Bureaucracy. Eugene Kamenka 1989
By the end of the eighteenth century systematic concern with the theory and practice of regularized administration as a central function of government was burgeoning throughout Europe. Growth in population, production and trade, the conversion of wars from dynastic into national wars, the acquisition of colonies, the foundation and expansion of great capital cities, all played a role. So did the increasing social importance of the literate middle classes and the decline of an aristocracy deriving its claim to authority from origin and military conquests. Above all, however, the Enlightenment, and its heirs in England, the philosophical radicals, were introducing, or strengthening, demands that governments perform, that they improve the position of their people and the public welfare, that they convert royal servants into public servants, the crown into the state, office into a public trust. The Industrial Revolution and the growth of scientific knowledge intensified these developments and added yet other dimensions. These were a much more advanced division of labour, increasing need and respect for specialization and technical knowledge (both in the broad and in the narrow sense of ‘technical’) and a much more urgent sense of economic development, public health and human progress, to which government and administration might and should make a significant contribution. As the nineteenth century progressed, the accelerated building of public roads and facilities, the introduction of gas, electricity and the telephone all required corps of officials with a degree of training. So did the introduction of military conscription and of new scientific and technological services for modern armies, and then navies. Education, ecclesiastical affairs, and cultural agencies, like the institutions of commerce, industry and agriculture, new or greatly enlarged, required similar services. The increasing social problems connected with modern industry — factory inspection, legislation for working conditions, poor relief, workers’ compensation and insurance, public housing, public health and other services — all called for administrative personnel on a large scale. Laws affecting these matters increasingly required skills and knowledge beyond the capacities of local amateurs, whether elected or voluntary. The industrial technology itself and later a host of scientific technologies, having extended enormously the harm that human actions and possessions might do to others, provoked — partly through outrage over individual mishaps or abuses more and more government action, inspection and control. All this encouraged governments to perform new functions and made possible and necessary the employment of many more civil servants on the basis of ever-increasing revenue through taxation. Even in the eighteenth century, theorists of ‘police’ (the polity) and of political economy had emphasized the role of centrally made and directed laws, capable of clarification, improvement and organization into a coherent body of rational law. The shift, as Leonard Krieger has put it, was from an authority of origins to an authority of ends. An influential metaphor was that of government as an administrative machine — favoured especially in the periods or in the countries where the ruler could plausibly and flatteringly be presented as the foreman, the mainspring, the operator, who sets everything in motion. Subsequent writers on bureaucracy and the Enlightenment have reminded us of striking contemporary quotations:
A properly constituted state must be exactly analogous to a machine, in which all the wheels and gears are precisely adjusted to one another; and the ruler must be the foreman, the mainspring, or the soul — if one may use the expression — which sets everything in motion. [J H G von Justi, 1761]
Just as radii starting from different points on a circumference converge all at a common center, so all the parts of the administration are mutually interlocked and must converge to the same goal. If, therefore, the movement of the individual parts is not calculated in terms of this general rule, the general result can only be an incoherence which will hamper their regular performance.
To avoid this defect, those who are entrusted with the task of renovating the shapeless edifice of our social contract according to correct principles must know the structure of the whole machine; and by constantly keeping in view its movement, they shall be in a better position to see the defects of its wheels and gears. This will enable them to have a better grasp of what improvements are required. [Principles of Government Reform, St Petersburg, 1802]
In eighteenth-century France, as a modern scholar has put it:
the word ‘machine’ has been increasingly used to describe administrative organizations. By the end of the eighteenth century the machine had become an obsessive image. Anson used it to describe the projected Ministry of the Interior, Camus to describe the entire administration, Marat to represent municipal administrations, and to sum up, the machine image in the writings of Lebrun, Roederer, Laffon de Ladebat and many others seems to show that this generation thought of administrative and political agencies as analogous to machines. The other possible analogy, comparing the organization to the human body as Hobbes for instance had done, seldom appears in the writings of the late eighteenth-century French reformers and revolutionaries. [J F Bosher, 1970]
Machines, as Bosher goes on, have a function. In France, the posts occupied by officials during the ancien régime had been offices, charges or places. Soon after the Revolution, they came to be called emplois or fonctions and the officials themselves fonctionnaires.
The French Revolution stood for the consummation of the Enlightenment. It saw government and administration as needing to be based on principles of rationality, welfare and utility. But it also saw government and its officials as servants of the people. It rejected, at least in principle, the notion that the fonctionnaire was part of a. caste or class having a special standing in society by virtue of ‘being an office-holder. In principle, bureaucrats were being robbed of their special standing as part of a ranked society or as an extension of royal power and prestige. The bureaucracy was being transformed into a civil service.
On the continent, the emphasis was on creating or reforming a total administrative system as part of the political direction of the society from the top. This paralleled the Enlightenment and continental Civil Law conception of legal regulation as requiring the elaboration of general principles and systematic codes which would then be applied to specific cases. In English politics, administration and law, the tendency was the opposite — to work toward more general principles and structures from specific problems, cases and needs, to work from the particular to the general and not vice versa. A.V. Dicey in his classic Lectures on Law and Opinion in the Nineteenth Century (first published in 1905) sought to account for the massive growth of state intervention in Britain as the nineteenth century progressed by relating legislation and even the absence of legislation to the varying currents of public opinion. The story as he told it was a persuasive and subtle one. It put much weight on the influence of Jeremy Bentham and the philosophical radicals, the debates on the Poor Law and the fear of Chartism. It distinguished the ‘Old Toryism’ with its mercantilist economists and the associated landed gentry from an ethos of individualism and laissez-faire and both in turn from the new ‘collectivism’ threatening, as Dicey saw it, to dominate the twentieth century. Against this, we have had the attack on Dicey launched, fifty years later, by Oliver MacDonagh, in his seminal article ‘Delegated Legislation and Administrative Discretions in the 1850s: A Particular Study’, published in Victorian Studies in 1958 (vol. 2, pp. 29-44). This was followed up and incorporated in his A Pattern of Government Growth 1800-1860: The Passenger Acts and Their Enforcement (London, 1961). MacDonagh’s reappraisal of Dicey had him arguing that outrage over specific abuses provided a much more powerful impetus toward government intervention and administrative reform than philosophical radicalism and that it did so successfully in the very heyday of laissez-faire individualism and emphasis on the freedom of contract. He showed this convincingly first in his earlier work on emigration and the Passenger Acts and then went on to see the same mechanism at work in mines and factories, in shipping and public health. As Roy MacLeod, summarizing MacDonagh’s impact on the study of administration in England, puts it, MacDonagh provided a new ‘model’ which described five stages in the response of Victorian government to the ‘social evils’ Britain encountered between 1825 and 1870:
The first stage consisted in the exposure of the ‘evil’ itself, a disaster, or an outrage — for example, an explosion in the coal fields, the arrival of cholera — in short, an ‘intolerable situation’. In response, Parliament typically passed initial, permissive or enabling legislation; but without means of enforcement, short of appeal to the courts, this proved inadequate. When experience of the ‘evil’ continued, a second stage ensued, in which special officers, inspectors and other ‘experts’ were appointed to enforce the new legislation. As these officers responded to the continuing needs of their clients and their consciences, they pressed for further compulsory legislation, and for a superintending central body to oversee it, reporting regularly, but at several removes, to Parliament. In many cases, this still failed to go far enough, and a fourth stage ensued, in which the experts ceased to regard the problems they faced as soluble simply by more legislation and additional staff. They sought to apply their expertise, extending government into areas it had not contemplated entering. Their realism ultimately gave way to a fifth stage, in which officers took upon themselves a wider ambit of administrative discretion. Their ‘more or less conscious Fabianism’ extended their use of new scientific knowledge to prevent rather than merely cure the evils they confronted. This gave a ‘dynamic role for government within society’. In the process, a ‘new sort of state was being born’.
