J. V. Stalin

The Tasks of Business Executives

Speech Delivered at the First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry 1
February 4, 1931

Source : Works, Vol. 13, 1930 - January 1934
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/HTML 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 deliberations of your conference are drawing to a close. You are now about to adopt resolutions. I have no doubt that they will be adopted unanimously. In these resolutions — I am somewhat familiar with them — you approve the control figures of industry for 1931 and pledge yourselves to fulfil them.

A Bolshevik's word is his bond. Bolsheviks are in the habit of fulfilling promises made by them. But what does the pledge to fulfil the control figures for 1931 mean? It means ensuring a total increase of industrial output by 45 per cent. And that is a very big task. More than that. Such a pledge means that you not only pledge yourselves to fulfil our five-year plan in four years — that matter has already been settled, and no more resolutions on it are needed — it means that you promise to fulfil it in three years in all the basic, decisive branches of industry.

It is good that the conference gives a promise to fulfil the plan for 1931, to fulfil the five-year plan in three years. But we have been taught by "bitter experience." We know that promises are not always kept. In the beginning of 1930, too, a promise was given to fulfil the plan for the year. At that time it was necessary to increase the output of our industries by 31 to 32 per cent. But that promise was not kept to the full. Actually, the increase in industrial output during 1930 amounted to 25 per cent. We must ask: Will not the same thing occur again this year? The managers and leading personnel of our industries now promise to increase industrial output in 1931 by 45 per cent. But what guarantee is there that this promise will be kept?

What is needed in order to fulfil the control figures, to achieve a 45 per cent increase in output, to secure the fulfilment of the five-year plan not in four, but, as regards the basic and decisive branches of industry, in three years?

Two fundamental conditions are needed for this.

Firstly, real or, as we term it, "objective" possibilities.

Secondly, the willingness and ability to direct our enterprises in such a way as to realise these possibilities.

Did we have the "objective" possibilities last year for completely fulfilling the plan? Yes, we had. Incontestable facts testify to this. These facts show that in March and April of last year industry achieved an increase of 31 per cent in output compared with the previous year. Why then, it will be asked, did we fail to fulfil the plan for the whole year? What prevented it? What was lacking? The ability to make use of the existing possibilities was lacking. The ability to manage the factories, mills and mines properly was lacking.

We had the first condition: the "objective" possibilities for fulfilling the plan. But we did not have in sufficient degree the second condition: the ability to manage production. And precisely because we lacked the ability to manage the factories, the plan was not fulfilled. Instead of a 31-32 per cent increase we had one of only 25 per cent.

Of course, a 25 per cent increase is a big thing. Not a single capitalist country increased its production in 1930, or is increasing production now. In all capitalist countries without exception a sharp decline in production is taking place. Under such circumstances a 25 per cent increase is a big step forward. But we could have achieved more. We had all the necessary "objective" conditions for this.

And so, what guarantee is there that what happened last year will not be repeated this year, that the plan will be fulfilled, that we shall use the existing possibilities in the way that they should be used, that your promise will not to some extent remain a promise on paper?

In the history of states and countries, in the history of armies, there have been cases when there was every possibility for success and victory, but these possibilities were wasted because the leaders failed to notice them, did not know how to take advantage of them, and the armies suffered defeat.

Have we all the possibilities that are needed to fulfil the control figures for 1931?

Yes, we have such possibilities.

What are these possibilities? What is needed in order that these possibilities should really exist?

First of all, adequate natural resources in the country: iron ore, coal, oil, grain, cotton. Have we these resources? Yes, we have. We have them in larger quantities than any other country. Take the Urals, for example, which provide a combination of resources not to be found in any other country. Ore, coal, oil, grain — what is there not in the Urals? We have everything in our country, except, perhaps, rubber. But within a year or two we shall have our own rubber as well As far as natural resources are concerned we are fully provided. We have even more than necessary. What else is needed?

A government desirous and capable of utilising these immense natural resources for the benefit of the people. Have we such a government? We have. True, our work in utilising natural resources does not always proceed without friction among our leading personnel. For instance, last year the Soviet Government had to conduct a certain amount of struggle over the question of creating a second coal and metallurgical base, without which we cannot develop further. But we have already overcome these obstacles and shall soon have this base.

What else is needed?

That this government should enjoy the support of the vast masses of workers and peasants. Does our government enjoy such support? Yes, it does. You will find no other government in the world that enjoys such support from the workers and peasants as does the Soviet government. There is no need for me to refer to the growth of socialist emulation, the spread of shock-brigade work, the campaign and struggle for counter-plans. All these facts, which vividly demonstrate the support that the vast masses give the Soviet Government, are well known.

