Truth About the Kronstadt Mutiny

THE KRONSTADT MUTINY

In March 1921 there was a mutiny against the Soviet government among soldiers in the fortress town of Kronstadt. The mutiny went on for two weeks, until it was suppressed by the Bolshevik government. The Kronstadt mutiny is one of those topics which is always debated: was it a heroic uprising against the ‘tyrannical bolsheviks’? Or was it an attempt at counter-revolution? Before I started researching this topic I thought that the Kronstadt mutiny was just a silly anarchist action – but its actually much worse then that.

THE LASTING MYTH OF KRONSTADT

The Kronstadt mutiny has remained a topic of discussion to this day. That is because it is always used as an example of supposed ‘communist tyranny’ by anarchists and revisionists, but also by capitalists and imperialists. They all claim that since the communists had to suppress a mutiny, therefore it proves they were anti-worker, oppressive and that they had turned against the revolution. Of course, this is simplistic and childish thinking and pure demagogy. Of course, there were other revolts and plots against the bolsheviks too, but the Kronstadt mutiny works much better for anarchist and capitalist propaganda purposes because at least on the surface it was done by soldiers of mostly peasant origin (and not by the rich) and because at least on the surface it had a left-wing agenda – however, the surface appearance doesn’t necessarily reflect the whole truth.

The first capitalist president of Russia Boris Yeltsin (the most hated Russian leader in known history) praised the Kronstadt mutiny and opened the archives on Kronstadt for researchers, so that they could prove how heroic the mutiny was and how evil the bolsheviks were. Unfortunately it backfired, since the primary source evidence doesn’t support his conclusion at all. The opened archives contain more then 1000 documents which include firsthand accounts by mutineers, secret White Guard reports, articles, memoirs etc. collected from a range of Soviet, White Guard, Menshevik, anarchist and western capitalist sources.

When the mutiny broke out it was immediately praised and supported in the capitalist media – actually, it was already praised and supported in the capitalist media two weeks before it had even broken out. This already shows that the mutiny was organized, or at least sponsored and supported by capitalists and western imperialist countries.

LEADER OF THE MUTINY PETRICHENKO

The leader of the mutiny was a political adventurer named Stepan Petrichenko. He had been in the Red Army, but considered himself an anarcho-syndicalist. He was also a Ukrainian nationalist. Petrichenko apparently remained an anarcho-syndicalist at least on the surface for most of his life, but one year before the Kronstadt mutiny he had tried to join the White Army. Anarchist historian Avrich writes:

“Petrichenko returned to his native village in April 1920 and apparently remained until September or October… The authorities, he later told an American journalist, had arrested him more than once on suspicion of counterrevolutionary activity. He had even tried to join the Whites…” (Avrich, Kronstadt, p. 95)

Avrich also discovered a secret White Guard Memorandum On Organizing An Uprising In Kronstadt.

Already pretty quickly after the events in Kronstadt we had absolutely solid proof the leaders and organizers of the mutiny were White Guardists or were working with White Guardists. And now with the archival materials, we have absolutely mountains of further evidence. If anyone says otherwise, they are wilfully ignorant or lying.

HOW THE MUTINY WAS ORGANIZED

In 1921 the country was in ruins after years of WWI and civil war. Fuel and food were always extremely scarce. As long as the civil war lasted, the population tolerated all these hardships. They understood it was inevitable in the war. However, in 1921 the war was coming to an end. Massive amounts of soldiers were sent home from the Red Army or at least taken away from battle. This created disturbances as people were no longer focused on fighting the White Army, and there were lots of badly adjusted jobless soldiers wandering around. Peasants also began opposing the war-time policy of grain requisition at fixed prices. Most soldiers themselves were peasants. This all combined together, to create some spontaneous disturbances. The policy of the government, was to evaluate the situation, change from war policies to peace time policies, and organize the reconstruction of the country and revitalization of the economy. However, that was an extremely difficult task which couldn’t be completed in one day.

There was unrest in Petrograd after several factories were temporarily closed due to fuel shortages. Some menshevik counter-revolutionaries were arrested without bloodshed. False rumors of workers being shot and factories even being bombarded, were spread in the fortress town of Kronstadt. Reactionaries took full advantage of these rumors and spread them.

“Mingled with the initial reports was an assortment of bogus rumors which quickly roused the passions of the sailors. It was said, for example, that government troops had fired on the Vasili Island demonstrators and that strike leaders were being shot in the cellars of the Cheka.” (Avrich, p. 71)

“the Petrograd strikes were on the wane… But the rumors of shootings and full-scale rioting had already aroused the sailors, and on March 2, at a time when the disturbances had all but ceased, they were drafting the erroneous announcement (for publication the following day ) that the city was in the throes of a “general insurrection.”” (Avrich, p. 83)

This was the necessary ideological preparation for the mutiny.

A mass meeting was held in Kronstadt on March 1 where anti-Communist statements and lies were spread. The meeting was orchestrated in such a way that Communists were not allowed to speak. The topic was raised that new elections to the Soviet should be carried out.

A delegate meeting of soldiers was held the next day on March 2. In this meeting it was proposed that all Communists be arrested. The delegates were amazed. However, the organizers of the mutiny made the completely baseless and hysterical claim that armed Communist detachments were about to surround the meeting and arrest everyone, therefore it was supposedly justified and necessary to begin rounding up and arresting Communists. This type of fear propaganda was cleverly used by the mutineers. Delegates had no time to think, they had no access to information, and Communists had no chance to speak. Thus the reactionaries could basically push through their anti-Communist policy.

“the Bolshevik commissar barely had time to object to the irregular proceedings before being cut off by the “military specialist” in charge of artillery, a former tsarist general named Kozlovsky… “Your time is past,” Kozlovsky declared.” (Avrich, p. 81)

The adventurer, anarcho-syndicalist and would-be White Guardist Petrichenko declared that a so-called ‘Provisional Revolutionary Committee’ or PRC had been elected. This PRC would now take over.

“[T]he chair of the meeting, Petrichenko, quieting down the meeting, announced that ‘The Revolutionary Committee… declares: “All Communists present are to be seized and not to be released until the situation is clarified” (Introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy)

“suddenly… a voice from the floor… shouted that 15 truckloads of Communists armed with rifles and machine guns were on their way to break up the meeting. The news had the effect of a bombshell, throwing the delegates into alarm and confusion… it was the bogus report that Communists were preparing to attack the meeting that actually precipitated the formation of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee… Petrichenko himself took up the rumor and announced that a detachment of 2,000 Communists were indeed on their way to disperse the meeting. Once again pandemonium broke loose, and the delegates left the hall in great excitement.” (Avrich, p. 84)

Using skillful propaganda and deception Petrichenko claimed that the ‘Provisional Revolutionary Committee’ was elected by soldier delegates. However, this was simply a lie. No elections had been carried out. But the masses did not know that – after all, maybe their delegates in their meeting had elected such a committee? Who could say? This is a good example of how such a reactionary coup can happen.

The Provisional Revolutionary Committee or PRC was never elected, its members had already been chosen before hand. In fact the committee was already sending orders and messages, one day before it had supposedly been elected. The committee stated:

“[T]he Communist Party is removed from power. The Provisional Revolutionary Committee is in charge. We ask that non-[Communist] party comrades take control into their hands” (“To All Posts of Kronstadt,”, reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy.)

Avrich also mentions how the PRC was never elected, though he claims it was merely “for lack of time to hold proper elections” (Avrich, p. 84)

This “Provisional Revolutionary Committee” actually consisted of opportunists, capitalists and counter-revolutionaries. Two members of this committee were Mensheviks who had opposed the October Revolution. Mensheviks and their foreign supporters believed Russia needed capitalism and wasn’t ready for a workers’ revolution. Ivan Oreshin, another member in the committee was part of the capitalist Kadet party, one of the leading parties under the Tsar. The head of the Committee was the would-be White Guardist Petrichenko. The chief editor of the Kronstadt mutiny’s newspaper, Sergei Putilin was also a supporter of the capitalist Kadets. Thus both the political leadership of the Kronstadt mutiny, and the mutiny’s propaganda outlets were under the control of counter-revolutionaries.

A genuine revolution is not led by anti-revolutionary Mensheviks or by capitalists. Already from its very inception, the Kronstadt mutiny was basically counter-revolutionary. However, that was just the beginning.

Other members of the PRC were a black-market speculator Vershinin, former police detective Pavlov, two ex-capitalists or property holders Baikov and Tukin “who had once owned no less than six houses and three shops in Petrograd. Another committee member, Kilgast, had reportedly been convicted of embezzling government funds in the Kronstadt transportation department but had been released in a general amnesty on the third anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.” (Avrich, pp. 93-94)

“Perepelkin may have been the only reputed anarchist among the rebel leaders, but… he was in a good position to propagate his libertarian views… [however] the sailors, for their part, never called for the complete elimination of the state, a central plank in any anarchist platform.” (Avrich, p. 170)

It was important for the leaders of the Kronstadt mutiny to appear like they were some kind of revolutionaries. They needed gauge the mood of the soldiers, and try to fool them. Leader of the Kronstadt mutiny, would be-White Guardist Petrichenko made the proposal to allow full freedom for “all socialist parties” in the public meeting of March 1. Immediately he was attacked by angry shouts by soldiers: “That’s freedom for the right SRs and Mensheviks! No! No way! …We know all about their Constituent Assemblies! We don’t need that!” (Kuzmin Report, Stenographic Report of Petrograd Soviet, 25 March 1921, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

Petrichenko needed to be careful to not alienate his crowd. The Kadet Ivan Oreshin who was part of the PRC wrote: “The Kronstadt uprising broke out under the pretext of replacing the old Soviet… with a new one… The question of… extending the vote also to the bourgeoisie, was carefully avoided by the orators… They did not want to evoke opposition among the insurgents… They did not speak of the Constituent Assembly, but the assumption was that it could be arrived at gradually…” (Oreshin in Volia Rossii (April-May 1921), quoted in Shchetinov Kronstadt Tragedy)

The mutiny leaders understood that the soldiers didn’t actually support their goals, so they needed to keep their true goals secret. They could be achieved “gradually” by sneaky secret maneuvering.

During all these operations the reactionary organizers of the mutiny still carefully tried to use a cover of revolutionary and pro-worker language. They called each other ‘comrades’ and ‘the revolutionary committee’. However, they were adamant that Communists must be crushed. The vaguely anarchistic ideology, most likely influenced by Petrichenko, suited their purposes. All kinds of demagogical slogans were made about “freedom against bolshevik tyranny”, “soviets without communism” etc.

However, even if we didn’t know that Petrichenko had wanted to be a White Guardist it was still completely obvious that the Kronstadt mutineers were not following anarchist theory in any typical sense. They were not establishing a stateless society but an anti-Communist military dictatorship. 300 Communists were rounded up and thrown into prisons, but hundreds of Communists also managed to run away.

“The repression carried out by the PRC against those Communists who remained faithful to the communist revolution fully refutes the supposedly peaceful intentions of the rebels. Virtually all the minutes of the PRC sessions indicate that the struggle against the Communists still at large and against those still in prison, remained an unrelenting focus of their attention. At the last phase they even resorted to threats of field courts martial in spite of their declared repeal of the death penalty.” (Agranov, April 1921, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

An anarchist thug named Shustov, was the commandant of the prison. Imagine being an anarchist and advocating the abolition of all prisons, but at the same time you’re literally a prison warden, and you keep arresting hundreds of Communists! Shustov was chosen as the executioner who would shoot the leading local Communists. There was a plan to carry out a mass execution:

“Early on the morning of March 18, Shustov set up a machine gun outside the cell, which contained 23 prisoners. He was prevented from slaughtering the Communists only by the advance of the Red Army across the ice.” (Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution)

THE KRONSTADT DEMANDS

Lenin pointed out that the Kronstadt demands were quite vague and unclear. This was inevitable because they were not realistic policy proposals but a combination utopianism, spontaneity and demagogic propaganda intended to gather enough support until the White Guard could take power and crush the Communists and all other opposition.

The essential demands were: (Source: March 1 Resolution, quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

1. New elections to the Soviets. In Kronstadt Communists were arrested and thus would not be allowed to run in elections. Instead the Soviets would be filled with mensheviks, white guards, anarchists and opponents of the October Revolution such as the SR kerensky types. Of course the reactionaries also hoped this could spread elsewhere and help destabilize the Soviet government. Needless to say this was not an anarchistic “stateless” order.

2. Full freedom of action for anti-Communist parties including the left-SR terrorists who tried to assassinate Lenin in 1918. The terrorist’s bullet hit Lenin in the neck but he survived. These anti-Communist forces would receive full freedom of action, but of course in Kronstadt the Communists would be repressed and prevented from all activitism. Again, the reactionaries hoped this would spread to other areas too.

3. There should be no government regulation of trade-unions. Of course, in practice this simply meant that unions should denounce the Soviet government, sever their ties with the Soviet government and not follow instructions from it. If this demand was implemented it would lead to chaos because the unions were the government’s main instrument of economic management and workplace democracy. The demand for unions which did not collaborate with the workers’ government was also an essentially anti-socialist demand. Unions working with a proletarian state are an important part of planned economy and socialist construction.

4. Anti-Communist rebels like menshevik saboteurs, SR terrorists and those organizing revolts should be freed from jail.

5. The mutineers demanded bigger rations. Of course everybody wanted higher wages and bigger rations, but this was just a cheap attempt to garner popularity. Also, the bolshevik government was being basically forced to pay somewhat higher salaries and better rations for skilled experts, bourgeois officials and workers in strategic branches. They did not want to do this, but they had to. Those experts and officials could not be replaced right away, and if they didn’t collaborate the government would have huge problems. Therefore the bolsheviks simply had to accommodate those people until Red Experts could be trained to replace them. It may seem unfair, but failing to recognize this necessity is just another example of utopian stupidity.

6. The abolition of “war communism” or grain requisition. Again, this demand could gain some popularity. The peasants never particularly liked the system of war communism, though it was necessary for the war effort. The mutineers more broadly demanded that peasants should be able to use their land and property exactly how they see fit. They did not want collective agriculture or socialist planned economy, but instead who ever was lucky enough to have land should use it to the best of their ability and compete on the market. Landless would remain landless, and big peasants would get bigger.

7. The mutineers demanded the purging of Communists from the military and factory management, and abolition of Communist political departments from the army. The army at this point still had very large numbers of professional officers and soldiers from the times of the Tsar and Kerensky. These officers were needed and used by the Communists because of their skills and professional military training. However, because those officers and soldiers were not communists or workers, and were generally untrustworthy the Bolsheviks invented ‘political comissars’ to supervise the officers.

“former imperial officers were… [used] as “military specialists” ( voenspetsy ) under the watchful supervision of political commissars. In this way, badly needed command experience and technical knowledge were provided until a new corps of Red Commanders could be trained.” (Avrich, p. 66)

The Kronstadt mutineers demanded that this system be abolished. Such a demand might appeal to some anarchists, but one can only imagine what the result would be. The non-Communist officers inside the Red Army would no longer follow socialist instructions and the Red Army would stop being a proletarian army at all. In fact, this quickly happened and the old Tsarist officers Kozlovsky, Vilken and others were soon walking around like they were masters of the situation. In fact, they were masters during the mutiny.

According to the SRs the White Guard general Kozlovsky was ‘elected’ to the defence council of the Kronstadt mutiny, but it seems unlikely he could get elected. Its more likely he was simply chosen by the counter-revolutionaries into that post. The Menshevik newspaper Sotsialisticheski Vestnik published in Germany wrote that Kozlovsky and the other Whites tried to convince the Mensheviks and SRs to begin a general military assault against the Soviet government, but they were unable to convince them. The Mensheviks wrote: “The political leaders of the insurrection would not agree to take the offensive and the opportunity was let slip.“

WHITE GUARDS AND CAPITALISTS IN KRONSTADT

White emigres immediately began making plans to join the Kronstadt mutineers. A former associate of White General Dennikin, N. N. Chebyshev wrote about those times: “White officers roused themselves and started seeking ways to get to the fight in Kronstadt… The spark flew among the emigres. Everybody’s spirit was lifted by it” (quoted in Shchetinov, Introduction to Kronstadt Tragedy)

Imperialist France and Britain encouraged capitalist states on the Russian border to assist the Kronstadt mutiny. British foreign minister Lord Curzon sent a secret message to Finland On March 11 stating: “His Majesty’s Government are not prepared themselves to intervene… Very confidential: There is no reason, however, why you should advise the Finnish Government to take a similar course or to prevent any private societies or individuals from helping [the mutiny]” (Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939).

Food and money came from rich capitalists and White emigres to support the Kronstadt mutineers. Tsarist Baron P. Y. Vilken, the former commander of the Sevastopol, used his spy contacts to deliver the money. His telegrams discuss sending the funds through Helsinki “which needs the money in the beginning of March” (Russkaia voennaia emigratsiaa 20-x—40-x godov).

“The Russian banks, with the former Tsarist minister of finance Kokovtsev at their head, began to collect money for Kronstadt. Goutchkov, the head of the Russian imperialist party, got in contact with the English and American governments to obtain food supplies.” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

“The Whiteguard emigres in Paris organized collection of money and provisions for the mutineers, and the American Red Cross sent food supplies to Kronstadt under its flag.“ (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

“the Russian Union of Commerce and Industry in Paris declared its intention to send food and other supplies to Kronstadt… an initial sum of two million Finnish marks had already been pledged to aid Kronstadt in “the sacred cause of liberating Russia” (Avrich, p. 116)

“the Russian-Asiatic Bank contributed 225,000 francs. Additional funds were donated by other Russian banks, insurance companies, and financial concerns throughout Europe, and by the Russian Red Cross, which funneled all collections to Tseidler, its representative in Finland. By March 16 Kokovtsov was able to inform the Committee of Russian Banks in Paris that deposits for Kronstadt already exceeded 775,000 francs…” (Avrich, p. 117)

The leaders of the Kronstadt mutiny published an article on March 6 where they claimed to oppose the Whites. However, this was more deception as Petrichenko and many of his associates were White Guardists. Two days later on March 8 they welcomed a secret delegation of allies, which included a courier from the SR Administrative Center, an agent of Finnish State Security, two representatives of the monarchist Petrograd Combat Organization and four White Guard officers, including Baron Vilken.

The Whites were disguised as a “Red Cross” delegation sent from Finland. According to a detailed report by White Guardist Tseidler to his HQ, the delegation was immediately invited to ajoint session of the PRC and the general staff officers. A plan was reached to use the Red Cross as a cover to organizing sending food, supplies and funds to Kronstadt. (Source: Tseidler, Red Cross Activity in Organizing Provisions Aid to Kronstadt, 25 April 1921).

White emigre and former member of the Kronstadt leadership Kupolov wrote later that some of the Kronstadt leaders (probably mensheviks and anarchists) were not too happy about the monarchist and White Guard plots. However, Petrichenko was simply using them and planned to eventually get rid of them too. Kupolov writes:

“The PRC, seeing that Kronstadt was filling up with agents of a monarchist organization, issued a declaration that it would not enter into negotiations with, nor accept any aid from, any non-socialist parties… But… Petrichenko and the General Staff secretly worked in connection with the monarchists and prepared the ground for an overthrow of the committee…” (Kupolov, “Kronstadt and the Russian Counterrevolutionaries in Finland: From the Notes of a Former Member of the PRC”)

This is exactly why the Bolsheviks stated that while many of the Kronstadt mutineers were not White Guards or members of the capitalist class, their action still furthered the goals of the White Guard counter-revolution and of capitalist restoration. The White Guards were simply using these mensheviks and hapless opportunists.

The PCR claimed:
“In Kronstadt, total power is in the hands only of the revolutionary sailors… not of the White Guards headed by some General Kozlovsky, as the slanderous Moscow radio proclaims.” “We have only one general here… commissar of the Baltic Fleet Kuzmin. And he has been arrested.”” (Avrich, p. 99)

In exile Petrichenko stated:
“Cut off from the outside world, we could receive no aid from foreign sources even if we had wanted it. We served as agents of no external group: neither capitalists, Mensheviks, nor SR’s.” (Avrich, p. 113)

These days we know that he was lying.