MacDonagh’s work produced both considerable debate and what MacLeod calls ‘a “paradigm shift” in the historiography of Victorian government’. 5 Others have examined and re-examined some of his and Dicey’s conceptual terms, but they have also studied in detail individual government departments (the Education Department, the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board) and such agencies of enquiry as Royal Commissions and Select Committees. MacDonagh himself, in Early Victorian Government, 1830-1870 (London, 1977), modified a little his anti-ideological stance and described the forces assisting government growth as theoretical, political and technical — that is ideology, including the Benthamite, popular outrage and demand and the growth of expertise. Roy MacLeod, in another context, has argued that the wider reform movement of which the demand for administrative reform was part, represented the gradual advance not of any radical politics, but of the Peelite tradition of change combined with accommodation. effectively incorporated in Gladstone’s liberalism.
Historians of the growth of administrative government in Britain, MacLeod reminds us, now customarily follow Dicey in describing that growth as passing, in the nineteenth century, through three phases. The first phase, from the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 to the Reform Act of 1832, was a period of ‘legislative quiescence’, of ‘Old Toryism’, which saw government prepared to act primarily ‘against the injustices of agricultural distress, and the pressures of overpopulation, crime and the miseries of city life’. In the second phase, from the 1830s to the late 1860s, ‘scientists and social scientists, Benthamites and Utilitarians, clergymen and “calculators” of the statistical movement, joined with Parliamentary crusaders to deploy the rhetoric of improvement and reform’. For by then, ‘a new humanism’, drawing on the Benthamites and the Evangelicals, had made social evils seem intolerable. It is in this period, the ‘heyday’ of laissez-faire, that we see the now familiar explosion of government intervention of which MacDonagh and others have written and recommendations for Civil Service reform. The third phase from 1870 to 1900 — sees the Civil Service indeed reformed and ends with it becoming the pride of Britain and Empire.
The nineteenth century, then, saw both the growth of industrial society, with its attendant evils and its increasing elevation and provision of expertise, and the growth of and increasing demand for democracy and the righting of social evils. Characteristic of the Victorian revolution in government, another historian reminds us,
was the acceptance of public responsibility for a great many social problems which only experts could solve. Such problems, which were felt most acutely by local governments, included building tramways, new streets, bridges, libraries, town halls, plants and distribution systems for gas and later for electricity, as well as obtaining water supplies and building sewerage systems.
Democracy, it was soon realized, could not really mean executive government by the people in any society whose citizens could not be assembled in the town square. Nor could the people directly provide the now needed expertise for righting or avoiding the new social evils. Democracy for the majority of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century theorists meant the accountability of government and of its officials to the people or their representatives through regular elections and the reservation of policy-making powers to Parliament itself. The main developments in public administration in the nineteenth century lay in the direction of combating what were thought of as aristocratic hangovers — advantages of birth or connections, patronage and sinecures and the corruption associated with this. These were now seen as inimical to democracy, to the efficient and technically competent care for the health and safety, the economic and political welfare, of citizens, and to honest government. In 1853, the British Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen, called upon Sir Stafford Northcote, a politician, and Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, senior permanent official at Her Majesty’s Treasury, who had begun serving in the East India Company as a writer at the age of nineteen, to formulate a scheme to reorganize the Civil Service. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report completed at the end of that year and embodied in an official state document was to have delayed — revolutionary influence upon the British Civil Service and through it upon many public services throughout the world. It recommended the abolition of patronage and drew upon Chinese practice to urge recruitment by open competitive examinations under the supervision of a central examining board. It proposed the reorganization of the office staff of the central departments into two broad classes — one to deal with intellectual work, the other with mechanical. It recommended the filling of higher posts by promotion from inside the service on the basis of merit rather than seniority. On the intellectual side it elevated ‘generalist’ against technical education. The Report, of course, led to much controversy. The principle of open competition in recruitment was not adopted until 1870 — but after 1855 appointees had to submit themselves to a pass examination even though they were still nominated by heads of departments. Some departments began to introduce open competition on their own account. Public pressure for reform grew with the revelation of organizational shortcomings in the several war departments during the Crimean War, just as it had grown during the second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665-67 leading parliament then to appoint Commissioners of Public Accounts to examine Charles II’s administration, especially in regard to seamen’s pay, as it had grown in the 1780s after England’s defeat in the American War and just as it would grow in the United States after the Civil War.
In less traditional and non-aristocratic societies such as the United States, the war (there still not wholly won) was against newer but open forms of patronage and new anti-democratic advantages: political patronage and the advantages of wealth. The movement represented by the Northcote-Trevelyan recommendations was neatly summed up in a report prepared for President Ulysses S. Grant by Dorman B. Eaton. In 1871 President Grant had secured Congress approval to make new regulations for the admission of persons into the US Civil Service and appointed an advisory committee to draw up rules for competitive examinations. Eaton, one of the advisers, was sent to Great Britain to report on the situation there after the implementation of the Northcote-Trevelyan proposal. Some of the principles and conclusions Eaton derived from his study summarized neatly the nineteenth-century trend in public administration in English-speaking democracies from the United States to Australia:
1. Public office creates a relation of trust and duty of a kind which requires all authority and influence pertaining to it to be exercised with the same absolute conformity to moral standards, to the spirit of the constitution and the laws, and to the common interests of the people, which may be insisted upon in the use of public money or any other common property of the people; and, therefore, whatever difficulty may attend the practical application of the rule of duty, it is identically the same whether it be applied to property or to official discretion. There can in principle be no official discretion to disregard common interests or to grant official favors to persons or to parties.
2. So far as any right is involved, in filling offices, it is the right of the people to have the worthiest citizen in the public service for the general welfare; and the privilege of sharing the honors and profits of holding office appertains equally to every citizen in proportion to his measure of character and capacity which qualify him for such service.
4. The ability, attainments, and character requisite for the fit discharge of official duties of any kind — in other words, the personal merits of the candidate — are in themselves the highest claim upon an office.
5. Party government and the salutary activity of parties are not superseded, but they are made purer and more efficient, by the merit system of office, which brings larger capacity and higher character to their support ...
8. Examinations (in connection with investigations of character) may be so conducted as to ascertain, with far greater certainty than by any other means, the persons who are most fit for the public service; and the worthiest thus disclosed may be selected for the public service by a just and non-partisan method, which the most enlightened public opinion will heartily approve.
9. Open competition presents at once the most just and practicable means of supplying fit persons for appointment. It is proved to have given the best public servants: it makes an end of patronage; and, besides being based on equal rights and common justice, it has been found to be the surest safeguard against both partisan coercion and official favoritism ...
13. Open competition is as fatal to all the conditions of a beaurocracy, (sic) as it is to patronage, nepotism and every form of favoritism, in the public service.
