Myth of February 23rd, 1918
by George Levy
especially for PoliSMI
The assassination of two Provisional Government Ministers
On the evening of January 18th the two ministers were taken to the Marie Hospital. That night Red Guards and sailors forced their way into the hospital and brutally murdered them both.
It is true that Izvestia condemned the crime, saying:
“Apart from everything else it is bad from a political point of view. This is a fearful blow aimed at the Revolution, at the Soviet authorities.”
Pavel Dybenko, also condemned the actions and published a remarkable order,
“The honor of the Revolutionary Fleet must not bear the stain of an accusation of revolutionary sailors having murdered their helpless enemies, rendered harmless by imprisonment, I call upon all who took part in the murder…to appear of their own accord before the Revolutionary Tribunal.”
Although it was widely known and reported by news agencies that the sailors and Red Guards who were armed and involved in the murders had gone straight to the hospital from the office of the Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Sabotage, and Profiteering (Cheka). In addition, according to the New York Times …For many, it was generally known that Dzerhzinsky and V. Bonch-Bruyevitch, had some connection with the murders.
The Treaty of Brest Litovsk becomes the avenue to wit Lenin consolidates his power over the Russian peoples. Lenin is determined to assent to the demands of the Germans, which including annexation, indemnities and specifically allows for the Germans to take control of Russian naval vessels. The questions and political differences relating to the Treaty of Brest Litovsk puts into motion the events that will lead to the censorious actions, arrest, and removal of Dybenko from government.
Dybenko’s Waterloo…The Treaty of Brest Litovsk
In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. FD Roosevelt 32nd President of the United States
In mid February 1918 a Central Committee meeting was being held on the question of Peace with the Germans and the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk.
Right away Dybenko voices his opposition to the accord, as Peoples Commissariat of the Navy, he had just formulated a report and presented it to the Sovnarkom entitled:
“The Strategic Situation in the Sea in Case of Active Actions of Germany”
According to the directive of the Naval Board the main bases with all battle and support ships were to be moved from Revel and Helsingfors to Kronstadt. The file was also considered a blueprint of the great Ice March famously coordinated and achieved a couple months later by Admiral Shchastny. However, at this meeting Dybenko is censored…summarily sanctioned by Lenin and not allowed to speak until after a vote had been cast
Others spoke out against and weren’t sanctioned such as Radek,
“We are going to fight, and if we go down fighting the cause of the revolution is saved”
and Uritsky, ‘Would it not be better to die with honor?’
Meanwhile, Kollontai is in Helsingfors attempting to convince the sailors to put forth a vote of no confidence regarding Lenin’s position on the Treaty.
So different was the view of policy, between Lenin’s Peace Party (those Bolsheviks who were in favor of signing the Treaty) and those in opposition that several members of the new government threatened to resign. This group included, Krestinky, Volodarsky, Bronsky, Dybenko, Kollontai, and Bukharin as well as others.
A considerable number in the government still believed that the signing of the peace is; “the suicide of the Russian revolution and the murder of revolution elsewhere”.
Nevertheless, Lenin persuaded the majority to his view and it was decided upon by the Central Executive to conclude peace by 116, against 85, those not voting numbering 26.
Dybenko’s opposition to the treaty does not go unnoticed…
On February 18th, Robert Bender of United Press wrote,
…Sailors of the Russian Baltic fleet, first to join the Petrograd revolution and then jump to the Bolshevik, have broken way to complete anarchism, which is sweeping through Finland.
According to Dr. Ignatus, Finland’s representative here today, the Baltic sailors are now,
“beyond the control of the Petrograd Bolsheviki”
On the February 19th, Jaques Sadoul a member of the French Military Attachment meets with Lenin and Trotsky and interviews the two. Sadoul is aware of the German advance to secure the treaty’s provisions. Sadoul asks Lenin what his feelings about the defense of young Russia is to be. Lenin responds by suggesting, “All those in government who want to do something should stop talking and conclude peace in order to consolidate and extend the revolution.” Sadoul urged upon them a partisan war in order to defend Moscow and Petrograd to the bitter end.
Trotsky seemed to agree, Lenin was not convinced.
