J. V. Stalin

Speech Delivered at the Eighth Congress of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League 1

May 16, 1928

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, it is the accepted thing at congresses to speak of achievements. That we have achievements is beyond question. They, these achievements, are, of course, not inconsiderable, and there is no reason to hide them. But, comrades, it has become a practice with us lately to talk so much of achievements, and sometimes so affectedly, that one loses all desire to speak of them once again. Allow me, therefore, to depart from the general practice and to say a few words not about our achievements, but about our weaknesses and our tasks in connection with these weaknesses.

I am referring, comrades, to the tasks involved by the questions of our internal work of construction.

These tasks relate to three questions: that of the line of our political work, that of stimulating the activity of the broad mass of the people in general and of the working class in particular, and of stimulating the struggle against bureaucracy, and, lastly, that of training new personnel for our work of economic construction.

Strengthen the Readiness for Action of the Working Class

Let us begin with the first question. The characteristic feature of the period we are now passing through is that for five years already we have been building in conditions of peaceful development. When I say peaceful development, I am referring not only to the absence of war with external enemies, but also to the absence of the elements of civil war at home. That is what we mean by conditions of the peaceful development of our work of construction.

You know that in order to win these conditions of peaceful development, we had to fight the capitalists of the whole world for three years. You know that we did win those conditions, and we consider that one of our greatest achievements. But, comrades, every gain, and this gain is no exception, has its obverse side. The conditions of peaceful development have not been without their effect on us. They have laid their imprint on our work, on our executive personnel, on their mentality. During these five years we have been advancing smoothly, as though on rails. And the effect of this has been to induce the belief in some of our executives that everything is going swimmingly, that we are as good as travelling on an express train, and that we are being carried on the rails non-stop straight to socialism.

From this has sprung the theory of things going "of their own accord," the theory of "muddling through," the theory that "everything will come out right," that there are no classes in our country, that our enemies have calmed down, and that everything will go according to the book. Hence a certain tendency to inertia, to somnolence. Well, it is this mentality of somnolence, this mentality of relying on the work going right "of its own accord" that constitutes the obverse side of the period of peaceful development.

Why are such states of mind so dangerous? Because they throw dust into the eyes of the working class, prevent it from seeing its enemies, lull it with boastful talk about the weakness of our enemies, undermine its readiness for action.

We must not allow ourselves to be reassured by the fact that we have a million members in our Party, two million in the Young Communist League and ten million in the trade unions, and believe that this is all that is required for complete victory over our enemies. That is not true, comrades. History tells us that some of the biggest armies perished because they grew conceited, had too much faith in their own strength, paid too little heed to the strength of their enemies, gave themselves over to somnolence, lost their readiness for action, and at a critical moment were caught unawares.

The biggest party may be caught unawares, the biggest party may perish, if it does not learn the lessons of history and does not work day in and day out to forge the readiness for action of its class. To be caught unaware is a most dangerous thing, comrades. To be caught unawares is to fall prey to "surprises," to panic in face of the enemy. And panic leads to break-down, to defeat, to destruction.

I could give you many examples from the history of our armies during the civil war, examples of small detachments routing big military formations when the latter were lacking in readiness for action. I could tell you how in 1920 three cavalry divisions, with a total of not less than 5,000 cavalrymen, were routed and put to disorderly flight by a single infantry battalion just because they, the cavalry divisions, were caught unawares and succumbed to panic in face of an enemy about whom they knew nothing, and who was extremely weak numerically and could have been shattered at one blow if these divisions had not been in a state of somnolence, and then of panic and confusion.

The same must be said of our Party, our Young Communist League, our trade unions, our forces in general. It is not true that we no longer have class enemies, that they have been smashed and eliminated. No, comrades, our class enemies still exist. They not only exist, they are growing and trying to take action against the Soviet Government.

That was shown by our procurement difficulties last winter, when the capitalist elements in the countryside tried to sabotage the policy of the Soviet Government.

