First published in 1928 in Lenin Miscellany VIII.
Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 556-558.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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December 23, 1921
I consider all your arguments about the Fowler ploughs affair to be completely wrong in principle. True, your error is not so indecent (excuse my strong language) as that of Osinsky, who has frankly become a defender of the worst kind of bureaucracy; nevertheless what you say does not look good either.
We must not be afraid of the courts (our courts are proletarian) or of publicity, but must drag bureaucratic delays out into daylight for the people’s judgement: only in this way shall we manage to really cure this disease.
Your argument is that the people involved are exceptionally good, devoted and valuable workers.
Let’s suppose that this is true, that you are not a victim of “departmental bias”.
What follows from this?
Only this, that the court—if it agrees with you ire this respect (and you, probably, since you firmly believe it, will present a number of most serious witnesses to prove it)—will bring in a verdict that:
they are guilty of failing to eliminate bureaucratic
delays and of mismanagement; but, taking into
account their exceptional loyalty to the Soviet
power, completely proved by a number of witnesses,
their outstanding conscientiousness and zeal, also
completely proved, taking into account the general
defects in the machinery of the Supreme Economic
Council, partly due to the change of Presidium, etc.
... decides not to inflict any punishment, in the belief that the accused will take this seriously to heart, as will the entire Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council.
Well, if approximately such a decision were taken, can you deny its usefulness—its social significance, 1,000 times greater than a secret-Party-Central-Committee-idiotic hushing up of a rotten case about rotten bureaucracy and avoiding publicity?
You are absolutely wrong in principle. We don’t know how to conduct a public trial for rotten bureaucracy: for this all of us, and particularly the People’s Commissariat for Justice, should be hung on stinking ropes. And I have not yet lost all hope that one day we shall be hung for this, and deservedly so.
If you think that in the R.S.F.S.R. we cannot find a single sensible prosecutor and three sensible judges, really sensible (not over-hasty, not shouters, not phrase-mongers), then I accuse you also of pessimism about the Soviet power. I am sending a copy of this letter (together with your letter) to Comrade Kursky, with a special request that ho read it himself and let it be read by as many jurists as possible, and that he, Kursky, should consider himself specifically responsible for selecting an unquestionably sensible prosecutor and sensible judges for this trial. And that Kursky should be personally responsible for (1) the maximum acceleration of the proceedings and (2) letting me have a stenographic report of this trial (to draw the conclusion as to whether at last our very feeble People’s Commissariat for Justice is learning to organise and carry through public trials of bureaucracy). It is time we began to learn.
I don’t understand why a sensible prosecutor should not in face of the whole public completely shatter, ridicule and disgrace a “Bogdanovist” and “Osinskyist” defence of bureaucratic red tape, and at the same time draw up a wise, correct and balanced charge.
Why should not a sentence be possible approximately on the following lines:
Attaching exceptional importance to the public trial of cases of bureaucratic delay, we hand down in this case a very lenient sentence, in view of the exceptionally rare conscientiousness of the accused; at the same time giving a warning that in future we shall punish for such delays the most saintly, but negligent dunderheads (the court perhaps will express itself more politely), because we, the R.S.F.S.R., do not need saintliness, but efficient management.
And, therefore, if we inflict no penalty on this occasion on Lomov and Styunkel on account of their “saintliness”, we sentence Unksov (I think that’s the name?), whose duty it was to submit reports to the Council of Labour and Defence and who failed to do so, to a week’s arrest; we proclaim Ilyin (director of the former Ilyin factory?) and the entire works committee of this factory, and the entire executive of the (corresponding) trade union, and the entire membership of the communist group of such-and-such a factory, or such-and-such factories, guilty of red tape, negligence and connivance at bureaucracy, and inflict on them a severe reprimand and public censure, with a warning that it is only for this first time that we are inflicting such mild penalties, but in future will for such behaviour send all such trade union and communist scoundrels (the court, perhaps, will express itself more mildly) mercilessly to jail.
With communist greetings,
V. Ulyanov (Lenin)
 Members of the collegium of the Metal Department of the Supreme Economic Council.
 M. I. Unksov—an engineer, in charge of the Machine Cultivation Department of the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture, and chairman of the Extraordinary Three-Man Committee for the manufacture of the Fowler ploughs.
 P. P. Ilyin—chief of the Fourth State Motor Works, and its former owner. The plant was given part of the plough order but failed to fulfil it.