The time seems ripe for us to seek a better understanding of Kronstadt, although no new facts have emerged since 1921. The archives of the Russian Government and of the Red Army remain closed to any kind of objective analysis. However statements in some official publications seem to reflect some of these events, albeit in a distorted light. But what was known at the time was already sufficient to allow one to grasp the political significance of this symptomatic and crucial episode of the Russian Revolution.
Working class militants in the West had absolute confidence in the Bolshevik Government. This government had just headed an immense effort of the working class in its struggle against feudal and bourgeois reaction. In the eyes of these workers it incarnated the Revolution itself.
People could just not believe that this same government could have cruelly put down a revolutionary insurrection. That is why it was easy for the Bolsheviks to label the (Kronstadt) movement as a reactionary one and to denounce it as organized and supported by the Russian and European bourgeoisies.
'An insurrection of White generals, with ex-general Kazlovski at its head' proclaimed the papers at the time. Meanwhile the Kronstadt sailors were broadcasting the following appeal to the whole world:
'Comrade workers, red soldiers and sailors. We are for the power of the Soviets and not that of the parties. We are for free representation of all who toil. Comrades, you are being misled. At Kronstadt all power is in the hands of revolutionary sailors, of red soldiers and of workers. It is not in the hands of White Guards, allegedly headed by a general Kozlovski, as Moscow Radio tells you.'
Such were the conflicting interpretations of the Kronstadt sailors and of the Kremlin Government. As we wish to serve the vital interests of the working class by an objective analysis of historical events, we propose to examine these contradictory theses, in the light of facts and documents, and of the events that almost immediately followed the crushing of Kronstadt.
'The workers of the world will judge us' said the Kronstaders in their broadcast. 'The blood of the innocents will fall on the heads of those who have become drunk with power.' Was it a prophecy?
Here is a list of prominent communists having played an active part in the suppression of the insurrection. Readers will see their fate:
ZINOVIEV, omnipotent dictator of Petrograd. Inspired the implacable struggle against both strikers and sailors. SHOT.
TROTSKY, Peoples Commissar for War and for the Navy. ASSASSINATED by a Stalinist agent in Mexico.
LASHEVICH, member of the Revolutionary War Committee, member of Defence Committee organized to fight against the Petrograd strikers. Committed SUICIDE.
DYBENKO, veteran sailor. Before October, one of the organizers of the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, Played a particularly active role in the military crushing of Kronstadt. In 1938 still a garrison commander in the Petrograd region. SHOT.
KUZMIN, commissar to the Baltic Fleet. Fate unknown. Never spoken of again.
KALININ, remained in nominal power as Å’President¹. Died a NATURAL DEATH.
TUKHACHEVSKY. Elaborated the plan and led the assault on Kronstadt. SHOT.
PUTNA, decorated for his participation in the military suppression of Kronstadt, later military attache in London. SHOT.
Delegates at the 10th Party Congress, who came to fight against Kronstadt:
BUBNOV: Deposed. Disappeared.
ZATONSKY: Deposed. Disappeared.
VOROSHILOV: Still played a role during the 1941-45 war. (Later President of Praesidium.)
Paris, October 1948.
The Kronstadt Events
"A new White Plot... expected and undoubtedly prepared by the French counter-revolution."
PRAVDA, March 3. 1921.
"White generals, you all know it, played a great part in this. This is fully proved."
Lenin, report delivered to the 10th Congress of the R.C.P. (B), March 8. 1921. Selected Works, vol. IX, p. 98.
"The Bolsheviks denounced the men of Kronstadt as counter-revolutionary mutineers, led by a White general. The denunciation appears to have been groundless.' Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Anned, (Oxford University Press, 1954) p. 511.
"No pretence was made that the Kronstadt mutineers were White Guards:
Brian Pearce ('Historian' of the Socialists Labour League) in Labour Review, vol. V, No. 3.