14. The merit system, by raising the character and capacity of the subordinate service, and by accustoming the people to consider personal worth and sound principles, rather than selfish interest and adroit management, as the controlling elements of success in politics, has also invigorated national patriotism, raised the standard of statesmanship, and caused political leaders to look more to the better sentiments and the higher intelligence for support. 9
Even in the new or reformed nineteenth- and twentieth-century democracies, the character and the spirit of government administration could vary significantly, just as the character of and respect accorded to the state could depend as much on historical tradition and social circumstance as on current politicaladministrative theory. Thus Englishmen from Carlyle onward were inclined to think ‘bureaucracy’ a continental disease and the internal administrative pretensions of ‘the Prussian and the French states grossly excessive. Party political patronage was a special problem in America and in some other societies where it could extend down to the very lowest levels of the civil service. (The Eaton recommendations were in fact stalemated.) But in English-speaking democracies, the creation of a civil service recruited on merit and subject to parliamentary and legal checks and the scrutiny of a free press and public opinion led — at least among its supporters — to the belief that it did not deserve the unfavourable connotations of the word bureaucracy. Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution (1867) contrasted bureaucracy not backed by wider experience and opinion with public administration in a parliamentary system with its frequent change of ministers — new men sensitive to outside opinion, able to reinvigorate the administrative process. For Bagehot believed that a skilled bureaucracy, trained from early life to its special vocation, lacked the flexibility necessary for meeting new problems. Similarly, Harold Laski, in the 1930 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, defined bureaucracy as ‘the term usually applied to a system of government the control of which is so completely in the hands of officials that their power jeopardizes the liberties of ordinary citizens. The characteristics of such a regime’, he continued, ‘are a passion for routine in administration, the sacrifice of flexibility to rule, delay in the making of decisions and a refusal to embark upon experiment. In extreme cases the members of a bureaucracy may become a hereditary caste manipulating the government to their own advantage’. Democracy, Laski believed, had destroyed the old connection between bureaucracy and aristocracy as well as the corruption of previous times — ‘the economic morality of the modern civil service, where it has had the advantage of permanence, has been far higher than that of private enterprise.’ Of course, the complex and large-scale nature of the modern state and the vastness of the services it renders made expert administration inevitable while making it almost impossible for parliament to supervise departmental action effectively and in detail. Permanence, hierarchy and professionalism, Laski insisted, were probably fundamental to the proper performance of a civil service. The inevitable tendency for such a service to degenerate into a caste with closed mind could be inhibited, but not infallibly prevented altogether. One should give the heads of departments a permanent place in public life, encourage direct and continuous contact with representative public associations, keep the retiring age of officials reasonably low and thus afford younger officials a chance of responsible work at a sufficiently early age. Decentralization would encourage action and decisiveness and greater contact with the public servant’s local constituency. Changing work assignments and contact with foreign officials were important, so were not penalizing those who wished to leave the service in the early years of their career and creating links between elected and appointed officials, e.g. through a municipal system. Control of and protest against administrative discretion by publicity and by judicial action, e.g. a suit in tort, must be safeguarded.
Max Weber, as Martin Albrow has reminded us, was also concerned with placing limitations on bureaucracy. He was not concerned with the danger of internal bureaucratic inefficiency — he believed true, ideal-type bureaucratic organization to be, above all, efficient. He worried rather about the inherent tendency of a bureaucracy to accumulate power. It had to be prevented from controlling the policy and action of the state or organization it was supposed to serve. Germany under Bismarck, he believed, had become enfeebled through the Chancellor’s allowing officials to occupy desirable positions in the state. It had become a politically stultified nation in which the vigour of the non-bureaucratic classes could not express itself.
Weber considered a number of mechanisms that might limit the scope of systems of authority in general and bureaucracy in particular. Albrow has summarized them as falling into five major categories. Collegiality, of which there were many forms, made a’ number of persons responsible as of right for reaching a decision. It thus limited bureaucracy by attacking its fundamental principle: that one person and one person only had the responsibility for taking a decision at each level. Collegiality limiting one-person authority was an advantage, but the disadvantages in not reaching decisions quickly or attributing responsibility meant that it would tend to be overwhelmed by the monocratic principle.
The separation of powers, dividing responsibility for the same function between two or more bodies, amounted to a similar limitation of monocratic principle. It encouraged compromise between a number of interests but it could — and Weber believed it did and would — become inherently unstable, with one of the authorities gaining pre-eminence.
Amateur administration by those with sufficient resources to spend their time in unremunerated activities provided less dependence on the centre and encouraged reliance on public esteem for authority. But in modern specialized and complex societies amateurs had to be assisted by professionals and the latter tended to make the real decisions.
Direct democracy sought to make officials directly guided by and answerable to an assembly through such devices as short terms of office, selection by lot and the permanent possibility of recall. As a method of administration it was feasible in small organizations or communities but even there the demand for expertise was a decisive counterweight.
Representation. In the end, Weber came to see modern parliamentary democracy as providing the greatest possibility of a check on bureaucracy. True, as Albrow emphasizes, Weber’s enthusiasm for parliamentary democracy rested on his belief that the system threw up the able leaders on whom national greatness depended. He was much less concerned with democratic values. Party leaders, for him, because they came out of the increasingly bureaucratic political parties of the modern world, were not dilettantes. Their charisma was tempered by the discipline and concern for routine demanded by the modern party machine. They were therefore able to exercise real control over the state administration, to steer society, as Albrow puts it, on ‘a middle course between the Scylla of mass irrationality and the Charybdis of bureaucratic tyranny’.
For much of the nineteenth century, the new capitalist order was seen as incorporating the reality of the demand for parliamentary democracy, legal equality for citizens, the guarantee of (individual) human rights, primarily against the state, and a defeasible (i.e. contestable) presumption against interference by the community or its actual or self-proclaimed representatives. Basically, however, capitalism was an economic concept. It was the society of free enterprise, of industrial production for a market on the basis of private ownership, freedom of contract and freedom from unnecessary state controls or gratuitous government planning. Its supporters held, as an article of faith, that individual effort and commercial enterprise were the mainsprings of progress, the source of vigour and inventiveness, the creators of wealth. Governments and their servants were essentially parasitic. Where eighteenth- and even early nineteenth-century attacks on bureaucracy emphasized its nature as a caste, its pseudo-aristocratic arrogance, its readiness to dominate, the attack shifts — as the century progresses — to the view that the power of the state is or will be at the expense of the development of citizens, of communal institutions and of individual enterprise. John Stuart Mill, in his Principles of Political Economy, opposed (concentrating in a dominant bureaucracy all the skill and experience in the management of large interests, and an the power of organized action, existing in the community’. In Representative Government, he concluded that ‘the comparison ... as to the intellectual attributes of a government, has to be made between a representative democracy and a bureaucracy; all other governments may be left out of the account’. Bureaucrats are expert; they operate by well-tried and well-considered maxims and are staffed by trained people. Nevertheless, ‘The disease which afflicts bureaucratic governments, and which they usually die of, is routine. They perish by the immutability of their maxims; and, still more, by the universal law that whatever becomes a routine loses its vital principle ...’ In On Liberty, Mill had gone still further. Expanding functions of government and the greater efficiency of government would end in monopolizing the talent of the nation — the bureaucracy would do everything and nothing could be done outside it or against its wishes. For Bagehot, the skills of a bureaucracy had only the appearance of science; they were in truth inconsistent with the proper principles of the art of business. Herbert Spencer, inexplicably but nevertheless most effectively the general and political mentor of a generation, attacked the Liberals in 1884 for espousing state intervention: ‘Increasing power of a growing administrative organization is accompanied by decreasing power of the rest of society to resist its further growth and control bureaucracy. The multiplicity of careers opened by a developing bureaucracy tempts members of society to acquiesce in or favour such further growth.’ F.C. Montague, in The Limits of Individual Liberty (1884), developed the same theme, distinguishing the regulated servitude in which the citizens of continental bureaucracies lived from the identification between administration and the community assured in England by Parliament, the law courts and municipal liberties. For Ramsay Muir, writing on ‘Bureaucracy in England’ in 1910, the persistent and powerful influence of great permanent officials in the government of England constituted a pernicious and essentially un-English bureaucratization of British government.
The French Revolution and the development of commercial society in Europe, we have argued, later appeared to many as either inaugurating or consummating the shift from the community of Gemeinschaft to the atomistic individualism of the Gesellschaft. Where the Gemeinschaft elevates status, common ideology and tradition, the life of the community and human relationships, the Gesellschaft elevates the individual, his or her satisfactions, his or her rights. As both socialism and state interference and public administration grew in response to unbridled laissez-faire capitalism, the exponents of free enterprise, individual liberty and self-determination saw a new danger, no longer tied to aristocratic pretensions or the open elevation of social status and dependence. That danger was the development of bureaucratic-administrative attitudes, ideologies and structures. These elevate neither human relationships nor individuals and their demands. They emphasize rather social interests, socio-technical norms to which individuals are subordinate, the requirements of a total social province, concern or activity. Here individuals are functionaries carrying on the activity or passive recipients benefiting from it, objects and not subjects.
