The Kronstadt Mutiny

On the Events at Kronstadt

Interview Given to Representatives of the Foreign Press

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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The fact that the Kronstadt mutiny has come at the moment when we are about to sign the peace treaty with Poland and the trade agreement with Britain is, of course, not accidental. Very big forces – not so very numerous, but politically powerful – not only in France and among the Russian émigrés but also in Poland and in Britain, are interested in disrupting the peace treaty and the trade agreement.

You probably know that in a number of foreign newspapers, including Le Matin, a report of a revolt at Kronstadt appeared so early as the middle of February, that is, at a time when Kronstadt was completely calm. How is this to be explained? Very simply. The centres of counter-revolutionary conspiracy are situated abroad. Between these Russian émigré centres and certain groupings of European imperialism and the European press there is a very close bond, which is, of course, not at all platonic in character. The Russian counter-revolutionary organisers promised to arrange a mutiny in good time, but the impatient boulevard and stock-exchange newspapers wrote about this as though it were already a fact.

On the basis of the report in Le Matin I sent a warning to Petrograd, to my naval colleagues, mentioning that last year there appeared in the foreign press a quite unexpected report of a rising in Nizhny-Novgorod and the formation there of a government headed by Chernov and Spiridonova – and, roughly a month alter the publication of this report, a revolt was actually attempted in Nizhny.

Thus, the imperialist press not only reports an immense number of fables about Russia, and does this quite consciously, but also, from time to time, forecasts with some accuracy attempts at revolt which are to be made at particular points in Soviet Russia. The press agencies of imperialism ‘forecast’ events which other agencies of that same imperialism have the job of bringing about.

Kronstadt was chosen as the point nearest to Europe and to Petrograd. Since, in the present international situation of our Republic, the Baltic fleet can play no active role, it has inevitably been denuded of manpower as well. An enormous number of the revolutionary sailors who played a very big role in the October revolution of 1917 were transferred to other fields of work during the past period. Those who left were replaced, to a considerable extent, by casual elements, among whom there were rather a lot of Lettish, Estonian and Finnish sailors, who looked on their service as a temporary job and who had mostly played no part in the revolutionary struggle. This circumstance naturally facilitated the work of the organisers of the conspiracy. They made use of a partial conflict, expanding this so as to render it impossible for a section of the sailors to retreat. Given the passivity of the garrison and the inhabitants, who did not even understand what was happening, the mutineers were able to seize the powerful artillery of the fortress and two ships.

The reports of a coup d’etat in Petrograd and of the bombardment of Petrograd from Kronstadt are foolish inventions. Petrograd is as inaccessible to a counter-revolutionary coup as it is to the artillery of Kronstadt.

If the liquidation of the Kronstadt mutiny is taking some time, this is because, in the measures we are adopting, we have had and are having not only to spare our units unnecessary losses but also to spare in every way possible the peaceful population and the garrison of Kronstadt, which is not participating in the mutiny. Our losses due to the guns of Kronstadt have so far been insignificant.

I forgot to mention that the SRs have come forward as the open organisers of the mutiny, but that, behind them, some more serious figures have now emerged: counter-revolutionary generals, whose connections extend through Finland and Estonia to the centres of imperialism. To suppose that the SRs (or the Mensheviks) are capable of forming a government in Russia means having, where our country’s internal and international situation is concerned, a Pickwickian conception. The historical assignment of the SRs and Mensheviks consists in trying to put the Russian counter-revolution in the saddle, as the agent of world imperialism.

So long as Russia is surrounded by bourgeois countries in which there are powerful cliques that will stop at nothing to strike blows at the workers’ republic, events like the Kronstadt mutiny are quite inevitable, and will probably be repeated many times in the future. We have no grounds for doubting that the workers’ republic will cope with all these attempts on its life, just as it has coped up to now. [1]

Pravda; March 16, 1921, No.57


1. A version of this interview appeared in the London Daily Herald of March 17, 1921.

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Last updated on: 28.12.2006