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ICL on the Kronstadt Revolt?

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arahamahara
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Feb 5 2014 07:13
ICL on the Kronstadt Revolt?

In a recent online argument with a Marxist-Leninist regarding the Kronstadt revolt, my opponent cited this article, published by the (Trotskyist) International Communist League in 2006, as "proof" that the uprising was "counterrevolutionary", that it was not peaceful in intention, and that its leaders collaborated with the Whites.
http://www.icl-fi.org/english/esp/59/kronstadt.html

Many of the points made in the article contradict what I've read about the rebellion from other accounts, but it claims that the info all comes from Russian archival sources that were not available to writers on the subject prior to the 1990s. Some of the claims that are made in the article are:

Quote:
Agranov pointed out:

“The repression carried out by the PRC against those Communists who remained faithful to the communist revolution fully refutes the supposedly peaceful intentions of the rebels. Virtually all the minutes of the PRC sessions indicate that the struggle against the Communists still at large, and against those still in prison, remained an unrelenting focus of their attention. At the last phase, they even resorted to threats of field courts martial, in spite of their declared repeal of the death penalty.”

— Agranov, Report to Cheka Presidium, 5 April 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy

Quote:
A senior officer arrested in the wake of the mutiny further testified that in daily operational matters, “The Chairman of the PRC [Petrichenko] typically subordinated himself to the decision of the Chief of Defense [tsarist fort commander Solovianov] and did not raise objections to the latter’s operational activities” (Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of P.A. Zelenoi, 26 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy).

Quote:
Officers like Kozlovsky provided an invaluable connection to the White émigré forces with whom they had served in the tsarist army. Among the latter was Baron P. V. Vilken, the former commander of the Sevastopol, who was tied to the London-based Naval Organization, a White Guard spy nest closely monitored by the Soviet Cheka Foreign Department. Russian intelligence services have now published the monitored Naval Organization correspondence and money transfers. The first of a series of telegrams described as “proposing necessary measures in support of the Kronstadt mutiny in Russia,” sent on 25 February 1921, instructed an agent to receive “400 Pounds Sterling and send it via two checks to Helsinki, which needs the money in the beginning of March” (Russkaia voennaia emigratsiia 20-x—40-x godov [The Russian Military Emigration 1920s-1940s], Volume One [Moscow: Geya, 1998]).

What really took me off guard about the article is that it also addresses the Anarchist FAQ's piece on the Kronstadt revolt and criticizes the writings of Paul Avrich and Israel Getzler, claiming that their arguments do not stand up to the archival evidence that has been released since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

My reception of this article, like all Marxist-Leninist arguments against anarchism, is one of great skepticism and suspicion, but does anyone know where I can find sources of information to rebut these assertions, or if any libertarian socialists have written responses to the claims presented in this article?

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Entdinglichung
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Feb 5 2014 10:28

not only Sparts/ICL but also some other orthodox Trotskyist groups like CMI (Grant/Woods) and the WSWS have frequently claimed that there are recently found archival sources which do verify that there was a link between Kronstadt and the Whites (which is on an individual, not on an institutional level of course not completely improbable) but these claims are relatively shallow because:

1.) If the Bolsheviks had had real evidence for this link, they wouldn't have withheld it, they would have published it immediately

2) all these claims do not quote archival sources but are mentioning in a very sloppy way

arahamahara
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Feb 5 2014 11:47

The article ostensibly relies primarily on the "829 original documents (with an additional 276, in whole or excerpted, in the footnotes)" contained in Yuri Shchetinov's Kronstadt Tragedy, "most never before published." An online search has failed to find any useful information in the way of verifying this source, and I am doubtful that an English-language version of it even exists. (In fact, I can't even find any online indication of the source's existence at all, except in relation to the ICL article that is the subject of this thread.)

Still, is there any way of demonstrating that the specific evidence contained in the article is as spurious as you are claiming it is?

*EDIT*

Sorry, I was mistaken. Yuri Shchetinov only wrote the introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy (the full Russian title of which is Kronshtadtskaia tragediia 1921 goda: Dokumenty v dvukh knigakh), which does definitely exist but, as I feared, is only available in Russian.

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Feb 5 2014 17:49

This issue has been dealt with somewhat on another thread. Highly recommended for a libertarian analysis of the latest evidence concerning the Kronstadt Revolt is:

Alexandre Skirda. Kronstadt 1921: Prolétariat contre dictature communiste. (Paris, 2012).

Skirda notes that Shchetinov was the author of a Brezhnev-era work about Kronstadt (The Foiled Plot) which he describes as a "bad novel" but which had a press run of 100,000. In Shchetinov's 1999 "Introduction" he quotes from the Chekist Agranov's report (cited above) which concluded that there was no trace of "inspirers or interventionists [of the revolt] either inside or outside Russia".

