Latvia In 1940

During the years of the world’s economic crisis (1929—1933) the political and economic rule of the Latvian burgeoisie was greatly shaken. Due to the assault of the capital on the working people in Latvia, class struggle became more and more acute; the revolutionary movement was expanding. The power of the Latvian bourgeoisie became unstable also because the disintegration of the partial stabilization process of the capitalist world had set in and the revolutionary movement of the proletariat was incessantly growing. Simultaneously the economic and political strengfh of the USSR became ever more evident which had its impact on the working people of the capitalist countries. These were the conditions when the Latvian bourgeoisie established a fascist dictatorship.
The yoke of fascism was not felt merely by the working cfass; broad masses of urban and rural middle sections of the population were deprived of any political rights, their economic conditions grew worse. But neither terror, nor repressions against participants of the growing anti-fascist movement could save the Latvian bourgeoise. Fascism was unable to oppress the revolutionary movement and this in turn ever more aggravated the class contradictions and class struggle. Thus, the historical development of the Latvian bourgeois state was doomed to lead towards socialist revolution as the sole escape from national disaster. Since aufumn, 1939, a revolutionary situation was imminent.

In the most difficult conditions of repression the Latvian Communist Party set itself the task of uniting all progressive democratic forces of the people and creating an anti-fascist popular front as the decisive force in the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship. The central organ of the Latvian Communist Party press, the "Cīņa", wrote in 1937 that the united front of the proletariat "has turned into a mighty force attracfing all those strata of the working people who are striving towards a struggle against Ulmanis' fascist barbarity."

In the course of the foundation of the proletariat antifascist front, an agreement was concluded in 1934 between two illegal parties of the working class — the Latvian Communist Party (LCP) and the Latvian Socialist Party of Workers and Peasants (LSPWP). The communist youth and socialist youth organization united. In 1936 the Latvian Working Youth Union (LWYU) was founded. In its illegal publications and appeals "We will not give Latvia to Hitler!" (July, 1938) and "For the people's freedom and independence" (March, 1939) the Communist Party stressed that the working peasantry was the main ally of the proletariat in the struggle against fascism, for democratic freedom and for the independence of Latvia. The joint vital interests of the working class and working peasantry, their interest in improving their economic and political state by overthrowing the fascist regime, all this was a sound basis for the political unity of these two classes.

Under fascist dictatorship, with the bourgeois agrarian reform coming to an end, the class structure of the peasantry underwent great changes. The majority of the working peasantry (the rural proletariat, semi-proletarians, the petty peasantry) were driven to poverty while big landowners acquired more and more wealth. All this brought about the spread of revolutionary ideas among broad masses of the Latvian working peasantry. The working class underwent significant changes as well. The incessant struggle of the LCP against disunity in the workers' movement and for its united action was crowned with success. The Latvian Communist Party became the leading and organizing force of the united popular front, the acknowledged leader of the working class in Latvia.

In February 1939, the 26th conference of the LCP was held which was of major importance in the history of the Latvi an revolutionary movement. The conference gave an appreciation of the political Situation stating that the ruling classes were completely unable to cope with the mighty upsurge of the anti-fascist movement of the masses and pointing out the possibility of setting up a government of the populär front. According to an agreement between the LCP and the LSPWP a draft declaration and a draft programme of the Latvian popular front was worked out, drawing up the chief political and economic tasks of the people's government after the overthrow of fascism. The people's government was to secure the Latvian people with democratic rights — the freedom of speech, assembly, strike, press and belief. It had to release political prisoners and organize equal and direct elecfions to the Diet by secret ballot. The people's government had to establish a new state system. The political task included the organization of a people's army and people's militia which would protect the democratic system and together with the Red Army defend the state in case of attacks by agressors, the democratization of the state machinery, etc. The economic programme of the popular front provided for complete elimination of unemployment, increase of wages and salaries, improvement of the conditipns of all working people, introduction of social maintenance in old age, determination of fixed working hours for farm-hands, introduction of an 8-hour working day at all enterprises and granting workers and employees the right to a leave of 2 weeks to one month. Small farmers and landless peasants were entitled to receive land out of the state fund and part of the land to be expropriated from big landowners. The farms of these landowners were to be no larger than 30 ha, the debts of the working peasantry were to be wiped out, the taxes reduced. Peasants were to be given credits. In the sphere of culture all restrictions were to be abolished which prevented the children of workers and peasants from attending school: education at school was to be free of charge, students were to be given scholarships, higher educational establishments had to be democratized, cultural and art establishments were to be supported. The programme of the popular front declared national equalify for all Latvia's inhabitants, each nationality was entitled to use its mothertongue at school, theatres, meetings and in the press.

