In the history of the bourgeois Latvia of the pre-war years, it is possible to define two clearly different periods: period of the bourgeois parliamentary republic and the following years of the fascist dictatorship. These periods are separated by the 15th May 1934; the coup d’état implemented by the actual prime minister of the moment, Kārlis Ulmanis. The parliament (Saeima), the elected bodies of local authorities and all political parties were eliminated from the Latvian political life stage, and internal and external policy were defined solely by the “leader” and “master of the land” as he was called with flattery by his closest circle.
But “the leader” did not enjoyed much the title of head of government, on 12th March 1936, based upon an absolutely unconstitutional resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers adopted after the functions of the State President Alberts Kviesītis had been concluded, Ulmanis usurped this position as well.
In Latvia of the years 1934 – 1940, in contrast to the Nazi Germany, Italy other countries of “classic” right-wing dictatorships, even compared to Lithuania and Estonia, there was no ruling fascist party as the regime political foundation, although the activists of the right-wing party, Peasants’ Unión, headed by Ulmanis, before the coup, as well as the convinced nationalists of other right-wing parties, supported the coup diligently working in the structures of the new regime. Besides there was an organisation of the aizsargi (“guards”, “protectors”), which together with the police structures implemented the function of forced repression. Nevertheless, the regime had all main determining features of a fascist dictatorship: terror and oppression, liquidation of bourgeois parliamentary regime, authoritarian power, social demagogy and unbridled preaching of nationalism. Ulmanis also had “his” concentration camp in Liepāja and the forced labour prison of Kalnciems, there were intents to apply the death penalty to political adversaries, but influenced by a series of internal (broad protests among the intellectuals) and external reasons (mainly, afraid of losing the favourable attitude of the ruling circles of England which served as a reference for Ulmanis), his regime was behind those of Hitler and Franco in this sense...
The government of Ulmanis started its activity with massive arrests of communists in Liepāja, Ventspils, Tukums, Aizpute, and Priekule. Latvian Communists more than once indicated the threat of a fascist coup. The underground declaration made by the Communist Party in April 1934, dedicated to the celebration of the 1st May expressed: “In Latvia, the Ulmanis government has been installed. It is a government of fascism, war and treason of people. The bourgeois put this personage in a cup of scales for the sake of fabricants and big owners bending Latvia’s workers, labouring peasants and unemployed into the ram’s horn”.
Nevertheless, on that occasion, the attempt made by the Communists in order to form a united resistance front against the threat of a fascist dictatorship together with Social Democrats was rejected by their leaders.
Due to dispersion of workers ‘organizations and extinction of democratic freedoms, the Communist Party was deprived of possibilities of using even the few legal forms of work that had previously existed, however it continued fighting in a deep underground. Its illegal organisations kept on operating, illegal newspapers and leaflets continued to be printed as well.
In the second half of the 1930s, the LCP had to struggle against considerable organisational difficulties. Under the influence of the anti-Trotsky struggle in the URSS and in the Comintern, in 1936, the CC of the LCP was eliminated, its External Bureau was terminated. However, the Party solved those difficulties. Its interim secretariat headed the reestablishment and strengthening of the LCP organisations. In February 1939, a new CC was elected in the XXVI conference of the LCP. According to the resolutions of the VII Congress of the Comintern (July – August 1935) the LCPL considered creating an anti-fascist popular front as its main task at that stage.
Of all the parties prohibited after the fascist coup, only a part of members of the Social Democratic party, who understood the need of struggling against the reformist ideology, continued acting politically, founding an illegal Latvian Socialist Worker Peasant Party. In November 1934, the Communist Party made an agreement of founding a united anti-fascist front with this party, and in 1936, achieved a union of the Communist Youth and the Socialist Youth into the Union of Working Youth of Latvia. That is how at a considerable degree it was possible to prevent the division of the working class of Latvia. Around the communists anti-fascist forces came together, forming the anti-fascist popular front.
The repressions and terror of the fascist dictatorship, economic recession that became particularly acute in the beginning of the Second World War, closing of enterprises and growth of unemployment, the sending of urban inhabitants to compulsory work in the countryside practiced by authorities beat up the flame of revolutionary struggle. This allows to state that in the end of spring 1940 in Latvia, a revolutionary situation matured, and the LCP made all it was able to do in order to transform it into a socialist revolution.
The events of summer 1940 can be rightly called socialist revolution, which main engine was the working class of Latvia. Its political leader was the Latvian Communist Party that during its twenty five years of underground work prepared many hundreds of bold fighters, winning the support of the working class of Latvia.
Speaking about the events of the year 1940 in Latvia, it would be good to recall the words pronounced by V.I.Lenin in 1918, in the Moscow Regional Conference of Factory Committees: “Revolutions are not made on order, neither are applied to a special moment, but they become ripe during the process of historic development and burst at the moment caused by a complex of several internal and external reasons” (V.I. Lenin Complete Works, v.36, p.531).
In the second half of the 1930s, Latvia became placed in a complicated international situation. Since Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the threat of a fascist aggression was becoming ever more realistic. Even Poland had its expansionist aspirations in connection with Latvia. The existing hope for being supported by the Great Britain was also gradually fading. In its fight against the aggression Latvia could only expect a real help from the Soviet Union. This is why the slogans of the popular anti-fascist front guided by the LCP “Let's Don't give Latvia to Hitler” and “For a close alliance with the USSR” corresponded with the mood of the broadest layers of population and were recognised by those.
