17. 10 The Fate of Fritz Mender

No 17 : 31 December 1970

In November 1970 it was proposed to Fritz Mender, one of the founders of the Latvian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (LSDWP), and Klava Lorents, head of the Latvian cooperativists, that they should publicly dissociate themselves from Bruno Kalnins, the leader of the LSDWP, who is in emigration in Stockholm. Both refused.

The fate of Fritz Mender (in Latvian, F. Menders) was mentioned in Issue 11 of the Chronicle (see 11.15, item).

He was born in 1885 and received a legal education, studying in Vienna, Brussels and Berne. From 1904 onwards he took part in the socialist movement. In 1905 he joined the Bolsheviks (with the code-name of “Stepan”). In 1906 he was arrested and exiled to Siberia, but in the following year he escaped and until 1917 lived in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. While in emigration he wrote a dissertation and published articles in social-democratic publications (under the pseudonyms of Fritz Weiss and Zodkov).

In independent Latvia F. Mender was a member of the People’s Council, of the Central Committee of the LSDWP and – from 1932 onwards – of the Executive Committee of the Second International. In his report to the 1929 Congress of the LSDWP Mender announced: “We are the children of the Russian Revolution . . .” He was chairman of the party from 1930 until 1934. At the last congress of the LSDWP in 1934 F. Mender spoke against fascism. During the war he took part in the democratic resistance movement.

After the formation of the Latvian SSR [in 1940] F. Mender shared the fate of all social-democrats who remained in the country: most of the party functionaries were exiled to Siberia, Vorkuta, Karaganda and Kolyma. F. Mender returned home in 1955 under an amnesty.

In 1969 Mender, then aged 84, was charged under Article 65 of the Latvian Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 70 of the Russian Code) for his appeals to various international organisations, including the UN. The court sentenced F. Mender to five years’ banishment, and he was placed in a home for the aged in Varaklyany (in eastern Latvia).

In 1970, after a severe deterioration in his health, Mender was moved to Riga.