Anarchist sailor Perepelkin, who was there in Kronstadt stated:

“And here I saw the former commander or the Sevastopol, Baron Vilken with whom I had earlier sailed. And it is he who is now acknowledged by the PRC to be the representative of the delegation that is offering us aid. I was outraged by this. I… said, so that’s the situation we’re in, that’s who we’re forced to talk to. Petrichenko and the others jumped on me… There was no other way out: they said. I stopped arguing and said I would accept the proposal. And on the second day we received 400 poods of food and cigarettes. Those who agreed to mutual friendship with the White Guard baron yesterday shouted that they were for Soviet power.” (Komarov Report, 25 March 1921)

“Any doubts about Vilken’s motives (his officer background was known to the rebel leaders) were brushed aside, and the Revolutionary Committee accepted his offer.” (Avrich, p. 122)

This has of course continued to this very day. The pseudo-Anarchists in Rojava made the same exact arguments. They said, they needed to collaborate with American imperialists because American imperialists were giving them funding, training, military support and weaponry. And were they really expected to win all on their own without such support? But such opportunistic logic merely reduces any movement into helpless puppets of capitalists and imperialists.

Wrangel’s right hand man, White General General Von Lampe literally laughed at the anarchists, mensheviks and SRs. He wrote in his diary that their propaganda was “full of justifications to dispel the thought, God forbid, that the sailors were under the influence of [White Monarchist] officers… The SRs don’t understand that in such a struggle, what are needed are severe and determined measures.” (Quoted in Kronstadt Tragedy)

An editor for the mutineer newspaper Lamanov stated: “Up until the seizure of Kronstadt by Soviet troops I thought the movement had heen organized by the Left SRs. After I became convinced that the movement was not spontaneous, I no longer sympathized with it… Now I am firmly convinced, that, without a doubt, White Guards, both Russian and foreign, took part in the movement. The escape to Finland convinced me of this. Now I consider my participation in this movement to have heen an unforgivable stupid mistake.” (Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of Anatoly Lamanov)

On March 15 the Kronstadt mutineers secretly sent two of their leaders to Finland, to ask for support. At this time Finland was ruled by the ferocious White Guard government of Mannerheim and co. which was launching invasions into Soviet-Karelia and supporting the Russian White Generals. When the mutiny was being defeated, on March 17 Petrichenko and the leaders ordered the crews of ships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol to blow up the ships and flee to Anti-Communist Finland. However, at this point the soldiers had already begun to think their leaders must be reactionaries and did not follow orders. They rose up, saved the ships and arrested all the officers and Provisional Committee members they could get their hands on.

After the Kronstadt mutiny had failed and its leaders had fled to Finland, they agreed to join the White Army of Wrangel:

“In May 1921 Petrichenko and several of his fellow refugees at the Fort Ino camp decided to volunteer their services to General Wrangel… in a new campaign to unseat the Bolsheviks and restore “the gains of the February 1917 Revolution.”” (Avrich, p. 127)

It is very significant that at this point they were no longer in Kronstadt, and thus didn’t need to pretend they supported the October Revolution. Hence they now began to only praise the February revolution of Kerensky!

The Petrichenko gang and the Whites forces of Wrangel agreed to “the retention of their slogan “all power to the soviets but not the parties.”… the slogan was to be retained only as a “convenient political maneuver” until the Communists had been overthrown. Once victory was in hand, the slogan would be shelved and a temporary military dictatorship installed…” (Avrich, pp. 127-128)

THE REACTIONARY PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The Kronstadt mutineers and their capitalist allies carried out a massive propaganda campaign to support the mutiny. They published lies claiming that supposedly the Bolsheviks were carrying out atrocities and supposedly everybody was rising up against them. In fact, nothing of the kind happened.

The Kronstadt newspaper wrote on March 7: “Last Minute News From Petrograd” – ”Mass arrests and executions of workers and sailors continue.”

On March 8 a Finnish capitalist newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet published the following lies, provided to them by Mensheviks: “Petrograd workers are striking… crowds bearing red banners demand a change of government – the overthrow of the Communists.”

On March 11 the Kronstadt newspaper wrote: “The [bolshevik] Government In Panic.” “Our cry has been heard. Revolutionary sailors, Red Army men and workers in Petrograd are already coming to our assistance … The Bolshevik power feels the ground slipping from under its feet and has issued orders in Petrograd to open fire at any group of five or more people gathering in the streets …”

“Moscow Rising Reported. Petrograd Fighting.” (London Times, March 2, 1921)

“Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.” [“Petrograd and Moscow will be in the hands of the insurgents who have formed a provisional government”] (Matin, March 7)

“Les Marins Revoltés Débarquent à Petrograd.” [“Rebelling sailors land in Petrograd”] (Matin, March 8)

“Der Aufstand in Russland.” [“The uprising in Russia”] (Vossische Zeitung, March 10)

“In Petrograd the remnants of the SRs, Mensheviks and various anarchists banded together… [and] collaborated with the newly formed monarchist Petrograd Combat Organization (PCO), as the PCO itself asserted (PCO Report to Helsinki Department of National Center, no earlier than 28 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy). The [monarchist-capitalist] PCO even printed the Mensheviks’ leaflets! On March 14… [they] issued a leaflet in solidarity with Kronstadt that said not one word about socialism or soviets, but instead called for an uprising against “the bloody communist regime” in the name of “all power to the people” (“Appeal to All Citizens, Workers, Red Army Soldiers and Sailors,” 14 March 1921; reprinted in Kronstadt Tragedy).” (Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution)

“Savinkov, aide to Kerensky… in his Warsaw newspaper Svoboda, printed on Polish [capitalist] government money, boasts (24th February) “I fight against the Bolsheviks, I fight alongside those who have already struggled with Kolchak, Denikin, Wrangel and even Petlioura [Petrichenko], strange as that may seem.” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

Savinkov wrote that the sailors of Kronstadt had captured the battleship Aurora and fired its cannons on Petrograd. This never actually happened. He wrote: “when the cruiser Aurora fired on Petrograd it was an expression of repentance for the sin committed on the 25th of October 1917 with the bombardment of the Winter Palace, the seat of Kerensky’s ministry.”

“The Roul of Berlin, the organ of the right wing of the Cadet Party, wrote “The uprising of Kronstadt is scared, because it is an uprising against the idea of the October revolution”. The Society of Russian Industrialists and Financiers of Paris, when they heard the news from Kronstadt, decided to not worry about the extremist demands or the primitive cause of the mutiny [“les revendications extremistes cause primitive de la mutinerie”] because its essential point was that “the sailors were for the overthrow of the Communist government” [Dernières Nouvelles de Paris, 8th March].” (Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921)

The reactionary mutineers claimed that mass uprisings had broken out in Petrograd and Moscow to support the Kronstadt mutiny, but this was a total lie. Even Menshevik leader Dan admitted in his 1922 book that “the Kronstadt mutiny was not supported by the Petersburg workers in any way” (quoted in ‘The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2). This is easy to understand, because the mutiny was not based on genuine political organizing or a genuine program. It was a plot organized by White Guard reactionaries and political adventurers, by spreading false rumors, lies, and exploiting the temporary difficulties and confusion in Kronstadt at the time in order to carry out a military coup, repress the communists and prevent the workers and peasants from understand what was actually going on.

It was enterily unlikely that workers would support the mutiny in other towns where they could not be simply tricked by plotters, and where they had their working class and Communist organizations. The Kronstadt mutiny used anarchists, left-SR terrorists and Mensheviks as their henchmen but even they were to a large extent simply fooled into it, as White Guardists were secretly trying to orchestrate many aspects of the mutiny for their own purposes.

Its also worth pointing out that the best revolutionary elements in the left-SRs, left-Mensheviks and even anarchists had already seen the error in their ways and joined the Bolshevik Party either right before the October Revolution or soon after it. Only the worse elements like terrorists, utopians and right-wing Mensheviks now opposed the Bolsheviks. The anarcho-syndicalist “Worker Opposition” also supported the Bolsheviks in crushing the Kronstadt mutiny.

“SOVIETS WITHOUT COMMUNISM! DOWN WITH COMMUNISM!” – IDEOLOGY OF THE KRONSTADT MUTINY

Milliukov, one of the capitalist leaders of Russia who was ousted by the October Revolution, wrote in his newspaper which he published in Paris, that reactionaries need to support the Kronstadt mutiny. He therefore advocated the slogan “Down with the Bolsheviks’ Long live the Soviets!” (Poslednie Novosti. 11 March 1921). The first step was to get rid of the Bolshevik Communists, after that it would be easy to restore the power of the capitalists.

“The [capitalist]… Milyukov, supplied the Kronstadt counter-revolutionaries with the watchword “Soviets without Communists””(A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

Stalin said: “Soviets without Communists — such was then the watchword of the chief of the Russian counter-revolution, Milyukov…” (J. Stalin, Articles and Speeches, Moscow, 1934, , Russ, ed., p. 217)

“But the class enemy was not dozing. He tried to exploit the distressing economic situation and the discontent of the peasants for his own purposes. Kulak revolts, engineered by Whiteguards and SRs, broke out in Siberia, the Ukraine and the Tambov province… All kinds of counter-revolutionary elements — Mensheviks, SRs, Anarchists, Whiteguards, bourgeois nationalists—became active again. The enemy adopted new tactics of struggle against the Soviet power. He began to borrow a Soviet garb, and his slogan was no longer the old bankrupt “Down with the Soviets!” but a new slogan: “For the Soviets, but without Communists!”

A glaring instance of the new tactics of the class enemy was the counter-revolutionary mutiny in Kronstadt… Whiteguards, in complicity with SRs, Mensheviks and representatives of foreign states, assumed the lead of the mutiny. The mutineers at first used a “Soviet” signboard to camouflage their purpose of restoring the power and property of the capitalists and landlords. They raised the cry: “Soviets without Communists!” The counter-revolutionaries tried to exploit the discontent of the petty bourgeois masses in order to overthrow the power of the Soviets under a pseudo-Soviet slogan.

Two circumstances facilitated the outbreak of the Kronstadt mutiny: the deterioration in the composition of the ships’ crews, and the weakness of the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt. Nearly all the old [revolutionary, communist Kronstadt] sailors… [had been sent away to the] front, heroically fighting in the ranks of the Red Army. The naval replenishments [sent to Kronstadt to replace them] consisted of new men, who had not been schooled in the revolution. These were a perfectly raw peasant mass who gave expression to the peasantry’s discontent with the [grain requisition system and war communism]. As for the Bolshevik organization in Kronstadt, it had been greatly weakened by a series of mobilizations for the front.”
(History of the CPSU(B) short course)

Anarchist historian Avrich writes that the bulk of Kronstadt sailors had fought in anti-Communist forces before: “…we have it from Petrichenko himself that “three-quarters” of the Kronstadt garrison were natives of the Ukraine, some of whom had served with the anti-Bolshevik forces in the south before entering the Soviet navy.” (Avrich, p. 93)

“Throughout the Civil War of 1918-1920, the sailors of Kronstadt… More than 40,000… replenished the ranks of the Red Army on every front.” (Avrich, p. 62)

“There can be little doubt that during the Civil War years a large turnover had indeed taken place within the Baltic Fleet… old-timers had been replaced by conscripts from the rural districts… By 1921… more than three-quarters of the sailors were of peasant origin, a substantially higher proportion than in 1917, when industrial workers from the Petrograd area made up a sizable part of the fleet.” (Avrich, p. 89)

The temporary weakness of the local Communist organization in Kronstadt, the mass influx of politically uneducated people from the countryside, who were even anti-communists, and the sending of politically educated, experienced proletarians away to the frontlines during the war – these factors allows the SR utopians, terrorists, anarchists, mensheviks and outright capitalists, monarchists and White Guards to gain a temporary foothold in Kronstadt.

One of the reasons for the relative weakness of the Kronstadt Bolshevik party organization, was that Trotskyists and Zinovievites were in a strong position there:

“The work of political education was at that time badly organized in the Baltic Fleet, and the Trotskyites… managed to get into leading positions…” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

A power struggle began between the opportunist factions of Trotsky and Zinoviev. At this time Lenin had been waging ideological struggle against Trotsky’s bureaucratic position on the questions of war-communism and role of the trade-unions. Zinoviev took advantage of this to strengthen his own opportunist faction. Trotskyists themselves admit this:

“Seizing on Trotsky’s wrong-headedness, Zinoviev mobilized his own base in the Petrograd-Kronstadt area against Trotsky… Zinoviev opened the floodgates of the Kronstadt party organization to backward recruits while encouraging a poisonous atmosphere in the inner-party dispute. The rot in the Kronstadt Communist Party organization was a critical factor in allowing the mutiny to proceed” (“Kronstadt 1921…”, Spartacist, Spring 2006 #59, )

There is no honor amount scoundrels! A few years after this the renegade cliques of Trotsky and Zinoviev would unite their forces against the Bolshevik party.

“The authority of the party was further undermined by a struggle for political control in the fleet, which pitted Trotsky, the War Commissar, against Zinoviev… As a result of this dispute, the commissars and other party administrators lost much of their hold over the rank and file.” (Avrich, p. 70)

ANTI-SEMITISM

Another piece of information, indicating that the Kronstadt mutineers did not represent the best revolutionary elements, but actually some of the most political backward elements, was their rampant anti-semitism. Anti-semitism of course was quite common in Russia at that time, but it was not tolerated among the Communists. It was more common among peasants then workers.

“feelings against the Jews ran high among the [Kronstadt] sailors, many of whom came from the Ukraine and the western borderlands, the classic regions of virulent anti-Semitism in Russia” (Avrich, p. 179)

One of the Kronstadt newspaper editors Lamanov, said that people constantly wrote anti-semitic articles about Jews having “murdered Russia” but he usually succeeded in preventing them from being published. (Source: Further Minutes of Questioning of Anatoly Lamanov, 25 March 1921)

“Vershinin… [member of the PRC] shouted an appeal for joint action against the Jewish and Communist oppressors…” (Avrich, p. 155)

“Jews were a customary scapegoat in times of hardship and distress… In a particularly vicious passage [one sailor] attacks the Bolshevik regime as the “first Jewish Republic”… he labels the Jews a new “privileged class,”… calling the government ultimatum to Kronstadt “the ultimatum of the Jew Trotsky.” These sentiments, he asserts were widely shared by his fellow sailors… Witness the appeal of Vershinin, a member of the Revolutionary Committee… on March 8… “Enough of your ‘hoorahs,’ and join with us to beat the Jews. It’s their cursed domination that we workers and peasants have had to endure.” (Avrich, pp. 179-180)

WHY DIDN’T THE BOLSHEVIKS NEGOTIATE A PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT?

Anarchists usually claim that the Bolsheviks saw the Kronstadt mutiny as some great threat to their power. That supposedly the “heroic struggle” of the mutineers could’ve inspired everyone to overthrow the Bolsheviks. However, this is completely false.

Lenin wrote:

“This Kronstadt affair in itself is a very petty incident. It no more threatens to break up the Soviet state than the Irish disorders are threatening to break up the British Empire.” (Lenin, On the Kronstadt revolt)

The Menshevik leader Dan admitted in his 1922 book that “the Kronstadt mutiny was not supported by the Petersburg workers in any way” (quoted in ‘The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2)

The Bolshevik government suppressed the mutiny because the Whites still tried to use it as a springboard for restarting the civil war with foreign imperialist backing.

“What the authorities feared, in other words, was not so much the rebellion itself…” (Avrich, p. 134)

“Of greater concern to the Bolsheviks was the determination of the [white] emigres to gain access to Kronstadt and use it as a base for a landing on the mainland. This would have meant nothing less than a resumption of the Civil War…” (Avrich, p. 134)

The ice was quickly melting so time was of the essence. Kronstadt had an extremely strong fortress and heavy weaponry. It would be very difficult to attack, and if the ice melted the only way to get there would be on battleships. Kronstadt itself also had two battleships. Therefore if the Bolsheviks waited and didn’t attack and take the Fort right away, the resulting battle might be catastrophic in its casualties and material damages. The mutineers also felt that they had gone too far, and there was no turning back. They felt they couldn’t negotiate their way out of this and simply had to fight as long as possible.

Zinoviev carried out pointless negotiations with the mutineers, which achieved nothing and only allowed the counter-revolutionaries to fortify their defenses.

“Zinoviev negotiated with the traitors for seven whole days, thereby giving them time to fortify themselves.” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, p. 307)

TROTSKY’S ROLE

It is often stated that Trotsky led the suppression of the Kronstadt mutiny, and that under Trotsky’s leadership the soldiers committed atrocities. However, both of these claims are false. The military defeat of the mutiny was entirely led by Voroshilov. Trotsky himself wrote later:

“The truth of the matter is that I personally did not participate in the least in the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion” (Trotsky, More on the Suppression of Kronstadt)

The soldiers, 300 of whom had been delegates to the 10th Bolshevik Part Congress, acted heroicially but Zinoviev who was in a power struggle with Trotsky at the time, spread all kinds of lies about the military operation, saying that it was organized by Trotsky and that all kinds of mistakes and wrong-doings supposedly occurred. But the bureaucratic mistakes of Trotsky, neglecting ideological education in the army and navy, and the further sabotage of Zinoviev contributed to the outbreak of the mutiny.

DEFEATING THE MUTINY

“The mutineers gained possession of a first-class fortress, the fleet, and a vast quantity of arms and ammunition… Against the Kronstadt mutineers the Party sent its finest sons—delegates to the Tenth Congress, headed by Comrade Voroshilov. The Red Army men advanced on Kronstadt across a thin sheet of ice; it broke in places and many were drowned. The almost impregnable forts of Kronstadt had to be taken by storm…” (History of the CPSU(B) short course)

“Picked units of the Red Army were sent to crush the Kronstadt counter-revolution. The Tenth Congress of the Party, which was in session at that time, sent 300 of its delegates, headed by K. E. Voroshilov, to reinforce them. On March 16, the revolutionary soldiers… commenced an assault upon the main forts of Kronstadt, rushing forward in spite of continuous machine-gun fire and the bursting shells which broke the already fragile ice over which they were advancing. In the front ranks of the assault columns was Voroshilov, setting an example of Bolshevik courage and valour.” (A History of the USSR, volume 3, pp. 307-308)

APPENDIX. LENIN ON KRONSTADT:

“What does it mean? It was an attempt to seize political power from the Bolsheviks by a motley crowd or alliance of ill-assorted elements, apparently just to the right of the Bolsheviks, or perhaps even to their “left”—you can’t really tell, so amorphous is the combination of political groupings that has tried to take power in Kronstadt. You all know, undoubtedly, that at the same time whiteguard generals were very active over there. There is ample proof of this. A fortnight before the Kronstadt events., the Paris newspapers reported a mutiny at Kronstadt. It is quite clear that it is the work of SRs and whiteguard émigrés, and at the same time the movement was reduced to a petty-bourgeois counter-revolution and petty-bourgeois anarchism. That is something quite new. This circumstance, in the context of all the crises, must be given careful political consideration and must be very thoroughly analysed… There is evidence here of the activity of petty-bourgeois anarchist elements with their slogans of unrestricted trade and invariable hostility to the dictatorship of the proletariat… they wanted to correct the Bolsheviks in regard to restrictions in trade—and this looks like a small shift, which leaves the same slogans of “Soviet power” with ever so slight a change or correction. Yet, in actual fact the whiteguards only used the non-Party elements as a stepping stone to get in. This is politically inevitable. We saw the petty-bourgeois, anarchist elements in the Russian revolution, and we have been fighting them for decades. We have seen them in action since February 1917, during the great revolution, and their parties’ attempts to prove that their programme differed little from that of the Bolsheviks, but that only their methods in carrying it through were different. We know this not only from the experience of the October Revolution, but also of the outlying regions and various areas within the former Russian Empire where the Soviet power was temporarily replaced by other regimes. Let us recall the Democratic Committee in Samara. They all came in demanding equality, freedom, and a constituent assembly, and every time they proved to be nothing but a conduit for whiteguard rule. Because the Soviet power is being shaken by the economic situation, we must consider all this experience and draw the theoretical conclusions a Marxist cannot escape… We must take a hard look at this petty-bourgeois counter-revolution with its calls for freedom to trade. Unrestricted trade—even if it is not as bound up initially with the whiteguards as Kronstadt was—is still only the thin end of the wedge for the whiteguard element, a victory for capital and its complete restoration. We must, I repeat, have a keen sense of this political danger.”
(Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“I emphasised the danger of Kronstadt because it lies precisely in the fact that the change demanded was apparently very slight: “The Bolsheviks must go . . . we will correct the regime a little.” That is what the Kronstadt rebels are demanding. But what actually happened was that Savinkov arrived in Revel, the Paris newspapers reported the events a fortnight before they actually occurred, and a whiteguard general appeared on the scene. That is what actually happened.” (Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“The way the enemies of the proletariat take advantage of every deviation from a thoroughly consistent communist line was perhaps most strikingly shown in the case of the Kronstadt mutiny, when the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries and whiteguards in all countries of the world immediately expressed their readiness to accept the slogans of the Soviet system, if only they might thereby secure the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and when the SRs and the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries in general resorted in Kronstadt to slogans calling for an insurrection against the Soviet Government of Russia ostensibly in the interest of the Soviet power. These facts fully prove that the whiteguards strive, and are able, to disguise themselves as Communists, and even as the most Left-wing Communists, solely for the purpose of weakening and destroying the bulwark of the proletarian revolution in Russia.“ (Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.))

