Kronstadt 1921

19 posts / 0 new
Last post
joan
Kronstadt 1921
Printer-friendly version

A hundred years after the Kronstadt uprising

ICConline – 2021  » March 2021  https://en.internationalism.org/content/16987/hundred-years-after-kronst...

Quote :

According to a communique of the Cheka dating from 1 May (Note 1)1921, 6,528 rebels were arrested, 2,168 executed, 1,955 sentenced to forced labour (1,486 for five years), and 1,272 freed. The families of the rebels were deported to Siberia, and 8,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians managed to escape to Finland.

 

The "extraordinary commission to combat counter-revolution, speculation and sabotage", was much better known and infamous by its acronym Cheka.

As understandable as its creation may have been, it was nevertheless a mistake and a grave error.
The "Extraordinary Commission" was also established very early after the October Revolution(October 25 according to the Julian calendar and November 7 according to the Gregorian calendar),namely as early as December 20, 1917.

Doesn't this also show how much even the working class,the progressive and revolutionary class of today and its vanguard are often very much, to much determined by history,by what preceded it and by what it considers (more or less consciously) as its predecessors ?

See also in this regard :

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

Marx,“The Eighteen Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, 1852 https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm (Note 2)
Lenin knew his "classics" and certainly the history of the Paris Commune was not foreign to him.This must also have been the case for many Bolsheviks and other revolutionaries,eg.Trotsky.

(See possibly the thread "Did Marx change his vision on the Commune ?")
In the bourgeois French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, a "Comité de Salut Public" (“Committee of Public Salvation ”) was set up in 1793, which also functioned as a court of justice, the verdict of which could only be : acquittal or death (i.e. beheaded by the guillotine).
And so it was that during the Paris Commune of 1871, a body called the "Comité de Salut Public" was set up on May 1, 1871.(Note 3) This creation was certainly not unanimously approved by all the Communards (43 for and 23 against in the Commune). In particular, many militants of the International Workingmen's Association, the First International (Note 4), opposed this deviation from the rules of the "Commune State" (or of the later Soviets), that is, the election of delegates and the permanent accountability of these delegates by those who elected them and every body, every "committee" and every "commission" under the effective control of "the base".

For them [the minority]the Committee of Public Safety will be only the dictatorship of a handful of men without any control from the Council of the Commune, the only body elected by the Parisians. Moreover, the name of this Public Safety Committee is too reminiscent of the one of 1793-1794, which had sent Jacques Roux and his supporters (considered the most authentic representatives of the Parisian Sans-culottes) to the guillotine.”

Translated from Wikipedia (French)

The Wikipedia page on Jacqueq Roux says : “On 14 January 1794 Roux was informed that his case was going to be tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal. Upon hearing this news, Roux pulled out a knife and stabbed himself several times, but failed to land a fatal blow. Less than a month later, on 10 February 1794, while recovering in prison, Roux stabbed himself again, this time succeeding in killing himself. He was 41.[5]

 

The Cheka is, of course, not fully comparable with the "Comité de Salut Public" of 1793-1794, nor with the "Comité de Salut Public" of 1871 (only already territorial : the first one could only act in France and possibly in the conquered territories, the second only in one city), but despite that there are similarities.

The name "extraordinary commission"(chrezvytsjajnaja komissija" ) actually also sounds so "innocent" compared to the horror it would very quickly become.
And this was even the case long before Stalin came to the head of the party.
To mention this fact is not the same as saying that "there is an uninterrupted chain linking Marx and Lenin to Stalin and the Gulag" (4th paragraph in the article).
In particular, as early as the events in Kronstadt in 1921, the Cheka showed its pernicious role very clearly.

It would require further study,but probably at its inception the "Cheka" seemed to be one of the many "extraordinary commissions" that were created.
Probably there were also "extraordinary commissions" for e.g. literacy,for hospitals,for propaganda in the countryside, for propaganda to the national minorities,etc.,etc.
The "Cheka" was headed by the experienced revolutionary Feliks Dzerzhinsky, someone who, like so many other revolutionaries, had suffered greatly under the tsarist regime and had spent many years in prisons because of his struggle in the workers' movement.
This past would also have played an important role in his election or appointment as head of the Cheka.This gives at least the impression that there was an element of revenge, of vengeance, in the sense of "Now we can pay back our enemies with equal currency, now we will make them feel it".
Now feelings of revenge, of vengeance are probably an understandable human reaction (see e.g. the reaction of "the people" against murderers, rapists, etc. (certainly against murderers and rapists of children). Think also of the repression by "the people" of real or alleged "collaborators" during the "liberation" in 1944-1945 (whereby one can also ask the question to what extent this was really a "spontaneous" discharge of "popular anger" and not something to which people had been whipped up years before by the clandestine press and by the official radio broadcasts of the Allies).
It is an established fact that revenge, vengeance, is constantly present in the attitude of the bourgeoisie, already there in the struggle against its competitors, but certainly there in the face of the struggle of the working class.
Once it has recovered from its surprise that these "rascals" dare to rebel, the bourgeoisie, once it has the situation somewhat under control, releases the brakes and opens wide the floodgates of revenge.
The repression of the Paris Commune of 1871 is one of many examples, the repression of the workers and revolutionaries of the international revolutionary wave of 1917-1923 is another example, a repression that continued into the 1930s and 1940s (with Nazism and in particular Stalinism with, among others, the "trials" in Moscow and elsewhere (in which the convicted were often only a shadow of themselves, of the courageous and steadfast revolutionaries and defenders of the proletarian cause that they once were, but the point was to erase any idea of, any memory of a truly revolutionary proletariat and a truly proletarian revolution)).
Revenge, vengeance, however, has no place in the working class struggle.
See in this context also “The ABC of Communism” , written already in 1920 by Bukharin and Preobrazhensky.

      1. Chapter 9: Proletarian Justice

        1. § 74. Proletarian penal methods

In the sanguinary struggle with capitalism, the working class cannot refrain from inflicting the last extremity of punishment upon its declared enemies. While the civil war continues, the abolition of the death penalty is impossible. But a dispassionate comparison of proletarian justice with the justice of the bourgeois counter-revolution shows the marvellous leniency of the workers' courts in comparison with the executioners of bourgeois justice. The workers pass death sentences in extreme cases only. This was especially characteristic of the legal proceedings during the first months of the proletarian dictatorship. It suffices to recall that in Petrograd the notorious Purishkevich (Note 5 )was condemned to only two weeks' imprisonment by the revolutionary tribunal. We find that the progressive classes, the inheritors of the future, have dealt very gently with their enemies, whereas the classes that are dying have displayed almost incredible ferocity.

When we come to consider the punishments inflicted by proletarian courts of justice for criminal offences which have no counter- revolutionary bearing, we find them to be radically different from those inflicted for similar offences by bourgeois courts. This is what we should expect. The great majority of crimes committed in bourgeois society are either direct infringements of property rights or are indirectly connected with property. It is natural that the bourgeois State should take vengeance upon criminals, and that the punishments inflicted by bourgeois society should be various expressions of the vengeful sentiments of the infuriated owner. Just as absurd have been and are the punishments inflicted for casual offences, or for offences which arise out of the fundamentally imperfect character of personal relationships in bourgeois society (offences connected with the family relationships of society; those resulting from romanticist inclinations; those due to alcoholism or to mental degeneration; those due to ignorance, or to a suppression of social instinct, etc.). The proletarian law-court has to deal with offences for which the ground has been prepared by bourgeois society, by the society whose vestiges are still operative. A large number of professional criminals, trained to become such in the old order, survive to give work for the proletarian courts. But these courts are entirely free from the spirit of revenge. They cannot take vengeance upon people simply because these happen to have lived in bourgeois society. This is why our courts manifest a revolutionary change in the character of their decisions.” (put in bold by me)

I do have my doubts whether the working class in its struggle, even "if the civil war continues" (beginning of the quotation above) has to apply the death penalty, to what extent the application of it, however "radical" and "revolutionary" it may seem, is not also always a copy of (early) bourgeois revolutions (the Dutch in the 16th century, the English (British) in the 17th century and especially the French at the end of the 18th century) and thus in no way a reflection of a completely different society which communism has to be.
Capitalism, regards also people as merchandise, as utensils and even as ballast and waste.

In contrast,in the struggle for communism, do we need evryone,can everyone make his or her contribution, possibly,for some people, also for the shorter or longer term through some form of work as prisoner.
To clarify, by capital punishment I understand here the killing (taking the life) of people who at that moment are no danger to yourself or here for the struggle of the working class, because they are imprisoned and unarmed.
I realise that whether or not capital punishment is used in relation to the working class struggle can be a subject in itself.

Quote :

The families of the rebels were deported to Siberia”

This is a foreshadowing of the later accusation and persecution under Stalinism of entire families (including underage children).
See also for example the persecution of Trotsky's family by Stalinism (largely successful).
(Both his 2 sons (Lev (1906 - 1938) and Sergei (1907/1908 - 1937)), his first wife (1872 - 1938) and his sister (who also had the "bad luck" of being the first wife of Kamenev) (1883 - 1941) almost certainly all fell victim to the Stalinist purges).
It is also reminiscent of the "sippenhaft" of the Nazis and of the "ordinary" criminal policy of many sections of the bourgeoisie of threatening measures against family members (partners, children, parents).
Quote :

8,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians managed to escape to Finland.”