What else is needed in order to fulfil and overfulfil the control figures for 1931?

A system that is free from the incurable diseases of capitalism and has great advantages over capitalism. Crises, unemployment, waste, destitution among the masses — such are the incurable diseases of capitalism. Our system does not suffer from these diseases because power is in our hands, in the hands of the working class; because we are conducting a planned economy, systematically accumulating resources and properly distributing them among the different branches of the national economy. We are free from the incurable diseases of capitalism. That is what distinguishes us from capitalism; that is what constitutes our decisive superiority over capitalism.

Notice the way in which the capitalists are trying to escape from the economic crisis. They are reducing the workers' wages as much as possible. They are reducing the prices of raw materials as much as possible. But they do not want to reduce the prices of food and industrial commodities for mass consumption to any important extent. This means that they want to escape from the crisis at the expense of the principal consumers, at the expense of the workers and peasants, at the expense of the working people. The capitalists are cutting the ground from under their own feet. And instead of overcoming the crisis they are aggravating it; new conditions are accumulating which lead to a new, even more severe crisis.

Our superiority lies in the fact that we have no crises of overproduction, we have not and never will have millions of unemployed, we have no anarchy in production, for we are conducting a planned economy. But that is not all. We are a land of the most concentrated industry. This means that we can build our industry on the basis of the best technique and thereby secure an unprecedented productivity of labour, an unprecedented rate of accumulation. Our weakness in the past was that this industry was based upon scattered and small peasant farming. That was so in the past; it is no longer so now. Soon, perhaps within a year, we shall become the country of the largest-scale agriculture in the world. This year, the state farms and collective farms — and these are forms of large-scale farming — have already supplied half of all our marketable grain. And that means that our system, the Soviet system, affords us opportunities of rapid progress of which not a single bourgeois country can dream.

What else is needed in order to advance with giant strides?

A party sufficiently solid and united to direct the efforts of all the best members of the working class to one point, and sufficiently experienced to be unafraid of difficulties and to pursue systematically a correct, revolutionary, Bolshevik policy. Have we such a party? Yes, we have. Is its policy correct? Yes, it is, for it is yielding important successes. This is now admitted not only by the friends but also by the enemies of the working class. See how all the well-known "honourable" gentlemen, Fish in America, Churchill in Britain, Poincare in France, fume and rave against our Party. Why do they fume and rave? Because the policy of our Party is correct, because it is yielding success after success.

There, comrades, you have all those objective possibilities which assist us in realising the control figures for 1931, which help us to fulfil the five-year plan in four years, and in the key industries even in three years.

Thus we have the first condition for fulfilment of the plan — the "objective" possibilities.

Have we the second condition, the ability to use these possibilities?

In other words, are our factories, mills and mines properly managed? Is everything in order in this respect?

Unfortunately, not everything is in order here. And, as Bolsheviks, we must say this plainly and frankly.

What does management of production mean? There are people among us who do not always have a Bolshevik approach to the question of the management of our factories. There are many people among us who think that management is synonymous with signing papers and orders. This is sad, but true. At times one cannot help recalling Shchedrin's Pompadours. Do you remember how Madame Pompadour taught the young Pompadour: "Don't bother your head with science, don't go into matters, let others do that, it is not your business — your business is to sign papers." It must be admitted to our shame that even among us Bolsheviks there are not a few who carry out management by signing papers. But as for going into matters, mastering technique, becoming master of the business — why, that is out of the question.

How is it that we Bolsheviks, who have made three revolutions, who emerged victorious from the bitter civil war, who have solved the tremendous task of building a modern industry, who have swung the peasantry on to the path of socialism — how is it that in the matter of the management of production we bow to a slip of paper?

The reason is that it is easier to sign papers than to manage production. And so, many economic executives are taking this line of least resistance. We, too, in the centre, are also to blame. About ten years ago a slogan was issued: "Since Communists do not yet properly understand the technique of production, since they have yet to learn the art of management, let the old technicians and engineers — the experts — carry on production, and you, Communists, do not interfere with the technique of the business; but, while not interfering, study technique, study the art of management tirelessly, in order later on, together with the experts who are loyal to us, to become true managers of production, true masters of the business." Such was the slogan. But what actually happened? The second part of this formula was cast aside, for it is harder to study than to sign papers; and the first part of the formula was vulgarised: non-interference was interpreted to mean refraining from studying the technique of production. The result has been nonsense, harmful and dangerous nonsense, which the sooner we discard the better.

