V. I. Lenin

Tasks Of The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection
and How they are to be Understood and Fulfilled[1]

Written: 27 September, 1921
First Published: 6 February, 1927 in Pravda No. 30. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 42-48
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

It is more the duty of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection to be able to improve things than to merely "detect" and "expose" (that is the function of the courts with which the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is in close contact but with which it is not to be identified).

Timely and skilful rectification—this is the prime function of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection.

To be able to correct it is necessary, first, to make a complete study of the methods by which the affairs of a given office, factory, department, and so forth, are conducted; second, to introduce in good time the necessary practical changes and to see that they are actually put into effect.

There is much that is similar, basically similar, in the methods by which the affairs of different and diverse factories, institutions, departments, etc., are conducted. The function of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is to train, on the basis of practical inspection work, a group of leading, experienced and well-informed persons, who would be capable of presenting problems (for the skilful and correct presentation of problems in itself predetermines the success of an investigation and makes it possible to rectify mistakes); to direct investigations or inspections to see that improvements are introduced, and so forth.

The proper organisation of accounting and reporting, for example, is a fundamental function of all departments and offices of the most diverse types. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should study and make itself thoroughly familiar with this; it should be able to investigate at the shortest notice (by sending a man to a given office for half an hour or an hour) whether a system of accounting exists and, if so, whether it is properly organised, what defects there are in the system, how these defects may be eliminated, etc.

The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should study, analyse and summarise the methods of accounting, the penalties for inefficiency, the methods of "detecting" fraud, and the methods of executive control. It should have a list of offices, departments and gubernias where the system of accounting is tolerably well organised. There will be nothing tragic if these constitute one in a hundred, or even one in a thousand, as long as systematic, undeviating, persistent and unflagging efforts are made to enlarge the sphere where proper methods are employed. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should have a chronological table showing what progress is being made in these efforts, the successes and reverses.

Acquaintance with the preliminary draft of the report on the work of the fuel supply organisations and on the growing crisis (fuel) in the autumn of 1921, makes me feel that basically the work of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is not organised on proper lines. This draft report contains neither evidence that the subject has been studied, nor even a hint at suggestions for improvement.

For example, a comparison is made between a three-week period in 1921 and a similar period in 1920. Bare totals are taken. It is wrong to make such a comparison, because allowances are not made for (1) the difference in the food supply (in the spring of 1921 and throughout the first half of that year special conditions prevailed as a consequence of the transition to the tax in kind), or for (2) the crop failure in 1921.

Danishevsky states that the gubernias that were unaffected by the crop failure fulfilled their three-week programme in 1921 over one hundred per cent ; the affected gubernias fell very short of fulfilment.

There is no evidence in the report that the subject has been studied.

The defects in accounting employed at the Central Timber Board are, evidently, correctly pointed out in the preliminary report of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. Danishevsky admits it. It has been proved. The methods of accounting are faulty.

But it is exactly on this fundamental question that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection cannot, in its preliminary report, confine itself to the "thesis" that "accounting is faulty, that there is no accounting". What have the comrades of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection done to improve those methods? In the winter and spring of 1921 many prominent officials of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection personally took part in a vast number of conferences and commissions on the fuel crisis. In the spring of 1921 (I think it was in March 1921) a new chief was appointed to the Central Timber Board. Consequently, new methods of accounting should have been introduced in it in March 1921.

Danishevsky did that; but he did it unsatisfactorily. His methods of accounting are faulty. He is to blame, undoubtedly.

But to find the guilty party in the person of the chief is only a very minor part of the task.

Has the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection carried out its task and done its duty? Does it properly understand its task? That is the main question. The reply to this must be negative.

Knowing the critical fuel situation, knowing that fire wood is the most important, knowing that under the former Director of the Central Timber Board (Lomov) accounting was bad, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, in March 1921, should have officially advised them in writing: organise your accounting in such- and-such a way in April 1921, it should have investigated how the new Director (Danishevsky) had organised accounting and should have again officially advised them in writing: introduce the following changes, otherwise things will not run smoothly; in May 1921, it should have investigated again; and so forth, month after month, until accounting had been tolerably well organised.

In the spring of 1921, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should have appointed a definite inspector (a single person is better than a "department", although in practice it is probable that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection has a whole "department" for auditing and inspecting matters concerning firewood and fuel in general) to keep his eye on accounting at the Central Timber Board, to study it and to report every month to a definite member of the Collegium, or else submit a monthly return (giving a list of gubernias in which accounting is tolerably well organised, in which there is no accounting, and so on. What measures have been taken? by the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party? by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee? What results?).

Danishevsky is to blame for the bad organisation of accounting.

The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, i.e., the particular responsible auditor or inspector, etc., whose name I do not know, is guilty of failing to perform his duty as from March 1921.

The practical, business-like, non-bureaucratic question is: How can accounting at the Central Timber Board be improved?