The disastrous policy of the "right of self-determination of peoples" (propagated by Lenin and the majority of the Bolsheviks) which helped to isolate Soviet Russia from Germany and Austria and its proletarians by a patchwork, a "cordon sanitaire" of "independent" states (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia,Belarus,Ukraine,etc.) still had an advantage for some survivors of the Kronstadt massacre.
They could now seek refuge in “independent” Finland.
(For December 1918-January 1918 Finland was as a semi-autonomous grand principality a part of the Great-Russian Empire.) The Kronstadters ended up in the anti-Russian, "white" Finland that was still busy digesting a bloody civil war it had fought and won against the "Reds", with also many deaths in the concentration camps after the civil war.
And whether the Kronstadters, as defenders of a real power of the workers' councils, were really welcome or could really feel welcome in that Finland, is questionable.

 

For now i want to close with some quotes from the “Italian Left”.

”The Italian Comm. Left 1927-’45” ,ICC, 1992

p.136 “...there is no possibility of reconcilling these two organs and and that there is an irreconcilable opposition between the nature ,function and objectives of state and party” (Bilan,no 26,Jan.1936, “Parti - Internationale - Etat (chap. VII - 5e et dernière partie) : l’Etat soviétique"

("...The Soviet state")

 

p.137 “YOU CANNOT IMPOSE SOCIALISM ON THE PROLETARIAT BY FORCE AND VIOLENCE” Octobre no 2,March 1938 “La question de l’ Etat” ( ("The issue of the state" ) (set in capitals by Octobre)

 

And very clear, very concrete :

 

p.138 “It would have better to have lost Kronstadt than to have kept it from the geographical point of view when substantially this victory could have one result : altering the very basis and substance of the action carried out by the proletariat ...it would have a thousand times better to have taken on the state with the certitude of being beaten than to have stayed in power by inflicting a defeat on proletarian principes. (Octobre ,no 2),March 1938

“La question de l’ Etat”

 

 

It is my intention to continue this.

There is still a lot to say,to discuss about these topics.

 

Note 1

Most probably not by accident dated on 1 May.

The crushing of the "counter-revolutionary uprising" could then be presented as a "May 1 gift" to the Bolshevik Party and the "Soviet government".

Note 2

And it continues :”And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.”

Note 3

I plan to write about this subject in more detail later, more specifically about the influence of the bourgeois French revolution on the labour movement, at least on their image and their symbols.

For now one example: the proclamations of the Commune appeared under the heading "Republique Francaise Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité", just like during the bourgeois French revolution at the end of the 18th century, just like during the Third French Republic (1870-1940) and just like the proclamations of the Thiers government in Versailles !

Note 4

Minority against the installation “Comité de Salut Public”(CdSP)

Of the 23, a majority (16) belonged to the IWMA (1st Int.)including Leo Frankel , the man of whom Marx said "The Commune made a German working man [Leo Frankel] its Minister of Labor."

"The Civil War in France", "The Third Address",May, 1871 [The Paris Commune].

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm

In fact, Leo Frankel was“ Communist revolutionary of Hungarian and Jewish origin.

(...) was born in 1844, in Újlak [hu] (now part of Budapest, Hungary). Trained as a goldsmith, he first went to work in Germany in 1861, where he became involved with Ferdinand Lassalle's Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein sometime between 1865-66. In 1867, he was appointed as the Paris correspondent for the Sozialdemokraten, a Lassallist journal published in Switzerland. In Paris he participated in the work of the First International, organizing German, Hungarian and other foreign workers within the city. Arrested in early 1870 for his political activity and being a member of the International, he was liberated by the revolution on 4 September 1870.” (Wikipedia)

On 1 May, he voted for the establishment of the CdSP, but soon changed his mind.

As already said were not all opponents of the creation of the CdSP "Internationals",but there were also "Internationals" members of the CdSP :

  1. – Antoine Armand Jules Arnaud , also Arnault (1831-1885)

Before the Commune already a member of the International and president of a section.Member of the General Council of the IWMA and signatory of the 3rd French edition of “The Civil War in France”, delegate to the Hague congress in 1872 ,voted for the exclusion of Bakunin and for proxies for the General Council, left shortly afterwards the International with his blanquist friends.

  1. See “Le Maitron” (French)

– Léo Melliet (1843-1909)

Léo Melliet studied law and belonged to the Schools section of the International (see Dict., vol. IV, p. 63). He was also one of the founders of the Democratic Socialist Club of the 13th district (see Dict., vol. IV, p. 49), whose meetings he usually chaired and which joined the International en bloc on 25 November 1870.”(Translation from “Le Maitron” (French))

– ”Louis Charles Delescluze (...) 1809 – (...) 1871) was a French revolutionary leader, journalist, and military commander of the Paris Commune. (...)”Publisher “of the Réveil, a radical newspaper supporting the new socialist International Workingmen’s Association.

( Wikipedia)

Note 5

Maybe it is different for many, but for me Puriskevich, despite his "brilliant record" in the service of the counter-revolution, was totally unknown.

Hence this copying of almost the full Wikipedia page on him.

Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich (...) 24 August [O.S. 12 August] 1870, Kishinev – 1 February 1920, Novorossiysk, Russia)(...) right-wing politician in Imperial Russia, noted for his monarchistultra-nationalistantisemitic and anticommunist views.(...) At the end of 1916, he participated in the killing of Grigori Rasputin.(...)During the Russian Revolution of 1905, he helped organise the Black Hundreds (...) He was a hardline supporter of sacerdotal autocracy, and of Russification to create a unity.Purishkevich's hostility to the Jews was caused by his perception of them to be the "vanguard of the revolutionary movement". He wanted them to be deported to Kolyma. He believed that the "Kadets, socialists, the intelligentsia, the press and councils of university professors" were all under the control of Jews.[4] (...)During the February Revolution in 1917, many right-wingers were arrested but Purishkevich was tolerated by the government and so was "virtually the only former national Black Hundred leader to maintain an active political life in Russia after the Tsar's downfall".[18] However, the revolution meant that Purishkevich initially had to moderate his politics. He called for the abolition of the Soviets, who were, in turn, calling for the abolition of the Duma.

In August 1917, he wanted a military dictatorship; he was arrested over the Kornilov Affair but was released. Following the failure of the putsch, he collaborated with Fyodor Viktorovich Vinberg in forming an underground monarchist organisation.[19] During the October Revolution, he organized the "Committee for the Motherland's Salvation". He was joined by a number of officers, military cadets, and others.

At the time, Purishkevich was living in the Hotel Russia at Moika 60. He had a false passport under the surname "Yevreinov". On 18 November 1917, Purishkevich was arrested by the Red Guards for his participation in a counterrevolutionary conspiracy after the discovery of a letter sent by him to General Aleksei Maksimovich Kaledin in which he urged the Cossack leader to come and restore order in Petrograd.[20] He became the first person to be tried in the Smolny Institute by the first Revolutionary Tribunal.[20] He was condemned to eleven months of 'public work' and four years of imprisonment with obligatory community service, and won the admiration of his fellow prisoners in the Fortress of St Peter and St Paul by his courageous bearing.[21] He was given an amnesty on May 1 after the mediation of Felix Dzerzhinsky and Nikolay Krestinsky, as he refrained from any political activity.[20] (...)After his release, he moved to White Army controlled Southern Russia. There, during the Russian Civil War he published the monarchist journal Blagovest and returned openly to his traditional political stance of support for the monarchy, a unified Russia and opposition to the Jews. In some of the towns occupied by the Volunteer Army, he gave lectures in which he denounced the British policy towards Russia. In 1918, he formed a new political party, the People's State Party, and called for an "open fight against Jewry";[22] the party collapsed after his death.” (Wikipedia)(put in bold by me)

 

 

 

 

joan
letter of Gorter to Lenin 1921

On the website of the "Archives Antonie Pannekoek Archives" there is an interesting letter (in German) from 1921 from Gorter to Lenin.

http://aaap.be/Pages/Gorter-de-1921-Brief-An-Lenin.html

 

In that letter and in the 2nd footnote (quote from a brochure), Gorter speaks out about the uprising in Kronstadt and about the strikes in Petrograd in 1921.

Strange as it may seem, he actually approves of the repression of these strikes, using the following "argument":

"In Russia it was necessary and right".

 

Just a few parts translated :

Secondly, it is said at the congress and by the e.c. that I turned against the Russian revolution and defended the Kronstadt uprising. The last is a cowardly slander. I have written - only once about the Kronstadt uprising, namely on page 30 of my German pamphlet: "Die Klassenkampforganisation". It is true that it says there that it emerges from this uprising that class dictatorship would be better than party dictatorship, but in brackets it is added that the whole tactic followed by the Bolsheviks in Russia, in Russia, is necessary, that is, correct (**). So just the reverse of what the detractors say.

