Lenin decrees the formation of the CHEKA (1917)

On December 19th 1917 Lenin wrote to Felix Dzerzhinsky ordering him to take command of the struggle against counter-revolution – and decreeing the formation of the CHEKA:

“In connection with your report today dealing with the struggle against sabotage and counter-revolution, is it now possible to issue the following decree:

Struggle against Counter-Revolution and Sabotage

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 socialist 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 counterrevolution and sabotage.

Taking these factors into consideration the Soviet of People’s Commissars decrees the establishment of the Extraordinary Commission to Fight Counter-Revolution. The Commission is to be named the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission and is to be attached to the Soviet of People’s Commissars. [This commission] is to make war on counter-revolution and sabotage…

The duties of the Commission will be:

1. To persecute and break up all acts of counter-revolution and sabotage all over Russia, no matter what their origin.

2. To bring before the Revolutionary Tribunal all counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs and to work out a plan for fighting them.

3. To make preliminary investigation only, enough to break up [counter-revolutionary acts].

The Commission is to be divided into sections:

1. The information section.

2. The organisational section – in charge of organising the fight against counter-revolution all over Russia, with branches.

3. The fighting section.

The Commission is to watch the press, saboteurs, strikers, and the Right Social-Revolutionaries. Measures [to be taken against these counter-revolutionaries are] confiscation, confinement, deprivation of [food] cards, publication of the names of the enemies of the people, etc.”