V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered at
The Third All-Russia Congress of

Economic Councils[1]

January 27, 1920

Newspaper Report

Delivered: 27 January, 1920
First Published: Pravda No 19, January 29, 1920; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 309-313
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Comrade Lenin said that he would only touch lightly on those questions which he had had lately to deal with most. One of them was the organisation of administration the question of corporate management or one-man management.98 In the controversies on this subject the question had been discussed on the basis of abstract reasoning in which the superiority of corporate management over individual management was argued. But this led very far away from the practical tasks of the moment. Such arguments vent back to an early stage in the development of the Soviet system, a stage that had already passed. It was time to put the matter on a more business-like footing.

“Corporate management,” continued Lenin, “as the chief type of organisation of Soviet administration, is something embryonic, something needed in the early stages, when you have to start from scratch. But when more or less stable forms have been established, the transition to practical work involves individual management, for that system best ensures the most effective utilisation of human abilities, and a real, not verbal, verification of work done.

“The experience of the Soviet government in army organisation must not he regarded as something isolated. War embraces all forms of organisation in all spheres. The development of our army led to successful results only because it was carried on in the spirit of general Soviet organisation, on the basis of class relations that affect all development. We find here the same thin layer of the leading class, the proletariat, and the peasantry forming the mass. The nature of this relationship may not have been so fully apparent in other spheres, but it was thoroughly tested in the army, which stands face to face with the enemy and pays dearly for every mistake. This experience is worth thinking about. Developing systematically, it passed from a corporate form that was casual and vague to a corporate form elevated to the status of a system of organisation and permeating all the institutions of the army; and now, as a general tendency, it has arrived at the principle of one-man responsibility as the only correct method of work. In any sphere of Soviet work you will find a small number of politically-conscious proletarians, a mass of less developed proletarians and, as the substratum, a huge mass of peasants, all of whose habits tend towards private enterprise and, consequently, towards freedom of trade and profiteering, which the Mensheviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and non-party people call freedom, but which we call the heritage of capitalism. These are the conditions under which we have to act, and they call for relevant methods. And taking the experience of the army, we find in the organisation of its administration a systematic development from the original forms, from the corporate principle to the individual principle, which is now being applied there in at least a half of all cases.

“At best, corporate management involves a tremendous waste of forces and is not suited to the rapid and accurate work demanded by the conditions of centralised large-scale industry. If you take the advocates of corporate management, you will find that their resolutions formulate, in an extremely abstract way, the concept that every member of a collegium must be held individually responsible for the fulfilment of its tasks. That for us is now elementary. But those of you who have had practical experience know that only in one case out of a hundred is this actually adhered to. In the vast majority of cases it remains on paper. No member of a collegium is assigned precise duties and held personally responsible for the performance of those duties. Generally, there is no verification of work done. Let us assume that the Central Committee of a trade union nominates Vasily Vasilyevich Vasilyev for some office, and you ask to see a list of assignments performed by him and verified by efficient people—you will not get anything of the kind. We are all of us only just beginning to adopt really efficient methods.

“Our fault is that we imagine we can do everything ourselves. Our most acute shortcoming is a lack of executives, yet we do not know how to draw them from the rank-and-file workers and peasants, among whom there is an abundance of talented administrators and organisers. It would be much better if we abandoned general, and in most cases absolutely sterile, controversy for business-like methods, and that as soon as possible. We would then really be carrying out the duties of organisers of the advanced class, and would pick out hundreds and thousands of new talented organisers. We must promote them, test them, assign them tasks, tasks of greater and greater complexity. I hope that after the Congress of the Economic Councils, after having reviewed the work done, we shall take this path and increase and multiply the number of organisers, so as to reinforce and enlarge that exceedingly thin layer which has been worn to shreds during the past two years. For in order to accomplish the task we are setting ourselves, that of saving Russia from poverty, hunger and cold, we need ten times more organisers, who would be answerable to tens of millions of people.

“The second of the questions which interest us most is that of the labour armies.

