V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1924 in the book: N. Lenin (V. I. Ulyanov), Statyi i rechi po voprosam professionalnogo dvizheniya (Articles and Speeches on Questions of the Trade Union Movement), issued by the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions. Printed from the book text, collated with the stenographic report.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 520-523.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Comrade Lozovsky said that Comrade Bukharin and I will be partly in agreement with him. That is true. You have written the theses, but what are you defending? Then you must strike out your theses, because they say: “as a basic principle”, but we do not take practice as our point of departure. So write that down, then. What in that case remains of your theses? Today I had occasion to be at a meeting of the water transport workers, and to argue there, and Comrade Ishchenko said: “In any case, there is a guarantee that we shall put the question as practical men.” All right then, put that down; but what you have written is something different. You have written: “as a basic principle”. Where is your justification, who is defending it? No one. They edge away. Write that down, and then half our differences will disappear. And after all, what you have written is untrue: where do you answer the argument which is put forward, against collective management; where is the participation of the broad masses, with three, five or seven workers taking part in the collegiums? Do you want participation by the broad masses or don’t you? Of course, those who don’t want it are to be thrown out, but that is no argument. You say, the “broad non-Party masses of workers”. There are no such masses in a single   collegium: it’s not true, and that’s no way to reason. That is not the system you need to draw in the broad non-Party masses: you have to train, to promote, to enliven. How many workers have the Central Committee of the textile workers and others put forward? How many of them have been promoted and how many demoted during the last three months? Give me figures, and then I will say: there are the people. It’s childish to write “principles”: after studying it for two years, all you have written are principles—people will laugh. Here your argument does not correspond to your conclusion: participation of the broad masses is assured by a collegium of seven, or of three, persons. People will laugh at it. That is my first objection.

Secondly, I refer you to the bourgeoisie. Whom shall we learn from, if not the bourgeoisie? How did they manage? They managed as a class when it was the ruler, but didn’t it appoint managers? We haven’t yet caught up with them in their degree of development. They knew how to rule as a class, and to manage through anyone you please individually, entirely in their own interests; at the top they had a small collegium and they didn’t discuss basic principles and didn’t write such resolutions. They had all power in their hands, and regarded as competent the one who knew his job. The workers have not yet reached that point, and in order to win we must give up our old prejudices. The rule of the working class is reflected in the constitution, the ownership and in the fact that it is we who are running things, while management is quite another matter, it is a question of skill, a question of experience. The bourgeoisie understood this perfectly, but we have not yet realised it. Let’s get down to learning. We have already said here that we must hold power firmly in our hands, but we haven’t yet learned how to manage; we have to do a great deal to learn the business of management.

My third argument: competence. How can you show that it is possible to manage without being competent, to manage without full knowledge, without knowledge of the science of management? It is ridiculous! What sort of system is it? Why all the words that you have spoken here? In order to manage, one must know the job and be a   splendid administrator. Where does it say that for this reason we need collective management? The fact that we have few experienced workers proves the contrary; what follows is that collective management is intolerable. In that case, adopt theses in which you say: keep a commissar or a commission, etc., attached to every expert. So long as we lack the principle of competence and respect for the expert, we remain at the primitive level. In that way we shall never create any industrial front. Unity of will! Without this there is no dictatorship at the front, but dawdling. You know it is a typical result, that there is friction there, not management. Appoint an expert with experience; but we know by now that when we combine a competent person with an incompetent one in a collegium, we create a multitude of wills and complete confusion. That is my fifth argument.[1] Everyone is writing resolutions about each person being answerable for his own job. But where is this being carried out? Let them say: where did we divide responsibility according to that principle? We have been learning for two years how to run the state, and still write: “the basic principle.” This is ridiculous, this is on the second-form level; but let’s have your experience, and we shall see from it to what extent you are competent people and where the lack of competence tells. They say that under the artillery department the works managements were poor. That is the example Lozovsky and Tomsky have quoted. When was this? Comrade Lozovsky, we have to reckon with the condition of the Soviet Republic. What did we begin with, who was at the head? Krylenko, Dybenko and Podvoisky, before we had Trotsky—and that was our collective management. And if Kolchak and Denikin lambasted us, why did they? Because while we had seven men in charge, we had to learn for two years, and after that we went over to one-man management. Do we have to reckon with this, or not? Of course, it’s only a trifle, you’ve just taken the two years’ history of the Republic and crossed it out. Why? You don’t like it, do you? Do it all over again. And what about Rykov: he was appointed Extraordinary   Plenipotentiary for Soviet Defence, and Rykov began dragging things out of the mess by himself. You don’t know your own history, the history of your Supreme Economic Council and of the Soviet Republic. History tells us that from collective management by the workers we went over to management by tens, we broke our necks, and Kolchak lambasted us, and it was a good thing he did, because we learned something thereby, we learned that collective management must be held in a tight grip. We have described four systems: accept these four systems,[4] accept the C.C. theses. Then you will be taking your stand on the groundwork of the two years’ history of the Soviet power, of its experience, and not on arguments which are primitive, which will muddle you ...[2] for an adult worker, who is not afraid of any expert and says, “if you put experienced people in charge, our machinery will run”. That is how an adult workman reasons, while the timid ones say: “I’m afraid that I shall be left without an expert.” That is a sign of weakness. Stop whining, and be your age.


[1] Evidently there was a fourth argument against collective management, but it did not find reflection in the minutes.—Ed.

[2] Passage not clear.—Ed.

[3] The meeting of the Communist group of the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions was called on March 15, 1920, to discuss the theses of M. P. Tomsky on the tasks of the trade unions, published in Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn (Economic Life) No. 54, March 10, 1920. They had been discussed beforehand by a commission set up by the group, but it had retained all the principled propositions of the theses. The author held that industrial enterprises should be run on collective lines and said so in his theses. This was supported by the majority of the group. At the meeting of the group, Lenin spoke several times, making amendments and criticising various points of the theses, and supporting the principle of one-man management.

[4] In view of the fact that no generally accepted type of management for Soviet enterprises had crystallised, various combinations were allowed while the process was on, namely: = 1) the enterprise is headed by an executive from among the workers, who has a specialist engineer for an assistant; = 2) the enterprise is headed by a specialist engineer, who is the actual manager of the enterprise, and he has a worker commissar with broad powers and the   duty to deal with every aspect of the business; = 3) the enterprise is headed by a specialist director, with one or two Communist assistants with powers and the duty to look into every branch of management but without the right to rescind the director’s instructions; and = 4) the enterprise is headed by a small well-knit group whose chairman is responsible for the work of the group as a whole. This form of organisation in industry was adopted by the Ninth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) (see KPSS v resolyutsiyakh..., Part One, 1954, p. 483).

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