The main theses of the programme of the popular front later became the programme of the new democratic people's government set up on June 20, 1940.

The LCP associated the struggle against fascism with the idea of national independence and with the aspirations of the working people for peace. Having expanded the activity of propaganda and its organizational work the Communist Party appealed to the Latvian working people: "Get organized into units and committees and groups of the populär front. Popularize among the masses the clear demands, aims and tasks of the programme of the popular front. Against the treacherous Ulmanis' government, against the gangs of hitlerite invaders, for the revolutionary government of the populär front, for a free democratic Latviai"
Meetings were held at industrial enterprises in Riga and other cities at which communists explained the tasks of the working class and the decisions of the 26th conference of the LCP. Hundreds and thousands of leaflets and appeals by the popular front were circulated. The appeal of the Communist Party found a wide response among the masses. In 1940, the "Cīņa" wrote: "In spite of the terror of fascist reaction the Latvian working people continued their heroic struggle for their rights against fascism throughout the whole period of fascist rule (..) Disturbances made themselves felt in 1939, particularly towards the end of the year, emerging from a state of torpidity and defying the repressions of the police."

When World War II broke out, the positions of imperialism in Latvia weakened. Influenced by the populär front and the mass movement of the working people the bourgeois government was forced to conclude the treaty of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union on October 5,1939. The treaty protected Latvia from imperialist aggression, as well as from a possible military Intervention of imperialist states in case the masses turned against the ruling bourgeois clique. Considering the conditions of foreign and home policy the Central Committee of the LCP stated that a revolutionary Situation was developing in Latvia. This was witnessed by the frequent public actions of the working peasantry and the growing sympathy of the masses with the Soviet Union.

On October 8, 1939, a meeting of the Central Committee of the LCP took place. It adopted the decision to mobilize all forces of the working people united in the movement of the anti-fascist popular front in the fight for the overthrow of the fascist government in the nearest future. The main ideas of the decision were voiced in the appeal "Away with Ulmanis' government, for an elected represenfafion of the people!", as well as in illegal publications of the Party. Fighting for the organization of the anti-fascist front the Latvian Communist Party did much organizational work. Based on the orientation concerning questions of tactics given by the 7th congress of the Communist International, the LCP worked out the plan for a socialist revolution taking into consideration the specific disfribution of class forces in Latvia. The plan was reflected in the decision of the Central Committee of the LCP "For a united front of the working class" accepted at the plenary session on March 3, 1940.

The decision resulted from the specific historical situation which had then developed in Latvia and abroad. The Great Powers of Western Europe were at war. The troops of the Red Army stationed on the territory of Latvia protected the working people from imperialist intervention. Though repressions and terror intensified, the movement of the anti-fascist populär front grew stronger. The fight of the proletariat became more and more persistent. The May Day celebration in Latvia, in 1940, testified to it. Evaiuating the sfruggle of the Latvian proletariat against the fascist dictatorship the communist press wrote; "that the Latvian working people are going to celebrate the next May Day in a free Latvian democratic republic and going out info the demonstration with a red banner they will call out with the whole proletariat: "Away with the imperialist war! Long live the world revolution! Long live socialism! Long live May Day!"

Several representatives of the Latvian ruling classes tried to preserve the regime hostile to the people by introducing a new constitution and making alterations in Ulmanis' government. This political crisis of the ruling class, the growing discontent and indignation of the masses brought the revolutionary Situation to maturity. This resulted from the economic conditions of the masses which grew worse and worse, from fascist repressions against the progressive forces, from the threat of invasion of hitlerite Germany into the Baltie area, from the anti-Soviet provocations of the fascist leaders. The growing crisis was intensified by the demand of the Soviet government on June 16, 1940, to set up a government which would honestly keep to the treaty of mutual assistance. Under the leadership of the Latvian Communist Party the struggfe for setting up the People's Government intensified. On June 1940, the People's government was formed. Along with the fall of the fascist regime and the setting up of the People's government the socialist revolution began which developed further in the following months. The victory of Soviet Power in Latvia in 1940 was the triumph of the ideas of the Great October Socialist Revolution, an act conforming with the regularities of historical development resulting from the previous development, from the struggle of the working people against exploiters. The socialist revolution of 1940 in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia was one of the first socialist revolutions in the world where the proletariat gained victory over the bourgeoisie without armed revolt and civil war. Making use of the Diet, the proletariat dictatorship was established. Soviet Power cleared the way for all the people of the Baltic states to a bright future, ensured their true independence, an impetuous flourishing of economy and culture. In the fraternal family of Soviet nations, the Latvian people, like all the other Baltic nations, is most successfully building communism.

Doctor of Sciences (History)
Academician of the Latvian SSR Academy of Sciences
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