“The task confronting us here concerns the transition from one stage of activity to another. The stage that was wholly taken up by war is not yet over but there are a null-her of signs which show that the Russian capitalists will not be able to continue the war, although there is no doubt that they will attempt to invade Russia. And we must be on our guard. Nevertheless, the war they launched against us two years ago has, by ‘and large, ended in victory for us, and we are now going over to peaceful tasks.

“The peculiar character of this transition must be understood. Here we have a country which is in a state of utter ruin, a country suffering from hunger and cold, where poverty has reached desperate extremes, and in that country the people have risen in their might, and gained confidence in themselves when they realised that they are capable of withstanding the entire world—without exaggeration, the entire world, for the entire capitalist world has suffered defeat. And in these peculiar conditions we are proposing to form a labour army to solve urgent problems.

“We must concentrate on the main thing, namely, on collecting grain and transporting it to the centre. Every deviation from this task, the least diffusion of effort, will entail the gravest peril, the ruin of our cause. And in order to utilise our apparatus with the greatest possible dispatch, we must create a labour army. You already have the theses of the Central Committee and the reports on this subject, and I shall not go into the actual details of the question. I only want to say that at this moment of transition from civil war to the new tasks we must transfer everything to the labour front and there concentrate all our forces, with the utmost effort and with ruthless, military determination. We shall not allow any deviations now. In launching this slogan we declare that we must strain all the live forces of the workers and peasants to the utmost and demand that they give us every help in this matter. And then, by creating a labour army, by harnessing all the forces of the workers and peasants, we shall accomplish our main task. We shall succeed in procuring hundreds of millions of poods of grain. We have them already. But it will require incredible effort, devilish effort, the harnessing of all the forces of the country, added to military determination and energy, to get these hundreds of millions of poods of grain and transport them to the centre. Here, in the centre, we shall be engaged chiefly in drawing up a plan for this and shall be talking chiefly of this; as to all other questions—finance, industrial development and all questions relating to broad programmes—they should not be allowed to divert our attention at the moment. That is the chief thing facing us today—to resist the danger of being carried away by far-reaching plans and schemes. We must concentrate on the chief and fundamental thing, and not permit attention to be diverted from the main task we have set ourselves, namely, to procure grain and foodstuffs, to procure them through the state, at fixed prices, in the socialist way of the workers’ state—and not in the capitalist way, by means of profiteering—and to transport them to the centre, overcoming the chaos on the railways. It would be a crime on anybody’s part to forget this task.

“In order to place the performance of our main task on more or less correct lines, the leaders of all our government bodies, and of the economic councils in particular, must rouse the activities of tens of millions of workers and peasants. For this purpose a broad plan for the reconstruction of Russia will be drawn up. We have sufficient means for it: resources, technical potentialities, raw materials, everything required to enable us to begin this work of reconstruction everywhere, enlisting all the workers and peasants. We shall launch a persistent struggle, comrades, a struggle which will demand heavy sacrifices during this period on the labour front, but it is a struggle we must inevitably wage, because we are suffering from. hunger, cold, transport dislocation and typhus. We must combat these evils and begin everywhere to build up our state on the basis of large-scale, machine-industry methods, so as to make our country a cultured country, and, by a correct socialist struggle, get out of the quagmire in which the countries of world capitalism and imperialism are at present submerged.”


[1] The Third All-Russia Congress of Economic Councils was held in Moscow, January 23-29, 1920. It was attended by some 500 delegates and included workers from large industrial enterprises and representatives of trade unions and gubernia economic councils. The Congress agenda was the following: the economic situation in Soviet Russia; the war industry and Red Army supplies; organisation of economic management; organisation of labour; labour conscription; transport; the fuel problem and others. On January 27 Lenin delivered a speech at a plenary session. The Congress adopted the theses of the C.C., R.C.P.(B) on “Mobilisation of the Industrial Proletariat, Labour Conscription, Militarisation of the Economy and Utilisation of Army Units for the Needs of the Economy”. In its decisions the Congress stressed the need to maintain the centralised management of the country's economy. Simultaneously local economic councils were granted greater independence in eco nomic activities. The Third Congress of Economic Councils drew up Tan for the further rehabilitation and development of the economy of the Soviet Republic.