**) Die Klassenkampf-Organisation des Proletariats / Herman Gorter, 1921:

(The class struggle organisation of the proletariat)
"After the proletariat rose up against you, the Communist Party, in Kronstadt, and after you had to impose a state of siege against the proletariat in Petersburg (which was necessary in your case, as was your whole tactic), did it not occur to you, even then, that it would be better to have class dictatorship instead of party dictatorship?"(…)

In your case, when a part of the proletariat rose up against you in Kronstadt and Petersburg, you were still able to suppress the counter-revolution. Because with you it is weak."

 

Congress here refers to the 3rd Congress of the 3rd International and e.c. to the Executive Committee of the 3rd International (4th session) of 25 June 1921.

 

Worth reading !

Worth translating !

 

I refer here back to the quotations from the ICC book "The Italian Communist Left 1927-45", (p.136,137,138), although not from 1921, but only from about 15 and 17 years after the fact.

 

d-man
joan wrote: In particular, as

joan wrote:
In particular, as early as the events in Kronstadt in 1921, the Cheka showed its pernicious role very clearly.

In the assault itself I don't see units of the Cheka being the numerically largest actor. Most commonly the Cheka seems mentioned as machine-gunners (against retreating Red Army soldiers). So I don't think the Kronstadt events are usually considered or analysed via the role of only (or in particular) the Cheka.

joan wrote:
The Cheka is, of course, not fully comparable with the "Comité de Salut Public" of 1793-1794, nor with the "Comité de Salut Public" of 1871

It is not comparable at all, because the Cheka was not a governing body like those French committees were.

Quote:
As understandable as its creation may have been, it was nevertheless a mistake and a grave error.
The "Extraordinary Commission" was also established very early after the October Revolution(October 25 according to the Julian calendar and November 7 according to the Gregorian calendar),namely as early as December 20, 1917.

Doesn't this also show how much even the working class,the progressive and revolutionary class of today and its vanguard are often very much, to much determined by history,by what preceded it and by what it considers (more or less consciously) as its predecessors ?

 The creation of the Cheka was due to practical events, not due to philosophical-historiographic beliefs.

joan wrote:
In contrast,in the struggle for communism, do we need evryone,can everyone make his or her contribution, possibly,for some people, also for the shorter or longer term through some form of work as prisoner.

I think a problem with the Kronstadt sailors (and the naval forces in general) was, that they had nothing to do, ie as Guy Debord I recall said; boredom is counter-revolutionary. Boredom is a known problem on isolated army bases in general even during peace time. But in particular the navy then had no active purpose, and probably should have been dissolved, or merged under a single command into the Red Army. It seems that is what most sailors probably even wanted. If they cared about food shortages, etc. in the city, they should be willing to make a positive contribution, like move to work in agriculture, and so voluntarily surrender the Kronstadt base to the army.

Perrone aka Vercesi wrote:

It would have better to have lost Kronstadt than to have kept it from the geographical point of view when substantially this victory could have one result : altering the very basis and substance of the action carried out by the proletariat ...it would have a thousand times better to have taken on the state with the certitude of being beaten than to have stayed in power by inflicting a defeat on proletarian principes. (Octobre ,no 2),March 1938

Perrone is trying to explain the nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but he doesn't touch such a question of proletarian discipline like forced conscription (btw, through which in the first place the sailors ended up in Kronstadt). Is the ability to apply violence (against an alleged section of the proletariat) a possibility that is inherent in proletarian power? Instead of having to always watch out for the use of this ability, wouldn't it be safer to avoid creating this ability at all? And how does this ability arise? But even if you oppose the creation of the Red Army through forced conscription, I doubt that the Cheka mainly arose due to forced conscription; rather it seemed people, ie a section of the proletariat, was eager to join it or even call for its creation. In explaining how this ability (to use violence) arose, one should I think avoid simplistic explanations that lie in a nebulous willingness/psychological wish to use violence.

joan
Thank you for your quick

Thank you for your quick response.
A number of things I wrote certainly need to be clarified.
I will reply in more detail as soon as possible.

joan
Sorry it took me a while to

Sorry it took me a while to reply in more detail.

As it would take too long to reply immediately and with arguments, rightly trying to avoid "simplistic explanations", to all the elements raised in the contribution of 1 January #3, I am already replying to some of them.

I hope to reply to the others as soon as possible.

 

Before answering the comments concretely these considerations :

I think dat we must recognise that today it is very difficult, almost impossible, for each one of us (myself included) to imagine the concrete circumstances of a proletarian revolution, of a civil war (as in 1917-1922).

After 1930 (Then there has been the uprising in Shangai in 1927, one of the last convulsions of the international revolutionary wave) there is of course no lack of power seizures,uprisings and riots,of wars or civil wars (Spain, Greece, China, Latin America, Africa, Vietnam, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc., etc.,etc.).

But then it is never a question of a proletarian revolution - or an attempt at one - or of a situation of civil war in which the working class is opposed to the bourgeoisie (i.e. in the sense in which Lenin and the Bolsheviks meant it when they already spoke shortly after the outbreak of WW1 of "Transforming the imperialist war into a civil war").

And nevertheless, we have to think about it, we have to try to imagine what a proletarian revolution and a civil war (working class against bourgeoisie) really means and will mean in the future.

A proletarian revolution and a civil war in the sense intended by Lenin and the Bolsheviks is of course a very difficult and complicated situation (to express it very weakly ) in which quick and difficult decisions have to be taken, in which inevitably mistakes are made (with fatalities too).

But the difference between an "ordinary" revolution and an "ordinary" civil war is that here there is one side,the side of the working class, that cannot get away with saying that "the end justifies the means".

It is always the case that the means used also determine the end.

If the means are wrong, then the end is also infected by them.

Concretely, you cannot achieve a communist society with terror bombings, with atomic bombs, with death camps or ... with a Cheka.

 

To conclude,in order to avoid that this remains a dialogue between only two participants - however interesting it may be - I would like to call other comrades as has already been said on other threads of this Discussion Forum :

"Feel free to add your comments !”

 

 

joan wrote : 

In particular, as early as the events in Kronstadt in 1921, the Cheka showed its pernicious role very clearly.

D-man wrote :

In the assault itself I don't see units of the Cheka being the numerically largest actor.

You are absolutely right: in the assault itself the units of the Cheka were not the numerically largest factor.
The numerically largest factor in the assault were the soldiers of the "Red Army" (officially the "Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"), supplemented by volunteers from the Bolshevik party (including many oppositionists ("Workers Opposition",Pavel Dybenko,Andrei Bubnov,and so on.

(Note 1)

 

D-man wrote :

Most commonly the Cheka seems mentioned as machine-gunners (against retreating Red Army soldiers).

 

That is exactly what I meant when I spoke about the pernicious role of the Cheka.
And if the May 1 report by the Cheka speaks about executions and about the removal of families of the rebels to Siberia, then it is mainly or exclusively about Chekists who do that, isn't it?
The disastrous role of the Cheka in relation to Kronstadt 1921 is not about the attack on the fort itself, but about what happened to it and what happened afterwards.

D-man wrote :
So I don't think the Kronstadt events are usually considered or analysed via the role of only (or in particular) the Cheka.

 

I would like to "confess" that I used the commemoration of Kronstadt 1921 as an occasion to also talk about the Cheka.

If you mean by this that even if the Cheka had not been founded the leadership of the Bolshevik party would (most probably) have put down the uprising, then I agree.
Most probably, because we cannot really know. History is full of surprising developments, of casual confluence of circumstances, and so on.

(Note 2)

But the harsh repression by the Bolshevik leadership in February-March 1921 against the striking workers in Petrograd (where, contrary to the naval base Kronstadt, there could be no question of armed insurrection and also much less of strategic importance ) did not suggest a conciliatory attitude towards the "mutineers" of Kronstadt.

 

joan wrote : 

The Cheka is, of course, not fully comparable with the "Comité de Salut Public" of 1793-1794, nor with the "Comité de Salut Public" of 1871

d-man wrote :

It is not comparable at all, because the Cheka was not a governing body like those French committees were.

 

Importantly, there is a common point between the three bodies, namely that they were all separate bodies, separate from the elected bodies and not accountable by their base.

 

Cheka not a governing body ?
Of course, the Cheka was meant to be an executive body only.
But it did take governmental decisions.It soon became "a state within the state".There is at least one example (among probably many others) of it acting on its own accord.Namely the "emptying" of a prison, i.e. executing the prisoners, just before the entry into effect of a governmental decision of the Sovnarkom, the Council of People's Commissars (?), also known to the Cheka, to release prisoners.
Unfortunately, I could not find the right place and date.

I am searching further.
Perhaps d-man or another comrade knows the exact date and place of this "clearing".
 

 

Joan wrote :

As understandable as its creation may have been, it was nevertheless a mistake and a grave error.
The "Extraordinary Commission" was also established very early after the October Revolution(October 25 according to the Julian calendar and November 7 according to the Gregorian calendar),namely as early as December 20, 1917.

Doesn't this also show how much even the working class,the progressive and revolutionary class of today and its vanguard are often very much, to much determined by history,by what preceded it and by what it considers (more or less consciously) as its predecessors ?

 

D-man wrote :

 The creation of the Cheka was due to practical events, not due to philosophical-historiographic beliefs.

 

Of course, it was not the case that Lenin and the Bolsheviks thought :
"In the French Revolution and during the Paris Commune of 1871 they had a 'Comité de Salut Public', so we must have one too, without such a committee a revolution is not possible."
If that had been the idea of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, they would not have created an "extraordinary committee ...", but also a "Comité de Salut Public".