Failing to find an answer to this (extremely important) question in the preliminary report of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection—whose duty it was to provide the answer—I am seeking for an answer myself; but I may easily go wrong, for I have not studied the subject. My proposals are the following, and I will gladly amend them if better ones are suggested:

(1) introduce a system of accounting (once a fortnight) not by post, as hitherto, but by wire;

(2) draw up for this purpose a sort of "code" consisting of seven to nine figures and letters so as to be able in a few lines to give total figures (of the amount of timber felled, in cubic sazhens[2] the amount carted; the amount of grain, fodder, etc., received and issued);

(3) give Danishevsky legal authority to arrest any person who fails to send in reports punctually or (if that is impossible, if it does not go through for some reason) apply to the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee for a warrant to arrest any person who fails to send in reports; the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party to issue instructions accordingly; verify fulfilment;

(4) methods of personal and direct inspection on the spot : Is this being practised? How? What are the difficulties?

Danishevsky says that he has appointed travelling inspectors all over Russia, and that these have already visited all the gubernias; that they have delved down to the lowest units, are tightening things up, and in many gubernias have already succeeded in tightening things up.

Is that true? Is not Danishevsky being misled by his clerks?

Very probably he is.

But what about the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection? It should go into the matter and ascertain the facts. There is not a word about this in the preliminary report. When were the travelling inspectors appointed? How many? What is their standard of efficiency? What are the results of their activities? How can matters be improved if they are not satisfactory? These are the essentials; but it is just these essentials that the inspector of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is silent about.

I repeat: the organisation of a system of accounting is the fundamental problem. It has not been studied by the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, which has not fulfilled—and evidently does not understand—its task, which is to investigate the methods of accounting and to strive for and secure an improvement.

It must be able, through the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, through the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, through every possible channel, to "bring the matter" before the highest bodies, Party and Soviet, and to secure an improvement in the system of accounting.

I have dealt at length with the most important (and simplest) question, viz., the system of accounting; but there are other important and more complicated questions, as, for example, contract work (executive control, accounting, etc.), and so forth.

One particularly interesting question is broached in the preliminary report, but only broached and not dealt with in a business-like fashion. Namely, the author of the preliminary report writes: "The responsible leaders are so overwhelmed with work that they are on the verge of exhaustion, while the technical staffs of the subordinate organisations" (organisations subordinated to the Central Fuel Board—the Central Coal Board, the Central Timber Board, etc.) "are full of idle employees."

I am sure that this is a valuable and absolutely correct observation, and that it applies not only to the Central Fuel Board, but to all or ninety-nine per cent of the offices and departments.

That evil is to be found everywhere.

In March, when the (new) organisation was being set up, or at the latest in April, when it had already been set up, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should have made the official proposal in writing: improve matters in such-and-such a way.

That was not done.

How can the evil be eliminated?

I haven’t the faintest idea. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should know, because it is its business to study the subject, compare different departments, make practical proposals, see how they work out in practice, etc.

When I say "Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection" I mean primarily the author of this preliminary report; but I am perfectly well aware that it applies not only to this author.

Several absolutely conscientious, capable and experienced officials of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should be chosen, if only two or three (I am sure that that number can be found), and instructed to draw up a rational plan of work for inspectors, beginning at least with the system of accounting. It is better to start with a small job and finish it.

    The author of the preliminary report touches upon a host of subjects, but not one of them has been studied; they have been hastily jumbled together and the whole thing is pointless. This is simply playing at "parliamentary reports". It is of no use to us. What we need is actual improvement.

    How inadequately the subjects have been studied can be seen, for example, from question 52 (39): make a special list of exemplary mines only. That is exactly the conclusion the commission of the Council of Labour and Defence (Smilga and Ramzin) arrived at after visiting the Donets Basin in September 1921. It is exactly the conclusion that the State Planning Commission arrived at.

Why do I know about the work of the State Planning Commission and of Smilga’s commission, while the special inspector who sat down to draw up a report on the Central Fuel Board does not know about it?

Because the work is not properly organised.

To sum up, I make the following practical proposals:

(1) make a special feature of at least the question of properly organising accounting and pursue it to the end;

(2) appoint definite persons for this job and send me their names;

(3) send me the name of the inspector in charge of Timber Board affairs.


September 27, 1921


[1] Lenin wrote this letter to J. V. Stalin, who was at that time People’s Commissar of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, after receiving a preliminary report from Loginov, head of the fuel section at the industrial department of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, on the fuel situation and on the work of fuel enterprises.

The ideas in this letter were further developed by Lenin in a series of articles, including How We Should Reorganise the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and Better Fewer, But Better" (see present volume, pp. 481-86, 487-502).

[2] Sazhen—a Russian linear measure equal to 2.13 metres, used in the U.S.S.R. before the introduction of the metric system.M