J. V. Stalin
Source: Works, Vol. 11, January, 1928 to March, 1929
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup: Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
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, the joint plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C.2 that has just concluded has one feature which distinguishes it from the series of plenary meetings held in the past two years. This feature is that it was a plenum of a purely business-like character, a plenum where there were no inner-Party conflicts, a plenum where there were no inner-Party dissensions.
Its agenda consisted of the most burning questions of the day: the grain procurements, the Shakhty affair, 3 and, lastly, the plan of work of the Political Bureau and plenum of the Central Committee. These, as you see, are quite serious questions. Nevertheless, the debates at the plenum were of a purely business-like character, and the resolutions were adopted unanimously.
The reason is that there was no opposition at the plenum. The reason is that the questions were approached in a strictly business-like manner, without factional attacks, without factional demagogy. The reason is that only after the Fifteenth Congress, only after the liquidation of the opposition, did it become possible for the Party to tackle practical problems seriously and thoroughly.
That is the good aspect and, if you like, the inestimable advantage of that phase of development which we have entered since the Fifteenth Congress of our Party, since the liquidation of the opposition.
A characteristic feature of the work of this plenum, of its debates and its resolutions, is that from beginning to end, its key-note was the sternest self-criticism. More, there was not a single question, not a single speech, at the plenum which was not accompanied by criticism of shortcomings in our work, by self-criticism of our organisations. Criticism of our shortcomings, honest and Bolshevik self-criticism of Party, Soviet and economic organisations—that was the general tone of the plenum.
I know that there are people in the ranks of the Party who have no fondness for criticism in general, and for self-criticism in particular. Those people, whom I might call "skin-deep" Communists (laughter), every now and then grumble and shrug their shoulders at self-criticism, as much as to say: Again this accursed self-criticism, again this raking out of our shortcomings— can't we be allowed to live in peace? Obviously, those "skin-deep" Communists are complete strangers to the spirit of our Party, to the spirit of Bolshevism. Well, in view of the existence of such sentiments among those people who greet self-criticism with anything but enthusiasm, it is permissible to ask: Do we need self-criticism; where does it derive from, and what is its value?
I think, comrades, that self-criticism is as necessary to us as air or water. I think that without it, without self-criticism, our Party could not make any headway, could not disclose our ulcers, could not eliminate our shortcomings. And shortcomings we have in plenty. That must be admitted frankly and honestly.
The slogan of self-criticism cannot be regarded as a new one. It lies at the very foundation of the Bolshevik Party. It lies at the foundation of the regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Since our country is a country with a dictatorship of the proletariat, and since the dictatorship is directed by one party, the Communist Party, which does not, and cannot, share power with other parties, is it not clear that, if we want to make headway, we ourselves must disclose and correct our errors—is it not clear that there is no one else to disclose and correct them for us? Is it not clear, comrades, that self-criticism must be one of the most important motive forces of our development?
The slogan of self-criticism has developed especially powerfully since the Fifteenth Congress of our Party. Why? Because after the Fifteenth Congress, which put an end to the opposition, a new situation arose in the Party, one that we have to reckon with.
In what does the novelty of this situation consist? In the fact that now we have no opposition, or next to none; in the fact that, because of the easy victory over the opposition—a victory which in itself is a most important gain for the Party—there may be a danger of the Party resting on its laurels, beginning to take things easy and closing its eyes to the shortcomings in our work.
The easy victory over the opposition is a most important gain for our Party. But concealed within it is a certain drawback, which is that the Party may be a prey to self-satisfaction, to self-admiration, and begin to rest on its laurels. And what does resting on our laurels mean? It means putting an end to our forward movement. And in order that this may not occur, we need self-criticism— not that malevolent and actually counter-revolutionary criticism which the opposition indulged in—but honest, frank, Bolshevik self-criticism.
The Fifteenth Congress of our Party was alive to this, and it issued the slogan of self-criticism. Since then the tide of self-criticism has been mounting, and it laid its imprint also on the work of the April plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C.
It would be strange to fear that our enemies, our internal and external enemies, might exploit the criticism of our shortcomings and raise the shout: Oho! All is not well with those Bolsheviks! It would be strange if we Bolsheviks were to fear that. The strength of Bolshevism lies precisely in the fact that it is not afraid to admit its mistakes. Let the Party, let the Bolsheviks, let all the upright workers and labouring elements in our country bring to light the shortcomings in our work, the shortcomings in our constructive effort, and let them indicate ways of eliminating our shortcomings, so that there may be no stagnation, vegetation, decay in our work and our construction, so that all our work and all our constructive measures may improve from day to day and go from success to success. That is the chief thing just now. As for our enemies, let them rant about our shortcomings—such trifles cannot and should not disconcert Bolsheviks.
Lastly, there is-yet another circumstance that impels us to self-criticism. I am referring to the question of the masses and the leaders. A peculiar sort of relation has lately begun to arise between the leaders and the masses. On the one hand there was formed, there came into being historically, a group of leaders among us whose prestige is rising and rising, and who are becoming almost unapproachable for the masses. On the other hand the working-class masses in the first place, and the mass of the working people in general are rising extremely slowly, are beginning to look up at the leaders from below with blinking eyes, and not infrequently are afraid to criticise them.
Of course, the fact that we have a group of leaders who have risen excessively high and enjoy great prestige is in itself a great achievement for our Party. Obviously, the direction of a big country would be unthinkable without such an authoritative group of leaders. But the fact that as these leaders rise they get further away from the masses, and the masses begin to look up at them from below and do not venture to criticise them, cannot but give rise to a certain danger of the leaders losing contact with the masses and the masses getting out of touch with the leaders.
This danger may result in the leaders becoming conceited and regarding themselves as infallible. And what good can be expected when the top leaders become self-conceited and begin to look down on the masses? Clearly, nothing can come of this but the ruin of the Party.
But what we want is not to ruin the Party, but to move forward and improve our work. And precisely in order that we may move forward and improve the relations between the masses and the leaders, we must keep the valve of self-criticism open all the time, we must make it possible for Soviet people to "go for" their leaders, to criticise their mistakes, so that the leaders may not grow conceited, and the masses may not get out of touch with the leaders.
