quinta-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2014

Fiction: Chapter 2.3 of “Mecha, Tofu, and Revolution”

In early March of 1921, Trotsky travelled nearby to Kronstadt, a Russian naval fort in the Gulf of Finland. An uprising had broken out there, led by anarchist sailors, who demanded free elections to the Soviets, among other things. The Politbureau had voted to subdue the rebellion with force. After having spent years marshaling his mechas against genuine counterrevolutionaries who sought to reestablish the old order, it felt undeniably strange for Trotsky to prepare militarily against those who had been his comrades just a few years prior. And yet that’s exactly what he did.

He established a makeshift center for military operations in a ramshackle building in Petrograd, about 25 miles from Kronstadt. The building was humming with activity, but Trotsky and Glazman had shut themselves away in a comparatively-quiet office on the second floor, heated by a wood-burning stove. Glazman sat in a chair, smoking his pipe, while Trotsky paced about the room, as was his habit when deep in thought. “Take this down,” Trotsky said to his stenographer. “To the rebels of Kronstadt: surrender immediately or face the full force of the Red Army. In the absence of such a concession, 30,000 loyal Bolsheviks and 500 mecha will flatten your irresponsible uprising prior to the thaw of the ice route to Kronstadt. There will be no further warnings.”

Gritting his pipe between his teeth, Glazman scribbled onto a notepad furiously, trying to keep up with the dictation of his superior. Trotsky paused before his desk and bit into a bitter green apple. “How does the telegram sound?” Trotsky asked, after he finished chewing. Glazman nodded approvingly. “It’s strong and clear,” he said. “I’ll send it out tonight.”

The leaders of the rebellion never responded. So in a few days, Trotsky ordered the Red Army to take the naval fortress. Only light mecha, generally used for scouting expeditions, were deployed, as Trotsky feared the larger, more heavily-armed models would fall through the ice. As it was, the machines involved in the assault were kept well away from the infantry units. That way, if the mecha did break through, they would not take additional men with them.

As the Red Army approached Kronstadt, the rebels showered them with gunfire. Wave after wave of Trotsky’s troops were killed as bullets pierced their flesh and cracked open the ice beneath them. Countless Bolshevik infantrymen drowned. And scores of mecha sank into the watery depths; their operators scrambling to escape the leaden weights dragging them downward. But the Red Army was relentless and had numbers on its side. On March 17, a mecha equipped with a battering ram smashed down the Kronstadt gates. Trotsky’s soldiers poured inside the fortress, slaughtered the remaining rebels, and the mutiny was put to rest.

A few days later, Trotsky participated in a victory parade through the city’s streets. Bundled in a heavy winter coat made of faux fur, Glazman was beside him. The Kronstadt residents, who watched the long stream of Bolshevik soldiers and mecha march past their houses, looked angry and haggard. Trotsky seemed determined not to notice the hostility of the populace. “I wish you wouldn’t wear that mock-Romanov jacket,” Trotsky said to his assistant. “It glamorizes speciesism.” Glazman shrugged.

For some blocks, the pair walked silently within the parade formation before Trotsky appeared willing to discuss what was truly on his mind. “So much has changed here since 1917,” Trotsky said, speaking of Kronstadt almost wistfully. “It was a hotbed for the revolution. Every time I came, the sailors gave me a hero’s welcome. And now…” He rambled off. Glazman looked at his superior’s face, which seemed to betray deep, emotional conflict. The stenographer wondered: could Trotsky, the fiery orator, the steely defender of the revolution, be having doubts? It appeared so.

“What does a working-class revolution do when it loses support of the working class?” Trotsky asked pensively, as if speaking only to the cold breeze. “It seems to me that you either give up power and the gains of the revolution, or you hold onto them both tightly and trust the working class will come back around and you’re operating in their best interests. I don’t see another way.” They continued walking in silence until Glazman couldn’t stand it any longer. “But the rebels didn’t want to give up the gains of the revolution,” the stenographer said.

Fitfully, Trotsky adjusted the budenovka hat upon his head. “No, they didn’t,” he conceded. “But do you think the anarchists could run this country? Do you think they could have won the civil war? No one but the Bolsheviks could have held Russia together. Our revolution is the greatest socialist-animalist experiment in history, and we have a duty to see it continues, whatever it takes.” Glazman mulled this over as the parade wound through the streets of Kronstadt. Was Trotsky trying to convince him, Glazman wondered, or himself?

Por Jon Hochschartner
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