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Origins of the CHEKA (1917)

[Lenin's Letter to Dzerhinsky, 7 December 1917]

In connection with your report today dealing with the struggle against sabotage and counter-revolution, is it not possible to issue the following decree:


The bourgeoisie, landholders, and all wealthy classes are making desperate efforts to undermine the revolution which is aiming to safeguard the interests of the toiling and exploited masses. The bourgeoisie is having recourse to the vilest crimes, bribing society's lowest elements and supplying liquor to these outcasts with the purpose of bringing on pogroms. The partisans of the bourgeoisie, especially the higher officials, bank clerks, etc., are sabotaging and organising strikes in order to block the government's efforts to reconstruct the state on a socialistic basis. Sabotage has spread even to the food-supply organisations and millions of people are threatened with famine. Special measures must be taken to fight counter-revolution and sabotage. taking these factors into consideration the Soviet of the People's Commissars decrees. . . .

1. Persons belonging to the wealthy classes (i.e., with incomes of 500 rubles or more per month, and owners of urban real estate, stocks and shares, or money amounting to over 1,000 rubles), and also all employees of banks, joint-stock companies, state and public institutions, shall within three days present to their house committees written statements in three copies over their own signatures and indicating their address, income, place of employment and their occupation. 

2. The house committees shall countersign these statements, retain one copy and send one copy to the municipality and another to the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs.

3. Persons guilty of contravening the present law (failing to submit statements, giving false information, etc.) and members of house committees infringing the regulations governing the collection, filing and presentation of these statements to the institutions mentioned above shall be liable to a fine of up to 5,000 rubles for each infringement, or to imprisonment up to one year, or shall be sent to the front, depending on the nature of the offence. 

4. Persons sabotaging the work of, or declining to work in, banks, state and public institutions, joint-stock companies, railways, etc., shall be liable to similar punishment. 

5. As a first step towards universal labour conscription, it is decreed that the persons referred to in � I shall be obliged, first, constantly to carry with them a copy of the above-mentioned statement certified by the house committees and by their chiefs or elected officials (factory committees, food committees, railway committees, employees' trade unions, etc.); the certificates must indicate what public service or work is being performed by the individual in question, or whether he is living with his family as a disabled member thereof, etc.

6. Secondly, such persons shall be obliged to acquire, within one week from the promulgation of the present law, worker-consumer books (specimen attached), in which their weekly income and expenditures shall be entered, together with the public duties performed by the individual in question, certified by the proper committees or institutions. 

7. Persons who do not come under �l shall present to their house committees a statement in one copy of their income and place of employment and shall carry another copy of this statement certified by the house committee.

[Source: Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 26 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), pp. 374-376.]

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