The question of the masses and the leaders is sometimes identified with the question of promotion. That is wrong, comrades. It is not a question of bringing new leaders to the fore, although this deserves the Party's most serious attention. It is a question of preserving the leaders who have already come to the fore and possess the greatest prestige by organising permanent and indissoluble contact between them and the masses. It is a question of organising, along the lines of self-criticism and criticism of our shortcomings, the broad public opinion of the Party, the broad public opinion of the working class, as an instrument of keen and vigilant moral control, to which the most authoritative leaders must lend an attentive ear if they want to retain the confidence of the Party and the confidence of the working class.
From this standpoint, the value of the press, of our Party and Soviet press, is truly inestimable. From this standpoint, we cannot but welcome the initiative shown by Pravda in publishing the Bulletin of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection,4 which conducts systematic criticism of shortcomings in our work. Only we must see to it that the criticism is serious and penetrating, and does not just skate on the surface. From this standpoint, too, we have to welcome the initiative shown by Komsomolskaya Pravda 5 in vigorously and spiritedly attacking shortcomings in our work.
Critics are sometimes abused because of imperfections in their criticism, because their criticism is not always 100 per cent correct. The demand is often made that criticism should be correct on all accounts, and if it is not correct on every point, they begin to decry and disparage it.
That is wrong, comrades. It is a dangerous misconception. Only try to put forward such a demand, and you will gag hundreds and thousands of workers, worker correspondents and village correspondents who desire to correct our shortcomings but who sometimes are unable to formulate their ideas correctly. We would get not self-criticism, but the silence of the tomb.
You must know that workers are sometimes afraid to tell the truth about shortcomings in our work. They are afraid not only because they might get into "hot water" for it, but also because they might be made into a "laughing-stock" on account of their imperfect criticism. How can you expect an ordinary worker or an ordinary peasant, with his own painful experience of shortcomings in our work and in our planning, to frame his criticism according to all the rules of the art? If you demand that their criticism should be 100 per cent correct, you will be killing all possibility of criticism from below, all possibility of self-criticism. That is why I think that if criticism is even only 5 or 10 per cent true, such criticism should be welcomed, should be listened to attentively, and the sound core in it taken into account. Otherwise, I repeat, you would be gagging all those hundreds and thousands of people who are devoted to the cause of the Soviets, who are not yet skilled enough in the art of criticism, but through whose lips speaks truth itself.
Precisely in order to develop self-criticism and not extinguish it, we must listen attentively to all criticism coming from Soviet people, even if sometimes it may not be correct to the full and in all details. Only then can the masses have the assurance that they will not get into "hot water" if their criticism is not perfect, that they will not be made a "laughing-stock" if there should be errors in their criticism. Only then can self-criticism acquire a truly mass character and meet with a truly mass response.
It goes without saying that what we have in mind is not just "any sort" of criticism. Criticism by a counterrevolutionary is also criticism. But its object is to discredit the Soviet regime, to undermine our industry, to disrupt our Party work. Obviously, it is not such criticism we have in mind. It is not of such criticism I am speaking, but of criticism that comes from Soviet people, and which has the aim of improving the organs of Soviet rule, of improving our industry, of improving our Party and trade-union work. We need criticism in order to strengthen the Soviet regime, not to weaken it. And it is precisely with a view to strengthening and improving our work that the Party proclaims the slogan of criticism and self-criticism.
What do we expect primarily from the slogan of self-criticism, what results can it yield if it is carried out properly and honestly? It should yield at least two results. It should, in the first place, sharpen the vigilance of the working class, make it pay more attention to our shortcomings, facilitate their correction, and render impossible any kind of "surprises" in our constructive work. It should, in the second place, improve the political culture of the working class, develop in it the feeling that it is the master of the country, and facilitate the training of the working class in the work of administering the country.
Have you considered the fact that not only the Shakh-ty affair, but also the procurement crisis of January 1928 came as a "surprise" to many of us? The Shakhty affair was particularly noteworthy in this respect. This counter-revolutionary group of bourgeois experts carried on their work for five years, receiving instructions from the anti-Soviet organisations of international capital. For five years our organisations were writing and circulating all sorts of resolutions and decisions. Our coal industry, of course, was making headway all the same, because our Soviet economic system is so virile and powerful that it got the upper hand in spite of our blockheadedness and our blunders, and in spite of the subversive activities of the experts. For five years this counter-revolutionary group of experts was engaged in sabotaging our industry, causing boiler explosions, wrecking turbines, and so on. And all this time we were oblivious to everything. Then "suddenly," like a bolt from the blue, came the Shakhty affair.
Is this normal, comrades? I think it is very far from normal. To stand at the helm and peer ahead, yet see nothing until circumstances bring us face to face with some calamity—that is not leadership. That is not the way Bolshevism understands leadership. In order to lead, one must foresee. And foreseeing is not always easy, comrades.
It is one thing when a dozen or so leading comrades are on the watch for and detect shortcomings in our work, while the working masses are unwilling or unable either to watch for or to detect shortcomings. Here all the chances are that you will be sure to overlook something, will not detect everything. It is another thing when, together with the dozen or so leading comrades, hundreds of thousands and millions of workers are on the watch to detect shortcomings in our work, disclosing our errors, throwing themselves into the general work of construction and indicating ways of improving it. Here there is a greater guarantee that there will be no surprises, that objectionable features will be noted promptly and prompt measures taken to eliminate them.
We must see to it that the vigilance of the working class is not damped down, but stimulated, that hundreds of thousands and millions of workers are drawn into the general work of socialist construction, that hundreds of thousands and millions of workers and peasants, and not merely a dozen leaders, keep vigilant watch over the progress of our construction work, notice our errors and bring them into the light of day. Only then shall we have no "surprises." But to bring this about, we must develop criticism of our shortcomings from below, we must make criticism the affair of the masses, we must assimilate and carry out the slogan of self-criticism.
