tense. All the toiling masses await an overturn at any moment.”

March 8: “The Helsingfors newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet ... prints the following news from Petrograd ... Petrograd workers are striking and demonstratively leaving the factories, crowds bearing red banners demand a change of government-the overthrow of the Communists.” [17]

March 11: “The Government In Panic.” “Our cry has been heard. Revolutionary sailors, Red Army men and workers in Petrograd are already coming to our assistance ... The Bolshevik power feels the ground slipping from under its feet and has issued orders in Petrograd to open fire at any group of five or more people gathering in the streets ...”

It is hardly surprising that the White Guard press abroad launched an intensive drive to raise funds, clothing, food, etc., under the slogan: “For Kronstadt!

How explain away this array of facts and incontrovertible evidence? Very simply: By charging the Bolsheviks with slander! No one is more brazen than Berkman in denying the connection between the counterrevolution and the mutiny. He goes so far as to declare flatly that the Czarist General Kozlovsky “played no role whatever in the Kronstadt events”. The admissions of the SRs themselves, and Kozlovsky’s statements in an interview he gave to the press, establish beyond all doubt that Kozlovsky together with his officers openly associated themselves from the outset with the mutiny. Kozlovsky himself was “elected” to the “Council of Defense”. Here is how the Mensheviks reported Kozlovsky’s interview:

“On the very first day of the insurrection the Council of Military Specialists had elaborated a plan for an immediate assault on Oranienbaum, which had every chance for success at the time, for the Government was caught off guard and could not have brought up reliable troops in time ... The political leaders of the insurrection would not agree to take the offensive and the opportunity was let slip.” [18]

If the plan failed, it was only because Kozlovsky and his colleagues were unable to convince the “political leaders”, i.e., his SR allies, that the moment was propitious for exposing their true visage and program. The SRs thought it best to preserve the mask of “defense” and to temporize. When Berkman wrote his pamphlet he knew these facts. Indeed, he reproduced the interview of Kozlovsky almost verbatim in his pages, making, as is his custom, a few significant alterations, and hiding the real source of what appears as his own appraisal.

It is no accident that Berkrnan and his neophytes have to plagiarize from all the Kozlovskys, and the SRs and the Mensheviks. The rejection by the Anarchists of the Marxian analysis of the state inevitably leads them to the acceptance of any and all other views up to and including participation in the government of a bourgeois state.

How much time was there to “negotiate”? The mutineers were in control of the fortress on March 2. Both Kozlovsky and Berkman vouch for the fact that the Bolsheviks had been “caught by surprise”. Trotsky arrived in Leningrad only on March 5. The first attack against Kronstadt was launched on March 8. Could the Bolsheviks have waited longer?

Many military experts hold the opinion that the failure of the mutiny was largely due to the failure of the ice to thaw. Had the waters begun to flow freely between Kronstadt and Leningrad, land troops could not have been used by the Soviet Government, while naval reinforcements could have been rushed to the insurgents already in control of a first class naval fortress, with battleships, heavy artillery, machine guns, etc., at their disposal. The danger of this development is neither a “myth” nor a “Bolshevik slander”.

In the streets of Kronstadt ice was already thawing. On March 15, three days before the capture of the fortress in a heroic assault in which 300 delegates of the Tenth Party Congress participated, No.13 of Kronstadt Izvestia featured on its front page an order to clear the streets “in view of the thaw”. Had the Bolsheviks temporized, they would have precipitated a situation that would have taken an immeasurably greater toll of lives and sacrifices, let alone jeopardizing the very fate of the revolution.

When all these historians cite the names of the fortress and the names of the warships Petropavlovks and Sevastopol – the ships that in 1917 had been the main support of the Bolsheviki [19] – they carefully avoid mentioning the fact that the personnel of the fortress as well as of the warships could not have possibly remained static throughout the years between1917 and 1921. While the fortress and the ships remained well-nigh intact physically, a great deal happened to the revolutionary sailors in the period of the Civil War, in which they played a heroic part in practically every sphere. It is of course impossible to paint the picture as if the Kronstadt sailors had participated in the October revolution of 1917 only to remain behind in the fortress and the ships while their comrades-in-arms fought the Wrangels, Kolchaks, Denikins, Yudenitches, etc.

