Letter to the CC of the RCP, May 4, 1918

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On May 2, 1918 the Moscow Revolutionary Tribunal passed a light sentence against four judges serving on the Moscow Commission of Investigation who had been charged with blackmail and taking bribes. Lenin first sent his letter on the subject to N. V. Krylenko, a member of the Board of the People’s Commissariat for Justice, with a request that the Party Central Committee should be informed of the names of the guilty judges. When he received the reply, which was written on the other side of the letter, Lenin sent it to the Central Committee, drawing their attention to the facts furnished by Krylenko. On Lenin’s insistence the All-Russia CEC reconsidered the case and three of the accused had their sentences increased to’ ten years’ imprisonment.

Simultaneously with his letter to the Central Committee Lenin sent the People’s Commissar for Justice D. I. Kursky a note demanding that “a law must be introduced at once, with demonstrative haste, stating that the punishment for bribery (extortion, subornation, arranging of bribes and so on) is to be not less than ten years’ imprisonment with an additional ten years’ compulsory labour” (see present edition Vol. 35, “Letter to D. I. Kursky”). On Lenin’s initiative the Council of People’s Commissars passed a decision on May 4, 1918 instructing the People’s Commissariat for Justice to draw up a decree that stipulated a heavy minimum sentence for bribery and any connivance in bribery. The Draft Decree on Bribery was submitted by the People’s Commissariat for Justice for consideration at a meeting of the Council of People’s Commissars on May 8. Lenin introduced an amendment, after which the decree was passed (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russian edition, Vol. 2, 1959, pp. 236-37 and 240-42).

I request you to put on the agenda the question of expelling from the Party those members who, being judges in the case (May 2, 1918) against bribe-takers, where bribery was proved and admitted by the defendants, confined themselves to a sentence of six months’ imprisonment.

To award bribe-takers such derisively weak and mild sentences, instead of shooting, is disgraceful behaviour for a Communist and revolutionary. Such comrades must be pilloried by the court of public opinion and expelled from the Party, for their place is at the side of Kerensky and Martov and not at the side of revolutionary Communists.


May 4, 1918