On the 20th, a meeting took place in the War Ministry attended by Podvoiskii, Dybenko, Krylenko, and representatives of the General staff. Krylenko reported on the disastrous situation at the front and the difficulties being experienced in mobilizing the population for the defense of Pskov. Podvoiskii raised the issue of tactics, should they he asked fight a partisan or positional war. Dybenko supported the idea of a partisan war but the military advisors present stated there was little evidence supporting such a position. The meeting decided to adopt a conventional positional war as part of its defensive strategy.
Facing absolute subjection at the hands of the advancing Germans, Lenin and Krylenko took the steps to initiate a nominal defense against the invaders of their country. Their orders directed that guerrilla warfare be carried on and that Petrograd be placed in a state of siege. The defense of Russia would be carried on by a partisan war.
On the 21st, Lenin writes, ‘The Socialist Fatherland is in Danger’, calling for the country’s entire manpower and resources to be placed entirely at the service of revolutionary defense and that all soviets and revolutionary organizations are ordered to defend every position to the last drop.
Dybenko, still in opposition to Lenin’s views goes to Helsingfors and recruits two thousand sailors to help stem the tide of the advancing Germans. Dybenko tells his sailors the peace negotiations with Germany are wrecked. He goes on to declare in the plenary meeting that Trotsky has deranged the negotiations, which to some people, he included, found shameful and humiliating.
The next day on the 22nd order № 78 on revolutionary mobilization was issued.
Dybenko finds the midshipman Pavlov and appoints him chief of the composite detachment urgently formed to defend Russia from the advancing Germans. The first Northern detachments of the Baltic sailors would be created and were advised that they are going to be sent to the Narva region.
Also on the 22nd news from Petrograd hit the wires, This dispatch is especially telling as those in charge of “official dispatches” call for Dybenko’s dismissal “prior to” the events of February 23rd.
“Disorganization in the Russian Navy has reached an extreme point, and there is no likelihood of any order being obeyed.”
Headlines read, Afraid of Anarchist Riots and Ultra-Radicals Gaining Control of Navy
And then the story line, Anarchists Control Fleet.
New of the fleet is still more disquieting. The anarchist movement in it is gaining ground. Demands are being made for the dismissal of M.Dybenko, the People’s Commissar of Marine.
Meanwhile, at the Narva District and confronting the German advance Dybenko meets up with P.M. Bulkin who is chief of the group of sailors and soldiers retreating from Revel. Bulkin gives Dybenko a copy of his report sent to the Naval Board. Dybenko read, “All army units are demoralized, we are almost alone, those who stand to the end and defend the Soviet Republic. We asked for an additional 500 (or how many you have) sailors…..”, Bulkin went on to state the Germans kept bringing new reinforcements as his detachment continued to diminish.
The remains of Bulkin’s detachment were joined with the Northern Battalion of Dybenko’s.
The first fight the Northern Battalion was involved in took place near the small village of Ivveve. The fight lasted all day and all night on the 2nd of March. The air was cool and the snow thick making for a difficult engagement. The echelon of sailors met the Germans with two armored vehicles on platforms prepared to halt the advance.
The fighting of the battalion held in check many of advance attempts of the enemy. However, as with Bulkins units in Revel, no matter how many of the enemies were shot down they were always able to bring in more reinforcements. The battalion met the challenge of the enemy for what seemed like hours.
Then during one point of the fever pitched battle there was an explosion that rocked the earth. After the smoke cleared, the engineer driver and his assistant were killed and ten sailors seriously wounded. The sailors took up a defensive position. The fighting proved difficult without light artillery and reinforcements.
On the morning of March 3rd, the Germans began advancing with two columns, one along the railway and the other to the North along the Revel highway. It was early, the exhausted Northern Detachment were prepared. The Germans walked into a hornet’s nest. Fierce fighting took place near Vayvara-Korf. ...The fight continued with Dybenko, Pavlov, and Bulkin leading the detachment of sailors and soldiers from the Putilovsky plant through the thick snow attacking several times.