“The vacillation of the petty-bourgeois element was the most characteristic feature of the Kronstadt events. There was very little that was clear, definite and fully shaped. We heard nebulous slogans about “freedom”, “freedom of trade”, “emancipation”, “Soviets without the Bolsheviks”, or new elections to the Soviets, or relief from “Party dictatorship”, and so on and so forth. Both the Mensheviks and the SRs declared the Kronstadt movement to be “their own”. [Menshevik] Victor Chernov sent a messenger to Kronstadt. On the latter’s proposal, the Menshevik Valk, one of the Kronstadt leaders, voted for the Constituent Assembly. In a flash, with lightning speed, you might say, the whiteguards mobilised all their forces “for Kronstadt“. Their military experts in Kronstadt, a number of experts, and not Kozlovsky alone, drew up a plan for a landing at Oranienbaum, which scared the vacillating mass of Mensheviks, SRs and non-party elements. More than fifty Russian whiteguard newspapers published abroad conducted a rabid campaign “for Kronstadt”. The big banks, all the forces of finance capital, collected funds to assist Kronstadt. That shrewd leader of the bourgeoisie and the landowners, the Cadet Milyukov, patiently explained to the simpleton [Menshevik] Chernov… and to the Mensheviks Dan and Rozhkov, who are in jail in Petrograd for their connection with the Kronstadt events… that there is no need to hurry with the Constituent Assembly, and that Soviet power can and must be supported—only without the Bolsheviks.

Of course, it is easy to be cleverer than conceited simpletons like Chernov, the petty-bourgeois phrase-monger, or like Martov, the knight of philistine reformism doctored to pass for Marxism. Properly speaking, the point is not that Milyukov, as an individual, has more brains, but that, because of his class position, the party leader of the big bourgeoisie sees and understands the class essence and political interaction of things more clearly than the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie, the Chernovs and Martovs. For the bourgeoisie is really a class force which, under capitalism… and which also inevitably enjoys the support of the world bourgeoisie. But the petty bourgeoisie, i.e. … cannot… be anything else than the expression of class impotence; hence the vacillation, phrase-mongering and helplessness…

[Menshevik leader] Martov showed himself to be nothing but a philistine Narcissus when he declared in his Berlin journal that Kronstadt not only adopted Menshevik slogans but also proved that there could be an anti-Bolshevik movement which did not entirely serve the interests of the whiteguards, the capitalists and the landowners. He says in effect: “Let us shut our eves to the fact that all the genuine whiteguards hailed the Kronstadt mutineers and collected funds in aid of Kronstadt through the banks!” Compared with the Chernovs and Martovs, Milyukov is right, for he is revealing the true tactics of the real whiteguard force, the force of the capitalists and landowners. He declares: “It does not matter whom we support, be they anarchists or any sort of Soviet government, as long as the Bolsheviks are overthrown, as long as there is a shift in power; it does not matter whether to the right or to the left, to the Mensheviks or to the anarchists, as long as it is away from the Bolsheviks… ‘we’, the capitalists and landowners, will do the rest ‘ourselves’… History proves it. The facts bear it out. The Narcissuses will talk; the Milyukovs and whiteguards will act.”
(Lenin, The Tax in Kind)

“You must have noticed that these extracts from the whiteguard newspapers published abroad appeared side by side with extracts from British and French newspapers. They are one chorus, one orchestra… They have admitted that if the slogan becomes “Soviet power without the Bolsheviks” they will all accept it. Milyukov explains this with particular clarity… He says he is prepared to accept the “Soviet power without the Bolsheviks” slogan. He cannot see from over there in Paris whether this is to be a slight shift to the right or to the left, towards the anarchists. From over there, he cannot see what is going on in Kronstadt, but asks the monarchists not to rush and spoil things by shouting about it. He declares that even if the shift is to be to the left, he is prepared to back the Soviet power against the Bolsheviks…”
(Lenin, The All-Russia Congress Of Transport Workers)

SOURCES:

Paul Avrich, Kronstadt: The 1921 Uprizing of Sailors in the Context of the Political Development of the New Soviet State

[Avrich provides a lot of useful factual information, however he is pro-anarchist. He sees the Kronstadt mutiny as a tragedy which could never have succeeded but he sympathizes with it. Despite everything he tries to deny that the mutiny was orchestrated by the Whites. He admits that the Kronstadt mutineers collaborated with Whites, Monarchists, Capitalists, foreign powers, Mensheviks and SRs but basically claims “that doesn’t matter”. His book is from 1970 when the archives were still closed. For that reason he relies quite heavily on dishonest Menshevik and Anarchist sources which have nothing to support their claims, and often he takes Petrichenko’s words at face value. He also doesn’t understand Marxism and therefore distorts it. Perhaps it was impossible to publish in American academia unless one reached an anti-bolshevik conclusion? Still he deserves credit for his discoveries.]

White Guard Memorandum On Organizing An Uprising In Kronstadt, reprinted in Avrich

Primary source documents printed in “Kronshtadtskaia tragediia 1921 goda, dokumenty v dvukh knigakh” (“Kronstadt Tragedy”):
-Kuzmin Report, 25 March 1921
-Agranov Report, April 1921
-“To All Posts of Kronstadt,” Kronstadt Izvestia
-Ivan Oreshin, Volia Rossii (April-May 1921)
-Kronstadt March 1 Resolution
-Tseidler, Red Cross Activity in Organizing Provisions Aid to Kronstadt, 25 April 1921.
-Kupolov, “Kronstadt and the Russian Counterrevolutionaries in Finland: From the Notes of a Former Member of the PRC”
-Komarov Report, 25 March 1921
-Von Lampe’s Diary entry
-Minutes of Cheka Interrogation of Anatoly Lamanov

Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution, Spartacist #6 Spring 2006
[Very good article, which brought many primary source documents to my attention. The article propagates erroneous Trotskyist views but luckily they have practically nothing to do with the topic of Kronstadt and can thus be ignored.]

Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939

Russkaia voennaia emigratsiaa 20-x—40-x godov

Radek, The Kronstadt Uprising, 1921

History of the USSR volume 3
http://ciml.250x.com/archive/ussr/english/history_of_the_usssr_part3.pdf

Stalin, Articles and Speeches, Moscow, 1934, Russ. ed., p. 217, quoted in History of the USSR vol. 3

Hufvudstadsbladet, March 8, quoted in “The Truth about Kronstadt” by Wright

Kronstadt Izvestia, March 7 & 11, quoted in Wright

Sotsialisticheski Vestnik April 5, 1921, quoted in Wright

“Petrograd et Moscou Seraient aux Maine des Insurgés qui ont Formé un Gouvernement Provisoire.”, Matin, March 7, quoted in Wright

“Der Aufstand in Russland.”, Vossische Zeitung, March 10, quoted in Wright

The Mensheviks in the Kronstadt Mutiny,” Krasnaill Letopis’, 1931, No.2

Dernières Nouvelles de Paris, 8th March quoted in Radek

Trotsky, More on the Suppression of Kronstadt

History of the CPSU(B) short course
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1939/x01/ch09.htm

Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jan/25.htm

Lenin, The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/dec/30.htm

Lenin, On the Kronstadt revolt
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/15.htm

Lenin, Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/10thcong/index.htm

Lenin, The All-Russia Congress Of Transport Workers
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/27.htm

Lenin, Third Congress Of The Communist International https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jun/12.htm

Lenin, The Tax in Kind
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm

Anti-Communist Propaganda And Psychological Warfare

Lenin said:

“…no living person can help taking the side of one class or another…” and “Taken as a whole, the professors of economics are nothing but learned salesmen of the capitalist class, while the professors of philosophy are learned salesmen of the theologians”
(Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism)

What Lenin said about capitalist professors of economics and philosophy, is surely even more true about capitalist historians. Engels put it even more bluntly:

“…the best paid historiography is that which is best falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie.”
(Engels, Notes for the “History of Ireland”)

Communists are constantly under a barrage of psychological warfare from the capitalists and their henchmen. On any given historical topic there are countless books about the supposed crimes and atrocities committed by communists. While those books are often lazily researched, have bad evidence or no evidence at all, or can even be deliberately lying, they carry out their purpose. Their purpose is, that when ever someone wants to learn about a given topic related to communism, he is told “the communists are bad”. The sheer amount of anti-communist books on every possible topic, can slowly start to work on even an intelligent and devoted communist.

When one reads book after book, of more and more horrors supposedly caused by communism, it will unavoidable cause the communists to become discouraged, depressed – at least temporarily. The communist might almost start to believe the lies which all these dozens and dozens, thousands and tens of thousands of anti-communist books spread. Then, after hours and hours of research, the communist might find something which reveals the truth about communism, debunks the capitalist lies. For a moment, he is satisfied and comfortable. But the anti-communist psychological bombartment continues relentlessly.

Is it any wonder that so many workers hold anti-communist views? No. Withstanding the anti-communist propaganda bombartment can be extremely difficult, and for a person who hasn’t already learned the truth about marxism it is even more difficult. I grew up being taught to fear communism. And I really did fear it. Even after learning about marxism, it took several years to finally get rid of most of that fear, which was instilled deep inside my psyche, by years of indoctrination. Even after becoming a marxist, I still emotionally and irrationally feared communism. I knew it was the result of lies, but that didn’t make it go away.

Maybe for some other people it was easier, but for me it wasn’t easy. Only very gradually, after discovering more and more, and becoming slowly more and more convinced of the truth of communism, I finally was able to discard that fear.

Researching the history of socialism in Hungary has reminded me of all these things, because I read dozens of books, maybe 30 or 40 about the topic, and the vast majority of them were absolutely virulently anti-communist.

My plan for researching the history of socialism in Hungary was simple:
1) find some books discussing it from a marxist point of view.
2) find maybe two or three non-marxist books on the subject which would be somewhat objective, as neutral as possible, and have lots of sources and evidence.

The first goal was actually very easy. I found some marxist books about Hungary. The second goal proved to be impossible. I didn’t find even a single good history book about Hungary written by a non-communist. Even the best ones, like “Hungary: A Short History” by Norman Stone and “Revolution in Hungary” by Paul E. Zinner were terrible. Some chapters by Stone would have only a small number of sources, and it had insane and unproven slanders against communism all the time. Zinner’s book had more sources, but it was equally dishonest, untrustworthy and often times blatantly lying or badly researched. The other books which I read, were all much worse. Some of them had zero sources, or less then five sources in the whole book, it was common. They all made the same unfounded assertions about important events in Hungarian history.

I could read those books, and always get the same answers, and everytime it was without any good evidence, without citations, or citing one of those terrible books which I had already read, which itself had no evidence or cited yet another terrible book with no evidence. Eventually after hours of research, I could discover the original source for some baseless claim, and it was proved to be lies. But what if I wanted to find out the truth, and not merely discover what was lies? It was extremely difficult, because those books often times contained barely any truth. Even a basic summary of Hungarian history was often distorted almost beyond recognition.

But it began to take its toll. There were times when it made me sad. I read atrocity-story after atrocity-story. “Communist dictators”, “communist murderers”, “bloodthirsty communist tyrants”, “economic disaster caused by communism”, “destruction of culture by communism”. I knew it was lies, but it still made me unhappy to have to read it constantly, book after book. And only occasionally, I would get a small glimpse of truth, some new fact which I could verify and add to my pile of knowledge. I stayed motivated, and sometimes the little discoveries that I made were rewarding.

History is just as partisan as any science. History has a class character like everything. Capitalist society is ruled by capitalist ideology. Those truths were always in my arsenal. But it might be easy to forget those things. One might simply fall into the comfortable fantasy that the historians – taught in capitalist schools, taught by virulent anti-communists, taught based on anti-communist books, restricted by the capitalist academia which decides what gets published and what doesn’t – that those historians, really were telling the simple and “neutral” facts. Life would be so easy then, so comforting. One wouldn’t need to rack one’s brain. Could simply believe the professors, could simply believe the “salesmen” of anti-communism as Lenin said. One might simply fall into that comfortable dream… of class collaboration.

But instead, we have to awaken to the frightening, and unpleasant wakefulness, where the henchmen of the capitalists are always merely serving their class interest, where we can never believe in some “simple” and “neutral” truth, but have to always analyze everything for ourselves, through a firmly proletarian and marxist viewpoint, never lapsing into the fantasy of “neutrality”, but always keeping a proletarian partisan viewpoint. And at every step, the capitalist propagandists try to hinder us, they hide the facts, they spread lies, they falsify, distort, they use fear-propaganda and drive it into our heads daily and for all our lives. And many of them even believe many of their own lies.

When I read a historian or a journalist, and I discover that they are telling lies, deliberately, maliciously, to protect exploitation, to oppress the hard working everyday people of the world, it almost always makes me at least a little unhappy. When I read a historian who uses very colorful well crafted language to describe a situation, his text captures my imagination, I go with the flow of his text, almost beginning to believe him, and then something alerts me, stirs me from the enjoyable activity of reading a well crafted narrative. I stop. I consider. He has written something which cannot be right… or something very biased… I check to see… There is no citation… or the citation is one of the familiar hacks and liars. Another disappointement. More malicious lies! I’m not surprised but I am unhappy.

There is an optimism which comes with marxism, but there is also a sadness. A sadness about the state of the world, and the capitalists use this ruthlessly against us. They want a sad, apathetic mass of people without hope.

We can live in the fantasy-land where the capitalist professors are simply “neutral” and always reliable. It would be easier. No critical thinking is required. Just play video games, drink alcohol, distract yourself. In that kind of life, we are safely kept away from communism by fear and ignorance. “Communism doesn’t work”, “Communism leads to millions of deaths”. Better to stay away from it!
As long as one doesn’t care about the truth, as long as one isn’t too curious! And there are so many products to help take our mind off things…

Stalin said that revisionists are those, who surrender under the pressure of capitalism and capitalist ideology. (Stalin, The Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.)) A revisionist believes in their heart that it is too hard to fight the capitalists, to resist them. It is easier to capitulate, compromise with them. This is why so many people who consider themselves progressives or even communists, adopt revisionist ideas and believe lies about communism. They are under a constant shower of anti-communist propaganda, it takes determination and hard work to resist it – but we must resist it, we have no choice, the masses, humanity itself, has no other choice.

Lenin said: “a revolution that is more difficult, more tangible, more radical and more decisive than the overthrow of the bourgeoisie,… is a victory… over the habits left as a heritage to the worker and peasant by accursed capitalism.” (Lenin, A Great Beginning)

Should we be surprised about the revisionists and opportunist waverers, the compromisers and those who consider themselves honest and good people, and even progressives, who still parrot anti-communist lies? They collapse into the bourgeois swamp under the weight of all the propaganda, all the conservative attitudes, prejudices and ingrained beliefs which have been drilled into our heads for generations.

In What is to be done? Lenin discusses how there exists a spontaneous working class movement. He says this movement will always be limited in what it can achieve, and it can even turn to strengthen capitalism, because it lacks class consciousness. The spontaneous movement is a product of capitalism, and only class consciousness can help it overcome this. Class consciousness does not arise automatically, but due to hard struggle and study. It is always easier to lapse into spontaneity, to think what everybody else is thinking, to accept the status quo, or if the spontaneous person rejects the status quo, they do it based on the status quo: though its ideas, through false solutions provided by the status quo itself, not through class conscious communism, but through reformism, nationalism, revisionism, utopianism.

Instead of the difficult but correct road of class consciousness it is easy to step into the broad and massive marsh of spontaneity and capitalist ideology, which surrounds us from all sides:
“We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having… chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh!… Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place… Only let go of our hand… for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!”
(Lenin, What is to be done?)

To surrender under pressure from capitalist ideology, to collapse under the weight of capitalist ideas, prejudices and traditions, to become discouraged and pessimistic, to sink into the marsh of spontaneous capitalist trends and beliefs, or even to become a happy and brainless believer in the lies of the capitalist professors, a blissfully ignorant person. Those are all dangers for any worker, for any communist.

But capitalism has no future, and it has no truth, only ignorance, lies and decay, poverty, misery and war, death of culture, stagnation of philosophy, and science being turned against the people.

So let’s keep fighting for a better world for the workers, for humanity itself. Despite all the difficulties the future is ours’. Marx wasn’t wrong when he said “workers have nothing to lose but their chains”, he wasn’t wrong at all. More often then not, those chains are not only physical but intellectual and mental too: chains of lies, chains of ignorance, chains of fear. The truth is that we don’t have anything to lose, only a world to win!


Sources:

Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1908/mec/

Engels, Notes for the “History of Ireland”
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1870/history-ireland/notes.htm

Stalin, The Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.(B.) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1929/04/22.htm

Lenin, A Great Beginning
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jun/19.htm

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/

Short critique of Trotskyism

In terms of theory, Trotskyism is a form of revisionism. It tries to change aspects of Marxism-Leninism and replace them with Trotskyism. However, ‘orthodox trotskyists’ (the original type of trotskyists) also agree with Marxism-Leninism on many issues.

Trotsky created only a few new ‘theories’:

  • the idea that Socialism can only be built if it happens in many Western industrial countries at the same time.
  • the idea that the USSR was a “degenerated stalinist state”
  • the idea that workers cannot ally with anti-fascist bourgeoisie or anti-imperialist bourgeoisie

I think all of those ideas are wrong. But like I said, its possible to find some common ground with some Trotskyists.

In terms of its historical role, Trotskyism was anti-communist. Its main goal was to attack and criticize Marxist-Leninist communist parties in all countries, and create propaganda against the Soviet Union. They also collaborated with enemies of the Soviet Union and enemies of communist parties. Sometimes they secretly allied with capitalists and fascists against “stalinist communists”. That is why it was impossible historically for Trotskyists to unite with Marxist-Leninists. Today the situation is a little bit different, as the Soviet Union and “stalinism” no longer exists.

Modern Trotskyists still attack the legacy of the USSR and the legacy of communism. That is a problem. They also advocate incorrect theories. Many (if not most) modern Trotskyist organizations have betrayed orthodox Trotskyism and have accepted worse kinds of revisionist ideas. Some of them defend US imperialism as “spreading democracy” and “overthrowing dictatorships”. Some of them advocate reformism and some of them are basically liberals. But its possible to find some orthodox Trotskyists who can be reasonable, and can agree with Marxist-Leninists on many things. They probably won’t agree about historical events, but they might agree with our modern day tactics and goals.

