In early December 1917, Lenin and other Soviet leaders heard a report from Felix Dzerzhinsky outlining the nature, methods and extent of counter-revolutionary activity in Bolshevik Russia. Lenin insisted on immediate action to identify and combat counter-revolution and sabotage. The following decree, signed on December 7th, provided a basis for the formation of the CHEKA:
“Further to your report today on possible measures for fighting saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries, would it be acceptable to submit a decree like the following:
The bourgeoisie, the landowners and all the wealthier classes are desperately striving to undermine the revolution, the aim of which is to safeguard the interests of the workers, the working and exploited masses.
The bourgeoisie is prepared to commit the most heinous crimes. They are bribing the outcast and degraded elements of society and plying them with alcohol to incite them to riot. The supporters of the bourgeoisie, particularly the higher clerical staff, bank officials and so forth, are sabotaging their work and organising strikes to thwart the government’s implementation of socialist reforms. They have even gone so far as to sabotage food distribution, thus threatening millions of people with famine.
Urgent measures are needed to fight these counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs. Because of this, the Council of People’s Commissars decrees that:
1. All persons belonging to the wealthy classes (that is, persons with incomes of 500 rubles or more per month, owners of urban real estate, stocks and shares or money amounting to over 1,000 rubles) and all employees of banks, joint-stock companies, state and public institutions shall, within three days, present signed, written statements in triplicate indicating their address, income, place of employment and occupation.
2. [Soviet] 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 this law (failing to submit statements or giving false information)… shall be liable to fines of up to 5,000 rubles for each infringement or 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 banks, state and public institutions, joint-stock companies, railways, etc., or refusing to work in these places, shall be liable to similar punishment.
5. As a first step towards universal labour conscription, any persons referred to in (1) above shall be obliged to carry with them a copy of a statement certified by the house committees and by their chiefs or elected officials (factory committees, food committees, railway committees, employees’ trade unions, etc.). The certificate must indicate what public service or work is being performed by the individual in question…
6. 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…”