The paradox of capitalism lay in its principled opposition to bureaucratic management being accompanied by a process of economic development and rationalization which sought state support where it was advantageous and which led both to the bureaucratization of capitalist enterprises as they grew in size and scope and to the extension of the ideology of rational planning and calculation in social life. For Weber, bureaucrats were becoming as inescapable in business as in government. For Joseph Schumpeter, the ‘trustified’ firm lost the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism and became a planned and bureaucratized institution; for many a subsequent writer, the internal economic organization and problems of General Motors and the USSR have had remarkable similarities.
The actual growth of government administration and intervention in nineteenth-century Britain, however, rested less on articles of faith (‘freedom of contract’ or the concern with public welfare as a principled ideology) than on public outrage over specific cases and the needs of particular situations — something that Oliver MacDonagh, as we have seen, has demonstrated. The nineteenth-century ‘transformation’ of law and government is a term MacDonagh would use with great caution. It is for him ‘complex and multiple in form, dialectical and convoluted in development and, to a degree, involved in the same issues as we are today. The Victorians themselves, though much given to self-analysis, grossly misread many of the trends of the time and failed to allow for reversals, contradiction and complexity.’
The ideology of socialism, as distinct from that of populism. and egalitarianism, or from simple direct appeal to (social) justice, is a modern phenomenon. It was born of the first half of the nineteenth century in industrializing Europe. It constituted a critique of that new industrial society and its base in private ownership — a critique made in the light of the ideals and hopes of the French Revolution. It called for liberty, equality and fraternity, for human self-realization and self-determination at the concrete social and economic and not only at the formal constitutional and political level. It rejected, at least initially, all forms of external domination: by rulers, by repressive laws, by police force. But it found the key to the evils of the new capitalist society in private property, especially in the means of production. It rejected ‘exploitation’ — living off the labour of others — and private property in modern conditions as conferring the increased power to do so. But socialism proceeded to distinguish itself from populism and anarchism by accepting and indeed proclaiming the liberating potential of the new science and the new technology. It believed in progress and in the overwhelming significance, in human history? of the new industrial age. The age required new moralities, new forms of social organization. It would thus make possible previously undreamt-of affluence and the elimination of the power of some men over others. The radical sects of the French Revolution and Babeuf’s Conspiracy of Equals were important and influential precursors of French socialism and early communism at least, but they had as yet no real conception of an industrial society. That came in the 1820s and 1830s, when socialism proper was born, primarily in England and in France. It took to itself the labour theory of value developed in England by David Ricardo and the socialist Ricardians, the concept of exploitation and a savage critique of the social dislocation introduced by unchecked greed and private interests in the new industrial cities and barracks. This was a critique foreshadowed by Rousseau, who saw the modern city as a desert populated by wild animals.
Much of this new socialist ideology (though certainly not all of it) was derived from or inspired by the thought of Saint-Simon (1760-1825), whose disciples edited the Saint-Simonian newspaper Le Globe. They were, like Robert Owen’s followers in England and a few Italians, the first to use the words ‘socialism’ and ‘socialist’ to characterize those who recognized, correctly in Le Globe’s view, that property must be converted into a social and not a private function. Society, the Saint-Simonians thought, needs to be planned and administered as a giant workshop. Central to Saint-Simon’s often perceptive and prescient but remarkably disorganized thought was the belief that society of his day presented an ‘extraordinary phenomenon: a nation which is essentially industrial, yet whose government is essentially feudal’. Feudal society, feudal institutions and feudal mores required and were therefore dominated by men of the sword organizing the society for war. They ruled by authoritarian command backed by force. Industrial society, in contrast, is concerned with production and the harmony, cooperation and peace that are necessary for production. It has produced a new class of industriels engaged in production, whether as workers or as owners and managers, who simply follow the requirements of industry, who work associatively, ‘united by the general interests of production, by the needs that they all have for security in work and freedom of trade’. In modern conditions, such men scientists, engineers, doctors, pharmacists, seamen, clockmakers, farmers and bankers, for instance — are the most essential and useful to the nation, while the traditional great offices of the crown-marshals, cardinals, archbishops and bishops, prefects and sub-prefects, government employees, judges and rich non-working proprietors — make no significant contribution to the good of the state or of society and can easily be spared. That, at least, was the theme of his famous Parabole, published, by coincidence, just before the assassination of the Duc de Berry in 1820 and therefore almost landing Saint-Simon in prison as having incited the assassination.
For Saint-Simon and many of his followers, the administration of an industrial society would be a rational activity and would be seen as such by those affected. It would not be based on coercion or domination, but on the acceptance of common technological means and production goals by both the industrialist and his workers. Saint-Simon himself coined the phrase, repeated by’ Engels and many others, that in a fully developed rationally organized industrial society the government of men will give way to the administration of things. By 1842 the communist Wilhelm Weitling, soon to call for instant revolution, was writing in his Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom, ‘a perfect society has not a government but an administration’. Saint-Simon himself, full of plans for canals, had placed bankers as entrepreneurs and financial administrators at the apex of his social pyramid, but his actual banker friends in Restoration Paris soon became alarmed at his subversive views on property and other matters. His concept of rational administration did appeal to some of the graduates of the new Ecole Polytechnique and spread to rationally-minded reformers in Germany.
Saint-Simon, especially in his earlier works, thought that government in an industrial society would have only minimal policing functions. It would protect workers from the unproductive activities of idlers and speculators, and it would maintain order, security and freedom in production — matters that could in time become the collective responsibility of all citizens. All else is not government but management. The ‘immortal’ Adam Smith, Saint-Simon thought, had shown that industry developed spontaneously by internal forces and that external meddling only retarded and distorted this development. Proper administration was the recognition of the objective requirements of industry and production. The Saint-Simonian Bazard, in the lectures later assembled in the Exposition of Saint-Simonian doctrine, called for public ownership of the means of production and recognized that this involved the creation of a substantial and pervasive directing authority for society:
If, as we proclaim, mankind is moving toward a state in which all individuals will be classed according to their capacities and remunerated according to their work, it is evident that the right of property, as it exists, must be abolished, because, by giving to a certain class of men the chance to live on the labor of others and in complete idleness, it preserves the exploitation of one part of the population, the most useful one, that which works and produces, in favor of those who only destroy ...
[Then] A social institution is charged with these functions which today are so badly performed; it is the depository of all the instruments of production; it presides over the exploitation of all the material resources; from its vantage point it has a comprehensive view of the whole which enables it to perceive at one and the same time all parts of the industrial workshop ...
The social institution of the future will direct all industries in the interest of the whole society, and especially of the peaceful laborers. We call this institution provisionally the general banking system, while entering all reservations against the too narrow interpretation which one might give to this term.
The system will include in the first instance a central bank which constitutes the government in the material sphere; this bank will become the depository of all wealth, of the entire productive fund, of all instruments of production, in short of everything that today makes up the mass of private property.
These views were incorporated in, but in Marx’s view also superseded by, the thought of Karl Marx and in his vision of the ultimate society of communism — a society where the need for external coercion and the bases for political conflict would disappear. There all decisions would be collective. In an ‘association of free producers’ they could be reached without acrimony because they would follow from the need of human beings as such and from the activities they engaged in. The subsequently disgraced Soviet jurist E. B. Pashukanis put it most clearly in his General Theory of Law and Marxism (1924) when he distinguished law as the necessarily contradictory attempt to reconcile and regulate the demands of separate and conflicting juridical subjects, representing the abstract individualism of buyers and sellers competing in and for a market, from scientific administration as the application of socio-technical norms. Society under communism would be administered like a hospital, where the administrator is guided by the rules of health and the function and purpose of a hospital.