The “Holodomor” explained

The famine in Ukraine, the so-called “holodomor” was a serious natural disaster. The collectivization of agriculture began in 1928 and the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 seriously threatened the success of collectivization and the entire Five-Year Plan.

The primary reasons for the famine were the weather conditions. There were two crop failures in a row because of drought and snow which prevented spring sowings. A plant disease called ‘grain-rust’ also destroyed much of the crops. ‘Rusted’ crops can look normal and so the government didn’t originally recognize that much of the food was ruined.

The collectivization began in 1928 because of several reasons:

  • the USSR needed to industrialize to build socialism. Collectivization was necessary in order to grow enough food for a larger industrial proletariat.
  • the USSR needed to industrialize fast, to build a strong modern military to defend itself
  • class relations inside the country had reached a crisis in 1927. The NEP succeeded in rebuilding the economy after the Civil War, but it allowed the rural capitalists (‘kulaks’) to grow stronger. Most small farmers only produced enough food for their own families and didn’t sell food. Most food on the market was produced by large kulaks. They demanded less regulations on prices, and demanded higher prices for higher profits. They controlled the food supply of the cities and could use this to blackmail the government. In 1926-27 the kulaks were refusing to sell or produce food. The government responded by confiscating food which they were hiding. Kulaks responded by destroying food, slaughtering animals, and stopping farming etc.

The Soviet government had two options: to accept the demand for de-regulation and move back to unrestricted capitalism. Or to fight the kulaks and move towards socialism. Of course they chose to fight. It was impossible to accept the kulak demands, it would’ve meant the death of the socialist revolution and the country would’ve remained underdeveloped.

Poor peasants were encouraged to take over lands from kulaks which were not being used, and set up collective farms on those lands. The fight intensified in the countryside and kulaks were able to destroy many farm buildings and kill huge amounts of animals (as many as 50% of all horses). This contributed to the famine, but was not the main cause of it.

Prof. Mark Tauger has shown conclusively that the Soviets couldn’t have avoided the famine in any way. The weather caused the crops to not grow, and thus they didn’t have enough food regardless of what they did.

Right-Wing propagandists claim that collectivization caused the famine, which is obviously false. We have evidence that the famine was caused by crop failure due to weather, but also the famine ended when the collective farms produced a good harvest. And after that the Soviet Union didn’t have famines anymore, except because of the war.

Some right-wingers also claim that the famine was purposefully orchestrated to kill Ukrainians, but there is no evidence of that. Ukraine received a million tons of food aid from the Russian SSR etc. The famine was a disaster for the Soviet economy, so they would never have caused it on purpose.

SOURCES:
Holodomor, myth and reality
Blood_Lies by Grover Furr (Best short book to read on the topic)
Fraud, Famine and Fascism by Douglas Tottle
Collectivization and the “Ukrainian holocaust” (from Another View of Stalin)
Famine of 1932 (from “the Real Stalin” series)
The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933 by Mark Tauger
Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931–1933 by Mark Tauger

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 6: THE RED GUARD AND RED ARMY

The working class guards were initially created for numerous different reasons.

When the Russian Tsar was overthrown, the Russian police in Finland was also dismantled. Finland had no police force of its own, and for this reason a so-called People’s Militia was created, to serve as a police force. The militia was an officially recognized government organ, but it was very different in composition from a typical capitalist police. First of all, many police officers who had served under the Tsar were seen as unreliable or treasonous, either by the government itself or by the population and were thus not allowed into the Militia or were later kicked out due to public protest. The purging of the Tsarists from the police force allowed new people to get in. The Militia was thrown together very quickly and spontaneously to fill the need for a police force, and these factors allowed for a very large working class representation in it. In some places which did not have a militia, the workers themselves created outright proletarian militias.

“At first, workers played an important role in the people’s militia. Later the workers’ role in the militias decreased due to opposition from the bourgeoisie and the senate… The militia did not become an organ loyal to the bourgeoisie, in order to guard the interests of its members it even utilized such familiar working class methods as strikes.” (Holodkovski, p.9)

The militias sometimes served as a basis for the future red guards. The biggest reason red guards were created, was to keep order during strikes and protests, especially to protect the workers from white guards who tried to smash strikes or to bring in strike breakers. The parliamentary strategy had failed and therefore workers resorted more and more to direct actions like demonstrations and surrounding government buildings, demanding concessions from the government. In these conflicts the white guard tried to rescue to capitalist politicians and the red guard tried to protect the demonstrators. At that point the red guards were still unarmed.

Historians Suodenjoki and Peltola explain:

“Workers had created red guards and order-keeping forces already in the spring of 1917… The worker guards – similarly to white guards – were not originally intended for war, but for local purposes. The worker guards were a credible voluntary force for keeping order, in localities where such a force did not exist. During the year 1917 guards were created in conjunction with strikes and other conflicts, but even then their purpose was clearly self-defense. [Pertti Haapala, Kun yhteiskunta hajosi. Suomi 1914-1920, pp. 238-240]

The social-democratic party was originally not involved in creating guards. Until the end of the summer the majority of party leadership more likely opposed the creation of guards in their attempt to minimize the spread of unrest. However, more guards were created during the summer and radical revolutionism increased, which forced the party to reconsider the situation. The party had to try to gain control of the guards, which were being created regardless. Since the beginning of September party organizations began taking a more active part in the creation of worker guards.” [Klemettilä, 38-40] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 237)

“The October [1917] congress of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation, which discussed the food-crisis had a big impact on the creation of worker guards… [A delegate from Tampere] declared that if nothing else works, the food situation must be solved by creating a workers’ dictatorship. Other delegates voiced similar opinions. [Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartin synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa 2, pp. 17, 53]

As a result of the meeting the SAJ [Finnish Trade-Union Federation] sent a demand to the Finnish government on 20. of October, which called for the trade and distribution of food to be handed entirely to the state. It also demanded price controls for food, prices to be set reasonably low to meet the buying power of the consumers, as well as increasing food production and importing… the SAJ leadership encouraged workers to create order-keeping guards “for self-defense and to prepare for any possible situation.” The message from the SAJ was also accepted by the social-democrat party executive committee. This was the first time the leadership of the working class movement publically encouraged the workers to create red guards.” [Salkola, pp. 17-21](Suodenjoki & Peltola, pp. 237-238)

“The reason behind encouraging the creation of worker guards was the worsening food shortage. The working class movement demanded more effective methods from the government to combat the shortage and prepared for general strike, in case the food question could not be solved satisfactorily.

“SAJ’s sharply worded message… activated the workers significantly… Guards were formed in many places where they didn’t previously exist – with the exception of strike-watch forces and other minor order keeping forces. Red guard organisations existed in at least 17 municipalities and at the start of the general strike on 14. of December there were guards in at least 28 municipalities, that is in 4/5 municipalities of Pirkanmaa…

“In Tampere a local order-keeping force which functioned based on when it was needed, had already been created following the February revolution. In May, a more regular “Militia force of the Workers’ organizations of Tampere” was created, which still remained non-military in character. When the party began observing and guiding the creation of red guards… It got the name “Working people’s organization guard of Tampere”. The guard’s structure was formed by trade-union chapters: members were recruited from the best men of the local chapters.” [Pertti Haapala, Tehtaan valossa. Teollistuminen ja työväestön muodostuminen Tampereella 1820-1920. Historiallisia tutkimuksia 133, p. 313, Klemettilä, Salkola pp. 128-134] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 238)

“…in the rules adopted for worker guard organizations on October 23. their mission was defined as protecting the rights of workers – it was felt that workers… needed guards for their safety, since the bourgeoisie was creating its own white guard forces to safeguard its interests. [Source: Salkola, pp. 33, 37-45]

In some municipalities of Pirkanmaa creation of worker guard organizations was clearly a reaction to the bourgeoisie creating white guards. For example in Orivesi and Hämeenkyrö the workers explained the reason they needed a red guard force was due to the presence of the white guard. It is worth noting that in 2/3 of the municipalities in Pirkanmaa the white guard was certainly formed before the worker guard.” [Salkola, pp. 312-313, 532-533] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 239)

The people’s militia was merged with the red guard in many places, beginning with the December 1917 general strike. An order from red guard leadership read:
“Keeping order is one of the duties of the workers’ guard; the workers’ militia will join the guard.” (quoted in Punakaarti Rintamalla, p. 105)

A number of different stages can be seen in red guard formation: 1. the public militia, 2. then the stage of creating purely proletarian order-keeping forces, 3. the creation of red guards for local self-defense, local strikes and demonstrations, 4. the party and trade-union federation getting involved and guards being formed nationwide in a centrally coordinated way, 5. and finally the red guards becoming a military force.

“In many places the guards were created by local workers’ societies. Social-democratic municipal organizations also often served as the founders. [Salkola, p. 68] Trade-union chapters did this rarely… because they were strongest in large cities where guards were already formed earlier. Passivity of trade-union chapters is also explained by the fact that… municipal organizations and workers’ societies… were the highest local organs, they naturally took responsibility for creating guard organizations. In some cases other types of worker organizations also created guards.

Selection of applicants to the guard was often done in meetings of worker organizations. All volunteers were not necessarily accepted.” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 241)

“According to the rules of workers’ order-keeping guards, only organized workers were to be accepted as members. This happened naturally, as recruits were chosen by workers’ societies and trade-union chapters from their own members. The rules also required that recruits had to be “class conscious, knowledgeable about social-democratic methods and otherwise trustworthy comrades.” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, pp. 241-242)

ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE OF THE RED GUARD ARMY:

A military history website explains the organization of the red army as follows:

“Organisation used by Finnish Red Guards was basically borrowed from Battalions from Army of Finnish Grand Duchy, which existed pre year 1900. Red Guard organisation had also battalion – division levels, but in reality its companies fought as independent companies, not as battalions or regiments… In reality the size of Red Guard company varied in between 70 – 150 men.” (Source: https://www.jaegerplatoon.net/FORMATIONS1.htm)

The typical structure was given as the following: A Red Guard rifle company was lead by a company commander and a commissar directly below him, the company was divided into 4 platoons, each lead by a platoon leader, with 2 rifle squads of a dozen men under him.

The structure for a machine gun company is given as the following: A company commander and a commissar, with 3 machinegun platoons under them, 4 machineguns per platoon.


The full army structure was this: 4 companies formed a battalion, 4 battalions a regiment, 2 regiments a brigade and 2 brigades a division. However, the Red Guard typically fought as separate companies (several hundred soldiers) or some times as Battalions (thousand soldiers or even more) but coordinating operations larger then this was practically never done. The larger units served as a command structure and for moving troops around, but had no significance in battle.

Source: https://www.jaegerplatoon.net/FORMATIONS1.htm

Historians corraborate this information, as roughly being true, but there were local differences.

“The most important basic military unit was a company, whose strength was 110 men (2+4+8+96). The company was divided into four platoons, and each platoon consisted of 27 men (1+2+24). However in reality, many companies did not follow these quantities but were lacking. Local units in the rural areas could vary from a few men to hundreds in size. On top of that there were special companies (e.g. machine gun, flying and artillery companies). For example in Virkkala, the flying A-company consisted only of a single platoon (27 men).” (Koskinen, s.61)

“The strength of the guard in Tampere [in late 1917] was apparently around couple thousand. It included three actual battalions and a shorthanded railway workers’ battalion, which were all organized into a regiment a little before the general strike [of December 1917]. On top of that, a few special units were formed in connection with the Tampere guard, such as an espionage and intelligence unit, an orchestra and an ambulance unit. Around October-December a “Workers order-keeping guard’s women’s organizations” was created for the guard’s medical care, which tried to recruit members e.g. through newspaper notices.[Klemettilä, pp. 44-47] In the surrounding municipalities at least in Virrat the guard included a women’s organization.” [Salkola, Työväenkaartin synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa 2, p. 76](Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 242)

In Helsinki the red guard also formed several so-called naval companies from sailors, “for the purpose of acquiring ships for the use of the red guard, and for coastal defense” (Punakaarti Rintamalla, p. 169)

In practice squads of about dozen men formed platoons, which formed companies of around 100 or 200 soldiers. Companies formed battalions which could be almost a 1000 soldiers. They in turn formed regiments of thousands. Capitalist historian Upton writes:

“On paper, the organization of the Red Guard looked like that of a normal army; the men were enlisted in companies of 96 men, four of these formed a battalion, and four battalions a regiment. Thus Helsinki Red Guard began as two regiments in January, and then added three more by the end of March. Viipuri raised 131 companies, all based on workplaces or villages, which formed nine regiments; Tampere, Turku, and Lahti all raised regiments. But the regiments and the battalions were administrative and record-keeping structures; the fighting unit was the company. Only on rare occasions is a battalion found operating as a fighting force. The Red Guard was therefore an army that consisted of hundreds of largely self-governing companies, of very uneven quality and size, and any effective operational orders had to be directed to the company level.”
(Upton, pp. 404-405)

“a genuine comradely spirit did exist, a sense of loyalty to mates, to class and to the cause, which held the Red Guard together in the absence of the usual military sanctions. But it was not always enough.” (Upton, p. 407)

The Red Guard army was under the leadership of the Workers’ Executive Committee, the highest revolutionary authority. The Red Guard had a national general staff, regional staff and local staff. The general staff near front-lines were called “front staff”.


“In many places guard staff was created already weeks before the class war… They carried out various administrative tasks… Though it had been originally planned that they would serve some kind of militaristic functions, their real work turned out completely differently: the original guard staffs became sort of civillian bureaus, committees and for military purposes new committees emerged: the front staffs…” (Punakaarti Rintamalla, p. 163)

The regional front staffs commanded entire army groups, and although the structure fluctuated all the time, there were three army groups and basically three main fronts: so called “Northern Front” near Tampere, “Central Front” around Savonia and “Eastern Front” around Karelia.

“[Front] staffs were chosen via heads of detachments choosing a leader, and one or two assistant leaders, a commander of artillery, commander of machine guns, reconnoisance, food and housing etc… front commanders were appointed by the national general staff.” (Punakaarti Rintamalla, p. 167)

A red guard on the central front explained their command structure as follows:

“The front staff divided its work in the following way: a) war department, b) finance department, c) munitions committee, d) medical department. The war department was split into four parts: 1) Leadership made assault and defense plans, troop movements and maneuvers with the commander. 2) The equipment officer handled acquiring ammunition and other war materials and delivering them to the front… 3) The cartographer prepared battle maps. 4) Rapporteur was tasked to gather reports arriving from different fronts and to unite them to a coherent whole, as well as prepare and deliver all messages from the war department.” (Punakaarti Rintamalla, p. 117)

A red guard on the Eastern front said: “The leaders were elected in mass meetings of soldiers, all the way up to the highest commanders and commanders were changed quite often” (Punakaarti Rintamalla, p. 197)

Local command was typically 5 or 6 people, about half chosen by party organizations and half by the soldiers:

“According to rules the local guard leadership consisted of a five member executive committee. Three members were chosen by the local worker organization delegate assembly [a soviet], social-democratic municipal organization or workers’ society, while the red guard members chose two. In many municipalities the local guard leadership was chosen in this way but not nearly everywhere.[Salkola, Työväenkaartin synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa 2, pp. 82-84] For example in Tampere the leadership… which was referred to as central command, included six members. Three had been chosen by the municipal organization, three by the guard members. This was done to insure the guard members had equal influence with the municipal organization.

“According to the guard’s rules, officers were elected by the members. This reflected the guard’s character as originally a non-military organization, familiar methods from working class movement were adopted into their work.”[Klemettilä, p. 46-47] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 242)

A massive book about the civil war by the Finnish ministry of education states:

“The red guard’s organization already existed before the outbreak of war. At the top there was the national general staff, and under it regional and local staffs.”
(Kansanvaltuuskunta punaisen Suomen hallituksena, Osmo Rinta-Tassi, p.188)

That was the original situation. However, as we saw from other sources, to handle actual fighting separate front general staffs were established.

The book by the Finnish ministry of education further states that “The organization of the top military leadership only properly got going in March, when the strategic position of the reds was already weakening.” and “Separation of civillian and military administration advocated… was completed only as late as 20th of March [after it] had been prepared for over a month”. This only goes to show the challenges the reds faced, because they were relatively less prepared for the war then the whites and were amateurs in military matters.

The structure of the red state, consisted of amauters: average workers and peasants, not professional bureaucrats. Their military was really a paramilitary, based on volunteers with no training. As a result the structure and methods of the red guard varied from place to place, there was a lot of confusion about which institution should do what, often times military organizations like the red guard, were forced to carry out purely civillian tasks and even in military matters they acted in very non-military ways. They elected their officers, shared power between red guards and civillian organizations and in many ways behaved exactly like trade-union organizations with guns, rather then a professional army.

“The term “staff” is rather misleading because of its military connotations, since most of these committees had nothing to do with military operations, but were concerned with organization and record-keeping at the rear. They were responsible for internal security, which involved organizing guards and patrols, and making searches and arrests, but these quasi-military functions were really police duties. The civilian character of most staffs was reflected in their membership, which tended

to consist of the older party members, and the mountains of paper that they have left behind them show that they were mainly occupied in calculating pay, distributing food and clothing, arranging accommodation, and issuing endless permits and certificates. The term staff was also misleading because these bodies did not see themselves as the sources of executive authority, but as delegate bodies, elected by and responsible to the mass membership, so that all major decisions had to be referred to general meetings… When companies were brought together for operations, the commanders and their staffs would elect delegates to form a Front Staff, which actually directed military operations…” (Upton, p. 408)

“The red guard consisted of workers and the rural poor.”
“It naturally did not include any bank directors, large landowners, shop-owners etc… 65.63% or two thirds of reds who fell in battle were workers and farm-laborers. With house servants and temp workers included the number is 77.96%. Among whites who fell in battle there were only 17% workers, but there were 45.38% land-owning peasants. The white army also included other members of the wealthier classes – employers etc. Among reds who fell in battle only 5.36% owned their own plot of land. [V. Rasila, Kansalaissodan sosiaalinen tausta, pp. 40-41]” (Holodkovski, p.308)

“Soldier material on the red side was from a military and class standpoints undoubtedly more homogenous then on the white side and there was enough of it voluntarily available. The working population of cities and industrial centers, including its skilled sections, who because of the influence of the working class movement had become used to solid organization and discipline, was ready to step voluntarily into the ranks of the red guard. The agricultural workers and tenant farmers were also voluntarily on the side of the reds.

The red military leadership on the otherhand could not even be compared to the white leadership. After all, military training had not been available in Finland for decades. Learning to use even basic weapons took time, and there were no teachers. The reds had only one officer at their disposal, Russian officer colonel Svetsnikov… the red military leadership practically developed entirely during battle.

The number of soldiers in red guards rose up to 20-30 thousand during the beginning of the civil war. Initially there were insufficient weapons. Enough weapons could be given to frontline troops only after fighting had already begun.

The exact number of fighers in the red guard is not known. At its peak the number was around 70-80 thousand.

While the white forces had already been organized into typical military structure and a hierarchy had been created down to local divisions and squads by the time the battles began, the red guards on the other hand were born out of the members of workplaces or workers’ organizations. Thus, companies could form from the workers of some workplace, or some organization would form its own company, well known were e.g. the company of the Jyry [working class] sports club. Rural workers’ associations formed their own red guard detachments, and often those in the same municipality would form a detachment. This was a natural starting point for the founding of a voluntary class army. Its advantage was the sense of tightly-knit unity in the detachments – after all, everyone knew each other. Leaders were chosen from those people who already enjoyed the men’s trust based on their previous activities. On the other hand, when creating larger army units and when troops were moved away from their homes, the local nature of the units hindered their utilization for broader tasks. The defense of one’s own home was seen as more important, often times people waited for instructions from the command at their home municipality etc. But as the battles went on the red guards formed a comparatively solid foundation for a united army. Military experience was learned in practice and the officer core also grew, so that in a few months the Finnish workers’ red guard could already successfully perform even difficult tasks.” (Hyvönen, pp. 92, 94-95)

WHY DID PEOPLE JOIN THE RED GUARD?

