BEGINNING OF THE MOVEMENT IN PETROGRAD
Kuzmin, reporting to the Petrograd Soviet about the unsettled mood of the sailors, was not mistaken. The Petrograd events, and the suppression of the workers by cadets, made a huge impression on the revolutionary-minded sailors. They, like the Petrograd workers, understood very well that the question was not of free trade or other independent changes in the Soviet mechanism, but of the Communists, and the uncontrolled, irresponsible dictatorship of the Communist Party.
Many, having themselves been in the villages, learned there how cruelly Bolshevik power treats the peasants, how inimical it is to the countryside. In their own homes, their native villages, the sailors saw that the Bolsheviks take by force the peasants' last grain and cattle, and pitilessly destroy all who do not unquestioningly obey. They destroy with the aid of executions, arrests, secret police... By their own experience and that of their relatives, the Kronstadt sailors were convinced that the Bolsheviks, who in word call themselves the "peasant power," in deed show themselves to be the most malicious enemies of the peasants; they are enemies of the peasants, and of the workers.
The movement of sympathy and support for the Petrograd workers began among the sailors of the battleships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol, docked in Kronstadt. In 1917, these two ships, together with the Respublika, were the primary hotbeds of Bolshevism. This movement quickly captured the entire fleet, and the crews of the warships began to move resolutions of political character. In these, however, they did not oppose the Soviets, but called for their reform, insisting primarily on the absolute necessity of free voting in elections. Before long, the movement had spread from the ships' crews to the army units in Kronstadt.
On February 28th, on the Petropavlovsk, joined by the Sevastopol, a general resolution was passed. The main demand of this resolution was new elections to the Soviets. "If the Soviets would have been elected anew," said one of the leaders of the movement, a common sailor [Petrichenko in "Zritel," No 188, p. 2], "on the basis of the Constitution (Soviet), that is to say by secret ballot, then, we thought, the Communists would not have gone through, and the achievements of the October Revolution would triumph..." The sailors' movement was thus completely peaceful in character, and did not in any way express itself violently.
On the first of March, Kalinin, President of the All-Russian Executive Committee and Kuzmin, Commissar of the Baltic Fleet arrived in Kronstadt. Kalinin was met with military honors, music and banners. After this, a previously scheduled meeting took place on Anchor Square. An announcement of this meeting had been published in the official newspaper of the Kronstadt Soviet. About 16 thousand sailors, soldiers and residents of the town gathered at the meeting. It proceeded with Vasiliev, a Communist and President of the Kronstadt Ispolkom [Executive Committee], presiding. With the report of the crew representatives sent to Petrograd for clarification of the situation there, the resolution passed by the Petropavlovsk on the 28th of February was read. Also, Kalinin and Kuzmin made speeches against the resolution. Their speeches did not meet with success.
The assembly was officially the General Meeting of the 1st and 2nd Battleship Brigades. After the speeches by Kuzmin and Kalinin, the Petropavlovsk resolution was moved to a vote by the sailor Petrichenko, and passed unanimously by the entire huge assembly. "The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Kronstadt garrison. The resolution was read at a general town meeting March 1st in the presence of about 16,000 citizens and passed unanimously. Vasiliev, President of the Kronstadt Ispolkom and Comrade Kalinin vote against the resolution." Thus did Kuzmin, Commissar of the Fleet note the results of the voting in his journal.
The text of this historic document is as follows:
Having heard the report of the crew representatives, sent to Petrograd by the General Meeting of ships' crews for clarification of the situation there, we resolve:
1. In view of the fact that the present Soviets do not express the will of the workers and peasants, to immediately hold new elections to the Soviets by secret ballot, with freedom of pre-election agitation for all workers and peasants.
2. Freedom of speech and press for workers and peasants, anarchists and left socialist parties.
3. Freedom of assembly of both trade unions and peasant associations.
4. To convene not later than March 10th, 1921 a non-party Conference of workers, soldiers and sailors of the city of Petrograd, of Kronstadt, and of Petrograd province.
5. To free all political prisoners of socialist parties, and also all workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors imprisoned in connection with worker and peasant movements.
6. To elect a Commission for the review of the cases of those held in prisons and concentration camps.
7. To abolish all Politotdels [Political Departments], since no single party should be able to have such privileges for the propaganda of its ideas and receive from the state the means for these ends. In their place must be established locally elected cultural-educational commissions, for which the state must provide resources.
8. To immediately remove all anti-smuggling roadblock detachments.
9. To equalize the rations of all laborers, with the exception of those in work injurious to health.
10. To abolish the Communist fighting detachments in all military units, and also the various guards kept in factories and plants by the Communists, and if such guards or detachments are necessary, they can be chosen in military units from the companies, and in factories and plants by the discretion of the workers.
11. To give the peasants full control over their own land, to do as they wish, and also to keep cattle, which must be maintained and managed by their own strength, that is, without using hired labor.
12. We appeal to all military units, and also to the comrade cadets to endorse our resolution.
13. We demand that all resolutions be widely publicized in the press.
14. To appoint a travelling bureau for control.
15. To allow free handicraft manufacture by personal labor.
The resolution was passed by the brigade assembly unanimously with two abstentions.
Petrichenko, President of the Brigade Meeting
Together with this, it was decided at the meeting to send deputies to Petrograd. The Kronstadt representatives, 30 in number, were to go to the capital to explain to the army units and factory workers what the people of Kronstadt wanted. They were also to call for the dispatch of non-party delegates from Petrograd, to be acquainted at the source with the mood and demands of the sailors and garrison. The delegation set off, but was arrested in Petrograd, and its further fate was unknown to Kronstadt.
Since the period of authority of the Kronstadt Soviet had expired, it was resolved at the meeting to call a Conference of Delegates for March 2nd, at which to discuss procedures for the new election to the Kronstadt Soviet. The Conference was to consist of representatives from ships, units, organizations, workshops and trade unions.