Alexander Berkman

The Kronstadt Rebellion

Chapter IV:

The Aims of Kronstadt

Kronstadt revived with the new life. Revolutionary enthusiasm rose to a level of the October days when the heroism and devotion of the saliors played such a decisive rôle. Now for the first time since the Communist Party assumed exclusive control of the Revolution and the fate of Russia, Kronstadt felt itself free. A new spirit of solidarity and brotherhood brought the sailors, the soldiers of the garrison, the factory workers, and the nonpartisan elements together in united effort for their common cause. Even Communists were affected by the fraternalisation of the whole city and joined in the work preparatory to the approaching elections to the Kronstadt Soviet.

Among the first steps taken by the Provisional Revolutionary Committee was the preservation of revolutionary order in Kronstadt and the publication of the Committee's official organ, the daily Izvestia. Its first appeal to the people of Kronstadt (issue No. 1, March 3, 1921) was thoroughly characteristic of the attitude and temper of the sailors. "The revolutionary committee", it read, "is most concerned that no blood be shed. It has exerted its best efforts to organize revolutionary order in the city, the fortress and the forts. Comrades and citizens, do not suspend work! Workers, remain at your machines; sailors and soldiers, be on your posts. All Soviet employees and institutions should continue their labors. The Provisional Revolutionary Committee calls upon you all, comrades and citizens, to give it your support and aid. Its mission is to organize, the fraternal cöoperation with you, the conditions necessary for honest and just elections to the new Soviet".

The pages of the Izvestia bear abundant witness to the deep faith of the Revolutionary Committee in the people of Kronstadt and their aspirations towards the free Soviets as the true road of liberation from the oppression of Communist bureaucracy. In its daily organ and radio messages the Revolutionary Committee indignantly resented the Bolshevik campaign of calumny and repeatedly appealed to the proletariat of Russia and of the world for understanding, sympathy, and help. The radio of March 6 sounds the keynote of Kronstadt's call:

Our cause is just: we stand for the power of Soviets, not parties. We stand for freely elected representatives of the laboring masses. The substitutes Soviets manipulated by the Communist Party have always been deaf to our needs and demands; the only reply we have ever received was shooting... Comrades! They not only deceive you: they deliberately pervert the truth and resort to most despicable defamation... In Kronstadt the whole power is exclusively in the hands of the revolutionary sailors, soldiers and workers--not with the counter-revolutionists led by some Kozlovsky, as the lying Moscow Radio tries to make you believe... Do not delay, comrades! Join us, get in touch with us: demand admission to Kronstadt for your delegates. Only they will tell you the whole truth and expose the fiendish calumny about Finnish bread and Entente offers.

Long live the revolutionary proletariat and the peasantry!

Long live the power of freely elected Soviets!

The Provisional Revolutionary Committee first had its headquarters on the flagship Petropavlovsk, but within a few days it removed to the "People's Home", in the center of Kronstadt, in order to be, as the Izvestia states, "in closer touch with the people and make access to the Committee easier than on the ship". Although the Communist press continued its turbulent denunciation of Kronstadt as "the counter-revolutionary rebellion of the General Kozlovsky", the truth of the matter was that the Revolutionary Committee was exclusively proletarian, consisting for the most part of workers of known revolutionary record. The Committee comprised of following 15 members:

1. PETRICHENKO, senior clerk, flagship Petropavlovsk;

2. YAKOVENKO, telephone operator, Kronstadt district;

3. OSSOSSOV, machinist, Sevastopol;

4. ARKHIPOV, engineer;

5. PEREPELKIN, mechanic, Sevastopol;

6. PATRUSHEV, head mechanic, Petropavlovsk;

7. KUPOLOV, senior medical assistant;

8. VERSHININ, sailor, Sevastopol;

9. TUKIN, electrical mechanic;

10. ROMANENKO, caretaker of aviation docks;

11. ORESHIN, manager of the Third Industrial School;

12. VALK, lumber mill worker;

13. PAVLOV, Naval mining worker;

14. BAIKOV, carter;

15. KILGAST, deep sea sailor.

Not without a sense of humor to the Kronstadt Izvestia remark in this connection: "These are our generals, Messrs. Trotsky and Zinoviev, while the Brussilovs, the Kamenevs, the Tukhachevskis, and the other celebrities of the Tsar's régime are on your side."