Brave Russians advanced several kilometers attacking the right flank of the Germans near Primorsky sector near Narva , The teutons column advancing from the north won over the Russian troops that were fighting there and in this way created the threat for Dybenko’s detachment of being turned from the rear. With no hope for reinforcements and over 500 dead and many more wounded, Dybenko was forced to retreat
One of the leaders of Dybenko’s detachment recalled, “the Supreme military council and specifically Bonch-Bruevitch provoked them on many occasions. The latter one kept promising to procure the sailors with everything they needed to fight but failed to do so. According to this commissar the Red Army units didn’t just fail to help the sailors but moreover they were intentionally precluding them from organizing proper defense, while the sailors had no ammunition left the Red Army soldier had way too much and they spared them till it was too late to use them”. Dybenko, Pavlov, Bulkin, and the remaining Northern Battallion retreat to Yamburg.
At Yamburg, Parskii informs Dybenko of the change of command; news not only to Dybenko but his whole staff. According to Tshekin just hours earlier in direct line talks with Lurie in Petrograd it was known that Parskii arrived yesterday and only as a member of the military headquarters, as far as he knew, the commander was and is still Dybenko.
Parskii via telegraph goes on to ask for confirmation of his authority and how to deal with this brazen and impertinent Dybenko. Bonch-Bruyevich recalls he was “alarmed” and gave a detailed report to Lenin.
Archival materials reveal the decision to remove Dybenko as Narva’s Commander…was made by Lenin and his associates prior to any conflicts at Narva…furthermore; in three separate telegrams sent by Parskii to the “front office” not once is there a reference to alcohol abuse. Quite contrary, the telegrams detail retreating Red Army units not mentioning or referring once to the sailors echelons.
In M. Bonch-Bruyevich’s memoirs, “I was not privy to the contents that Lenin wrote in his telegram to Dybenko but I can tell you the next morning, I received a telegram from Dybenko in Yamburg which rather amused me.” The telegram read,
“I transfer command to his Excellency General Parskii”
using the cancelled Tsar’s time title to make it sound more sarcastic.
The next day February 25th Lenin published, A Painful But Necessary Lesson, where upon he derides both Shtienberg and Dybenko. The latter was referred to in the following.
…On the other hand there have been the painful and humiliating reports of regiments refusing to retain their positions, of refusal to defend even the Narva Line, and of disobedience to the order to destroy everything in the event of a retreat, not to mention the running away, the chaos, ineptitude, helplessness, and sloviness.
Dybenko wondered, “On whose lap should the term “shameful position” lie upon?”
Three days later on the 28th of February still more covert actions are taken to discredit Dybenko…Through official statement Krylenko reports to the press…
( the following statement underlies the course of action Lenin, Trotsky, Krylenko, etc. take to discredit Dybenko and the Sailors. The article should be disseminated and reviewed sentence by sentence…in doing so one begins to understand the path in which Lenin and his associates intend to take…furthermore, not once does the politically powerful mention “sailors” unless of course it benefits them. In this article…if one replaces Russian troops, Russian peasant soldiers, and Russian army with ‘sailors’ one sees the preparation to do away with the sailors influence. Additionally, a slight toward Dybenko’s peasant roots is referred to an attempt to minimize Dybenko.)
“Russian troops, almost without exception, have refused flatly to fight. A division, which was supposed to be defending Narva, has arrived at Gatchina. They replied they did not intend to fight’. “Immediately the first few German troops appeared, the Russian peasant soldiers who, being peasants, not industrialists, were interested merely in the land question and cared nothing for the revolution, started eastward in an uncontrollable wave, threatening to suck all the towns on the way. The Russian army was Germany’s strongest weapon. In driving it towards Petrograd they were driving a herd of stampeding cattle, which would trample down everything in its way. The revolutionary workmen could have put up a real fight against the German, but they could do nothing against the Russian army, which must disappear before the revolution can begin to create any real military force for itself. The workmen of the towns are eager to fight.
Dybenko returns first to Petrograd and takes in the machinations that are taking place against him. He finds plenty of individuals in opposition to Lenin’s designs to convince the Bolsheviki into signing the peace with Germany.
The peace party, headed by Premier Lenin, insists that real defense being out of the question in view of the complete collapse of the army, it is better to accept the German terms and thus render it possible for the Soviet Government to maintain itself on limited territory and continue its work of fostering a world revolution which will ultimately upset all the plans of the German Imperialists.