Socialists in the nineteenth century, before they attained government, had no time for bureaucracy and bureaucrats or, rather, for what they were more likely to call the state and its officials. Saint-Simon complained that officials saw government posts as theirs by right and not as sources of duties. These officials served their own interests and not the interests of those governed. They wanted high pay for themselves and extracted high taxes from the people. Useless parasites, they ‘five on the work of others, either they are given or they take; ... they are idlers, that is to say, thieves’.
Karl Marx, in his early manuscript critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843), when he was still a philosophical radical rather than an economic determinist, accused Hegel of treating the state and its officials (Regierungsgewalt und Staatsbeamten) purely formalistically, as a bureaucracy. (Marx used the term Bürokratic; Hegel did not.) Hegel, Marx claimed, separated the state and bureaucracy from civil society without giving the concept of bureaucracy any concrete content apart from that of formality and formalism. lie failed to show that the state or its bureaucracy were in any sense the consummation or perfection of civil society. On the contrary, the actual bureaucratic mentality and its central organizing principle of hierarchy made the bureaucracy a powerful source of abuse, encouraging internal dependence, secrecy and the creation of barriers against outsiders. Bureaucracy was not, as Hegel claimed, the universal estate or corporation concretizing and embodying reason and concern for the common good. It was a particular closed society within the state; it served its own and not the general interest. It treated society as material to be shaped; it imposed its own will or that of the state upon it. It represented at best an illusory general interest, for the existence and the power of bureaucracy were made possible only by the insoluble contradictions of civil society, by the irreconcilability of particular interests. It did not replace these by a general interest; it simply added another particular interest. When it was seized with enthusiasm for a ‘general’ interest, it could impose that only by force, by terror, from outside (Marx’s criticism of Robespierre). Both state and bureaucracy were a product of alienation, of the separation of community interest from the community itself. As a result, that interest falls into other, sectional hands, becomes a private interest.
As Marx turned more concretely to politics, in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), for example, he continued to stress that the state’s executive power, with its enormous bureaucratic and military organization — ‘this appalling parasitic body which enmeshes the body of French society like a net and chokes all its pores’ — separates every common interest from society as such, makes it an object of government activity. Bureaucracies, for Marx, can become powerful and almost autonomous — but only politically, never economically — when there is a stalemate in the class war and the bourgeoisie needs the state for survival. According to Marx, this happened in France in 1850 because the bourgeoisie had already lost and the working class had not yet acquired the capacity to rule the nation. Marx’s recognition, at various periods of his fife, that the Chinese state evolved on the basis of managerial power and not ownership has been treated by most of his disciples as fatally undermining his definition of class and his main view of history as class struggle. Shlomo Avineri, however, in The Social and Political Thought of Karl M= (Cambridge, 1968) argued that Marx was far from overlooking the fact that bureaucracy and the state were becoming central phenomena of modern social and political fife. (Marx had planned a special volume on the state for his initial project of a six-volume work on political economy, of which Das Kapital is only part.) In his letter to Kugelmann of 12 April 1871, Marx made the degree of bureaucratization of a society determine the degree of violence the proletariat would need to overthrow its ruling class. In England, the United States and perhaps the Netherlands, he wrote, there were better chances for a peaceful transition to proletarian control; in the bureaucratic societies in other parts of the continent there would have to be violent revolution aimed at the bureaucratic structure itself. Certainly, in the same year Marx was saying, in his Civil War in France and especially in the drafts of that essay on the Paris Commune, that earlier revolutions had only perfected the state machinery instead of throwing off that dreaded incubus. The working class, he now believed, could not simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purpose — it would have to smash it. Marx did not at any stage think that administrative functions would simply wither away. They would be needed in the new society, but as Martin Krygier has reminded us, and as Chinese Maoists stressed during their ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, they would be simple administrative functions, divided between central and communal institutions and subject to popular control through the communes. Functionaries would also survive, at least in the transition to socialism; but they would be paid less, their tenure would be less secure and the general cost of administration not directly appertaining to production would be significantly diminished from the outset. In factories themselves, the present barracks-like discipline, with its overseers, its supervising officers and sergeants, would be replaced by cooperation and coordination. There would be authority but it would be the rational voluntarily accepted authority required in all forms of cooperation. It would not be imposed by capitalists standing outside the process of production and not participating in it. The commanding will, as Krygier puts it,” would resemble that of an orchestra conductor and not that of a field commander. This would be even more so since the unwilling and alienated detail worker, prevented from seeing the process of production as a whole, would be. superseded by an individual with all-round development. An association of producers would take the place of coercive direction by political and economic bosses. Administration, Marx seemed to think, would be confined to production though his famous formula ‘to each according to his contribution’ in socialism, and ‘to each according to his needs’ in communism implied more than that unless distribution is incorporated within production.
Socialism from the beginning held together disparate and conflicting hopes and beliefs. The conflict between them was evinced from time to time in bitter struggles between the elevation of the general social interest and that of the working class, between centralization and spontaneity, evolutionary socialism and revolutionary communism, between Marxists and anarchists, between state socialism and syndicalism. Behind all this lay the fundamental tension between the socialist elevation of the informal community, of the status-less, unauthoritarian Gemeinschaft , on the one hand, and of centralized planning and control, of the bureaucratic-administrative planned society, on the other. In western Europe, by the late nineteenth century, the majority labour movement that was to form the Second International was coming to see democratic elections and the capture of state power through the ballot-box as the proper, irresistible course for socialism in the West. The state would not wither away but would be used democratically by the working masses to protect their interests and those of society as a whole, to nationalize at least the commanding heights of industry and commerce — banks, railways, heavy industry and much else. (Agriculture was a matter of dissension, where socialists were split between mechanizing and centralizing policies, including land nationalization, meant to turn farmers into industrial workers on large estates, or leasing and distributing land and liberating, economically, the poorer farmer to create a productive smallholder’s agriculture on a cooperative and not a collective basis.) Generally, however, mainstream democratic socialism in the leading industrial countries of the West at the end of the nineteenth century and since has stood for the constant extension of the public sector and of public employment and for the consequent increase in state and administrative intervention in all aspects of the community’s fife. It reconciled the initial tension between socialism as the elevation of the public interest and socialism (especially early communism) as elevating the proletariat against other classes by treating the working masses as the vast majority of mankind. Democracy and socialist policies, the opening of careers to all talented individuals and an egalitarianism that would reject unearned authority — the authority of origin or wealth — would be sufficient, many believed, to convert the bureaucracies of the past into genuine bodies of public servants and the state into what indeed finally became, in some countries, the welfare state.
On the Left, the criticism of this elevation of the democratic state and its public service as capable of serving, relatively selflessly, the public interest came primarily from the anarchists and from the communists when speaking of states not run by them, states in which private owners had not been expropriated. The criticism began already in Marx’s day with Bakunin’s insistence that a workers’ state would be a state administered by ex-workers and as oppressive as any other. It was given impetus by the anarcho-syndicalist and Sorelian attacks on ‘parliamentary socialism’ as a betrayal of socialism. It was consummated by the Polish revolutionary Jan Waclaw Machajski (1866/7-1926), whose pamphlets written in Siberian exile and published later as The Intellectual Worker (1904) charged that socialism was no longer the ideology of the working class but that of ‘white-handed’ administrators who wanted to use the conception of a social interest to extract surplus value from the masses and feather their own nests. They were able to do so because, in the new conditions of modern society, education was a form of property and they sought to keep education to themselves. This new educated class, originally servants of feudalism and then of capitalism, now wanted to become the new masters, appropriating more and more of the national product and using ‘scientific’ socialism as an ideological justification for elevating themselves and for extracting ‘surplus value’ from the worker:
in every country, in every state, there exists a huge class of people who have neither industrial nor commercial capital and yet live like real masters. They own neither land nor factories nor workshops, but they enjoy a robber’s income no smaller than that of the middling and large capitalists. They do not have their own enterprises, but they are white-hands just like the middling and large capitalists. They too spend their whole lives free from manual labour and if they do participate in production then it is only as managers, directors, engineers. That is, in relation to the workers, to the slaves of manual labour, they are commanders and masters, just like the capitalist proprietors.’
