Mass meetings and Bolshevik slanders
The Kronstadt Soviet was due to be renewed on 2nd. March.
A meeting of the First and Second Battleship Sections had been planned for 1st. March. The notification had been published in the official journal of the city of Kronstadt. The speakers were to include Kalinin, President of the All Russian Executive of Soviets, and Kouzmin, political commissar to the Baltic Fleet. When Kalinin arrived, he was received with music and flags. All military honours were accorded him.
Sixteen thousand people attended the meeting. Party member Vassiliev, president of the local soviet, took the chair. The delegates who had visited Petrograd the previous day gave their reports. The resolution adopted on 28th. February by the crew of the battleship 'Petropavlovsk' was distributed. Kalinin and Kouzmin opposed the resolution. They proclaimed that 'Kronstadt did not represent the whole of Russia.'
Nevertheless, the mass assembly adopted the Petropavlovsk resolution. In fact only two people voted against it: Kalinin and Kouzmin!
The mass assembly decided to send a delegation of 30 workers to Petrograd to study the situation on the spot. It was also decided to invite delegates from Petrograd to visit Kronstadt, so that they would get to know what the sailors were really thinking. A further mass meeting was planned for the following day, grouping delegates from ships' crews, from the Red Army groups, from State institutions, from the dockyards and factories, and from the trade unions, to decide on the procedure of new elections to the local soviet. At the end of the meeting, Kalinin was allowed to regain Petrograd in all safety.
The following day, 2nd. March, the delegates meeting took place in the House of Culture. According to the official Kronstadt 'Izvestia', the appointment of delegates had taken place properly. The delegates all insisted that the elections be carried out in a loyal and correct manner. Kouzmin and Vassiliev spoke first. Kouzmin stated that the Party would not relinquish power without a fight. Their speeches were so aggressive and provocative that the assembly ordered them to leave the meeting and put them under arrest. Other Party members were, however, allowed to speak at length during the debate.
The meeting of delegates endorsed by an overwhelming majority the Petropavlovsk resolution. It then got down to examining in detail the question of elections to the new soviet. These elections were to 'prepare the peaceful reconstruction of the Soviet regime.' The work was constantly interrupted by rumours, spreading through the assembly, to the effect that the Party was preparing to disperse the meeting by force. The situation was extremely tense.
The Provisional Committee
Because of the threatening speeches of the representatives of the State power--Kouzmin and Vassiliev--and fearing retaliation, the assembly decided to form a Provisional Revolutionary Committee, to which it entrusted the administration of the town and the fortress. The Committee held its first session aboard the 'Petropavlovsk', the Battle ship in which Kouzmin and Vassiliev were being detained.
The leading body of the assembly of delegates all became members of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. They were:
* Petritchenko, chief quartermaster of the battleship 'Petropavlovsk',
* Yakovenko, liaison telephonist to the Kronstadt section,
* Ossossov, boiler man in the battleship 'Sebastopol',
* Arkhipov, chief engineer,
* Perepelkin, electrician in the battleship 'Sebastopol',
* Patrouchev, chief electrician in the 'Petropavlovsk',
* Koupolov, head male nurse,
* Verchinin, sailor in the 'Sebastopol',
* Toukin, worker in the 'Electrotechnical' factory,
* Romanenko, docks maintenance worker,
* Orechin, headmaster of the Third labour School,
* Valk, sawmill worker,
* Pavlov, worker in a marine mining shop,
* Boikev, head of the building section of the Kronstadt fortress,
* Kilgast, harbour pilot.
The majority of the members of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee were sailors with a long service. This contradicts the official version of the Kronstadt events, which seeks to attribute the leadership of the revolt to elements recently joining the Navy and having nothing in common with the heroic sailors of 1917-1919.
The first proclamation of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee stated: 'We are concerned to avoid bloodshed. Our aim is to create through the joint efforts of town and fortress the proper conditions for regular and honest elections to the new soviet.'
Later that day, under the leadership of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, the inhabitants of Kronstadt occupied all strategic points in the town, taking over the State establishments, the Staff Headquarters, and the telephone and wireless buildings. Committees were elected in all battleships and regiments. At about 9:00 p.m., most of the forts and most detachments of the Red Army had rallied. Delegates coming from Oranienbaum had also declared their support for the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. That same day the 'Izvestia' printshops were occupied.