The opposition party urges that once Russia is completely delivered into the hands of the powerful Imperialists of Germany it will be impossible to maintain Soviet rule to any serious extent on Russian territory, and that it would be better to retire fighting into the depths of Russia than to consent formally to the present humiliation. Within the opposition party, is a majority of Left Social Revolutionaries and a faction of the Bolsheviki headed by Radek, Dybenko, Kollontai, and Riazanov who are still for revolutionary war.
Lenin wrote, “Since the conclusion of the Brest peace, some comrades who call themselves “Left Communists” have formed an “Opposition” in the Party, and in consequence of this their activity is slipping further and further towards a completely disloyal and impermissible violation of Party discipline. Unrelenting, are those in the opposition…Lenin continues that “such behavior was and remains a step towards a split on the part of the above-mentioned comrades”.
Lenin avoids and does not allow himself to be seen on the streets of Petrograd by those he disparaged. People whom he had damned as compromisers and fence-sitters in the past founded a newspaper directed against him. This daily newspaper, The Kommunist, for which Radek and Bukharin, Kollontai and Dybenko all wrote, published just eleven issues between March 5th and March 19th.
The political atmosphere is on edge as the culmination of matters will be determined in Moscow at the Fourth All-Congress of the Soviets. Dybenko’s future will be assigned to the outcome of the vote on the Treaty. Lenin and Trotsky are fervently working to rid themselves of the leader of the “armed fist of the revolution”. To this end and behind the scenes Lenin and others are secretly arranging their “victory”. Unfortunately for Great October and the people of Russia the outcome will be one that takes Russia into a dark abyss for over seventy years. The contest for and against ratification is now between the Left Socialist Revolutionaries in conjunction with part of the Bolsheviki calling themselves the “Left Communists” versus another part of the Bolsheviki, the so-called peace party led by Lenin.
From his office, Lenin undeterred by the opposition party to which he now referred to as “waverer’s” sent out a statement via Moscow Dispatch, “The Congress,’ it says, “will recognize that the policy of the Soviet Government in the questions of war and peace was the right one. It will recognize that it was impossible to carry on the war when the country had no army. The congress will also face the main outlines of a policy of economic reconstruction and complete the recuperation of the forces for the purpose of repelling predatory imperialism. And this program the Soviet Government must put into execution on the day after the final conclusion of peace.”
Lenin would not be denied…the Moscow Congress finished its business in no less than three days…the Congress ratified the peace treaty…true, there was opposition, and there were short and sharp arguments between Lenin and his critics.
The Left Social Revolutionary Commissary for Justice, Steinberg, was particularly vehement in his condemnation of the disgraceful peace. He urged that by ratification the Soviet Government would gain nothing and that peace was a complete betrayal of the interests of Great October. Commissar Dybenko stated he was convinced of the necessity of the revolutionary war, believing that the truce with the German imperialists doesn’t save Soviet power brought about by the revolution.
In the final tally the voting was 704 for, 261 against, while 115 abstained from voting….the Congress also voted to transfer the capital to Moscow, and would go on to re-elected the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets.
Prior to the Congress and while still in Petrograd a special Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee of seven members had been formed with Leon Trotzky as President. With Lenin’s sweeping changes in government in store Krylenko will resign his military portfolio in expectation of acquiring Shteinberg’s Minister of Justice position.
At the Fourth All-Russian Congress, Lenin raised the question of who should run the military administration. Who, asked Lenin, was capable of creating a new military organization that would be able to resist the enemy’s regular army? Who could breathe life into an old army? Lenin went on to state the German offensive of the previous month had shown that the triumvirate governing the Commissariat for Military Affairs: Krylenko, Podvoiskii, and Dybenko—were not up to handling the difficult task of creating a regular army. Lenin declared the current triumvirate held leftist views on military organization that he did not approve of. Lenin further stated he was not prepared to put a military expert of the old school in charge either, as it would be unacceptable to both the army and the people. (Note Lenin does not mention the navy) After so-called long deliberation with confidants, Lenin states Trotsky is the answer.
Trotsky recalled this event by writing,
“Not until March 13 was there a public announcement of my resignation from the commissariat of foreign affairs, coinciding with the announcement of my appointment as war commissary and as chairman of the Supreme War Council, formed only a little while before on my initiative. Thus Lenin achieved his end after all.”