The working class and poor peasantry of Finland joined the Red Guards to fight for their rights. The capitalist government was not willing to grant the workers’ demands, and instead had escalated the situation towards civil war. The workers had only two options: to fight for a better future, or to surrender and live in misery.

The old propaganda narrative of the capitalists, was that people supposedly only joined the Reds, due to communist agitation. However, this has proven to be a lie. The people lived in terrible poverty, had a real threat of starvation, and no political rights. They knew these facts from their own lives, not from the mouths of agitators.

After these capitalist lies were debunked, liberal historians have tried to look for real answers to the question why the workers joined the Red Guards. Let’s look at the answers they provide. One historian from 1998 writes the following:

“… in the entire country, the economic situation was bad, unemployment was high and there was a shortage of food. Poverty and unemployment forced many to consider joining the red guard. In interrogations after the war, when the winning [capitalist] side asked the prisoners’ reasons for joining, this explanation was emphasized. After all, it was a neutral reason for joining. For this reason the significance of unemployment for joining was surely exaggerated.”
(Koskinen p. 63)

He concludes that economic conditions were indeed terrible, people lived in poverty, and there wasn’t enough food. But he also admits, that when questioned by Whites, the workers and peasants naturally would not want to admit to being socialists. They would much rather give more politically neutral reasons. Of course the two questions are interconnected, the workers supported socialism precisely because life in capitalism was so bad for them. But while they could admit that their poverty was bad, admitting that they were socialists usually would lead to their deaths.

So, poverty and unemployment were the most commonly given reasons: “I was forced by poverty”, “I joined for bread”, “I joined since there were no jobs or food”. (Koskinen)

However, it seems clear workers also did not make the decision to join the Red Guard as individuals. They had a sense of community. Though joining the Red Guards was not mandatory, and indeed, only organized workers were even allowed to join, still there probably was some peer-pressure. Many workers considered it obvious to join the Red Guard:

J.E.Palonen: “I joined because everyone else joined”

G.V.Solberg: “There was no particular reason. It was just the general opinion that everyone should belong to the RG [Red guard]”

A.Vilen: “Joined because others joined too and it was said there were no jobs besides the red guard”

K.E.D. Nyberg: “I joined because people looked at you funny if you didn’t join, and because work was stopped at the factory”

“However, many reasons become intertwined and a person makes the decision often without even understanding all the factors. Economic, ideological, psychological or physical pressures blend together.” (Koskinen p. 64)

One worker testified:
“While working as a carpenter in the cement factory shipyard on 5. of February four armed men showed up and said all organized workers had to come to the workers’ club… and others join the guard as soldiers. Admits: joining was partially voluntary and partially necessitated by economic reasons…” (Koskinen p. 64)

“There weren’t many red guards who openly spoke about their ideological views when interrogated [by whites] after the war:
Villehard Virtanen: “Saw the guard’s function as keeping order and wanted to help”
Fredrik-Malin: “Joined to improve workers’ conditions by his own initiative”

Fredrik-Malmstedt: “Joined due to sense of duty and opinion” (Koskinen p. 64)

“At the outbreak of war the membership of the red guard was selectively chosen and in principle voluntary. Membership was only open to members of workers’ organizations.” (Koskinen p. 65)

Another liberal historian writes:”In a factory town like Nokia, it was almost impossible for a factory worker to not join the red guard. The work community had a strong social pressure: joining the guard did not mean taking a strong political stance, instead it was normal to join together with everyone else. Due to its large factories and strong workers’ organizations it was possible in Nokia to recruit large amounts of people to the guard. Recruiting happened largely from trade-union chapters. Almost all of the guard members of Nokia were factory workers or other workers. On top of ideology, especially unemployed people might join because of the wage paid to red guard members.” [Jussi Koivuniemi, Tehtaan pillin tahdissa. Nokian tehdasyhdyskunnan sosiaalinen järjestys 1870-1939] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 241)

“In the treason trials after the war, ex-guard members understandably didn’t want to admit joining the guard voluntarily for ideological reasons. The accused rather justified joining with economic motives: by joining the guard one could get help in surviving the economic difficulties, unemployement and food shortage. Guard members were given a good 15 mark daily wage, a meal and support for their family. This must have impacted at least the youth and unemployed membership…

In the interrogations many ex-guard members also said they had been pressured, for example instructions coming from the trade-union. Beginning in March [when the city was encircled and sieged by the whites] there was also pressure at work sites in the city: men were demanded to join or risk being fired, which lead to the membership increasing. At the end of March the demand to join was extended to all men between ages 18 and 50 living in the city.” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 257, citing Klemettilä)

“Although the Red Guard was both a voluntary and a selective force, and would enlist only organized workers, the initial enthusiasm produced an ample flow of recruits. Recruitment was usually a group decision by a trade union branch or the village workers’ organization, so that many early Red Guard units were simply identified by the trade or workplace of the members.” (Upton, p. 396)

“To the Finnish workers, whose womenfolk commonly labored with them in factory and field, it came naturally to recruit women as well. Women sometimes formed a significant proportion of the membership, as in Tampere, where there were 901 women against 5,094 men; and some of them got into the firing line, to the horror and disgust of the Whites.” (Upton, p. 397)

Unlike the whites, the red government never had a policy of conscription or forcing people to join the red guard. This is another example of the social-democrats’ commitment to only pursue policies democratically, legally and based on voluntary action. The whites increased their army from 10-20 thousand to 70-80 thousand through forced conscription. The reds built a largely volunteer army of the same size (80 thousand). With conscription they could have outnumbered the whites, however the reds never took firm action to implement conscription.

“The population fleeing from the municipality of Virrat intensified after the outbreak of the war, when the whites implemented conscription. The amount of people avoiding the draft was highest in Virtainkylä, 123 men, 107 in Toisvesi and 83 in Vaskivesi… Tens of people fleeing from Virrat fought in the “Wirrat company” which included a total of 300 reds from Virrat… One quarter of the guard members didn’t belong to workers’ associations at all… reason for joining seems to have been to avoid being conscripted [by the whites]. [Nieminen Jaana, Kansallisesta jakautumisesta kunnalliseen eheytymiseen: vuoden 1918 sota Virroilla]”(Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 263)

Near the end of the war, it was becoming clear that the whites had gained the upper hand. This prompted the red government to take stronger actions. The extent of this was still not conscription. The government only ordered those people who had voluntarily joined the red guard and then left, to rejoin. There were individual cases of local reds pressuring others to join, but this was never a policy.

The reds also considered a plan to recruit those working in unemployment relief-jobs to the red guard, but this was never done except by the city of Tampere during the siege and encirclement. Kuusinen later criticized the red government’s policy for not making it mandatory for unemployed people and especially capitalists, intellectuals and members of the non-working classes to join work-programmes. There should have been an all out responsibility for everyone not serving in the red guard, to work in order to support the war effort. This wasn’t done. Instead capitalists and aristocrats were often left to sit inside their homes, and in several cases, they conducted spying activity on behalf of the whites.

“For example the property owner Arvo Mattila from Southern-Teisko provided information to the whites. He wired his telephone to the telephone line between Kuru and Southern-Teisko and listened to the red’s telephone conversations in his house.[Laitinen Erkki, Kurun historia 1867-1918, Vanhan Ruoveden historia III:5,1]” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 260)

The red guard had a reconnoisance division, but there was no secret police or intelligence service to combat spies. The Russian Bolsheviks and Ukrainian Anarchists had a secret police to combat spying and sabotage, but the Finnish reds didn’t realize the necessity of such a thing.

Upton says:
“The Red government was almost unique among revolutionary governments in never establishing its own political or secret police.” (Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918, p. 374)

In general the red guard’s activities were characterized by extremely anti-authoritarian policies and measures to the point of detriment.

“Altogether in the first weeks of the war 150 white guards were arrested in the city [of Tampere], but in most cases they were simply let go. The city’s red guard was mainly concerned with confiscating weapons. [Vainio Marko, Yksi opisto – yksi liike. Tampereen teknillisen opiston suojeluskuntakomppania Tampereen suojeluskunnan osana 1917-1918, p. 94]” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 260)


SPYING AND COUNTER-ESPIONAGE

The Reds didn’t have a secret police, but lets discuss the type of reconnaissance and counter-espionage units that they actually did have. A red guard author writes:

“There were two types of reconnaissance divisions, one front-line and the other so-called local divisions. Tampere had both of these. One was called the Northern Front Spy Department, which practiced front-line espionage on the enemy side, and the other was the Tampere Intelligence Department… Before the actual battles, they were tasked with keeping an eye on the enemy’s movements and combat preparations, trying to find out their weapons depots and secret training places, generally to find out what is going on among the counter-revolutionaries… The department also arrested individuals from whom weapons were found or who otherwise acted as counter-revolutionaries.

After general mobilization, the duties of the intelligence department also expanded to include operations throughout the North-West. In this area, it had the right to conduct home inspections, confiscations, and arrests. These measures were assisted by local Red Guards and all the captured whites and other criminals were transported to Tampere, where the intelligence department carried out a preliminary investigation. The resulting protocols were to be sent to the Revolutionary Court, which finally convicted or acquitted the accused. Indeed, in several cases, the verdict was acquittal, even for persons who would have deserved nothing more than to stand in front of a line of rifles. Often, the sentences were such as to be banned from leaving the area and ordered to report to the intelligence department office, some every day, some once a week.

Afterwards, it seems ridiculous that such sentences were given during a revolution, but that is how it was. Those people were thus given full freedom to continue to act as counter-revolutionaries, and this leniency was also one of the factors in our defeat … as far as Tampere was concerned, only two death sentences were given, and the people in question were in the red guard. One was the commander of the Ikaalinen front, Seppälä, who was accused of selling out his troops. It was proved that he had received 40,000 marks for organizing his troops in such a way that the whites had a favorable opportunity to attack … The other was named Anthoon, he was an interpreter for the front staff of the Northern Front, and an enemy agent. He passed all the information he received from the staff to the whites.” (A. R–n., “Punaisten tiedustelutoiminnasta”, Suomen luokkasota: Historiaa ja muistelmia)

British capitalist historian Upton writes:

“The possibility of repression was much reduced because the Red regime had no political or security police… Red security measures were simply incompetent:

[white politician] Louhivuori [who was hiding in a hospital as a patient] was able to go into town, accompanied by a nurse, and conferred with Svinhufvud on three separate occasions. He remembered a house in view of the hospital and of the Red Guard checkpoint outside, which had a stream of young visitors carrying violin cases. “One could observe that what they were carrying was

extremely heavy”; in fact they were smuggling arms into a White Guard magazine and strongpoint… The Whites made brilliant use of telephone monitoring, using friendly telephone staff… The most vulnerable point in White security was the domestic servants, on whom they were wholly dependent… there must have been significant numbers of disaffected servants who could have been used to monitor what went on in bourgeois households, but no effort was made to tap this obvious source. [VA [State Archive], 35-39; Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenaisyyssenaatti, 298fll., 311; Työmies, 28.3.18.]

In these conditions the White resistance could operate with some impunity. The medical profession abused its immunity to conceal fugitives or provide safe transport in ambulances or under the escort of medical personnel; the foreign consuls, who were usually native businessmen, used their consular status in partisan fashion to claim diplomatic immunity for their premises and communications. [Vyborg] Red Guard pointed out that the Belgian, Italian, and Norwegian consuls were all leading officials in the White Guard, but they were told to leave them alone. [The workers’ Information Bulletin] was justified in claiming, on 15 April, that the Consular Corps had persistently abused their immunities to help the government’s enemies. The Swedish embassy did the same…” (Upton, 384)

Marx and Engels criticized the Paris Commune for being too lax and soft. The same criticism can be made of the Finnish red guard.

The white senators managed to escape from Helsinki to the new white capital of Vaasa. Bourgeois politicians were not arrested like they should have been.

White Guard Senator Talas stated in his memoirs that:
“If the reds had been bolder they probably could have gotten all of the bourgeois senators arrested… Arresting the government could have caused the war to end completely differently. Without the help of the [white] government of Vaasa it is doubtful if Mannerheim could have inspired support among the population of the North which was needed to defeat the reds. The reds would naturally have called Mannerheim’s action a revolt against the ‘lawful government’ by a general coming from Russia. As Mannerheim was still unknown to the Finnish people, such talk could have influenced at least part of the population” (O. Talas, Muistelmia, p. 71)

“Leaders of the bourgeois groups in the parliament were also not isolated [or arrested] but they were able to carry out counter-revolutionary activities. They published appeals to the Finnish people and attacked the revolution as an unheard of act of violence [Talas, p.72] … This helped to direct and organize counter-revolutionary forces” (Holodkovski, p.180)

Svinhufvud, the leader of the white government was trapped inside Red Helsinki, but was able to escape.

“The rescue of Svinhufvud… showed how damaging the hostility of bourgeois experts and technicians, whether Finnish or Russian, could be. Bourgeois officers, sea captains, navigators, engineers, telephonists and telegraphists, doctor and nurses, had to be employed if society was to continue, but none of them could be trusted to be neutral at moments of crisis. Only severe methods of repression could have overcome this menace to the security of the Red regime and it was not prepared to adopt such methods.” (Upton, p. 387)

All talk about the red government being a supposed totalitarian dictatorship is nonsense. It was far more lenient and less authoritarian then the white government, which was attempting to build either military dictatorship or monarchy and which outlawed the communist party and most other leftist organizations during its rule after the war. The red government was democratic, reformist and soft to a degree which hampered the success of the revolution.

Even British bourgeois historian Upton, despite being confused about many other things, says quite correctly that the red government: “in dividing over whether to maintain the closure of the bourgeois press, showed that they had not fully grasped that they were presiding over a war, in which there could be no question of allowing enemy newspapers to be published.”
(Upton, p. 288)

“They did not see that the fact that revolution is an act of violence… They did not see that war, the fact that blood had been shed, shifted the political conflict onto a qualitatively new level.”
(Upton, p. 302)

“In the heat of a civil war, these men who were principled atheists, came near to the Christian ideal of loving their enemies… It was a sentiment that their Christian opponents certainly did not reciprocate. Political realists will question the[ir] wisdom… and they had failed lamentably to grasp what was needed if the revolution was to be carried to a successful conclusion… If their precepts were followed, the revolution was certainly doomed to political and military defeat, but its moral superiority over the victors would be incontestable.” (Upton, pp. 303-304)

“The mildness with which the Whites were treated did not go unnoticed, and some Reds thought it scandalous. They could see the class enemy apparently leading a comfortable, carefree existence, while workers suffered and died for the cause. A report from the front on the mood among Red Guard troops described their bitterness because “the enemy is pampered and protected, and prisoners offered conditions which the men at the front do not even dream of.” The men were saying that when they got back, “We will first of all clear up the rear of Mensheviks who play at revolution, and the more dangerous butchers.” On 4 March a meeting of Red Guard commanders in Helsinki demanded that White prisoners should get no better food and conditions than the Red Guard on active service, and there were press comments on the crowds of idle bourgeois haunting the streets and restaurants. The Labour Department commissioned a report on the problem that was forwarded to the Deputation for consideration on 9 March. The simple proposition was put forward

that the bourgeois would have less time to make mischief if they were put to work, and it recommended the government to “bring into force a duty to work, because of counter-revolutionary sabotage.” The idea was that anyone without a certificate of useful employment would be deprived of his ration card: “The plan is also humane, there is no trace of compulsion in it, everything is voluntary.” This was true in that anyone would be free not to work if he was prepared to do without food. The Deputation approved the idea in principle, but it looks as though the problems of implementation prevented it being put into effect.” (Upton, p. 383)

In conclusion, the Reds were novices in military matters. They had learned to work largely under peaceful reformist conditions and not to engage the capitalists in violent clashes.

The Red leadership had accepted the dogma of the 2nd International, that socialism could not be built in a less developed country like Finland, until the largest industrial powers like Germany became socialist. Therefore the Finnish Red leaders had never seriously prepared for revolution in Finland. When the situation began moving towards a revolutionary crisis, they tried to avoid it. However, as the masses moved further and further Left, so did many of the leaders. When the revolutionary situation was forced upon the Red leaders, most of them accepted the inevitablity of revolution and responsibility of leading it. They did not betray the workers.

However, they were not well equipped to lead. Due to their softness and incompetence, they often resorted to basically anarchistic tactics, although not because they were committed to anarchism, quite the contrary. Instead, it was merely because they lacked the necessary skills to do anything else. They lacked the skills to create solid revolutionary organization, discipline, leadership and decisiveness. Those are skills which they did not originally have, and need to be learned.

They were not real revolutionaries, had no experience of revolution, and did not understand revolutionary theory. The revolution would have to be their teacher. They would have to learn from the revolution and from the masses. They had also not carried out the necessary preparations for the revolution. That is why they seriously lacked weapons and did not have a military organization ready when civil war broke out, while the White Guard had been making decisive preparations, and was already armed and ready for a war.

Since the task had not been completed in advance, the Red Guard would have to be made into an army, during the civil war. The inexperience and theoretical backwardness of the leaders, made this a difficult and slow process, but it was being done. We shouldn’t be too hard on the leaders though, they did not ask to be in that situation. Many times they offered to resign, if better leaders could be found. But there were no other leaders. The working class vanguard does not fall from the sky, but is built and trained over the course of time, together with the masses.

Their task was difficult, but not impossible. The Reds had certain advantages, and their defeat was not inevitable. The whites could not sustain a long war, because they controlled no production centers and their troops were farmers who would try to abandon them en masse by the time Spring sowing came around. The crucial factor was Germany. The Whites were able to focus their forces, while the German invaders stabbed the Reds in the back. The only way for the Whites to achieve a quick victory was with Germany – though, if Finland had had a Bolshevik party they would probably have already taken power in the December 1917 General Strike, and the civil war would might never have happened.

We have now analyzed the Finnish struggle for independence, the conditions of the working class and the peasantry before the revolution, the 1917 December General Strike, the White war preparations and creation of the Red Guard. In the next installment we’ll finally begin analyzing the details of the Revolution and civil war.

SOURCES:

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1917-1918

Pertti Haapala, Kun yhteiskunta hajosi. Suomi 1914-1920

Aimo Klemettilä, Tampereen punakaarti ja sen jäsenistö

Suodenjoki ja Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa I)

Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartin synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa

Pertti Haapala, Tehtaan valossa. Teollistuminen ja työväestön muodostuminen Tampereella 1820-1920, Historiallisia tutkimuksia 133

Punakaarti Rintamalla

Some basic information about Red troop formations https://www.jaegerplatoon.net/FORMATIONS1.htm

Koskinen, Veljiksi kaikki ihmiset tulkaa

Anthony Upton, The Finnish Revolution 1917-1918

Osmo Rinta-Tassi, Kansanvaltuuskunta punaisen Suomen hallituksena

V. Rasila, Kansalaissodan sosiaalinen tausta

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Jussi Koivuniemi, Tehtaan pillin tahdissa. Nokian tehdasyhdyskunnan sosiaalinen järjestys 1870-1939

Nieminen Jaana, Kansallisesta jakautumisesta kunnalliseen eheytymiseen: vuoden 1918 sota Virroilla

Laitinen Erkki, Kurun historia 1867-1918, Vanhan Ruoveden historia III:5,1

Suomen luokkasota: Historiaa ja muistelmia

Vainio Marko, Yksi opisto – yksi liike. Tampereen teknillisen opiston suojeluskuntakomppania

Tampereen suojeluskunnan osana 1917-1918.

E. Raikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenaisyyssenaatti

O. Talas, Muistelmia

Yrjö Sirola as a fighter, teacher and person (1876-18. March 1936) by Elli Stenberg

Source: SKP – taistelujen tiellä
Published in 1945

(Translated by MLT from Finnish)

“Keep your eyes wide open” is a life motto which Yrjö Sirola followed closely in all periods and activities of his life and gave as an instruction to the entire Finnish working class in 1906. This motto is known by everyone who was fortunate to know Yrjö Sirola as a teacher or close colleague.

