First of all apologies if there is one community site more appropriate for this.

I have been reading today on a lot of Spanish right wing sites a quote attributed to Lenin: "Contra las almas la mentira, contra los cuerpos la violencia". Also in reverse: "Contra los cuerpos, la violencia; contra las almas, la mentira." My modest translation would be "against the souls, lies; against the bodies, violence".

The quote appeared on one site as "Contra los cuerpos, la violencia. Contra las almas, la mentira y la calumnia. Contra los muertos, el silencio", that is "Against the bodies, violence. Against the souls, lies and slander. Against the dead, silence".

None of the sites stays where Lenin supposedly wrote that.

On a couple of other sites, they attribute it to Serguéi Necháyev, on his Catechism of a Revolutionary. But I have found a document with it and the quote doesn't appear anywhere.

I'd like to know who said that quote first, where, and if possible, who caused a possible misattribution.

  • 2
    I haven't found this quote on English. It could be something fabricated on Spain, or it could be that it has a different translation to english.
    – Flamma
    Apr 27, 2021 at 15:45
  • 1
    Google books lists a few instances from the late 1930s, so it is not a recent invention. But the texts are paywalled, making it hard to backtrack. Apr 27, 2021 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


Mikhail Bakunin is the source of the quotation "For the soul, lies. For the body, violence"

A 1962 source on Russian historiography, Rewriting Russian history; Soviet interpretations of Russia's past by Cyril Edwin Black, refering to a note in a previous work by Dmitri Kuzmin in 1927, credits Bakunin with saying this in a 1870 letter to [Alfred] Talandier, though the order is reversed:

"For the body, violence; For the soul, lies"

The letter from Bakunin to Talandier, dated July 24, 1870, is written in French and is full of criticism about Nechaev's political morality:

(...) il [Netchaev] est arrivé peu à peu à se convaincre que pour fonder une société sérieuse et indestructible il fallait prendre pour base la politique de Machiavel et adopter pleinement le système des Jésuites, pour corps la seule violence, pour âme le mensonge.

(...) he [Nechaev] progressively convinced himself that to build a serious and undestructible society Machiavel's politics must be taken as a basis and the Jesuits' system fully adopted, for body only violence, for soul lies. [Evargalo's translation]

Interestingly, Mikhail Bakunin associates this concept with even older historical figures, the Jesuits. Whether he forged the formula himself or if some Jesuits really used it is unclear; in any case it is Bakunin who linked this phrase with Nechaev, and Nechaev certainly never said nor wrote it himself.

The association of this quote with Lenin (or Nietzsche) is totally apocryph.

  • 4
    Adding a direct source of Bakunin's letter to Talandier.
    – Evargalo
    Mar 14, 2023 at 9:38
  • Just pointing out that Machiavelli came before the Jesuits.
    – Spencer
    Mar 14, 2023 at 12:21
  • @Spencer, that's right of course, but in my understanding, Bakunin's phrase "for body..." is a description of only the "Jesuits' system" rather than both this system and "Machiavelli's politics"...
    – Evargalo
    Mar 14, 2023 at 16:29
  • So, to be sure I got it right. Bakunin used the quote, but not as something he believed in, but to describe someone else's way of thinking.
    – Flamma
    May 21, 2023 at 12:11

Not really an answer but a collection of materials, so marked as community wiki:

Since the earliest translations of the "Catechism" were done from Russian to French, I would expect a "French version" of the quote to be current if the quote really exists in the Russian original, but I wasn't able to find any. Another approach would be to try to "re-translate" the quote into Russian and search for sources.

  • 1
    According to Worldcat, Criterio is a Buenos Aires publication. Apr 28, 2021 at 10:34
  • @kimchilover - thanks for the hint, fixed - on Criterio, see also Spanish WP (hope it's the same...).
    – tohuwawohu
    Apr 28, 2021 at 11:07
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    The most commonly cited text of "Catechism" in Russian has no phrase that I could reasonably imagine being the origin of the quote. Apr 29, 2021 at 8:20
  • The quote won't be found in the Catechism nor in any of Nechaev's works : see my edit to Nils' answer.
    – Evargalo
    Mar 14, 2023 at 10:05

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