During the late Soviet period, the official expert on the Kronstadt Revolt was the historian Sergei Semanov, who published several books on the subject. Typically, the title of his 1973 book was The liquidation of the anti-Soviet Kronstadt mutiny of 1921. But in his last book on the subject, published in 2003, Semanov apologized for calling the revolt a "mutiny". He wrote that now "the time has arrived to be objective" and he advised the reader that his "judgments on the events of Kronstadt are very different from those of the 1970s" because "times have changed and the author as well". The villain in this book is no longer White generals, but Lenin.

arahamahara
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Feb 7 2014 07:11

Neither of the other threads that have dealt with this article seem particularly helpful... There's a lot of vague dismissal of the evidence it provides, but nothing that really addresses any of the specific points it makes.

Also, the cheapest copies of the book you recommended are $50.00 on Amazon. I don't think I can afford that at the moment...

If you have the book, do you know exactly what information in it refutes the Spartacist article that I linked to? The arguments in it aren't addressed by any anarchist writings on Kronstadt that I've been able to find...

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Feb 7 2014 11:58

p.s.: don't bother about any stuff, ICL/Sparts do say, regardless of the topic

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Feb 7 2014 12:56
Quote:
Also, the cheapest copies of the book you recommended are $50.00 on Amazon. I don't think I can afford that at the moment...

Yes, it's an expensive book in French. Hopefully, like some of Skirda's other books, it will get translated into English by Paul Sharkey and published by AK Press. But the Tragediia collection referenced by the Sparts, long out of print, is possibly 10 times as expensive and unlikely to ever be translated into English.

It's important to understand the context in which the two collections of documents relating to the Kronstadt Revolt have been published in Russia (in 1997 and 1999). The debate about Kronstadt in post-Soviet Russia in the 1990's was not between Lenininists and anarchists. It was between Leninists and liberals. This plays into the hands of the Leninists because both sides agree that the revolt had to do with restoration of capitalism.

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Feb 7 2014 14:57

That there may have been contact between White emigre groups and people involved in the Kronstadt revolt would hardly be surprising nor necessarily damning of the revolt. White emigres would surely have liked to try to opportunistically contact opponents of the regime and to try to influence opposition. But most participants were unaware of any contact, it doesn't seem to have had any influence on the development or outcome of events, nor on the motivation of the mass of participants - which can be clearly seen in the demands issued by the Kronstadt rebels and which are a damning critique of Bolshevik rule. The strikes and unrest in Petrograd at the time - which inspired Kronstadt to rise - had the same roots and surely needed no White influence. It's unsurprising that Leninists should think that if they can discredit one or two leaders (and they don't seem to even have even achieved that) then they have discredited a whole social movement. Which says more about their conceptions of politics and struggle than anything else.

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Feb 7 2014 16:42

in the strikes in Petrograd which preceded the Kronstadt rising, workers who belonged to the Mensheviki-Internationalists, the left wing of the Mensheviki, did play an important role ... but they also can hardly labelled be labelled a "counter-revolutionary force"

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Feb 7 2014 19:15

Voline writes that Victor Tchernov also offered assistance to the Kronstadt sailors, but was repeatedly rebuffed. The Kozlovsky stuff is long discredited slander and particularly ridiculous given that although he was indeed an ex-Czarist at the Kronstadt garrison, his presence was due to him having been stationed there by the Red Army. He played no role of any significance in the uprising.

acrata
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Feb 9 2014 06:09

Documentation from the early years of Bolshevik power are extremely difficult to find. I asked a Russian colleague in Moscow to find a transcript of the 9th party congress (in Russian) to settle an argument with a trot over whether EH Carr wrote the truth about Trotsky's demand for a militarization of labor at that congress. She was not able. This was late 90s.

Dave B
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Feb 9 2014 13:50

Trotsky introduced the idea of the militarisation in the document as below in the same year as the 9th congress.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch08.htm

I think we discussed this chapter before on Libcom on a different issue concerning another quotation and had it established that it was substantially from a speech that Trotsky had made at the 9th congress.

Two separate sources claim that Kozlovsky had actuallly been appointed to his position in the Kronstadt by Leon Trotsky himself as an artillery expert.

http://libcom.org/library/kronstadt-bolshevik-propaganda

And from Abramovitch in his book on the Bolshevik revolution.

His 8 pages or so on the Kronstadt revolt was quite interesting as regards material etc.

Dave B
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Feb 9 2014 14:04

The Labour Armies

On Mobilising the Industrial Proletariat, on Labour Service, on Militarising the Economy, and on the Utilisation of Army Units for Economic Needs

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/military/ch06.htm

1. The theses On Mobilising the Industrial Proletariat were adopted by the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and confirmed in the resolution On the Immediate Tasks of Economic Construction’ adopted by the 9th Congress of the Communist Party, on Comrade Trotsky’s report.