Life itself has more than once warned us that all was not well in this field. The Shakhty affair 2 was the first grave warning. The Shakhty affair showed that the Party organisations and the trade unions lacked revolutionary vigilance. It showed that our economic executives were disgracefully backward in technical knowledge; that some of the old engineers and technicians, working without supervision, rather easily go over to wrecking activities, especially as they are constantly being besieged by "offers" from our enemies abroad.

The second warning was the "Industrial Party" trial 3.

Of course, the underlying cause of wrecking activities is the class struggle. Of course, the class enemy furiously resists the socialist offensive. This alone, however, is not an adequate explanation for the luxuriant growth of wrecking activities.

How is it that wrecking activities assumed such wide dimensions? Who is to blame for this? We are to blame. Had we handled the business of managing production differently, had we started much earlier to learn the technique of the business, to master technique, had we more frequently and efficiently intervened in the management of production, the wreckers would not have succeeded in doing so much damage.

We must ourselves become experts, masters of the business; we must turn to technical science — such was the lesson life itself was teaching us. But neither the first warning nor even the second brought about the necessary change. It is time, high time that we turned towards technique. It is time to discard the old slogan, the obsolete slogan of non-interference in technique, and ourselves become specialists, experts, complete masters of our economic affairs.

It is frequently asked: Why have we not one-man management? We do not have it and we shall not get it until we have mastered technique. Until there are among us Bolsheviks a sufficient number of people thoroughly familiar with technique, economy and finance, we shall not have real one-man management. You can write as many resolutions as you please, take as many vows as you please, but, unless you master the technique, economy and finance of the mill, factory or mine, nothing will come of it, there will be no one-man management.

Hence, the task is for us to master technique ourselves, to become masters of the business ourselves. This is the sole guarantee that our plans will be carried out in full, and that one-man management will be established.

This, of course, is no easy matter; but it can certainly be accomplished. Science, technical experience, knowledge, are all things that can be acquired. We may not have them today, but tomorrow we shall. The main thing is to have the passionate Bolshevik desire to master technique, to master the science of production. Everything can be achieved, everything can be overcome, if there is a passionate desire for it.

It is sometimes asked whether it is not possible to slow down the tempo somewhat, to put a check on the movement. No, comrades, it is not possible! The tempo must not be reduced! On the contrary, we must increase it as much as is within our powers and possibilities. This is dictated to us by our obligations to the workers and peasants of the U.S.S.R. This is dictated to us by our obligations to the working class of the whole world.

To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten. But we do not want to be beaten. No, we refuse to be beaten! One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys. She was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords. She was beaten by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry. She was beaten by the British and French capitalists. She was beaten by the Japanese barons. All beat her — because of her backwardness, because of her military backwardness, cultural backwardness, political backwardness, industrial backwardness, agricultural backwardness. They beat her because it was profitable and could be done with impunity. You remember the words of the pre-revolutionary poet: "You are poor and abundant, mighty and impotent, Mother Russia." 4 Those gentlemen were quite familiar with the verses of the old poet. They beat her, saying: "You are abundant," so one can enrich oneself at your expense. They beat her, saying: "You are poor and impotent," so you can be beaten and plundered with impunity. Such is the law of the exploiters — to beat the backward and the weak. It is the jungle law of capitalism. You are backward, you are weak — therefore you are wrong; hence you can be beaten and enslaved. You are mighty — therefore you are right; hence we must be wary of you.

That is why we must no longer lag behind.

In the past we had no fatherland, nor could we have had one. But now that we have overthrown capitalism and power is in our hands, in the hands of the people, we have a fatherland, and we will uphold its independence. Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten and to lose its independence? If you do not want this, you must put an end to its backwardness in the shortest possible time and develop a genuine Bolshevik tempo in building up its socialist economy. There is no other way. That is why Lenin said on the eve of the October Revolution: "Either perish, or overtake and outstrip the advanced capitalist countries."

We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall go under.

That is what our obligations to the workers and peasants of the U.S.S.R. dictate to us.

