Problems of Organizational Leadership

from the report of Joseph Stalin to the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1934.

Some people think that it is sufficient to draw up a correct Party line, proclaim it from the housetops, state it in the form of general theses and resolutions, and take a vote and carry unanimously for victory to come of itself, spontaneously, as it were. This, of course, is wrong. It is a gross delusion. Only incorrigible bureaucrats and red-tapists can think so. As a matter of fact, these successes and victories did not come spontaneously, but as the result of a fierce struggle for the application of the Party line. Victory never comes by itself -- it usually has to be attained. Good resolutions and declarations in favour of the general line of the Party are only a beginning; they merely express the desire for victory, but not the victory itself. After the correct line has been laid down, after a correct solution of the problem has been found, success depends on how the work is organized; on the organization of the struggle for the application of the Party line; on the proper selection of personnel; on the way a check is kept on the fulfillment of the decisions of the leading bodies. Otherwise the correct line of the Party and the correct solutions are in danger of being seriously prejudiced.

Furthermore, after the correct political line has been laid down, organizational work decides everything, including the fate of the political line itself, its success or failure.

As a matter of fact, victory was achieved and won by a stern and systematic struggle against all sorts of difficulties that stood in the way of carrying out the Party line; by overcoming the difficulties; by mobilizing the Party and the working-class for the purpose of overcoming the difficulties; by organizing the struggle to overcome the difficulties; by removing inefficient executives and choosing better ones, capable of waging the struggle against difficulties.

What are these difficulties; and wherein are they lodged?

They are difficulties attending our organizational work, difficulties attending our organizational leadership. They are lodged in ourselves, in our leading people, in our organizations, in the apparatus of our Party, state, economic, trade union, Young Communist League, and all other organizations....

Bureaucracy and red tape in the administrative apparatus; idle chatter about "leadership in general" instead of real and concrete leadership; the functional structure of our organizations and lack of individual responsibility; lack of personal responsibility in work, and wage equalization; the absence of a systematic check upon the fulfillment of decisions; fear of self-criticism -- these are the sources of our difficulties; this is where our difficulties are now lodged.

It would be naïve to think that these difficulties can be overcome by means of resolutions and decisions. The bureaucrats have long become past masters in the art of demonstrating their loyalty to Party and government decisions in words, and pigeon-holing them in deed. In order to overcome these difficulties it was necessary to put an end to the disparity between our organizational work and the requirements of the political line of the Party; it was necessary to raise the level of organizational leadership in all spheres of the national economy to the level of political leadership; it was necessary to see to it that our organizational work guarantees the practical realization of the political slogans and decisions of the Party.

In order to overcome these difficulties and achieve success it was necessary to organize the struggle to eliminate these difficulties; it was necessary to draw the masses of the workers and peasants into this struggle; it was necessary to mobilize the Party itself; it was necessary to purge the Party and the economic organizations of unreliable, unstable and demoralized elements.

What was needed for this?

We had to organize:

  1. Extensive self-criticism and exposure of the defects in our work;
  2. The mobilization of the Party, state, economic, trade union, and Young Communist League organizations for the struggle against difficulties;
  3. The mobilization of the masses of the workers and peasants to fight for the application of the slogans and decisions of the Party and of the Government;
  4. The extension of emulation and shock work among the working people;
  5. A wide network of Political Departments of machine and tractor stations and state farms and the bringing of the Party and Soviet leadership closer to the villages;
  6. The division of the People's Commissariats, head offices, trusts, and the establishment of closer contact between the business leadership and the enterprises;
  7. The elimination of lack of personal responsibility in work and the elimination of wage equalization;
  8. The abolition of the "functional" system; the extension of individual responsibility, and a policy directed towards doing away with collegium management;
  9. The exercise of greater control over the fulfillment of decisions, while taking the line towards reorganizing the Central Control Commission and the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection with a view to the further enhancement of the work of checking up on the fulfillment of decisions;
  10. The transfer of qualified workers from offices to posts that will bring them into closer contact with production;
  11. The exposure and expulsion from the administrative apparatus of incorrigible bureaucrats and red-tapists;
  12. The removal from their posts of people who violate the decisions of the Party and the Government, of "window-dressers" and windbags, and promotion to their place of new people -- business-like people, capable of concretely directing the work entrusted to them and of tightening Party and state discipline;
  13. The purging of state and economic organizations and the reduction of their staffs;
  14. Lastly, the purging of the Party of unreliable and demoralized persons.

These, in the main, are the measures which the Party has had to adopt in order to overcome difficulties, to raise our organizational work to the level of political leadership, and in this way to ensure the application of the Party line.

You know that this is exactly how the Central Committee of the Party carried on its organizational work during the period under review.

In this, the Central Committee was guided by the brilliant thought uttered by Lenin to the effect that the main thing in organizational work is -- choosing the right people and keeping a check on the fulfillment of decisions.

In regard to choosing the right people and dismissing those who fail to justify the confidence placed in them, I would like to say a few words.