Yet both the French Revolution and the Paris Commune played a major role in the thinking and action of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Just a few examples :

– "By the way, there's the often-quoted rumor about Lenin "dancing" (a few steps) in the snow in Petrograd (in front of some surprised Commissars, in another variation of the story) when the revolution out-lasted the number of the days of the Paris Commune (~71 days?)."
See the topic in this Discussion Forum"Did Marx change his opinion about the Paris Commune?" #2

by d-man

 

– "In these dark days "(Kronstadt 1921)" Lenin said,word for word, to one of my friends :

"This is Thermidor.But we shan't let ourselves to be guillotined.We shall make a Thermidor ourselves ."”
Victor Serge, Memoirs of a revolutionary, Chapter 4,p.152

 

– “In August 1918,Lenin wrote and signed a decree on the list of revolutionaries and public figures who deserved to be honoured with individual momuments.The electic list of revolutionaries was composed of the following names :

1.Spartacus …4.Babeuf...12.Marat 13.Robespierre 14.Danton…

Tariq Ali; “The dilemmas of Lenin Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution” ;Verso,Londoon & New York,2017;Section Four,p.253

The list also includes the names of a few more revolutionaries or pubic figures from antiquity, Marx and Engels, a series of social-democrats, Garibaldi, a few rebels from Russian history, Herzen, Bakunin (!), members of "Narodnaya Wolya", Volodarsky, Fourier, Saint-Simon, Owen, in total 31 names.

 

Note 1

– “The government had mobilised tens of thousands of soldiers,of whom the majority came from Central Asia – and so onwere more easily swayed by official propaganda – joined by members of the Bolshevik Party,including those from the Workers’Opposition.”

(ICC book “The Dutch and German Communist Left”,2001,Chapter 5,p.169.

-- “We have already said that the Workers Opposition put themselves in the front line of the force to recapture the fortress.In fact ,as Serge points out,

...the Congress “[10th Congress of the Bolshevik Party ,8-16 March 1921]“mobilised all present,including some oppostionists,for the battle against Kronstadt.Dybenko ,a former Kronstadt sailor himself and an extreme Left Communist,and Bubnov,the writer,soldier and leader of the ‘Democratic Centralism’group,went out to join the battle on the ice against rebels who they knew in their hearts were right. (op.cit.)”

(ICC article “1921:The proletariat and the transitional state”, Int.Review 100,2000.

Also in the ICC book “The Russian Communist Left”,2005,p.85 )

Quote of Victor Serge,”Memoirs of a revolutionary”,NY Review Books, NY,2012,Chapter 4,p.152)

– “While the Bolsheviks prepared additional troops with less emotional investment (cadet regiments, Communist Youth, Cheka forces, and non-Russians), Zinoviev made concessions to the people of Petrograd to keep the peace.[134] Trotsky's closed session report to the 10th Party Congress led over a quarter of congressional delegates to volunteer, mainly to boost soldier morale, which was difficult in light of the Bolshevik strategy of sending minor, futile attempts at overtaking the island.[135] 

[134]  Avrich 1970, pp. 193–194.;[135] Avrich 1970, pp. 194–196.

Avrich, Paul (1970). Kronstadt, 1921. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08721-0OCLC 67322.

(Wikipedia)

 

Note 2 One example
Who could have imagined that arch-enemies such as the fiercely anti-socialist, largely aristocratic military staff of imperial Germany and the Bolshevik revolutionary Lenin, who on top of that also "conspired" with "deserters" from the German and Austrian army such as Willi Münzenberg and Karl Radek, could conclude a "deal" by which a train wagon full of Bolsheviks and other "revolutionary scum" could travel right through warring Germany to enemy Russia?)

d-man
this is not a reply

Leaving aside the above discussion, a simple question I got is: how the replacement of Kronstadt differed from the old conditions (that led to the uprising): just any information on the evolution and continued operation of the base (from April onwards), and if there were any changes made (in the navy).

Btw, in general on necessity of force during dictatorship of the proletariat, I refer to a June 2017 libcom-thread.

d-man
inside job

A 1997 collection with documents on the event (Кронштадт 1921. Документы о событиях в Кронштадте весной 1921 г., edited by В. П. Наумова, А. А. Косаковского, pp. 432) contains a document that indicates an inside job. I have seen this document discussed only in a single newspaper article in 2011. Here's an e-translation of the document in full:

No. 43 AGENT REPORT FROM THE REPRESENTATION OF THE RSFSR IN FINLAND

Very secret 18 XI-22

The commandant of the house [who usually is recruited from Cheka ranks] of the local representative office of Soviet Russia told one representative of the [Finnish] Central Investigative Police, that when the position of the Soviet Government before the Kronstadt mutiny began to seem precarious, then the Extraordinary Commission of the Petrograd province (Pecheka) when submitting to the Revolutionary Military Council and the Vcheka proposals to improve the situation, received from Zinoviev an order to organize the Kronstadt mutiny, so that, by suppressing it, the position of the Soviet government could be strengthened. The uprising was planned in detail and the plans were reported to Petrichenko, who was a secret agent of the Extraordinary Commission of the Petrograd province. and who was ordered to join the Kronstadt Revolutionary Committee so that he could actively participate in the preparation of the uprising. In all the military units located in Kronstadt, agents of the Cheka were seconded, who incited the SRs to an uprising. The ranks of the rebels were ordered to recruit as many officers and nobles as possible so that the uprising was White in nature. When the Moscow and Petrograd garrisons were reinforced by troops loyal to the Soviet government, Petrichenko was ordered to start a mutiny.

AVP RF, f. 0135, op. 4, d. 14, p. 104, l. 17.

So from this reported conversation (in November 1922), apparently the Cheka (division in Petrograd) instigated the Kronstadt uprising (on orders from Zinoviev). The motive would be to resolve the crisis in the party etc., by causing an emergency event, that would rally all (factional) forces in unity together behind the government.

Such methods (of inside job) one finds believable in Stalinist time (Kirov murder), and in Tsarist era (eg Father Gapon). But if already the Bolsheviks (in  the Civil War era) are regarded as capable of just general repression, then it's only a small step to see (a section of) them as capable of the finer methods of repression, like staged events (local bombings, upto a full-scale mutiny).

 

joan
A first reaction

A first reaction
If this is true, then of course it throws a completely different light on Kronstadt 1921.
However, it is questionable whether it is true.
It could just be part of the strategy to create (even more) confusion about this in any case important fact in the history of Russia, but even more important in the history of the working class and the struggle for communism.
In contrast to the working class, which in its struggle is only interested in the whole truth, however hard it may appear, the bourgeoisie (and the bourgeoisie in the making as one may call the Bolshevik leadership) has every interest in maintaining its power and therefore does not care about a lie, a distortion, a deception more or less.
The message is also not from March 1921 either, but is dated 18 November 1922, so already one year closer (we know today) to the open and irrevocable betrayal and abandonment of the proletarian world revolution by those who still continued to call themselves Bolsheviks. I mean the approval of the "construction of socialism in one country", first at the 13th Congress of the "Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)" of 23-31 May 1924 and then also at the 6th Congress of the "Communist International" of July 17 to September 1, 1928. (Note) 

And is the message really from 1922 or was it fabricated much later, in the full Stalinist period ? And whether it was done by Stalinists or anti-Stalinists does not really matter.

Of course, we cannot exclude the possibility that this message contains the truth. And it is indeed as the comrade says "... if already the Bolsheviks (in the Civil War era) are regarded as capable of just general repression, then it's only a small step to see (a section of) them as capable of the finer methods of repression, like staged events (local bombings, upto a full-scale mutiny)."
If true, this is of course a very serious fact and shows that the degeneration of the revolution in Russia went much faster and much deeper than we had previously thought.
And it also shows once again that, without believing in conspiracy theories, we should certainly not underestimate the machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie.

Note 
6th Congress of the Comintern 
Programm Adopted on September 1, 1928 in Moscow
"...The international proletariat, for which the USSR is the only homeland, the bulwark of its conquests, the essential factor of its international emancipation, has the duty to contribute to the success of the construction of socialism in the USSR and to defend it by all means against the attacks of the capitalist powers..." https://www.marxists.org/francais/inter_com/1928/ic6.htm
(e-translated from French)

d-man
more specific

A 2021 article posits, that there already in 1922 existed rumors among the refugees in Finland about Petrichenko's ties to the Cheka:

Quote:
The letter addressed to Petrichenko by member of the Military Revolutionary Committee F. E. Romanenko testifies to the discord that began after his departure among the refugees: “... you write about what they say about you on the island, then I know absolutely little about it. Of course, everyone says differently, well, I don’t want to believe any of these rumors and conversations, only one thing I know that you are a person who understands and probably sort out from this what is bad or what is good ... and of course this damn fool Romanov is the meanest and most meaningless animal that harms the whole herd … He is now in your position. ”53 Romanenko's letter requires comment. The "rumors" about which he writes are most likely connected with the possible collaboration of Petrichenko with the Cheka already in 1922. Direct documentary evidence of this has not been identified, but there is testimony from the detective of the Central Investigative Police O. Karlson, deposited in the National Archives of Finland, indicating this.