These declarations of Lenin’s show the target for removal was Dybenko for Krylenko and Podvoiskii were two of Lenin’s most ardent supporters and the two would take an active role in the discredit of Dybenko. The only member of this triumvirate, which held so-called “leftist” views was Dybenko; as one has read based upon numerous disagreements including the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. Furthermore, if a military expert of the old school i.e. Parskii was unacceptable to both the army and the people, why wouldn’t such a man be rejected by Dybenko and the sailors. What were Trotsky’s qualifications to lead such an administration? These questions would not be asked nor answered.
After the All-Russian Congress, Lenin chairs a meeting with the People’s Commissars in order to “officially” indict Dybenko on the charges that will be presented against him.
Those in attendance Tsuryuopa, Stuchka, Krylenko, Polevin, Pravdin, Bronsky, Larin, Milyutin, Petrovsky, Bogolenov, Kozmin, Shlyapnikov, Krasikov, Nevsky, Kozlovsky, Trotsky, Raskolnikov, Stalin, and Slobodchkov will herald in Lenin’s unabashed authoritarian rule for Russia. These are the men who believe that the will to freedom can only emerge once the existing economic and political system has been replaced by a dictatorship of the proletariat.
Unfortunately for Russia as its history demonstrates, authoritarian methods will simply replace one coercive state by another, equally despotic and remote from the people, and which will no more 'wither away' than its capitalist predecessor
Dybenko always maintained that the initiative must come from below, that a free society must be the result of the will to freedom of a large section of the population. This is the difference between Dybenko’s libertarian ideas and Lenin’s authoritative designs. The following details Lenin’s approach…by destroying Dybenko in effect Lenin does away with libertarian mindsets as there can and never will be common ground between the two viewpoints.
Those in attendance discussed Protocol 82; the order of arresting members of the Soviet of Peoples Commissars, Krylenko’s indictment against Dybenko, in addition to decisions about replacements in the investigation commission on the Dybenko case.
On the basis of the Krylenko’s report about the so-called facts and evidence that was supposedly uncovered by the investigation and due to the alleged accusations against Dybenko and the imaginary proof that sufficiently supports these allegations the Soviet of the Peoples’ Commissars has ruled the following:
Taking into account that there are exact and definite cases which the investigation couldn’t refute like the facts of the drunken parties that took place with Dybenko’s permission we, the Soviet of the Peoples’ Commissars order:
1. To carry on with the investigation.
2. Dybenko has to be temporarily relieved from his post of the People’s Commissar of the Navy till the completion of the investigation.
3. The duties of the Peoples’ Commissar of the Navy are to be passed on to this deputy comrade ….
Alongside with this on the issue of detaining the Peoples’ Commissars, we order that they can be detained and deprived of freedom exclusively on the orders of the Presidium of the Central Committee and signed by its chairman or his deputy and the secretary, or on the orders of the Soviet of the Peoples’ Commissars apart of the cases when the detention takes place at the immediately crime scene.
A telegram, a secret communiquй had just been sent to the Extreme Commission for the issues of fighting Contra-revolution or the infamous Cheka…
Lenin and V. Bonch-Bruyevitch wrote and signed to Dzerzhinsky.the following:
“In the light of the information that throws shadow over the Peoples’ Naval Commissar, Dybenko and very grave accusations against him concerning the military operation at Narva and fight against the German troops, the Presidium and the Central Executive Committee of the Party commands you to immediately detain commissar Dybenko and to inform the VTSIK presidium about this arrest. The special investigation commission is charged with conducting this investigation, determining the degree of guilt of the Peoples’
Commissar Dybenko and estimating the correctness of the statements we received. We order you to keep this whole matter top secret under your personal responsibility”. The telegram ordered Dybenko immediately to Moscow for unauthorized leave of war position at Narva together with his detachment.
Back in Petrograd Dybenko, realizing he would be relieved of his duties as the Chairman of the Board of the Peoples Commissariat of the Navy, does not respond to the call for his arrest.. Several days pass, his good friend Pavlov comes to see him. They talk a long time analyzing what had happened. Pavlov recommends Dybenko show up for court and tells him, “Admit whatever you are guilty of, and reject what is not true. Stick up for the sailors, they fought heroically, and if the artillery supported us, we could have developed our success.