Apart from the incorrigible bureaucrats and red-tapists, as to whose removal there are no differences of opinion among us, there are two other types of executives who retard our work, hinder our work, and hold up our advance.

One of these types of executives is represented by people who rendered certain services in the past, people who have become aristocrats, who consider that Party decisions and the laws issued by the Soviet Government are not written for them, but for fools. These are the people who do not consider it their duty to fulfill the decisions of the Party and of the Government, and who thus destroy the foundations of Party and state discipline. What do they count upon when they violate Party and Soviet laws? They Presume that the Soviet Government will not have the courage to touch them, because of their past services. These over-conceited aristocrats think that they are irreplaceable, and that they can violate the decisions of the leading bodies with impunity. What is to be done with executives of this kind? They must unhesitatingly be removed from their leading posts, irrespective of past services. (Voices: "Hear, hear!") They must be demoted to lower positions, and this must be announced in the Press. (Voices: "Hear, hear!") This must be done in order to knock the pride out of these over-conceited aristocrat-bureaucrats, and to put them in their proper place. This must be done in order to tighten up Party and Soviet discipline in the whole of our work. (Voices: "Hear, hear!" Applause.)

And now about the second type of executives. I have in mind the windbags. I would say, honest windbags (laughter), people who are honest and loyal to the Soviet Government, but who are incompetent as executives, incapable of organizing anything. Last year I had a conversation with one such comrade, a very respected comrade, but an incorrigible windbag, capable of drowning any living cause in a flood of talk. Here is the conversation.

I: How are you getting on with the sowing?
He: With the sowing, Comrade Stalin? We have mobilized ourselves. (Laughter.)
I: Well, and what then?
He: We have put the question squarely. (Laughter.)
I: And what next?
He: There is a turn, Comrade Stalin; soon there will be a turn. (Laughter.)
I: But still?
He: We can say that there is an indication of some progress. (Laughter.)
I: But for all that, how are you getting on with the sowing?
He: So far, Comrade Stalin, we have not made any headway with the sowing. (General Laughter.)

Here you have the physiognomy of the windbag. They have mobilized themselves, they have put the question squarely, they have made a turn and some progress, but things remain as they were.

This is exactly how a Ukrainian worker recently described the state of a certain organization when he was asked whether that organization had any definite line: "Well," he said, "they have a line all right, but they don't seem to be doing any work." (General Laughter.) Evidently that organization also has its quota of honest windbags.

And when such windbags are dismissed from their posts and are given jobs far removed from operative work, they shrug their shoulders in perplexity and ask : "Why have we been dismissed? Did we not do all that was necessary to get the work done? Did we not organize a rally of shock workers? Did we not proclaim the slogans of the Party and of the government at the conference of shock workers? Did we not elect the whole of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee to the Honorary Presidium? (General Laughter.) Did we not send greetings to Comrade Stalin -- what more do they want of us?" (Loud Laughter.)

What is to be done with these incorrigible windbags? Why, if they were allowed to remain on operative work they would drown every living cause in a flood of watery and endless speeches. Obviously, they must be removed from leading posts and given work other than operative work. There is no place for windbags on operative work. (Voices: "Hear, hear!" Applause.)

I have already briefly reported on how the Central Committee handled the selection of personnel for the Soviet and economic organizations, and how it pursued the work of keeping a closer check on the fulfillment of decisions. Comrade Kaganovitch will deal with this in greater detail in his report on the third item of the agenda of the Congress.

I would like to say a few words, however, about future work in connection with the task of keeping a closer check on the fulfillment of decisions.

The proper organization of the work of checking up on the fulfillment of decisions is of decisive importance in the fight against bureaucracy and office routine. Are the decisions of the leading bodies carried out, or are they pigeonholed by bureaucrats and red-tapists? Are they carried out properly, or are they distorted? Is the apparatus working conscientiously and in a Bolshevik manner, or is it running with the clutch out? These things can be promptly found out only if a proper check is kept on the fulfillment of decisions. A proper check on the fulfillment of decisions is a searchlight which helps to reveal how the apparatus is functioning at any moment, exposing bureaucrats and red-tapist to full view. We can say with certainty that nine-tenths of our defects and failures are due to the lack of a properly organized system of check-up on the fulfillment of decisions. There can be no doubt that had there been such a system of check-up on fulfillment defects and failures would certainly have been averted.

But for the work of checking up on fulfillment to achieve its purpose, two conditions at least are required: first, that fulfillment be checked up systematically and not spasmodically; second, that the work of checking up on fulfillment in all the links of the Party, state, and economic organizations be entrusted not to second-rate people, but to people with sufficient authority, the leaders of the organizations concerned....

Our tasks in the sphere of organizational work are:

  1. To continue to adapt our organizational work to the requirements of the political line of the party;
  2. To raise organizational leadership to the level of political leadership;
  3. To see to it that organizational leadership is fully equal to the task of ensuring the realization of the political slogans and decisions of the party.


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