I haven't looked up the precise month (in 1922) of Romanenko's letter.

The existence of the report of Karlson confirms my previous post; this Finnish report (of a conversation with a Russian representative, who is a certain Zh. Mutschen'jki) is dated 8 November 1922 (as is mentioned in a 2014 article). This information comes originally from a 1997 Finnish book (pp. 168–69): Polle. Del 1, Ryssen som blev faktisk överbefälhavare : generallöjtnanten Paul von Gerich 1873-1951, by Westerlund, Lars.

Westerlund (as summarised by the 2014 article – I didn't check Westerlund's book itself) believes, that Petrichenko had ties with the Cheka (in 1922 or even 1921). The 2014 article notes a divergence with other source(s), who date his ties to the soviet intelligence only from the mid-1920s onward. I don't find these other sources specific though. I tend to believe Westerlund's judgement (and it seems that's also the reason why the Vyborg Finnish counterintelligence arrested Petrichenko in 1922).

It would be interesting for a researcher to check Karlson's report (in the Finnish archive) for more details about his conversation with Mutschen'nki (not certain about spelling) on Kronstadt.

joan
Concerning Petrichenko and

Concerning Petrichenko and the Cheka.

I see now that also on Wikipedia there is extensive talk about Petrichenko after Kronstadt 1921.
One quote : "In 1922, Petrichenko went to Riga and visited the embassy of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. There he was recruited by the State Political Directorate and became an agent of the Red Army Intelligence Agency in Finland."[6]
[6]M. Hosta, O. Lapchinsky, S. Kosher SPY DEATH ".

(State Political Directorate or State Political Administration=GPU, the successor to the Cheka,Red Army Intelligence Agency =GRU)
Now Wikipedia is certainly not always completely accurate and sometimes it is even completely wrong.(Note 1)

.
For now, one more question.
There were quite a few Ochrana agents active in the Bolshevik party, the best known of which was Roman Malinovsky who became a member of the CC of the Bolshevik paerty and the fraction leader of the Bolshviks in the Duma. He was also the best paid Ochrana agent.
But does this make the Bolshevik party as a whole a tool of the Ochrana. ?
No.
If Petrichenko was already a Cheka agent in 1921, does that make the whole Kronstadt uprising a machination of the Cheka ?

For the moment I will leave what was said in #7 and #9 for what it is.

I will reply (or try to reply) to d-man's earlier remarks.

I assume that the Kronstadt uprising in March 1921 is an expression of the working class struggle and that it is very closely related to the strikes in Petrograd and Moscow around the same time.

 

--------------------
 

joan wrote: 

In contrast,in the struggle for communism, do we need evryone,can everyone make his or her contribution, possibly,for some people, also for the shorter or longer term through some form of work as prisoner.

D-man wrote :

I think a problem with the Kronstadt sailors (and the naval forces in general) was, that they had nothing to do, ie as Guy Debord I recall said; boredom is counter-revolutionary.

Boredom is a known problem on isolated army bases in general even during peace time.

But in particular the navy then had no active purpose, and probably should have been dissolved, or merged under a single command into the Red Army.

It seems that is what most sailors probably even wanted.If they cared about food shortages, etc. in the city, they should be willing to make a positive contribution, like move to work in agriculture, and so voluntarily surrender the Kronstadt base to the army

1) The Kronstadters were not only sailors.
The sailors were most probably the most numerous in the population of Kronstadt (it was a naval base) and they are also the most represented in the image (also because of the iconic cruiser "Aurora" which, according to the story, started the storming of the Winter Palace on 24 October (O.S.) or 6 November (N.S.) 1917).
But besides also soldiers of the "Red Army" there were for example also the workers of the shipyards.
(The delegation that the Kronstadters sent to Petrograd to inform themselves about the situation in the factories also included workers).
The Kronstadt uprising of 1921 also, I think, arose, not to say mainly, out of solidarity with the workers in Petrograd, with whom they were connected in many ways (participation in the struggle in Petrograd at various times in 1917, families who lived in Petrograd and were taken hostage by the Bolshevik regime during the uprising (thus equating the Kronstadt rebels with the ex-tsarist officers in the "Red Army", whose families were also taken hostage)).
Without idealising the sailors of Kronstadt in 1921 (nor the workers of Petrograd then), I think that class solidarity is the essence of the Kronstadt revolt.
Class solidarity - and I don't forget the peasant background of many sailors and the "peasant demands" in the Kronstadters' demands programme (Note 2 ) - because many sailors, many prominent fighters of Kronstadt in 1921, also performed “proletarian” tasks in the navy (machinists, mechanics, cooks, etc.)on the ships that could be described as sailing or floating factories.
And weren't many sailors also recruited from the working class (e.g. sailors from the merchant fleet)? (Note 3 )

And there was class solidarity in the other direction too, from the workers of Petrograd to the insurgents of Kronstadt.

Of course limited by the repression against these workers and the demoralisation of them, but it was definitely there. (Note 4)

2) Sorry, d-man, but it gives for a moment the impression that you think that boredom among the sailors was the real reason why Kronstadt revolted.
Something that is in a way comparable to the burning and other forms of vandalism by young people (like on New Year's Eve in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, etc.).
And much, much more serious,this element of boredom, of not being able or wanting to do anything other than being a soldier (sailor),are unable or unwilling to return to the also boring "civilian" life was also important ... for many members of the various "Freikorps" in Germany after the November Revolution of 1918.
(One can ask the question whether in November 1918 in Germany was a real revolution, but I will here just use the usual terminology).

 

3) If they cared about food shortages, etc. in the city, they should be willing to make a positive contribution, like move to work in agriculture...

Was there really a shortage of people in Russia at that time who could work the land, pick fruits, rear cattle, herd sheep and goats and so on, in short, provide food?
I don't think so, when one sees that the Bolsheviks, the "Soviet state", could mobilise 10,000-thousand soldiers, mostly "peasants", to crush the rebellious sailors, "Red Army" soldiers and workers of Kronstadt by their superior force.
It seems to me therefore unnecessary to saddle the sailors of Kronstadt - and I repeat, they were not only sailors - with a feeling of guilt because "they did not contribute to the solution of the food shortage".
Wasn't it also true that very many sailors (also from Kronstadt) had left their ships and naval bases for a long time in order to fight domestic ("White Army") and foreign troops over the gigantic area of the ex-tsarist empire and thus were certainly not only concerned about their own immediate situation ?

What d-man here cites are elements, perhaps even important elements in understanding the events.

E.g. the fact of conscription for the "Red Army" of workers and peasants,an issue which, to be honest, I have not given much thought to yet.

But I do not think they are essential.
In my opinion the uprising of Kronstadt 1921 is inseparable from the workers strikes in the same period in Petrograd and Moscow and maybe (not to say probably) in many other places as well.
I can imagine that there were more remote places in the then Russia (mines, quarries, forestry and agricultural areas, etc.)where there were also protests, demonstrations, perhaps strikes, but where the information could be more easily blocked or distorted and the repression was also "easier".
Probably we still know much too little about the workers' struggle in "Soviet Russia".

 

There were still some remarks daparting from the article in "Octobre" no 2, March 1938.

("It would have been better to have lost Kronstadt than to have kept it from the geographical point of view...")

I will respond to it as soon as possible.

Note 1
One flagrant example
The Communist Workers' Party of the Netherlands (DutchKommunistische Arbeiders-Partij Nederland) was a council communist party in the Netherlands. It was founded in September 1921, and was modelled after the Communist Workers' Party of Germany.(...)
Prominent members
- Herman Gorter
- Anton Pannekoek
- Henriette Roland Holst
"
Only Herman Gorter was a prominent member (co-founder).
But neither Anton Pannekoek nor Henriette Roland Holst have ever been members of this organisation !

Note 2

"we would not deny that there were petit-bourgeois elements in the ideology and programme of the rebels (free exchange, "freedom of action" for the peasants etc.)" 
 International Review no.3 - October 1975
The lessons of Kronstadthttps://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR003_kron.htm

Note 3

"The fact that the Kronstadt rebels still had a largely working class kernel can be gauged from the make-up of the delegate assembly of 2 March, which was strongly composed of proletarians from the factories and naval units of the garrison, and from the personnel of' the PRC elected by this assembly, which was made up of workers and long service sailors who had beer engaged in the revolutionary movement since at least l9l7. (See Mett, op cit, p.15 for a breakdown of the members of this committee.) But these facts are less important than the general context of the revolt: it occurred within a movement of working class struggle against the bureaucratisation of the regime, identified with that struggle, and saw itself as a moment in its generalisation. "Let the toilers of the whole world know that we the defenders of Soviet power are guarding the conquests of the Social Revolution. We shall win or perish beneath the ruins of Kronstadt, fighting for the just cause of the proletarian masses." (Pravda o Kronshtadte, p.82) "

 International Review no.3 - October 1975
The lessons of Kronstadthttps://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR003_kron.htm

Note 4

"Although this is movement had largely subsided by the time the Kronstadt revolt broke out, important sections of the Petrograd proletariat continued to actively support the rebels. On 7 March, the day the government bombardment of Kronstadt began, workers at the arsenal factory held a mass meeting that elected a commission charged with agitating for a general strike in support of the rebellion. Strikes continued Pouhlov, Battisky, Oboukhov, and other major enterprises."
 International Review no.3 - October 1975

The lessons of Kronstadthttps://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR003_kron.htm

d-man
joan wrote: Now Wikipedia is

joan wrote:
Now Wikipedia is certainly not always completely accurate

That's what I meant by "I don't find these other sources specific though." The source (for wiki) seems to be Primakov's volume-series on soviet intelligence, which gives no references (to archival sources) and is not specific (on exact dates etc). I don't doubt the point that Petrichenko did, at some later date, seek to work for intelligence.