In spite of Machajski — whose views have had more impact on socialist critics. of the Soviet Union and on those who used the concept of managerial society in the 1930s and 1940s than on the western labour movement — the support in socialist circles for the extension of state services and state control did not diminish in western societies, at least until very recently. In fact, public servants in modern industrial and post-industrial societies in the West have grown so much in number and include so high a proportion of comparatively low level employees (including’ clerks and tradesmen) that they do not see themselves and are not seen by others as a caste lording it over society, running the state and inheriting and exercising for themselves its authority and claim to respect. Many western radicals, indeed, now see the increasing numbers of public servants, teachers, welfare workers, etc., as a source of ‘contradiction in the capitalist state’ — as promoting, in defiance of their formal meliorating role in the ‘capitalist system’, the ideology of social care and cooperation, and bringing the ‘capitalist’ welfare state to a crisis.
On the other hand, the ordinary citizen does find him or herself increasingly confronted by a veritable host of complex and detailed regulations interpreted and enforced by quite modestly placed civil servants. The result is an increasing hostility to bureaucratization rather than to bureaucrats, a rejection of the application of general rules to individual cases. In many democracies, and more recently elsewhere, this has led to a modification (at least partly, but not wholly, cosmetic) of the bureaucratic working style to emphasize decentralization, informality and accessible explanation — that is, to a much less directive style and an emphasis on social service as counselling. The delegation of discretion to ignore or modify the rules is obviously a very difficult problem in the provision of mass services and is in fact still severely limited. The tendency, rather, has been to elevate and to make more accessible information and complaints officers, to emphasize public relations and to regularize and extend appeal procedures even in quite minor matters. The provision of independent review through ombudsmen and the growth of administrative appeals tribunals in many fields is a further development. Similar trends, though still much more limited, are beginning to manifest themselves in the far more rigidly bureaucratized communist countries and to gain the support of reform-minded leaders. Against this, as we shall see in chapter 5, stands a new trend, away from legally trained, rulebound bureaucrats, to the elevation of bureaucracy as ‘rational’, economic, resource-allocation, as ‘money management’, in an atmosphere of increasingly strident demand both for money and’ for the economical use of state resources.
The history of revolutionary socialism — i.e., of modern communism — has been a different matter. Communist revolutions, beginning with Lenin’s seizure of power in Petrograd in October 1917, have not taken place in advanced industrialized societies or in democratic settings, except where they have been imposed from above — as in Czechoslovakia — by foreign victors. (Yugoslavia is to some extent an exception.) The Russian Revolution, like the French Revolution of 1789-99, inspired Franz Borkenau’s law of the two-fold development of revolutions: ‘They begin as anarchistic movements against the existing bureaucratic State organization, which they inevitably destroy; they continue by setting in its place another, in most cases stronger bureaucratic organization, which suppresses all free mass movements.’ Indeed, as Benedict Anderson was to stress some forty-five years later:
for over 65 years CPSU leaders have made policy in the Kremlin, ancient citadel of Czarist power — out of all possible sites in the socialist state’s vast territories. Similarly, the PRC’s capital is that of the Manchus (while Chiang Kai-shek had moved it to Nanking) and the CCP leaders congregate in the Forbidden City of the Sons of Heaven.... Like the complex electrical-system in any large mansion when the owner has fled, the state awaits the new owner’s hand at the switch to he very much its old brilliant self again.
It is now a commonplace that communist revolutions have taken place and been comparatively successful not in advanced industrial societies but in backward agrarian ones, suffering the dislocation of initial commercialization and industrialization, usually revealed by the previous government’s incapacity in war. Leninist communism, in short, has been an alternative route to modernization and industrialization. It is, for a period, most useful and initially more acceptable in those countries where the state has traditionally been the innovator and director in the economy and in the society as a whole and where other social classes have been too weakly developed to confront it or to act independently of it. Hence, communist revolutions, for all the anarchism of Lenin’s State and Revolution and of the ideology of the period of War Communism (1918-21), have been disciplined and calculating seizures of power, meant to transform society through state action from above. The result has been the almost total bureaucratization of the new society — more pervasive and more efficient than the backward-looking bureaucracies of the past — especially in the Soviet Union. Bureaucratization had been demanded in the name of and made necessary by the twin goals of pervasive political control and rapid economic mobilization.
Behind the growth of bureaucracy and the renewed elevation of the state in the Soviet Union, however, lay the political elevation of the Communist Party and the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, necessitating the destruction of all ‘class enemies’. Already in December 1917, Lenin, ruling with a Council of People’s Commissars, set up the Extraordinary Commission, the Cheka, later renamed the OGPU, i.e. NKVD, the MVD and the KGB. It was set up not by statute but on the basis of hasty and incomplete notes of a meeting of the council. Its functions were to stop and liquidate all attempts at and acts of counter-revolution and sabotage. It was to bring saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries before revolutionary tribunals and to work out measures for the struggle against them. Within a few months, all other socialist parties were included within the definition of counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs. The foundation of a pervasive network of espionage and repression had thus been laid. A 1918 Decree, indeed, inaugurated the Red Terror under that name — it gave the Cheka power to isolate enemies in concentration camps and established special chambers of the Cheka to deal with ‘parasitic elements constituting a social danger but not guilty of specific criminal acts’. The work of the central Cheka was later supplemented, despite changes of name, by provincial and republican Chekas, but with strict control from the centre. It was at the very beginning of the Soviet regime, too, that the system of special rations and privileged access to apartments, goods, clubs and leisure resorts for loyal party workers was devised — supplementary in a crucial respect to the comparatively egalitarian salary system and necessary, it was said, to save busy and responsible comrades, labouring for the common good, time in queuing. Like the Cheka, it was only to blossom.
In 1921, the Soviet government, appalled by the breakdown of the economy during the period of War Communism including the Civil War, proclaimed the New Economic Policy, encouraging state-licensed economic development on a capitalist basis. On the political front, however, ruthless centralization and administrative controls continued — in education, in literature and the press, in trade unions and public organizations and in the party itself. In 1919 already, the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party introduced five of the nine departments envisaged as forming its new administrative machinery. Three of those were both important and indicative of the party’s organizational sophistication in building, consciously and deliberately, an apparatus. Those were the Department of Information and Statistics (Informotdel), which was to obtain full information from local party committees on their structure, methods and activities; Organization and Instruction (Orgotdel), responsible for devising and establishing institutional forms for supervising the working of the party apparatus; and Records and Assignments (Uchraspred), to collect information about party members as a basis for central appointments and staff allocations. Informotdel a year later was absorbed into Orgotdel and the remaining two departments were amalgamated in 1923 to form an effective and powerful network used by Stalin, with great skill, to secure domination over the party and the state. In 1927, with the abolition of the NEP, both the ideology and the reality of total bureaucratization of the society at large took a giant leap through the Five Year Plans. The brutal reality of the forced collectivization of the peasants in 1929 destroyed the last vestiges of economic or ideological independence by any major social group in the Soviet Union. The first and the last free election had been held in 1918 and its results — victory for the Social Revolutionary (peasant) party — ignored. Within a few more years, Stalin had not only totally bureaucratized the party and the society, including the organization and supervision of the unions, but eliminated all rivals, oppositionist and critical factions or individuals. That done, he proclaimed, in 1936, that socialism had been achieved.