The Provisional Revolutionary Committee enjoyed the confidence of the whole population of Kronstadt. It won general respect by establishing and firmly adhering to the principle of "equal rights for all, privileges to none". The pahyok (food ration) was equalised. The sailors, who under Bolshevik rule always received rations far in excess of those allotted to the workers, themselves voted to accept no more than the average citizen and toiler. Special rations and delicacies were given only to hospitals and children's homes.

The just and generous attitude of the Revolutionary Committee towards the Kronstadt members of the Communist Party -- few of whom had been arrested in spite of Bolshevik repressions and all holding of sailors' families as hostages -- won the respect even of the Communists. The pages of Izvestia contain numerous communications from Communist groups and organizations of Kronstadt, condemning the attitude of the Central Government and indorsing the stand and measures of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. Many Kronstadt Communists publicly announced their withdrawal from the Party as a protest against its despotism and bureaucratic corruption. In various issues of the Izvestia there are to be found hundreds of names of Communists whose conscience made it impossible for them to "remain in the Party of the executioner Trotsky", as some of them expressed it. Resignations from the Communist Party soon became so numerous as to resemble a general exodus.[1] The following letters, taken at random from a large batch, sufficiently characterize the sentiment of the Kronstadt Communists:

(1) I have come to realise that the policies of the Communist Party have brought the country into a hopeless blind alley from which there is no exit. The Party has become bureaucratic, it has learned nothing and it does not want to learn. It refuses to listen to the voice of a 115 million peasants; it does not want to consider that only freedom of speech and opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of the country, by means of altered election methods, can bring our country out of its lethargy.

I refused henceforth to consider myself a member of the Russian Communist Party. I wholly approve of the resolution passed by the all-city meeting on March 1, and I hereby place my energies and abilities at the disposal of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee.

HERMAN KANEV, krasniy komandir (Red Army Officer), son of the political exile in the Trial of 193.[2]

Izvestia, No. 3, March 5, 1921



Almost thirty years I have lived in deep love for the people, and have carried light and knowledge, so far as lay in my power, to all who thirsted for it, up to the present moment.

The Revolution of 1917 gave greater scope to my work, increased my activities, and I devoted myself with greater energy to the service of my ideal.

The communist slogan, "All for the people", inspired me with its nobility and beauty, and in February, 1920, I entered the Russian Communist Party as a candidate. But the "first shot" fired at the peaceful population,at my dearly beloved children of which there are about seven thousand in Kronstadt, fills me with horror that I may be considered as sharing responsibility for the blood of the innocents thus shed. I feel that I can no longer believe in and propagate that which has disgraced itself by fiendish act. Therefore with the first shotI have ceased to regard myself as a member of the Communist Party.


Izvestia, No. 6, March 8, 1921

Such communications appeared in almost every issue of the Izvestia. Most significant was the declaration of the Provisional Bureau of the Kronstadt Section of the Communist Party, whose Manifesto to its members was published in the Izvestia, No. 2, March 4th:

... Let every comrade of our Party realize the importance of the present hour.

Give no credence to the false rumors that Communists are being shot, and that the Kronstadt Communists are about to rise up in arms. Such rumors are spread to cause bloodshed.

We declare that our Party has always been defending the conquests of the working-class against all known and secret enemies of the power of the workers' and peasants' Soviets, and will continue to do so.

The Provisional Bureau of the Kronstadt Communist Party recognizes the necessity for elections to the Soviet and calls upon the members of the Communist Party to take part in the elections.

The Provisional Bureau of the Communist Party directs all members of the Party to remain at their posts and in no way to obstruct or interfere with the measures of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee.

Long live the power of the Soviets!

Long live the international union of workers!