S. Artesian
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Feb 9 2014 18:20

What's "archival" about reports written by the Cheka? That's like saying investigative reports used as a basis for the purge trials of 1937 are archival.

Archival would be documents verified as having been the work of the Kronstadt rebels detailing contacts with, and supplies received from, the Whites.

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Feb 9 2014 19:24
S. Artesian wrote:
What's "archival" about reports written by the Cheka? That's like saying investigative reports used as a basis for the purge trials of 1937 are archival.

Archival would be documents verified as having been the work of the Kronstadt rebels detailing contacts with, and supplies received from, the Whites.

exactly. You can't trust the word of the Cheka! They were completely and utterly murderously bonkers

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Feb 10 2014 03:42

S. Artesian wrote:

Quote:
What's "archival" about reports written by the Cheka? That's like saying investigative reports used as a basis for the purge trials of 1937 are archival.

This is an important point. It's perhaps worth quoting Skirda's comments on the Tragediia collection of documents at greater length:

"I have used all these documents in the course of my study ... but let us note from the start that most of them are gleaned from the archives of the Communist Party, the Red Army and the Cheka, and that they are one-sided: in their eyes the insurgents appeared guilty as charged and were condemned in advance. This is the failing of all police sources and the judgments of victors trying to justify their misdeeds. Let us note in particular the documents referring to the Special Section of the Cheka, ancestor of the GRU (military counter-espionage) and its branch ... the famous SMERSH. Its specific activity among the military personnel complemented that of the Cheka overall and was decisive in the case of Kronstadt. Certainly, several articles from the Izvestia [of the Kronstadt rebels] and some statements by the insurgents are reproduced, but the latter only had a brief chance to make their case before a troika of judges, who condemned them expeditiously to the 'supreme punishment' ... ."

Dave B
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Feb 10 2014 19:47

I think the of the case of the ‘White Guardist’ inspired Kronstadt rebellion was a seminal example of the Bolshevik, and Trotsky’s, “falsification of history”; which was only further developed by Stalin later.

It was even understood at the time as a load bollocks as according to Serge I think.

There was actually, on balance, a reasonable contemporary report on it in the New York Times on March 11th. .

Which included I think a summary of the response and denial by the Kronstadt mutineers of the Bolshevik accusation of the involvement of the ‘whites’ etc; from a radio transmission from the Kronstadt itself.

Which looked similar, as I remember it, to the material in likes of Berkman’s and Goldman’s essays etc on the Kronstadt rebellion.

[Perhaps surprisingly, New York Times reports on Bolshevik Russia over the period of say 1918-25 appear to be relatively politically indifferent and non-partisan and can be quite a useful additional historical resource.]

The Mensheviks (as also according to the Bolsheviks “crypto whites”) were also accused of being involved in the Kronstadt rebellion by the Bolsheviks.

Abramovitch considered that undeserved flattery in basically saying that there wasn’t single Menshevik in the place.

The Bolshevik propaganda for the masses was at the time was simply you are either with us or against us and all opponents of Bolshevism were de-facto whites.

As with the lies still current today in Trot circles and Leninist 'historians' that the Mensheviks supported the whites in the civil war etc.

Compare that to PAUL Ni MILIUKOV the spokesperson for the Kadets who said that the ‘left Mensheviks’ actually co-operated with the Bolsheviks, in the civil war, which is actually closer to the truth;

http://archive.org/stream/russiatodaytomor00mili/russiatodaytomor00mili_...

Many of the ‘left Mensheviks’ and the “Jewish” Bundists faction of the RSDP who were mostly Menshevik, actually joined the Bolshevik Red Army to fight the whites.

Nearly all, if not all, the remaining Mensheviks restricted themselves to purely ‘political’ and ‘non direct action’ opposition to the Bolsheviks.

Eg from the ‘Bundist’ Menshevik Abramovitch;

Quote:
Permit me to recall that during the civil war, despite our rejection of the Bolshevik dictatorship in principle, in order to save the revolution from White Guard reaction and foreign intervention we voluntarily mobilised members of our party to fight in the ranks of the Red Army against counterrevolution.
I do not wish to discuss the correctness or otherwise of our tactics then or now. That, however, is what they were, and no honest person anywhere can deny it………..

http://www.korolevperevody.co.uk/korolev/abramovich01.htm

arahamahara
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Feb 11 2014 03:02

Either way, I'm still an anarchist at the end of the day (at the very least because the Sparts who wrote this article cling to the disgusting notion that leaders somehow have the right to decide for themselves what is best for the masses, even when the masses disagree), but I'm still unsure about some of the evidence that they provide regarding the alleged "White connection"; for instance, they mention that two members of the PRC, Kupolov and Perepelkin, later repudiated their role in the events and expressed anger at the PRC's willingness to work with White emigrés such as the Finnish Baron Vilken.