The history of Yrjö Sirola’s life in all its stages is inseparably tied to the history of the Finnish working class. Also during the times when he has been abroad – 1909-1913 in America and after 1918 in the Soviet Union – he has worked in particular on behalf of the Finnish working class and the whole Finnish nation.

It is natural and easy for the son of a worker to step into the workers’ movement and devote his whole life to it. On the other hand among those coming from the intelligentsia, there are only few who can honestly feel and say “I have no interests besides the interests of the working class”. Yrjö Sirola almost unnaturally modest, selfless and honest fighter in class struggle, earnestly felt that way despite coming from the intelligentsia, being the son of a priest.

Yrjö Sirola joined the workers’ movement on the eve of the 1905 general strike, when the Finnish working class was taking its first independent steps. Before that he had already read socialist literature and been to workers’ meetings, which he felt a passionate sympathy towards. In 1904 he became the editor of the People’s Paper in Tampere. He described his worldview of those times, saying that “it was a jumble of progressive secular bourgeois, henry-georgeist, tolstoyist, theosophical and utopian socialist waverings.”

During the 1905 general strike Yrjö Sirola was already a notable leader of the workers’ movement. With his inspiring speeches, which the older generation still thinks about today, he rallied the working masses behind him. His influence was the greatest during the two revolutionary periods 1905-06 and 1917-1918. He always gave a great importance for the international experience of the proletariat and through them tried to give a direction and purpose for the significant events in the Finnish workers’ movement. The experiences of the Russian Revolutions and the Paris Commune, were always topics of his energetic study and later the experiences of the Finnish working class as well.

Skill, sense of responsibility and hard work, caused Sirola to quickly rise to the most important positions in the workers’ movement. He was elected party secretary in the 1906 party congress in Oulu and to the parliament as a workers’ party representative in 1907. Documents of the parliament testify to his tenacity. Resolutely, he was e.g. in the frontlines of the struggle against tsarism, upholding the marxist view in the question of national struggle for independence. In fighting against the tsarist oppression of Finland he never mistook the Russian people to be the oppressors. On the contrary, he understood that the oppression was targeting them too. He felt the lives of the two nations were closely tied to each other and wanted collaboration in the joint struggle for emancipation. Privately he was in contact with Russian revolutionaries and took part among others, in the conference of the Russian bolsheviks in Tampere in 1905 and in Stockholm in 1906. In these events he was introduced to Lenin, which was mutually very significant. Since that time Sirola took many influences from Lenin.

On the eve of the Finnish revolution, in the autumn of 1917, Sirola was already one of the most principled and unshaking leaders of the workers’ movement. At that time too, he was a member of the parliament and Social-Democrat party leadership. He saw the requirements of the situation more clearly then many others and boldly defended his views against those who still doubted the necessity of revolution. During the revolution he was the minister of foreign affairs of the Finnish People’s Delegation [the red government~MLT], to which job he was suited due to his knowledge of foreign languages. In this position like in all others, he never lost firm contact with the masses, but spoke to the people often and had conversations with them.

After the defeat of the revolution, Yrjö Sirola took part in the serious self-criticism by the working class leaders who lead the revolution, concerning the reasons for its defeat and their old forms of activity. Together with Kuusinen and others of the working class’ finest, he began the arduous work for organizing a communist party in Finland. He was the chairman of the Finnish Communist Party central committee, and was tirelessly and eagerly at the frontlines of all the party’s battles.

Sirola also took part in the founding congress and other congresses of the Comintern and was a member in the Comintern’s control committee. In the Soviet Union he contributed significantly to the field of education. He worked as the People’s Comissar for education in Soviet-Karelia and as the headmaster of the Communist University of the National Minorities of the West in Leningrad oblast.

But Yrjö Sirola didn’t live solely for the working class. He also lived for his nation. In his writings and speeches he often emphasizes the joint action of the class-conscious proletarians, freedom loving peasantry and radical bourgeois. Already after the general strike he saw the necessity of this joint action and set it as the task for working class struggle.

Yrjö Sirola wasn’t only a politician and class-fighter, he was also a writer. His newspaper articles were often prosaic and immersive, still always retaining the appropriate factuality and not lapsing into mere pretty sounding words. In his youth he also wrote poetry and prose about contemporary events for periodicals. It is unlikely that he put together a unified collection, with the exception of “Vapautuksen tiellä” [on the path of liberation~MLT], which contains newspaper writings. Through his translations into Finnish, he has made some of the best works of proletarian poetry known to the Finnish working class.

He performed significant work as a literary critic, doing similar analysis of e.g. Järnefelt as Lenin did on Tolstoy. He has made the Kalevala [Finnish and Karelian national epic~MLT] more well known in Soviet-Karelia through his writings and presentations. There he supported in every possible way artistic literature in Finnish and Karelian languages and devoted a lot of time and energy to it. His personal knowledge of literature was amazingly broad.

Yrjö Sirola has had a great and influential career in teaching. All his work was dear to him, but it sometimes seemed that teaching was the dearest. He admitted it himself, albeit saying it was difficult to say what was closest to his heart.

Already in his youth while researching the events of the Paris Commune his attention was drawn to a statement by one member of the Commune: “Let us learn, let us gain education, it is due to our ignorance that we were defeated”. He never forgot these words. He acquired knowledge for himself, distributed it generously to others and guided the youth in their independent search for knowledge, here too maintaining close connection with everyday life. He considered organizing information to be as important as gathering it.

“It is not enough to know, one must also use: it is not enough to want, one must also do”. Sirola often reminded his students of these words of Goethe, himself being a prime example. Self-education and self-discipline were characteristic for him. He tried to cultivate these things in his students too because “without them, man really cannot do much that is particularly important in life.”

There are not many teachers like Sirola. Even the most difficult things became easy to understand through him. He knew how to motivate in study. He was full of warmth towards his students. Anyone could ask him for advice without delay, and give writings or presentations for him to examine. He was never so busy that he couldn’t advise, evaluate and correct errors. He knew how to give even the hardest criticism without depressing the student but instead inspiring them to try again. He was not only a teacher to his students, but also a comrade and fatherly friend.

As a teacher Sirola became an invaluable asset in raising working class forces. Marxist philosophy of society, dialectical materialism taught by him has given many workers who actively work in the workers’ movement a marxist-leninist clarity of thinking.

Yrjö Sirola also carried out constant scientific research in the area of working class history. He founded the workers’ archive in Helsinki. Under his leadership, an archive of the Finnish workers’ revolution was organized in Leningrad. He strove towards new achievements in all fields of human knowledge. In his work and his aims, he was forever young and tireless.

The inheritance left by Yrjö Sirola is large and valuable. It is immortal. To maintain this inheritance and comrade Sirola’s memory the writers of Soviet-Karelia have began a project for gathering and researching the writings left by Sirola. In the same purpose the Yrjö Sirola Foundation has recently been created in Helsinki, the mission of which is to aid in many ways the education, scientific, artistic and other endeavours of the democratic forces of our country.

There are great people who only live after their death. Yrjö Sirola lived and influenced much during his life, though due to circumstances of state politics he didn’t become as recognized as he deserved even in his homeland. Now both living and the dead step into view, from underground and from the other side of the border.[1] Yrjö Sirola is in the front ranks. His work lives in those he raised and will survive through generations. He is immortal, for “living in the best of the future, is a type of immortality.” (Brandes)[2]



Notes by MLT:

1. This refers to marxism becoming legal in Finland in 1944. This text is from 1945. For the first time, it became possible to talk about the ideas of communists, both living and dead. Communists returned to visibility from underground, or from “the other side of the border” from the Soviet Union.

2. This quote is by the Danish poet Georg Brandes from his poem that was published in Finnish under the title of “Hautakammio” (Tomb, crypt or literally ‘burial chamber’). Unfortunately I have not been able to find out what the original title is.

Soviet critique of the Frankfurt School and “Critical Theory”

[This text is taken from a book called “Filosofian Historia” (History of Philosophy) volume 2 by progress publishers.]

“During the third quarter of the 20th century there emerged an attempt in the philosophical thought of the developed western bourgeois countries, to find new forms for theoretical struggle against marxism. New systems appeared in philosophy which were anti-marxist, but still resembled marxism in their external appearance. A bourgeois philosophical fake-marxism was born, and it has nourished both right and “left” revisionism, because in some of its variations it has even taken a supposedly revolutionary appearance. One of the most influential and typical forms of this trend, which has also been called “neo-marxism”, has been the doctrine of the Frankfurt philosophical-sociological school.

The fake-marxist systems of the Frankfurt school began to take shape in the early 1930s, especially after Marx’s work Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 was published (1932). The fashionable slogans of bourgeois philosophy “Back to Kant!”, “Back to Hume!” were supplemented with the slogan “Back to the young Marx!”. During the years this slogan has been especially emphasized. The relationship between bourgeois philosophy and revisionism is now altogether different then what it was at the end of the previous century. In the past, revisionists borrowed their ideological program from bourgeois philosophers and provided “in exchange” political economic and scientific socialist theories in distorted revisionist forms. These contemporary revisionists have focused their attention to philosophy proper. Once they began “building a philosophical system”, they began adopting fake-marxist interpretations of professional bourgeois philosophy. Bourgeois “experts” of marxism began delivering near complete revisionist philosophical systems for revisionist politicians. In a prominent position among these systems, are the theoretical systems of the Frankfurt School. They also demonstrate that the time when the bourgeois could simply ignore Marx as a philosopher, has definitively ended. Modern bourgeois ideologists spend a lot of energy trying to transform marxism into something “harmless” and “tolerable” for their class. At the same time, they try to make their doctrines appear different from the reformism that has discredited itself. The peak manifestations of the influence of the Frankfurt School were the anarchistic actions of French and West German university students in May of 1968 and the nearly simultaneous actions by anti-socialist and counter-revolutionary forces in Czechoslovakia (1967-1968).

The school is named after the work place of its founders (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Pollock, Fromm etc.). They had founded an Institute for Social Research in the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. The institute’s paper Journal for Social Research, began publication in 1932 edited by the leader of the Institute, Horkheimer. The activity of the school was fairly progressive in the 1930s. It exposed the inhumanity of the nazi ideology and spread awareness of the philosophical fundamentals of marxism. After the fascists came to power in Germany, and during the second world war, the philosophers and sociologists of the Frankfurt School were in exile, largely in the USA. After the war Adorno and Horkheimer returned to Frankfurt am Main. During the 1960s, the “second generation” of the school appeared: Jürgen Habermas, A. Schmidt, Oskar Negt, Alexander Mitscherlich, Albrecht Wellmer etc. By the mid-1970s many of the original founders of the school had died. However, the bourgeois press made their ideological systems well known. Their primary works were republished and a media spectacle was created around them. The ideologists of imperialism try to use the teachings of the Frankfurt School to mislead public opinion, and to ideologically split the intelligentsia of the socialist countries and convert them to the side of anti-communist propaganda.

The contemporary social-philosophy of the school is anti-communism dressed in the garb of anti-capitalist phrases. Expressed in philosophical terms the doctrines of the Frankfurt School represent a specific kind of subjective idealism and a fake-dialectical method. They particularly emphasize categories like alienation and negation, the exaggeration of which the founders of the school justified by saying there was a need to “philosophize” all the marxist categories. There has appeared the so-called negative dialectics of Adorno and Marcuse. It reflects in a distorted form, the critical attitude towards capitalism that has grown among broad circles of bourgeois society, and the move towards the left of the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia, as well as the strength of the prejudices against really existing socialism in petit-bourgeois consciousness.

Of this doctrine’s theoretical influences should be mentioned the teachings of Kierkegaard, Dilthey and Nietzsche, Lukacs’s early work History and class consciousness as well as a neo-hegelian interpretation of Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. In the “frankfurtian” interpretation of Marx’s Manuscripts took shape a tendency similar to modern philosophical anthropology. According to this anthropology man is above class, alienated labour is identified with hegelian objectification of consciousness and practice becomes “totally” revolutionized. Hegel’s dialectics began to be interpreted as a doctrine of “total negation”. Already in his book Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity published in 1933, Herbert Marcuse depicted Hegel’s ontology from the point of view of irrationalist “Lebensphilosophie”. He began his revision of marxist philosophy with the article New foundations of historical materialism. Explanation of newly found manuscripts of Marx.[36]*

[*Original title “Neue Quellen zur Grundlegung des Historischen Materialismus in Die Gesellschaft” later published in english under a less accurate title: “The Foundation of Historical Materialism”.~MLT]

In another book focused on Hegel Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (1941) Marcuse utilized extensively the hegelian alienation doctrine of Lukacs’s early period, according to which all objectification is alienation, and therefore the latter is eternal. Marcuse imposed this view on Marx. Marcuse also utilized other early ideas of Lukacs: denied that development of nature was objective and law-governed and identified social-being with social-consciousness e.g. by appealing to the “ontological” primacy of practice. Marcuse turned hegelian reason into a symbol of the total negation of everything that exists and declared “common sense” as the methodological foundation of the conformism that according to him even Marx could not overcome. “Neither the Hegelian nor the Marxian idea of Reason have come closer to realization; neither the development of the Spirit nor that of the Revolution took the form envisaged by dialectical theory… Reason is in its very essence contradiction, opposition, negation.” [37] On the foundation of these shady theses, was built a voluntaristic sociological theory, which fostered a corresponding adventurist political action program.

The sociology of the “frankfurtians” has been called critical social theory or critical theory of ideology. Along with Marcuse, the largest contribution to it was given by Horkheimer and Adorno. They began a critique of the most varied aspects of life in bourgeois society. This critique of societal institutions, justice system, morality, art, the role of the individual etc. they generalized into a doctrine, which they declared had risen to the position of analyzing societal processes from above materialism and idealism. This doctrine is evident in Max Horkheimer’s articles Materialism and Metaphysics (1933), Traditional and Critical Theory (1937) as well as the book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) co-authored by him and Adorno and somewhat in Marcuse’s book Reason and Revolution, mentioned earlier.

In its main ideas “critical sociological theory” can be traced back to certain elements of Weber’s rationalization theory. They interpreted rationalization as the ever intensifying and all-encompassing mission of common sense, throughout all ages. As the typical features of this rationality they described the tendency towards formalistic manipulation, combination technique and conformism towards any social order. Inhuman “rationalization” rises to its culmination in “united industrial society”, by which the frankfurtians mean both modern capitalism and really existing socialism. Nowadays technocrats and right-opportunists cling to the concept of “united industrial society” like a utopia. Frankfurtians and ultra-leftists who have adopted their theories on the other hand focus their criticism against it. Frankfurtians claim that the scientific-technological rationalization which aimed at subjugating forces of nature has become an instrument “which hinders societal progress”.

“Sociologist of ontology” Karl Mannheim considered science and scientific thinking the opposite of ideology, which he considered to be societal false consciousness. Horkheimer and Adorno declared scientific thinking and its results to be a type of ideology of oppression. They strongly denied marxism to be scientific ideology, but in order to criticize marxism they distorted the conclusions of marxism that consciousness is determined socially and ideology is a reflection of societal reality. The founders of critical social theory tried to hide the fundamental antagonism between capitalism and socialism by describing both social systems as types of instrumantalized society i.e. of objectified reason.

The book by Horkheimer and Adorno The Dialectic of Enlightenment, seems in many ways like a critique of modern bourgeois society. However, its authors were aiming further then that. Their founding thesis was that “practical tendency toward selfdestruction has been inherent in rationality from the first”. [38] They ignored the dialectic class struggle and declared to an absolute, man’s dependence on some abstract “mastery”. Based on this thesis of dependence they criticized all human culture and social progress, slandered socialism. These topics receive emphasis in Marcuse’s texts Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955) and One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (1964).

In these texts Marcuse’s attempt to combine marxism with freudism became evident. His theory of culture and art is influenced by freudian ideology: every creative activity, love and eros which is common to both of them, are manifestations of man’s certain kind of pre-social essence. The foundation of civilization is deemed to be the drive to satisfy social instincts, but the conformism of public society has distorted these instincts and made man unhappy, as well as turned art into leveling and oppresive “mass culture”. However, the main point of critical social theory is not the sweeping criticism of modern culture, but the denial of the proletariat’s revolutionary mission and the possibilities of the revolution.

Marcuse declared “industrial society” one-dimensional in that way also, that all classes belonging to it understand their “existence” as fundamentally the same, so none of those classes, especially the proletariat, are revolutionary even potentially. Against the true dialectics of the modern era, Marcuse claimed that the working class has been “integrated” into capitalism firmly and for good. In “industrial society” (i.e. in both capitalist and socialist countries) revolution is possible only for those social forces which are outside the class relations of those societies: elements who have lost their class identity, oppressed national minorities and various pariahs and outsiders. Incitement for them would come from the intelligentsia and university students. The recipe proposed by Marcuse requires the complete dismantling of all social relations and adopting sensually and emotionally “excellent lifestyle” of the sexually unrestricted “children of nature”. In An Essay on Liberation (1969) Marcuse put his hopes in beggars and hippies, in The End of Utopia (1967) he turned towards the outsiders, encouraging them to boldly demand the “impossible”. On the other hand Marcuse’s ideas encouraged struggle against really existing socialism and they were used extensively by revisionists in certain socialist countries at the end of the 1960s and by anarchistic elements of the “new left” in Western countries, that is by anti-communists of various shades.

The philosophical basis of said theories is “negative dialectics”, in which passing to the solution of a dialectical contradiction (to a dialectical synthesis) appears completely backwards. Lecturing in Prague at the 6. hegelian conference (1966) on The Concept of Negation in the Dialectic Marcuse said that “materialist dialectics remains in the shackles of idealist reason, according to which the future is always derived from the existing… the existing antagonistic totality is negated in dynamic of history from the outside…”[38] According to Marcuse’s totally subjective and metaphysical formula, contradictions in society can be overcome only by those forces to whom there is nothing of value in that which exists, and who are ready to destroy and dismantle absolutely everything, thus creating room for anarchistic unruliness.

Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) wrote an extensive text Negative Dialectics (1966) where he tried to prove that real dialectics “must turn against itself” without leaving anything behind [40]. The hegelian and marxist interpretations of negation are according to him not dialectical enough, i.e. they are not fully negative. Adorno was looking for total negation. That kind of negation doesn’t have anything in common with the law of negation of the negation. According to this law, negation means a positive and constructive “overthrow”, which Adorno vehemently rejects. He claims that “overthrowing” supposedly replaces “negation” with a metaphysical and conformist “sameness”.

Adorno also rejects the system structure of philosophy and sees in philosophy only a primal critical “tidal wave” and not science. He rejects thinking in concepts and suggests that thinking happens through scattered shapes or “models”. In all parts of his methodology Adorno refers pedantically to the young Marx and tries to prove above all that, Marx supposedly opposed “all ‘positivity’ and supported total ‘negation’”. In reality marxist philosophy unites organically the theses about the universality of negation, to the notion that precisely negation aids “the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher.”[41]. Lenin firmly opposed interpreting dialectical negation as nihilistic, supercilious and skeptical negation [42].

Adorno called his nihilistic fake-dialectics “logic of disintegration (des Verfalls)”. Indeed, together with the similar trend of existentialism, it represents the extreme disintegration of modern bourgeois thought. Similarly to the existentialists, Adorno interpreted the objective world as “harmful” and “a hindrance” for the separation of man’s consciousness from its alienated product. According to Adorno an object is only a “terminological mask” [43]. After denying universal antagonism in philosophy Adorno and his brothers in arms demanded the total “mutual neutralization” of subject and object. Voluntaristically interpreted practice as the “melding together” of subject and object, they put forward as the alternative to matter[44] and the principle of “constructing” experiences as an alternative to the theory of reflection.**

[**In marxist philosophy, consciousness is understood as a reflection of the objective material reality in one’s brain.~MLT]

According to the “negative dialecticians” the inevitable destruction of capitalism means in principle the destruction of all of humanity. The negative dialectics of Adorno has become a tool of the latest marxologists in their struggle against communism. Let us note that according to Adorno the deep meaning of the “Oświęcim model” is that when people (people as such!***) are capable of causing suffering for each other, they are not capable of building communism.

