V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered At A General Meeting Of

Communists Of Zamoskvorechye District, Moscow

November 29, 1920

Brief Newspaper Report

Delivered: 29 November, 1920 or earlier.
First Published: Pravda No. 273 December 4, 1926; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 434-436
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. 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 dwelt in detail on the problem of the struggle against bureaucratic methods which, in its differences with the majority at the gubernia conference, our so-called ’opposition” is advancing almost as a matter of principle. Though he thought that the fact that the “oppo-sition” had raised this question was in itself a healthy sign, Lenin at the same time attacked the opposition for its frivo-lous attitude to the question. Indicating the causes of the recrudescence of bureaucratic methods in our Soviet state and the roots now nourishing them, Lenin very emphati-cally warned the comrades against the idea that this evil could be combated by resolutions on paper and by abstract criticism devoid of any substance. The Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were out to make capital out of this question, both reproached us with being unable to combat red tape in our Soviet apparatus. There had been a time when these gentlemen had said that we would be unable to preserve our Soviet state; now they said: “They have preserved it, it is true, but bureaucratic methods remain in the Soviet institutions, even though Lenin said in such-and-such a book that red tape would be abolished under the rule of the Soviets.”

But that was not how the matter stood.

First of all, general living standards had to be raised, so that the worker would not have to go about in search of flour, with a sack on his back, and hundreds of thousands and millions of working people should pass through the school of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and learn to administer the state (which was something nobody had taught us), so that they might replace hundreds of thousands of bourgeois bureaucrats.

Incidentally, a reference to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. That body had been set up nearly a year before, but it had so far made itself felt very little as a school training people in the administration of the state. It would not be amiss for comrades who really wanted to expedite the fight against bureaucratic methods to work in this sphere and learn some useful lessons.

Lenin remarked that the question of combating red tape was particularly acute in Moscow, because there the comrades came up against, not only Moscow bureaucrats but bureaucrats on a national scale, since central institutions were concentrated there. There were 200,000 Soviet functionaries in Moscow, of whom only 10,000 could be transferred with their institutions to Petrograd in the near future.

It was only to be expected that red tape in the Soviet apparatus would penetrate into the Party apparatus, for these apparatuses are interwoven most intimately. The fight against the evil could and should be placed on the order of the day-not, however, in the sense of criticism for criti-cism’s sake, but of practical suggestions as to the methods of waging that struggle, and better still, of a real struggle in the institutions in which the criticising comrades were working, and of publicity for the results and lessons of the struggle.

Concluding Remarks

In his concluding remarks Comrade Lenin pointed out to his “opponents”, in sharp terms, that it was not befitting for Communists to indulge in such unsubstantiated criticism, such sweeping accusations against the Central Committee, without citing a single fact, such bandying about of names even of experts, and lumping them all together as “bourgeois elements”, without even trying to find out what kind of people they were. Lenin mentioned by name a number of workers who had been able to make a success of joint work with experts, establish correct relations with the latter, and obtain from them what was needed. Such workers did not complain of the experts; the grumbling came from those who had not coped with the work. An example was Shlyapnikov (one of the opponents, who had presented himself as a member of the Workers’ Opposition), a man who was sparing no effort, as Lenin put it, “to hatch differences”, a man who objected to what Lenin had said in his report about our deep debt to the peasantry, and went on to say that the “opposition disagrees with Comrade Lenin”. The self-same Shlyapnikov would turn a blind eye to his own poor work, and was out to present his mission to Archangel as exile imposed by the Central Committee. Another instance was Comrade Bubnov, who spoke so much about the struggle against red tape, without saying a single word about the way he was combating the evil at least in the Central Administration of the Textile Industry which he headed, and where there was no less red tape, perhaps even more, than in other institutions. That was why Vladimir Ilyich warned the Zaxnoskvorechye comrades in the following terms: “When you hear such criticism, criticism without any content, criticism for the sake of criticism, be on your guard; make inquiry to find out whether the criticising comrade’s vanity has not been injured in some way; perhaps he has been offended or is irritated, which drives him towards groundless opposition, opposition for its own sake.”

In conclusion, Comrade Lenin replied to written questions handed to him, and then dealt in detail with the question of concessions.