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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Why Potemkin?

The title which this paper has taken for its name is POTEMKIN. The mutiny on the battleship POTEMKIN in 1905 has many claims to historical importance. The Russian navy at the time was the third most powerful in the world after England and France. Her fleet in time of war however, was divided into three separate squadrons, two of which might easily be idle. Russia’s leader was a foolish if well intentioned man, Tsar Nicholas the II. His engagement in a very unpopular Asian war (Japan in this case) was doing him no good. His Baltic Fleet was annihilated by Admiral Togo at Tsushima. This, coupled with unemployment, racism, and repression at home produced a gathering revolutionary momentum which was to lead to the anarchy of 1905 and the end of the Romanov’s 12 years later during the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

It is not surprising that the sailors of the idle Black Sea Fleet felt, in the words of Richard Hough that, “ no other circumstances is insurrection so sharp in its application, the contrast between restraint and anarchy so appalling in its impact, as on a man of war in peacetime, when hundreds of men are packed into their steel shell for no other purpose than to conform to the strict routine of their existence.”

The men of the POTEMKIN, at any rate, were to react against the establishment. In the history of iron clad battleships no other vessel has achieved so much fame without engaging the “enemy” of the then existing state. In a period of two astonishing weeks, the crew of the POTEMKIN declared war on the government, killed her commander and many of her officers, defied an Admiral and his fleet, participated in a civil uprising in Odessa which resulted in the deaths of some 1000 people, and only just failed to bring about the revolution 12 years before its time.
The leaders of the POTEMKIN mutiny were dedicated to the peoples fight for their liberation. They failed only because absolute democracy does not work any more than does absolute tyranny. Idealism, without collective support cannot survive.

It is to this purpose that we dedicate this paper. We do not intend to provoke mutiny; but we cannot, at the same time allow the forces of repression to have the upper hand.
We do not seek to justify nihilism; rather we seek the sort of free expression which is the very core of liberty.
We must all see that there is some basic pattern established in how the community of mankind treats itself. Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Europe, Germany, America, the pattern is one of enlightenment and repression, enlightenment and repression.

As we enter the Seventies, we are in perhaps the last great watershed period of history. At the end of each cycle in history, technology creates better and more awesome engines of destruction for the oppressors. It is unmistakably true that at this very moment we have the capability of destroying everything on the face of the earth or healing our ills.

We must act now in the affirmative. There simply won’t be a next time. History doesn’t happen to the other fellow. It’s happening to you and me right now.

Where do you stand for freedom of expression? Whither do you move? There is no compromise in this matter. To compromise is to decide. To waver is to decide. To postpone or evade is to decide. To hide is to decide. You must say either yes or no. There are a thousand ways of saying no; one way of saying yesy, and no way of saying anything else.
John Sylvester IC2

Potemkin, vol. 1, no. 1


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