[***Not as members of any particular class or acting on behalf of any particular class, but merely as “people generally”. It is a deeply anti-marxist point of view to look at people in that way.~MLT]

Adorno ends his book by a proclamation of bleak hopelessness: the result of victory of alienation is “always worse then that which was overcome”, i.e. when self-alienation and “desperation are the final historically and socially determined ideology”[45].

Already in 1930 in his article On the Problem of the Dialectic Marcuse condemned the neo-hegelian “tragic dialectic” of Arthur Liebert and Siegfried Mark for not being tragic enough. Their philosophy supposedly preserved contradictions in a state of tension instead of recognizing them as always moving towards disaster [46]. Sense of doom and catastrophe received a philosophical form in Adorno’s negative dialectics.

Another form of the social-philosophy of the Frankfurt School is the work of American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. In his books Escape from Freedom (1941), The Sane Society (1940), Marx’s Concept of Man (1963) etc. he accepts the basic tenets of critical social theory and combines them more then Marcuse to neo-freudism. He sharply criticizes modern bourgeois civilization and describes people living in it as altogether “sick creatures”. Fromm attempts to explain the processes of class struggle through freudian pansexualism. He describes as his mission, the “uniting” of freudism and marxism.

The primary focus of Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) representative of the second generation of the Frankfurt School are the effects of the scientific-technological revolution on social relations and human life. Of his books Theory and Practice (1963) and Knowledge and Human Interests (1968) should be mentioned. Basing himself on the thought of Weber and American sociologist Talcott Parsons, Habermas began interpreting from a subjectivist point of view the categories of historical materialism, replacing them with psychological categories of “interest” and “subjective interaction”. As the positive motor of his program he put forward the hope that capitalism could become self-regulating. Thus he moved from the fake-leftist arguments of the frankfurtians, to the typical positions of bourgeois reformists. In the 1960s in West Germany there was a debate which received a lot of attention, between “dialecticians” and “humanists” (i.e. representatives of the Frankfurt School) on the one hand, and supporters of “scientism” and “critical rationalists” (positivists and supporters of Popper) on the other. During the course of the debate the differences between the two sides grew smaller and smaller, and Habermas who participated in the debate soon became a typical ecclectic-reformist.

Despite the efforts of the bourgeois press the teachings of the Frankfurt School arrived in the 1970s to a deep crisis. Its second generation was ideologically closest to the social-democratic party. After losing its relevance in bourgeois philosophy proper, where their teachings were challenged by structuralism, postivism and religious philosophical trends as well as phenomenology and hermeneutics, the ideas of the Frankfurt School still received new supporters. They were mainly taken up by revisionists who were drawn to anthropologism and petit-bourgeois ideologists looking for a “third road” in politics. These ideas remain suitable tools of ideological sabotage aimed against socialist countries.



——————–

[Note on the translation: The text is translated from Finnish by myself. Quotes by Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse are taken directly from English translations of their work, except the quote from ‘The Concept of Negation in the Dialectic’ by Marcuse, which I couldn’t find and therefore had to translate myself.]



Footnotes

36. Cf. Die Gesellschaft, 8/1932

37. H. Marcuse, Hegel Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, 2. edition, New York 1954, pp. 433-434.

38. M. Horkheimer and Th. W. Adorno. Dialektik der Aufklärung. Philosophische Fragmente, Frankfurt am Main 1969, s. 7

39. H. Marcuse. Ideen zu einer kritischen Theorie der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main 1969, s. 186-189

40. Th. W. Adorno, Negative Dialektik, Frankfurt am Main 1966, s. 395.

41. Marx-Engels, Selected works (6 volumes), volume 6, p. 401, Finnish edition [Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy~MLT].

42. Cf. V. I. Lenin, Works, Volume 38, p. 185, Finnish edition.

43. Adorno, Mts. 191

44. “Not abstract matter but the concreteness of societal practice (?) is the real focus of the materialist theory” (A. Schmidt, Der Naturbegriff in der Lehre von Marx, Frankfurt am Main 1962, s. 30)

45. Adorno, Mts. 371, 364.

46. Cf. Die Gesellschaft, Berlin, 1/1930, s. 15-18




The Most Recent Chapter in Anti-Communist Persecution in Poland

Communist Party of Poland was created in 2002 on the basis of the Union of Polish Communists “Proletariat”, which had existed since 1990 and was liquidated by the state authorities. The CPP was reestablished on the base of previous communist movement in contrary to opportunistic and technocratic line of the main left wing party – Alliance of Democratic Left (SLD) that includes former leadership of the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR) which has participated in bourgeois governments dismantling socialism and reestablishment of capitalism in Poland.
(cf. https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/Communist-Party-of-Poland/)

March 31st 2016. The lower court of Dąbrowa Górnicza sentenced four members of the communist party of Poland with fines and nine months of community service. The charges dealt with “propaganda of the communist ideology” in the Brzask paper and on the party’s website. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) demanded the banning of the communist party of Poland on the pretext that the party’s program is unconstitutional, and the banning of the Brazsk newspaper.

In February 2018 the Polish government tried to implement a law proposed by the ruling PiS party, which would’ve made it a crime to blame Polish fascists for the holocaust. The law did not deny the holocaust, but it said Polish fascists were not to blame for it, only fascists of other countries such as Germany. However, the law was reversed due to international criticism.

In 2018 the Communist Party of Poland gave the following interview to Unsere Zeit, paper of the German Communist Party, regarding the continuing persecution of communists in Poland. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

“Our situation at the moment is difficult. Three members of the party, two of whom are editors of the party’s paper Brzask, are being charged with “propaganda in favor of a totalitarian system”. Our party is under threat of being outlawed. According to the media the minister of justice, has ordered the public prosecutor to collect evidence that the activity of the communists violates the constitution.

In Poland, charges against communists are not a new phenomena. In earlier years there have been several attempts to ban our party. However, during the two years of the current right-wing government the attempts have intensified.

Anti-communism is part of the government’s ideology and its goal is the complete banning of communist activity. For example the government has accepted laws to rename streets whose earlier names dealt with working class history and ordered the removal of anti-fascist monuments from public places. That decision received opposition from many local government organs and also from many people who are not politically on the left.

The Communist Party of Poland is for the time being, a legally recognized political party and continues to operate by holding meetings, frequently publishing the Brzask-newspaper and continuing its activity on the internet. We are ready to face the persecutions.

On 25th of May 2018 Sotirios Zarianopoulos, member of the European Parliament representing the Greek Communist Party, made the following statement to the EU Commission:

After banning communist symbols and prosecuting and putting on trial members of the rank and file of the Polish Communist Party for disseminating their ideas through the ‘Brzask’ newspaper — measures which are still ongoing — the Polish authorities have initiated the prosecution of a professor who, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, held a conference on Marxism at the University of Szczecin. This new prosecution is unacceptable. Brandishing a mandate from the public prosecutor, the police invaded the conference being held on the university’s premises, seeking, as they claimed, evidence to substantiate the provocative charge of ‘promoting totalitarianism.’

With this fresh act of persecution, the Polish Government is continuing the anti-communist frenzy being whipped up by the EU and the governments of other countries, while pursuing attacks on workers’ rights. In view of the above, can the Commission say:

What view does it take of the provocative prosecutions and trials on trumped up charges initiated by the Polish authorities which in effect deny the Polish Communist Party the right to exchange ideas and engage in political expression and action?”

(source: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-002860_EN.html)

Naturally this question was rhetorical. The EU is an instrument of the imperialist bourgeoisie, and fully stands behind the anti-communist measures. The statement by the Greek Communist Party was merely meant to draw attention to the anti-communist persecution, and expose the EU commission as the reactionaries that they are.


In 2018 and 2019 demonstrations were held in front of Polish embassies in the UK, Russia, Finland, Greece, Belgium, Spain and other countries to protest the anti-communist persecutions. Other Polish leftists including social-democrats and trotskyists joined in solidarity with the Communist Party of Poland, to support them against the government.
(sources:
https://strajk.eu/trwaja-represje-wobec-komunistow-dzialacze-kpp-ciagani-po-sadach-partii-grozi-delegalizacja/
http://www.idcommunism.com/2020/03/hands-off-communists-of-poland-protests-across-the-world-against-persecutions-in-poland.html)

In early 2019 the Dąbrowa Górnicza regional court gave the Communists a verdict of not guilty. The Communist Party of Poland made the following statement to fellow communists who had supported them through the anti-communist persecution:

Dear Comrades,

On 18. of january the regional court of Dąbrowa Górnicza released the communist party of Poland’s paper Brzask and the party’s website of the accusation of “advocating totalitarianism”. This persecution is part of an anti-communist campaign launched by the state, aimed at outlawing the communist party of Poland. The trial began three years ago, after the Law and Justice (PiS) party gained power and one of their parliamentary deputees made accusations against the KPP demanding it to be outlawed. At the end of 2015 the three member editorial board of Brzask and the administrator of the website were prosecuted. When the courtcase began the prosecutor was under the authority and political supervision of the PiS party and attacks against the court’s objectivity began.

In its ruling the court stated that the accusation was too general and loose and was only based on a small number of articles and sentences taken out of their proper context. The evidence presented did not demonstrate that any crime had taken place. The ruling also stated that advocating communism is not the same as advocating a totalitarian system.

This ruling is a great victory for our party, but the battle is far from over. We must be prepared in order to repel the next attacks.

The communist party of Poland gives its thanks to all the comrades and parties that gave their solidarity to our party and took part in preventing its outlawing.”

It was understood the persecution and court cases would continue. This was again, only a temporary defensive victory of the Polish working class.

On March 17, 2020, the District Court in Dąbrowa Górnicza (without the presence of the defendants due to the epidemic in force) discontinued the proceedings, however, charged the defendants with part of the court costs and obliged each of the accused to pay PLN 1000 to the “Victims Assistance Fund”. So they were not convicted, but fined! The judgment is not final. The accused comrades announced an appeal against the sentence.”
(source: https://kom-pol.org/brzask/)

The communists do not advocate for totalitarianism and haven’t broken any laws, so the reactionaries want to change the laws to simply ban communism outright.
(cf. https://www.transform-network.net/en/blog/article/communists-in-court-the-heresy-trial-based-on-article-13-of-the-polish-constitution/)

The most recent development in these lawsuits against the Communist Party and their newspaper was announced on October 13th 2020, when the Katowice court denied the Communist Party’s appeal, and ordered editors of their Brzask-newspaper to pay fines despite not being convicted, and to stop their “totalitarian” political activities. If they continue, the case can be re-opened. A working class perspective is criminalized as “totalitarian”, yet, the right-wing capitalist government carrying out this witch-hunt against communists, is somehow not being totalitarian.

The Communist party is still allowed to exist legally for the time being, but it is certain that the reactionaries will not give up this easily. The PiS party has already taken steps to change the communist laws, and secure their control of the courts so they can force the kinds of decisions they want. And are the Communists supposed to stop being Communists, because the court has now ordered them to do so? The only result we can expect, is that Communists will continue trying to fight for the rights of workers, and the capitalist government will continue to try to stop them.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING:

https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/Communist-Party-of-Poland/
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-002860_EN.html
https://strajk.eu/trwaja-represje-wobec-komunistow-dzialacze-kpp-ciagani-po-sadach-partii-grozi-delegalizacja/
http://www.idcommunism.com/2020/03/hands-off-communists-of-poland-protests-across-the-world-against-persecutions-in-poland.html
https://www.transform-network.net/en/blog/article/communists-in-court-the-heresy-trial-based-on-article-13-of-the-polish-constitution/
https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/03/21/in-yet-an-another-attack-on-communists-polish-court-imposes-fine-on-editors-of-brzask/
https://kom-pol.org/2020/05/21/nie-skazano-ale-ukarano-redakcje-brzask/

Read Brzask at https://kom-pol.org/brzask/

The “Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory debunked

Nazism believes that there is a secret conspiracy of jews aiming for world domination. They also believe that communism is part of this jewish conspiracy. What are the origins and basis of this idea?

Origins of the Judeo-Bolshevik Conspiracy Theory

Nazism did not invent this anti-semitic ideology, in reality Nazism has copied this idea from previous belief systems.


The Russian hardline monarchist reactionary group “the Black Hundreds” were early proponents of the theory of a Jewish global conspiracy. The Black Hundreds were extremely anti-semitic and in 1903 they published a book titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document supposedly by the jews detailing their plan for world domination.

Anti-semitism of this type was more rampant in Russia then in most countries and “pogroms”, the rounding up and killing of jews and other minorities such as armenians, tatars etc. were common in Russia in those times.

After the Russian revolution of 1917 many czarists and Black Hundreds began emigrating from Russia to the United States and Germany. In the USA they formed a political organization known as the Union of Czarist Army and Navy Officers. In 1919 the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated into English.

A well known reactionary and supported of Black Hundred ideology was Alfred Rosenberg, the son of rich landowner living in Estonia in the Russian Empire. After the Russian revolution, Rosenberg who considered himself ethnically German, emigrated to Germany together with many other czarist emigres. There he helped to disseminate the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the anti-semitic czarist ideology in Germany. Up to 400,000 White Guard Russians moved to Germany.

Of course, Rosenberg would later become the leading early ideologist of the Nazi Party.

“In June 1921, a group of former Czarist officers, industrialists and aristocrats called an International Anti-Soviet Conference at the Reichenhalle in Bavaria. The conference, which was attended by representatives from anti-Soviet organizations throughout Europe, drew up plans for a world-wide campaign of agitation against Soviet Russia.

A “Supreme Monarchist Council” was elected by the Conference. Its function was to work for “the restoration of the monarchy, headed by the lawful sovereign of the Romanov house, in accordance with the fundamental laws of the Russian Empire.”

The infant National Socialist Party of Germany sent a delegate to the Conference. His name was Alfred Rosenberg.”
(Kahn & Sayers, Great Conspiracy)

The anti-semitic, conspiratorial views of the Nazis and the contemporary neo-nazi movement thus largely originated from monarchist reactionary Russians.

A wealthy industrial capitalist, Arnold Rechberg met with Rosenberg and took a liking to him. Rechberg introduced Rosenberg to another one of his proteges: an austrian police informant named Adolf Hitler. The capitalist Rechberg was already providing funds for Hitler’s brown shirt organization that attacked striking workers and labour unions.

“Rechberg and his wealthy friends purchased an obscure newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and turned it over to the Nazi movement. The publication became the official organ of the Nazi Party. As its editor, Hitler appointed Alfred Rosenberg.” (Ibid.)

In the 1920s half a million copies of the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion were published by the wealthy American capitalist Henry Ford who helped to spread anti-semite ideology in the USA. Ford also supplied millions of dollars of funds to the German Nazi Party.

The ideology of the Nazis, as well as their funding and support, came from the monarchists and capitalists, i.e. the rich elite.


The Russian Civil War

During the Russian civil war the White Guard reactionaries, czarists and capitalists decided to incorporate their previous idea of a jewish conspiracy to the fight against communism. Since the Whites were fighting a war against the communists, in Russia, a country with widespread anti-semitism that was a remnant of czarism, the White Guards decided it would be very useful to use anti-semitism as a weapon in the civil war against the Communists. They attacked the Communists as puppets of the jews.

In 1918-1920 more then a dozen capitalist countries sent troops to help the White Guard russians in the civil war. The United States, Japan, France, Great Britain, Canada and others sent hundreds of thousands of troops to aid the capitalist White Guards.

The Capitalist media in the West published slanderous lies against the Russian Communists. They claimed that the Bolsheviks wanted to abolish the family, abolish marriage and nationalize women, that the Bolsheviks were anarchists and jews. These ridiculous claims were presented by mainstream capitalist media outlets and capitalist politicians of western countries. When it comes to the anti-semitic claims, the Nazis directly copied this from the capitalist media
and the Russian reactionaries.

This is what the capitalist press stated in the Western countries, in Britain:

“This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupth [Founder of illuminati] to those of Karl Marx… this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation… has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th century.”
(Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 1920)

And in America:

“[T]he three great parties of Russia are led by Jews… Bolshevism had been planned years ago by Jews” (The Dearborn Independent, 1920)


Notice that both of those writings are from as early as 1920, same time as the creation of the Nazi party by the capitalists.


Anti-semitism was widespread in Europe and Russia, increased partly by jewish immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The term “jewish bolshevism” was first invented by a White Guard publication of the same name in 1917. Soon it was spread to capitalist media by white emigres and this belief was picked up by the Nazi party which was founded soon after.

Most of these blatantly false claims have since been abandoned even by the capitalist propagandists themselves. The Protocols were soon proven to be a hoax and a forgery. However the jewish conspiracy idea still remains among neo-nazis. They still cling to this capitalist invention.

Neo-Nazis believe that the world is ruled by the jews, and that the Nazis are the only ones who know the truth. They believe that the communists and capitalists alike are all servants of the jews. Ironically, the myth of the jewish conspiracy was itself created by the capitalists and utilized against communism. The Nazis themselves are acting as uniwitting tools of capitalism, but in this case the capitalists have moved on, and left the jew conspiracy behind.

Hitler claimed that communism was a jewish ideology. He claimed to be a socialist, but in reality he was defending the private property rights of his capitalist backers. It is no coincidence that Hitler attacked all real socialists as jews. When the Western imperialists turned against him he also attacked them as jews. “Wallstreet jewish bankers”. But this was simply an opportunist lie. The capitalists, including Western capitalists and bankers like Henry Ford were exactly the ones who created Hitler, who funded his party and who created the propaganda that Hitler copied and disseminated.


The myth of Jewish Bolshevism

Now let us examine the claims of modern neo-nazism. A typical claim they make is that the Russian Bolshevik party was allegedly a jewish puppet and filled with Jews.

Robert Wilton was a British journalist reporting for several Western newspapers as their Russian correspondent during the Russian Civil War. Wilton had served with the Russian army during the First World War and was a strong supporter of the Russian White Army sharing their ideological views including anti-semitism. Wilton had also supported the failed military coup by the White General Kornilov. Wilton’s writings are another significant part of the modern neo-nazi mythology surrounding the Judeo-Bolshevism Conspiracy Theory. He is possibly the most cited source for the erroneous claim that the Bolshevik Party and Government were controlled by Jews and mostly consisted of Jews.

He wrote in 1919: “Bolshevism is not Russian – it is essentially non-national, its leaders being almost entirely the race that lost its country and its nationhood long ago” (Wilton, Russia’s Agony)

In 1921 Wilton put forward the following figures, which have been widely cited by neo-nazis. I quote from a widely circulated neo-nazi article “The Jewish Role in the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s Early Soviet Regime”:

“The 62 members of the [Central] Committee were composed of five Russians… and 41 Jews.

“The Extraordinary Commission [Cheka or Vecheka] of Moscow was composed of 36 members… two Russians, eight Latvians, and 23 Jews.

“The Council of the People’s Commissars numbered… three Russians, and 17 Jews.”


How accurate are these numbers? The answer is: not accurate at all. In fact it seems difficult to find any basis for them. The numbers are almost entirely fabricated.

I’m not going to go through all of the false information put forth by Wilton, but I will give you an idea of just how inaccurate his findings are:

Wilton claimed that out of 22 People’s Comissars three were Russians and 17 Jews. In reality the only jewish Comissar was Trotsky.

Wilton includes a number of fabricated names in his list of supposed people’s comissars, he removed people who were Russians and included people who Jewish such as Zinoviev even if they were not actually People’s Comissars at all.