Malkov comes to visit as well. He also suggests Dybenko go to trial and stand on his merit and unblemished record with regard to his stands for freedom and what he did for the revolution. Kollontai also came. She greeted him and took off her fur hat, put it on the sofa, and unbuttoned her coat. “It’s cold in the room,” said Dybenko as he took the kettle from the windowsill and soon came back with boiling water. He filled up the aluminum mug, and got some ship’s biscuits and two voblas(fish jerky). “Warm yourself up”, he said in a dry voice. Kollontai also recommends Dybenko show up for court. She tells him, “In no way could this military tribunal find you guilty of anything except your love of freedom for the Russian people”.
The Arrest of Dybenko
Days later a Petrograd message received in London carries the report that on Monday night three of the Peoples Commissionaires, names not given, entrusted with the reorganization of the Red revolutionary navy, were mysteriously murdered. Other reports from Moscow state that the Council of Peoples Commissaries has ordered the arrest of Dybenko, the Commissar of Marine, for opposition to the ratification of the peace treaty. A slip by the official censor…this press dispatch affirms the real reason why Dybenko was arrested and subject to be shot. Because of his political views, yet political views alone were not enough to cause Lenin concern. Pavel Dybenko would arrive in Moscow as a prisoner. Lenin’s fears are confirmed as immediately, Dybenko’s arrest raises protest among the sailors, and a group of sailors went to the new capital, demanding his release pending trial.
Indeed, a detachment of sailors came from the northern front to Moscow with the intention of securing Dybenko’s release, but they were stopped at the Bologne Station and told force was not necessary…yet. Nonetheless, the sailors declare they will bombard the Kremlin and do away with Lenin and Trotsky if Dybenko is not released or is harmed. The sailors demanded Dybenko’s release on their surety and the appointment of another court of inquiry, half to be composed of sailors.
Reports alleging wrongdoings are ablaze as a session of the presidium Cheka takes place in Moscow. Dybenko and his sailors are accused of robbing the mint on March 11th for his personal gain…another item on the agenda raised a question concerning an “attempt of the sailors to murder Sverdlov”. Dzerzhinsky declared the sailors have threatened to finish with the colleague of the leader of revolution. However, despite the gravity of the situation, these accusations are swept away seen merely as support to affirm the decision to rid Dybenko and his revolutionary sailors, from influencing government. .
Dzerzhinsky, “revolted by excesses of the sailors”, threatens to, “publish widely all information on the arrest of the Chairman of Tsentrobalt”, Dzerzhinsky goes on to state, “those who attempt to release Pavel from custody are to be considered enemies and traitors to the people”. The Sovnarkom discussed the meaning of “attempt to” resolving to address the situation with a brief resolution, “to disarm the sailors.”
In conversation with Jacques Saduol, Kollontai told him of her meeting with Dzerzhinsky, the latter having in effect ordered Kollontai to keep Dybenko and his sailors from every “possible unreasonable action”. Dzerzhinsky ends his discussion by sharing with Kollontai that he, “wishes to avoid decisive steps available to the All-Russian Extreme Commission.”
Kollontai protested vehemently against Dybenko’s imprisonment and she spoke to all who would hear on behalf of Dybenko and as a result Kollontai; resigned her portfolio
In conversation with Clara Zetkin, Kollontai’s longtime confident, Lenin was said to have commented that he “found it difficult to trust a woman who confuses her political work with her personal relationships.”
Kollontai penned several letters to Pavel while he was in prison;
“All my soul, my heart, my thoughts, everything is with you and for you, my darling, my beloved. I want you to know that I can live and will live only with you. Without you my life is dead and unbearable. You must be proud of yourself and confident. You can hold your head straight as no slander will ever mar your beautiful, pure, and noble character”.
After several days she and the sailors obtained Dybenko’s release on their bond and his word. Kollontai was loudly protesting the policies of Lenin and told Sadoul, “she felt Dybenko had been betrayed, Narva was not the actual reason for his arrest, Lenin had simply used it as an excuse.”