Lastly, as regards promoting the cultural powers of the working class, developing in it the faculty of administering the country in connection with the carrying out of the slogan of self-criticism. Lenin said:
"The chief thing we lack is culture, ability to administer. . . . Economically and politically, N E P fully ensures us the possibility of laying the foundation of a socialist economy. It is 'only' a matter of the cultural forces of the proletariat and of its vanguard." 6
What does this mean? It means that one of the main tasks of our constructive work is to develop in the working class the faculty and ability to administer the country, to administer economy, to administer industry.
Can we develop this faculty and ability in the working class without giving full play to the powers and capacities of the workers, the powers and capacities of the finest elements of the working class, for criticising our errors, for detecting our shortcomings and for advancing our work? Obviously, we cannot.
And what is required in order to give full play to the powers and capacities of the working class and the working people generally, and to enable them to acquire the faculty of administering the country? It requires, above all, honest and Bolshevik observance of the slogan of self-criticism, honest and Bolshevik observance of the slogan of criticism from below of shortcomings and errors in our work. If the workers take advantage of the opportunity to criticise shortcomings in our work frankly and bluntly, to improve and advance our work, what does that mean? It means that the workers are becoming active participants in the work of directing the country, economy, industry. And this cannot but enhance in the workers the feeling that they are the masters of the country, cannot but enhance their activity, their vigilance, their culture.
This question of the cultural powers of the working class is a decisive one. Why? Because, of all the ruling classes that have hitherto existed, the working class, as a ruling class, occupies a somewhat special and not altogether favourable position in history. All ruling classes until now—the slave-owners, the landlords, the capitalists—were also wealthy classes. They were in a position to train in their sons the knowledge and faculties needed for government. The working class differs from them, among other things, in that it is not a wealthy class, that it was not able formerly to train in its sons the knowledge and faculty of government, and has become able to do so only now, after coming to power.
That, incidently, is the reason why the question of a cultural revolution is so acute with us. True, in the ten years of its rule the working class of the U.S.S.R. has accomplished far more in this respect than the landlords and capitalists did in hundreds of years. But the international and internal situation is such that the results achieved are far from sufficient. Therefore, every means capable of promoting the development of the cultural powers of the working class, every means capable of facilitating the development in the working class of the faculty and ability to administer the country and industry—every such means must be utilised by us to the full.
But it follows from what has been said that the slogan of self-criticism is one of the most important means of developing the cultural powers of the proletariat, of developing the faculty of government in the working class. From this follows yet another reason why the carrying out of the slogan of self-criticism is a vital task for us.
Such, in general, are the reasons which make the slogan of self-criticism imperative for us as a slogan of the day.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the key-note of the April plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C. was self-criticism.
Let us pass now to the question of grain procurements.
First of all, a few words about the nature of the grain procurement crisis that developed here in January of this year. The essence of the matter is that in October of last year our procurements began to decline, reached a very low point in December, and by January of this year we had a deficit of 130,000,000 poods of grain. This year's harvest was, perhaps, no worse than last year's; it may have been a little less. The carry-over from previous harvests was bigger than it was last year, and it was generally considered that the marketable surplus of grain in our country this year was not smaller, but larger than in the previous year.
It was with this consideration in mind that the procurement plan for the year was fixed at slightly above last year's plan. But in spite of this, the procurements declined, and by January 1928 we had a deficit of 130,000,000 poods. It was an "odd" situation: there was plenty of grain in the country, yet the procurements were falling and creating the threat of hunger in the towns and in the Red Army.
How is this "oddity" to be explained? Was it not due to some chance factor? The explanation many are inclined to give is that we had been caught napping, had been too busy with the opposition and had let our attention slip. That we really had been caught napping is, of course, true. But to put it all down to an oversight would be the grossest error. Still less can the procurement crisis be attributed to some chance factor. Such things do not happen by chance. That would be too cheap an explanation.
What, then, were the factors that led up to the procurement crisis?
I think there were at least three such factors.
Firstly. The difficulties of our socialist construction in the conditions of our international and internal situation. I am referring primarily to the difficulties of developing urban industry. It is necessary to pour goods of every kind into the countryside in order to be able to draw out of it the maximum quantity of agricultural produce. This requires a faster rate of development of our industry than is the case now. But in order to develop industry more swiftly, we need a faster rate of socialist accumulation. And to attain such a rate of accumulation is not so easy, comrades. The result is a shortage of goods in the countryside.
I am referring, further, to the difficulties of our constructive work in the countryside. Agriculture is developing slowly, comrades. It should be developing with gigantic strides, grain should become cheaper and harvests bigger, fertilisers should be applied to the utmost and mechanised production of grain should be developed at high speed. But that is not the case, comrades, and will not come about quickly.
Because our agriculture is a small-peasant economy, which does not readily lend itself to substantial improvement. Statistics tell us that before the war there were about 16,000,000 individual peasant farms in our country. Now we have about 25,000,000 individual peasant farms. This means that ours is essentially a land of small-peasant economy. And what is small-peasant economy? It is the most insecure, the most primitive, the most underdeveloped form of economy, producing the smallest marketable surpluses. That is the whole crux of the matter, comrades. Fertilisers, machines, scientific agriculture and other improvements—these are things which can be effectively applied on large farms, but which are inapplicable or practically inapplicable in small-peasant economy. That is the weakness of small-scale economy, and that is why it cannot compete with the large kulak farms.
Have we any large farms at all in the countryside, employing machines, fertilisers, scientific agriculture and so on? Yes, we have. Firstly, there are the collective farms and state farms. But we have few of them, comrades. Secondly, there are the large kulak (capitalist) farms. Such farms are by no means few in our country, and they are still a big factor in agriculture.
Can we adopt the course of encouraging privately owned, large capitalist farms in the countryside? Obviously, we cannot. It follows then that we must do our utmost to develop in the countryside large farms of the type of the collective farms and state farms and try to convert them into grain factories for the country organised on a modern scientific basis. That, in fact, explains why the Fifteenth Congress of our Party issued the slogan of the maximum development in forming collective and state farms.