It was shown by the Shakhty affair, which was the expression of a joint attack on the Soviet regime launched by international capital and the bourgeoisie in our country.

It is shown by numerous facts in the sphere of home and foreign policy, facts which are known to you and which there is no need to dwell on here.

To keep silent about these enemies of the working class would he wrong. To underrate the strength of the class enemies of the working class would be criminal. To keep silent about all this would be particularly wrong now, in the period of our peaceful development, when there is a certain favourable soil for the theory of somnolence and of things going "of their own accord," which undermines the readiness for action of the working class.

The procurement crisis and the Shakhty affair were of tremendous educational value, because they shook up all our organisations, discredited the theory of things going "of their own accord," and once more stressed the existence of class enemies, showing that they are alive, are not dozing, and that in order to combat them we must enhance the strength of the working class, its vigilance, its revolutionary spirit, its readiness for action.

From this follows the immediate task of the Party, the political line of its day-to-day work: to enhance the readiness of the working class for action against its class enemies.

It must be said that this Y.C.L. congress, and especially Komsomolskaya Pravda, have now come closer than ever before to this task. You know that the importance of this task is being stressed by speakers here and by articles in Komsomolskaya Pravda. That is very good, comrades. It is necessary only that this task should not be regarded as a temporary and transient one, for the task of enhancing the readiness of the proletariat for action is one that must imbue all our work so long as there are classes in our country and so long as capitalist encirclement exists.

Organise Mass Criticism from Below

The second question concerns the task of combating bureaucracy, of organising mass criticism of our shortcomings, of organising mass control from below.

Bureaucracy is one of the worst enemies of our progress. It exists in all our organisations—Party, Y.C.L., trade-union and economic. When people talk of bureaucrats, they usually point to the old non-Party officials, who as a rule are depicted in our cartoons as men wearing spectacles. (Laughter.) That is not quite true, comrades. If it were only a question of the old bureaucrats, the fight against bureaucracy would be very easy. The trouble is that it is not a matter of the old bureaucrats. It is a matter of the new bureaucrats, bureaucrats who sympathise with the Soviet Government, and finally, communist bureaucrats. The communist bureaucrat is the most dangerous type of bureaucrat. Why? Because he masks his bureaucracy with the title of Party member. And, unfortunately, we have quite a number of such communist bureaucrats.

Take our Party organisations. You have no doubt read about the Smolensk affair, the Artyomovsk affair and so on. What do you think, were they matters of chance? What is the explanation of these shameful instances of corruption and moral deterioration in certain of our Party organisations? The fact that Party monopoly was carried to absurd lengths, that the voice of the rank and file was stifled, that inner-Party democracy was abolished and bureaucracy became rife. How is this evil to be combated? I think that there is not and cannot be any other way of combating this evil than by organising control from below by the Party masses, by implanting inner-Party democracy. What objection can there be to rousing the fury of the mass of the Party membership against these corrupt elements and giving it the opportunity to send such elements packing? There can hardly be any objection to that.

Or take the Young Communist League, for instance. You will not deny, of course, that here and there in the Young Communist League there are utterly corrupt elements against whom it is absolutely essential to wage a ruthless struggle. But let us leave aside the corrupt elements. Let us take the latest fact of an unprincipled struggle waged by groups within the Young Communist League around personalities, a struggle which is poisoning the atmosphere in the Young Communist League. Why is it that you can find as many "Kosarevites" and "Sobolevites" as you like in the Young Communist League, while Marxists have to be looked for with a candle? (Applause.) What does this indicate, if not that a process of bureaucratic petrification is taking place in certain sections of the Y.C.L. top leadership?

And the trade unions? Who will deny that in the trade unions there is bureaucracy in plenty? We have production conferences in the factories. We have temporary control commissions in the trade unions. It is the task of these organisations to rouse the masses, to bring our shortcomings to light and to indicate ways and means of improving our constructive work. Why are these organisations not developing? Why are they not seething with activity? Is it not obvious that it is bureaucracy in the trade unions, coupled with bureaucracy in the Party organisations, that is preventing these highly important organisations of the working class from developing?