The reported conversation in November 1922, on the other hand, is confirmed by two separate sources. This conversation takes place after Petrichenko's arrest by the Finnish (and I assume after the "rumors" among the refugees) on suspicion of soviet spying; this for me makes it even stranger why Mutscheninko (or whatever his name is spelled) would invent a story about Petrichenko being a cheka-agent to the Finnish investigator Oskar Karlsson (when the Finnish already, perhaps wrongly, suspected it, and such rumor apparently already existed among the Kronstadt refugees)? Relations between Finland and SU were improved a bit. There was a soviet amnesty for the Kronstadt rebels, to safely return to Russia.

joan wrote:
If Petrichenko was already a Cheka agent in 1921, does that make the whole Kronstadt uprising a machination of the Cheka ?

Even if it was, in what sense would it matter? Perhaps that's why Mutscheninko felt comfortable to "admit" to such a serious machination; because even if it is true, nobody can do anything about it, ie nobody can use such a bit of information. If the Cheka is said to be so powerful and effective, that it was essential to repress the whole Kronstadt uprising, then, on the other hand, one could not logically claim that it was yet too impotent and incompetent to be able to instigate it.

Quote:
Roman Malinovsky who became a member of the CC of the Bolshevik paerty and the fraction leader of the Bolshviks in the Duma. He was also the best paid Ochrana agent.
But does this make the Bolshevik party as a whole a tool of the Ochrana. ?
No.

To the extent, that his influence reached on decisions taken by the Bolshevik party, yes, one can call it a "tool" to that extent. The claim about the Cheka launching Kronstadt though, is not solely about one agent Petrichenko, but about the whole detailed plan. If the claim were, that the whole Bolshevik party activity was being orchestrated by the Ochrana, then one would definitely call it a tool. One might still view the party's activity as noble, correct and good, ie that practically, in program and activity, it does not matter (like Lenin seemed to say about Malinovsky). The only problem would be, that the workers would be foolish to have confidence in the party, as it opens them up to the repression of the Ochrana.

Quote:
The Kronstadters were not only sailors.
...
But besides also soldiers of the "Red Army"

I don't know about active Red Army soldiers in Kronstadt uprising. I know, based on a 10 December 1920 Cheka report (in the above-mentioned 1997 collection), there was a penal colony (thieves, deserters) and eg the arrival in November of 534 prisoners of war.

Quote:
Sorry, d-man, but it gives for a moment the impression that you think that boredom among the sailors was the real reason why Kronstadt revolted. ... this element of boredom, of not being able or wanting to do anything other than being a soldier (sailor),are unable or unwilling to return to the also boring "civilian" life was also important ... for many members of the various "Freikorps" in Germany after the November Revolution of 1918.

I'm saying the Kronstadt sailors wanted to return to civilian life, they wanted demobilisation. This by itself is a legitimate grievance. You mention vandalism by bored youth, and I think eg the lockdown in early 2020 made young people bored or frustrated, without which circumstance, the video of George Floyd would have provoked much less effect.

Quote:
Was there really a shortage of people in Russia at that time who could work the land, pick fruits, rear cattle, herd sheep and goats and so on, in short, provide food?
I don't think so, when one sees that the Bolsheviks, the "Soviet state", could mobilise 10,000-thousand soldiers, mostly "peasants", to crush the rebellious sailors, "Red Army" soldiers and workers of Kronstadt by their superior force.
It seems to me therefore unnecessary to saddle the sailors of Kronstadt - and I repeat, they were not only sailors - with a feeling of guilt because "they did not contribute to the solution of the food shortage".

Every mobilised soldier is a loss to the productivity of the economy. But while the Red Army had a function (of fighting), the navy was not functioning. If you want to defend the function of the Kronstadt base, I would sincerely be interested to hear it.

Quote:
What d-man here cites are elements, perhaps even important elements in understanding the events.

E.g. the fact of conscription for the "Red Army" of workers and peasants,an issue which, to be honest, I have not given much thought to yet.

But I do not think they are essential.
In my opinion the uprising of Kronstadt 1921 is inseparable from the workers strikes in the same period in Petrograd and Moscow and maybe (not to say probably) in many other places as well.

The question of discipline, punishment of desertion, and the question of demobilisation of armed forces at the end of the Civil War are essential, comparable to the revolts by soldiers at the end of WWI.

Quote:

There were still some remarks daparting from the article in "Octobre" no 2, March 1938.

("It would have been better to have lost Kronstadt than to have kept it from the geographical point of view...")

I will respond to it as soon as possible.

Well, yes Perrone is talking about dictatorship of the proletariat, and he doesn't talk about forced conscription being a violation of "proletarian principle". I also added, that even without forced conscription, you'd still have the enlistment to the Cheka, that was voluntary. I now can add further, that also your stress about elections is not really the issue: one could imagine the Cheka leadership be elected (like today PCCs in UK or Sheriffs in US are).

d-man
clarification

I want to clarify, that I myself do not claim that the Kronstadt rebellion was a staged operation by the Cheka.

The Cheka report (of December 1920) on Kronstadt is aware of discontent, and other factors, that cause potential for mutiny. It mentions the arrival in November 1920 of 534 prisoners of war (from the South-Western front). It also mentions the arrival of former White Kuban soldiers. I found more on the latter:

'... in March 1921, Finland received perhaps the largest influx of refugees. ...

Among the interned soldiers of the Kronstadt garrison, there were several hundred Kuban Cossacks. Here it is necessary to explain how the Cossacks ended up among the infantry units of Kronstadt. For the most part, they were forcibly mobilized into the Red Army in the summer of 1920, young Cossacks born in 1900-1901. A significant part of them were former soldiers of the Kuban units of the White Army, who did not have time, or could not be evacuated from the territory of the Kuban together with the Armed Forces of the South of Russia (VSYUR) of General Denikin.

From the point of view of the Bolshevik commissars, this was an unreliable element - and in this they turned out to be right ... The Cossacks, who for the most part hated Soviet power, did not fail to turn their bayonets against it immediately. So, as early as March 7, an infantry regiment, in the amount of 1800 people stationed in the Krasnaya Gorka fort, went over to the side of the rebels in Kronstadt. It was sent across the ice of the Gulf of Finland to pacify the Kronstadters, but on the way, having killed the commissars and disarmed the commanders, it decided to join the rebels. There were up to 500 Kuban Cossacks in the regiment, the rest were Ukrainians. Moving to Kronstadt, the Kuban met there many of their fellow countrymen who served in the fortress in various work teams and infantry units.

The Kronstadters interned in the camps, gradually, by decision of the Finnish government, began to be sent to work in different parts of Finland. The population of the camps was declining - a significant part of the internees, more than 4 thousand, believing in the Soviet amnesty, returned to Russia. Few Kubans returned, the main part continued to remain in Finland. '

A 2013 article on the social composition of Kronstadt mentions Cossaks too:

'Indeed, in January-November 1920, about 10,000 recruits arrived in the Baltic Fleet, the bulk of which arrived from Ukraine, Don and Kuban. However, if you look closely at the social the origin of recruits, it turns out that they were far from being only peasants.

Among the recruits were many young Cossacks, whose fathers fought against the Bolsheviks in the ranks of the White Army, and grandfathers and mothers were subjected to repression in the course of the decossackization policy. These young Cossacks were mobilized into the army and trained by the whites. But in the conditions of the collapse of the white front in the South and the rapid advance of the Reds, these "mobile reserves" were "inherited" by the Bolsheviks. Some of the Cossacks fled to their homes, someone went to the Greens. But a significant part of the White Cossack conscripts went to the Reds, hoping that they would be sent to the Crimean Front, where they would be able to desert and go over to the side of the Whites in order to reunite with their fathers, brothers, stanitsa. Understanding (or suspecting) this, the Bolsheviks sent mobilized Cossacks in separate groups to pass services not to the south, but to the north. This is how a significant part of the Cossacks ended up in the Kronstadt garrison.

...

The fate of the Kronstadt Cossacks was curious in exile. Among the refugees interned in Finland, there were many. According to the testimonies of the participants in the Kronstadt rebellion, collected in Finland by colonel F.I. Eliseev, the Cossacks took an active part in the uprising. Only of the Kubans in the fortress, there were about 2,500 people. Of this number, about 800 Kuban-Cossacks (born 1900–1901), were saved in Finland [Ibid., p. 17]. These were young guys who did not have time during the years of the Civil War "out of childhood" to get into the White Cossack troops and mobilized later to the Red Army. Once in the zone of the anti-Bolshevik rebellion, they took the side of the rebels and were forced to emigrate.'