Perepelkin's repudiation comes from a Cheka interrogation, so I can see why that is completely unreliable, but Kupolov made his in an emigré newspaper in Finland, which would make it seem rather odd for him to be lying.

There's also the claims of violence against/persecution of Communist Party members by the rebels, and the argument that Israel Getzler's own sources don't actually support his claim that "at least some 80% [of the sailors] were veterans of the 1917 revolution."

Those are my main doubts. But again, this is all assuming that the Sparts' translation and interpretation of all these documents is reliable, which could be a mistake, though it would seem hypocritical to dismiss that off-hand without attempting to actually disprove them.

If any of their claims are correct, though, then I really don't think we should shy away from acknowledging and criticizing the faults of the Kronstadt rebels where they did exist; though that of course would still not in any way justify the Bolshevik reaction to the uprising.

What are your thoughts?

arahamahara
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Feb 11 2014 03:12
iexist wrote:
Aren't the Sparts pedos?

They get that criticism a lot because of their strong opposition to age of consent laws, but as far as I'm aware most anarchists are also opposed to such laws (as they are to all laws), albeit with the important qualification that there still be reasonable standards upheld for when an individual is mentally mature enough to consent to sexual activity.

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Feb 11 2014 05:17

arahamahara wrote:

Quote:
Perepelkin's repudiation comes from a Cheka interrogation, so I can see why that is completely unreliable, but Kupolov made his in an emigré newspaper in Finland, which would make it seem rather odd for him to be lying.

Again, without access to the documents being cited, it's difficult to evaluate this information. But according to Skirda, who has reviewed these documents, Kupolov was expelled from Finland to the USSR shortly after his article was published on the grounds that he was a Soviet agent. This suggests that he may have been acting as a provocateur.

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Feb 11 2014 10:18
arahamahara wrote:
iexist wrote:
Aren't the Sparts pedos?

They get that criticism a lot because of their strong opposition to age of consent laws, but as far as I'm aware most anarchists are also opposed to such laws (as they are to all laws), albeit with the important qualification that there still be reasonable standards upheld for when an individual is mentally mature enough to consent to sexual activity.

in the past, they defended Michael Jackson, Roman Polanski and NAMBLA against what they called "anti-sex witch hunts" ... basically, the Sparts (unlike most other self-identified communist or anarchist orgs) still retain a position which was advocated by many radicals during the 1970ies that sex between adults and children is basically an unproblematic thing and not the exploitation of a minor

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Feb 11 2014 10:33

Entdinglichung (as always) is correct. While I am not aware of any evidence that any of their members are paedophiles, they do support paedophilia on political grounds. For example, see this appalling article on Roman Polanski: http://spartacist.org/english/wh/209/Polanski.html

arahamahara
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Feb 11 2014 11:15
Entdinglichung wrote:
in the past, they defended Michael Jackson, Roman Polanski and NAMBLA against what they called "anti-sex witch hunts" ... basically, the Sparts (unlike most other self-identified communist or anarchist orgs) still retain a position which was advocated by many radicals during the 1970ies that sex between adults and children is basically an unproblematic thing and not the exploitation of a minor

I was not aware of that. Shows how much I know.

But yeah, like I said, the qualifying sentiment that I mentioned is super important, so if they don't support that then yeah, that would definitely make them supporters of child sex abuse.

arahamahara
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Feb 11 2014 12:21
Karetelnik wrote:
Again, without access to the documents being cited, it's difficult to evaluate this information. But according to Skirda, who has reviewed these documents, Kupolov was expelled from Finland to the USSR shortly after his article was published on the grounds that he was a Soviet agent. This suggests that he may have been acting as a provocateur.

I'm confused as to what you mean. Are you suggesting he was a Bolshevik agent during the Kronstadt revolt?

The ICL article does mention that the Finns expelled him, specifically for the comments about Kronstadt that he made in the aforementioned emigré newspaper. It seems obvious that the White-supporters would draw upon that as evidence that he was a Soviet agent, but that judgment doesn't seem at all reliable, given the circumstances.

Then again, the article mentions that he did agree to work for the Cheka upon returning to the USSR, ostensibly in exchange for his freedom.

arahamahara
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Jul 6 2014 06:51

In case anyone on here still cared about this at all, I saw this tumblr user posted a fairly comprehensive response to this article on his blog.

That's all I wanted to say. Have a nice day y'all.