On the morrow, 3rd. March, the men of Kronstadt published the first issue of the 'Izvestia of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee'. (5) In it one read: 'The Communist Party, master of the State, has detached itself from the masses. It has shown itself incapable of getting the country out of its mess. Countless incidents have recently occurred in Petrograd and Moscow which show clearly that the Party has lost the confidence of the working masses. The Party is ignoring working class demands because it believes that these demands are the result of counter revolutionary activity. In this the Party is making a profound mistake. '
Meanwhile, Moscow Radio was broadcasting as follows:
"Struggle against the White Guard Plot." And, "Just like other White Guard insurrections, the mutiny of ex General Kozlovsky and the crew of the battle ship 'Petropavlovsk' has been organised by Entente spies. This is clear from the fact that the French paper 'Le Monde' published the following message from Helsingfors two weeks before the revolt of General Kozlovsky: 'We are informed from Petrograd that as the result of the recent Kronstadt revolt, the Bolshevik military authorities have taken a whole series of measures to isolate the town and to prevent the soldiers and sailors of Kronstadt from entering Petrograd.'"
'It is therefore clear that the Kronstadt revolt is being led from Paris. The French counter espionage is mixed up in the whole affair. History is repeating itself. The Socialist Revolutionaries, who have their headquarters in Paris, are preparing the ground for an insurrection against the Soviet power. The ground prepared, their real master, the Tsarist general appeared. The history of Koltchak, installing his power in the wake of that of the Socialist Revolutionaries, is being repeated.'
(Radio Stanzia Moskva and Radio Vestnik Rosta Moskva, 3rd. March 1921.)
The two antagonists saw the facts differently. Their outlooks were poles apart.
The call issued by Moscow's Radio was obviously coming from the Politbureau's top leaders. It had Lenin's approval, who must have been fully aware of what was happening at Kronstadt. Even assuming that he had to rely on Zinoviev for information, whom he knew to be cowardly and liable to panic, it is difficult to believe that Lenin misunderstood the real state of affairs. On 2nd. March, Kronstadt had sent an official delegation to see him. It would have been enough to cross question it in order to ascertain the true situation.
Lenin, Trotsky, and the whole Party leadership knew quite well that this was no mere 'generals' revolt'. Why then invent this legend about General Kozlovsky, leader of the mutiny? The answer lies in the Bolshevik outlook, an outlook at times so blind that it could not see that lies were as likely to prove nefarious as to prove helpful. The legend of General Kozlovsky opened the path to another legend: that of the Wrangel officer allegedly conspiring with Trotsky in 1928-29. It in fact opened the path to the massive lying of the whole Stalin era.
Anyway, who was this General Kozlovsky, denounced by the official radio as the leader of the insurrection? He was an artillery general, and had been one of the first to defect to the Bolsheviks. He seemed devoid of any capacity as a leader. At the time of the insurrection he happened to be in command of the artillery at Kronstadt. The communist commander of the fortress had defected. Kozlovsky, according to the rules prevailing in the fortress, had to replace him. He, in fact, refused, claiming that as the fortress was now under the jurisdiction of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, the old rules no longer applied. Kozlovsky remained, it is true, in Kronstadt, but only as an artillery specialist. Moreover, after the fall of Kronstadt, in certain interviews granted to the Finnish press, Kozlovsky accused the sailors of having wasted precious time on issues other than the defence of the fortress. He explained this in terms of their reluctance to resort to bloodshed. Later, other officers of the garrison were also to accuse the sailors of military incompetence, and of complete lack of confidence in their technical advisers. Kozlovsky was the only general to have been present at Kronstadt. This was enough for the Government to make use of his name.
The men of Kronstadt did, up to a point, make use of the military know how of certain officers in the fortress at the time. Some of these officers may have given the men advice out of sheer hostility to the Bolsheviks. But in their attack on Kronstadt, the Government forces were also making use of ex Tsarist officers. On the one side there were Kozlovsky, Salomianov, and Arkannihov; On the other, ex Tsarist officers and specialists of the old regime, such as Toukhatchevsky. Kamenev, and Avrov. On neither side were these officers an independent force.