Similarly various other organizations, civil and military, expressed their opposition to the Moscow régime and their entire agreement with the demands of the Kronstadt sailors. Many resolutions to that effect were also passed by Red Army regiments stationed in Kronstadt and on duty in the forts. The following is expressive of their general spirit and tendency:

We, Red Army soldiers of the Fort "Krasnoarmeetz", stand wholly with the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, and to the last moment we will defend the Revolutionary Committee, the workers and peasants.

... Let no one believe the lies of the Communist proclamations thrown from aeroplanes. We have no generals here and no Tsarist officers. Kronstadt has always been the city of workers and peasants, and so it will remain. The generals are in the service of the Communists.

... At this moment, when the fate of the country is in the balance, we who have taken power into our own hands and who have entrusted the Revolutionary Committee with leadership in the fight--we declare to the whole garrison and to the workers that we are prepared to die for the liberty of the laboring masses. Freed from the three-year old Communist yoke and terror we shall die rather than recede a single step. Long live Free Russia of the Working People!


Izvestia, No. 5, March 7, 1921

Kronstadt was inspired by passionate love of a Free Russia and unbounded faith in true Soviets. It was confident of gaining the support of the whole of Russia, of Petrograd in particular, thus bringing about the final liberation of the country. The Kronstadt Izvestia reiterates this attitude and hope, and in the numerous articles and appeals it seeks to clarify its position towards the Bolsheviki and its aspiration to lay the foundation of a new, free life for itself and the rest of Russia. This great aspiration, the purity of its motives, and its fervent hope of liberation standout in striking relief on the pages of the official organ of the Kronstadt Provisional Revolutionary Committee and thoroughly express the spirit of the soldiers, sailors and workers. The virulent attacks of the Bolshevik press, the infamous lies sent broadcast by the Moscow radio station accusing Kronstadt of counter-revolution and White conspiracy, the Revolutionary Committee replied to in a dignified manner. It often reproduced in its organ the Moscow proclamations in order to show to the people of Kronstadt to what depths the Bolsheviki had sunk. Occasionally the Communist methods where exposed and characterized by the Izvestia with just indignation, as in its issue of March 8, (No. 6), under the heading "We and They":

Not knowing how to retain the power that is falling from their hands, the Communists resort to the vilest provocative means. Their contemptible press has mobilized all its forces to incite the masses and put the Kronstadt movement in the light of White guard conspiracy. Now a clique of shameless villains has sent word to the world that "Kronstadt has sold itself to Finland". Their newspapers spit fire and poison, and because they have failed to persuade the proletariat that Kronstadt is in the hands of counter-revolutionists, they are now trying to play on the nationalistic feelings.

The whole world already knows from our radios what the Kronstadt garrison and workers are fighting for. But the Communists are striving to pervert the meaning of events and thus mislead our Petrograd brothers.

Petrograd is surrounded by the bayonets of the kursanti and the Party "guards", and Maliuta Skuratov -- Trotsky -- does not permit the delegates of the nonpartisan workers and soldiers to go to Kronstadt. He fears they would learn the whole truth there, and that truth would immediately sweep the Communists away and thus enlightened laboring masses would take the power into their own brawny hands.

That is the reason that the Petro-Soviet (Soviet of Petrograd) did not reply to our radio telegram in which we asked that really impartial comrades be sent to Kronstadt.

Fearing for their own skins, the leaders of the Communists suppress the truth and disseminate the lie that White guardists are active in Kronstadt, that the Kronstadt proletariat has sold itself to Finland and to French spies, that the Finns have already organized an army in order to attack Petrograd with the aid of the Kronstadt myatezhniki (mutineers) and so forth.

To all this we can reply only this: all power to the Soviets! Keep your hands off them, the hands that are red with the blood of the martyrs of liberty who have died fighting against the White guardists, the landlords, and the bourgeoisie!