Still not swayed by the politically powerful surrounding him Dybenko releases the following statement upon being released on bond.
“My revolutionary conscience doesn’t allow me to stay totally passive while there are threats from both internal and external enemies to everything we conquered with so much blood. I promise to appear in court and respond in front of judges and the people”
Kollontai and Dybenko…the sailor and the aristocrat…the proud romantic couple of the revolution were now outcasts.
Recalling Kollontai during this time Jacques Sadoul remembered Kollontai as being completely enamored with the beautiful Dybenko and noted.
Vestal of the Revolution, she would like to maintain the flame of the maximalist ideal in all its purity. She has thrown herself headlong into the opposition, she criticizes severely the brutal measures taken by her comrades against the anarchists, and is indignant at the concession to the moderate and bourgeois opposition allowed everyday by the government.
In April of 1918…after the alleged events of February 23rd, after the Fourth All Russian Congress, after the renaming of Lenin’s Peace party to the Communist party, after Dybenko’s arrest, and after his being bailed out of jail…Dybenko makes his way to Samara. Supposedly against the conditions of his parole although Dybenko states he informed those he was responsible to notify.
Dybenko’s arrival in Samara had no relation to the events of Narva. Even so, in most historical citations one continues to be told the following, “after hearing the first cackle of the German guns Dybenko ran all the way to Samara”. Accuracy and truth do not matter as long as Dybenko is seen in a negative light. .
Ironically, even at a time when the current power structure were eliminating democratic thought…Pavel Dybenko subjected himself to a vote of the Samara Representative body on the question of his returning to Moscow . Krylenko demands the re-arrest of Dybenko, stressing Dybenko should be sent back to Moscow immediately. On the contrary, Dybenko rebukes Krylenko and others of the new government. Dybenko went on to express these views in a letter that would be published in Samara’s Labour Republic…calling upon the people of Russia to “rise up against the powerful and to know that their destiny lay in their own hands”.
Delo of Dybenko
"Truth always rises, no matter how it's crushed into the ground. You can't crush the truth”
The trial of Pavel Dybenko in May of 1918 brought to the surface political differences. Defense attorney Shteinberg declared the trial had nothing to do with Narva…instead with Dybenko’s political difference with the ruling order. On the other hand Krylenko and Trotsky demand the death penalty for Dybenko.
Dybenko speaking to the Revolutionary Tribunal stated, “I am not afraid of a verdict for myself, I am afraid of a verdict for the October revolution and its achievements; gained by the cost of the proletarian blood. We as a nation cannot let personal conflicts and intrigues eliminate someone who disagrees with the policy of the majority in government. No matter what the verdict is found by this tribunal, the sailors know the truth, and I will remain in the first rows of the revolution because the sailors promoted me and they still trust me.”
The revolutionary tribunal finds him innocent of all charges put forth. As a result, Pavel Dybenko was removed from his authority with the navy and his membership in the party revoked.
Even though universally held opinions regarding February 23rd remain, the discredit and disparaging of Pavel Dybenko runs contrary to the historical record. Pavel Dybenko was not the coward or loose cannon as proposed by Lenin et al. Double implications have become a familiar theme…one for the winners Lenin and Trotsky…the other for public consumption. The Myth that February 23rd was “birth of the Red Army Day” can be frankly tied to Trotsky’s taking control of the military in addition the Myth of February 23rd coming to be known as “Victory Day” can also be understood as the day Lenin and Trotsky wrested away the last vestige of challenge to their power by centralizing the military. In order to achieve these results Pavel Dybenko and the sailors’ soviet Tsentrobalt were destined to become ashes under the rug of historical significance.
However one looks at Russian history, Pavel Dybenko’s name should be included as one studies the happenings in Russia during the early twentieth century. Whatever political paths Russia took, the world should know for a moment in history, Dybenko fought for the rights of the common man.
A study of the historical record does not agree with the viewpoint that Pavel Dybenko be supposed a “black mark” in the history of the Russian nation. The authoritative personalities may have propagandized the current understanding of Pavel Dybenko but for the Russian people of the working class, the disenfranchised, and all others who have been exploited by the powerful...he is a champion.
George M. Levy
translation into Russian by sparling-05
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