If I take the latter figure, it would imply 1,700 Kubans did not escape to Finland. Presumably among the deaths and prisoners taken by the Red Army were these 1,700 Kuban-Cossacks.

 

joan
Thank you for all your study

Thank you for all your study work, now about the Kuban Cossacks.
It makes clear that Kronstadt 1921 is more complicated than often thought (certainly also than I thought myself).
It also makes even clearer that it was not easy for the contemporaries (inside and outside Russia) to get a correct understanding of the events.
The question remains of course : did the Kronstadters (sailors, workers and possibly "Red Army" soldiers) have any other choice than to revolt against the Bolshevik regime that, with the best of intentions (to preserve "soviet power" while waiting for the world revolution to spread), acted so bloody and cruel (maybe we should say so capitalistic) against striking workers and recalcitrant or even just desperate peasants ?
Did the workers in Petrograd, Moscow and other places have any choice but to strike, to demonstrate against the Bolshevik regime?
I am trying to move the discussion forward as quickly as possible.
But because I want to do that with thorough thinking, as clearly expressed as possible and, as you quite rightly ask, avoiding simplistic explanations, it unfortunately takes some time.
It is, in a way, our luck that we have that time now.
This in contrast to 1921, when one had to choose quickly in an extremely complicated situation and very often understandable, but wrong choices were made.
I am thinking of the choice to support the crushing of the Kronstadt uprising, not only by Lenin, Trotsky, etc., but also by militants of the " Workers' Opposition", " Democratic Centralists", Victor Serge, etc.
- Now, more than a century later, it is clear to me that this was the wrong choice.-
But at the same time, the resolute refusal of this support by Bolshevik militants with years of service in the party, such as Gavril Miasnikov (Bolshevik since 1906) (Note) and probably many others whose names are less known.
And also very many Bolsheviks in Kronstadt, probably the majority of them.
And not because they were forced to do so under threat of immediate execution by the insurgents.

As I said, I will try to continue the discussion as soon as possible.

(Note It was customary for Oppositionists to mention the year and even month of joining the party when signing texts.
This was to immediately undermine the argument that these were young, inexperienced, newly joined members, only on paper, even career hunters.

d-man
my ramble

Quote:
did the Kronstadters ... have any other choice than to revolt against the Bolshevik

The revolt itself can be defined as the apparent arrest of communist delegates present at the March 2 meeting, called supposedly for preparing the election of a new Kronstadt soviet, and, instead, the transfer of power over forces (in Kronstadt and anyone who wants to join) from central command to the proclaimed PRC. I assume the previously existing Kronstadt soviet did not have power over forces in Kronstadt. I assume this itself had not been a violation of soviet democracy. There are different levels of soviets, from district to all-Russian wide, so if a higher-level soviet's exectuive orders a command to forces, the local soviet shouldn't on its own cancel such a command to forces (that happen to be located on its territory). The PRC took a power upon itself, that even a newly elected Kronstadt soviet wouldn't have. The PRC would need to get a new election to the nationwide soviet, and win such a nationwide election, which then could, retroactively, grant legitimacy for the power that the PRC initially took.

As to such a call for a new election to soviets nationwide (or at least in the whole Petrograd gubernia), this may very well be expressed as an opinion in Kronstadt (by the rebels), but the decision to call new elections to soviets nationwide, depends on the people in those places themselves. On previous threads, I stressed the need for research into the procedures for new elections. Who calls such a new elections, and how? The exact procedure apparently depended on local arbitrary choice. What was the procedure in the Kronstadt soviet? How many members did the existing (before March 2) Kronstadt soviet have? Did the mandate of this soviet really expire (as is said) by coincidence around this time (on March 2); if so, this coincidence could have played a role in deciding on the date for the revolt. Why wasn't the March 2 meeting of delegates itself considered to be a new soviet? Why was it apparently only tasked with preparing the election for a new soviet? How to establish a "fair" election procedure of delegates? Etc., etc. I suppose Kronstadt had 60,000 people, and they all had a vote in elections for a soviet. To organise such an election would take some time and effort. The Kronstadt rebels demanded themselves a vote by secret ballot.

If the people (of what became the PRC) had claimed to be the new Kronstadt soviet's executive body, ie if they had only claimed this, based on having a majority of delegates in the March 2 meeting, then I consider it would not yet have been a revolt. At most, the Bolshevik delegates in the soviet would have merely failed to get any representation in the soviet's executive committee, but as (minority) members of the soviet, they would, in principle, still be able to carry out opposition to the executive committee. And perhaps they could even win support among people, or by whatever procedure, to launch yet another election of the soviet. I doubt if the minority of Bolshevik delegates had any such freedom left after March 2 in Kronstadt. 

I don't think that the PRC considered itself to be just a new ordinary soviet executive, and furthermore the extension of its own power was a challenge to the system of soviets. They called for freedom of speech and press, for freedom of agitation in pre-elections campaigns in other soviets, but it seems they could not uphold this during their revolt. I suppose an insurrection itself does not follow democratic procedures, but still, democractic procedures are used to legitimise the insurrection.

You ask about alternatives to revolt. Why didn't the delegates at the March 2 meeting proceed with the preparation of the election of a new soviet? Apparently, it looked like the majority of delegates was against the Bolsheviks, so these anti-Bolsheviks could expect to control a fair organisation of the election. One must assume that they didn't believe the election would be allowed to take place. It was a rumor, voiced during the March 2 meeting, that Bolshevik troops were coming to shut down the meeting (and so prevent preparation of a new election), that provided the alleged motive for the decision to revolt. And if you claim that it was naive to believe that "fair" elections (with freedom of the press) could ever have taken place anyway (under the cricumstance of the Bolshevik regime), then how honest (about preparing elections) was the March 2 meeting to begin with? Why go through the effort of setting up such a meeting, if you know in advance it won't be able to carry out its goal? Either they were using it as a cover for something else (namely as a step in the pre-determined insurrection), or they genuinely believed in the (alternative) possibility of preparing a Kronstadt soviet election. In the latter case, they would have believed an alternative (to revolt) still existed.

 

 

 

joan
A first impression, a first

A first impression, a first question on your most recent contribution (#14).

 

Your research and your many questions are very important and very useful,

I mean it, as a counterbalance to yet again "simplistic explanations".

Yet I ask myself the question: don't you often get too hung up on all the specifics of Kronstadt? (Note 1)

Maybe my impression is wrong and my question unjustified, that is possible.

 

I must certainly have a thorough re-reading of your most recent contribution.

 

Anyway, you ask important questions about the Soviet system or council system.

 

In the ascendant period of capitalism, after the very first manifestations of workers' struggles (rather spontaneous outbursts of anger (think of the Silesian weavers' revolt of 1844, of the burning of the factory owner's castle or villa)), there is generally the building of an organisation (resistance fund, trade union) prior to the struggle (strike).

In the period of decline of capitalism, the organisation of the struggle (in the best cases) is rather spontaneous, in the struggle, with general assemblies, elected and permanently recallable committees of struggle, with workers' councils or their beginnings.

When the struggle turns into a real insurrectionary, pre-revolutionary or even revolutionary movement, this "spontaneity" has to be adjusted in order to exclude as much as possible accidental, disproportionate phenomena and to avoid as much as possible that decisions are taken by an accidental presence (or absence) of one or another part of the workers or of others (soldiers, sailors,...).

 

I am also thinking of Germany 1918, when e.g. Rosa Luxemburg and possibly also Karl Liebknecht (as speaker) were not admitted to the workers' councils (or workers' and soldiers' councils), because they were ... not workers.

This while many members of the same councils were SPD members who may have been workers at one time, but had been part for years of the bureaucracy of the party, the trade union, and also had been sitting for years in parliaments, provincial councils, town councils, consultative bodies, etc.).(Note 2)

I also remember my an article in the ICC press a long time ago (on Kronstadt 1921 or on the transitional period between capitalism and communism) which spoke of a deliberate and willed greater or double representation of the working class in the territorial councils (soviets), in which all the inhabitants of a given territory (thus also peasants, craftsmen, shopkeepers,...) are represented

(double representation= once as workers and again as inhabitants).

 

I still have a lot in the pipe line in connection with Kronstadt, but it needs to be "kneaded" a bit more before releasing it on the discussion forum.

 

Note 1

A summary of your contributions here regarding Kronstadt 1921

#3 "I think a problem with the Kronstadt sailors (and the naval forces in general) was, that they had nothing to do, ie as Guy Debord I recall said; boredom is counter-revolutionary. Boredom is a known problem on isolated army bases in general even during peace time. But in particular the navy then had no active purpose...".

# 6 replacement and changes of Kronstadt

# 7 and # 9 about the "inside job" : Petrichenko and others = Cheka-agents ?

# 11 - Petrichenko and Finland

- soldiers penal colony in Kronstadt

# 12 -prisoners of war

- Kuban cossacks in Kronstadt

-Kronstadters in Finland

# 14 - soviet and provisional revolutionary committee (PRC) in Kronstadt

Note 2

I do not immediately know whether Friedrich Ebert, Philipp Scheidemann or Gustav Noske had a seat on the workers' and soldiers' councils in 1918.

I think not, but I would have to check.

