Trotsky on Kronstadt

Chris, London 100423.2040 at
Tue Jun 11 00:23:18 MDT 1996

In my scholastic studies I have rather neglected Trotsky.

(cries of shame! shame!)

So I thought when the subject of Kronstadt came round again
I would  check the references, in the volume
The Serge-Trotsky Papers ed David Cotterill, Pluto Press
London 1994, as I recalled reading that Trotsky was not directly
involved in suppressing the rebellion.

I was surprised by the Stalinist tone of the following,
ie it sounds like the attitudes
of mind that Trotskyists usually label as Stalinist.

Or do other's read it differently?

Letter to Wendelin Thomas, 6th July 1937:

Your evaluation of the Kronstadt uprising of 1921 is basically
incorrect. The best, most self-sacrificing of the sailors were
completely withdrawn from Kronstadt and played an important role
at the fronts and in the local Soviets throughout the country.
What remained was the grey mass with big pretensions ('We are
>from Kronstadt'), but without political education and unprepared
for revolutionary sacrifice.

The country was starving.
The Kronstadters demanded privileges. The uprising was dictated
by a desire to get privileged food rations. The sailors had
cannon and battleships. All the reactionary elements, both in
Russia and abroad, immediately seized upon this uprising.
The White emigre's abroad, demanded aid for the insurrectionists.

The victory of this uprising could bring nothing but the victory
of the counter-revolution, entirely independent of the idea
the sailors had in their heads. But the ideas themselves were deeply
reactionary. They reflected the hostility of the backward peasantry
towards the worker, the self-importance of the soldier or sailor
in relation to 'civilian' Petrograd, the hatred of the petty
bourgeois for revolutionary discipline. The movement therefore
had a counter-revolutionary character, and since the insurgents
took possession of the arms in the forts they could be crushed
only with the aid of arms.

No less erroneous is your estimate of Makhno. In himself he was
a mixture of fanatic and adventurer. He became the concentration
of the very tendencies which brought about the Kronstadt
uprising. The cavalry in general is the most reactionary part of the
army. The equestrian despises the pedestrian. Makhno created a
cavalry of peasants who supplied their own horses. These
were not the downtrodden village whom the October revolution
first awakened, but the strong and well-fed peasants who were
afraid of losing what they had.

The anarchist ideas of Makhno
(ignoring of the state, non-recognition of the central power)
correspond to the spirit of this Kulak cavalry as nothing
else could. I would add that the hatred of the city and the
city worker on the part of the followers of Makhno was
complemented by a militant anti-semitism.

At the very time
when we were carrying on a life and death struggle against
Denikin and Wrangel, the Makhanovists attempted to carry out an
independent policy. Straining at the bit, the petty bourgeois
(Kulak) thought he could dictate his contradictory views to the
capitalists on the one hand and to the workers on the other.
This Kulak was armed; we had to disarm him. This is precisely
what we did."

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