But that is, in effect, what the opponents of Bolshevism attempt to imply with their harping on the words “Kronstadt”, “revolutionary sailors”, and so on. The trick is all too obvious. Trotsky’s recent reply to Wendelin Thomas which pricks this bubble could not but have aroused their ire. With contemptible hypocrisy, all of them rise in fake indignation against Trotsky’s pretended slur on the “mass”. Yet in replying to Thomas, Trotsky merely rephrased the facts he brought out in 1921: “A great many of the revolutionary sailors, who played a major part in the October revolution of 1917 had been in the interim transferred to other spheres of activity. They were replaced in large measure by chance elements, among whom were a good many Latvian, Estonian and Finnish sailors, whose attitude to their duties was that of holding a temporary job and the bulk of whom were non-participants in the revolutionary struggle.”

There is no spectacle more revolting than that of people who have, like the Anarchists and Mensheviks, been among other things the co-partners of Stalinism in its People’s Frontism, and who bear the responsibility for the massacre of the flower of the Spanish proletariat, pointing an accusing finger at the leaders of the October revolution for putting down a mutiny against the revolution: It was all the fault of the Bolsheviks. They provoked the Kronstadters, etc., etc.

There is no denying that the SRs and Mensheviks are experts, if not final authorities, on provocation. Nothing that Kerensky and Co. did ever provoked them even to justify the taking up of arms against the Provisional Government. On the contrary, the Mensheviks were very emphatic in 1917 in their demands that revolutionary Kronstadt – and Bolsheviks in general – be “curbed”. As for the SRs, they did not long hesitate to take up arms in the struggle against October. Bolshevism always did “provoke” these gentlemen who have invariably taken their positions on the other side of the barricades.

These are the incontestable facts. The sailors composed the bulk of the insurgent forces. The garrison and the population remained passive. Caught off guard by the mutiny, the Red Army command at first sought to temporize, hoping for a shift in the moods of the insurgents. Time was pressing. When it became obvious that there was no possibility of tearing the grey mass from the leadership of the SRs and their henchmen, Kronstadt was taken by assault. In so doing the Bolsheviks only did their duty. They defended the conquests of the revolution against the plots of the counter-revolution. That is the only verdict that history can and will pass.

Footnotes

1. In January-March, 1921, occurred the Tumensk mutiny in the Tobolsk area in Siberia. The insurgents numbered 20,000 men. In May 1921, White Guard detachments aided by the Japanese descended on Vladivostok, which they held for a short time. After the signing of the Riga treaty (March 18, 1921), White Guard bands, some numbering thousands, others mere handfuls, invaded the Ukraine and other points of Soviet territory. Another series of raids followed into Karelia which began in October 23, 1921, and was liquidated only in February 1922. As late as October 1922, Soviet territory was dotted with roaming guerrilla bands of the counterrevolution.

2. Sotsialisticheski Vestnik, August 25, 1937.

3. Sotsialisticheski Vestnik, April 5, 1921. Our emphasis.

4. The SRs were a trifle less precise on the political and seamy side of the mutiny. They said: “The working-class organizations demanded a drastic change of power: some in the form of freely elected Soviets, others in the form of convoking the Constituent Assembly.” (The Truth About Russia, Volya Rossii, Prague, 1921, p.5). In publishing this book the SRs abroad made only a belated acknowledgment of their political part in the mutiny, even though their spokesmen in Russia at the time hid behind a mask of non-partisanship. This book as served as the principal, if not the only, source drawn upon by all the past and present critics of Bolshevism. Berkman’s pamphlet The Kronstadt Rebellion (1922) is merely a restatement of the alleged facts and interpretations of the SRs with a few significant alterations.