The new theory was that the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat still could not wither away until the working class victory had become worldwide. The function of military suppression inside the country, Stalin wrote in 1940, had ceased by 1936. The state had only to protect social property from thieves and pilferers. But it still had to defend the country from foreign attack and penetration and therefore required the Red Army and Navy, the punitive organs and intelligence services (dealing with spies, assassins and wreckers allegedly sent in from abroad). The functions of economic organization and cultural education by the state organs remained, and were now elevated still further. The socialist state was now proclaimed to be a mighty force aiding the material transformation of the economic base. It did so, and basically allegedly still does so, by organizing, administering and controlling, directly through ministries, indirectly through the party and party-controlled watchdog organizations, all significant aspects of economic, political, social and cultural life in the Soviet Union. If bureaucracy means, as Laski put it, ‘a system of government, the control of which is so completely in the hands of officials that their power jeopardizes the liberty of ordinary citizens’, then the Soviet Union has been the most pervasive and efficient bureaucracy in world history since the Inca empire efficient, though, in terms only of political goals and in the achievement of specific limited economic projects at whatever cost may be necessary. Even then it is that no longer.
For historians and sociologists, the existence of a highly bureaucratized state and the reappearance of one in the Soviet Union is not a source of puzzlement or difficulty. For Marxists, who insist on subordinating the political to the economic in their theoretical writing (if not in their practice) and who regard bureaucracies as nothing more than transmission belts between the rulers (an economic class) and the ruled, it is. How did the toiling masses — peasants and workers — come to be the ruled, and not the rulers, in a workers’ state, subordinated to an all-powerful and greatly privileged bureaucracy? And what class, if any, did this bureaucracy — which itself owned none of the means of production — constitute or represent?
Official Soviet ideology, of course, has insisted that there is no bureaucratic class or caste in the Soviet Union but only a stratum of the intelligentsia which works with a pen or with its mind rather than with its hands. That stratum, the theory runs, serves the working people and the socialist interest in the same way as everyone else. Lenin wrote but did not complete his State and Revolution in the second half of 1916 and in August/ September 1917, a month before the Bolshevik coup made him head of government. In this pamphlet he encouraged the view that a Bolshevik revolution would mean the coming of a stateless, unbureaucratic society in which every cook could be a politician. Social administration and accounting would be carried out by everyone who knew that 2 + 2 makes 4. There would be an instant enormous expansion of real democracy. The state would not wither away immediately, but the ‘masses’ would be drawn into its work. It would be a proletarian state — a dictatorship of the proletariat indeed — replacing the dictatorial bourgeois state. It would be needed as long as there was threat of counter-revolution, as long as bourgeois habits had not entirely disappeared and as long as the principle of ‘From each according to his capacity, to each according to his contribution’ had not yet been replaced by the ultimate communist principle ‘From each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs’. Until then, the narrow horizon of bourgeois right and the necessity to calculate ‘with the cold heartedness of a Shylock’ would not have been transcended.
Lenin did insist, even in this, his most ‘anarchist’ work, that the dictatorship of the proletarian state would have important supervisory and administrative functions. These would be the suppression of the minority of exploiters and counter-revolutionaries; the control of production and distribution; and keeping accounts of labour time and the products produced. Suppression would be carried out with a very simple, minimal ‘machine’, almost without any special apparatus. It would be done by the ‘organization of the armed masses’ — such, says Lenin, as the Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies. (In fact, as we have seen, the Cheka was established within a few months and its successor organizations have reached totals of probably a million organized and hierarchically controlled functionaries and troops.) Control of production and keeping account of labour and products, Lenin thought, could be done immediately by the armed population. All citizens would become employees and workers of a single nationwide ‘syndicate’. The accounting and control necessary had already been simplified by capitalism to the extreme; now it would be reduced to ‘the extraordinarily simple operations — which any literate persons can perform — of supervising and recording, knowledge of the four rules of arithmetic and issuing of appropriate receipts’. (Gosplan, dozens of All-Union and Republican ministries, People’s Control, Party Control, supervision by central bodies, republican bodies and local soviets have expanded at a rate even greater than that with which police functions expanded, to the extent, indeed, that the Soviet Union is universally thought of as one of the most bureaucratized societies in the modern world.)
Lenin did insist, in State and Revolution, and in practice from 1918 onward, that factory discipline would be required in the first phase of communism. It would be extended to the whole of society, but only as a necessary step for thoroughly purging society of the ‘infamies’ and ‘abominations’ of capitalist exploitation. Neither could management within industry simply disappear. Managerial positions, however, would become accessible to all; the authority of m anagers would be limited by workers’ control, egalitarian pay scales and election and recall. It was clear to Lenin, however, that technological production in modern society required a scientifically trained staff of engineers, agronomists etc. Their work would be essentially unchanged: ‘these gentlemen are working today in obedience to the wishes of capitalists and will work even better tomorrow in obedience to the wishes of the armed workers.’
By March 1918, however, as Krygier and many others stress, Lenin was emphasizing that administration generally had become the main and central task of the state. It required ‘a single state Bank, the biggest of the big’ and ‘the transformation of the whole state economic mechanism into a single huge machine’. Contemptuous as he had always been of Russian sloth and inefficiency — bezlabornost — he emphasized the need for efficiency, for a knowledge of organization on a scale of millions, for the need to learn the techniques of management, industrial production and trade possessed by managers of trusts, the big organizers of capitalism. Many aspects of Lenin’s vision for the new society were profoundly practical and startlingly Saint-Simonian. He insisted that the former writers of underground pamphlets and orators of the revolution militant were not well trained to be administrators of the revolution triumphant. Initially the revolution, in building the new society, would have to employ those who were qualified, no matter what their past politics. Such specialists of all kinds would need to be paid higher salaries during the transitional period, for it was obvious that an unskilled labourer or a cook could not immediately get on with the job of state administration.
T.H. Rigby has reminded us that despite ‘Lenin’s constant stress on the non-bureaucratic character of the new proletarian state, the task of equipping itself with an effective bureaucracy was in fact the main preoccupation of the Soviet state during its initial phase, and predominantly this expressed itself in efforts to “take over” and “set in motion” the old ministerial machine.’ Lenin, in the face of strong opposition, persuaded the Ninth Party Congress in January 1920 that collegial discussion of questions preliminary to execution must be distinguished from the establishment of the most strict personal responsibility for executive functions. These must be directed by a single final authority in each enterprise even if one-man management was ‘dictatorial’. By the end of 1920, 86 per cent of all Soviet enterprises had been placed under one-man authority in spite of the criticism of such ‘dictatorship’ by leading Bolshevik figures, including Bukharin and Preobrazhensky.
Even (or especially) after the revolution, Lenin did continue to attack bureaucracy, bureaucratism and bureaucratic methods in Soviet government. He attacked abuses, excesses and inefficiencies, not the existence of bureaucratic structures and functions. The flaws he attacked and identified with bureaucratism and bureaucratic methods, as. Martin Krygier has reminded US, were of three kinds: (a) predilection for authoritarian dictation from above: for ‘bossing’ and ‘ordering’ (a predilection Lenin ascribed to Trotsky); (b) intellectualist and bureaucratic ‘projecteering’, drawing up utopian plans not subjected to any realistic tests of their practicability or assessment of their effects; (c) bureaucratism as red tape and mismanagement, as the capacity of administrators to foul up everything that is working without their intervention. When Lenin now attacked ‘bureaucracy’ or chinovnichestvo in the Soviet state, he had in mind, primarily, a working style.
