V. I. Lenin

Letter To D. I. Kursky

Written: 17 May 1922
First Published: 1924; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 358-359
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

May 17, 1922

Comrade Kursky,

Further to our conversation, I herewith enclose the draft of an article supplementary to the Criminal Code.[1] It is a rough draft and, of course, needs altering and polishing up. The main idea will be clear, I hope, in spite of the faulty drafting-to put forward publicly a thesis that is correct in principle and politically (not only strictly juridical), which explains the substance of terror, its necessity and limits, and provides justification for it.

The courts must not ban terror—to promise that would be deception or self-deception—but must formulate the motives underlying it, legalise it as a principle, plainly, without any make-believe or embellishment. It must be formulated in the broadest possible manner, for only revolutionary law and revolutionary conscience can more or less widely determine the limits within which it should be applied.

With communist greetings,



Propaganda or agitation, or membership of, or assistance given to organisations the object of which (propaganda and agitation) is to assist that section of the international bourgeoisie which refuses to recognise the rights of the communist system of ownership that is superseding capitalism, and is striving to overthrow that system by violence, either by means of foreign intervention or blockade, or by espionage, financing the press, and similar means, is an offence punishable by death, which, if mitigating circumstances are proved. may be commuted to deprivation of liberty, or deportation.


a) Propaganda or agitation that objectively serves (variant 2b) the interests of that section of the international bourgeoisie which, etc., to the end.

b) Persons convicted of belonging to, or assisting, such organisations, or persons who conduct activities of the aforesaid character (whose activities bear the aforesaid character), shall be liable to the same penalty.

Variant 2b:
or is likely
to serve.


[1] The revised draft Criminal Code, in which Lenin’s recommendations were used for Articles 57, 58, 61 and 70, was examined and endorsed by the Third Session of the Ninth All-Russia Central Executive Committee (May 12-26, 1922).