It would be a mistake to think that the collective farms must only be formed from the poorer strata of the peasantry. That would be wrong, comrades. Our collective farms must comprise both poor and middle peasants, and embrace not only individual groups or clusters, but entire villages. The middle peasant must be given a prospect, he must be shown that he can develop his husbandry best and most rapidly through the collective farm. Since the middle peasant cannot rise into the kulak group, and it would be unwise for him to sink, he must be given the prospect of being able to improve his husbandry through the formation of collective farms.
But our collective farms and state farms are still all too few, scandalously few. Hence the difficulties of our constructive work in the countryside. Hence our inadequate grain output.
Secondly. It follows from this that the difficulties of our constructive work in town and country are a basis on which a procurement crisis can develop. But this does not mean that a procurement crisis was bound to develop precisely this year. We know that these difficulties existed not only this year, but also last year. Why, then, did a procurement crisis develop precisely this year? What is the secret?
The secret is that this year the kulak was able to take advantage of these difficulties to force up grain prices, launch an attack on the Soviet price policy and thus slow up our procurement operations. And he was able to take advantage of these difficulties for at least two reasons :
firstly, because three years of good harvests had not been without their effect. The kulak grew strong in that period, grain stocks in the countryside in general, and among the kulaks in particular, accumulated during that time, and it became possible for the kulak to attempt to dictate prices;
secondly, because the kulak had support from the urban speculators, who speculate on a rise of grain prices and thus force up prices.
This does not mean, of course, that the kulak is the principal holder of grain. By and large, it is the middle peasant who holds most of the grain. But the kulak has a certain economic prestige in the countryside, and in the matter of prices he is sometimes able to get the middle peasant to follow his lead. The kulak elements in the countryside are thus in a position to take advantage of the difficulties of our constructive work for forcing up grain prices for purposes of speculation.
But what is the consequence of forcing up grain prices by, say, 40-50 per cent, as the kulak speculating elements did? The first consequence is to undermine the real wages of the workers. Let us suppose that we had raised workers' wages at the time. But in that case we should have had to raise prices of manufactured goods, and that would have hit at the living standards both of the working class and of the poor and middle peasants. And what would have been the effect of this? The effect would undoubtedly have been directly to undermine our whole economic policy.
But that is not all. Let us suppose that we had raised grain prices 40-50 per cent in January or in the spring of this year, just before the preparations for the sowing. What would have been the result? We should have disorganised the raw materials base of our industry. The cotton-growers would have abandoned the growing of cotton and started growing grain, as a more profitable business. The flax-growers would have abandoned flax and also started growing grain. The beet-growers would have done the same. And so on and so forth. In short, we should have undermined the raw materials base of our industry because of the profiteering appetites of the capitalist elements in the countryside.
But that is not all either. If we had forced up grain prices this spring, say, we should certainly have brought misery on the poor peasant, who in the spring buys grain for food as well as for sowing his fields. The poor peasants and the lower-middle peasants would have had every right to say to us: "You have deceived us, because last autumn we sold grain to you at low prices, and now you are compelling us to buy grain at high prices. Whom are you protecting, gentlemen of the Soviets, the poor peasants or the kulaks?"
That is why the Party had to retaliate to the blow of the kulak speculators, aimed at forcing up grain prices, with a counter-blow that would knock out of the kulaks and speculators all inclination to menace the working class and our Red Army with hunger.
Thirdly. It is unquestionable that the capitalist elements in the countryside could not have taken advantage of the difficulties of our constructive work to the degree they actually did, and the procurement crisis would not have assumed such a menacing character, if they had not been assisted in this matter by one other circumstance. What is that circumstance?
It is the slackness of our procurement bodies, the absence of a united front between them, their competition with one another, and their reluctance to wage a determined struggle against speculating on higher grain prices.
It is, lastly, the inertia of our Party organisations in the grain procurement areas, their reluctance to intervene as they should have done in the grain procurement campaign, their reluctance to intervene and put an end to the general slackness on the procurement front.
Intoxicated by the successes of last year's procurement campaign, and believing that this year the procurements would come in automatically, our procurement and Party organisations left it all to the "will of God," and left a clear field to the kulak speculating elements. And that was just what the kulaks were waiting for. It is scarcely to be doubted that, had it not been for this circumstance, the procurement crisis could not have assumed such a menacing character.
It should not be forgotten that we, that is to say our organisations, both procurement and other, control nearly 80 per cent of the supply of manufactured goods to the countryside, and nearly 90 per cent of all the procurements there. It need scarcely be said that this circumstance makes it possible for us to dictate to the kulak in the countryside, provided that our organisations know how to utilise this favourable position. But we, instead of utilising this favourable position, allowed everything to go on automatically and thereby facilitated—against our own will, of course—the fight of the capitalist elements of the countryside against the Soviet Government.
Such, comrades, were the conditions which determined the procurement crisis at the end of last year.
You see, therefore, that the procurement crisis cannot be considered a matter of chance.
You see that the procurement crisis is the expression of the first serious action, under the conditions of NEP, undertaken by the capitalist elements of the countryside against the Soviet Government in connection with one of the most important questions of our constructive work, that of grain procurements.
That, comrades, is the class background of the grain procurement crisis.
You know that, in order to end the procurement crisis and curb the kulaks' appetite for speculation, the Party and the Soviet Government were obliged to adopt a number of practical measures. Quite a lot has been said about these measures in our press. They have been dealt with in fairly great detail in the resolution of the joint plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C. Hence I think that there is no need to repeat that here.
I only want to say something about certain emergency measures which were taken because of the emergency circumstances, and which, of course, will lapse when these emergency circumstances cease to exist.
I am referring to the enforcement of Article 107 of the law against speculation. This article was adopted by the Central Executive Committee in 1926. It was not applied last year. Why? Because the grain procurements proceeded, as it is said, normally, and there were no grounds for applying this article. It was called to mind only this year, at the beginning of 1928. And it was recalled because we had a number of emergency circumstances which resulted from the speculating machinations of the kulaks and which held out the threat of hunger. It is clear that if there are no emergency circumstances in the next procurement year and the procurements proceed normally, Article 107 will not be applied. And, on the contrary, if emergency circumstances arise and the capitalist elements start their "tricks" again, Article 107 will again appear on the scene.
