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Kronstadt: The Anarchist Icon

“Remember the Kronstadt” is a taunt familiar to many a Marxist when interacting with people of various anarchist sects. Of course, the anarchists of Kronstadt have nothing in common with the present-day variations of individualist anarchists and other people engaged in lifestyle politics. Anarchism was a very different – almost respectable – beast in the early 1900s. But anarchists of the present-day enjoy invoking the name of Kronstadt to justify their sectarian prejudices, redbaiting and other behavior. So what does “Kronstadt” mean? What happened at Kronstadt that we should remember it?

Kronstadt was the site of an important naval base outside of Petrograd (then Leningrad, now Petersburg). It was key to the defense of the most important city in Russia. In 1921, the newly established Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR)was still in the midst of a civil war and war of independence against a number of imperialist countries trying to kill it in its infancy. Among the factions fighting the Bolsheviks during this time were the Anarchist Makhnoites (Black Army). So the anarchists were already waging a struggle for counterrevolution prior to the Kronstadt incident.

More to the point, the RSFSR at this time was under the condition of ‘war communism’, which involved among other things the strict rationing of food and supplies in order to ensure there was not famine under conditions when the normal economy was in absolute disarray. The sailors of Kronstadt (or I should say, some of the sailors of Kronstadt since support for the rebellion was no where near unanimous) were unhappy with the conditions of war communism because a good number of people made their living off of speculation, illegal trade, and criminal activity. They also were doing better off than the rest of Russia, and did not want to give other communities and soviets loans of food and supplies. The anarchist uprising, far from being a “popular” uprising against the ‘tyrannical” Bolsheviks, had little popular support. Even some of the sailors of the Kronstadt turned against the putschists. The workers of the town of Kronstadt liberated the city before the Red Army ever got there. It is also a lie that these sailors were loyal Bolsheviks who had become disillusioned with the RSFSR. The truth of the matter is Kronstadt had always been populated mostly by anarchists and SR (Socialist Revolutionary [anti-Bolsheviks]. There were very few if any Bolsheviks and even fewer Mensheviks.

The leaders of this putsch were not remotely sympathetically to socialism, social democracy or anything else. S.H. Dmitriev  Stephen Petrichenko, and General Koslovsky, two former members of the White Army and one who had tried to join the Whites.  Koslovsky and 8000 of his bandits ended up fleeing to Finland to join his fellow counterrevolutionary brethren after the uprising was defeated. Petrichenko made  no secret of his links to the White Army. There is documentary evidence, now available in the Columbia University archives, that details the coordinated plans of the Kronstadt rebels with foreign imperialists and vestiges of the defeated White Armies. Indeed, Lenin himself said the plot of Kronstadt was hatched from within Paris, with Paris printing newspapers describing the rebellion weeks before it occurred. Members of the White Emigre communities in Paris and elsewhere mobilized themselves to volunteer to fight on behalf of the Kronstadt mutineers. Documents have been found detailing the money transfers which took place between Whites in Finland and the Kronstadt rebels and their White Generals (who did far more than serve as mere ‘technical support’ to the mutineers)

The most active putschists among the Kronstadt sailors were not only not progressive, they were outright reactionary.  Even scholars sympathetic to the mutineers admit that anti-Semitism (“the Jews murdered Russia”) was rife among the mutineers.

Then finally, there’s the matter of the number of people killed in this tragic uprising. Anarchists raise a good hue and cry over the number of sailors reportedly slaughtered by the Bolsheviks. The real fact is the number pales in comparison to the number of Red soldiers who died trying to suppress their irresponsible, counterrevolutionary conspiracy. At least 10,000 Red soldiers were killed, injured, or missing  trying to retake the “Kronstadt fortress” as compared to 600 putschists.

So when I hear “remember the Kronstadt”, I remember the 10,000 brave Red Army soldiers who crossed the ice to battle and destroy a White Guard counterrevolution and gave their lives so that socialism could survive. I remember the petulant actions of criminal elements bent on sabotaging a new society before it could establish itself. I remember the anti-Semitic reactionary drivel that was spewed forth by the mutineers.

We need to remember the Kronstadt, and learn the lessons well.

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2 Responses

  1. what a lot of stalinist revisionist drivel .. the Third Revolution started amongst the workers of Petrograd and spread to Kronstadt where the demand was for a renewal of the revolution against the increasing dictatorship of one party .. as many Bolsheviks and other communists supportted it as much as anarchists

  2. This is piece is completely a lie.

    During the early stages of the revolution, soviets were setup, which were the bases of power. These soviets were made up of the workers and soldiers, with direct democracy. The bolsheviks and their party took over these soviets by making party memebership obligitory to be elected and by making the soviets report to the party.

    This is what created the dictatorship in the USSR. The people of Kronstadt saw this happening, and called for

    1. Freedom of speech, assembly, and union organizing
    2. Release of political prisoners imprisoned by the Bolsheviks
    3.Abolition of political factions in the army, and subsidies to those factions
    4. No forced collectivation of peasents

    Freedom without Socialism cannot be, just as Socialism with freedom cannot be.

    The Anarchists in Kronstadt tried to actually create a free and equal socialist society, and so opposed the Bolosheviks totalitarinism. The claim that the mutineers at Kronstadt were actually whites is a complete lie, proven by the fact that initially the workers of Kronstadt were known to the MOST revolutionary. Only when the Soviets power was taken away and freedoms were reduced did the people of Kronstadt revolt.

    I could go point by point of your arguments and refute them, but I do not feel it is even worthy of my time to do so. Next time you claim to have new evidence to support your wild claims, how about some footnotes or links?

    Anarchism, as shown in Spain in 1936-38, with Ukraine during the Russian Revolution, with Turin in 1918, with Hungary in 1956, and various others is REAL socialism, with freedoms and all power to the workers councils.

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