Lastly, our economic organisations. Who will deny that our economic bodies suffer from bureaucracy? Take the Shakhty affair as an illustration. Does not the Shakhty affair indicate that our economic bodies are not speeding ahead, but crawling, dragging their feet?

How are we to put an end to bureaucracy in all these organisations?

There is only one sole way of doing this, and that is to organise control from below, to organise criticism of the bureaucracy in our institutions, of their shortcomings and their mistakes, by the vast masses of the working class.

I know that by rousing the fury of the masses of the working people against the bureaucratic distortions in our organisations, we sometimes have to tread on the toes of some of our comrades who have past services to their credit, but who are now suffering from the disease of bureaucracy. But ought this to stop our work of organising control from below? I think that it ought not and must not. For their past services we should take off our hats to them, but for their present blunders and bureaucracy it would be quite in order to give them a good drubbing. (Laughter and applause.) How else? Why not do this if the interests of the work demand it?

There is talk of criticism from above, criticism by the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, by the Central Committee of our Party and so on. That, of course, is all very good. But it is still far from enough. More, it is by no means the chief thing now. The chief thing now is to start a broad tide of criticism from below against bureaucracy in general, against shortcomings in our work in particular. Only by organising twofold pressure —from above and from below—and only by shifting the principal stress to criticism from below, can we count on waging a successful struggle against bureaucracy and on rooting it out.

It would be a mistake to think that only the leaders possess experience in constructive work. That is not true, comrades. The vast masses of the workers who are engaged in building our industry are day by day accumulating vast experience in construction, experience which is not a whit less valuable to us than the experience of the leaders. Mass criticism from below, control from below, is needed by us in order that, among other things, this experience of the vast masses should not be wasted, but be reckoned with and translated into practice.

From this follows the immediate task of the Party: to wage a ruthless struggle against bureaucracy, to organise mass criticism from below, and to take this criticism into account when adopting practical decisions for eliminating our shortcomings.

It cannot be said that the Young Communist League, and especially Komsomolskaya Pravda, have not appreciated the importance of this task. The shortcoming here is that often the fulfilment of this task is not carried out completely. And in order to carry it out completely, it is necessary to give heed not only to criticism, but also to the results of criticism, to the improvements that are introduced as a result of criticism.

The Youth Must Master Science

The third task concerns the question of organising new cadres for socialist construction.

Before us, comrades, lies the gigantic task of reconstructing our entire national economy. In the sphere of agriculture, we must lay the foundation of large-scale, united, socially-conducted farming. You no doubt know from Comrade Molotov's manifesto 2 published today that the Soviet Government is tackling the very formidable talk of uniting the small, scattered peasant farms into collective farms and creating new large state farms for grain production. Unless these tasks are accomplished, substantial and rapid progress will be impossible.

Whereas in industry the Soviet regime rests upon the largest-scale and most highly concentrated form of production, in agriculture it rests upon the most scattered and small-scale peasant economy, which is of a semi-commodity character and yields a far smaller surplus of marketable grain than the pre-war economy, despite the fact that the crop areas have reached pre-war levels. That is the basis for all sorts of difficulties that may arise in the sphere of grain procurements in future. In order to extricate ourselves from this situation, we must seriously set about organising large-scale socially-conducted production in agriculture. But in order to organise large-scale farming, we must have a knowledge of agricultural science. And knowledge entails study. Yet we have scandalously few people with a knowledge of agricultural science. Hence the task of training new, young cadres of builders of a new, socially-conducted agriculture.

