Konstantin Chernenko


Speech at the Plenary Meeting of the CPSU Central Committee

April 10, 1984


Date: 10 April, 1984.
Source:  Konstantin Chernenko, To Perfect Developed Socialism and Fight for World Peace, Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1984; pages 28-45.




The first session of the newly-elected USSR Supreme Soviet is opening tomorrow. At a meeting of the Central Committee Political Bureau we have made a comprehensive assessment of the results of the elections that have just been held. They have demonstrated the full approval and undivided support of the Party's political course on the part of the working people. The opinion of over 180 million voters is confirmation of the unquestionable growth of the authority of Soviet government. Relying on the trust expressed by the people we can confidently carry on our work.

The basic guidelines in this work were set out by the 26th CPSU Congress, and have been further developed and specified by subsequent plenary meetings of the Central Committee. It is a question of a strategy of advance towards communism, which has nothing to do either with slowness in action or with skipping stages of development which are historically necessary. This means that as we move forward toward attaining the Party's SUpreme objectives, we still have to accomplish quite a few major and complicated tasks relating, in their origin and character, to the first phase of communism. That, strictly speaking, is the substance of the great end hard work being done today to perfect developed socialism.

This work, understandably, cannot be accomplished without the full-scale development of the innovative and creative endeavour of the masses and without their most active involvement in the solution of the key problems of public life. This is what we worked for, both when we took measures necessary for speeding up our economic growth, and when we directed the Party’s efforts toward radically improving ideological work. This line we will continue to pursue.

The very nature of the questions brought before the plenary meeting today provides a good opportunity for taking a closer look at the ways in which we can best use the reserves for stepping up the activity of the masses, reserves which reside in a further improvement of socialist democracy and of the entire political system of our society, and, above all in an improvement of the work of the Soviets, the political foundation of the USSR and a powerful tool in the building of socialism.

It will be recalled that soon after the October Revolution Vladimir Lenin called for turning the Soviets into such bodies of state government as would work not only for the working people, but also through the working people. We have every reason to say today that this task has in the main been accomplished. It is through the two million three hundred thousand Deputies, representatives of factory workers, farmers, and the intelligentsia, working people of all nations and nationalities, tens of millions of activists that the affairs of state are being run in our country.

We have been constantly extending the powers of the Soviets at all levels, and especially since the adoption of the new Constitution of the USSR. This has helped make a possible to apply more fully in then activities the Leninist principle of the unity of legislation administration and control.

However, comrades, it has to be admitted that the vast potential of the Soviets is still being used insufficiently. Here is a case in point. We have passed a number of decisions to enhance the role of the local Soviets in economic and cultural development. We expected —and we were right in expecting— that this would help ensure comprehensive economic development everywhere, erect a higher barrier against departmentalism, make it possible to meet more fully the various requirements of the population and improve the services provided to it.

In short, those are good decisions. But they are being carried out rather slowly, and not fully. Many ministries are still trying to bypass local Soviets in their work. While concentrating their activities on industrial construction and modernisation, they quite often fail to give proper attention to housing construction and to public service, recreational and cultural facilities. And the Soviets themselves do not always show the necessary perseverance in exercising their rights. As a result, housing projects hospitals and preschool establishments are frequently completed behind schedule. Unfinished projects me sometimes accepted as finished. There are instances of violation of regulations on environmental protection.

There are some other problems, too, in solving which the Soviets should be more active. For example, how can the People's Deputies put up with such facts, quite often brought to the notice of national newspapers by working people, as poorly heated apartments, lack of proper public sanitation facilities in some towns and settlements, shortcomings in the transport services poor street lighting or hooliganism in public places?

In short, there is a certain contradiction, a discrepancy between the abundant possibilities the Soviets have and the way they actually use them. One need only recall on this point Lenin's idea that “it is not enough to proclaim in formal decrees” the full authority of the Soviets, but that this authority “must also be practically organised and tested in the course of the regular, everyday work of administration”.

The conclusions to be drawn from this are ob-vious. It is necessary to put to use all methods of Party influence on the activities of the Soviets in order to make them more effective and to eliminate all elements of formalism. This is the demand of the day. This is required of all Party committees and, of course, of Deputies who are members of the Communist Party, through whom the Party fulfils its guiding role in the Soviets. Their example is important here; and also important is their responsible attitude to their duties as Deputies. They are called upon to lay the organisational foundation of the work of the Soviets, to rally all the elected representatives of the people around them, and to encourage and direct their creative initiative.