But we have yet other, more serious and more important, obligations. They are our obligations to the world proletariat. They coincide with our obligations to the workers and peasants of the U.S.S.R. But we place them higher. The working class of the U.S.S.R. is part of the world working class. We achieved victory not solely through the efforts of the working class of the U.S.S.R., but also thanks to the support of the working class of the world. Without this support we would have been torn to pieces long ago. It is said that our country is the shock brigade of the proletariat of all countries. That is well said. But is imposes very serious obligations upon us. Why does the international proletariat support us? How did we merit this support? By the fact that we were the first to hurl ourselves into the battle against capitalism, we were the first to establish working-class state power, we were the first to begin building socialism. By the fact that we were engaged on a cause which, if successful, will transform the whole world and free the entire working class. But what is needed for success? The elimination of our backwardness, the development of a high Bolshevik tempo of construction. We must march forward in such a way that the working class of the whole world, looking at us, may say: There you have my advanced detachment, my shock brigade, my working-class state power, my fatherland; they are engaged on their cause, our cause, and they are working well; let us support them against the capitalists and promote the cause of the world revolution. Must we not justify the hopes of the world's working class, must we not fulfil our obligations to them? Yes, we must if we do not want to utterly disgrace ourselves.

Such are our obligations, internal and international. As you see, they dictate to us a Bolshevik tempo of development.

I will not say that we have accomplished nothing in regard to management of production during these years. In fact, we have accomplished a good deal. We have doubled our industrial output compared with the pre-war level. We have created the largest-scale agricultural production in the world. But we could have accomplished still more if we had tried during this period really to master production, the technique of production, the financial and economic side of it.

In ten years at most we must make good the distance that separates us from the advanced capitalist countries. We have all the "objective" possibilities for this. The only thing lacking is the ability to make proper use of these possibilities. And that depends on us. Only on us! It is time we learned to make use of these possibilities. It is time to put an end to the rotten line of non-interference in production. It is time to adopt a new line, one corresponding to the present period — the line of interfering in everything. If you are a factory manager — interfere in all the affairs of the factory, look into everything, let nothing escape you, learn and learn again. Bolsheviks must master technique. It is time Bolsheviks themselves became experts. In the period of reconstruction, technique decides everything. And an economic executive who does not want to study technique, who does not want to master technique, is a joke and not an executive.

It is said that it is hard to master technique. That is not true! There are no fortresses that Bolsheviks cannot capture. We have solved a number of most difficult problems. We have overthrown capitalism. We have assumed power. We have built up a huge socialist industry. We have transferred the middle peasants on to the path of socialism. We have already accomplished what is most important from the point of view of construction. What remains to be done is not so much: to study technique, to master science. And when we have done that we shall develop a tempo of which we dare not even dream at present.

And we shall do it if we really want to.

Pravda, No. 35, February 5, 1931


1.The First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry took place in Moscow, January 30 to February 4, 1931. It was attended by 728 delegates, including representatives of industrial combines, factory directors and chiefs of construction works, engineers, foremen and foremost shock brigaders, and leaders of Party and trade-union organisations. The conference heard the report of G. K. Orjonikidze, Chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy, entitled "Control Figures for 1931 and the Tasks of Economic Organisations." On February 3, V. M. Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, addressed the conference on "The Fundamental Premises and Fulfilment of the Economic Plan." J. V. Stalin delivered a speech on "The Tasks of Business Executives" on February 4 at the final sitting of the conference. Taking J. V. Stalin's directives as their guide, the conference mapped out practical measures for the fulfilment of the national-economic plan for the third and decisive year of the first five-year plan period. The conference laid stress on the following as the chief tasks of business executives:mastery of technique, improvement of the quality of leadership in industry, consistent application of the principle of one-man management, introduction of business accounting and struggle for increased labour productivity, lowering of production costs and improvement of the quality of output. The conference sent greetings to the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.).

2. This refers to the sabotage activities of a counter-revolutionary organisation of bourgeois experts in Shakhty and other Donbas areas. This organisation was discovered in the beginning of 1928. The Shakhty case was examined at a special session of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. in Moscow from May 18 to July 5, 1928. (For the Shakhty affair, see J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 11, pp. 38, 57-68, also History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), Short Course, Moscow 1954, p. 454.)

3. The trial of the counter-revolutionary organisation of wreckers and spies known as the "Industrial Party" took place in Moscow, November 25 to December 7, 1930. The case was heard at a special session of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. It was established at the trial that the "Industrial Party," which united the counter-revolutionary elements of the top stratum of the old, bourgeois technical intelligentsia, was an espionage and military agency of international capital in the Soviet Union. It was linked with White emigres — former big capitalists of tsarist Russia — and acted under the direct instructions of the French general staff, preparing for military intervention by the imperialists and armed overthrow of the Soviet-Government. The foreign imperialists supplied the wreckers with directives and funds for carrying on espionage and sabotage in various branches of the national economy of the U.S.S.R.

4. From N. A. Nekrasov's poem, "Who Lives Well in Russia?" (See N. A. Nekrasov, Selected Works, Russ. ed., 1947, p. 323.)