It would be stupid on these grounds to say that NEP is being "abolished," that there is a "reversion" to the surplus-appropriation system, and so on. Only enemies of the Soviet regime can now think of abolishing NEP. Nobody benefits more from the New Economic Policy now than the Soviet Government. But there are people who think that NEP means not intensifying the struggle against capitalist elements, including the kulaks, with a view to overcoming them, but ceasing the struggle against the kulaks and other capitalist elements. It need scarcely be said that such people have nothing in common with Leninism, for there is not, and cannot be, any place for them in our Party.
The results of the measures taken by the Party and the Soviet Government to put an end to the food crisis are also known to you. Briefly, they are as follows.
Firstly, we made up for lost time and procured grain at a tempo which equalled, and in places surpassed, that of last year. You know that in the three months January-March we succeeded in procuring more than 270,000,000 poods of grain. That, of course, is not all we need. We shall still have to procure upwards of 100,000,000 poods. Nevertheless, it constituted that necessary achievement which enabled us to put an end to the procurement crisis. We are now fully justified in saying that the Party and the Soviet Government have scored a signal victory on this front.
Secondly, we have put our procurement and Party organisations in the localities on a sound, or more or less sound, footing, having tested their combat readiness in practice and purged them of blatantly corrupt elements who refuse to recognise the existence of classes in the countryside and are reluctant to "quarrel" with the kulaks.
Thirdly, we have improved our work in the countryside, we have brought the poor peasants closer to us and won the allegiance of the overwhelming majority of the middle peasants, we have isolated the kulaks and have somewhat offended the well-to-do top stratum of the middle peasants. In doing so, we have put into effect our old Bolshevik slogan, proclaimed by Lenin as far back as the Eighth Congress of our Party 7 : Rely on the poor peasant, build a stable alliance with the middle peasant, never for a moment cease fighting against the kulaks.
I know that some comrades do not accept this slogan very willingly. It would be strange to think that now, when the dictatorship of the proletariat is firmly established, the alliance of the workers and the peasants means an alliance of the workers with the entire peasantry, including the kulaks. No, comrades, such an alliance we do not advocate, and cannot advocate. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, when the power of the working class is firmly established, the alliance of the working class with the peasantry means reliance on the poor peasants, alliance with the middle peasants, and a fight against the kulaks. Whoever thinks that under our conditions alliance with the peasantry means alliance with the kulaks has nothing in common with Leninism. Whoever thinks of conducting a policy in the countryside that will please everyone, rich and poor alike, is not a Marxist, but a fool, because such a policy does not exist in nature, comrades. (Laughter and applause.) Our policy is a class policy.
Such, in the main, are the results of the measures we took to increase the grain procurements.
Undoubtedly, in the practical work of carrying out these measures there were a number of excesses and distortions of the Party line. A number of cases of distortion of our policy which, because of our blockheadedness, hit primarily at the poor and middle peasant—cases of incorrect application of Article 107, etc.—are familiar to all. We punish, and shall punish, people guilty of such distortions with the utmost severity. But it would be strange, because of these distortions, not to see the beneficial and truly valuable results of the Party's measures, without which we could not have emerged from the procurement crisis. To do so would be closing one's eyes to the chief thing and giving prominence to that which is minor and incidental. It would be overlooking the very substantial achievements of the procurement campaign because of a handful of individual instances of distortion of our line, distortions which have absolutely no warrant in the measures adopted by the Party.
Were there any circumstances which facilitated our procurement achievements and our fight against the attack of the capitalist elements in the countryside?
Yes, there were. One might mention at least two such circumstances.
Firstly, there is the fact that we secured the intervention of the Party in the procurement campaign and the blow at the kulak speculating elements after the Fifteenth Congress of our Party, after the liquidation of the opposition, after the Party had attained the maximum unity by routing its Party enemies. The fight against the kulaks must not be regarded as a trifling matter. In order to defeat the machinations of the kulak speculators without causing any complications in the country, we need an absolutely united party, an absolutely firm rear and an absolutely firm government. It can scarcely be doubted that the existence of these factors was in a large degree instrumental in forcing the kulaks to beat an instantaneous retreat.
Secondly, there is the fact that we succeeded in linking our practical measures for curbing the kulak speculating elements with the vital interests of the working class, the Red Army and the majority of the poorer sections of the rural population. The fact that the kulak speculating elements were menacing the labouring masses of town and country with the spectre of famine, and in addition were violating the laws of the Soviet Government (Article 107), could not but result in the majority of the rural population siding with us in our fight against the capitalist elements in the countryside. The kulak was scandalously speculating in grain, thereby creating the gravest difficulties both in town and country; in addition he was violating Soviet laws, that is, the will of the Central Executive Committee of Soviets of Workers', Peasants' and Red Army Men's Deputies—is it not obvious that this circumstance was bound to facilitate the work of isolating the kulaks?
The pattern was in a way similar (with the appropriate reservations, of course) to the one we had in 1921, when, because of the famine in the country, the Party, headed by Lenin, raised the question of confiscating valuables from the churches with a view to acquiring food for the famine-stricken regions, and made this the basis of an extensive anti-religious campaign, and when the priests, by clinging to their valuables, were in fact opposing the starving masses and thereby evoked the resentment of the masses against the Church in general and against religious prejudices in particular, and especially against the priests and their leaders. There were some queer people at that time in our Party who thought that Lenin had come to realise the necessity of combating the Church only in 1921 (laughter) — that he had not realised it until then. That, of course, was silly, comrades. Lenin, of course, realised the necessity of combating the Church before 1921 too. But that was not the point. The point was to link a broad mass anti-religious campaign with the struggle for the vital interests of the masses, and to conduct it in such a way that it was understood by the masses and supported by them.
The same must be said of the Party's manoeuvre at the beginning of this year in connection with the grain procurement campaign. There are people who think that the Party has only now come to realise the necessity of a struggle against the kulak danger. That, of course, is silly, comrades. The Party has always realised the necessity for such a struggle and has waged it not in words, but in deeds. The specific feature of the manoeuvre undertaken by the Party at the beginning of this year is that this year the Party had the opportunity to link a determined struggle against the kulak speculating elements in the countryside with the struggle for the vital interests of the broad masses of the working people, and by means of this link it succeeded in winning the following of the majority of the labouring masses in the countryside and isolating the kulaks.
