Martin Latsis on the formation of the CHEKA (1920)

Martin Latsis, a long-serving Bolshevik and state security officer, wrote Two Years of Struggle on the Internal Front in 1920. Here he discusses the formation of the CHEKA:

“The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission was formed on December 20th 1917, when it had its first meeting and decided to call itself the Extraordinary Commission to Fight Counter-Revolution and Sabotage.

At this time the Soviet Government… was being attacked on all sides. Officials sabotaged in the hope of stopping the machinery of government; the Kadets and the old army officers started one uprising after another with the intention of taking the power from the hands of the Soviets. Vikzhel planned a railroad strike. The Mensheviks and the Right SRs employed all kinds of weapons in waging a continuous war against the Soviet Government; the profiteer took advantage of the difficult situation of the country to carry on his nefarious trade… At the same time the German troops of occupation were advancing, threatening the capital…

Only strong measures could save the situation and these measures were taken by the Soviet of People’s Commissars. To fight the external foe, there was organised a Red Guard, which later became the Red Army. To fight the internal foe it was necessary to create an organ… that would protect the rear of the Red Army and permit peaceful development of the Soviet form of government. Such an organ was the Extraordinary Commission to Fight Counter-Revolution and Sabotage. Later on its functions were enlarged to include negligence of duty, profiteering, and banditry.

The Commission itself (composed at that time of Dzerzhinsky, Ksenofontov, Averin, Sergo, Peterson, Peters, Evseev, and Trifonov) outlined its duties as follows: to cut off at the roots all counter-revolution and sabotage in Russia; to hand over to the revolutionary court all who are guilty of such attempts; to work out measures for dealing with such cases; and to enforce these measures without mercy.

It was necessary to make the foe feel that there was, everywhere about him, a seeing eye and a heavy hand, ready to come down on him the moment he undertook anything against the Soviet Government…”