The revolutionary situation in Latvia emerged in September 1939 together with the beginning of the Second World War which created absolutely new phenomena in the economic life of Latvia. The National economy was completely dependent of the great European capitalist powers. The trade turnover only with Germany and England (which came into a mutual state of war) was 70% of the total volume. At the same time it has to be stated that 90% of Latvian foreign trade was implemented by sea. The crisis of navigation emerged as a result of conversion of the Baltic Sea and other Europe's seas into theatres of military actions caused a respective crisis of raw materials and fuels which at their occasion assessed a crushing blow to Latvian industry. In June 1940, already each fifth worker in Latvia was unemployed.
The Ulmanis' regime was also going through a deep internal crisis. During all the period of Ulmanis' dictatorship, a struggle was going on between representatives of urban and rural bourgeoisie, because the urban bourgeoisie considered itself ousted from the state governance. Many functionaries had been involved in corruption.The threat of the German invasion in Latvia considerably influenced the group of Latvian farmers called the new masters which had obtained their lands as a result of the bourgeois agrarian reform. The fact was that, before the reform, land of considerable importance had belonged to former landowners – barons, ethnic Germans, and the farmers were afraid of losing those formerly barons' lands. The threat of Hitler's invasion also notably influenced the ethnic minorities of Latvia (Russian, Byelorussian, Jew, Polish, Lithuanian), as well as the intellectuals and even Latvian army officers.
Latvia had to assume a possibility of the of Hitler's invasion. The Soviet-Latvian pact of mutual help, signed on 5th October 1939 in Moscow, dissipated this tension. According to the pact, Latvia offered to the Soviet Union a right of creating military and naval bases in Liepāja and Ventspils, as well as several air fields in Kurzeme. Nevertheless, the military groups were of poor importance and those were controlled by Latvian troops. At the same time, Ulmanis' dictatorship maintained its open hostility towards the USSR, as well as towards Latvian workers, and it was eagerly looking for ways of preserving its power. Ulmanis' government, behind the backs of the USSR, strengthened its military contacts with Estonia and Lithuania, conducting intensified ideological indoctrination of the army, police and aizsargi. The command of the Latvian army prepared a plan of war against the Soviet Union (the so-called “mobilisation prescription No 5”).
In spring 1940, in the Western Europe, decisive developments radically influenced the situation of Latvia. On 10th May 1940, Hitler's Germany began a broad offensive in the Western front, as a result of which Belgium and Holland capitulated. English army was defeated and evacuated to England, and The French began retreating. On 14th June 1940, German troops entered in Paris, and some days later France ceased resisting. In these moments, German army had free hands and Hitler could move it to the East (and he began doing it). In case of occupying Baltic States Germany could gain a favourable beach head for a future attack on the Soviet Union. Under those conditions, it was impossible to be sure that the Baltic States reactionary and fascist regimes, afraid of their peoples, would not commit a national treason allowing Hitler's troops enter the Baltics.
The Soviet government delivered to the Ambassador of Latvia in Moscow a note, in which the violations made to the pact of mutual help were indicated and the demand was formulated to establish a government which would honestly implement the conditions of the pact. The note was accepted, the government of Latvia renounced.On 17th June 1940, detachments of the Red Army entered in the territory of Latvia. The Red Army did not intervene in the internal affairs, but its presence certainly had a decisive deterrent influence in further events. Latvian bourgeoisie did not dare to develop its terror against Latvian working movement by cracking down at revolutionary manifestations.
The days that followed were days of agony of the regime of Ulmanis, when the Latvian working class rose in order to defeat the fascist dictatorship. On 20th June, Ulmanis announced that a new government headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins had been formed. Investigation is needed on the stance of Soviet power, whether or not there was a question about the release of party officials and members, and if not why, and even more into the issue of participation of communists in the government. However, demonstrations and other actions of workers that took place in many places were organised by Latvian communists. The LCP formulated the demands that were given to the new government on 21st June 1940 during a demonstration. These demands mirrored moods and interests of the working people and made the programme of the new government, which was called People's government.
The socialist revolution of 1940 in Latvia, being an integral part of the revolutionary process that had been started by the Great October socialist revolution, also had its own particularities.
First, it was a socialist revolution which was victorious without civil war, without active resistance from the bourgeoisie. In Europe's history, it is an extremely rare event; it can even be called unique. At the same time, of course, one must take into account that the presence of the Red Army detachments, although maintaining their complete neutrality in connection with all that happened, doubtlessly was a deterrent factor for a possible resistance attempted by the bourgeois regime.
Second, this revolution being essentially socialist was also simultaneously an anti-fascist revolution because as a result of it a fascist dictatorship was overthrown and many measures were taken to liquidate the institutions of the previous regime and to break the old state apparatus. This is why, in the first stages of the revolution, activities of the general democratic character were implemented before all.
Elections to the People's parliament of Latvia that took place on 14th and 15th July 1940 must be considered as one of the central events of the revolution of 1940. Participated in the elections 1,181,323 voters aged 21 and over (94.8% of the population) participated in the elections, and 1,155,807 votes, or 97.8%, were cast for candidates of the Block of the Working People of Latvia. 25,516 voters voted against.
Were those elections free? One must answer affirmatively to the question, because nobody forced voters to go to the polls, and the new government did not have such a repressive apparatus that could do it. There were no lists of voters, because during the dictatorship ther had been no elections, it was possible to vote at any poll station and in any polling district, a mark was made in the passport about participation in the election, which excluded the possibility of a second vote.
Are the election results genuine? Yes, this can be checked by looking up the archives of the documentation of all polling stations and sub-sites. In addition, at the polling stations, the votes were counted not only by the Communists and people who sympathized with them, but also by the employees of the former state apparatus, and representatives of the bourgeois circles. And there were hundreds of them. If there were falsifications of results, these people would have made revelations. However, there are none.