In the sphere of industry the situation is much better. But, here, too, lack of new cadres of builders is retarding our progress. It suffices to recall the Shakhty affair to realise how acute the problem is of training new cadres of builders of socialist industry. Of course, we have old experts in the building of industry. But, firstly, there are very few of them, secondly, not all of them want to build a new industry, thirdly, many of them do not understand the new construction tasks, and, fourthly, a large proportion of them are already old and are going out of commission. In order to advance matters, we must train at a high speed new cadres of experts, drawn from the working class, the Communists and members of the Young Communist League.

We have plenty of people who are willing to build and to direct the work of construction both in agriculture and in industry. But we have scandalously few people who know how to build and direct. On the contrary, our ignorance in this sphere is abysmal. More, there are people among us who are prepared to extol our lack of knowledge. If you are illiterate or cannot write grammatically and are proud of your backwardness—you are a worker "at the bench," you deserve honour and respect. But if you have climbed out of your ignorance, have learned to read and write and have mastered science—you are an alien element who has "broken away" from the masses, you have ceased to be a worker.

I consider that we shall not advance a single step until we root out this barbarism and boorishness, this barbaric attitude towards science and men of culture. The working class cannot become the real master of the country if it does not succeed in overcoming its lack of culture, if it does not succeed in creating its own intelligentsia, if it does not master science and learn to administer economy on scientific lines.

It must be realised, comrades, that the conditions of the struggle today are not what they were at the time of the civil war. At the time of the civil war it was possible to capture enemy positions by dash, courage, daring, by cavalry assaults. Today, in the conditions of peaceful economic construction, cavalry assaults can only do harm. Courage and daring are needed now as much as before. But courage and daring alone will not carry us very far. In order to beat the enemy now, we must know how to build industry, agriculture, transport, trade; we must abandon the haughty and supercilious attitude towards trade.

In order to build, we must have knowledge, mastery of science. And knowledge entails study. We must study perseveringly and patiently. We must learn from everyone, both from our enemies and from our friends, especially from our enemies. We must clench our teeth and study, not fearing that our enemies may laugh at us, at our ignorance, at our backwardness.

Before us stands a fortress. That fortress is called science, with its numerous branches of knowledge. We must capture that fortress at all costs. It is our youth who must capture that fortress, if they want to be builders of the new life, if they want to be real successors of the old guard.

We cannot now confine ourselves to training communist cadres in general, Bolshevik cadres in generalpeople who are able to prattle a little about everything. Dilettantism and the know-all attitude are now shackles on our feet. We now need Bolshevik experts in metallurgy, textiles, fuel, chemistry, agriculture, transport, trade, accountancy, and so on and so forth. We now need whole groups, hundreds and thousands of new Bolshevik cadres capable of becoming masters of their subject in the most diverse branches of knowledge. Failing this, it is useless to think of any swift rate of socialist construction in our country. Failing this, it is useless to think that we can overtake and outstrip the advanced capitalist countries.

We must master science, we must train new cadres of Bolshevik experts in all branches of knowledge, we must study, study and study most perseveringly. That is the task now.

A mass campaign of the revolutionary youth for science —that is what we need now, comrades. (Stormy applause. Cries of "Hurrah!" and "Bravo!" All rise.)


Pravda, No. 113, May 7, 1928


1. The Eighth Congress of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League was held in Moscow, May 5-16, 1928. It discussed the results and prospects of socialist construction and the tasks of communist education of the youth; reports of the Central Committee and Central Auditing Commission of the Y.C.L.; the report of the Y.C.L. delegation in the Communist Youth International; work and education of the youth in connection with the five-year plan of development of the national economy; work of the Y.C.L. among children, and other questions. J. V. Stalin delivered a speech at the final sitting of the Congress on May 16.

2.This refers to the message of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) entitled "For the Socialist Reconstruction of the Countryside (Principal Tasks of Departments for Work in the Countryside)," addressed to the Central Committees of all the national Communist Parties, to the bureaux of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.), and to the territorial, regional, gubernia, okrug and uyezd committees of the C.P.S.U.(B.). The message was signed by V. M. Molotov as Secretary of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) and published in Pravda, No. 112, May 16, 1928.