V. I. Lenin

“Dual” Subordination and Legality[1]

To Comrade Stalin for the Political Bureau

Dictated by phone: 20 May 1922
First Published: Dictated by telephone; on May 20, 1922; First published in Pravda No. 91, April 23, 1925; Published according to the stenographers notes (typewritten copy).
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 363-369
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
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

The question of the procuratorship has given rise to disagreement on the commission appointed by the Central Committee to direct the proceedings of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee session. If these disagreements do not cause this question to be brought before the Political Bureau automatically, I propose, in view of its extreme importance, that it be brought up in any case.

In substance, the point at issue is the following: On the question of the procuratorship, the majority of the commission elected by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee expressed opposition to the proposal that local procurators should be appointed solely by the central authority and he subordinate solely to the latter. The majority demands what is called dual” subordination, the system that applies to all local officials, i.e., subordination to the central authority in the shape of the respective People’s Commissariat, and also to the Gubernia Executive Committee.

The same majority of the commission of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee denies the right of local procurators to challenge the legality of decisions passed by gubernia executive committees, and by local authorities generally.

I cannot imagine on what grounds this obviously fallacious decision of the majority of the commission of the AllRussia Central Executive Committee can be justified. The only argument I have neard in support of it is that defence of ’dual” subordination in this case means legitimate opposition to bureaucratic centralism, defending the necessary independence of the local authorities, and protecting the officials of the gubernia executive committees from high-handed conduct by the central authorities. Is there anything high-handed in the view that law cannot be Kaluga law or Kazan law, but that it must be uniform all-Russia law, and even uniform for the entire federation of Soviet Republics? The underlying fallacy of the view which has prevailed among the majority of the commission of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee is that they wrongly apply the principle of “dual” subordination. ’Dual” subordination is needed where it is necessary to allow for a really inevitable difference. Agriculture in Kaluga Guhernia differs from that in Kazan Gubernia. The same thing can be said about industry; and it can be said about administration, or management, as a whole. Failure to make allowances for local differences in all these matters would mean slipping into bureaucratic centralism, and so forth. It would mean preventing the local authorities from giving proper consideration to specific local features, which is the basis of all rational administration. Nevertheless, the law must be uniform, and the root evil of our social life, and of our lack of culture, is our pandering to the ancient Russian view and semi-savage habit of mind, which wishes to preserve Kaluga law as distinct from Kazan law. It must be borne in mind that, unlike the administration authorities, the procurator has no administrative powers, and has no power to decide any question of administration. His rights and duties are reduced to one function, viz., to see that the law is really uniformly interpreted throughout the Republic, notwithstanding differences in local conditions, and in spite of all local influences. The only right and duty of the procurator is to take the matter before the court. What sort of court? Our courts are local courts. Our judges are elected by the local Soviets. Hence, the authority to which the procurator submits a case of infringement of the law is a local authority which, on the one hand, must strictly abide by the laws uniformly established for the whole Federation and, on the other hand, in determining the penalty, must take all local circumstances into consideration. And it has the right to say that although there has been a definite infringement of the law in a given case, nevertheless, certain circumstances, with which local people are closely familiar, and which come to light in the local court, compel the court to mitigate the penalty to which the culprit is liable, or even acquit him. Unless we strictly adhere to this most elementary condition for maintaining the uniformity of the law for the whole Federation, it will be utterly impossible to protect the law, or to develop any kind of culture.

Similarly, it is wrong in principle to argue that procurators should not have the right to challenge the decisions of gubernia executive committees, or of other local authorities; that legally the latter come under the jurisdiction of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection.

The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection judges not only from the viewpoint of the law, but also from the viewpoint of expediency. The procurator must see to it that not a single decision passed by any local authority runs counter to the law, and only from this aspect is it his duty to challenge every illegal decision. He has no right to suspend such a decision; he must only take measures to secure that the interpretation of the law is absolutely uniform throughout the Republic. Hence, the decision of the majority of the commission of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee is not only utterly wrong in principle, it not only applies the principle of “dual” subordination in an utterly fallacious manner, but it also hinders all efforts to establish uniformity of the law and develop at least the minimum of culture.

Further, in deciding this question, it is necessary to take into account the weight of local influence. Undoubtedly, we are living amidst an ocean of illegality, and local influence is one of the greatest, if not the greatest obstacle to the establishment of law and culture. There is scarcely anyone who has not heard that the purging of the Party revealed the prevalence, in the majority of local purging committees, of personal spite and local strife in the process of purging the Party. This fact is incontrovertible, and significant. Scarcely anyone will dare deny that it is easier for the Party to find half a score of reliable Communists who possess an adequate legal education and are capable of resisting all purely local influences than to find hundreds of them. And this is precisely what the question boils down to in discussing whether procurators should be subject to “dual” subordination, or to subordination solely to the central authorities. At the centre we must find about half a score of men to exercise the functions of the central procurator authority represented by the Procurator General, the Supreme Tribunal, and the Collegium of the People’s Commissariat of Justice (1 leave aside the question as to whether the Procurator General should he the sole authority, or whether he should share his authority with the Supreme Tribunal and the Collegium of the People’s Commissariat of Justice, for this is purely a secondary question, and can be settled, one way or another, in accordance with whether the Party will delegate vast authority to one person, or divide that authority among the three aforesaid bodies). These ten should work at the centre, under the closest supervision of and in closest contact with the three Party bodies which provide the most reliable barrier against local and personal influences, viz., the Organising Bureau of the Central Committee, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, and the Central Control Commission. The latter body, i.e., the Central Control Commission, is responsible only to the Party Congress, and is constructed in such a way that no member of it can hold a position in any People’s Commissariat, government department, or any organ of the Soviet government. It is clear that under these circumstances we have the greatest guarantee so far devised that the Party will set up a small central collegium that will be really capable of resisting local influences and local, and all other, bureaucracy, and which will establish real uniformity in the application of the laws throughout the Republic, and throughout the Federation. Hence, any mistake that this central legal collegium may make can be at once rectified on the spot by the Party bodies, which determine all the fundamental concepts and lay down all the fundamental rules for all our Party and Soviet activities throughout the Republic.

To depart from this would mean dragging in on the sly a view which nobody can defend openly and frankly, viz., that culture and law, which is its necessary concomitant, are so highly developed in our country that we can guarantee to find hundreds of absolutely irreproachable procurators capable of resisting all local influences, and of establishing uniformity of the law throughout the Republic by their own efforts.

To sum up, I draw the conclusion that to defend the “dual” subordination of procurators, and to deprive them of the right to challenge any decision passed by the local authorities, is not only wrong in principle, not only hinders our fundamental task of constantly introducing respect for the law, but is also an expression of the interests and prejudices of local bureaucrats and local influences, i.e., the most pernicious wall that stands between the working people and the local and central Soviet authorities, as well as the central authority of the Russian Communist Party.

I therefore propose that the Central Committee should reject “dual” subordination in this matter, establish the subordination of local procurators solely to the central authority, and allow the procurator to retain the right and duty to challenge the legality of any decision or order passed by the local authorities with the proviso, however, that he shall have no right to suspend such decisions; he shall only have the right to bring them before the courts.



[1] Lenin wrote this letter in connection with the drawing up of the Rules of the Procurator’s office. On May 24, 1922 the Political Bureau discussed Lenin’s letter and accepted the recommendations in it. On May 26, acting on the report of the special commission, the Third Session of the Ninth All-Russia Central Executive Committee approved the Rules in accordance with Lenin’s recommendations.