November 24, 2017

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, Mamontov 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.14 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 iniquitously 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 administration—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.

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.