The art of Bolshevik policy by no means consists in firing indiscriminately with all your guns on all fronts, regardless of conditions of time and place, and regardless of whether the masses are ready to support this or that step of the leadership. The art of Bolshevik policy consists in being able to choose the time and place and to take all the circumstances into account in order to concentrate fire on the front where the maximum results are to be attained most quickly.
What results, indeed, should we now be having if are had undertaken a powerful blow at the kulaks three years ago, when we did not yet have the firm backing of the middle peasant, when the middle peasant was infuriated and was violently attacking the chairmen of our volost executive committees, when the poor peasants were dismayed at the consequences of NEP, when we had only 75 per cent of the pre-war crop area, when we were confronted with the basic problem of expanding the production of food and raw materials in the countryside, and when we did not yet have a substantial food and raw materials base for industry?
I have no doubt that we would have lost the battle, that we would not have succeeded in enlarging the crop area to the extent that we have succeeded in doing now, that we would have undermined the possibility of creating a food and raw materials base for industry, that we would have facilitated the strengthening of the kulaks, and that we would have repelled the middle peasants, and that, possibly, we would now be having most serious political complications in the country.
What was the position in the countryside at the beginning of this year? Crop areas enlarged to pre-war dimensions, a securer raw materials and food base for industry, the majority of the middle peasants firmly backing the Soviet Government, a more or less organised poor peasantry, improved and stronger Party and Soviet organisations in the countryside. Is it not obvious that only because of these conditions were we able to count on serious success in organising a blow at the kulak speculating elements? Is it not clear that only imbeciles could fail to understand the vast difference between these two situations in the matter of organising a broad struggle of the masses against the capitalist elements in the countryside?
There you have an example of how unwise it is to fire indiscriminately with all your guns on all fronts, regardless of conditions of time and place, and regardless of the relation between the contending forces.
That, comrades, is how matters stand with regard to the grain procurements.
Let us pass now to the Shakhty affair.
What was the class background of the Shakhty affair? Where do the roots of the Shakhty affair lie hidden, and from what class basis could this economic counter-revolution have sprung?
There are comrades who think that the Shakhty affair was something accidental. They usually say: We were properly caught napping, we allowed our attention to slip; but if we had not been caught napping, there would have been no Shakhty affair. That there was an oversight here, and a pretty serious one, is beyond all doubt. But to put it all down to an oversight means to understand nothing of the essence of the matter.
What do the facts, the documents in the Shakhty case, show?
The facts show that the Shakhty affair was an economic counter-revolution, plotted by a section of the bourgeois experts, former coal-owners.
The facts show, further, that these experts were banded together in a secret group and were receiving money for sabotage purposes from former owners now living abroad and from counter-revolutionary anti-Soviet capitalist organisations in the West.
The facts show, lastly, that this group of bourgeois experts operated and wrought destruction to our industry on orders from capitalist organisations in the West.
And what does all this indicate?
It indicates that it is a matter here of economic intervention in our industrial affairs by West-European anti-Soviet capitalist organisations. At one time there was military and political intervention, which we succeeded in liquidating by means of a victorious civil war. Now we have an attempt at economic intervention, for the liquidation of which we do not need a civil war, but which we must liquidate all the same, and shall liquidate with all the means at our disposal.
It would be foolish to believe that international capital will leave us in peace. No, comrades, that is not true. Classes exist, international capital exists, and it cannot look on calmly at the development of the country that is building socialism. Formerly, international capital thought it could overthrow the Soviet regime by means of outright armed intervention. The attempt failed. Now it is trying, and will go on trying, to undermine our economic strength by means of inconspicuous, not always noticeable but quite considerable, economic intervention, organising sabotage, engineering all sorts of "crises" in this or that branch of industry, and thereby facilitating the possibility of armed intervention in the future. All this is woven into the web of the class struggle of international capital against the Soviet regime, and there can be no question of anything accidental here.
One thing or the other:
either we continue to pursue a revolutionary policy, rallying the proletarians and the oppressed of all countries around the working class of the U.S.S.R.—in which case international capital will do everything it can to hinder our advance;
or we renounce our revolutionary policy and agree to make a number of fundamental concessions to international capital—in which case international capital, no doubt, will not be averse to "assisting" us in converting our socialist country into a "good" bourgeois republic.
There are people who think that we can conduct an emancipatory foreign policy and at the same time have the European and American capitalists praising us for doing so. I shall not stop to show that such naive people do not and cannot have anything in common with our Party.
Britain, for instance, demands that we join her in establishing predatory spheres of influence somewhere or other, in Persia, Afghanistan or Turkey, say, and assures us that if we made this concession, she would be prepared to establish "friendship" with us. Well, what do you say, comrades, perhaps we should make this concession?
Chorus of shouts. No!
Stalin. America demands that we renounce in principle the policy of supporting the emancipation movement of the working class in other countries, and says that if we made this concession everything would go smoothly. Well, what do you say, comrades, perhaps we should make this concession?
Chorus of shouts. No!
Stalin. We could establish "friendly" relations with Japan if we agreed to join her in dividing up Manchuria. Can we make this concession?
Chorus of shouts. No!
Stalin. Or, for instance, the demand is made that we "loosen" our foreign trade monopoly and agree to repay all the war and pre-war debts. Perhaps we should agree to this, comrades? Chorus of shouts. No!
Stalin. But precisely because we cannot agree to these or similar concessions without being false to ourselves —precisely because of this we must take it for granted that international capital will go on playing us every sort of scurvy trick, whether it be a Shakhty affair or something else of a similar nature.
There you have the class roots of the Shakhty affair.