This, comrades, is the Party's main task in guiding the Soviets today. We must see to it that the full power, constitutionally affirmed, should find expression in the content and style of their work constantly and everywhere.

Take the work of sessions, for example. It is here that the essence of the Soviets as bodies of genuine people's power, expressing the interests and the collective experience of the masses, is revealed in the fullest measure. Sessions play a major role in our economic activities as well. They regularly discuss and approve plans and hear reports on the fulfilment of plans. Serious questions relating to our economic development are raised here. It would be logical to expect that these questions should evoke an equally serious and at the same time lively exchange of opinion. However, this is far from being always the case.

But this is not all. Economic activity, just as effective control over it, requires a concrete approach and prompt action. And this, naturally, is difficult to achieve if such questions are raised only at sessions, no matter how energetically they are dealt with.

There are standing commissions in every Soviet. This means they must constantly feel the pulse of our economic life and respond in good time to the needs of the national economy, help the Soviets and their executive bodies to arrive at sound economic decisions, and exercise systematic control over the fulfilment of these decisions. Experience has been pained in this area. But time demands that it should be considerably enriched.

We have now entered a very important stage of the current five-year plan period when time is measured in months. And the situation is not at all one that permits us to do without further intensifying our economic work. This is borne out by the results of the first quarter as well. There are definite successes, but at the same time there are also sections lagging behind.

At the next meeting of the Political Bureau we shall discuss specifically the implementation of the national economic plan and map out concrete measures to improve the state of affairs. But it is clear even today that it will be right for us, every one of us, not to permit ourselves to sit back and relax. Concern, or even, I would say, anxious concern for the state plan must not leave us for a minute. And let's agree on this: the measures to be taken against those responsible for any setback or shortcoming that occurs this year must be tougher than ever before. Our Party cannot take any other stand on this.

We expect Communists-Deputies to help establish the same approach in the Soviets as well. Our economy stands much to gain if the Soviets make it a rule to assess exactingly and objectively the work of economic managers at all levels.

At the session of the Supreme Soviet we are to approve the composition of the USSR Council of Ministers. In this connection I would like to draw the attention of our ministers and department heads to the fact that their role and responsibility in carrying out national economic tasks are exceptionally great and diverse. This refers to their personal creative initiative, to their ability to organise harmonious, well-coordinated work at the enterprises and organisations run by their ministries and departments. This also refers to efficient cooperation and joint solution of questions with related enterprises. And, of course, this refers to constant concern for and attention to the needs and requirements of the working people. We shall judge the work of administrators not only by the full and timely attainment of planned targets and the fulfilment of contractual obligations, but also by the real efforts they make to improve working and living conditions.

We have now embarked on a comprehensive improvement of the system of economic management and are seeking new managerial structures and new forms of economic activity. However, it goes without saying that the necessary search for what is new should not sidetrack us from making more effective use of existing institutions of management. This primarily refers to government bodies, the Soviets. No new capacities need to be created here. It is enough to utilise existing capacities to the full.

Since we are talking about management, I cannot ignore the question of reducing the ad-ministrative apparatus. This work must be carried out not only at the lower and middle levels of administration but also at the summits, so to say. This is a must whether one likes it or not, and especially since an example set in the centre means a great deal.

We all understand that this is a serious matter. It must be tackled in a Party manner. First of all, we must leave aside subjective considerations. And secondly, we must realize that this is not a short-term campaign. Our aim is to attain an optimal ratio between the number of people employed in production and in management. Transferring people from one office to another is not enough. It is necessary to eliminate the causes of the swelling of the managerial apparatus and continuously to improve the organisational and technical level of managerial work. And, of course, it is essential to create conditions in which people themselves will be interested in going over from the office desk to the machine so to speak. It is clear what kind of problems arise in this context. And it is essential that government and planning bodies, and of course the Soviets at all levels, should tackle these problems in real earnest.

Comrades, wo all remember that Lenin insisted that in their work the Soviets should give "prime place to effective control for actual fulfilment of the decisions of central authorities and of local institutions". By and large, we have achieved that. Many Soviets effectively exercise their right to check on the activities of the bodies and officials accountable to them and of organisations and enterprises located in their area. But nevertheless there are quite a few things here that Communists-Deputies and Party groups in the Soviets have to work on.

