J. V. Stalin
Source: Works, Vol. 9, December-July, 1927, pp. 159-166
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
First Published: Pravda, No. 13, January 16, 1927
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.
Comrades, I did not intend to take the floor. I did not intend to do so because everything that needed to be said at the conference has already been said by other comrades, there was nothing new to say here—and to repeat what has already been said would be pointless. However, in view of the requests of a number of delegations, I shall have to say a few words.
What is the chief and characteristic feature of the situation of our country, looked at from the point of view of its administration, from the point of view of the direction of all our constructive work?
The chief and characteristic feature is that the Party has been able to hit upon the correct policy—the basic line of the Party has proved correct, and its guiding directives have proved sound.
Ten or twenty years of a correct policy towards the peasantry, and our victory is assured.
What does that mean? It means that at the present moment of history the question of the mutual relations between the proletariat and the peasantry is the chief question for us. Well, our practical activity, our work, the work of the Party, shows that the Party has been able to hit upon the correct solution of this question.
What is required in order that the Party’s policy in this basic question should be correct?
What is required, firstly, is that the Party’s policy should ensure the bond, the alliance between the working class and the peasantry.
What is required, secondly, is that the Party’s policy should ensure the leadership of the proletariat within this alliance, within this bond.
In order to guarantee the bond, it is necessary that our financial policy in general, and our taxation policy in particular, should be in conformity with the interests of the labouring masses, that our price policy should be a correct one, one that answers to the interests of the working class and the peasantry, and that a co-operative communal life should be implanted in the towns and, especially, in the countryside systematically, day by day.
I think that in this respect we are on the right road. Otherwise, we should be having most serious complications.
I shall not say that we have no difficulties in this field. There are difficulties, and very grave ones. But we are surmounting them. And we are surmounting them because our policy is in the main correct.
And what is required to ensure the proletariat’s leadership of the peasantry? What is essential for that is the industrialisation of the country. What is essential for that is that our socialist industry should grow and strengthen. What is essential for that is that our growing socialist industry should give the lead to agriculture.
Lenin said that every new mill and every new factory will strengthen the position of the working class, as regards leadership of the countryside, to such an extent that no petty-bourgeois elemental forces will have any terrors for us. He said that in 1921. Five years have passed since then. In this period our industry has grown, new mills and factories have made their appearance. And we find that every new factory and every new mill is a new fortress in the hands of the proletariat, assuring its leadership of the vast masses of the peasantry.
You see that in this field, too, the Party has been able to hit on the correct policy.
I shall not say that we have no difficulties in this field. There are difficulties, of course, but we are not afraid of them, and we are overcoming them because our policy is basically correct.
It is said that the Soviet government is the most stable of all the existing governments in the world. That is true. And what is the explanation of it? The explanation is that the policy of the Soviet government is the only correct policy.
But is it enough merely to have a correct policy to be able to vanquish each and every difficulty that arises in our path?
No, it is not.
For that at least two other conditions are required.
First condition. It is necessary, above all, that the correct policy elaborated by the Party should be actually put into effect, should be actually carried out wholly and completely.
The first thing, of course, is to have a correct policy. But if that policy is not put into effect, or if it is distorted in practice when being put into effect, what is the use of such a policy? There are cases when a policy is correct but is not carried out, or not in the way it should be carried out. We have quite a number of such cases just now. It was just such cases that Lenin had in mind when at the Eleventh Congress, in the last report he made,2 he said:
Our policy is correct, but that is not enough; hence the point now is to arrange for the proper selection of personnel and to organise the checking of fulfilment.
Selection of personnel and the checking of fulfillment—those are the points on which Lenin focussed attention in his last report. I think that we should have this directive of Lenin’s in mind during the whole period of our constructive work. In order to guide the work of construction, it is not enough to have correct directives; it is necessary in addition that we appoint to the leading posts in our Soviet, economic, co-operative and all other work of construction people who understand the meaning and importance of those directives, who are capable of carrying them out honestly and conscientiously, and who regard the carrying out of those directives not as an empty formality, but as a matter of honour, a matter of supreme duty to the Party and the proletariat.
That is the way we must understand Lenin’s slogan: proper selection of personnel and the checking of fulfilment.
Yet we sometimes find the very opposite occurring. There are people who to all appearances recognise the instructions of the higher organs of the Party and the Soviet government, but in actual practice pigeon-hole them and continue to pursue an entirely different policy. Is it not a fact that sometimes certain directors of some apparatuses—economic, co-operative, and other—pigeon-hole the Party’s correct instructions and continue to follow the old beaten track? If, for example, the central organs of the Party and of the Soviet government decide that the immediate task of our policy is to lower retail prices, but a number of co-operative officials, and trade officials generally, ignore this decision, preferring to evade it-—what are we to call that? What is that, if not a frustration of that correct policy upon the conscientious implementation of which depends the fate of the bond, the fate of the alliance between the workers and the peasants, the fate of the Soviet regime?