5. The Kronstadt Rebellion, p.12, emphasis in the original.

6. Vanguard, February-March, 1937.

7. Loc. Cit., pp.12-13.

8. Loc. Cit., pp.11.

9. Victor Serge believes that it was all Kalinin’s fault. “The Central Committee committed the enormous mistake of sending Kalinin ...” (La Révolution Prolétarienne, September 1937).

10. Izvestia of the Prov. Rev. Com. of Kronstadt, No.11, March 13, 1921.

11. In his recent comments on Kronstadt, Victor Serge concedes that the Bolsheviks once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it. In this he demarcates himself from the assorted varieties of Anarcho-Menshevism. But the substance of his contribution to the discussion is to lament over the experiences of history instead of seeking to understand them as a Marxist. Serge insists that it would have been “easy” to forestall the mutiny – if only the Central Committee had not sent Kalinin to talk to the sailors! Once the mutiny flared, it would have been “easy” to avoid the worst – if only Berkman had talked to the sailors! To adopt such an approach to the Kronstadt events is to take the superficial viewpoint: “Ah, if history had only spared us Kronstadt!” It can and does lead only to eclecticism and to the loss of all political perspectives.

12. Poslednya Novosti, March 11, 1921.

13. Idem., March 18, 1921.

14. In the Programmatic theses on Russia proposed by the Central Committee of the Mensheviks in 1921, we find the following: “Inasmuch as in the immediate period ahead the capitalist forms will retain their sway in world economy, therefore the economic system of the RIM Republic cannot but be consonant with the capitalist relations prevailing in the advanced countries of Europe and America...” (Sots. Vestnik, Dec. 2, 1921.)

15. The Revolt of the Baltic Fleet Against the Soviet Government – a signed article in l’Echo de Paris, Feb. 14, 1921. On the same day Matin, another Parisian newspaper, carried a dispatch under the heading: Moscow Takes Measures Against the Kronstadt Insurgents. The Russian White Guard press carried similar dispatches. The specified source was Helsingfors, from where the dispatches were sent out on Feb. 11.

16. In his concluding speech on March 16, Lenin read to the Congress a report covering the campaign in the press. Here are a few headlines in the papers referred to by Lenin:

“Moscow Rising Reported. Petrograd Fighting.” (London Times, March 2, 1921.)

“L’Agitation Antibolchévique. Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.” (Matin, March 7.)

“Kronstadt gegen Petrograd, Sinowjew Verhaftet.” (Berliner Tageblatt, March 7.)

“Les Marins Revoltés Débarquent à Petrograd.” (Matin, March 8.)

“Der Aufstand in Russland.” (Vossische Zeitung, March 10.)

“Petrograd Fighting. Red flatteries Silenced.” (London Times, March 9.)

17. The Mensheviks in Russia had no press of their own, and therefore could participate only clandestinely in the campaign of the imperialists abroad, and their SR allies in Kronstadt. Here is an opening paragraph in one of their leaflets, dated March 8, 1921, and issued in the name of the “Petersburg Committee of SDLPD”:

“The structure of the Bolshevik dictatorship is cracking and crumbling. Peasant uprisings in the Ukraine, in Siberia, in Southwest Russia ... Strikes and ferment among workers in Petersburg and Moscow ... The sailors in Kronstadt have risen ... Starvation, cold, misery and unprecedented embitterment rife among the population in the rent of Russia ... This is the unalluring picture of the Soviet Republic three year after the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. The structure of the Bolshevik dictatorship is cracking and crumbling ...” (Sots. Vestnik, April 20, 1921.)

18. Sots. Vestnik, April 5, 1921. Our emphasis.

19. Berkman, The Kronstadt Rebellion, p.8.

 

Note by MIA

1*. For a similar analysis see Leon Trotsky, Hue And Cry Over Kronstadt (January 15, 1938), The New International, Vol.IV No.4, April 1938, pages 103-106. For Emma Goldman’s reaction see Trotsky Protests Too Much (June 1938).


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