There exists, for example, such an effective form of control as a Deputy's inquiry I wanted to know if it was often used. It turns out that in recent years there has been on average one inquiry to about 30 Deputies for all the Soviets. The figure itself may not say much. But consider it in the light of the numerous letters sent by working people to the Control Committee, to the newspapers and to the Soviets at all levels. In many of them vital issues are raised, which are of concern to people. I am confident that People's Deputies both know well and share these cares of working people. But as it happens, not all of them know how to bring up these issues in the Soviets and to submit them for general public discussion.

Apparently it is necessary to increase the role of the Soviets also in the matter of control over the observance of all the decisions passed by them of all Soviet laws. No one in our country is allowed to violate or circumvent laws. What I am saying is common knowledge. But I say it because, unfortunately not all draw the necessary practical conclusions from this.

Examples are not far to seek. Many of us have encountered the following situation more than once. A five-year or yearly plan has just been discussed and unanimously approved. Consequently, it acquires the force of law. But what happens then? It is a fact that representatives of now one, now another department, of now one, now another sphere often unjustifiably demand additional material and financial resources above those already allocated under the plan. It is, to put it bluntly, our old trouble. But some comrades have got so used to it that they regard it almost as a norm of life. Moreover, some appear to think that the “enterprise” they display in getting those additional resources is the best proof of their efficiency.

Of course, this is not so. We need real efficiency in drawing up plans and in discussing them in commissions and at sessions of the Soviets. That's where one should put forward one’s arguments, uphold the interests of the voters as expressed in their mandates, assert one's own opinion. But once the plan has become law, it must be respected, complied with and strictly fulfilled. And this is not only a question of economic discipline. It is a question of Party and political responsibility. Who else besides us, Communists, and especially Communist lenders, should above all work for strengthening the authority of the laws promulgated by the Soviet government?

True is the old saying that the law is strict but just. Our laws are indeed strict. And equally strict must be our compliance with them. Otherwise efforts to strengthen law and order, organization and socialist legality will be wasted. But of course, it is not in order to suppress the initiative of people, to “turn the screws on them”, as it is said in the West, that we are concerned with all this. Not at all. To us, what is important about law is that it is not only strict but also just in the broadest sense of the word, that all are equal before the law, and that our legal standards and our legislation are directed toward the defence of the working people's interests, toward a heightening of their labour enthusiasm and public activity.

This in fact was the aim of the important legislative work carried out by the Supreme Soviet at the 10th convocation. I can mention, for example the Law on Work Collectives which it adopted. Undoubtedly, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Supreme Soviets of the Republics will carry on this line in the future. The most important thing is thot both existing and new legislation should promote the flourishing of socialist democracy and encourage over broader sections of the people to take an interest and to participate in the running of production, the state and society.

Comrades, in a country like ours, the question of improving relations between nations cannot be removed from the agenda. The Soviets, which have played an outstanding part in eliminating notional strife and establishing fraternal friendship between our peoples, must now make a serious attempt to comprehend the essence of the nationalities question in the form in which it exists in the conditions of developed socialism. For this is a sphere where work can be fruitful only if carried out on a collectivist, internationalist basis, with due consideration for all aspects and facets of the matter.

The unity of the international and the national is clearly embodied in both the structure and the entire activity of our Soviets, and primarily the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. This has served effectively and continues to serve effectively the cause of strengthening the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. At the same time we cannot regard the relations established between the peoples in our state as something ossified and un-changeable as something not subject to the in fluence of time and new circumstances. And this means that while developing existing forms and methods of organisation of work that have proved effective, one must also constantly seek other forms and methods that promote the flourishing of the peoples and their drawing closer together. This question, which is of vital importance, deserves, I think, the attention of both Central Committee members and Supreme Soviet deputies.

The Soviets, and first of all the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, are also making a notable contribution to large scale day-to-day work directed towards im-plementing our foreign policy tasks. All of us know only too well how complex the present-day inter-national situation is. The CPSU and the Soviet state are making vast efforts to prevent a nuclear war and to preserve and safeguard peace on earth. In a consistent and vigorous way we are working to remove tensions in world politics, to curb the arms race and reliably ensure our country's security. It is also one of our daily tasks to strengthen the international position of socialism and solidarity with liberation movements.

