History of the Kronstadt Mutiny in Communist Russia Part 2

About the history of the Kronstadt mutiny in Russia agains the new communist government.



The sailors issued a manifesto that openly challenged the Communist party. The manifesto demanded that the Soviets (elected councils, not necessarily Communist) be reestablished as the supreme authority in Russia. To accomplish this, it called for new Soviet elections, which would include the Socialist and Anarchist parties that had been outlawed by the Communists. Next, it attacked War Communism economics and demanded the abolition of requisitioning (forcible seizure of peasant crops) and forced labor. For peasants, it demanded the right to own land, thereby opposing communes and state farms. The mutineers' newspaper proclaimed, "Revolutionary Kronstadt... rose up against the government of Communists to restore real power to the Soviets... here in Kronstadt is laid the cornerstone of the Third Revolution, which will strike the last chains from the working masses."

The next day a 14-member committee was elected to govern Kronstadt and lead the mutiny. It was headed by Petrichenko. The mutineers arrested a few high-ranking Communist and Soviet officials, but treated them well.

The disconcerted Communist party decided the rebels must be quickly and completely suppressed. Lenin dispatched 300 delegates from the 10th Communist Party Congress in Moscow to help crush the mutineers, while Trotsky demanded the liquidation of the rebels, calling them "White Guard mutineers." A propaganda campaign was launched to prove that the mutineers were czarist counterrevolutionaries. Meanwhile Trotsky organized a special army of Communist military units and Cheka (secret political police) forces in Petrograd.

The Communist forces attacked Kronstadt across the frozen sea on mar. 8, 10, and 12, but each assault was broken by the Kronstadt forts and ships. On the 16th, the Communists, cloaked in white robes, staged a night attack and penetrated Kronstadt's defenses. Two days of fierce fighting followed before Kronstadt was conquered.

Aftermath. Some 8,000 mutineers escaped across the ice to Finland, while 2,000 were captured. The Cheka took a savage revenge, as Alexander Berkman (an eyewitness) noted in his diary: "Thousands of sailors and workers lie dead in the streets. Summary executions of prisoners and hostages continue." The survivors were shipped to concentration camps. Thirteen mutineers with affluent backgrounds were put on trial as the mutiny's supposed leaders, in an effort to discredit the rebellion as a reactionary czarist plot. All 13, who had played only minor roles in the mutiny, were convicted and sentenced to death.

The Kronstadt mutiny exposed a profound disillusionment within the revolutionary ranks themselves. Realizing this, Lenin scrapped War Communism and instituted the New Economic Policy, which conformed with the Kronstadt economic demands. Although it brought about economic reform, the Kronstadt mutiny failed in its political aims. The Communist party had strengthened its grip on the Soviet government and institutionalized a one-party system.

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