J. V. Stalin

Speech at the Opening of the
First All-Russian Conference of
Responsible Personnel of the Workers'
and Peasants' Inspection

October 15, 1920

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

I declare open the first all-Russian conference of officials of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection.

Comrades, before proceeding to the business of our conference, permit me to state the opinion of the People's Commissariat of Workers' and Peasants' Inspection on the question whether an Inspection is needed in a workers' and peasants' state, and, if it is, what its basic tasks should be.

Russia is so far the only country where the workers and peasants have seized power. The pre-condition for the seizure of power was the most profound revolution in the world, which was followed by the abolition of the old machinery of state power and the rise of a new one. The position in the old days was that the workers as a rule toiled for the masters, while the masters governed the country. This, in fact, explains why, before the revolution, all the experience in governing the country was concentrated in the ruling classes. But after the October Revolution, power was assumed by the workers and peasants, who had never governed before, who knew only how to work for others, and who had no adequate experience in governing the country.

That was the first circumstance which was the source of those shortcomings from which the administrative machinery of the Soviet country is now suffering.

Further, with the abolition of the old apparatus of state administration, bureaucracy was smashed, but the bureaucrats remained. They disguised themselves as Soviet officials and installed themselves in our state apparatus, and, taking advantage of the inadequate experience of the workers and peasants, who had only just come to power, they started their old tricks for pilfering state property, introduced the old bourgeois habits and customs.

That was the second circumstance which was the basis of shortcomings in our state apparatus.

Lastly, the new power inherited from the old a completely disrupted economic apparatus. The disruption was aggravated by the civil war forced upon Russia by the Entente. This circumstance was still another of the conditions for the existence of defects and shortcomings in our government machinery.

These, comrades, are the basic conditions which have given rise to shortcomings in our state apparatus.

Clearly, so long as these conditions exist, so long as shortcomings in our state apparatus continue, we shall need an Inspection.

Of course, the working class is striving to acquire experience in governing the country; nevertheless, the experience of the representatives of the new class which has come to power is still inadequate.

Of course, the disguised bureaucrats who have wormed their way into our state apparatus are being curbed; but they have not yet been curbed sufficiently.

Of course, the economic disruption that we are faced with is diminishing thanks to the feverish activity of our government bodies; nevertheless, the disruption still persists.

And precisely for this reason, so long as these conditions continue and these shortcomings exist, we need a special state apparatus to study these shortcomings and correct them, and to assist our state bodies to become more perfect.

What, then, are the basic tasks of the Inspection?

There are two basic tasks.

The first is that the Inspection's officials must, as the result of, or in the course of, their work of inspection, help our comrades in authority both in the centre and in the provinces to establish the most efficient forms of accountancy of state property, help to establish efficient forms of bookkeeping, help to perfect the machinery of supply, peacetime and wartime machinery, and the economic machinery.

That is the first basic task.

The second basic task is that the W.P.I. must in the course of its work train from the ranks of the workers and peasants instructors who will be capable of mastering the entire state apparatus. Comrades, a country is not governed by those who elect their delegates to parliament, under the bourgeois system, or to the Congresses of Soviets, under the Soviet system. No, a country is actually governed by those who have in fact mastered the executive apparatus of the state and direct it. If the working class really wants to master the state apparatus for governing the country, it must have experienced agents not only in the centre, not only in the places where questions are discussed and decided, but also in the places where the decisions are put into effect. Only then can it be said that the working class has really become master of the state. To achieve this, we must have adequate cadres of instructors in the work of governing the country. It is the basic task of the W.P.I. to rear and train such cadres by enlisting the co-operation of the broad strata of the workers and peasants in its work. The W.P.I. must be a school for such cadres from the ranks of the workers and peasants.

That is the second task of the W.P.I.

This determines the methods which the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection must practise in its work. In the old, pre-revolutionary days, the control was something extraneous to the government institutions; it was an external force which, when inspecting the institutions, sought to catch delinquents, criminals, and that was all. This is what I would call the police method, the method of catching criminals, of making sensational exposures for the press to raise a hue and cry over. This method must be discarded. It is not the method of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection. Our Inspection must not regard the institutions they are inspecting as alien bodies; they must regard them as their own institutions, which have to be taught and perfected. The chief function is not to catch individual criminals, but first and foremost to study the institutions they are inspecting, to study them thoughtfully and seriously, to study their defects and merits, and to help to perfect them. The worst and most undesirable thing would be if our inspectors were to incline towards police methods, were to start carping at the institution they are inspecting and to snap at its heels, if they were to skim the surface and overlook the fundamental shortcomings.

The W.P.I.'s method of work should be to disclose fundamental shortcomings. I know that this W.P.I. policy is very difficult, that it often provokes the displeasure of some officials of the inspected institutions. I know that often the most honest W.P.I. officials are pursued by the hatred of some arrant bureaucrats, as well as of some Communists who succumb to the influence of such bureaucrats. But that is something the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection should not be afraid of. Its fundamental commandment should always be: Do not spare individuals, whatever the position they occupy; spare only the public cause, only the public interest.

That is a very difficult and delicate task; it demands great restraint and great, irreproachable moral purity on the part of our officials. I have to say, to my regret, that in some of the actual inspections of institutions made here in Moscow, the control agents themselves proved to be unworthy of their calling. I must declare that towards such agents the Commissariat will be implacable. The Commissariat will demand that they be punished with the utmost severity, because they cast a stain on the honour of the Workers' and Peasants' inspectors. Since the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection has been entrusted with the lofty duty of correcting the shortcomings of our institutions, of helping their personnel to advance and perfect themselves, since it is the duty of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection to spare no one, but only the public interest, then, obviously, the personnel of the W.P.I. must themselves be pure, irreproachable and implacable in their justice. This is absolutely essential if they are to have not only the formal, but also the moral right to inspect others and to teach others.