Minority Report on Building the Economy. March 1920

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V. V. Osinskii

I propose to make a series of amendments and additions to Comrade Trotsky’s theses… First of all I want to give the basis for the amendment which we are introducing on the question of militarization.

What is happening now at the congress is the clash of several cultures, for our setup has given birth to different cultures. We have created a military-Soviet culture, a civil Soviet culture, and, finally, the trade-union movement has created its own sphere of culture. Each of these forms of our movement has its own approach to things, has created its own practices. Comrade Trotsky has posed the question from the point of view of a man coming from the sphere of military culture; we approach it from the point of view of the civil sphere, and, finally, the trade-union comrades have posed it in their own way. They have posed it the most poorly, insofar as they have for a long time been considering only the need to protect the workers from militarization and to keep labor free, etc.

I want first of all to establish the fact that we approached the question of militarization earlier than the people from the other cultures, and from the other side … I radically reject the proposition that we oppose militarization per se … We are against the excessive extension of the concept of militarization, we are against the blind imitation of military models…

The collegium is not the only means for drawing the broad working masses into administration. There are many other ways, such as, for example, the appointment of probationary workers and participation in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. But there is no doubt that the collegium is an essential higher-level school of administration, given final preparation and the broadest outlook. The collegium is the proper means to prepare workers for the most responsible work and for completely taking over the state apparatus…

Comrade Lenin reproaches here on the grounds that we approach the question of individual authority vs. the collegial principle not in a practical way but purely “in principle.” … In the developed socialist system, when the division of labor and skills has been abolished, the collegial principle will be essential for people to be able to replace each other continuously in the organs of administration…

We must not put the question of the collegial principle vs. individual authority on a purely technical plane and seek the absolute technical advantages of one form or another of administration… We must approach the matter from the social-political side. Then we can reach concrete conclusions, including some less favorable to individual authority…

Comrade Lenin has revealed here today a very original understanding of democratic centralism… Comrade Lenin says that all democratic centralism consists of is that the congress elects the Central Committee, and the Central Committee governs… With such an original definition we cannot agree. We consider that democratic centralism – a very old concept, a concept clear to every Bolshevik and fixed in our rules – consists of carrying out the directives of the Central Committee through local organizations; the autonomy of the latter; and their responsibility for individual spheres of work.

If party work is broken down into several branches with special departments, and if these departments are under the general direction of the local organization, just as the soviets’ departments are under the and direction of the provincial executive committee-this is democratic centralism, i.e., the execution of the decisions of the center through local organs which are responsible for all the particular spheres of work in the provinces. This is the definition of democratic centralism, a system of administration preserved from bureaucratism and closely connected with the collegial principle …

If you reduce the collegial principle to nothing in our institutions, bear mind that this signifies the downfall of the whole system of democratic centralism. I advise careful thought about this, although the speakers following me may try to “smear” this argument. Bearing this in mind, we will conduct an unyielding struggle against the principle of individual authority…

In the unpublished part of his theses Comrade Trotsky raised the question, what to do with democratic centralism in the area of the party, and the answer was -replace the party organizations with political departments, not only on the railroads, but in all the basic branches of industry. Comrade Stalin, whom I deeply respect, but with whom I do not go along on this question, has already surpassed Comrade Trotsky’s idea, and has established a political department for coal in the Donets coal industry. In general we need to take all this into account as a manifestation of familiar tendencies. We will also recall how Comrade Lenin, speaking of democratic centralism the first day of the congress, called everyone who spoke of democratic centralism an idiot, and called democratic centralism itself antediluvian and obsolete, etc. If the separate facts are connected, the tendency for me is clear.

The ultimate tendency leads to setting up individual administration in every link of the soviet apparatus. We ask ourselves a serious question, what does this mean? This means that once we take this path and go far enough on it, we will collapse under the weight of bureaucracy, which will emasculate all our work, for the basic slogan which we should proclaim at the present time is the unification of military work, military forms of organization and methods of administration, with the creative initiative of the conscious workers. If, under the banner of military work, you in fact begin to implant bureaucratism, we will disperse our own forces and fail to fulfill our tasks.

The unrestrained application of complete formal militarization can also lead to this. To apply it generally is enticing- under the banner of militarization it is all the easier to implant individual bureaucratic authority. Meanwhile, what character does our economic work have to assume? It has to assume a shock-work character, and we can apply complete militarization only in certain branches. Complete militarization is bound up with the limitation of the civil and political rights of man, with his complete bondage in production, etc. Complete militarization means that man is removed to a situation where they tell him: for the moment you are not a citizen, you are only a functionary, you must fulfill your civic duty not at meetings but in the workshop ….

Source: Protokoly deviatogo s”ezda RKP(b) (Moscow: Partizdat TsK VKP(b), 1934), pp. 123-26, 128, 130-33.

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