Alexander Berkman

The Kronstadt Rebellion

Chapter VI:

The First Shot

Kronstadt, heroic and generous, was dreaming of liberating Russia by the Third Revolution which it felt proud to have initiated. It formulated no definite program. Liberty and universal brotherhood were its slogans. It thought of the Third Revolution as a gradual process of emancipation, the first step in that direction being the free election of independent Soviets, uncontrolled by any political party and expressive of the will and interests of the people. The whole-hearted, unsophisticated sailors were proclaiming to the workers of the world their great Ideal, and calling upon the proletariat to join forces in the common fight, confident that their Cause would find enthusiastic support and that workers at Petrograd, first and foremost, would hasten to their aid.

Meanwhile Trotsky had collected his forces. The most trusted divisions from the fronts, kursanti regiments, Tcheka detachments, and military units consisting exclusively of Communists were now gathered in the forts of Sestroretsk, Lissy Noss, Krasnaia Gorka, and neighboring fortified places. The greatest Russian military experts were rushed to the scene to form plans for the blockade and attack of Kronstadt, and the notorious Tukhachevski was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the siege of Kronstadt.

On March 7, at 6:45 in the evening, the Communist batteries of Sestroretsk and Lissy Noss fired the first shots against Kronstadt.

It was the anniversary of the Woman Workers' Day. Kronstadt, besieged and attacked, did not forget the great holiday. Under fire of numerous batteries, the brave sailors sent a radio greeting to the workingwomen of the world, an act most characteristic of the psychology of the Rebel City. The radio read:

Today is a universal holiday -- Women Workers' Day. We of Kronstadt send, amid the thunder of cannon, our fraternal greetings to workingwomen of the world... May you soon accomplish your liberation from every form of violence and oppression... Long live the free revolutionary workingwomen! Long live the Social Revolution throughout the world!

No less characteristic was the heart rending cry of Kronstadt, "Let The Whole World Know", published after the first shot had been fired, in No. 6 of the Izvestia, March 8:

The first shot has been fired... Standing up to his knees in the blood of the workers Marshal Trotsky was the first to open fire against revolutionary Kronstadt which has risen against the autocracy of the Communists to establish the true power of the Soviets.

Without shedding a drop of blood we, Red Army men, sailors, and workers of Kronstadt have freed ourselves from the yoke of the Communists and have even preserved their lives. By the threat of artillery they want now to subject us again to their tyranny.

Not wishing bloodshed, we asked that nonpartisan delegates of the Petrograd proletariat be sent to us, that they may learn that Kronstadt is fighting for the Power of the Soviets. But the Communists have kept our demand from the workers of Petrograd and now they have opened fire -- the usual reply of the pseudo Workers' and Peasants' Government to the demands of the laboring masses.

But the workers of the whole world know that we, the defenders of the Soviet Power, are guarding the conquest of the Social Revolution.

We will win or perish beneath the ruins of Kronstadt, fighting for the just cause of the laboring masses.

The workers of the world will be our judges. The blood of the innocent will fall upon the heads of the Communist fanatics drunk with the authority.

Long live the Power of the Soviets!