The standing commissions for foreign affairs of the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet are doing a great deal to develop our ties with other countries. They represent our country at major international meetings and at talks that are at times difficult. This responsible work however, so far actively involves only a relatively small number of deputies. For other deputies, the discharging of their deputy's duties is frequently confined mainly to participation in functions of a protocol nature. This practice is hardly justified.

The commissions for foreign affairs could devote more attention to coordination and control of the work of departments and organisations concerned with international affairs and more often hear reports by their representatives at commission sittings. In other words, there is a need now to extend the scope of activities of deputies working in these commissions.

I would like to mention especially the Soviets’ work further to consolidate our country's defence capability. The present-day situation requires from us constant and all-round efforts to ensure the country's security and to protect reliably the peaceful labour of the Soviet people. And the Soviets are expected to contribute to the fulfilment of that task.

In general, comrades Communists Deputies. Party committees and the Party as a whole should insist that the Soviets always show active concern for everything that constitutes the life and aspirations of the people and the country.

Soviet people are now focusing their attention on the reform of the schools. This is a question of immense general political significance which was, in point of fact, why we raised it at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee.

For Soviet society to move confidently forward, towards out great goals, each new generation must rise to a higher level of education and general culture, of professional qualifications and civic activity. This, you might say, is a law of social progress.

At a time when a scientific and technological revolution is taking place and there is an avalanche-like growth in the quantity of information. This law makes unprecedentedly high demands both upon those who me studying and those who are teaching —from rank-and-file teacher to minister. The reform is indeed called upon to create all the necessary conditions for meeting these demands and, of course, to eliminate the present shortcomings in the sphere of education, including its administration.

Now, following nationwide discussion, the Central Committee's draft reform for the school system has been enriched by the collective wisdom and experience of millions. I would like to join with the comrades who have proposed that the draft be in the main approved and submitted to the Supreme Soviet for consideration.

Now we must think about how to achieve the full realization of the ideas of the reform so that they do not remain on paper. The main thing here is to put all the school reform work on a sound material and organisational basis. We must take care of many things —from restructuring the process of instruction, arranging the work of schoolchildren and establishing proper order in the functioning of children’s homes and boarding schools on the one hand to improving the living conditions of teachers, on the other.

I can tell you, by the way, that from September to the phased raising of the salaries of teachers and other workers in public education by an average of 30 to 35 per cent will begin. This measure will affect some six million people. It will cost about 3,500 million roubles a year. It is no easy matter to allocate such a sum from the state budget. But we believe that this is a very correct, efficient investment of public money.

The school reform is not a one-off affair. And the point is not just that it is calculated for two five-year plan periods. Where people are concerned, especially children, not everything can be scheduled beforehand. No doubt, in the light of experience corrections will have to be made to some of our plans and projections and we should not fear this. The important thing is not to lose sight of the strategic aim guiding us the all-round development of the personality.

It is also important to visualise clearly the nature and scale of the problems that arise in connection with reform but lie largely outside its framework. In order to organise productive work for senior pupils, it is planned, for example, to allocate or create several million jobs involving the use of modern equipment in various sectors of the economy. That is precisely how the question, comrades, is being posed. And the USSR State Planning Committee is to incorporate that immense undertaking organically into the guidelines for the country’s economic and social development for the 12th five-year plan period and up to the year 2000.

The closer we bring the schools and production together, the fuller will be the benefits derived from the reform.

Educational and political benefits. Soviet young people must start their independent lives as highly-cultured, educated and industrious persons. And whatever our children may become —workers or agronomists, scientists or engineers— they must get their class steeling in work collectives. We must ensure that their acquaintance with production produces precisely the educational effect we need.

We expect the reform to have beneficial results as regards the economy and manpower. Every job created for senior schoolchildren must produce tangible benefit to the community, it must be a real benefit, however modest. Now on completing their secondary education, millions of pupils leaving general and vocational schools, equipped with sound knowledge and essential work skills, will enter productive employment in the national economy.

I want to stress the point that the emphasis we are now laying on bringing schoolchildren up through productive work within the bounds of their ability, however fundamentally important, does not cancel out the truth that the children's main task is, of course, to study and firmly to master the fundamental sciences. Hence springs the demand for improving the teaching of general education subjects at school, including, naurally, the humanities. Otherwise it is impossible to provide an adequate supply for all sectors of communist construction today, let alone in the years ahead, of people well-versed in their trade and capable of making constant professional and intellectual progress.

