J. V. Stalin

Letter to the Members of the Party Affairs Study Circle at the Communist Academy

June 8, 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.

Today I received Slepkov's theses on self-criticism. It appears that they were discussed in your circle. I have been told by members of the circle that these theses were circulated as a document that is intended not to criticise the line of the Central Committee, but to substantiate it.

It would be wrong to deny that Party members have the right to criticise the line of the Central Committee. More, I am ready to grant that members of your study circle even have the right to put forward among themselves their own separate theses opposing the C.C.'s position. Slepkov's theses, however, evidently do not aim at criticising the C.C.'s line, or putting forward anything new in opposition to it, but at explaining and substantiating the position of the C.C. It is this, presumably, that explains why Slepkov's theses received certain currency in Moscow Party circles.

Nevertheless, or, rather, for that very reason, I consider it my duty to declare that Slepkov's theses

a) do not coincide with the C.C.'s position on the slogan of self-criticism, and that

b) they "correct," "supplement" and, naturally, worsen it, to the advantage of the bureaucratic elements in our institutions and organisations.

1) Incorrect, in the first place, is the line of Slepkov's theses. Slepkov's theses only superficially resemble theses on the slogan of self-criticism. Actually, they are theses on the dangers of the slogan of self-criticism. There is no denying that every revolutionary slogan harbours certain possibilities of being distorted in practical use. Such possibilities also apply, of course, to the slogan of self-criticism. But to make these possibilities the central issue, the basis of theses on self-criticism, is to turn things upside down, to undermine the revolutionary significance of self-criticism, to assist the bureaucrats who are trying to evade self-criticism owing to the "dangers" connected with it. I have no doubt that it will not be without a feeling of satisfaction that the bureaucratic elements in our Party and Soviet organisations will read Slepkov's theses.

Has such a line anything in common with the C.C.'s line on self-criticism, with the resolution of the April plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C. on the Shakhty affair, or with the C.C.'s June appeal on the subject of self-criticism? 1

I think not.

2) Incorrect, too, is the inner substance of Slepkov's theses. One of the most serious factors making self-criticism unavoidable, and at the same time one of the most important objects of self-criticism, is the bureaucracy of our organisations.

Can we make any progress if we do not combat the bureaucracy of our Party and Soviet apparatus?

No, we cannot!

Can we organise control by the masses, stimulate the initiative and independent activity of the masses, draw the vast masses into the work of socialist construction, if we do not wage a determined struggle against bureaucracy in our organisations?

No, we cannot!

Can we sap, weaken, discredit bureaucracy without giving effect to the slogan of self-criticism? No, we cannot!

Is it possible, in theses dealing with the slogan of self-criticism, to evade discussing bureaucracy as a factor detrimental to our socialist construction and as one of the most important objects of self-criticism?

Obviously, we cannot.

How, then, is it to be explained that Slepkov contrived in his theses to say nothing about this burning question? How is it possible, in theses on self-criticism that are intended to substantiate the position of the C.C., to forget the most important task of self-criticism—that of combating bureaucracy? Yet it is a fact that in Slepkov's theses there is not a single word (literally not a single word!) about the bureaucracy of our organisations, about the bureaucratic elements in these organisations, about the bureaucratic perversions in the work of our Party and Soviet apparatus.

Can this more than frivolous attitude towards the highly important question of combating bureaucracy be reconciled with the C.C.'s position on the question of self-criticism, with such Party documents as the resolution of the April plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C. on the Shakhty affair or the C.C.'s June appeal on self-criticism?

I think not.

With communist greetings,

J. Stalin

June 8, 1928


Komsomolskaya Pravda, No. 90, April 19, 1929


1. This refers to the appeal of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) "To All Party Members, to All Workers," published in Pravda, No. 128, June 3, 1928.