It was just such cases Lenin had in mind when he said:
Our line is correct, but the machine is not moving in the direction in which it should be moving.
And what is the explanation of this disharmony between the line and the machine? Why, to the fact that the constituents of the machine, of the apparatus, are not always of good quality.
That is why proper selection of personnel and the checking of fulfilment now constitute one of the immediate tasks of the Party and the Soviet government.
That is why the Party must be keenly attentive to see that the leading officials in charge of our constructive work are selected with a view to the conscientious implementation of the policy of the Party and the Soviet government.
Second condition. But that, of course, does not exhaust the matter. It is necessary, in addition, to secure an improvement in the quality of the Party’s leadership of the masses and thus facilitate the broad mass of the workers, and of the peasants as well, being drawn into all our constructive work. The first thing, of course, is to ensure leadership by the proletariat. But the proletariat manifests its will to lead through the Party. It is impossible to lead our constructive work if there is a bad party at the head. For the proletariat to be able to lead, its party must be equal to its mission of being the supreme leader of the masses. And what does that require? It requires that the Party’s leadership should not be formal, not on paper, but effective. It requires that the Party’s leadership should be flexible to the maximum degree.
It is said that if the broad masses of the working class are not brought into action, we cannot be victorious on the construction front. That is perfectly true. But what does it mean? It means that if the broad masses are to be drawn into our work of construction, they must be led correctly, flexibly, and not heedlessly. And who must lead the masses? The Party must lead the masses. But the Party cannot lead the masses if it does not take into account the changes that have taken place among the workers and peasants in recent years. One cannot now carry out leadership in the old way—merely by issuing orders and instructions. The time for that kind of leadership has passed. Nowadays, more formal leadership can only cause irritation. Why? Because the activity of the working class has grown, and its requirements have grown; the workers have become more sensitive to shortcomings in our work, and they have become more exacting.
Is that a good thing? Of course, it is. That is what we have always been striving for. But it follows that leading the working class is becoming a more complicated matter, and that the character of the leadership must be more flexible. Formerly, it could happen that you trod on people’s toes—and it did not matter. But that won’t do now, comrades! Now the utmost attentiveness is required even to the most insignificant trifles, for it is of these trifles that the life of the workers is made up.
The same must be said of the peasants. The peasant today is not what he was two or three years ago. He, too, has become more sensitive and politically conscious. He reads the articles of those who are called leaders and discusses them; he picks every one of the leaders to pieces and forms his own opinion of them. Don’t run away with the idea that he is stupid, as certain wiseacres sometimes try to make out. No, comrades, the peasant is cleverer than many wiseacres of the towns. Well then, he wants to be treated with consideration. Here, as in the case of the workers, you cannot confine yourself merely to resolutions. Here, as in the case of the workers, you have to explain the instructions of the Party and the Soviet government, explain them patiently and attentively, so that people may understand what the Party wants and in what direction it is leading the country. If they don’t understand it today, be good enough to explain it the next day. If they don’t understand it the next day, be good enough to explain it the day after that. Without this, there will not and cannot be any leadership nowadays.
That, of course, does not mean that we must give up leadership. No. The masses cannot respect the party if it gives up leadership, if it ceases to lead. The masses themselves want to be led, and they are looking for firm leadership. But the masses want the leadership to be not formal, not on paper, but effective and comprehensible to them. Precisely for that reason it is necessary patiently to explain the aims and objects, the directives and instructions of the Party and the Soviet government. Leadership must not be given up; neither must it be relaxed. On the contrary, it must be strengthened. But if it is to be strengthened, it must be made more flexible, and the Party must arm itself with the utmost sensitiveness to the requirements of the masses.
I am concluding, comrades. Our policy is correct, and therein lies our strength. But two conditions at least must be fulfilled if our policy is not to become a dead letter. Firstly, proper selection of personnel and checking of fulfilment of the Party’s directives. Secondly, flexible leadership of the masses and the utmost sensitiveness to the requirements of the masses—sensitiveness, and again sensitiveness. (Loud, prolonged applause and an ovation from the whole hall. All rise and sing the “Internationale.”)
1. The Fifteenth Moscow Gubernia Conference of the C.P.S.U.(B.) was held on January 8-15, 1927. It discussed questions of the international and internal situation of the U.S.S.R., a report on the immediate tasks of the Central Control Commission and Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, a report on the work of the Moscow Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.) and other items. J. V. Stalin delivered a speech at the evening sitting on January 14. The Conference approved the policy of the Leninist Central Committee, C.P.S.U.(B.).
2. See V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 33, pp. 271-76.