In simple and frank speech Kronstadt sought to express the will of the people yearning for freedom and for the opportunity to shape their own destinies. It felt itself the advance guard, so to speak, of the proletariat of Russia about to rise in defense of the great aspirations for which the people that fought and suffered in the October Revolution. The faith of the Kronstadt in the Soviet system was deep and firm; its all-inclusive slogan, All power to the Soviets, not to parties! That was its program; it did not have time to develop it or to theorize. It strove for the emancipation of the people from the Communist yoke. That yoke, no longer a bearable,made a new revolution, the Third Revolution, necessary. The road to liberty and peace lay in freely elected Soviets, "the cornerstone of the new revolution". The pages of the Izvestia bear rich testimony to the unspoiled directness and single-mindedness of the Kronstadt sailors and workers, and the touching faith they had in their mission as the initiators of the Third Revolution. These aspirations and hopes are clearly set forth in No. 6 of the Izvestia, March 8, in the leading editorial entitled "What We Are Fighting For":

With the October Revolution the working class had hoped to achieve its emancipation. But there resulted an even greater enslavement of human personality.

The power of the police and gendarme monachy fell into the hands of usurpers --the Communists -- who, instead of giving the people liberty, have instilled in them only the constant fear of the Tcheka, which by its horrors surpasses even the gendarme régime of Tsarism... Worst and most cruel of all is the spiritual cabal of the Communists: they have laid their hands also on the internal world of the laboring masses, compelling everyone to think according to Communist prescription.

... Russia of the toilers, the first to raise the red banner of labor's emancipation, is drenched with the blood of those martyred for the greater glory of Communist dominion. In that sea of blood, the Communists are drowning all the bright promises and possibilities of the workers' revolution. It has now become clear that the Russian Communist Party is not the defender of the laboring masses, as it pretends to be. The interests of the working people are foreign to it. Having gained power, it is now fearful only of losing it, and therefore it considers all means permissible: defamation, deceit, violence, murder, and vengeance upon the families of the rebels.

There is an end to long, suffering patience. Here and there the land is lit up by the fires of rebellion in a struggle against oppression and violence. Strikes of workers have multiplied, but the Bolshevik police régime has taken every precaution against the outbreak of the inevitable Third Revolution.

But in spite of it all it has come, and it is made by the hands of laboring masses. The Generals of Communism see clearly that it is the people who have risen, the people who have become convinced that the Communists have betrayed the ideas of Socialism. Fearing for their safety and knowing that there is no place they can hide in from the wrath of the workers, the Communists still try to terrorize the rebels with prison, shooting, and other barbarities. But life under the Communist dictatorship is more terrible than death...

There is no middle road. To triumph or to die! The example is being set by Kronstadt, the terror of counter-revolution from the right to and from the left. Here has taken place the great revolutionary deed. Here is raised the banner of rebellion against a three-year old tyranny and oppression of Communist autocracy, which has put in the shade the three-hundred-year old despotism of monarchism. Here, in Kronstadt, has been laid the cornerstone of the Third Revolution which is to break the last chains of the worker and open the new, broad road to Socialist creativity.

This new revolution will rouse the masses of the East and the West, and will serve as an example of new Socialist constructiveness, in contradistinction to the governmental, cut-and-dried Communist "construction". The laboring masses will learn that what has been done till now in the name of the workers and peasants was not Socialism.

Without firing a single shot, without shedding a drop of blood, the first step has been taken. Those who labor need no blood. They will shed it only in self-defense... The workers and peasants march on: they are leaving behind them the utchredilka (Constituent Assembly) with its bourgeois régime and the Communist Party dictatorship with its Tcheka and State capitalism, which has put the noose around the neck of the workers and threaten to strangle them to death.

The present change offers the laboring masses the opportunity of securing, at last, freely elected Soviets which will function without fear of the Party whip; they can now reorganize the governmentalised labor unions into voluntary associations of workers, peasants, and working intelligentsia. At last is broken the police club of Communist autocracy.

That was the program, those the immediate demands, for which the Bolshevik government began the attack of Kronstadt at 6:45 P.M., March 7th, 1921.


[1] The Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Russia considered its Kronstadt Section so "demoralized" that after the defeat of the Kronstadt it ordered a complete re-registration of all Kronstadt Communists. A. B.

[2] The celebrated Trial of 193 in the early days of the revolutionary movement of Russia. It began in the latter part of 1877, closing in the first months of 1878. A.B.