V. I.   Lenin


To:   A. D. TSYURUPA[2]

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 535-542.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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January 24, 1922

Comrade Tsyurupa,

In connection with our telephone conversation yesterday, and your promise to observe a strict regime, we need to have a detailed talk on the whole system of work, and to think it over thoroughly.

The most radical defect of the C.P.C. and the C.L.D. is the absence of any checking-up on fulfilment. We are being sucked down by the rotten bureaucratic swamp into writing papers, jawing about decrees, drawing up decrees— and in this sea of paper live work is being drowned.

Clever saboteurs are deliberately luring us into this paper swamp. Most of the People’s Commissars and other grandees are, quite unconsciously, “sticking their heads into the noose”.

The strict medical regime laid down for you must be used at all costs to break away from turmoil and commotion, commissions, talking and writing of papers—to break away, to think over the system of work and radically reform it.

The centre of gravity of your activities must be just this refashioning of our disgustingly bureaucratic way of work, the struggle against bureaucracy and red tape, the checking-up on fulfilment.

The checking-up on fulfilment, the checking-up on what happens in practice—this is your main and principal task.   You should set up for this a little staff (four–six persons) of particularly tried and tested assistants (an office manager, his assistants, a secretary and such like).

For this purpose, in my opinion, it is essential:

(1) to relieve the C.P.C. and the C.L.D. of unnecessary burdens, transferring all petty questions to the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars and the procedural meetings of the C.L.D.

This has begun. But it will “come apart” in two weeks, given our damned Oblomov ways, if it is not followed up, chased up, checked up, flogged along with three knouts.

The office manager must be taught (just as the Secretariat of the C.P.C. and the C.L.D. should be) to watch very closely to see that petty questions are not brought before the C.P.C. and the C.L.D., and that all questions in general first go through a triple filter (an inquiry to the appropriate People’s Commissariats; their urgent reply; the same from the Codification Department, etc., etc.).

You and Gorbunov[1] must together work out written regulations for the bringing forward and consideration of questions, and check not less than once a month, you personally, whether the regulations are being observed and whether they are achieving their object, i.e., reduction of paper work, red tape, more forethought, more sense of responsibility on the part of the People’s Commissars, replacement of half-baked decrees by careful, prolonged, businesslike checking-up on fulfilment and by checking of experience, establishment of personal responsibility (in effect, we have complete irresponsibility at the top, in the People’s Commissariats and in their departments, and the saboteurs make magnificent use of this: as a result we have an Oblomov situation which wrecks all business).

I know that this is extraordinarily difficult. But just because it is difficult, you must devote yourself entirely to this matter.


(2) a minimum of sessions. The standard should be once a week for the Council of People’s Commissars + once a week for the Council of Labour and Defence, two hours each.

(3) The Supreme Economic Commission. Close down all its subcommissions as rapidly as possible, and replace them by demanding of the People’s Commissars that each of them should have responsible people to write drafts, that the People’s Commissar should endorse them, and that he himself should get them co-ordinated in the briefest possible time with all “interested” People’s Commissars and at the C.L.D. or the C.P.C.

The Supreme Economic Commission should exist only for co-ordination (codification) and the most rapid checking (stamping) by yourself plus Kamenev.

Only for this.

Not for talk.

Not for discussion.

(4) You are not to become a member of a single commission, not one, except the Supreme Economic Commission.

(5) To fight the outrageous abundance of commissions, replacing them by a formal demand for a written opinion in the shortest possible time.

(6) You must in this way set yourself free from commotion and turmoil, which are killing all of us, and make it possible for you to think calmly about the work as a whole

and particularly to concentrate on checking-up on fulfilment, on fighting bureaucracy and red tape.

I beg you to think over this whole question, and to write to me.

With communist greetings,

First published, but not in full, in Krasnaya Gazeta No. 14, January 16, 1927
First published in full in 1928 in Lenin Miscellany VIII
Printed from the original




February 20

Comrade Tsyurupa,

More on the subject of work on new lines.

I will try to formulate its programme in this way:

(1) the C.P.C. and the C.L.D. to be made ten times more compact, in the sense that the People’s Commissars should not dare to bring trivial matters before them, but should decide them themselves and answer for them themselves;

(2) the staff of the Managing Department of the C.P.C. (at present three-quarters idle) should be made responsible for this, for putting this into effect;

(3) the same applies to the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars, plus its especial reduction in size;

(4) some of the members of the Narrow Council and its staff, and also the staff of the Managing Department of the C.P.C., to be taken by you under your personal command in order to check up on effective fulfilment (you instruct so-and-so: take a journey down there, look, read, check up, you will answer for any bungling through gullibility).

