THE BOLSHEVIK ATTACK ON KRONSTADT
Thus, the people of Kronstadt did not desire the beginning of military action. They left the Communists at liberty. They decisively rejected any aid from the "non-left socialist parties." They chose a Provisional Revolutionary Committee for the organization of new elections to the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers, Sailors and Soldiers, the authority of the latter having already run out. They called for the dispatch of a delegation from Petrograd, chosen by workers, sailors and soldiers, that it might learn the true goals of the Kronstadt movement, and be convinced of the lies raised against the people of Kronstadt by the Bolshevist Defense Committee.
In answer to these demands, the Bolsheviks declared a blockade of Kronstadt, and concentrated a large quantity of troops in Petrograd, its outskirts, and also Oranienbaum, Krasnaya Gorka and other coastal locations. The Prov. Rev. Com. reports that on the March 7th, "at 6:45 P.M., the Communist batteries in Sestroretsk and Lisy Nos opened fire first on the Kronstadt forts. The forts accepted the challenge, and quickly forced the batteries to become silent. Following this, Krasnaya Gorka opened fire, receiving worthy answer from the battleship Sevastopol."
On this sinister day of the opening of military action, besieged Kronstadt and its leaders did not forget that the day of its first bombardment was, at the same time, the Day of Working Women! "Today is a worldwide holiday, the Day of Working Women," says besieged Kronstadt's broadcast to the working women of the world. "We, the people of Kronstadt, under the thunder of cannons, under the explosions of shells sent at us by the enemies of the laboring people, the Communists, send our fraternal greetings to you, the working women of the world."
"We send greetings from rebellious Red Kronstadt, from the Kingdom of Liberty. Let our enemies try to destroy us. We are strong; we are undefeatable."
"We wish you fortune, to all the sooner win freedom from all oppression and coercion."
"Long live the Free Revolutionary Working Woman."
"Long live the Worldwide Social Revolution..."
This call, greetings from bombarded Kronstadt, was completely characteristic for the rebels. No less characteristic is the following address by the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, printed in No 6 of 'Izvestiia of the Prov. Rev. Com.' under the title, "May all the World Know!"
"And so, the first shot has rung out. Bloody Fieldmarshal Trotsky, standing to his waist in the fraternal blood of laborers, opened fire first on Revolutionary Kronstadt, risen against the Communist government for the establishment of true Soviet power. Without a single shot, without a drop of blood, we, soldiers, seamen and workers of Kronstadt, threw down the Communist dominion, and even spared their lives. They desire to once again, under threat of bombardment, tie us to their authority."
"Not wanting bloodshed, we proposed that non-party delegates be sent from the Petrograd proletariat, that they might learn that there is a struggle for power in Kronstadt. But the Communists hid this from the Petrograd workers, and opened fire. Such is the usual answer of the sham worker-peasant government to the demands of the laboring people."
"May all the world of workers know that we, protectors of Soviet power, stand guard over the victories of the Social Revolution. We will be victorious, or die under the ruins of Kronstadt, struggling for the bloody cause of the laboring people. The workers of all the world will judge. The blood of innocents is on the heads of the Communist beasts, who are drunk with power."
"Long live Soviet power!"
The lead article in 'Izvestiia of the Prov. Rev. Com.' from March 8th makes the following analysis of this fateful "First Shot." "They began the bombardment of Kronstadt. Well, so be it; we're ready. We will measure our strengths."
"They rush to act, and yes, they are forced to hurry. The laborers of Russia, despite all the Communist lies, understand what a great endeavor of liberation from three years' slavery is being created in revolutionary Kronstadt. The butchers are unnerved. The victim of their shameless bestiality, Soviet Russia, is slipping from their torture chamber, and with her, dominion over the laboring people is slipping finally from their criminal hands."
"The Communist government will send an SOS. The weeklong existence of free Kronstadt is proof of their powerlessness. One moment more and the worthy answer of our glorious revolutionary ships and forts will sink the ship of the Soviet pirates. They are forced into battle with revolutionary Kronstadt, which has raised the banner 'Power to Soviets, and not Parties.'"
It is important to spend as much time as possible on the exposition of the psychology of the Kronstadt garrison and its elected leaders in those first moments, those first days of the war which had begun between the Bolshevik authorities and Kronstadt. 'Izvestiia of the Prov. Rev. Com.' alots its columns almost entirely to the exposition of the goals for which Kronstadt struggled. The newspaper contains practically no information on the violent struggle already begun. On the day of the bombardment, there is practically no chronicle of it. All is dedicated to the burning theme, "We and They," that is "we" of Kronstadt, and "they" the Bolsheviks.
In those days it was as if Kronstadt was hurrying to show its true face, to clearly outline the people's movement which had risen there pure and unmixed. In its articles and appeals is felt the sailor's speech, sailor turns of phrase and comparisons.
And over all this feverish revolutionary atmosphere hung the great, all-forgiving spirit of the age old Russian liberation movement. Kronstadt was great spirited. It was proud that in it, executions did not occur, that there was no coercion, that it rested on the freely expressed will of the entire laboring populace. Under the thunder of the bombarding cannons, it sent greetings to laborers, and called the entire proletariat and peasantry to solidarity.
And Bolshevik authority attempted to portray these people as "servitors of Capital," "lackeys of the Entente," and so on and so forth!
And only then, when the Kronstadters were forced to argue against the completely unbelievable lies and slander of an enemy which had decided to wipe them from the face of the earth, did they speak sharply, not sparing fully weighted and juicy definitions of the hated Bolshevik authority.
In this moving argument of victim with torturer, Kronstadt tried fervently to expose its true wishes, its true, cherished aspirations.