Why was armed intervention by international capital possible in our country? Because there were in our country whole groups of military experts, generals and officers, scions of the bourgeoisie and the landlords, who were always ready to undermine the foundations of the Soviet regime. Could these officers and generals have organised a serious war against the Soviet regime if they had not received financial, military and every other kind of assistance from international capital? Of course not. Could international capital have organised serious intervention without the assistance of this group of whiteguard officers and generals? I do not think so.
There were comrades among us at that time who thought that the armed intervention was something accidental, that if we had not released Krasnov, Mamon-tov and the rest from prison, there would have been no intervention. That, of course, is untrue. That the release of Mamontov, Krasnov and the other whiteguard generals did play a part in the development of civil war is beyond doubt. But that the roots of the armed intervention lay not in this, but in the class contradictions between the Soviet regime on the one hand, and international capital and its lackey generals in Russia on the other, is also beyond doubt.
Could certain bourgeois experts, former mine owners, have organised the Shakhty affair here without the financial and moral support of international capital, without the prospect of international capital helping them to overthrow the Soviet regime? Of course not. Could international capital have organised in our country economic intervention, such as the Shakhty affair, if there had not been in our country a bourgeoisie, including a certain group of bourgeois experts who were ready to go to all lengths to destroy the Soviet regime? Obviously not. Do there exist at all such groups of bourgeois experts in our country as are ready to go to the length of economic intervention, of undermining the Soviet regime? I think there do. I do not think that there can be many of them. But that there do exist in our country certain insignificant groups of counter-revolutionary bourgeois experts—far fewer than at the time of the armed intervention—is beyond doubt.
It is the combination of these two forces that creates the soil for economic intervention in the U.S.S.R.
And it is precisely this that constitutes the class background of the Shakhty affair.
Now about the practical conclusions to be drawn from the Shakhty affair.
I should like to dwell upon four practical conclusions indicated by the Shakhty affair.
Lenin used to say that selection of personnel is one of the cardinal problems in the building of socialism. The Shakhty affair shows that we selected our economic cadres badly, and not only selected them badly, but placed them in conditions which hampered their development. Reference is made to Order 33, and especially to the "Model Regulations" accompanying the order.8 It is a characteristic feature of these model regulations that they confer practically all the rights on the technical director, leaving to the general director the right to settle conflicts, to "represent," in short, to twiddle his thumbs. It is obvious that under such circumstances our economic cadres could not develop as they should.
There was a time when this order was absolutely necessary, because when it was issued we had no economic cadres of our own, we did not know how to manage industry, and had willy-nilly to assign the major rights to the technical director. But now this order has become a fetter. Now we have our own economic cadres with experience and capable of developing into real leaders of our industry. And for this very reason the time has come to abolish the obsolete model regulations and to replace them by new ones.
It is said that it is impossible for Communists, and especially communist business executives who come from the working class, to master chemical formulas or technical knowledge in general. That is not true, comrades. There are no fortresses that the working people, the Bolsheviks, cannot capture. (Applause.) We captured tougher fortresses than these in the course of our struggle against the bourgeoisie. Everything depends on the desire to master technical knowledge and on arming ourselves with persistence and Bolshevik patience. But in order to alter the conditions of work of our economic cadres and to help them to become real and full-fledged masters of their job, we must abolish the old model regulations and replace them by new ones. Otherwise, we run the risk of maiming our personnel.
Were some of our business executives who have now deteriorated worse than any of us? Why is it that they, and other comrades like them, began to deteriorate and degenerate and come to identify themselves in their way of living with the bourgeois experts? It is due to our wrong way of doing things in the business field; it is due to our business executives being selected and having to work in conditions which hinder their development, which convert them into appendages of the bourgeois experts. This way of doing things must be discarded, comrades.
The second conclusion indicated to us by the Shakhty affair is that our cadres are being taught badly in our technical colleges, that our Red experts are not being trained properly. That is a conclusion from which there is no escaping. Why is it, for example, that many of our young experts do not get down to the job, and have turned out to be unsuitable for work in industry? Because they learned from books, they are book-taught experts, they have no practical experience, are divorced from production, and, naturally, prove a failure. But is it really such experts we need? No, it is not such experts we need, be they young experts three times over. We need experts—whether Communists or non-Communists makes no difference—who are strong not only in theory but also in practical experience, in their connection with production.
A young expert who has never seen a mine and does not want to go down a mine, a young expert who has never seen a factory and does not want to soil his hands in a factory, will never get the upper hand over the old experts, who have been steeled by practical experience but are hostile to our cause. It is easy to understand, therefore, why such young experts are given an unfriendly reception not only by the old experts, and not only by our business executives, but often even by the workers. But if we are not to have such surprises with our young experts, the method of training them must be changed, and changed in such a way that already in their first years of training in the technical colleges they have continuous contact with production, with factory, mine and so forth.
The third conclusion concerns the question of enlisting the broad mass of the workers in the management of industry. What is the position in this respect, as revealed by the Shakhty evidence? Very bad. Shockingly bad, comrades. It has been revealed that the labour laws are violated, that the six-hour working day in underground work is not always observed, that safety regulations are ignored. Yet the workers tolerate it. And the trade unions say nothing. And the Party organisations take no steps to put a stop to this scandal.
A comrade who recently visited the Donbas went down the pits and questioned the miners about their conditions of work. It is a remarkable thing that not one of the miners thought it necessary to complain of the conditions. "How is life with you, comrades?" this comrade asked them. "All right, comrade, we are living not so badly," the miners replied. "I am going to Moscow, what should I tell the centre?" he asked. "Say that we are living not so badly," was their answer. "Listen, comrades, I am not a foreigner, I am a Russian, and I have come here to learn the truth from you," the comrade said. "That's all one to us, comrade, we tell nothing but the truth whether to foreigners or to our own people," the miners replied.
That's the stuff our miners are made of. They are not just workers, they are heroes. There you have that wealth of moral capital we have succeeded in amassing in the hearts of the workers. And only to think that we are squandering this invaluable moral capital so iniqui-tously and criminally, like profligate and dissolute heirs to the magnificent legacy of the October Revolution! But, comrades, we cannot carry on for long on the old moral capital if we squander it so recklessly. It is time to stop doing that. High time!