In the 1920s, the Soviet Union’s leading intellectual oppositionist and anti-Stalinist, Leon Trotsky, did warn the party against a new phenomenon threatening its work. This was the spread of ‘bureaucratism’ which was the result of the transfer to the party elite of the methods and administrative manners accumulated during recent years. He complained of the fundamentally improper and unhealthy regime within the party and of its ‘secretarial bureaucratism’. He attacked the growth in power of party secretaries — Stalin was the chief of them — who controlled appointments to all divisions of the party and the state. He complained of the extent to which bureaucratization was detaching the leaders from the masses and creating a new ‘party secretary psychology’, so that ‘leadership takes on a purely organizational character and frequently degenerates into order-giving and meddling’. For Trotsky at this stage — 1923 — this new bureaucratism was essentially a matter of manners, of bad manners, acquired in administration and not in political, agitational work with the ‘masses’. Both Lenin and his wife, Krupskaya, had made that charge against Stalin, but treated it as a personality defect. Trotsky, aware of its wider implications, suggested that ‘the source of bureaucratism resides in the growing concentration of the party’s attention and efforts upon the governmental institutions and apparatuses and in the slowness of the development of industry. For, as Trotsky had argued in the articles collected as Literature and Revolution, ‘backwardness by itself bred bad manners’. (The Russian term nekul’tumost’ is now used in the USSR to condemn roughness, ‘uncouthness’.)
Much of Trotsky’s argument at this period emphasized the psychological attitudes created by immersion in administrative tasks in the context of a hierarchical state apparatus also gaining control over the party. He contrasted these, as David Lovell says, with an idealized version of the allegedly democratic political climate and attitudes of Lenin and ‘true’ Bolshevism. With the retirement of Lenin from political life, the contrast had become worse, according to Trotsky; his own battle against bureaucratism and for a ‘new course’ was conducted within the party until his expulsion. After that, in exile and until he was murdered at Stalin’s command, he vacillated between various versions of the view that the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party under Stalin, and the ‘betrayal’ of the revolution, were more than a matter of mere psychology, but did not constitute the birth of a new social formation. The retirement of Lenin from political leadership, Trotsky now thought, had been followed by a Thermidorean reaction — which meant not just a downswing in revolutionary enthusiasm, but a re-emergence of suspect groups and attitudes. As Stalin’s power grew, ‘Bonapartism’ became another term that Trotsky used, sometimes distinguishing it from Thermidoreanism and sometimes conflating the two. Trotsky emphasized the failure of the revolution in Russia to spread to the industrially advanced countries of Europe, the resultant isolation of the Soviet Union in a capitalist world and the massive contradictions to be overcome in the attempt to establish socialism in a backward country as an explanation for this trend. That was to become commonplace in thinking Marxist circles, and is by now accepted even by the USSR as the normal explanation for admitted shortcomings. Trotsky recognized half-heartedly that these explanations postulated institutional and not only psychological bases for bureaucracy. The fault of the post-Lenin leadership, of Stalin in particular, he thought, was to encourage the formation of a distinct and privileged group of professional bureaucrats, to surrender to its passion for power and privilege. Stalin failed to take steps to ensure that the bureaucracy was no more than a scaffolding, to be pulled down when it was no longer needed.
The Marxist framework within which he worked prevented Trotsky from ever seeing the bureaucracy as a class. At most it derived support from what he saw as other Bonapartist castes kulaks, he thought at one stage, diplomats, the army and navy, etc. The bureaucracy, for Trotsky, was an administrative staff ‘indissolubly bound up with a ruling economic class, feeding itself upon the social roots of the latter, maintaining itself and failing together with it’.” Primarily, as Lovell argues, Trotsky ‘explained the role of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and the consequences of its rule, in political, not sociological, terms. It had an administrative and not a productive function.’ For Trotsky in his later life, bureaucrats ruled only politically, not economically. Until his death, Trotsky continued to regard the Soviet Union as economically a socialist society, a workers’ state, in which a bureaucratic caste, an overwhelming, incompetent and expensive caste, robbed the workers and destroyed the morality of the Communist Party. That caste remained, for Trotsky, a social parasite. It was compelled to defend state property and the socialist economic system as the sources of its power and income. It could not be an independent economic class, the basis of a new social formation. Trotsky’s theory of that caste, and of Thermidorianism and Bonapartism, was neither systematically developed nor given consistent and coherent exposition; he knew only that a political phenomenon bureaucracy could not have an independent history or an independent future. To think that would be un-Marxist.
Only in the late 1930s did some thinkers, mostly ex-Marxists, begin to see bureaucracies in modern societies, or in modern societies of a certain sort, as new ruling classes. They, too, did so hesitantly and without much theoretical depth or care. Bruno’ Rizzi in La Bureaucratisation du monde (1939) argued that the bourgeoisie was an exhausted social force. A new form of society — bureaucratic collectivism — was successfully taking over by assaulting and appropriating capitalist power and property. This had happened in the Soviet Union and — though only partly — in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and militarist Japan. It was also developing, Rizzi believed, in the United States through the New Deal. Under bureaucratic collectivism, the ruling bureaucracy formed a class which collectively exploited the mass of the population and drew surplus value from its work. Rizzi himself believed that bureaucratic collectivism was historically progressive, a transitional social formation between capitalism and socialism. In Lucien Laurat’s Marxism and Democracy (London, 1940, a translation from the French original, Paris, London, 1939) and James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution (London, 1941), matters were taken further. Laurat pointed to the growing power of a new class — pluto-technocratic in the west and bureau-technocratic in the USSR; Burnham noted that the modern corporation was increasingly run by managers and not by its owners (who were often fragmented: trust companies, pension funds, small and large individual shareholders etc.). He saw such managers as introducing managerial societies throughout the world.
For all these writers, working out of the Marxist heritage, it was important to show that the new ruling bureaucracies were in fact owners of the means of production, through their individual or collective control, even if they were not legal owners. All of them rejected sharply Trotsky’s traditional Marxist view that bureaucracies were only hirelings of a ruling class. Rizzi puts it succinctly:
The ‘clerk’ who, following Trotsky, is only the transmission mechanism of imperialism, has ruled in Russia for over twenty years and rules a country which takes up a sixth of the continents, with a population of 180 millions. Obviously, the clerk has alarming proportions, much greater than those of his masters themselves. Such domination requires a ‘staff’ which, on the national scale, represents for us a class. To reinforce it, this class pushes its domination into all domains of society, and where it encounters resistance, bypasses it by climbing over mountains of corpses. The bureaucratic regime of the USSR has, first, sacrificed the Communist Party and the Third International, then the Red Army itself. Tasks of this magnitude cannot be done by ‘cliques’ or ‘staffs’ or clerks’ but only by classes.
The best known of the new class theorists writing after the Second World War, Milovan Djilas, also began his apostasy by insisting in newspaper articles in the early 1950s that Stalinist bureaucrats lived at the expense of direct producers who had no rights. Like traditional ruling classes, they controlled production and took a disproportionate share of the surplus for themselves. Still, this bureaucracy was not a class; it did not own the means of production in the traditional sense. It was a caste that appeared in the transition from capitalism to communism, a reactionary antisocialist tendency that could be overthrown. It was in The New Class, published in 1957 — by which time Djilas had been expelled from the Yugoslav Communist Party — that he insisted that the Communist political bureaucracy was a ‘collectively’ owning class that had the use, enjoyment and disposition of material goods, of nationalized property, in precisely the way that constituted the Roman Law definition of ownership. Earlier, just before his expulsion from the Yugoslav League of Communists in .1954, he had written of the ‘inner circle’ of its rulers, living in a ‘closed world’ of automobiles and Pullman cars, restricted holiday resorts and special stores for food and clothing. That circle maintained its solidarity, ‘not so much from ideological and moral unity but rather from the same way of living and similar interests, from the nature of power and the manner in which it was attained’.
The discussion has not ended. Its upshot is to show that the classical Marxist definitions of classes and of the state, and the emphasis on ownership, are not adequate for the discussion of social structure and social domination, or of bureaucracy and bureaucratic regimes. Djilas and many others in the West, in Eastern Europe, the USSR and China have come to realize that. So have some Communist rulers.