Organise Mass Criticism from Below by Comrade StalinThe 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.
Speech Delivered by Comrade Stalin at the Eighth Congress of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League 1
May 16, 1928