The People’s Comissars in 1917:

Chairman: V. I. Lenin (1/4 Russian, Tatar, German, Jewish)
Commissar of Agriculture: V. P. Milyutin (Russian)
Commissars of Army and Navy: V. A. Ovseyenko, N. V. Krylenko, P. V. Dybenko (Russians, Ovseyenko was ethnic ukranian)
Commissar of Commerce and Industry: V. P. Nogin (Russian)
Commissar of Education: A. V. Lunacharsky (Ukranian)
Commissar of Food: I. A. Teodorovich (Polish, not jewish)
Commissar of Foreign Affairs: L. D. Trotsky (jewish)
Commissar of Interior: A. I. Rykov (Russian)
Commissar of Justice: G. I. Oppokov (Russian)
Commissar of Labour: A. G. Shlyapnikov (Russian)
Commissar of Nationality Affairs: I. V. Stalin (Georgian)
Commissar of Post and Telegraphs: N. P. Avilov (Russian)
Commissar of Treasury: I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov (Russian)

Wilton claimed that the Soviet government consisted of three Russians and nine jews.

Bronstein (Trotsky), Apfelbaum (Zinoviev), Lurie (Larine), Uritsky, Volodarski, Rosenfeld (Kamenev), Smidovich, Sverdlov (Yankel), and Nakhamkes (Steklov).The three Russians were: Ulyanov (Lenin), Krylenko, and Lunacharsky.”

In reality Lurie, Nakhamkes, Smidovitch, and Volodarski weren’t even in the Central Executive Committee. Wilton claims the government was 12 people, 9 of whom were jews. In reality the government was 15 people and included 4 jews.


Members of the Government (Central Execute Committee):
Artem F. A., Buharin N. I. (Russian), Vladimirskij M. F. (Russian), Dzerzhinskij F. E. (Pole), Zinovjev G. E. (Jew), Krestinskij N. N. (Ukrainian), Lashevich M. M., Lenin V. I. (Russian*), Sverdlov Ja. M. (Jew), Smilga I. T., Sokol’nikov G. Ja. (Jew), Stalin I. V. (Georgian), Stasova E. D. (Russian), Trotskij L. D. (Jew), Shmidt V. V. (German)

*Lenin was Russian but ethnically mixed

Furthermore Wilton claims that:

“According to data furnished by the Soviet press, out of 556 important functionaries of the Bolshevik state… in 1918-1919 there were: 17 Russians… 457 Jews.”


In reality, members of the Bolshevik apparatus were more then 70% Russian. It is true that jews were somewhat over-represented in the Bolshevik party, making up around 5% of the party. However Andre Gerrits points out in his article “The Myth of Jewish Communism” that:

“Jews were not the only ethnic minority over-represented in European Communist parties between the two world wars. So too were Georgians, Armenians and Latvians.”

The reasons for this could be that those ethnic minorities were particularly oppressed and more radicalized. The socialist parties which functioned illegally, tended to have large amounts of intellectuals who were in political exile. This could be one reason why some minorities were somewhat over-represented.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy theory was something created long ago by the rich elites, monarchists and capitalists. Nazis did not invent these ideas, they merely inherited them from the monarchists or received them from the western capitalist press. The Nazis were acting as puppets of the capitalist elite, they got their ideology as well as their funding from them.

These conspiracy theories are crucial to modern day neo-Nazis, but based on nothing. Even a cursory inspection of the most popular and widely cited Nazi sources show them to be inaccurate. There are many movements of people believing in things based on very little evidence or on faith alone, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Nazis would do this.

Some people are misinformed, some are wilfully delusional. We can give people information, but if they are essentially following an entirely faith-based worldview then its probably a waste of time.


Sources and further reading:

The Myth of Jewish Communism
https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=19150

http://holocaust.skeptik.net/misc/party.htm

http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=522197#p522197


A Judeo-Bolshevik Debacle
http://semiticcontroversies.blogspot.com/2008/10/judeo-bolshevik-debacle.html

The Great Conspiracy: The Secret War Against Soviet Russia
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.58240

A century of lies about Russia
https://www.workers.org/2016/12/20/a-century-of-lies-about-russia/

On the protocols of the Elders of Zion
https://www.facinghistory.org/weimar-republic-fragility-democracy/society/protocols-elders-zion-1927-society-antisemitism

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 5: THE WHITE GUARD

suojeluskuntalaisia.jpg

ORIGINS OF THE WHITE GUARD:

The Finnish white guard had 3 or 4 different roots, which eventually merged.

1) The activist committee, a secret nationalist organization. The activist committee organized for thousands of Finns to travel to Germany and train in the German military for a future war with Russia. They would later play a large part and the alliance with Imperial Germany would be crucial for the Whites. The pro-german fanaticism of some capitalists went so far as to support Finland becoming a German protectorate with a German king as the Finnish ruler. Since early 1917 the activist committee was the white guard central command until the creation of the white army.

2) The military committee, an organization created from Finnish officers in the Russian Tsarist military. This would function as the core of the Finnish white army and the leader of the Finnish white army, Mannerheim was also an ex-Tsarist officer.

3) White guards were formed locally to protect the property of the capitalists and landowners from the poor population. The capitalists hoarded large amounts of food while the population starved. The white guards would prevent the food from being taken by the hungry masses. The white guards would attack workers on strike, and also protect strike breakers. Workers would often demonstrate for better conditions and more rights, surrounding government buildings etc. and the capitalist politicians would bring the white guards to break up the demonstrations.

4) The only “legitimate” use for the white guards was to prevent criminality. However in practice they were almost always targeting the working class for political reasons. There was one famous incident of unruly Russian soldiers murdering a Finnish citizen, and this was used as a justification for keeping and strengthening the white guard. However, this too had a political element since the Russian soldiers largely sided with the working class. They were from worker and peasant backgrounds and in most cases had killed their Tsarist officers during the February revolution. The remaining Tsarist officers looked to the white guards for protection.

In reality there was no need for a white guard police force since there already existed a militia specifically for this purpose. The problem with the militia was that it had a large working class presence and the capitalists couldn’t use it to break strikes, attack innocent workers and demonstrations. The militia itself would sometimes go on strike to demand bread and political rights.

“In the cities the police was dismantled in early April [1917] and replaced by a worker militia or in other ways brought under working class control. In different parts of the country mass meetings of workers demanded unpopular officials to step down. The power structure was flipped on its head…” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.188)

“The influence of the organized workers was also demonstrated by the fact that… the [tsarist] police was replaced by a newly formed militia, the man power and leadership of which was formed primarily by organized workers” (Hyvönen, pp. 42-43)

The militia was perfectly suited for preventing crime but was not sufficient for the capitalists to maintain their repression of the organized workers. The capitalists needed to create a fully anti-worker military force, which would in every situation side with the rich elites against the people. This is why the white guard was created.

“During the strikes of Spring and Summer the workers had already gotten a taste of what… strong [bourgeois] rule of law meant; white guards had shot and beaten unarmed strikers. It was known that the bourgeoisie was training and arming their class guards against the working class movement. With these armed forces the bourgeoisie planned to crush the working class organizations, to strip workers of the right to assemble etc…” (Hyvönen, p.84)

Another example was also the demonstration of August 1917 in Malmi, a municipality near Helsinki:

“In Malmi, near Helsinki, workers surrounded the municipal building on 13. of August [1917] to get their demands passed. About thirty white guard soldiers arrived from Helsinki to save the surrounded officials… the white guards together with ex-members of the tsarist police beat the workers with their batons.* …In Spring and early Summer the class struggle had not yet resulted in any deaths, although some were wounded, but in August there were the first casualties.

The food question was still to be solved. On the night of 14. of August the municipal workers of Helsinki began a strike demanding action to save especially the elder, sick and children from famine and starvation.** The Senate did not take any action.” (Holodkovski, p.39)

* source: I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918, p. 77
** source: Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.

“In the Spring and Summer of 1917 the Finnish working masses mobilized to improve their poor living conditions and to carry out those necessary reforms which the bourgeoisie, allying itself with the Tsar attempted to prevent at all cost, especially the 8-hour working day and to gain at least some working class representation in the municipal organs. Now the bourgeoisie no longer had the tsarist police as their protection; it had been dismantled in the February revolution and in its place had been formed a militia, where the workers in all population centers had a significant influence. The bourgeoisie did not yet have large amounts of armed class organizations with the exception of the few secret activist [committee] organizations. For this reason the bourgeoisie had to give itself to the merciful protection of the Russian provisional government… to prevent the working class movement from carrying out its democratic reforms. This attempt to gain protection from the provisional government didn’t stop at advocating the provisional government’s right to interfere in Finnish affairs, the bourgeoisie also wanted the armed forces of the provisional government to attack the working class movement. This happened in connection with several strikes.

The newspaper “The worker” reported on 24. of April 1917 that the director of Lehtoniemi machine workshop owned by baron Wrede had sent a message to the Soviet of Russian soldiers in Helsinki mostly humbly asking to send soldiers to protect the “state property” held by the workshop “from possible damage”. A similar attempt to provoke Russian soldiers to attack striking workers happened e.g. during the shipbuilders’ strike in Helsinki; the bourgeoisie accused the workers of supposedly being armed and preventing work. Also during the municipal strike of Rauma the bourgeoisie encouraged Russian soldiers to attack peaceful striking workers. As late as August [1917] when the bourgeoisie also had their white guard projects well under way, and had thousands of rifles from Germany the bourgeoisie in Oulu attempted to provoke Russian soldiers to attack the workers holding a meeting at the workers’ club.

In all these cases the soviets of Russian soldiers investigated the situation and recognized them as attempts to end the workers’ struggles for rights by drowning them in blood.

When the bourgeoisie saw its own powerlessness before the masses and when the Russian soldiers even sided with the democratic rights of the workers, it began organizing its armed forces to stifle the workers’ struggle. It wasn’t satisfied with only secretly arming itself, but began using armed forces against unarmed workers. Terror attacks against workers’ meetings and strikers became the order of the day.

The worst attacks were faced by agricultural workers and tenant-farmers who had begun demanding improvements in their conditions, an 8-hour working day and in some cases wage increases. The large mansion owners showed their true character by trying to crush the justified demands of the workers. The newspaper “The Worker” reported at the beginning of May that during the strike of the Latokartano Manor owned by Westermarck, the owner… threatened to slaughter the 700 head cattle in its entirety as revenge of the workers’ demands…

Armed strike breaker forces were recruited from old Tsarist police officers, criminal thugs and in general the most reactionary elements of society. In addition reactionary university students, property owners, businessmen and officials were recruited. These strike breaker groups patrolled armed with guns in different villages, terrorizing striking farm-workers.

One of the most heinous attacks against peaceful farm-workers happened in Huittiset on July 13. A group of striking workers was headed to the Huittiset dairy building where the landowners had gathered. When the loose group of workers approached the dairy building, white guard soldires hidden behind piles of logs opened fire on the unarmed workers. Seven strikers were wounded. This information given by the Finnish information bureau was supplemented by a worker newspaper “The Social-Democrat” appearing in Pori at the time, which reported that the strikers had already agreed before hand to not use arms under any circumstances, nor had they been prepared to use arms.

Few days after the massacre in Huittiset another attack against striking workers happened in Suodenniemi. Strikers had peacefully stood on the road and told strike breakers working on the field, who had been gathered from different villages, that they were breaking a strike. At that moment armed strike breakers had attacked the strikers at the instructions of the local constable.” (Hyvönen, pp. 43-46)

Peltola and Suodenjoki refer in their book to another bourgeois historian Viljo Rasila, and verify that “Near the end of the large strike in Suodenniemi, there was a conflict… fought using staffs, cudgels and scythes… Strike breakers got the upper hand and two farm-workers suffered serious injuries.**” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.205)

* Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)
** Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Peltola and Suodenjoki also state that for example in the municipality Satakunta “…strikes were the main reason for the creation of the white guard.” (p.211)

“In the cities the bourgeoisie began already in the Spring to create their armed class guards. The bourgeoisie had threatened to use these guards already… but didn’t have the courage yet. On 17. of August at the Helsinki stock exchange building, white guards disguised as militia men attacked workers demonstrating against the city council, and beat them with batons. Soon the bourgeoisie had organized a nationwide class army to smash the working class movement. The working class press took notice of the bourgeoisie arming itself. The newspaper “The Worker” wrote on 23. of August 1917 stating that due to the [February] revolution, the bourgeoisie had lost their foreign protector [the Russian Tsar] and also the [Tsarist] police… It had begun creating an armed class military.” (Hyvönen, p. 46)

“…[T]o counter food confiscation agricultural producers and other bourgeois citizens began independently creating their own police forces, whose mission was defined as protection of property. This angered the workers… The workers considered the food storages [of the capitalists] to be against the food-supply law and thus considered the “white guards” created to protect them as illegal” [Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 219)

“After the Tsarist gendarmerie had been dismantled and the police replaced by a militia, where the workers held significant influence, and after the Russian troops had gone to the side of revolution, the bourgeoisie realized that it didn’t have any organized armed force to protect itself against the numerically superior and quite well organized working class. This is why already in the Spring of 1917 the bourgeoisie began creating its own fighting forces, whose purpose was supposedly protecting the safety of civilizens and protection of property from vandalism and criminality. Their creation seemed timely and for this reason, even some workers initially joined these organizations (chapters were formed under the name of sport societies and volunteer fire departments and only later they began everywhere to be called white guards)… The bourgeoisie did not admit that the white guards were its class organizations. The white guards were the bourgeoisie’s military force, with which it believed to create the order it desired.

In Southern Finland where the rural workers’ strike movement began to spread already in April and May, white guards were created especially to fight strikes. In Northern Finland they were being created to oppose Russian soldiers [who sided with the workers]. Soon control of the nationwide organization and action of the white guard was given to the secret Activist Committee.

The Activists had already since before WWI kept connections to Germany and organized the sending of couple thousand young Finnish men to Germany for military training. They were preparing a war to separate Finland from Russia with German help, even if that meant Finland would become reliant on Germany. In June 1917 the Activist Committee divided Finland into regions for better coordination of the white guards. In July a central office for the white guards was created. It was located in Helsinki under the harmless sounding false name of “The new forest office”. The central office held secret communication with local organizations as well as Sweden, Germany and the Finnish Jäger battalion… [i.e. the Finnish soldiers serving and being trained in the German army]

For this new army, weapons for 100,000 men were collected in Danzig. In October 1917 explosives were shipped from Umeå [in Sweden] to Vaasa [the secret white Capital in Finland], from where white guard members transported them in fish barrels and their luggage to local organizations. At the end of October the ship “Equity” left from Germany. To camoflage it, the Russian name “Mir” was painted on the ship’s side and a red flag was waving in its mast. This ship brought the white guards large amounts of rifles (some sources say 4500, others 7000), machine guns (according to some sources 30, according to others 100), 2,800,000 bullets, 1500 hand grenades, 2000 pistols and explosives Weapons were secretly bought from Russia through the [white guard] Vyborg regional organization founded in July and in the Autumn through the harmless sounding [white guard organization] Karelian citizen’s league (this league was funded by a banker, a factory owner and four wholesalers) and through the Finland committee founded in Petrograd…

By creating white guards the bourgeoisie started a process which would develop due to its inherent laws logically towards civil war. The workers could not interpret it as anything else then preparation for an armed attack against them. Despite bourgeois propaganda and press saying otherwise, realities spoke a clear message: white guards were being used to break strikes. Workers reacted to the founding of white guards with determination: to avoid being at the mercy of an armed opponent, workers began creating their own peace-keeping forces… for self-defency purposes.”
(Holodkovski, pp. 29-31)

The Activist Committee had wormed itself to the highest levels of the government:

“…[M]ember of the nationalist Activist Committee…[senator] Åkerman… agreed to handle [the bourgeois senate’s] food issues if he was given authority to gather necessary food supplies to suitable locations. [Source: “Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918” I, pp. 294-295]

Food, transportation vehicles and other supplies for a white army were stored in Southern Ostrobothnia in preparation for civil war. The Activist Committee had played an important part in creating the white guards and was now recognized as an official organ of the state, and given responsibility to draft the new conscription law and develop the bourgeois military forces. Ignatius, chairman of the committee that drafted the new conscription law proposed in a meeting of investors and industrialists on 3. of October [1917] that they would provide 3 million marks to fund the white guards. In this meeting 9 million marks worth of checks and bonds were collected.
[Source: Ibid. pp. 295-296]
” (Holodkovski pp. 35-36)

“…alongside the Activist Committee founded in 1915, a Military Committee consisting of ex-Tsarist officers was created and recognized as an official state organ by the Svinhufvud senate on 7. of January [1918]. Gustaf Mannerheim was appointed the committee’s chairman on 15. of January.”
(Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018) https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

THE WHITE ARMY:

Between late 1917 and early 1918 the white guards were organized into an army. The capitalists had collected millions of marks, tens of thousands of weapons, created a secret capital for the future white guard dictatorship, made connections with their foreign allies and assembled a large armed force. The white guard was recognized as the official state military of Finland by the Svinhufvud government. Mannerheim was appointed its commander. Lets examine the composition of this army:

“In the 20 Southern Ostrobothnian white guard detachments 59% of the soldiers were wealthy farmers and their sons, 8% tenant-farmers, 6% farm workers, 21% workers and 6% officials, students etc.” (Holodkovski, p.307)

“On the other hand for example in the Jyväskylä white guard military district the around one third of those who fell in battle were officials, shop-keepers, students and teachers, foremen, doctors and other wealthier people, even a bank director. Another third were landowning farmers and a third tenant-farmers, workers and farm hands. Capitalists, investors and bankers constituted only a tiny minority of the population. While officials, doctors, military men, police officers and other somewhat wealthier people often sided with the whites, the real bulk of the white army consisted of independent farmers, especially wealthy farmers, and their relatives. This army was then enlarged by forced conscription of the poorer classes. ” (Holodkovski, pp.307-308)

“…regarding armed struggle the bourgeoisie could rely on the officials, who spread accross the whole country and thus could form a nationwide organizational network. The city enterpreneurs and intellectuals, as well as technical experts in industry were largely active supporters of bourgeois policy. The nobility and other large landowners were passionate enemies of the working class movement. The influence of the bourgeoisie also spread itself strongly to independent farmers who had been frightened with the notion that the workers wanted to steal the peasantry’s land.

In military matters the bourgeoisie was in an enormously better position, in the amount of trained and experienced officers it had. The so-called “white army” had 11 people with the rank of general… 480 graduates from the old Finnish cadet school. There were 403 officers and 724 NCOs among jägers. The whites received 118 NCOs from the Vöyri military academy. 27 active officers arrived from Sweden. In total the white officer core was 1700 persons. Initially the whites threw 10,000 men at the front. But in February they had to resort to forced conscription, through which they increased the number to 32,000 men.

According to the whites themselves their army was already 10,000 by the end of 1917, 36,000 by April and 70,000 by the end of the war…

The whites also had better weaponry. Already in October of 1917 they received 7000 rifles, large amounts of machine guns, hand-grenades, bullets etc. from Germany. At the end of January the whites also managed to steal 7880 rifles, 1 ,143,000 bullets, 10 machine guns and 12 cannons from the demoralized Russian troops in Northern Finland. Two more weapon shipments arrived from Germany containing 140,000 rifles and more then 83 million bullets, 250 machine guns, 500,000 hand-grenades and 32 cannons with ammunition. On top of all this they received other weapons and equipment of all kinds, such as pistols, radios and field telephones etc.

The whites also had confirmed knowledge about Germany’s intervention since February; at the beginning of March there was already an exact agreement. Furthermore the whites got a Swedish brigade on their side. Individual officers and volunteers arrived from other nordic countries. Russian counter-revolutionary officers also aided the white war effort.” (Hyvönen, pp. 91-92)

SOURCES:

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918

Известия Гельсингфорсского совета депутатов армии и рабочих, 6 (19). VIII. 1917, No 119. (Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.)

Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)

Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa<

H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina

J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917

“Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918”

“Пролетарская революция”, No 2

Luokkasodan muisto, ed. Juho Mäkelä
https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/157351

Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018
https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

“Ilkan ja Poutun pojat. Etelä-pohjalaisten sota-albumi”, ed. A. Leinonen

“Keskisuomalaiset sotapolulla. Kappale Suomen vapaussodan historiaa”, ed. S. Kuusi

Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim

Sosialistit pyrkivät itsenäistämään Suomea jo heinäkuussa 1917 – porvarit harasivat vastaan (https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9710204)