But these figures, whose names became synonymous in the eyes of very many class-conscious workers with betrayal, deception and even hangmans work, were all once workers.

-Ebert was born into a working-class family; his father was a tailor, and he himself was a saddler (union of leather workers).

-Scheidemann was a typesetter and printer

-Noske's father was a weaver, he himself was a basket maker (woodworkers union)

  1.  

 

d-man
choice

joan wrote:
Yet I ask myself the question: don't you often get too hung up on all the specifics of Kronstadt? ...

When the struggle turns into a real insurrectionary, pre-revolutionary or even revolutionary movement, this "spontaneity" has to be adjusted in order to exclude as much as possible accidental, disproportionate phenomena and to avoid as much as possible that decisions are taken by an accidental presence (or absence) of one or another part of the workers or of others (soldiers, sailors,...).

The specifics "of Kronstadt" I'm talking about in my above post, is about the very definition "of Kronstadt", ie what made it an insurrection/revolt? You speak about a point, when a (normal) struggle turns into a real insurrection. You also speak about "decisions" (of the Bolsheviks in response). You wrote about lack of alternatives of the rebels, ie asking "what choice did they have, other than to rebel"? It could seem like the Kronstadters had no choice in their actions, and instead were forced to rebel, due to the deaf attitude of the Bolsheviks. Did they make a choice to rebel, or is the concept of "choice" in such cases not even relevant at all?

Avrich, p. 111 wrote:
In the early stages at least, the Kronstadters ap­parently saw themselves not as revolutionary conspirators but as a pressure group for social and political reform.

Avrich himself defines the turning-point, or starting-point of the revolt, as the March 2 delegates' meeting (when a false rumor, on approaching Bolshevik troops, led to the hasty creation of a PRC). That's why I focused on that meeting. The purpose of that meeting was preparing the election of a new Kronstadt soviet. A "choice" was made at that March 2 meeting not to proceed with the planning for that task, but instead to seize control over Kronstadt (from the still existing Kronstadt soviet, and from the central command). Avrich allows for the impression, that the "choice" was based on just an accidental rumor. But for all the stress on the contingent, accidental element, ie spontaneity, or lack of (actual thoughtful) choice, – once the "choice" was made, actions followed rapidly. This (speed) and other reasons (such as that already during the night prior to the March 2 meeting, a message was sent to the Kronstadt posts, instructing these actions), leads to the suspicion that the accidental choice at the March 2 meeting was not so accidental. That suspicion in itself does no dishonor to the rebels, for otherwise they'd be just unprepared, panicky, rumor-prone men, who accidentally started a revolt. But once you admit the reasonable possibility of some pre-planning, of pre-existing plans for revolt, those plans could also be the work of other forces (certainly we know the conception of such a revolt existed).

The following day (March 3) a postponement of the task seemed to be acknowledged, but not the cancellation of the task:

Petrichenko in Izvestia no.1, cited Avrich p. 87 wrote:
The task of the Provisional Revo­lutionary Committee is to organize in the city and fortress, through friendly and cooperative effort, the conditions for fair and proper elections to the new Soviet.

A large part of the legitimacy of the PRC is here derived from the task the March 2 meeting was occupied with. But the March 2 meeting, if it hadn't been interrupted by a false rumor, did not yet constitute a revolt. If the PRC's task had really been only the preparation of the election of a new soviet, it wouldn't have been an insurrectionary body.

joan wrote:
you ask important questions about the Soviet system or council system.

I think there exists a whole lot of dispute and struggle, about what are the specific conditions for a fair and proper election of soviets. But also, there's a complaint that soviets become just empty shells, giving a cover of legitimacy to real power elsewhere. If soviets were just empty shells, insisting on fair elections to empty shells seems to be a waste of effort. Is not the main function of elections, and the soviets, always that they give legitimacy to executive power? But why should the exercise of power need such democratic legitimacy? Is this not just an ideological luxury or illusion as Bordiga might warn? Should the exercise of power be conceived of as a question of free or real decisions/"choices"? I think Adorno once commented about the lack of an actual science of sociology of (parliamentary system) politics, due to how obscure the top policy-making process remains (probably due to lack of transparency, or due to its very concentration in the hands of a few people). One could just exclaim even, that the whole state-power is determined not just not by an obscure conspiracy (around the cabinet, or Lenin), but not even by any of its parts; that there aren't free policy choices, but just an empty state-machine, being pushed around by economic circumstances. That's how today's politicians also justify themselves, as having no agency, just no alternative.

joan
Thank you again for your

Thank you again for your quick response.

Unfortunately, I don't usually have that speed.

I need it to sink in before I can formulate an answer that is as solid as possible, based on the elements that I already knew and all the new elements that you bring in.

You seem to know the subject through and through, although you are also constantly discovering new elements.

Maybe it was wrong of me to speak about the "specifics" of Kronstadt 1921, because they were so important here as well.

 

D-man wrote :

It could seem like the Kronstadters had no choice in their actions, and instead were forced to rebel, due to the deaf attitude of the Bolsheviks. Did they make a choice to rebel, or is the concept of "choice" in such cases not even relevant at all?

These seem to me to be very important questions.

 

D-man wrote :

If the PRC's task had really been only the preparation of the election of a new soviet, it wouldn't have been an insurrectionary body.

And here I ask myself the question : if it had only been for that purpose (only the preparation for the election of a new soviet), wouldn't the PRC of Kronstadt have been considered by the bolshevik regime as a insurrectionary body as well ?

This in view of the reaction of the regime towards the striking and demonstrating workers in Petrograd who among other things also demanded the re-election of the Soviets and where, as already said, there could be no or much, much less than in the case of Kronstadt any question of strategic importance or of armed insurrection.

"Faced with this” (the strikes of “all the large factories, including the Putilov factories, the main bastion of the 1917 revolution”)” Zinoviev and the Petrograd Bolsheviks responded with repressive measures: dispersal of demonstrations by the Cadets (koursantis);lock-out of factories on strike; loss of ration cards for strikers;institution of martial law;widespread arrests;immediate executions in the case of political groupings; surveillance of workers in the factories by troops of armed Bolsheviks. "[6]See P.Avrich, La tragedie de Kronstadt 1921,Points-Histoires, Paris 1975.And Ida Mett,La commune de Kronstadt,Cahiers 'Spartakus',1949.Above all see the International Review of the ICC,no.3, Oct.1975,'The lessons of Kronstadt'.ICC book "The Dutch and German Comm.Left",2001,p.169 and 191.(put in bold by me)

d-man
joan wrote: This in view of

joan wrote:
This in view of the reaction of the regime towards the striking and demonstrating workers in Petrograd 

Yes, but in general, the winter of 1920/21 featured freezing, starving, so I think it was mostly driven by elemental material demands. I mean, it seems like fuel shortages caused stoppages of factories, while there seems also the point that only the heating in factories kept people alive.

One other fact catches my attention about the Petrograd protestors in late February, namely that they included mobilised peasants, who were likely a key actor. Their material conditions were also the worst. Semanov noted:

'On February 28, the Presidium of the Petrograd Council of Trade Unions adopted a decision of fundamental importance on the demobilization of all those involved in labor service. The demobilized received a two-week advance payment of full wages and free travel home{186}. This was the right measure, because the Labor Army often turned out to be the most susceptible material for inflammatory agitation. It should be recalled that at the Baltic Shipyard (factory), where the "bagpipe" (wave of unrest) began, 400 people worked, attracted by various kinds of mobilization. It is no coincidence that at the Rosenkranz factory, which also became the object of the "bagpipe", the majority of the workers consisted of mobilized peasants from the Tver province, who lived in barracks under very difficult conditions {187}. The Council of Trade Unions decided to carry out the demobilization without delay, and the Gubernia Economic Council was instructed “in view of the exceptional importance of providing the roads of the Petrograd junction with the necessary amount of roofing iron for equipping wagons for sending Labor Army soldiers {188}. [52] A special commission was formed to coordinate all measures for the speedy dispatch of all those demobilized. The newspapers published this decree {189}.'

I assume this refers to the so-called "labour armies", which by early 1921 were gradually phased out: 

  • Petrograd Labor Army  - formed by a resolution of the Defense Council of February 10, 1920 on the basis of the 7th Army (Chairman of the Soviet Labor Army G. E. Zinoviev , commander - S. I. Odintsov ). But all of its divisions were almost immediately sent to the Western Front, and the remaining two were involved in the protection of the borders. As a result, by order of the RVSR dated February 25, 1920 No. 299/52, the Council of the Petrograd Labor Army is invited to “widely use the rear, technical units, attracting specialists to work in their specialty, and also to form work teams from prisoners of war for this purpose.” Its number on March 15, 1920 amounted to 65,073 people, by the autumn having decreased to 39,271 people.

So here again, the context of demobilisation.

joan
I want to stop for a while

I want to stop for a while about "Kronstadt 1921", in other words, I want to take a break here.

Not because I am no longer interested in this subject, not because everything has been said about it, certainly not.

I can say that I have learned a lot about it now, that it has come "to life" much more than from other reading.

Of course, my break does not prevent anyone from making further contributions on this subject.

I hope to rejoin the thread as soon as possible.

But for now, I want to make time for other topics and other tasks.