Finally, the fourth conclusion concerns checking fulfilment. The Shakhty affair has shown that as far as checking fulfilment is concerned, things could not be worse than they are in all spheres of administra-tion—in the Party, in industry, in the trade unions. Resolutions are written, directives are sent out, but nobody wants to take the trouble to ask how matters stand with the carrying out of those resolutions and directives, whether they are really being carried out or are simply pigeon-holed.
Ilyich used to say that one of the most serious questions in administering the country is the checking of fulfilment. Yet precisely here things could not possibly be worse. Leadership does not just mean writing resolutions and sending out directives. Leadership means checking fulfilment of directives, and not only their fulfilment, but the directives themselves—whether they are right or wrong from the point of view of the actual practical work. It would be absurd to think that all our directives are 100 per cent correct. That is never so, and cannot be so, comrades. Checking fulfilment consists precisely in our leading personnel testing in the crucible of practical experience not only the way our directives are being fulfilled, but the correctness of the directives themselves. Consequently, faults in this field signify that there are faults in all our work of leadership.
Take, for example, the checking of fulfilment in the purely Party sphere. It is our custom to invite secretaries of okrug and gubernia committees to make reports to the Central Committee, in order to check how the C.C.'s directives are being carried out. The secretaries report, they confess to shortcomings in their work. The C.C. takes them to task and passes stereotyped resolutions instructing them to give greater depth and breadth to their work, to lay stress on this or that, to pay serious attention to this or that, etc. The secretaries go back with those resolutions. Then we invite them again, and the same thing is repeated about giving greater depth and breadth to the work and so on and so forth. I do not say that all this work is entirely without value. No, comrades, it has its good sides in educating and bracing up our organisations. But it must be admitted that this method of checking fulfilment is no longer sufficient. It must be admitted that this method has to be supplemented by another, namely, the method of assigning members of our top Party and Soviet leadership to work in the localities. (A voice: "A good idea!") What I have in mind is the sending of leading comrades to the localities for temporary work, not as commanders, but as ordinary functionaries placed at the disposal of the local organisations. I think that this idea has a big future and may improve the work of checking fulfilment, if it is carried out honestly and conscientiously.
If members of the Central Committee, members of the Presidium of the Central Control Commission, People's Commissars and their deputies, members of the Presidium of the A.U.C.C.T.U., and members of presidiums of trade-union central committees were to go regularly to the localities and work there, in order to get an idea of how things are being done, to study all the difficulties, all the good sides and bad sides, then I can assure you that this would be the most valuable and effective way of checking fulfilment. It would be the best way of enriching the experience of our highly respected leaders. And if this were to become a regular practice— and it certainly must become a regular practice—I can assure you that the laws which we write here and the directives which we elaborate would be far more effective and to the point than is the case now.
So much, comrades, for the Shakhty affair.
We have internal enemies. We have external enemies. This, comrades, must not be forgotten for a single moment.
We had a procurement crisis, which has already been liquidated. The procurement crisis marked the first serious attack on the Soviet regime launched by the capitalist elements of the countryside under NEP conditions.
We have the Shakhty affair, which is already being liquidated and undoubtedly will be liquidated. The Shakhty affair marks another serious attack on the Soviet regime launched by international capital and its agents in our country. It is economic intervention in our internal affairs.
It need scarcely be said that these and similar attacks, both internal and external, may be repeated and in all likelihood will be repeated. Our task is to exercise the maximum vigilance and to be on the alert. And, comrades, if we are vigilant, we shall most certainly defeat our enemies in the future, just as we are defeating them now and have defeated them in the past. (Stormy and prolonged applause.)
Pravda, No. 90, April 18, 1929
1. See Resolutions and Decisions of C.P.S.U. Congresses, Conferences and Central Committee Plenums, Part II, 1953, p. 362.
2. The joint plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.), with participation of members of the Central Auditing Commission, was held on April 6-11, 1928. It discussed the grain procurements in the current year and the organisation of the grain procurement campaign in 1928-29, the report of a commission set up by the Political Bureau on practical measures for eliminating the shortcomings revealed by the Shakthy affair, and the plan of work of the Political Bureau and plenum of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.) for 1928. At a meeting of the plenum on April 10, J. V. Stalin spoke on the report of the Political Bureau commission and was elected to a commission set up for the final drafting of the resolution on the Shakhty affair and on the practical tasks of the fight against shortcomings in the work of economic construction. The plenum adopted a special resolution providing for the sending every year of members of the Central Committee and of the Presidium of the C.C.C. and other leading personnel to the localities in order to strengthen the fight against shortcomings in local work and to improve practical guidance by the central bodies. (For the resolutions of the plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.), see Resolutions and Decisions of C.P.S.U. Congresses, Conferences and Central Committee Plenums, Part II, 1953, pp.372-90)
3. This refers to the sabotage activities of a counter-revolutionary organisation of bourgeois experts in Shakhty and other Donbas areas which was discovered in the early part of 1928 For the Shakhty affair, see pp. 3 8, 57-68 in this volume, and History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), Short Course, Moscow 1954, p. 454.
4. The Bulletin of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection was published periodically in Pravda from March 15, 1928, to November 28, 1933. Its object was to enlist the co-operation of the broad masses of the working people in the fight against bureaucracy. p. 35
5. Komsomolskaya Pravda (Y.C.L. Truth) — daily organ of the Central Committee and Moscow Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, published from May 24, 1925.
6. V. I. Lenin, Letter to V. M. Molotov on a Plan for the Political Report at the Eleventh Party Congress (see Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 33, pp. 223-24).
7. The Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.), held in Moscow, March 18-23, 1919, defined the Party's new policy towards the middle peasant—a policy of stable alliance with him—the principles of which were outlined by Lenin in his report on work in the countryside (see V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 29, pp. 175-96, and History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), Short Course, Moscow 1954, pp. 361-67).
8. This refers to Circular No. 33, March 29, 1926, of the Supreme Council of National Economy of the U.S.S.R. on "Organisation of the Management of Industrial Establishments" and the accompanying "General Regulations on the Rights and Duties of Technical Directors of Factories in the Metallurgical and Electro-technical Industries."