Kronstadt

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Kronstadt is three things to anyone who has ever attempted to grapple with Communism as a political program.

The First Kronstadt[edit]

Kronstadt is a naval port town about 20 miles away from St. Petersburg. In October 1917, Communist and Socialist sailors revolted against their commanders and helped Lenin complete the takeover by the Bolshevik Party. The lesson of this for the world was that Communism only can succeed when the organized military is on your side. Generations of students in military colleges have studied this event and its implications on how well you treat your soldiers. At the time, the Provisional Government, following the Tsar, was running the Russian military into the ground, fighting a war no one understood or wanted to join in. The military subsisted on rations of moldy bread and little else, and soldiers were openly deserting en masse from the trenches. As such, Lenin found himself quickly elevated not by the working class but by the very military machine he spent so much time trying to destroy.

The Second Kronstadt[edit]

In 1922, the Revolution was not delivering on the promises of 'Peace, Land, Bread, and All Power To The Soviets'. Between a treaty which ceded major Russian territories to the Germans in exchange for dis-engagement from the war, an ongoing Civil War that was ripping the nation apart, and ongoing shortages of essential goods, it was quickly becoming evident that 'The Revolution' was not really going far enough. As such, Stepan Petrichenko, an anarchist sailor, helped organize the sailors into a commune and issued a list of demands to Lenin. They called for:

  1. Immediate new elections to the Soviets; the present Soviets no longer express the wishes of the workers and peasants. The new elections should be held by secret ballot, and should be preceded by free electoral propaganda for all workers and peasants before the elections.
  2. Freedom of speech and of the press for workers and peasants, for the Anarchists, and for the Left Socialist parties.
  3. The right of assembly, and freedom for trade union and peasant associations.
  4. The organisation, at the latest on 10 March 1921, of a Conference of non-Party workers, soldiers and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt and the Petrograd District.
  5. The liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all imprisoned workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors belonging to working class and peasant organisations.
  6. The election of a commission to look into the dossiers of all those detained in prisons and concentration camps.
  7. The abolition of all political sections in the armed forces; no political party should have privileges for the propagation of its ideas, or receive State subsidies to this end. In place of the political section, various cultural groups should be set up, deriving resources from the State.
  8. The immediate abolition of the militia detachments set up between towns and countryside.
  9. The equalisation of rations for all workers, except those engaged in dangerous or unhealthy jobs.
  10. The abolition of Party combat detachments in all military groups; the abolition of Party guards in factories and enterprises. If guards are required, they should be nominated, taking into account the views of the workers.
  11. The granting to the peasants of freedom of action on their own soil, and of the right to own cattle, provided they look after them themselves and do not employ hired labour.
  12. We request that all military units and officer trainee groups associate themselves with this resolution.
  13. We demand that the Press give proper publicity to this resolution.
  14. We demand the institution of mobile workers' control groups.
  15. We demand that handicraft production be authorised, provided it does not utilise wage labour.

Lenin, not really in the condition to do anything but continue having strokes, insisted on sending Red Army leader Leon Trotsky in to take care of things, which he did without any mercy. Years later, while running from Stalin, Emma Goldman would write that Trotsky really had no room to complain about purging dissidents, as he was the one who really had helped make this mess in the first place. [1]

The Third Kronstadt[edit]

By 1949, the Cold War was getting nice and hot. Stalin and Truman were at each other throats while the issue of Soviet spying was becoming a major harping point for conservatives who saw the Democrats as soft on Stalin. Richard Crossman that year published an anthology, featuring contributions by Louis Fischer, André Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Richard Wright, about how they had gone the full circle, from loyal members of the Communist Party or sympathetic fellow travelers to outright anti-Stalinist capitalists. Fischer's contribution to this volume, 'The God That Failed', is remembered most for his formulation of the 'Kronstadt Moment', a sort of epiphany when a Communist recognized Stalinist Russia was nothing but a dictatorship in the worst sort of way, and thus became an anti-Communist.

References[edit]