(5) You (and Rykov) must devote first and foremost one hour, or if your health permits, two, every day, to personal checking-up on the work: you summon to your office (or visit) not grandees, but members of Collegiums and lower, practical workers of the People’s Commissariat of X, Y, Z—and check up on their work, get down to rock-bottom, school them, teach them, give them a proper trouncing.   Study people, search for able workers. This is now the essence; all orders and decisions without this are dirty bits of paper.

Reply to me. We shall think it over, consult with members of the Central Committee, and as rapidly as possible fix such a (or some other) programme.


P.S. But Bryukhanov is not suitable. Someone else must be found. For the time being you had better set up a “trio” there, something pretty strong.

Written on February 20, 1922
First published in 1928 in Lenin Miscellany VIII
Printed from the original




Comrade Tsyurupa,

I send yon my addition. My advice is to get brief comments from all People’s Commissars and all members of the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars by Thursday.


A special supplementary decision should lay down: The principal task of the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars must be strict watchfulness that the People’s Commissariats (1) observe the laws, (2) do not evade responsibility by needlessly transferring a mass of unnecessary questions to the Narrow Council for decision, but should decide the questions themselves, on their own responsibility or by agreement between two or more People’s Commissariats under ordinary procedure; (3) checking the legality, expediency and rapidity of individual instructions and acts of the People’s Commissariats; the struggle against bureaucracy and red tape by such checking, and by persistent reduction of the number of officials.

Written on February 20–21, 1922
First published in 1928 in Lenin Miscellany VIII
Printed from the original




The chief defect of these institutions is that they are overburdened with trivial matters. As a result, they are floundering in bureaucracy instead of fighting it.

The causes of this evil are: (1) the weakness of the Managing Department, (2) the inability of the People’s Commissars to climb out of the mire of trivialities arid bureaucratic details, (3) the desire of the People’s Commissars (and still more that of their departmental bureaucrats who egg them on) to shift responsibility on to the C.P.C., (4) last and most important—the fact that responsible workers do not realise that the order of the day now is to fight the sea of paper and show distrust of it and of the eternal “reorganisations”, that the first task of the moment is not decrees, not reorganisations but selection of people; establishment of individual responsibility for what is being done; checking-up on work actually performed. Otherwise we shall not climb out of the bureaucracy and red tape which are throttling us.

The Narrow Council of People’s Commissars, the C.L.D. and the C.P.C. must go all out to get rid of trivialities, teaching the People’s Commissariats to settle minor matters themselves and to answer for them more strictly.

The staff of the Managing Department of the C.P.C. must regard as its main task the practical realisation of the   following: to reduce the number of matters coming before the Narrow C.P.C., the C.L.D. and the C.P.C., and to ensure that the People’s Commissars (severally and jointly) should decide more themselves and answer for it; to shift the centre of gravity to checking up on effective fulfilment.

For the same purpose, the Deputy Chairmen of the C.P.C., Comrades Rykov and Tsyurupa, must go all out to free themselves of trivial matters and commissions, fight against attempts to drag them (the deputies) into matters which should be settled by the People’s Commissars; devote two or three hours a day, as a minimum, to making the personal acquaintance of the responsible workers (not the grandees) of the most important (and later, all) People’s Commissariats, in order to check up and select people; make use of the staff of the Managing Department of the C.P.C. and some of the members of the Narrow Council, and also the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, to check up on the work actually done and what success it has had; in short, they should become practical instructors in administrative work, such as we lack most of all.

Distrust of decrees, of institutions, of “reorganisations” and of grandees, especially among Communists; struggle against the mire of bureaucracy and red tape by checking up on people and on the actual work done; merciless expulsion of unnecessary officials, reduction of staff, replacement of Communists who don’t study the art of management seriously—such must be the line of the People’s Commissars and the C.P.C., of its Chairman and his Deputy Chairmen.


February 27

First published in 1928 in Lenin Miscellany VIII
Printed from the original


[1] + a codifier+1 from the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars—Lenin

[2] On December 1, 1921, the Political Bureau of the C.C. of the R.C.P.(B.), having heard Lenin’s report on the work of Tsyurupa, endorsed his appointment as Second Deputy Chairman of the Council of Labour and Defence. On December 5, by decision of the Political Bureau Tsyurupa was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars.

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