FORMATION OF THE KRONSTADT PROVISIONAL REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE
On March 2nd, at the House of Education in Kronstadt (The former Engineering School), delegates gathered from all listed organizations. Elections for the Conference took place on the basis of an announcement in the official newspapaper. Moreover, in accordance with established custom, among those speaking on the tasks and goals of the Conference were... Communists, elected with the others to the body of delegates. They were, however, in the minority in the Conference, the majority consisting of non-party delegates.
The assembly was opened by the sailor Petrichenko. Then, elections to the Presidium of the Conference took place, by way of open voting.
One member of this Presidium recounted, "The Conference consisted exclusively of sailors, soldiers, workers and employees of Soviet organizations. No kind of general, colonel or any kind of officer was even thought of. The 'Soviet' character of the meeting sprung to the eye..."
The first orators at the assembly were, once again, Vasiliev, President of the Kronstadt Ispolkom, and Kuzmin, Commissar of Baltflot [The Baltic Fleet]. The day's main topic was the question of new elections to the Kronstadt Soviet on fairer foundations. This was all the more important as the authority of the old Soviet, composed almost entirely of Communists, had already expired. The speeches by Kuzmin and Vasiliev not only did not pacify the Conference, but on the contrary, poured oil on the fire.
Kuzmin assured the delegates that all in Petrograd was calm, tried to frighten them with danger from Poland, spoke about dual power, and so forth and so on. At the end of his speech he declared that the Communists would not withdraw from power voluntarily, and would fight to their last forces.
Vasiliev's speech was in the exact same spirit and tone.
These statements showed the Conference that Kuzmin and Vasiliev could not be trusted, and that it was imperative to restrain them, having first removed them from the assembly. This was all the more urgent as the order to take weaponry away from the Communists had still not been given, the soldiers were frightened by the commissars, and the latter still had telephones at their disposal.
Kuzmin and Vasiliev were removed from the assembly. But all the other Communist participants were allowed to remain, and to continue in the work of the Conference. They were recognized as the same empowered representatives of their units and organizations as the other delegates.
Following this, by proposal of Petrichenko, the resolution adopted at the previous day's meeting was read, and was also adopted by the Conference with an overwhelming majority of votes.
After this, the Conference had intended, on the basis of the resolution, to enter into substantive work. This was primarily intended to be the development of conditions for correct and free elections to the Soviet, for even the Communists themselves pointed out that the authority of the Kronstadt Soviet had ended.
But at that time, information of a disturbing character was received. It was reported that a substantial number of Communists, with small arms and machine guns, were supposedly occupying buildings and moving toward the location of the Conference. In fact, by the testimony of one of the authoritative leaders of the Kronstadt Movement, at that very time the cadets of the Higher Political School were leaving Kronstadt and, with Dulkis the chekist in command, heading for Krasnaya Gorka.
Because of the rumors, a very nervous atmosphere arose, and the Conference, remembering the threats of Kalinin, Kuzmin and Vasiliev, decided to form a Provisional Revolution Committee. In view "of the lack of time to define the structure of the Committee, it was decided that the Presidium and President of the Conference would take on themselves the duties of the Revolutionary Committee and its President."
This decision was passed unanimously, and the Presidium, with Petrichenko as head, became the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, which was also assigned to attend to arranging elections to the Soviet. The Committee selected as its provisional place of residence the battleship Petropavlovsk, on which were also housed Kuzmin and Vasiliev, who had been restrained.
It is necessary to note that just after the meeting on the first of March, the Kronstadt Communists began preparing for military action and actively arming themselves, demanding that the artillery magazine issue rifles, cartridges and machine guns to the Communist cells. These demands, signed by Novikov, Commissar of the Fortress, were fulfilled unquestioningly. Therefore, the Provisional Revolutionary Committee's caution was fully understandable.
The truth is, of two thousand Communists listed in Kronstadt, "the majority were," by the words of one of the members of the Prov. Rev. Com. [Petrichenko in "Zritel," No 188, p. 2], "'paper Communists,' who had joined the party for advantage."
"When the first events occured," said the same member of the Rev. Com., "the main mass forsook the Communist ringleaders and joined us. The ringleaders themselves, with a small quantity of cadets, couldn't hope for the possibility of gaining the upper hand against us. Therefore, they abandoned the thought of armed struggle, and crossed to the forts. They moved from one fort to another, but didn't meet with any sympathy. The cadets who were in Kronstadt crossed over together with the Communists, first to the forts, and then to Krasnaya Gorka. Some of the Communist ringleaders simply fled, and along with them the Commander of the Kronstadt Fortress."