The whole educational process today must carry much more philosophical substance. While lightening curricula and creating new and better textbooks, one cannot lighten them ideologically or lower the scientific standards of instruction. The schools are called upon to foster in pupils firm Marxist-Leninist beliefs and a capacity for independent and imaginative thinking, and to cultivate in them a sense of responsibility for the destinies of their socialist homeland. And, of course, the schools must make them fully immune to views and mores alien to us.

The schools should not only discuss the subject of communist morality but teach pupils to base their behaviour on it. To this end there should be a greater effort to cultivate the principles of self-government in school collectives. Naturally, with the teachers’ skillful assistance. There must be neither routine nor boredom in the work of Young Pioneer squads and Komsomol organisations at schools.

However great the role of the school is, it is not the school alone that educates the rising generation. A person's fundamental character and basic outlook on life are formed in the family. And you can expect nothing good to come of it if the school teaches you one thing and the family another. The Party and Komsomol organisations and work collectives have no right to let such things go unnoticed.

The reform furnishes the conditions for the joint development of the entire system of public education, including, naturally, higher school which substantially influences the pace of our economic social, cultural and intellectual progress and, indeed, our country's defence capability. Precisely here are created the human prerequisites for what is an object of our paramount concern —the natural fusion of the social economy system with the latest achievements of science and technology.

Some considerable shortcomigs in the work of the USSR Ministry of Higher and Specialised Secondary Education were brought to light at the 26th Party Congress and at the June plenary meeting of the CPSU Central Committee. But the tasks set before higher school are still far from having been accomplished. Evidently, the force of innertia and adherence to old habits are making themselves felt here. Although there are also some objective difficulties. We must sort things out and put matters right.

Generally speaking, comrades, we must take a close look at how the decisions of the 26th Congress are being carried out in all spheres. There will soon be a new Party Congress and already now we should prepare for it.

For us Communists preparation for the Congress is a period of reviewing and summing up what has been achieved, a period of actively consolidating all the good progress we have made. This is also a time to draw lessons from mistakes which may have been made, to make a self-critical analysis of shortcomings, to outline ways of overcoming them, and, above all, ways of tackling great new task.

The fulfilment of these tasks depends to a deci-sive degree on personnel. They are, indeed, the treasury of the Party and the state. And this treasury requires a constant influx of fresh forces. Moreover, as the election campaign in the Party organisations has shown, not all Communists, who hold positions of responsibility in the Party, are justifying the confidence placed in them. A well-organised and well-thought-out system is more important than anywhere else in our personnel policy Here one cannot permit either too frequent replacements or any fossilisaion of the core of personnel. All of our Party committees appear to have reserves for promotion. Why, then, comrades, is it sometimes extremely difficult to find a capable person to fill a post of responsibility? It turns out that quite often the reserve just exists on paper. We should bring absolute clarity into this very important matter. To this end we want to make a thorough examination of the urgent question of present personnel policy at a meeting of the Political Bureau.

Comrades, while taking stock of what has been done, we must constantly and thoroughly analyse the progress being made in carrying out all our major social and economic programmes, such as the Food and the Energy Programmes.

The drafting of the next, twelfth five-year plan calls for special attention now. It is no less important to determine the key problems and prospects for development of the country in coming decades. For we are, after all, going to submit a revised Party Programme to the 27th Congress for consideration. So we must not only build it on a sound general theoretical foundation but must organically link it with well-grounded economic plans and forecasts. This will make it possible for us to draw an objective and realistic picture of the perfection of developed socialism and gradual advance to communism.

Thus, in preparing for the 27th Congress, we must do substantial ideological groundwork. As the best guide for this work of ours we may take Lenin's words that “we are now doubly in need of a general, broader, and more far-reaching outlook”.

Yes, we must considerably activate the Party's collective thinking. Moreover, not only general theoretical thinking but political thinking too. Theory enriched with new experience and experience creatively interpreted in the light of Marxist-Leninist theory —this has always been and remains a very important source of our Party’s strength.

Comrades, at the plenary meeting today questions have been discussed which concern every Communist and every Soviet person. We are taking correct decisions. All those participating in this plenary meeting bear great responsibility for the future of these decisions Acting together, by the joint efforts of the whole Party and in conjunction with the whole people, we must work hard to make them a reality.